Feel uncertain or go out of business’
There’s nothing that businesses hate more than uncertainty, so the adage goes.
But, as experienced businessman Chris Maybury told a business audience this week: “If you don’t feel uncertain, you’re going to go out of business.”
Mr Maybury’s provocative remark came as he spoke on a panel after the presentation of the Bermuda Business Confidence Index survey results, which suggested widespread pessimism about Bermuda’s economic future among business leaders.
“Business uncertainty was the theme to come out all the way through,” Mr Maybury said.
He then went through a series of illustrations of how fast the world of commerce is changing.
“What’s the largest hotel company in the world?” he asked the audience. “Airbnb,” was the answer from the floor.
“How many hotels do they own?”
He followed up with the largest car company in the world, Uber, which owns virtually no cars. And the world’s largest retailer, Alibaba, which owns no stores.
“Did you ever think you’d see a construction worker wearing a hard hat queuing up for a skinny latte with a mochaccino shot when you were selling jars of instant coffee that he used to drink?” he asked, to a roomful of chuckles.
“Did you ever think you’d do financial transactions on your cell phone, wherever you are?
“We live in the most dramatically changing times that anyone’s ever seen.
“If you understand what your marketing person is doing and your marketing person is over 25, you’re losing business, I guarantee it.” Again there were chuckles, but this time nervous chuckles.
“The world is changing so fast because of technology. Guess what, if you’re not uncertain, you should be uncertain, because someone’s going to eat you up.
“There have been more billionaires made in a shorter time than in any other generation in history. So get with it guys, if you’re not uncertain and you’re not worried, you’re going to go out of business.”
Mr Maybury is a Bermuda resident and a board member of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, who has an impressive business pedigree.
He is a former chief executive officer of Times Newspapers in the UK and has sat on the board of retail giant Marks & Spencer. He was also CEO and a shareholder of the Institute for International Research, which grew into the world’s largest conference and performance improvement company under his leadership, before its sale to Informa in 2004 for $1.3 billion.
He is also one of the investors to have agreed a deal to buy out Bermuda Commercial Bank this year.
After the event, he told The Royal Gazette that uncertainty was a global theme for businesses, whether as a result of technological disruption, political instability or other factors, but the island was well equipped to cope.
“Bermuda is always reinventing itself,” Mr Maybury said. “We have the tools and the expertise to do that.
“Certainly there are things that we’d want to change and certainly there are things that are not right, but I think that we have, in a small community on a small island, enough expertise and knowledge to look at what we’re doing well and look at what we’re doing badly.
“And to look at what we’re not happy with in government and to get that dialogue going to change things. We’ve already done that and we can do it again.”
He said there was never a better time for someone with a good idea to launch a business. “With the BEDC, with the legislation that the Government put through to remove red tape and taxation and with Don Mackenzie’s incubator [Ignite], I think there is more help provided with less red tape than for someone who is prepared to work hard and start their own business than there ever has been.
“That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but we’re still in a 2 per cent growth economy, which is much better than the UK, miles better than Germany and only slightly behind the US.”
The BCB deal, involving investors Mr Maybury and New York-based Permanent Capital, is awaiting approval from financial-services regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
Mr Maybury declined to speak about plans for the bank and added there was no news on approvals for now. “The regulators are doing what they should be doing and that’s being very thorough and diligent,” he said.
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