Survival of the chattiest?

To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation

The clear message coming through from last week’s BMF events – the golf day, the centenary dinner and the Members’ Day – is that now, more than ever, there’s huge need for industry to come together and talk.

BMF chairman Kevin Cubbage welcomed guests to the centenary dinner on the day the FTSE plunged further and faster than it has since Black Monday in 1987 with the words “let’s hope that an evening spent with friends and colleagues can help us forget for a while what’s going on with our pension pots”. BMF md Chris Pateman followed the same lines when he closed the dinner with the words “if we don’t look out for each no other bugger is going to do it”.

He’s right. Now is the best time for merchants and suppliers to talk and work together to find a way through the current gloom. I know the official figures say we have to have two consecutive quarters of negative growth before we are allowed to call it a recession (try explaining that to all the people at merchants and suppliers who have lost or are about to lose their jobs): if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. And this strikes me as looking and walking like a quacking recession.

Except it isn’t. Not yet. Talk to any analyst and they’ll tell you that things haven’t even begun to get really bad yet. One chap was telling me how packed the shops and restaurants were in his home town every Friday and Saturday. The realisation has yet to hit in so many ways.

The industry that emerges from this is going to be a very different one. A huge amount of experience and knowledge will have gone, from merchanting and manufacturing, from sales and credit control, from the yard to the board room. And, in this industry in particular, what goes hand-in-hand with experience and knowledge is contacts.

This is a sector that’s built on networking and personal relationships and there’s a great deal of trust built into those relationships. When you have to start again with new people, it takes time and effort to build it up again. Which is why getting together and talking is so vital.

Whether it’s at THE conference, BMF events, NBG, Cemco, CBA or H&B meetings, the Unimer Day, NMBS’ exhibition or even Interbuild, getting together, sharing experiences and building new contacts to replace those lost, will be one of the ways to survive.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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