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Association executives will all have experienced difficulties with presidents, chairmen, or directors. They are a mixed bunch and over the years the good, the bad and the ugly come and go. Never-the-less, as professionals you have to get on with them, accept their peculiarities and petty likes and dislikes whilst the serious business of governance goes on.

In my twenty-odd years’ working my way up through membership bodies, trade associations, and charities, I’ve discovered that Boards come in many shapes and sizes. Each adopting a different attitude to the responsibilities they have taken on – sometimes unwittingly. They range from the indolent to the hyperactive, the distant to the micro-managing, and all shades in between. Their attitude to the chief executive and secretariat can also vary wildly.

Some directors see the association as their personal fiefdom, with the staff as serfs to do their bidding; the chief executive’s prime functions – in their view – to ensure the success of the golf day and the quality of wine at the annual dinner. Such attitudes stem from the days when association secretaries ruled; when finding a place on a Board or committee was one way for family firms to distract patriarchs who refused to step aside; when a culture of amateurism prevailed; and directors’ focus was sometimes blurred.   In my time I’ve met them all – the commanding, the conniving, the conceited, and the committed – but when it comes down to it there are two distinct types of association Board. One meddles and micro-manages in the mistaken belief that as business people themselves they must be able to do better than their ‘employees’. The other understands their strategic role but accepts that the secretariat are professionals – experts in their field – with the CEO taking operational responsibility on a day-to-day basis. Only the chairman can determine which route they take.

But don’t let’s fool ourselves, chief executives can be a mixed bunch too.  Perhaps best described as entrepreneurs, showmen, and diplomats all rolled into one, they have to juggle the often conflicting interests of their members to achieve consensus, and they can be complex characters. Nevertheless the key relationship is that between the chairman and the chief executive, and trouble follows where this fails. As well as a shared commitment to the cause, relationships must be based on mutual respect and trust. They must be frank and open, with problem areas being addressed amenably. Empathy, communication, humility, and self-awareness are the key differentiators.

The two roles must be complementary. The chairman is responsible for leading the business of the Board while the chief executive manages the association’s business. The chairman and the chief executive must be aware of each other’s activities and work together as a team. The duties of the chairman – a non-executive role – arise from their position as the chief elected officer of the association and their responsibility for presiding over its official business and the Board. The chief executive is responsible to the chairman and the Board for directing and promoting the operation and development of the association consistent with its primary objectives. In so doing they exercise executive stewardship over the association’s physical, financial and human resources.

There used to be a joke along the lines of, ‘what’s the similarity between a non-executive director and a shopping trolley?’ Answer: ‘They both have a mind of their own, but you can get more food and drink in a non-executive director!’ It may be an old chestnut, but it illustrates that the fault line between executive and non-executive responsibilities is often where most tension develops. Some secretariats are resentful of the oversight of a largely non-executive Board that they sense doesn’t share their vision or commitment – or jeopardy to their income – or appreciate the skills and professionalism they bring to a difficult job.

Therefore, not-with-standing their fiduciary responsibilities, and duties to members, every Board must remember that the lively-hoods and well-being of all those employed by the association are at stake and the consequences of ignoring this fact can be enormous. Believe me, I’ve been on both sides of the fence, as director, chief executive, trustee, and humble foot-soldier, and I know how morale suffers when internecine warfare sours relations or the Board appears to lose the plot!

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Michael Hoare FIAM


Please Note:

Members of The Gemmological Association of Great Britain can log in and find details of the 2015 Council elections on the Gem-A website, including a proxy voting form for those wishing to caste their vote online.

The Gem-A Manifesto by Ronnie Bauer, Kathryn Bonanno, John Bradshaw, Guy Clutterbuck, Michael Hoare, Alan Hodgkinson,  Alberto Scarani, and Greg Valerio is available from info@michael-hoare.co.uk


             
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Hilaire O’Shea is a man who has spent most of his professional life dying bank nomedusa-logo-clearface-RGB-Black-v1tes lurid colours or sticking them together into inseparable lumps. Not because of any character trait, but as part of his work denying criminals access to their ill-gotten gains. Now he has turned his attention to jewellery!

As he says, “The criminals – whose job it is to steal from people; who consider their crime victimless; believe it is harmless because insurance pays for the loss; and having insurance is part of doing business – they have no empathy or admiration for the passion and craft that goes into creating these works of art. They believe a suitcase full of money is the same as a watch or necklace because the price to the public is the same. But it’s not.”

Events like the Hatton Garden vault break in inevitably throw crime against the sector into high relief. But in reality they are just the tip of a very big, very dirty, criminal iceberg. Much theft is mundane; involving trickery, deception, fraud, and occasionally sleight of hand.  Higher up the criminal food chain comes robbery, often involving violence against property or people. And whilst we all fantasize about being a have-a-go hero, the reality is that cases like the recently reported jeweller giving his assailant more than he bargained for with a baseball bat are few and far between. Thankfully, most jewellers and their staff value the safety of life and limb above diamonds and pearls, and put up little resistance to violent robbers; preferring instead to deal with their insurance broker.

Great strides have been made in recent years with alarms, CCTV, fogging, and forensic markers, to either defend or identify property. But, with over £14 million of losses reported to SaferGems in 2014 alone, there is still plenty of stolen merchandise in circulation. The fact that it is easily transportable, can be recycled, or broken down into its component parts, and still represent a store of value is the biggest challenge to police and insurers. So much so that only negligible amounts of stolen goods are ever recovered. The knock-on effect is that organised crime gangs continue to use these resources to pay their subcontractors and fund more criminal enterprise. The challenge is to deny them access.medusa-logo-clearface-RGB-Black-v1

In Greek mythology Medusa was a Gorgon who, apart from having venomous snakes in place of hair, could turn to stone those who looked directly into her eyes. Through his Medusa™ system, Hilaire can achieve the next best thing. He hasn’t yet mastered turning people to stone, but in a trice he can encase your valuables in an impenetrable block of inert material. Making them impossible to get at, and impracticable to transport.

A few weeks ago he demonstrated his system to industry experts gathered in London, and within seconds filled a showcase full of watches with expanded foam. Even if an axe wielding hooligan could risk the sixty seconds of incessant pounding that it took to breach the toughened glass, his reward would have been impossible to transport on a scooter, let alone divide up between his co-conspirators.

Initially developed for use in secure flight cases, the Medusa™ system has now been scaled up to give all round security to stand-alone showcases, and is especially effective where displays of high value watches are concerned. To find out more, go to www.medusa-hss.com Personally, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Medusa!

Michael Hoare

 
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I love trees, and one of the great things about London – compared with other cities – is it’s green spaces and tree lined streets. So I’d like to see more of them, and welcomed the idea of a ‘green bridge’ in the heart of the city when it was first mooted. Especially as it was to be coupled with innovative – almost sculptural – design. But if this Observer article has got its facts right, why don’t we just use the £60 million of public money, supposedly pledged to this project, to grow ourselves a proper forest that’s open to all? That’s fifteen million trees by my reckoning! Read more….

Green Bridge Design For those of us old enough to remember, this story must call to mind the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ from the album Ladies of the Canyon, released way back in April 1970.  It goes something like this:

They paved paradise And put up a parking lot With a pink hotel, a boutique And a swinging hot spot

Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone They paved paradise And put up a parking lot

They took all the trees Put ’em in a tree museum And they charged the people A dollar and a half just to see ’em

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The opening of the new V & A exhibition – What is Luxury? – has got the press into a lather this week trying to decide what constitutes the ultimate indulgence, and how it will be defined in the future. Surely the simple answer is ‘silence’ or at least the absence of irritating distractions. Has silence become the ultimate luxury good in our frantic world? The Telegraph Picture
The author Mathew Crawford’s, whose new book The World Beyond Your Head is just out, says, “Figuring out ways to capture and hold people’s attention is the centre of contemporary capitalism. There is this invisible and ubiquitous grabbing at something that’s the most intimate thing you have, because it determines what’s present in your consciousness. It makes it impossible to think or rehearse a remembered conversation, and you can’t chat with a stranger because we all try to close ourselves off from this grating condition of being addressed all the time”.  
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As a nation we seem to have a developed a thirst for lists and superlatives, and TV shows ranking everything from top ten records, funniest comedians, and highest bridges abound. So, great news! With the Sunday Times Rich List out this weekend, Retail Week magazine has just published its list of the world’s 100 richest retailers. At number one is Amancio Ortega, who has managed to amass an eye-watering £38.76bn. Whilst, coming in last in this select cohort, are Michael and Rainer Schmidt-Ruthenbeck with a paltry £1.33bn between them! Add the whole lot together and they’re probably worth more than the economic deficit of a modest sized country, and I’m sure they’re worth every penny!

Top 100 Retailers

The nerd in me welcomes the arrival of another listing; a kind of retail Top Trumps for those who like order in their lives. And I’m sure that those at the top of the rankings are puffing their chests out with pride at the confirmation of their peerless business acumen. But apart from giving their egos an unnecessary boost, and giving Retail Week a few more column inches, what’s the purpose of these rich lists?

Yes, it’s heart-warming to read the entrepreneurs’ epic struggles from rags to riches, but are their stories and wealth meant to inspire envy or admiration? Do they prove – as Gordon Gekko said – that “greed is good”? Should we be overjoyed by their success, or depressed by our lack of it?
Top 100 Retailers 2

Are there lessons to be learned or a moral to be inferred? For instance, if only we lazy slackers got off our backsides could we  be as rich as Croesus too? Inspired by this example lowly paid shop staff will surely be spurred on to make their own pile from retail! Or, should those laggard billionaires ranked eighty through one hundred pull their socks up and emulate their betters in the higher echelons?

I suppose, when all’s said and done, some good has come of it after all. At least compiling the data kept some journalists and accountants in work – proving that wealth does indeed ‘trickle down’. And during these austere times it does your heart good to confirm – like the politician said – that “we’re all in this together”!

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Morris Dancer edit1Was it an April Fools stunt? When launched on the first of the month, some commentators thought Amazon’s new Dash service was just that. But it isn’t! It’s more like a bad dream really; a glimpse into a dystopian future, some might say! I wouldn’t go that far but it does mark another way-point on our descent into total consumerist immersion.

Taken at face value, the idea of having handy prompts around the house reminding you to order everyday essentials is no bad thing. Who doesn’t need a little help compiling their shopping list? Who hasn’t exclaimed “damn, I should have got toothpaste!!” when unpacking a week’s shopping? It’s frustrating, but conquering the shortcomings of one’s memory is a useful discipline!

But, if I’m reading this right, Dash isn’t so much about useful prompts and organising your needs but instant gratification, slavish loyalty to brands, and elimination of competition. It’s potentially resource hungry and wasteful too. Regular replenishment is one thing. Programmed delivery of printing ink, water filters, and janitorial supplies has got to be more efficient, but how does the economics of whizzing round with an instant toilet or kitchen roll stack up?

Presumably some-one has to pay for delivery. Would that be Amazon, the customer, or the self-employed courier; paid per parcel, but responsible for his own fuel and vehicle, and working unlimited hours? Or maybe the skies will soon be buzzing with delivery drones? Ignore the Sunday afternoons – and maybe nights – shattered by infernal noise, what is the risk of being poleaxed by a parcel falling from the sky, or swiped across the head by a rogue drone, as it bounces off your roof, and breaks a few tiles into the bargain? Threats to privacy, security, vandals with catapults, portents of Metropolis-the list of reasons not to use delivery drones just goes on and on!

 
24/7: Terminal Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, by Jonathan Crary ……….the idea of a divergence between a human world and the operation of global systems with the capacity to occupy every waking hour of one’s life seems dated and inapt. Now there are numerous pressures for individuals to reimagine and refigure themselves as being of the same consistency and values as the dematerialized commodities and social connections in which they are immersed so extensively………. ……There is a pervasive illusion that, as more of the earth’s biosphere is annihilated or irreparably damaged, human beings can magically disassociate themselves from it and transfer their interdependencies to the mecanosphere of global capitalism. The more one identifies with the insubstantial electronic surrogates for the physical self, the more one seems to conjure an exemption from the biocide underway everywhere on the planet. At the same time, one becomes chillingly oblivious to the fragility and transience of actual living things.   VersoBooks.com
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