Archives Month: January 2017
Did you catch the BBC Four series, Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream, Presented by Simon Sebag-Montefiore? Having visited Vienna I was struck by the enduring sense of history in Austria’s capital – no Shard or Gherkin to draw your eye away from St Paul’s or The Tower of London. Vienna is all palaces, magnificent buildings and The Opera House. The presence of Strauss, Mozart and Klimt is all surrounding. Every building and statue and faiker reminds you that this city was once the centre of Europe.
In the series, Sebag relates the importance of Vienna and the Habsburg dynasty that ruled much of Europe for nearly a thousand years.
In order to maintain their control over The Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Habsburgs made alliances with France one minute and chasing Napoleon around the next minute. They asked Russia to help them defeat the Ottomans one day and then resented Russia’s hold over them the next. Running Europe resembled the school playground with the ever changing fallouts and makeups. However it did make for fascinating and enlightening television and well worth seeing on Catch Up.
I was struck at the end of the series how Brexit, for all its column inches and prime time coverage, is nothing new. Most European nations cannot remember who their allies and friends are from one century to another.
How many times would you protect Pierre in the playground if the next day he is calling you names behind your back? Isn’t it better to find out who your true friends are and then stick with them through thick and thin?
A dynasty, a playground, a marriage – can you, can we, be relied upon – for better or worse, for richer for poorer …………
One of the many passions and delights of financing start-up businesses throughout the country for over 40 years has been to follow the fortunes of individuals who through vision, hard work and dedication have got their businesses off the ground and prospered. One such businessman from the Westcountry I wish I had met and been involved with has been James Dyson. Dedicated to innovation and quality of his products, he has become one of the most successful British entrepreneurs in my lifetime.
Another such artisan that I have followed over many years but never met is Richard Bertinet, baker of Bath. How odd that both Richard and James are Bath men. From his origins in Brittany, Richard brought his bakery skills to the Westcountry and opened a school in Bath to teach aspiring bakers the art and individuality of quality bread and patisserie creation.
Thanks to Richard and his dedication, focus and ability he has added two shops in Bath and a second manufacturing bakery in Milton Keynes to his ever expanding empire.
On occasions, the appetite to expand causes entrepreneurs to take their eyes off the quality of their product and listen to the siren voices of their accountant, dictating on costs rather than quality and service. All too frequently this change of focus is the death knell to an otherwise brilliant business. (Lesson: the accountant knows how to manipulate figures but he doesn’t know how to bake bread or sell it. Treat your advisors as you do with your dough – take a large pinch of salt with whatever they are saying !!)
Back to the plot – recently we were in Bath and called on Richard’s New Bond St Place shop. If we eat with our eyes, I fed like a king that day. With arms full of croissants, brownies, ciabatta and focaccia we headed home.
That evening we sat down to brimming bowls of tagliatelli carbonara and Richard’s high baked ciabatta with salted butter. Long after the pasta was devoured we continued to cut thick slices of the golden crusted bread and slather them with butter (don’t tell the doctor please).
Believe me, Richard may have expanded his business significantly but he certainly hasn’t taken his eyes off the product. That loaf was the finest bread we have eaten, anywhere in the World. No wonder that Waitrose sell Bertinet produce in their stores.
The thrill of finding dedicated artisans has never left me. Even at my venerable age I still get excited by British enterprise, skill and quality. I look forward this year to seeing many new businesses being created and developed with the aid and support of my colleagues at Armada.