More people with a business background would be good for local government, Not

 
Donald Trump US president is appointing people with a business background to key posts in his administration because he believes government would be better if it was run like a business and who better to do this than people who have run successful businesses. For a number of years management gurus have told us the public sector should learn from the private sector about how to be efficient, competitive and customer focused. Governments of both the left and right have for years  stated the public sector should be more business like. It seems logical then for local government to follow Donald Trumpt's example and recruit people with a background in industry and commerce to fill senior posts. Of course you would have to pay them more! 

The most efficient, competitive and customer focused industry in Western Europe , North America and probably probably the rest of the world is the drug trade. The illegal drug trade is very profitable. Exactly how profitable can only be estimated as "companies" don't publish their performance figures or pay taxes. But there is evidence that every stage of the business offers sufficient profit for people to take considerable risks with their own safety and liberty? Despite the industries high mortality rate there is no shortage of young ambitious  people keen to get involved.

The business is made up of those who produce the product and those who those who distribute and sell at a local level. Production costs are low and whilst transporting the product requires creativity and high levels of security distributors are prepared to pay a heavy premium for top quality products. Distributors operate within highly structured and localised hierarchies and they protect their local markets furiously. Complex and highly efficient distribution net works ensure that the product is available in every neighbourhood. The industry is know for incentivising staff. Industrial relations are rarely an issue, the workforce is not unionised and there are no formal contracts of employment, however hostile take overs and mergers are frequent. Management styles are typically autocratic and dissent is taken as personnel disloyalty to the boss, frequently resulting in termination. Strict rules on confidentiality and an obsession with commercial sensitivity contribute to a culture of secrecy where information is on a strictly need to know bases. Profitability is further increased by very effective tax avoidance schemes. Whilst legal problems are not uncommon high profit margins mean substantial sums are available to the top players to resolve issues. 

It is clear that these "business" skills would transfer to the public sector given the right climate and a brief to do deals. Many major players would be very interested in moving into the public sector in areas like waste disposal, building maintenance, property management, construction projects and road repairs 

If we truly want the public sector to be run like a business, be ruthlessly efficient and ferociously competitive as well as customer focused then there are " business men" out there who could get the job done. 
 
Blair McPherson former director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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4 Comments

DM
Dominic Maxwell 4 Years Ago
I did smile reading this blog, I am from business (sold my company to a PLC) and now work at an Officer grade in a county authority, and I can say you need to be exceptionally determined and stubborn to affect change. The exciting part is that there is so much opportunity! I am starting to see the very start of a culture change at the leadership level, so am optimistic for the future. You don't need to pay more, I earn a 1/3rd of my commercial salary, but cant get motivated to earn money for share holders in a commercial setting.
Jonathan Airey 4 Years Ago - Edited
Well, Mr McPherson, something has really rattled your tree today. Linking Trump, the drug trade, 'ruthless' businessmen, and Public Sector improvement is highly tenuous, but somewhat amusing nonetheless. I agree with Dominic, and perhaps share a similar private sector background to him. We don't need to pay top dollar to get business experience onboard, as we know that salary is only one element of remuneration and motivation. However, what we do need to adopt more, is a higher level of professionalism, and a total refusal to accept inefficiencies and complacency, which is still present in too many places. The level of business or commercial acumen I am driving in my area is not 'ruthless' or 'ferocious', but the need to define 'good enough', and not try to provide a 'gold plated' service at all times. Perhaps we are unusual in Hampshire CC, but we have many officers with private sector experience, and is an increasing trend I see in other local authorities that we work with.
Caroline Rodgers 4 Years Ago
Hi Blair I was curious about the title of your blog and then a little more confused when I realised you were using the drug trade as the example of an efficient business. As a local authority transformation manager I believe we need a broad skillset, including private sector skills, to create a diverse, challenging and forward thinking workforce and to help change the culture of some LAs. We need to be thinking more commercially and entrepreneurially if we want to survive and thrive in today's economy. These are skills that are not typically found in public sector organisations, and if we don't look to the private sector and 'business backgrounds' where would we find them? We need to think differently and embrace change - not easy as Dominic has learned, but essential.
Blair McPherson 4 Years ago in reply to Caroline Rodgers .
Have you read my previous blog,"Let's do a deal"?