The Sunday Express’s Geoff Ho joined us this week to share his insights on a range of business, financial and political matters.
Discussing everything from Brexit no-deal stockpiling to Mike Ashley’s expanding retail empire, here are five things we learned:
1. It’s a bad time for Brexit
As a fervent Remainer, Geoff would argue that there’s never a good time for Brexit. He believes that now, however, is a particularly unfortunate time to be leaving the European Union.
The bleak consequences of a no-deal Brexit which Geoff outlined – queues at the border, food shortages, capital flight and so on – combined with ten years of quantitative easing, a decline in industrial productivity and a shortage of skilled workers will produce, in his opinion, a recession which will “make the 2008 financial crisis look like a picnic.”
Revoking Article 50 and giving us some more time to get our house in order before Brexit would be the best path forward, Geoff believes.
2. Civil service brain drain
While Geoff is a staunch supporter of the civil service – believing the impartial bureaucracy to be “one of the greatest gifts to the world” – he is concerned that the relatively low salaries mean the brightest brains are being hoovered up by the private sector. This has left us with public servants who are often insufficiently skilled to tackle the myriad modern pressures businesses are contending with.
About our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, who bucked the trend and went from private to public? Geoff thinks that his record of slashing the Regional Growth Fund’s budget while at BEIS coupled with Boris’ likely reluctance to cut corporations taxes owing to no-deal planning could leave businesses wanting under the new administration.
3. Protecting our property, properly
It’s not all dark clouds and thunderstorms for British enterprise, however, as Geoff considers us to be world-leaders in a number of fast-growing sectors. Fintech, tech more generally and the service industry are all areas we should apparently be excited about – if only we could do a better job at protecting our intellectual property, as Geoff considers overseas companies to be making carbon copies of graphene and other British discoveries.
Contrastingly, the UK manufacturing sector is one Geoff has marked as unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon – unless it’s able to shift from mass production to emerging industries such as electric vehicles and battery technology.
4. Education, education, education
Echoing the words of Britain’s longest-serving Labour Prime Minister, Geoff expressed particular concern for the state of our education system and future workforce. This problem could be further exacerbated post-Brexit with the end of freedom of movement predicted to widen the UK’s skills gap.
Prefacing his comments by stipulating that any initiative borrowed from abroad needs to be adapted for the local market, Geoff believes that in order to realise Theresa May’s ‘Global Britain’ we have a lot to learn about learning from other nations. From Asia, a knowledge of numbers; from Netherland, a love for languages; and from the United States an affection for athletics.
5. He’s not the messiah, he’s Mike Ashley
Commenting upon the day’s news of Mike Ashley acquiring Jack Wills as well as good leadership more generally, Geoff imparted some wise advice for those in the room: always be unhappy. The best leaders are never content with their lot and are always seeking new ways to improve their product, portfolio or profitability.
When this can go wrong, however, is with CEO’s overestimating their own abilities and knowledge – over-extending themselves into unfamiliar sectors and developing a messiah complex. Any leader worth their salt, Geoff finished by saying, surrounds themselves with people who won’t always agree.