You’ve gotta serve somebody, but what are they like?
By Richard Matthews
You may be a business man or some high-degree thief
They may call you doctor or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes you are
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Bob Dylan – “Gotta serve somebody”
Rather how one feels after a four-course lunch, I fear that I am suffering from too many columns about lunching and dining out. Certainly my body is creaking having entertained a lot last week, even considering I don’t drink and am very careful with what I eat. This is not a restaurant review but starting to get like one. Similar to a luncher who has had one too many drinks, it is a subject that is getting a little wobbly on its feet.
I had a very pleasant sojourn with an ex-boss of mine last week, Richard Reinert, where we reflected on some of the characters that we had worked with, or for. This encouraged me to reflect on leaders. As Bob Dylan sings: wherever you are in the business cycle, whether you are the lowest of the low serving your first boss or a high flying CEO serving shareholders, none of us escape. Whatever industry or profession you have chosen you will get caught, and the nature of your bosses decides your life and enjoyment of it. Now that I am rapidly approaching my dotage I look back and realise that there are only two types of bosses: those that believe their way or the highway and the caring sharing type who hope to obtain success by employees wanting to please them.
David Buik, pictured above next to his hero Johnny Haynes, was without doubt the latter and the best boss and mentor that I have encountered. His embrace of an employee as a person softened some of my harder edges. It is interesting to note that Jon Delaney, who I now work with, was trained by John Ruskin who I trained. You can see some ‘Buikisms’ come through – third generation no less.
David was (and still is) a great luncher in an era where lunch occasionally overlapped with corporate entertainment at sporting events. Here the patronage of the boss would come into play and indeed David Buik was very understanding when a dozen of us got out of control at Highbury.
It was the launch of the new boxes above the North Bank. Arsenal, trying to sell a box to Prebon, had gifted the evening to us including unlimited booze. David, knowing that we had a large Arsenal following in the futures team, passed the invite on. Unfortunately the box was directly above the away fans that had travelled down from Newcastle. I am still embarrassed at our behaviour and will refrain from repeating the car keys story. I say no more than the police were called, I was carpeted and ironically we bought the box. I suspect from guilt but we made full use of it.
Bosses, leaders, corporate entertaining and indeed accountants are subjects I will return to but as I’m off to The Emirates with my Grandson shortly, I better talk a little of the markets. The most unsurprising headline of the week was ‘No government formed in Italy’. This saga will run and run and the longer it runs the more unsettling it will become with the two extremes of the political horseshoe attracting each other. The election in Hungary has seen a resounding victory for the anti-immigration right wing party led by Orban and spells trouble for Brussels.
Meanwhile Macron is taking on the unions starting with SNCF. Les cheminots (railway workers) are fantastically well paid and have jobs for life. However if France is to move truly forward, how the country reacts to this their Thatcher moment is crucial. Fifty years after the near revolution in France in 1968, it is a different country but the support for the reforms appears to be still split pretty much 50/50. Not only is this crucial for Macron at home, but for his ambitions to be seen as the true leader of Europe when the European parliamentary elections take place in May next year.
It would be really pushing it to believe that Trump is a caring boss. What feel like very basic negotiating tactics with China are starting to unsettle the markets. Let me be clear: China has abused its power but only as it has been allowed too. By imposing harsher and harsher tariffs on China Trump may be just pushing his luck a little too hard and China will hit back. They are not a country known for backing down. Although the 2/10 US bond spread steepened a bit last week, a full scale trade war would not only seriously hurt stocks but could well push the world into recession. Some say it was tariffs in the 1930s that pushed America into a depression. The stock markets feel very vulnerable and for those that follow the technical details, they look very bearish.
As all good bosses and leaders know, there is a fine line between encouragement and bullying and it is a hard line to walk. Few people that I have worked with have achieved this mix, but thankfully workplace bullying is now virtually non-existent. What is really sad is that even fewer politicians have been skilled in the fine arts of leadership in the years that I have been in the market. Chancellors of the exchequer have fared even worse, but then none have behaved as badly as my old account Mike “Marigolds” Lee did and I will return to him next week. As they say, a man deserving of a book to himself.
This column is purely the opinion of the author and is not an invitation or recommendation to trade.