By John Faulkner
I am a grandparent and I want my grandchildren to have a happy and successful life. I want your grandchildren to have a happy and successful life too. As parents and grandparents we try to help our children have a good education and adopt a good moral code. But I think we can do more. Let me explain.
The saying goes that we humans learn by our mistakes. Human nature is such that we are destined to repeat mistakes that others have already made many times over. History lessons at school are a great opportunity to examine how kings, clerics, politicians, soldiers and other important figures have made good decisions and bad decisions. My memory of history lessons at school were a rather boring succession of “facts” rather than the more interesting questions such as “What mistakes did Henry VIII make to mess up his marriages?” or ” Why was the Roman Empire successful and why did it ultimately fail?” Success and failure are much more interesting than boring old facts and we learn a lot more if the topic is interesting.
History tends to concentrate on the great and the good (and the bad) but not many people lead such exceptional lives that they are recorded in the history books. However all of us grandparents have lived our lives of ups and downs. Sometimes we have been successful, sometimes it was just a case of getting by and sometimes we made some pretty bad mistakes. All of these experiences are valuable because there are lessons to be learned from them. Here lies a golden opportunity for the grandparent generation.
It is a painful experience to see your children or grandchildren make mistakes that you made yourself many years earlier. Equally it is a great joy to see your grandchild or indeed other people follow in your footsteps in a successful way. In many cases your grandchild will not know what happened in your life and will not have an understanding of what you learned over the years, unless you tell them about it.
Great artisans can pass on knowledge by example. Great plasterers, decorators, bricklayers can show how it is done and can show fine examples of their work. It is more difficult to pass on knowledge from the world of business. My career was in the world of business, using the luck of my mathematical brain to improve the efficiency of business and subsequently helping to build up a business in which I had a share. This effort was not always easy but the result was an enjoyable life and a feeling that the wealth I had built up for myself was accompanied by improvement in the wealth of my customers and colleagues and wider society.
This is the magic of business. The businessman naturally concentrates on his own welfare and, if it is a good business, as if by magic, his success helps many more people. This magic is not well enough understood. It is generally not taught in schools, except maybe in theoretical economics courses. It is not understood by many politicians who seem to believe in their own special form of magic whereby money from somewhere is placed in their hands to spend as they think fit.
My grandchildren and your grandchildren will benefit greatly from understanding the magic of business. It will help them to know how the root of all that is good in our lives is under-pinned by business. This does not mean that everyone should be a business person but great good flows from the understanding that without business, both manufacturing and services, there could be no Health Service, no teachers, no policemen, no firemen, no army,no navy, no air force, no civil servants, no council workers, no state pension. These are all great benefits that make modern life safe and secure that would not be there without business. The corollary to this is that if we want more of these benefits, then business has to be the source.
This article is the start of my quest to explain these principles to grandchildren everywhere. My follow-up articles will aim to convey the lessons I have learned over many years in the hope that grandchildren can gain a flying start by starting from where I left off rather than starting from where I began. Let them celebrate the magic of business.
The author, John Faulkner, is a math graduate who chose to make his career by applying scientific logic to the problems of industry. He worked to make improvements in a great state owned industry in the 1960s, then later in a large public company, moving in the 1970s into management consultancy advising a wide variety of different companies in the UK and abroad. His next big step was as a founder member of a three man company (he was the junior member of the trio) that moved from consultancy into computer software. The company benefited mightily from the personal computer revolution and then subsequently from the massive impact of the internet. The business grew from three people to a multi-million publicly-quoted enterprise. The author’s mission is to pass on the lessons learned during this journey to his grandchildren and teenagers everywhere. He calls it “The Magic of Business.”