Unloved — reputation isn’t what it once was

Ex-con Damien Grant says these days, you can be forgiven for anything.

I’m not widely loved nor respected in the insolvency industry nor the symbiotic lawyers that feed off it. Boutique law firm Buddle Findlay even had a nice section on its website where it warns investors in a ponzi scheme I’m liquidating that I, dear reader, have been to prison; as if anyone wasn’t already aware. It didn’t prevent the High Court appointing me to a related company in the same fraud last week.

There isn’t a Waterstone creditor’s meeting or an industry gathering where my flaws are not canvassed. I am often cited as a case study in why the government needs to regulate liquidators.

Yet here I remain. Unloved. Held in disdain by many of my peers and unstinting in my critique of the very industry that pays my rapidly diminishing mortgage.

I stumbled into insolvency like a drunk falling into a welcoming cleavage and although I anticipated my dodgy past would blow up like a poorly manufactured firecracker I wasn’t inclined to hide away like a slater under a piece of rotting wood. Yet Waterstone continues to get work despite or perhaps even because of my reputation.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point. Reputation isn’t what it once was.

In a world where sex tapes are graded for the celebrity’s athletic performance and quickies in airport bathrooms are sexual etiquette for the sporting elite, the great unwashed have become inoculated to the foibles of those who have a toehold in the public’s mind.

This is great for ex-cons, philanderers and wife beaters although the public’s tolerance has still to be extended to paederasts and hypocrites. The rule seems to be it's okay to cheat on your spouse but not if you preach family values.

This explains why The Chiefs could carouse with a lady of negotiable virtue quite happily but Len Brown’s mana collapsed under his ministerial desk faster than, well, you know where I was going.

What is true for individuals is true for brands, despite the vast army of PR flunkies and social media experts that pad corporates' marketing budgets.

Vodafone could blend a live kitten in front of children and I wouldn’t switch to Spark. United can physically assault a passenger and see no discernible drop in sales. The idea, populated by perennial marketing expert Kevin Roberts, that consumers develop some form of Love Marks relationship with brands is nonsense but he was closing in on an essential truth.

We do not care if a chief executive pays rent boys to spank him. Mercury Energy let a woman die and no one switched to Genesis as a result. The cartwheels Pepsi is performing because someone on Twitter didn’t like Kendall Jenner looking fine in denim is pathetic. Pass me a Dr Pepper.

Roberts missed this evolution when he cut and ran after stating the truth that gender discrimination was a myth.

For a few years I wrote for the Herald On Sunday and briefly altercated with the chief executive of an insurance firm. He lasted about a month because he was too afraid to say anything and I was told his board vetted every column. It made really dull copy. I think he’s still grumpy because he continues to make snarky comments about me from the sidelines of obscurity where he now resides.

It’s possible that he had nothing to say. You must be an exceptionally dull person to reach such exalted heights in an industry where interpreting actuarial tables is a required skill but his board was unnecessarily cautious.

The collapse of The Patriarchy has reduced grown men to frightened children living in fear of a hostile tweet. It’s no wonder fertility rates have collapsed.

I am occasionally contacted by people who find themselves the focus of journalism’s reef-fish and many of the failed businesspeople I deal fret over the unwanted attention.

Rest assured, I tell them. Whatever negative nonsense is said will soon be lost in the vast river of effluent that passes for news and social media and trust in the implicit wisdom of the crowd whose capacity to absorb and ignore negative material seems unbounded.

Just stay away from kindergartens and don’t preach fidelity in public and squirrel away with the au-pair in private.

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