Andrew Charlton
Andrew Charlton

?….driving Miss Daisy”

It’s plain to me why some nations have failed to embrace the roundabout in their plans for “traffic management”. It’s equally plain to me that whilst the standard of driving in this island is better than many areas of the world, we seem to be working hard to achieve a lower standard with some ease. Let me explain.

Our office is but half a mile from Moor Farm Roundabout in Cramlington. If you don’t know it it’s not worth a special trip out but it’s worth examining closely if you do ever pass it. I think it is the place to complete the “survival of the fittest” examination for the humans in Northumberland and I’m sure there is an equivalent site near where you are.

Many years ago, when drum brakes and leaf sprung suspension were popular, it was probably a simple cross roads on a track where once in while a Cortina got in the way of an Allegro and for a moment someone scratched their head until one person just got on with things and worked out what to do next. Nowadays it is a test track for whacky racers. Road signs, painted directions and sat navs are there to help us safely round yet every morning I see folks “going for it” across lanes, cutting in, “tanking it through the lights” and every other manner of risk taking. It seems that the average driver just can’t get in the right lane and doesn’t seem to be able to manage this simple impediment to progress. It winds me up and I think each exit should have a man with a Taser to deal with miscreant drivers.

Obviously you can only truly earn your stripes by getting round the roundabout in fog, snow or in the dark on a winters evening when the cretinism of some makes it exciting for the many. We’ve all seen examples of fog lights on a clear day and none on a pea souper of a night; “I’ve got a 4x4 so I am invincible” in snow or bombing off a business park or out of a pub car park in darkness with no lights on just to fox the rest of us carrot eaters.

I’m ranting about driving but I think it’s a sign that as a society the basic skills of existence seem to be lacking and if our wannabe tycoons and entrepreneurs heading to the office every morning can’t manage this, is it any wonder that if you give them a pot load of cash and some ill-founded encouragement it’s all going to go pear shaped?

Giving grants, business support and mentoring to people who have frankly daft ideas or without adequate know-how is just wrong and we’re better off supporting existing businesses to grow and thrive than new ones to open and close. We need a more effective system of assessing businesses that merit support and there needs to be some form of test to pass to qualify rather than just pitching up with a smart looking plan and a logo.

Good business people probably have well-paid jobs they don’t want to relinquish to become advisors and good advisors sometimes don’t have all the business experience they would like and can’t always give first hand expert advice however well trained or intentioned they are. Given the propensity of this nation to tune in to anything that requires a vote to get through to next Saturday’s showcase and the popularity of Dragons Den, my idea is a simple one.

Before you get a grant, a hand-out or someone lets you loose on the public as a business person you need to go in front of a paid committee for a short but punchy pitch about what you’re doing and you must convince your fellow tax payers you’re ready. If you get more thumbs down messages than thumbs up you either chuck it in or get yourself off to boot camp to get in shape and get up to speed and come back and try again another day. This would stop us wasting pots of cash and give our businesses a great chance of succeeding.

Finally, if your idea is a sandwich round, mobile beautician or dog groomers I don’t like your idea, I don’t think it will work and I’m out.

Andrew M Charlton – 1st March 2012

Andrew is a Director at BACK Consulting Limited, one of the region’s top software development companies and is co-organiser of the North East Expo.

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