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Lessons from Lockdown – WHY does it always have to be about GROWTH?

I started LOFT® with my Father, in 2003 with a £15k student loan.

Between FY18 & FY20, LOFT® doubled in size, growing from £9m to £17m revenue and 40 to 120 employees, in less than two years.

Friends, family, funders, advisors, colleagues, peers, all cheered enthusiastically;

“Well done Ben, your growth story is amazing – congratulations!”

“Wow! it must be so exciting to grow a business so quickly, how did you do it?”

“It’s great to see the business doing so well, you’re smashing it mate!”

The last three years have been phenomenal, I am super grateful, and I literally wouldn’t change anything. But, 40% growth, year on year, is extremely hard going; mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially – nobody really explains this part….

The truth is; growing LOFT® has been the most challenging, stressful and exhausting experience of my entire life.

The imposed lockdown caused by Covid-19 is the first time I have “stopped” in 17 years, catching my breath over the last few weeks, has led me to ask the question;

WHY does it always have to be about GROWTH?

I am not talking about personal development here, I’m talking about revenue, gross profit, EBITDA or EBITDAC as it’s now being referred too! (Earnings Before Interest Taxation Depreciation Amortisation and COVID)

I have lived in the UK my whole life, a nation, government and media obsessed with growth. We are conditioned to believe that growth means success – but at what cost?

Today, the success (growth) of a country is measured using Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP measures the value of all final goods and services produced in an economy per year.

GDP as a measurement, was developed in 1934 after the Great Depression, by Simon Kuznets and formally was introduced as a measurement in 1944, toward the end of WW2.

Economists have often pointed out limitations of using GDP as the overarching measure of economic and social progress. For example, GDP does not evaluate the distribution of wealth amongst a nation’s citizens, nor their health, security, or well-being.

Kuznets himself stated; “Economic welfare cannot be adequately measured unless the personal distribution of income is known. And no income measurement undertakes to estimate the reverse side of income, that is, the intensity and unpleasantness of effort going into the earning of income. The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.”

Environmentalists also argue that GDP is a poor measure of social progress, because it does not take into account harm to the environment.

Is this recent spell of glorious sunny weather really a coincidence? Or, is our planet healthier because the global lockdown has significantly reduced a negative element of growth – air pollution?

The premise that economic growth is only good, and “success” will always lead to happiness, is simply not true. From my experience, growth can creates uncertainty and instability, often resulting in rushed policies and procedures that suit the moment, rather than the future. Ring any bells?

There are of course alternatives to GDP measurement. The Human Development Index (HDI) created by Mahbub ul Haq in 1990 had the explicit purpose “to shift the focus of development economics from national income, accounting to people-centred policies”.

Interestingly, the HDI measures; life expectancy, education and per capita income. A long life, solid education and regular income being the fundamental elements of happiness.

Perhaps the most compelling and relevant alternative to GDP is; Gross National Happiness (GNH). The concept of GNH came from the Fourth King of Bhutan in the early 1970s. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck questioned the prevailing measurement system, that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone could deliver happiness and well-being to society. 

Today, it is inconceivable for modern society to function without the business of commerce, finance, industry or trade. These very factors are altering human destiny by the day in extraordinary ways, both positive and negative. GNH directly addresses such global, national and individual challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of well- being and offering ways to balance and satisfy the dual needs of human beings within the limits of what nature can provide on a sustainable basis.

There are four main pillars of GNH;  

Good Governance

Good Governance is a considered a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which people thrive.

Sustainable Socio-economic Development

A thriving GNH economy must value social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in happiness.

Preservation and Promotion of Culture

Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.

Environmental Conservation

Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to aesthetic and other stimulus that can be directly healing to people.

The four pillars are further elaborated into nine domains;

Living standards

Education

Health

Environment

Community Vitality

Time-use

Psychological well-being

Good Governance

Cultural resilience and promotion

These 9 domains clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are important in creating the conditions for happiness.

I can’t help but consider Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness within my “Post covid-19 strategy” for LOFT®. Focusing upon governance, education (training), the workplace environment, #loftlife cultural resilience, our community and the holistic health of the business. Which in-turn will help to maintain the happiness, security and well-being of our incredible employees.

The British media and our government should be less scared of an impending (GDP measured) recession and more concerned with policy, environmental health, inequality within society, integrating our communities and education, in particular the link between diet, nutrition and immune system.

Perhaps now is the time for us to seriously re-evaluate GDP as a measure of a nation’s “success”? Clearly, not enough of the $2,824,850 million GDP the UK generated in 2019, has found its way to our beloved NHS… (where does the money go?)

LOFT® will make it through this crisis and come back stronger, learning an important lesson from lockdown; growth is not always good for your health, and health is not always valued – until sickness comes.

Stay healthy. Stay positive.

LOFT® are launching our New Collection brochure today – 20.04.20.

Design shapes culture. Culture shapes values. Values create the future. 

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