The case for creativity
I was recently speaking to a friend about the dire situation that I, and many people like me, find ourselves in at the moment – living in a house that is increasingly unsuitable for my family’s needs, in an area that was “up and coming” in 2007 but is becoming ever more neglected with each passing day, constrained by negative equity, rising taxes, decreasing disposable income and so on ad infinitum. She paused before responding in her measured way, “Yes – but is there any space for you to be creative in it?” She’s been to my house so she wasn’t talking literally, but her message was clear – Yes you are bound on all sides by limitations, but maybe you need to start trying to find the opportunities within those limitations.
And she is right. Endlessly regaling my tale of woe is using up energy, emotion and headspace that would be better directed into trying to find innovative ways of changing our situation, or at the very least, changing how we feel about it.
I was reminded of this conversation, and the idea of creativity, when reading in yesterday’s Irish Examiner about a Cork businessman who is looking for lenders to fund the refurbishment of a coffee pod, but rather than going to the banks, is asking his customers, through LinkedFinance.com.
They are obviously big on creativity in Cork, because the recently appointed President of CPA Ireland, Joe Aherne, CEO of the successful Leading Edge Group and a proud Cork man himself, recently called for more creativity on the issue of SME debt on the occasion of his inauguration. *(Disclosure – CPA Ireland are a valued client of MKC).
Calling for a more innovative approach to SME debt to support the survival of viable small and medium businesses Aherne challenged the banks to be more imaginative in restructuring debt, citing examples of how they could do so including warehousing periods, debt for equity swaps, the identification of new investors and some element of debt forgiveness.
His premise is that imaginative and innovative approaches generate confidence and a momentum in and of itself. And I have to agree. I spent a few days in Stockholm this week – not somewhere that anyone in negative equity should find themselves, but we lost the run of ourselves with a cheap Ryanair flight. On our last day we discovered that we had been given a damaged, nay halved, 50kr note somewhere along the way. We tentatively proffered it to a shop keeper who advised that he was not prepared to accept it, but that any bank would “No problem!” I should point out that 50kr equates to just over €6 but as you might have picked up by now, every penny counts!
We promptly found ourselves inside a bank a few minutes later explaining to the lovely Elizabeth that the shopkeeper said she could help us? Perplexed, apologetic and probably a bit embarrassed on our behalf, she explained that her bank was a business bank, cashless, and she was unable to help. And then, “No, wait! Go up to the café, just up the road, and tell them Elizabeth from the bank sent you”. They could give us a new note in exchange for our damaged note, which they could then deposit via business banking for its full value – everybody wins! So we took ourselves up to the café, and so buoyed by the goodwill shown to us, spent the brand spanking new note and then some, on coffee and pastries.
It’s a simple, but I think good example of how a little bit of lateral thinking can result in a positive and effective outcome for all involved and as we edge closer to exiting the EU – IMF programme later this year, the case for creativity is one I hope our policy makers and financial institutions begin to adopt, in respect of both their personal and business customers.