Did you suffer a Red Arrows moment today?


Do I still go to meetings that are gibberish and the jargon used means the conversation shoots right over my head......like The Red Arrows? A few years ago I was a partner of a consortium that bought a media group for US $ 250 million. Not exactly chump change but to some of the bankers involved this was really very small beer. However we were asked to produce endless permutations of business plans that seemed to cover every scenario from the precipitous decline in demand for TV movies in one particular territory right up to the consequences of a global outbreak of bubonic plague. Each version required the deforestation of a sizeable chunk of the Amazon rain forest as we were required to pour over these new numbers on paper. To me this careful scrutiny felt like I was inspecting the entrails of a chicken that had been sacrificed to foretell the future. (The chicken would have proved about as useful and a lot quicker). These endless sessions were liberally sprinkled with words like EBITDA, subordinated debt, super subordinated debt, coupons, debt equity swaps and probably Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Whilst of course you need a business plan as a starting point that is all it is. A justification that allows someone else to lend you more money due to a good idea being backed with some logical numbers. I started to fantasize with my own permutations... "If Mark has twice as many bullets as Banker B and banker B has six times less bullets than Banker C who has a hundred bullets, how many bullets can we all shoot into Banker D?" In reality though these endless permutations are a get out of jail card for the bankers... They can at least bleat to their boss that if Nobbynomates.com, a brilliant site for people with halitosis does not quite take off as envisaged, they looked at every eventuality. "Well Mr. Countdacost I regret to tell you that because of this failure your bonus this year is only a zillion $ rather than a gabillion $." I am no wizard but I am always amazed at the amount of time spent looking at numbers rather than the business itself. I suspect out of 100 companies that survive their first year of trading 99% end up with a business plan that is not even on nodding terms with the one in their prospectus! If bankers are so obsessed with numbers they should only get a decent bonus if the actual numbers after year one correspond with those in the plan! If the business is a success but with totally different numbers, they should not be rewarded for the utter misery they put entrepreneurs through!

...and another thing

It’s the same with lawyers. If I am paying them $750 per hour I think I have a right to get a little agitated after my back has been stabbed so much it looks like a second hand dartboard or the taxman is playing at Torquemada! And the lawyers have to speak in simple English, not as if someone has stuffed a Perry Mason script down their throat!

I have extended this rule to anyone I am paying. Doctors, Dentists, IT Solution, Plumbers and even Garage Mechanics. Everyone has their own special language or code that gives them an edge and me an inferiority complex; most of the time it’s fancy words for something simple. My opening gambit is now :

“Good morning. Let me start by saying it’s 1% off your fees for every word you use that is superfluous or just a fancy alternative used only by your industry and creators of The Times crossword …”

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