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The Business – Government Speed Differential

One of the biggest hurdles for business is the slow nature of Government at any level.

For a company or corporation time is literally money. Waiting for paperwork to be processed, or promised legislation to be passed is time during which new customers can’t be engaged, production lines cannot start and delivery schedules are not able to be made.

This is because government is not as acutely affected by time as the private sector. The annual nature of funding government initiatives is part of the issue.

State and Federal Budgets are produced with great fanfare as they place the priorities of a government clearly on the table.

However, Treasury remains the government’s profit centre and department heads only need to consider income by way of an annual submission to express their ability to implement policy.

Conversely, business, while having a basic concept of what income they should expect in a financial year, does not have the same luxury. A downturn in sales, or a new competitor entering the market impacts profits and means costs need to be mitigated.

Changes in policy can also affect the bottom line as new regulation is introduced, or as in the case of Uber, a massive change to regulation occurs in response to a judicial decision.

In a clear demonstration of the speed differential, the County Court passed judgment on the legitimacy of ridesharing in May 2016, but a Government sponsored bill is yet to be introduced to the Parliament. In frustration Fiona Patten from the Sex Party has introduced a Private Member’s Bill to get the discussion moving.

Even in true crises, such as the unfortunate events in Bourke Street on Friday, 20 January, where there has been an urgent rethink on bail laws, it will be some weeks before the process of parliament allows a bill’s passage into law.

The democratic process needs to be transparent for people to have any trust that law is being created with proper scrutiny.

If a Bill is referred to a committee, momentum is slowed further, but an opportunity arises for business and other organisations to engage in the process by providing expert advice and experience.

 

RMK+A boasts an experienced team, able to provide invaluable insights and development of strategies to ensure that when your business is seeking to work with government the experience is smoothed and the outcomes are optimised.

political-storm

Disruption The new normal

How to stay on top of politics that can impact your business

In a global political environment that is veering towards the highly unpredictable, government relations and keeping track of the political players with the potential to impact your business has never been more important, or challenging.

2015 and 2016 will be remembered as years of seismic change and upheaval to the comfortable traditional political orthodoxy of the Western world. Brexit, Trump, the rise of the right in Europe, failed plebiscites or referenda in Greece, Italy and Colombia, a belligerent populist in the Philippines, the list goes on.

Here at home, a first-term Coalition Government that was expected to romp home in a double dissolution election was lucky to survive. At a State level, we are becoming accustomed to one-term governments.

Much has been, and will continue to be, written about the root causes of this disruption to the previously somewhat predictable course of politics. However, for businesses with exposure to State or Federal Government policies and regulatory actions, the key challenge is to stay both on top of and in touch with the key players on all sides of politics and what drives them.

In such volatile times, it is insufficient to be cosy with one side or another in a dominantly two party system. Equal attention needs to be paid to both major parties, and now to the minor players who are increasingly carrying critical influence. Further, if the right levers are to be used when policy or regulatory proposals present a business threat, there needs to be an understanding of the competing agenda within the parties.

For many businesses, political observation and developing relationships within the political sphere are not core functions. Given the almost frantic modern pace of political change, even some political commentators struggle to remain fully abreast of the sometimes labyrinthine allegiances, dependencies and deal-making; that is where expert advice is becoming valuable.

In the effort to garner fickle electorate support, politicians will sometimes consider actions and reactions with unintended consequences, or scant consideration of commercial impact. Careful and considered engagement may then be required to avoid outcomes that can damage particular businesses or sectors. Simple opposition to a proposal is most often not enough. Clear and well-thought through proposals need to be put forward, cognisant of the political agenda at play and of the need to find workable solutions.

RMK+Associates have spent decades developing a detailed understanding of how our system of government works and building the networks necessary to facilitate political engagement. For businesses with a need to engage with government, or even to simply understand the political drivers and administrative processes, seeking such expert counsel could help avoid significant difficulties emanating from unforeseen political action.

 

I Got Mine and I Got Yours Too.

Narcissism and leadership

A sub-optimal combination or How words and actions betray the self-obsessed

Irrespective of one’s political leanings, or view of the desirability of a second Clinton Presidency, the one thing that the current USA Presidential campaign is making very clear is that even in the age of self-obsession voters soon tire of obvious narcissists.

Someone needs to tell Donald Drumpf (yes, that is the original family name) that ‘leadership is not all about you’. As The Donald’s unravelling campaign demonstrates, people want leaders to be all about the concerns of the populace not the projection and protection of the candidate’s ego. So, no Donald, it’s not all about you, just as it was never, in our own example, all about Kevin, nor is it still.

The particularly disappointing thing about the Trump campaign is that it is so bad that it allows the Clinton campaign to do nothing other than say – ‘ well you can’t let him into the Whitehouse’. Policy discussion has not just taken a back-seat, it has been left at the curb.

The cult of personality is a shallow and lazy way to pick leaders. Perhaps the Trump candidacy, fed as it has been by the media new and old, will finally demonstrate that there needs to be some focus on more than grubby political blood sport. Yes, nasty narcissists have been, and still are, elected. However, ultimately, all have failed to be leaders of any quality and reputation. The shame of it is the damage done on the way through.

There has certainly been no shortage of such characters in the world of commerce.

What does all this tell business? Well, apart from driving more disillusionment with the political process, the lesson on leadership is plain. Words matter, a lot. Actions matter, even more and attitude matters, the most.

And, right on cue, up pops another example of actions not matching words.

When the, for now, CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumph, faced a Congressional Hearing on the issue of the bank opening over 1 million accounts without customer’s knowledge – and charging them for the privilege- he claimed that the buck stopped with him. What he did, though, was to blame the 3,500 low level staff he fired for the breach (but only after regulators found out the bank was engaged in the massive fraud).

Senator Elizabeth Warren didn’t let him off lightly. She pointed out that he had not suffered one cent of penalty (he is paid over US$20 Million in salary and bonuses per year) and that not one senior executive had resigned or been fired. That, she scolded him, showed a total lack of accountability. Now he is unlikely to hold his job much longer and the bank’s board has ordered him to pay back $41 Million in bonuses and stock options.

Leadership is having and demonstrating the right attitude, saying the right words and matching them with the right actions. Egomaniacal rants about how “I alone can fix this”, ego insecurity that demands vicious and venal retorts to real and imagined slights and demeaning, disrespectful behaviour to ‘friend’ and foe alike, are not the marks of a truly successful and respected business leader. We can only hope that they prove to be just as unsuccessful in modern democracies.

RMK+A is highly experienced in assisting senior executives and CEO’s with strategic communications, including key message development and all aspects of stakeholder engagement.

Spare-the-politics

Spare the politics………puh-lease.

Phew, well I’m glad that’s over.

9-weeks of excruciatingly numbing political meandering that delivered………… well, not much.

One of the aspects of the campaign that we have been discussing internally has been if we learnt anything. The answer is a general ‘Yes,’ however the content you could treat on a take it or leave it basis.

Polls

Dare I say it, they were one of the highlights of the Aussie campaign.

Despite the general twitterings of the media, the polls were pretty much on a consistent ‘knife-edge’ across the campaign; the end result? A cliff-hanger.

Based on the musings of our esteemed daily papers one could have been excused for thinking that our pollsters were as reliable as their British counterparts (or the BoM forecasting Melbourne weather) with their ‘forget the numbers, Turnbull’s got it’ commentary.

Messages

It helps to have them.

Attempting to bore your target audience in to submission clearly doesn’t work.

Hopefully the last couple of months’ acts as the lethal injection that obsolete sloganeering without substance needs.

It could have been worse I guess: Cheap Cheap anyone?

The Greens

Surprising? Not really.

Well performed? Not really.

Going places? Most likely.

I would have thought that in the absence of discussion void of any real substance regarding a pragmatic (forget about visionary) forward-looking agenda for the nation, that there was a huge opportunity for The Greens to appeal to the abiding Australian sense of egalitarianism.

This ‘third force’ in Australian politics also appears to have been sucked in to a narrow (and narrowcast) script, despite the ample areas of opportunity (climate change, asylum seekers, homelessness, re-balancing Commonwealth infrastructure spending to include more public transport, the cost of living etc etc) for the further ‘Left’ of pour political landscape to carve out more ground.

The Greens campaign I would describe as overlooking the bigger picture; bicycle super highways have cool renders tho.

Our preferential voting system

Is it time to give it the boot?

As it stands all seats in the House of Reps come down to a two-horse race. Why is it that the jockey of every beaten horse then gets a say in the eventual winner, even though their mount dropped out before the home straight?

The ‘One Vote, One Value’ principle seems to be undermined when a vote for one set of values (or whatever substitutes for them these days) ends up in a camp with a different set of principles.

Preferences don’t even seem to make much difference. As a case in point, the ALP received its second lowest primary vote in history and was a kick of the footy from winning this election.

Which leads me to the……

AEC

I read earlier this week that India can count 800 million votes in a day.

Brexit was confirmed in 7-hours.

In Australia our measly 10 million votes are only approximately 70%. Sure we have the complexity of preferences and the use of the postal system etc, but surely we can speed things up a bit.

A move to first past the post voting, or maybe even using that futuristic thing called the internet could help?

Scare Campaigns

Work.

If, the target of said campaign permits them to.

With a week or more to go before the poll, a robust disaggregation of what was being considered for Medicare (and why), contrasted against the scaremongering may have enabled our soon to be re-sworn in PM to make a statesmanlike speech on election night.

Split the ‘Right’

Given the ‘conservative discontent’ within the broad church of the Liberal Party, will it be an ALP strategy over the course of this, and subsequent terms of government, to try and foment this unhappiness with the view to seeing ‘Team Cory Bernardi’ become to the Libs what The Greens are to them?

Perhaps, but unless we did away with preferential voting such an achievement wouldn’t make any tangible difference (based on where I presume preferences would flow).

What did we learn?

If you want to bring people with you, one needs to understand who they are, what’s relevant to them, and speak to them in their language. Ideally, this process won’t take any longer than necessary.

If you have an opportunity, take it. Never expect that it will exist forever.

Keep things simple, clear and efficient. No one has time, nor are interested in reasons/excuses why the apparently simple is actually not simple. In short, understand and meet expectations.

If, and when something incorrect is said; correct the record. Keep correcting the record until the record is correct. If you don’t do the work you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself.

Strategy. A lot of strategies look great on paper and over sound great over a cup of coffee, but said strategy is going to deliver the same result as would have been the case prior to developing, investing in, and implementing it why bother? Better to spend the time identifying what you want to achieve and develop a plan that will actually deliver difference rather than same same.

So………

As things stand today, let’s hope that Sir Peter Cosgrove extends his French sojourn a little longer to allow the dust to settle, and for us innocent Australians to focus on the important stuff in life like football, kids going back to school, and paying bills. You know, the things that need to be considered by every Australian, every day (and yes, that includes football).