The 42: Business, society and personal life
Last week, Richard Broadbent, Old Persean and current CEO of Tesco, came to the school to deliver a ’42’ lecture on his experience in the world of business and his view on the current challenges facing Tesco, business in Britain and the global economy. Old Persean and Development Assistant Will Taylor, went along to the lecture.
“While the talk was organised in conjunction with a seminar for Sixth Form economists and Richard dedicated time to addressing Tesco’s specific problems, Richard’s talk combined business, society and personal life – three aspects of his experience he found ‘inseparable’ in his various employments as an academic, in the civil service, as a management consultant for Barclays and finally in his latest role as CEO of Tesco – alongside references to everything from Sufi proverbs to Solzhenitsyn.
Returning to the School after 50 years, Richard advised the pupils not to neglect their studies but also to balance them alongside an appreciation for the self and not discount the importance of environment and luck. Adapt and ride your luck were Richard’s mantras and they led him into the banking industry (during its massive deregulation in the 1980s) and from there into Tesco.
He certainly had much adapting to do in his new role. In a candid discussion of the challenges facing the company, Richard gave an interesting insider’s view on the structural challenges facing British retail peppered with economic insights as to why they were so dangerous to Tesco specifically.
After detailing the measures he took to alleviate the damage to both Tesco’s accounts and its brand, Richard moved onto society and the relationship with the media. Through his references to social discourse being conducted with a “megaphone”, the audience gained an insight into the more personal effects of press coverage surrounding Tesco’s decline. More generally, Richard warned of the dangers of the polarisation of political dialogue, saying that the division between “heroes and villains, good and bad” is not only damaging for business but also for the problems facing the NHS and the UK’s response to immigration.
Richard’s experience of this polarisation lead to an exhortation to recognise grey areas and to recognise the self; when many things are beyond your control, the most certain way of changing society is to change how you interact with it.”