What HMRC and MPs can learn from schoolchildren
I was finally released from the shackles of my desk this week to attend two very different events – one involved 14,000 excited schoolchildren, and the other brought together MPs, HMRC officials and tax advisers. I soon learnt that when it comes to managing finances, the grown ups could learn a thing or two from the kids…
My ears are still ringing from Tuesday’s festivities at the O2, where Dan Martin, editor of our sister site BusinessZone.co.uk was judging Blastbeat, a UK-wide social entrepreneurship programme for children. The kids had been tasked with setting up their own music and multimedia companies, with each child taking on a different job role, including CEO, Sales & Marketing Manager, Public Relations Manager, Finance Manager, Event Manager, Company Secretary, Talent scout, Web Manager, Video Crew, Photographer, Journalist, Ecology/CSR Manager and Art & Design Manager, ultimately producing a Battle of the Bands concert in order to identify the best musical talent in their areas. Each company had to raise all its own capital to finance the event and create a business plan. Like any other business, they all aimed to make a profit, 25% of which would go a charity of their choice.
Talking to the children – who came from all sorts of backgrounds and ranged in age from eight to 18 – I was amazed by how quickly they’d adapted to this mammoth task and how much they understood about the challenges of running a business.
“There are always conflicts and clashes of opinions but it’s how you overcome them that matters,” one teenager told me. Their company had started with 18 staff members and they lost 50% of these by the end of the project – but still managed to turn out an excellent event and make a profit. This was all with zero experience, no outside help and no training. When it came to running the business, they did just that – “there wasn’t the time to sit down and have long chats about it all the time – we had to adapt to what was happening, so we texted each other and came up with a plan and just did it”.
In contrast, Wednesday evening was spent at the Houses of Parliament, where the CIOT held its summer reception. The room was packed with MPs, including current Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke and his predecessor Stephen Timms. Much of the talk centred on how the government could best achieve the tax professionals’ dream of having a ‘reliable, consistent, and predictable’ tax system, with Gauke assuring the assembled audience that the coalition government’s ears were open to the profession.
Many attendees commented that there had never been so many finance and tax professionals in the cabinet – surely a sign of common sense prevailing. There was endless talk of consultations on this, that and the other, and round table talks about one tax policy or another. With all this lunching and talking going on, one wonders who is actually running the country? Perhaps, like the kids, they might consider texting each other, coming up with a plan and just doing it? If only the grown up world was that simple!
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I've been a journalist for four years, writing on a wide variety of topics from business and finance to travel, culture and celebrities. I began my career as an editorial assistant for Palladian Publications, a B2B publisher specialising in technical magazines for professionals in primary industries. I later moved into consumer magazines as a...