Tesco should be a lesson to us all



THIS week Tesco announced it is parting company with its chief executive Philip Clarke – who has spent four decades working for the supermarket.
The announcement came at the same time as Tesco bosses revealed that its sales figures for the last year are far worse than were originally predicted.
If you turned the clock back a decade no one could have predicted that the chain would find itself in such a difficult position. After all this was the company that dominated the retail sector for years and came up with concepts and ideas that its rivals were forced to follow.
Tesco were the first to make a success of the loyalty card and also helped change the way the nation bought its groceries with the introduction of internet shopping linked to home deliveries.
At the height of its success the company followed what can only be described as an aggressive expansion policy and famously £1 in every £7 spent by British consumers went straight into Tesco’s tills.
The company was smart enough to keep an eye on changing spending habits and led the way in stocking new products in supermarket aisles such as clothes, consumer goods and DVDs.
But the reality is in business that if you want to stay on top of the pile you have to be constantly developing and evolving to suit the needs and demands of your customers.
Tesco has failed to grasp fully the impact of the recession and the subsequent squeeze on consumer spending.
The economy maybe in recovery mode but the reality is that people are still struggling when it comes to personal finances. That means the old snobberies and preconceptions about budget supermarkets are fast disappearing.
The budget chains have also upped their game and as a result are now claiming a large part of the retail sector as their own.
Of course, it should not be forgotten in all of this that Tesco is still one of the biggest companies in the world. The firm might be going through some hard times but it still has plenty of time and opportunity to turn things around.
As I said the key to all of this is staying in touch with your customers and making sure that you continue to give them what they want.
Success can be a double edged sword when it comes to business. There is nothing wrong with being a market leader who leads the way and sets industry standards.
The key is not to become too pleased with yourself and to let complacency creep in and blind you to the fact that you are no longer delivering the kinds of goods and services that your customers want. 
 If you allow yourself to become complacent then you really could be asking for trouble.

The stories of human tragedy bring home the true toll of flight disaster

Malaysian Flight disaster
I am sure that many people across the world had the same reaction as me when the news of the disaster which befell the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 started to filter through.
The initial reaction was shock and disbelief that a commercial plane carrying almost 300 people could be blown out of the sky by people who obviously had access to sophisticated weaponry.
Somehow this attack felt very different to the kind of terrorist incidents that have blighted the world in recent years.
 We have all become used to travelling to distant lands and flying is still one of the safest forms of transport. That is why this particular incident has been so shocking and has caused so much interest across the globe.
But when the human stories started to emerge in the days following the attack the true depth of the horror of what took place in the skies above The Ukraine really started to sink in.
No doubt the arguments about exactly what happened and who was to blame will carry on for months and may never be fully resolved but the reality is that 300 innocent souls lost their lives over a conflict that had absolutely nothing to do with them.
The flight, which headed for Malaysia, was filled with people heading off to adventures, holidays, conferences and work. They were all human beings with the rest of their lives to look forward to and all of them have had that ripped from them.
But even more than that all of them have left families and loved ones behind who will no doubt spend the rest of their lives grieving.
It is impossible to imagine what the people who lost their friends, partners and families must be going through at this moment in time.
What this terrible incident did bring home to me as an individual is just how important the people are who are closest to you in life.
The pace of modern life has become unrelenting and if you want success in your career then you have to be prepared to put in the hard graft and the hard hours. We all have to make sacrifices but it is always important to get the balance right.
There is no doubt that if you are successful in life then the rewards will come your way. But it is always worth remembering that good things in life such as the big houses, expensive cars and holidays in beautiful places are worth nothing at all if you have no one to share them with.
That is why having a strong, supportive and loving family around you is so important.

Soaring house prices can be a double-edged sword


 House Prices

There is no doubt that as a nation we are obsessed with house prices. It has become a cliché but sooner or later the cost of property is likely to rear its head at most dinner parties.

And the reason that newspaper editors and broadcasters return to the issue time and time again is because they know it is likely to stir interest and create debate.

The reason that the subject is so close to our heart is that here in the UK we are a nation of homeowners, more so than most other countries in the world.

The Englishman home is not just his castle it is also his investment for the future and many of us view bricks and mortar as a nest egg for our retirement and for our children.

But there are real reasons to be concerned about the housing bubble in the South East and in the capital leading to a severely unbalanced economy where all the nation’s wealth is concentrated in just one region.

Each week there are new stories emerging of property in the capital selling for incredible sums and there is evidence that homeowners are taking advantage of the current situation.

The fact that property costs so much in the capital is testament to the fact London is still an economic powerhouse and has the ability to attract investors from every corner of the globe.

Property is still one of the safest and most profitable investments, there may be occasional blips in the market but the long-term trend in the right locations is always going to be positive.

The soaring cost of property is a great bonus for those who are lucky enough to own a home in London and the South East but there is also a real downside.

Those in low-paid and unskilled work have always struggled to get a foot on the property ladder but the issue is now spreading out into other sections of the population.

Key workers new to London are highly unlikely to be in a position to buy a house or a flat and the same can also be said for white-collar workers. The reality of the current situation is that young professionals now stand very little or no chance of buying their own home in the capital.

Any organisation is reliant on the quality of the people who come to work for it and the same can be said for the capital.

If the large organisations and businesses are unable to recruit the right quality and calibre of staff then they will simply move on to new locations. Cities have to be an attractive proposition in every sense if they are to continue to thrive and prosper.

The key to solving the issue has to be the Government and our financial institutions. What we need is some imaginative thinking and new approaches and solutions to help people become homeowners and enjoy all the benefits that come with it by doing so.


If we want to prosper we have to have the right attitude

Last week hundreds of thousands of public sector works went on strike across the country in protest over their pay and conditions.
The industrial action closed hundreds of schools and many public services ceased to function for a whole 24 hours.
Some commentators have claimed that the action was politically motivated and the aim was to make a statement about the Coalition Government and its policies.
However, there is no doubt that people in public sector jobs such as teaching and local government have seen a real cut in wages and tougher working conditions. But the reality is that we have all had to endure some tough times as a result of the financial crisis and the downturn.
Redundancies have been kept to a minimum and that is largely as a result of depressed wages over the last six years.
We have all been forced to tighten our belts and hopefully we will start to enjoy the rewards as the economy starts to recover and get back to the position we enjoyed in the immediate years before 2008.
The reality is that we were spending far too much on our public sector and something had to be done to redress the balance. Private wealth and capital create wealth not Government investment, that has been proved time and time again.
In fact you do not have to look far to see the full effect of failing to keep control on Government spending. Many of our neighbours on the Continent are still struggling to recover from the downturn because they have still to get the balance right between public and private.
Here in the UK we are looking at an economy that is growing faster than many other countries in Europe. There is still a long way to go but we are looking in a stronger position than many of our traditional rivals to take full advantage of the economic recovery.
But getting the conditions right for a strong and sustainable economy is not just about Government policies and fiscal strategies it is also about individuals taking personal responsibility.
If we are going to retain our position as an economic power house we all need to play a part in the process.
Hopefully, we have all learned some lessons from what has taken place over the last five years. Government, business and our financial institutions all have a role to play and need to make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
It is important when the boom returns not to slip back into the complacency and bad habits which were at the root of the financial crash of 2008.
But it is also important that all of us adopt the right attitude, we can no longer afford to live in a country where people are not prepared to play an active part in creating a stronger economy.
We all need to be asking ourselves what we can bring to the table as individuals rather than asking what the country should be doing for us.