Parting is such sweet sorrow

Life is made of ever so many partings welded together

I have just received yet another ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish’ email – where someone who’s been made redundant has written to say goodbye and thanks for all your support, etc etc. It makes me sad.

There have been too many emails and phone calls like this for my liking, from really good, well respected people without whom the industry is the poorer.

I won’t mention this particular person by name because I don’t want to embarrass either him or the well respected, well run and successful firm for whom this must have been a very tough decision. I will just say that this particular person’s talents helped to make his former company the success it is and the industry the nice place to work that it is. I really hope he can find another outlet for those talents very soon; preferably still in merchanting because we still need people like him.

We’ve all said it for years: what makes this industry great is the people that work in it and it’s such a shame that the economic climate means that I’m likely to get a lot more ‘so long’ emails, texts and phone calls.

Making redundancies is a horrid process, for those going, for those staying and for those who have to make the decision. So I applaud Peter Hindle’s determination that Jewson will get through without making redundancies and I hope he’s right.

A question occurs to me, though. Is it easier or harder to make decisions like this when you are an independent or a big chain?

I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had with independents where they describe the company as being like a big family, who pride themselves on having minimal staff turnover and who are doing everything they can now to cut costs without resorting to redundancies.

But sometimes you get to the point where you just have to act for the long term sake of the business. We have no idea at all how long this is going to last; even the IMF thinks it’s going to be a longer and deeper recession than first predicted.

Do the bigger companies have a higher turnover of staff generally, making cost cutting by ‘natural wasteage’ easier? Or is the industry still such a one that no matter whether you’re axing 40 or 400, the decision is still hard and horrible because it’s about people’s lives?

I don’t know the answer; I’m just glad that I’m not having to make those decisions.

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About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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