People power versus bank negativity

People power versus bank negativity

It is not easy to be objective when it is your own son over whose head hangs the Barclays Bank sword of Damocles. But while this financial organisation cared little that Output Magazine was teetering on the brink of closure, people power was doing its utmost to bridge the cashflow gap and make sure this enterprising resource could be maintained and allowed to grow. James’s full story is here and the response to his fund-raising efforts can be seen, complete with its rather appropriate #stoppress tag, here with updates, of course, on Twitter.

There is a temptation to admit defeat and leave the building, but James has more guts and determination than that. And so does his loyal team that has stood by him and not compromised his cards-on-the-table pragmatism and honesty. They all deserve to succeed, but the mantras dished out by finance houses and banks do not cater for hard working small businesses unless they already are in possession of funds or own assets that can be put up as a guarantee.

In contrast, perhaps I was always lucky. When I decided to start my little consultancy back in the early eighties the economy was buoyant and all I needed was a small initial payment and a business bank account to set me up. Ironically, the first bank I tried was Barclays where I already ran a trouble-free personal account but the reaction of the staff in my local branch couldn’t have been more surprising had I run in brandishing a weapon and demanded they hand the day’s takings over to me. They weren’t interested in me or my cheque or my intentions so I was shown the door.

Furious at this rejection, I spat myself out onto the pavement and stood there, fuming, for a minute or so before deciding to take a few steps to the left to pass beneath the portals of NatWest. But, instead of being rebuffed by the first person I encountered, I was ushered into a small office and greeted by the branch manager who listened to my outline plan – and opened a business account without further ado. Some 33 years later and, apart from one change of branch purely for logistical purposes, I am still with NatWest. It hasn’t always been plain sailing; there have been good times and a few I’d rather forget about. But the business managers have stuck with me throughout and, when I did need a bit of help a few years ago, assistance was forthcoming without much question or query.

My business, when compared with James’s enterprise, is pretty dull and static to outsiders. All I’ve ever wanted to do is plod along doing my own thing. Certainly providing something new and revolutionary has never been my style and, were I to disappear in a puff of smoke, I doubt many people would even notice I’d gone. However, in the time that James has been involved with the printing, display, digital signage and multi-channel industries he has made a powerful impact which has extended the reach of those involved in each industry segment and brought many of them together. Output Magazine rapidly formed its own niche that stood it away from the other online publications and fiercely defended its individuality and its methodology that bring something different to the markets to which it is relevant.

That this enterprising publication should be brought to its knees by a high street bank is a disgrace, not by James’s business manager who has tried to help but because of its unbending attitude from the next level up. This rigid infrastructure at Barclays is governed by what appears to be a totally formulaic, and rather unpleasant, approach to young entrepreneurs. Decisions seem to be driven by rhetoric, even though James was forced to jump through several complex business plan hoops before his request for some funding was declined. And all that was achieved ultimately was a period of time wasting brought on by unnecessary layers of rigid protocol. Ergo, not only did my son lose out, so did his bank as it was obviously anxious for a resolution, even if this was to be a negative conclusion.

I sincerely hope that those pessimistic penny pinchers at Barclays Bank who have the instant power to break small enterprises will take the opportunity to read James’s story and see the overwhelming support of the people – many of whom have never even met my son – who are determined to keep Output Magazine in its rightful and proper place. These miserable bean counters won’t, of course, because they’ll be too busy wrecking the trading potential and the futures of other small companies with the sole aim of putting them out of business.