Sums of a Preacher Man

Yesterday I went to a startup hub – basically a building where budding entrepreneurs pay low rent to work and hang out – to watch about eight presentations by people looking for investment. Each entrepreneur had 6 minutes to make their pitch and a further 4 to answer questions, so it was a bit like Dragon’s Den only instead of multi-millionaire dragons they had a gaggle of students, professors, mates, and folk who came along for the free craft beer.

The first thing I noticed was out of the 70-odd people there, only two were in a suit and tie: me and one of my professors. The rest looked to have come from an office job where they don’t meet outsiders, or straight from the pub downstairs. Those pitching for investment – from between 100k-300k euros, so not trivial sums – dressed as though that’s where they were headed immediately afterwards. I watched a lot of episodes of Dragon’s Den, and one of the things which drove Peter Jones nuts was people wandering out in jeans and a t-shirt and asking him for a million quid. I raised this afterwards with a couple of people and was told young people just don’t dress up like that any more. Which I am sure is true, but do the young people get any investors to part with their cash? Last night they didn’t appear to have anyone reaching for their wallets, even to pay for drinks.

Their disheveled looks probably weren’t the main problem, though. That would be their general business sense and their ideas of how to make money. It took me two pitches to spot the problem. Climate change, environmentalism, and sustainability nowadays seemingly infests every area of business life, and nobody seems capable of shutting up about it. If someone is trying to sell you coffee, they speak for ten seconds about the quality of the coffee and for ten minutes on how much they care for the environment. Decades of incessant brainwashing has worked well, and environmentalism truly is the new religion. There are a couple of problems with this, however. Firstly, it assumes that their entire customer base consists of the western middle-classes who are rich and woke enough to run around fretting about a dolphin they saw on TV offshore Bora Bora with a biro stuck up its nostril. While the number of customers eagerly checking the fine print on the back of the packet to make sure there were no orangutans killed in the making of this particular batch of organic, freshly-squeezed kumquat juice is undoubtedly growing, most people still just want a cheap product that works and doesn’t contain arsenic. And there is a big difference between not wanting to turn pristine nature into Norilsk and worrying about whether a product’s carbon footprint is a little too large. Most customers are in the former category, whereas the latter are a wealthy niche.

Secondly, it assumes environmentalism is an end it itself, and not just another trade off between competing resources. Remember this post I wrote about reusable carrier bags, where I referenced a Danish study which showed they were worse for the environment that single-use bags? As I said at the time, very few people, particularly the dim middle classes who campaign for environmental legislation, understand that recycling is an industrial process like any other only with different inputs. So a lot of these business ideas I heard yesterday took an existing process:

Production  – Use – Landfill or Incineration

and turned it into:

Production – Use – Recycle – Production

And assumed that simply because it’s being recycled it must by definition be good for the environment. But this is only true if the resources consumed during the recycling are less than those consumed making the stuff using fresh inputs, and that the pollution generated during recycling is less than using a landfill or an incinerator. Otherwise, by definition, they’re making things worse. Did I see any such calculation and comparison? Did I hell. No, the assumption was that recycling must always by definition be better for the environment.

Several of the business ideas involved a recycling process which involved driving around collecting tens of thousands of objects, transporting them back to what can only be described as a large industrial facility guzzling power, water, and other raw materials. The objects are then processed using chemicals and a sizeable amount of human capital, with each person having to somehow get to work everyday. Nobody seemed to have understood the impact this will have on the environmental calculation, let alone the economics of the whole thing. It was just presented as “Recycling! Sustainable! Yay!”

So what we were dealing with wasn’t businessmen but ideologues. It looked more like a hippy commune than a startup incubator. At half-time a chap came on stage and said the world is headed for catastrophe if we don’t stop using resources at the current rate, because we’ll simply run out. That basic economics would tell us otherwise went unmentioned, as did the old trope that the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stone. He said their task was to persuade everyone “we need to change our lives and our behaviours”, which sounded a lot more like the basis of an evangelical religion than a business. Maybe that explains the frequent appeal for angel investors? He then said the plan was to approach big business and persuade them of this need to change, and to embrace environmentalism and sustainability. At this point I wondered where he’d been living the past fifteen years. Since I have been working, big business has fully embraced environmentalism and sustainability, that’s all they go on about. They have whole departments devoted to haranguing their employees to turn off the lights, reduce emissions, cut down on waste, and spend millions on PR showing everyone how green they are. What does this chap think he’s going to find in a major corporation, top-hatted men opening oil wells into rivers for just for fun?

And that’s the problem. These lot were supposed to be startups promoting new business ideas, but instead they were selling old political ideology. The product was environmentalism, their business just the vehicle it was riding on. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that I later learned this startup hub received a chunk of its funding from the government. In other words, it’s another lefty middle class racket. Did I mention my wallet stayed in my pocket all evening?

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50 thoughts on “Sums of a Preacher Man

  1. I’ve never really understood why burying your domestic and plastic waste in a hole is environmentally unfriendly, if done properly so as to catch anything leaching out of it and installing gas traps etc (and even burning the gas to generate some free electricity). Surely a lorry tipping it in a hole followed by a few bulldozers pushing it around and squashing it flat and finally covering it over uses less energy than shipping it here there and everywhere, sorting it, reprocessing it and then shipping that raw material to a a factory to be manufactured into something else? And as a final cherry on top, if eventually we run out of oil and haven’t invented a suitable replacement for the plastic, or the replacement is far less useful than the oil based ones, some enterprising person can go and dig it all up and recycle the plastic then, because it’ll still be there. The hatred of landfill seems to be entirely religious, rather than based on any practical effect on the local environment, or the larger global one (if you believe the warble gloaming bollocks, which I don’t).

  2. There is a big shift in general to dress less formally at work (and to be honest, I’ve given up going suit and tie to visit clients when every client I meet is dressed in jeans and a shirt). You would hope that investor meetings buck this trend and entrepreneurs-to-be would put a bit more effort in but many “entrepreneurs” are bought in more by perceived “start-up culture” (free breakfasts, free beer, exposed concrete offices, ping pong table etc.) than by working to deliver value to customers.

  3. “The product was environmentalism, their business just the vehicle it was riding on. ”

    Fools. The right way round is you have a product and the environmentalism is just the vehicle it is riding on. My product will not only make you sexy and rich, it will make you green and sexy and rich.

  4. “My product will not only make you sexy and rich, it will make you green and sexy and rich.”

    According to the comic books, gamma radiation will get you at least one out of three…

  5. From your Norilsk link:
    “more than 4 million tons of cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, selenium and zinc are released into the air every year.”

    Utter, utter, utter bollocks. I’m saying that’s out by possibly 5 orders of magnitude.

  6. A lot of entrepreneurs dress more casually because it’s seen to be the Silicon Valley thing. If you want to look like a nerd genius you need to dress the part. I think it depends on the sector though; in real estate, the new wave has got as far as taking its tie off.

    He said their task was to persuade everyone “we need to change our lives and our behaviours”, which sounded a lot more like the basis of an evangelical religion than a business.

    Greenery is the faith replacing Christianity in the West. Replace God with Gaia and original sin with pollution and you’re good to do.

  7. ” If you want to look like a nerd genius you need to dress the part.”

    You will want to convince any prospective investors that you have got a handful – probably not a shed full – of such people, but if you turn up looking like a nerd genius, your prospective investor will be thinking that you are not going to be running a sustainable – yes I note the irony of using that particular word – business.

    Nerd geniuses are great at some things, but managing a team and its competing demands for time and resources and getting actual sceptical customers to part with their actual resources tend – just tend mind you – not to be some of those things.

    Investors care very very deeply about those other things that nerd geniuses don’t.

  8. Investors care very very deeply about those other things that nerd geniuses don’t.

    Indeed.

    The problem I think is when the nerd genius presents himself as a CEO wanting an investment, he needs to portray himself as a businessman as much as an ideas man. Otherwise he needs professional management help.

  9. Disclosure: I do a bit of both, possibly all three (i.e. being a nerd genius, being the respectable face in front of the nerd geniuses and being the sceptical investor), so I know whereof I speak.

  10. Meh, 90% of new businesses fail, probably more, as some of the few with a good idea wind up getting sold at a huge loss to a competent operator and should also be counted as having failed.

    My dear old daddy often told me that 90% of everything is crap, and now I’m old I consider him an optimist.

  11. If that’s the building I think it is then once upon a time I went there to talk to IDQuantique who were desperately looking for a way to turn their quantum skills into a product people would pay for.

    I assume the lack of suit comes from desperately wanting to copy Silicon Valley. Of course the “california casual” look is, in its way, just as restrictive as the suit and tie, although you don’t end up being half strangled. No idea how it translates into Switzerland, but in California shorts and sandals (as opposed to loafers and chinos, say) means either you are a zillionaire or you are a developer who will never be shown to customers, financiers or anyone else. Anyone who does expect to interact with people outside the organization wears “smart casual” and often that includes wearing the company polo shirt with its logo. The khakis plus company polo shirt looks very uniform , as it were, and isn’t quite as rebellious as perhaps they might hope.

    It is very clear to me that most people (of all ages) have no clue how to figure the money part of any business. Amazingly that often seems to include the recent MBAs you meet as junior VC partners. I literally had one tell me that it didn’t matter if we sold professional services at a loss because we’d make it up on volume. He simply didn’t get that this part of the business would always make a loss at his proposed price point because pro services is a body shop and you have to pay the bodies that do the work. You can’t even outsource to India because the customers want the pro services guy on site and they aren’t in India

  12. The khakis plus company polo shirt looks very uniform , as it were, and isn’t quite as rebellious as perhaps they might hope.

    They always made me feel as if I ought to be out playing golf. I couldn’t stand that look.

    I literally had one tell me that it didn’t matter if we sold professional services at a loss because we’d make it up on volume.

    Lol, whut?

  13. Prof Serv as loss leader to allow fat product upsell into biggest customers possibly, but even then you would want it to wash its face.

  14. “And assumed that simply because it’s being recycled it must by definition be good for the environment”

    Decades ago I could regularly be found traipsing round numerous car scrap yards looking for parts to re-use. Discounting accident damage, most of these vehicles had ended their lives due to rust. Yesterday I visited 3 of the remaining sites near here, looking for a wheel trim. I was rather taken aback at how “young” much of the stock was – seemingly perfectly good cars rendered uneconomic (presumably?) because of an electronic malfunction. I simply don’t believe that this state of affairs is in any way “Sustainable”.

    Now the lunatics in charge of “Asylum UK” say we should throw away all our petrol & diesel cars/vans and replace them with EV’s. Even supposing the problems of range, electricity supply and the necessary materials are solved (and I don’t believe they ever will be), has ANY consideration been given to the environmental costs involved in disposing of our current fleet?

  15. The latest buzzword I keep hearing around work is about the circular economy.

    It’s worrying how even the more intelligent and smart people I know are now balls deep into the environmentalism movement and unquestionably believe reducing our CO2 footprint is the most critical thing we need to do.

    At this point I can’t help but think the swampies have won, our best hope is that – like all good lefty movements – it ends up destroying itself form within sooner rather than later.

  16. Interesting you should mention Dragon’s Den. I can remember Alan Sugar when he was flogging electronic components out of an office over Brentwood Taxis. I was managing his bigger competitor, round the corner. 1% of successful business ideas come from something new. 99% come from doing what someone else is already doing, better or cheaper. Fuck knows what happened to Arrow Electronics. I went off to do something better. Sugar made his money by selling stuff cheaper. Except his experiment with innovation – the Em@iler – when he sold hardly any.
    Smart investors aren’t looking for good tailoring or theories about how to make the world a better place. They’re looking for application. How can I make money out of this now or, at least, in a reasonable time scale. Smart investors are doing it with their own money they made by being smart.
    There are of course the other sort of investor. They’re investing other people’s money & no doubt have a university qualification to do so.There’s an ever expanding market for stupid ideas.

  17. My dear old daddy often told me that 90% of everything is crap, and now I’m old I consider him an optimist.
    FredZ, I hold your dad in the highest esteem.

    As for dress code, I’m afraid I’ve bought into the West Coast informality. I feel absolutely uncomfortable in a suit and rarely wear one. However, I don’t look unkempt like so many do nowadays. That really bothers me.

    If I was trying to attract investors, I would step it up a bit, but over here, you may even lose credibility if you look like a 1950’s banker. They’d think you were a relic who couldn’t possibly come up with something new and cutting edge.

    There are reasons why Silicon Valley and the West Coast, in general, are the leaders in technology compared to the East Coast. The East Coast is stuffy and old-fashioned. The West are the ones who don’t like formal barriers and carry the pioneer spirit that brought people over here in the first place on covered wagons. The cowboys came first, the suits came after things settled down. I think that mentality is still here… and we prefer to do that wearing Levi’s. 🙂

  18. @francisT

    “I literally had one tell me that it didn’t matter if we sold professional services at a loss because we’d make it up on volume”

    Reminds me of the extraordinary life and untimely death of Jody Sherman.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/jody-sherman-ecomom-and-a-grave-financial-error-2013-4?r=US&IR=T

    “Our discounts are meant to be one time only, but we can’t limit them by customer so every order ends up sold 50% off,” Prentiss explains. “Said another way, for every additional $60 average order shipped our variable cost is $89 and we lose $29. Said another way, the more we sell, the more we lose. Said another way, if we cut all our sales to zero and sat around and played ping pong all day we could continue to pay ourselves handsomely for two more years while at the current sales rate we’ll be out of cash in three months. Said another way, now would be a very good time to pull the fire alarm.” …

    Sherman held a management meeting and made some big changes, but somehow, the grave financial situation was never discussed. “I can tell you for sure the word ‘margin’ and the word ‘profit’ were never mentioned,” Prentiss writes of that meeting. “Jody was a master marketer and led a management meeting that focused on an awesome feel good marketing plan.” …

    A large problem was Sherman did not understand some basic business principles. “I would bring the financial statements to Jody who would glance at them so cursorily and wave me away with ‘no one can understand this without extensive analysis,’ Prentiss writes. “Critically, he did notunderstand margin. At the end of December when things were getting truly desperate, he said to me, ‘Phil, just bring me a forecast that shows how much we need to sell to break even.’ He did not understand, after three years of negative margin, that increased sales resulted in increased losses. He had built his house by raising money and when times got tough he went with what he knew.”

    Sherman was a very successful serial money-raiser too, so obviously some investors weren’t all that careful.

  19. The latest buzzword I keep hearing around work is about the circular economy.

    Ahahaha, that was the theme of the whole evening! I had no idea what they meant and nobody bothered to explain it.

  20. I am a principal on the deal selection committee of a middle-size angel investor group in Silicon Valley. We look at 30-60 deals each quarter, from which we select four to pitch to the general meeting.
    I also participate monthly as a “judge” for sessions where first-timers and very early stage companies present short pitches, mostly for practice and feedback.
    I would estimate that about 25% of our applicants have some overt or secondary environmental theme as part of their story. I don’t think that’s changed much over the 8 years I’ve been active.
    Our members all have some affiliation with one of the big Universities here, and we solicit applicants from there. Even there, I don’t think that environmental religion is significant for more than one-third.
    In any event, our members tend to be quite ruthless during diligence when it comes to questions about total systems costs, margins, niche vs larger markets, scale-up, knowledge gaps in the team, etc.
    In my experience, high-tech entrepreneurs generally have little business knowledge, and little experience explaining themselves to investors. The first is usually fixable with the right attitude and partners, and the second is teachable.
    I’ve condensed my initial advice down to four items:
    1. Don’t be secretive. Your idea is not the business; it’s all about execution. Also, flaws and problems WILL be discovered during the diligence process, so don’t bother to hide them.
    2. Manage the money. Startups usually have little of it, and most are killed by running out of cash.
    3. Take advice. By this I mean listen to a variety of experienced advisors, and demonstrate that you can absorb and integrate it into your plans.
    4. The most important thing you bring to the table is not your product or even your business. It’s your personal credibility. An angel investment is a 5-10 year relationship, and it needs to be based on trust.

  21. Tim — did any of the assembled “gaggle of students, professors, mates, and folk who came along for the free craft beer” call Bullshit on the religious environmentalism? And is this festival taxpayer-funded in some form or another?

    The Gramscian Long March Through the Institutions has really done a number on Big Education, and students don’t seem to learn much arithmetic these days. We end up with lots of otherwise-smart granolas who are deeply concerned about the sustainability of the planet, but don’t seem to worry about the sustainability of government deficit spending, or the sustainability of unbalanced international trade.

    As a side note, during the slow news silly season, one of the local TV stations sometimes fills a few minutes by sending a camera van to follow the County trucks carrying the recycling containers … all the way to the landfill.

  22. The UK has plenty of holes in the ground that would benefit from landfill. A few EU countries don’t, or their holes are sited inconveniently. So the EU tries to ban as much landfill as possible. Yes, no subsidiarity on this either.
    Hence shipping and recycling at great expense.
    We could call it landscaping with low value material and save on the money we have to pay to get recyclers to take it away.

  23. Tim — did any of the assembled “gaggle of students, professors, mates, and folk who came along for the free craft beer” call Bullshit on the religious environmentalism?

    No, but the two of us in suits had a chuckle over it later.

  24. I’m constantly amazed at the number of guys (even some my age) who do not own a suit, or even a tie, or have never worn one. I had a meeting with a customer some years back, a large telecom company. The sales guys and I (The Sales Engineer) would suit up for a first meeting. Our team quota was $1.2B, so we’re talking big numbers. You wear a suit and act professional.

    One of my peers was aghast. “Where are you going? a funeral?” Dude was 41 at the time. Owned neither a suit nor a tie. My son not only had a coat and tie in high school, he had a tux (for orchestra). When he graduated, we bought him two really good suits. A man needs a suit.

    I won’t get into the other thing – younger folks these days know how to do nothing, know nothing of how things of any type work, and possess zero common sense.

  25. “I raised this afterwards with a couple of people and was told young people just don’t dress up like that any more. Which I am sure is true, but do the young people get any investors to part with their cash?”

    You can never be overdressed. And anyone who tells you they don’t want to convey a dry, stale image, well, you can still do that with a suit. And anyone who mentions someone like Zuckerberg, well, he had already built a massive customer base, was already known before he started getting billions in VC funding.

    “Firstly, it assumes that their entire customer base consists of the western middle-classes who are rich and woke enough to run around fretting about a dolphin they saw on TV offshore Bora Bora with a biro stuck up its nostril. While the number of customers eagerly checking the fine print on the back of the packet to make sure there were no orangutans killed in the making of this particular batch of organic, freshly-squeezed kumquat juice is undoubtedly growing, most people still just want a cheap product that works and doesn’t contain arsenic.”

    True, but that’s where the margins are. Aldi are making fractions of a penny on their kumquat juice, and they can do that because of scale. Consumer startups have to target rich twats.

    “Secondly, it assumes environmentalism is an end it itself, and not just another trade off between competing resources. Remember this post I wrote about reusable carrier bags, where I referenced a Danish study which showed they were worse for the environment that single-use bags?”

    But most eco consumers don’t care. They just want to virtue signal that they’re doing something, with the minimal level of effort.

    I don’t know if these people pitching were idiots who believed this stuff, but there’s definitely a market selling tasteful packaging and a PR story to the dumb middle classes and that’s the huge margins if you do it right.

  26. @Mal Reynolds

    “There is a big shift in general to dress less formally at work (and to be honest, I’ve given up going suit and tie to visit clients when every client I meet is dressed in jeans and a shirt).”

    Yup. I’ve been with Clients and prospects this week in Germany and Holland and (whilst I’ve been suited and booted) they’ve been in shirts and Levi’s.

    I may skip the tie (depending on the shirt) but jeans to meet clients? No way .

  27. “Peter Jones nuts was people wandering out in jeans and a t-shirt and asking him for a million quid. I raised this afterwards with a couple of people and was told young people just don’t dress up like that any more”.

    Yep. Dress to impress. Even chinos and cotton shirt is infinitely better than jeans & T

    “most people still just want a cheap product that works and doesn’t contain arsenic”.

    Yes, yes, yes………. yes

    Let the woke buy their organic kale and “green” energy at their higher price, but don’t compel everyone to do same or subsidise woke greenies.

    ““Recycling! Sustainable! Yay!””

    The biggest religious scam since Scientology & Moonies. The biggest product scam since Tulip mania

    Looking at you Milliband, Perry, PHE, SNP et al

  28. @Jim on May 3, 2019 at 10:42 am

    +1

    Yes. It’s lunacy. Burn or landfill waste, or as you you plough back into field.

    Oh, EU: Metaldehyde banned as leaches into water

    BBC: “You’d need to drink 1,000 litres of water every day for decades before it had an effect on your health”

  29. Hate ties with a passion.

    My early career was all suits when on a client site, but I seem to be able to get away with chinos and a shirt mostly now at large corporates. Though I did go to an exec team meeting (CEO + direct reports) for a FTSE 100 company recently and that was a suit and tie job. Interestingly there was a mix of outfits – from the CEO in a very fetching 3 piece suit to the head of legal in chinos, shirt and scruffy jumper. I was jealous.

  30. @ Dave Ward on May 3, 2019 at 1:47

    One of the problems with modern cars being consigned to the scrap heap so early is a combination of things:

    1) Legislation and increasingly strict MOT (in the UK) requirements which have nothing to do with safety – such as a duff catalytic converter which means that the car fails the MOT and the cost to replace the catalytic converter is more than the car is worth. Can be caused by an impact with a sleeping policeman or other “traffic calming” measures.

    2) The cost of air bags. If a minor, easily repairable bump means that the air bags deploy, you are looking at ₤1000 to ₤1500 per air bag to replace and dispose of the old one. That, again, can make a perfectly good car uneconomical to repair.

    3) The cost of the spare parts is prohibitive. A magazine in the UK did a desk based exercise where they “built” a motorbike by looking at the list price of parts bought from a dealer – the new bike cost (if memory serves) ₤10,000 whereas the bike assembled from parts was (again, from memory) ₤50,000 to ₤60,000. I dare say that a similar situation applies to cars due to (you guessed it) legislation mandating different models of the same vehicle for different markets.

    I drive a 19 year old Subaru Impreza which is perfectly serviceable and reliable, returning excellent mileage (42 MPG) and I dread a minor bump causing it to be an insurance write off.

  31. Phil,

    I had my car written off when all the airbags deployed.

    It also stopped my passenger and myself from being KSI’d. So I’d call that a net positive.

  32. I stopped wearing suits long ago at work, & mostly never needed to wear one at client or supplier meetings. However, long after I retired I was involved in a lawsuit my former employer brought against a US company for using one of my patents. I had to do a deposition in London and my (US) lawyer said I should wear a suit & tie.
    The only thing I now wear one for is funerals.

  33. The decline in suit wearing is a part of the general decline in standards. Personally, I often wear suits (or a sport jacket) just because I enjoy wearing them. If you dress smartly, people ask why you are dressed up. The best response is, “why are you dressed down?”

  34. Matt

    x2

    Can’t stand the deplorable levels of dress that I see around me all the time now: 40 something men dressed as teenagers. Plenty of people have lost my business because they have underdressed when they have presented to me. That may sound pompous, but in my experience, if they dress like that when they’re trying to get my money the service they provide will be disappointing.

    And that is not even going to go into the “ but it’s more comfortable “ line of argument: so are pyjamas , don’t think you’re going to impress me by wearing them.

  35. @bis,

    It may have been apocryphal but I remember reading about Sugar’s early success sometime in the ’80s and they claimed it was because he managed to buy his first goods on 90 days credit and sold on 30 days and used the positive cash flow to fund his growth. I’ve also heard him claim that many a profitable business has gone bust because of lack of cash, so maybe the story was true.

    Anyone who would like to get an insight in to how (US) investors think should have a listen to The Pitch podcast from Gimlet media. Think Dragon’s Den for grown ups (tbf I stopped watching DD years agon when it became more about personalities)

  36. The only thing I now wear one for is funerals.

    Sadly I’m at the age where I go to more funerals than weddings and I’ve noticed that casual, and even scruffy, dress is creeping in.

  37. @Phil B on May 4, 2019 at 9:22 am

    +1

    ABS warning light On – MOT fail

    No ABS fitted – MOT pass

    In both cases car brakes operate same – press pedal & car stops.

    My favourite tech fail – BMW M5 V10: ignition off and seat goes fully back & wheel fully up, ECU fail & no manual move thus car undrivable unless 7′ tall

    Green mantra is simplistic and damages environment.

    .
    @Matt on May 4, 2019 at 7:56 pm
    @Recusant on May 4, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    +1

  38. I think the dress thing depends on the industry.
    I do most of the customer relations for my employers in a specialised engineering business (as well as engineering design, staff management, invoicing, even occasionally going in the workshop and making stuff).

    I’m probably one of the better known characters in the industry (it’s a small world),and have always worn scruffy jeans with some oil stains, a padded shirt well on it’s way to rags, and a flat cap (I own little else, apart from a cheap suit for funerals). No-one cares – people use us because I’m straight and easy to deal with, don’t mess people around, and as a firm we do a good job. It would be totally different in other industries (and I’d have to adapt accordingly), but I’d argue competence and reliability are probably the key considerations more than dress code for any business doing more than just selling cheap tat.

  39. I am one of a minority of men who wears suit and tie where I work. The tipping point came about 5 years ago when several non tie-wearing individuals were promoted to senior management.

    It irritated me at the time but I’m very conservative generally, so I just regard it as part of the zeitgeist.

    What I find funny is how so many middle-aged, grey, paunchy men don’t realise how unflattering the open necked shirt with a suit, or unstructured trousers and shirts is on them. A decent fitting suit, crisply ironed shirt and properly knotted tie is a middle-aged man’s best friend unless he is George Clooney.

    I have found that the women aged 40+ in work tend to share this view.

    One of my proudest achievements is that two of the most recent graduate recruits whom I supervised for 2 years have continued to wear a suit and tie even though they are no longer under my supervision and are in a minority in doing so. I like to think that I am cultivating the Resistance!

  40. Really interesting perspective in the original post – not the sort of thing I would have a chance to observe myself, and I probably would not have perceived half of the insights.

    Not much to add on the suits vs. casual thread, except to say that I’m soooooo happy I’m not expected to dress up in my line of work. The suit seems to be expected when large sums of money are being transferred based on a man’s word. He dresses up to convey the impression that he expects to be taken seriously, and that he’s not going to be frivolous, and that he can be trusted. Of course, used car salesmen also know this. But my point is that when a man is expected to make an impression based on his technical expertise, he is not expected to dress up.

  41. Interesting comments on what to wear; two points most missed.

    1. Target: Dragon’s Den – all dragons wear suits or female equiv.

    2. Who am I? Newbie or known, experienced, time served “expert”

    .
    @a different James on May 5, 2019 at 1:50 pm

    Spot on. Wool suit, silk tie & Oxfords conveys many strong positive messages

  42. Bloke in Germany – Oh, certainly, I’m not moaning about the very real and practical benefits of airbags in cars and their contribution to survival of the passengers. What I am objecting to is the myth that they cost over 1000 quid to replace and the insistence by the Use and Construction regs. that they must be fitted and serviceable.

    Another factor driving the complexity and causing reduced reliability of modern cars is the insistence of fuel consumption figures and “environmentalism” (just remember there is a large element of mental in environmentalism), causing the manufacturers to reduce the weight of every component in the car, including the electrical system. save the weight of wire by installing a computer and fibre optic communications to control everything and you save weight on the more reliable copper. Of course, anyone with enough sense out come in out of the rain knows that the operating conditions that the car undergoes are extremely harsh (temperature extremes, vibration, dust, water spray and steam etc) which are all bad for electronic components and their reliability suffers accordingly. Switch the ignition on and the lambda sensor says “All good” and the on board computer software reads that as “Wednesday” and refuses to start the engine. Ask any car mechanic that works for a main dealer about the problems that electrics cause. The mechanical side of things rarely goes wrong.

    As Pcar pointed out, a minor glitch causing an ABS warning light to switch on, which doesn’t affect the performance of the brakes, is an MOT fail and if the cost of fixing the problem exceeds the cost of the car, then a perfectly good and serviceable car is scrapped.

    Although I have no interest in cars and keeping up with the Jones’ when it comes to the latest gewgaws, I recall that a particular manufacturer (can’t remember which one) was advertising that their Ganz Neu Wunder shopping trolley had 9 air bags … I was probably reading it in a magazine in the barbers while waiting for a haircut.

    Now, airbags are a mature technology, been in existence for a long while and any development costs must have been recouped years ago. Supposedly for a ₤15,000 car, ₤9,000 of that cost was for the airbags, the rest of the price is for the rest of the car, profit, dealers margin, tax etc? They are, as they say on Tyneside, taking the piss, somewhat.

    So when driving the brand new car off the forecourt, I have a minor, repairable bump and all the airbags deploy, the car is an economic write off because the “depreciation”, dealers margin and tax paid etc. is not recoverable, making the car uneconomical to repair? The only factor driving that is the cost of the airbags, not the repairs to the rest of the car bodywork etc. mandated by legislation.

    Ah, well, with the insurance payout plus a bit more cash, I can buy another brand new car … Sing along with me “It all makes work for the working man to do …” and cash in the bank for the manufacturer.

  43. @Phil B

    “It all makes work for the working man to do …”

    Hey, I actually know that song! Stumbled across a Flanders & Swann video of it after gobbling up their Song of Patriotic Prejudice, aka “The English are Best”.

    Let me grab a link… there we go.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vh-wEXvdW8

  44. Airbags don’t deploy for a minor bump. They do deploy when a dickhead in a Toyota runs a red light at 80 km/h, crashes into your rear axle, instantly breaking it, and spinning your car to the other side of the road. The threshold is obviously somewhere between those two incidents.

    The replacement cost is much higher than the fresh install cost for painfully obvious reasons, plus the fact that the deploying bags rip chunks out of the interior furnishings. Being hit by a deploying airbag feels like being punched.

  45. “They do deploy when a dickhead in a Toyota runs a red light at 80 km/h, crashes into your rear axle, instantly breaking it, and spinning your car to the other side of the road.”

    What is this ’80km/h’ of which you speak? We have only rods, poles and perches in the UK now we are free of the EU gauleiters.

  46. @IvoryWingman on May 6, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for YT link, didn’t watch as sidebar had much better:

    Cabinet Office officials presenting to EU diplomats with May’s imprimatur confirmed a direct intention to stay under EU authority in defence, via the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PK1vByfK_I – from 4min

    Wake up sheeple of UK

  47. @Phil B on May 6, 2019 at 12:08 am

    +1 Spot on

    .
    @Bloke in Germany on May 6, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Airbags: “don’t”? – “shouldn’t” is the word you were looking for.

    Google: minor bump airbag

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