Why true grit matters in business

EDITOR'S BLOG: The washed out Levi's brand and post-Brexit Britain could learn a lot from TalkTalk's Dido Harding.

by Matthew Gwyther
Last Updated: 13 Sep 2016

TalkTalk has been a tough business to run over the last few years. A value-priced upstart contender taking on the mighty behemoths of BT and Sky, it was the regular whipping boy of indignant consumer radio programmes bemoaning its customer service, and then last year suffered every CEO's worst nightmare: a widely publicised cyberattack. 'You really feel like you are living in an episode of Spooks,' says Dido Harding, TalkTalk's boss and our profile this month.

You'd expect Harding to be a doughty survivor. The granddaughter of the commander of the Desert Rats in the Second World War did seven years under Terry Leahy at Tesco when in its pomp, and piloted her racehorse around the jumps at Cheltenham. It'll be interesting to see which challenge she takes on next.

Also in need of some true grit in the stonewash is the father of denim, Levi Strauss & Co. I have worn no jeans other than Levi's 501s since the 1980s (mostly blue, sometimes black but never, never in white). When they rip just above the knee - always in exactly the same place - they can no longer be worn by a self-respecting guy of my vintage and I place them in a drawer for safe-keeping. One day, I persuade myself, one of my kids will feel happy to wear them. This amuses my 21-year-old son very much, who is more likely to be seen in other low-slung jeans brands partially revealing his underwear although never, thus far, any element of Dagenham cleavage.

We're also bringing you more Brexit this month. I'm entirely unapologetic about this, because it will remain the most important challenge facing every British business for the foreseeable future. To coin a phrase from ages back - we're all in this together. There may well be sunny uplands far ahead but the near future will be hard grind.

This is no doom delusion - the negative effects are already widespread and the negotiations haven't even started. I wonder, for example if Brexiters considered how the fall in the value of the pound since 23 June (14.6% against the dollar and 13.2% against the euro at the time of writing) is hurting migrant workers in the UK who send money home. The World Bank estimates this to have been $24.9bn last year. There will be some who take a mistaken pleasure in this because a likely effect is to make migrants move elsewhere and deter others from coming here to work. Everyone is getting hurt.


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