It is tempting to view all technology companies as the same. Perhaps thirty years ago that was true because every technology company operated within guidelines that applied to all companies. They paid their fair share of taxes, employed people, trained them and offered real career opportunities to their staff and were as we still are a model for open access and social mobility through promotion based on meritocracy.
Fast forward thirty years and whilst tech is the new buzzword and geeks are now cool from Silicon Roundabout to the silicon valley, scratch the surface a little deeper and the bemouths of tech don’t seem to be operating by these rules. If we look at Google, Apple, Facebook and Uber they make vast profits in every territory yet have overly complex tax structures (read minimise any tax) employ relatively few people and with few exceptions do not invest in anyone other than core staff. You can be a successful global tech business and be a good neighbour Microsoft, Cisco and HP to name three prove that every day.
Until now if anyone objects to their tactics and this booming tide of tech they are accused of being protectionist and old fashioned. Deluded fans use the phrase ‘this is the sharing economy’ as if one sided take no prisoners commercialism was somehow cuddly and a good thing.
Well as a technologist no one can accuse me of being old fashioned and as the founder of a good neighbour technology business it’s about time we woke up and smelt the coffee a little.
Legitimate commercial competition played on a level playing field is good for everyone, the client, our country and everyone employed in those businesses. Huge aggregators of data or services will ultimately destroy their host industries.
New technology can undoubtedly bring advantages to clients and consumers, but communities also need jobs and we should not willingly embrace a future where Britain becomes an impoverished branch economy. We should demand that these relatively new companies operate as good neighbours and pay their fair share of taxes, training and social on costs for access to our markets.
How does this affect you may you ask. Let me put a scenario to you, you have a choice between two IT suppliers one a company with pride in its people, UK based and demonstrating social and business ethics. Much like Twin and a host of other businesses in the UK. Your other choice is a trendy global business that has a satellite office but not much else. Providing on a commercial level we are both in the ball park – How do you choose?
It’s simple imagine going home and one of your children asked you what did you do at work today ? Your reply could be ‘I engaged with a business that I really liked, they invest in training and have a great track record in bringing youngsters on in the technology business, in fact the sort of business I would like you to work in perhaps one day’ or ‘I did a deal for a service not sure where they are based but I liked their ads’
Choosing a great supplier isn’t like choosing an iphone and make the right choices and one day your children might even thank you for it.
The idea behind this article and some of the narrative was from an article by Luke Johnson in The Sunday Times Business Section 22.11.15