Five things we learnt from 2018 corporate scandals

Hefty fines, criminal investigations, consumer backlash and job losses hit the business headlines in 2018 with the impact of some major corporate scandals leaving shockwaves across several sectors. 

Construction giant Carillion went into liquidation, costing taxpayers £148m, Patisserie Valerie’s shares were suspended as fraud investigations continue into accountancy irregularities and thousands are boycotting Facebook after millions of users had their personal data harvested by Cambridge Analytica without authorisation. 

With the spot light placed firmly on these businesses, questions are rightly being asked who is responsible for these failings and how were they allowed to happen? 

Ian Baxter, chairman and founder of Baxter Freight, argues that the people at the top of any business are ultimately responsible for such failings. Poor corporate culture and a lack of strong leadership can breed toxic workplaces which pave the way for such scandals to take place. 

At a time where Brexit uncertainty is putting even greater pressure on business owners, Ian believes this is the ideal time for CEOs and MDs to review their corporate culture to avoid pitfalls and promote profitably during 2019. 

Here are five New Year’s resolutions you might want to set yourself as a CEO or managing director: 

1. Declare war on your ego

Congratulations on your success in becoming a business leader. But don’t let it go to your head. Ego and self-importance frequently get in the way of good decision making. As the leader, your job is to discern the best possible decision taking into account input from all sides. It’s not necessary for all the best ideas to come from you. The best leaders give away credit ‘over generously’ choosing to make those around them look good. Such a posture helps build up and empower your team, ensuring YOU benefit from broad based and sustainable support.

2. Tear down the walls

Many CEOs describe their people as their biggest asset, although they don’t treat them as such. I believe every business, big or small, should have an open and transparent culture where the communication gap between senior management and their team is kept to an absolute minimum. Leaders simply have to know what is going on, the problems and the opportunities. Swap your ivory tower for a ring side seat in the rough and tumble of your business, once you’ve done it, you will never want to turn back.

3. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work

It should be one of the first rules of capitalism that people are paid wages they can realistically live on. Whilst I am all in favour of free markets and competitive packages for successful people, when it would take the average worker 160 years to earn what the average FTSE100 CEO earns in one, more consideration needs to be given to striking a fair and sensible balance. 

4. From zero to hero

In this age of zero hours contracts, there has been much debate about what actually constitutes self-employment. Although the flexibility of operating in a “gig economy” might suit some, many companies use it as an excuse not to give workers full-time employment contracts and access to basic workers’ rights. Where practicable, it’s much fairer to offer staff permanent work, or at least provide set minimum hours so workers know exactly when they’re supposed to come in. Zero hours contracts have their place but that should not open the door to abuse.

5. Inspire loyalty through flexibility  

Modern life can be stressful. We all have our ups and downs, so recognising when staff are under pressure and need extra support is often much appreciated. Flexible, understanding employers who treat their staff as people, not just as a resource, are much more likely to inspire loyalty. We’d all rather work for someone who cares about us and takes a genuine interest in our well-being. So, let your employees know that you do care and want the best for them. 

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