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REFLECTIONS OF AN WISH FOR BETTER OR ENJOY THE BUFFET!


Prior to Covid, wherever you lived or worked in this fair land, no one was sheltered from the travails and hurdles of the industry - but that’s what makes running a business, being in this trade and surviving worth it all - isn’t it? That’s the fun, the reason to get up in the morning and why so many of us spend our lives doing what we do. I don’t underestimate for a moment how tough it is to run a business and guide it through the chicanery that faces us every day. However, the problems are largely familiar, many of the solutions formulaic and importantly lots of it is within our control.


But if we hark back eighteen months or so, it wasn’t those challenges that kept the industry awake at night, it was the change coming at the industry with the velocity of a machine gun, the disruption and the impotence of regulation, legislation and policy and the avalanche of venture capital money that provided a layer of unfamiliar and unwanted uncertainty in the lives of those trying to run businesses, large and small.


The Covid crisis has provided a distraction of sorts from what was becoming a difficult and complex environment in which to manage a viable business. Covid put everything else in perspective and everyone’s focus went to survival to the absolute exclusion of everything else. Once this ghastly period is over won’t we find that the old certainties have gone, with luck some may return but it is almost inevitable that we will wake up to a new set of problems, played on a different field with a new set of rules, or maybe no rules, and the likelihood is that life is not going to get any easier.


In fact, given the Covid impact on everyone’s cash and the likelihood of a smaller industry and less drivers even the fun- damentals will be tougher. Instead of a sudden and immediate crisis requiring absolute focus, existential deci- sion making and determined action over all things within our control, won’t things on the other side of Covid be more nuanced and insidious hovering above businesses like a toxic fog gradually consuming the oxygen, sunlight, energy and life? No quick and simple answers just a constant pounding.


ANY BUSINESS AND ANY INDUSTRY MUST HAVE A PLAN


Although a quick canter through the list of real threats and problems facing the industry includes many that are outside of an individual business’s control, where is the leadership, who is analysing the big problems and threats facing it? What are they putting in place to deal with those threats? I concede that there is not a solution to every problem and as much as we might all want the cab trade to rule the world – it is not going to happen. That said an industry of this size should be demanding better.


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This is a big industry that employs lots of people directly and indirectly, and provides many people with a good income. It is a vital service in many areas but as an industry we seem to dedicate our headlines and conferences to shock, horror, subjects that literally were announced years ago. We had our chance to input, we had our chance to have policies ready, we have companies in every constituency in the country with lots of drivers and staff all of whom can vote, we have mainly profitable businesses but instead prefer to sit back, let things happen and then belly ache about them.


We are often spurred on to fight battles that were lost long ago……charges at airports, congestion charging, transport strategy objectives etc. This is just sloppy public policy, trying to reverse properly made decisions is nigh on impos- sible and takes effort, budgets and time that should be spent at the beginning of the process not after the fact. It also makes the industry look amateur and inept.


DON’T WE DESERVE BETTER?


Personally, I am fairly bored with the industry conference fayre of a slapstick routine about a councillor in Leeds/Exeter or Norwich who didn’t know a hackney from a private hire in a meeting, a Budley-Salterton Licensing Com- mittee Member who didn’t know that private hire could not pick up from ranks or how unfair it all is. This folks, is domes- tic trivia, a nothing burger. None of it even matters. What matters is whether the environment in which you operate enables you to prosper, to grow, to retire rich and/or pass a thriving business onto your kids.


Prior to Covid, threats, serious threats came thick and fast and the industry was clearly ill prepared for them. It had neither the infrastructure, the leadership, the organisational capability or the budgets to tackle them. When I see in print that: ‘I get the impression that once a consultation is issued it’s just going to happen’, with editorial suggesting that this is a shock, somehow corrupt and our industry’s favourite term: ‘unfair’ - I cringe. Do these people not read anything? Do they not know how policy making, regulation and legis- lation is actually formulated and implemented? This is tub thumping and rabble rousing at its worst.


Uber buys Autocab and it is like an atom bomb has gone off. Webinars galore, individuals vilified. Folks this is real life, businesses get sold, new competitors appear on the block, we might think we are the king of Hitchin or Bedford or wherever you operate but we ain’t. If you don’t like Uber, leave Autocab, if you think they might give you more work stay, if you don’t like them but you think they will give you more work stay and moan to your mates.


AUGUST 2021


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