Responsible Business – An Affair of the Hearts
Making sure her business runs its affairs responsibly is a priority high on the list of Ann Budge – and when your business is one of Scotland’s leading football clubs that goal becomes even more vital. Few businesses have to conduct their affairs in the same glare of publicity as football.
That’s why the woman who has resurrected Heart of Midlothian believes she, and Hearts, have a responsibility to make sure they set the right kind of example. Ann, who built up and sold a hugely successful IT business was already one of Scotland’s leading businesswomen when she was persuaded to take the reins at the club she supported as a fan. But even she must have been surprised at the level of interest football generates, and the power it possesses to influence and reach people.
“It’s undoubtedly true that football is an obsession in Scottish life, and that football clubs, by their nature, have an ability to reach out to people and touch them in ways that other businesses really can’t. There is the potential there for football to play a big role in working in our communities to bring genuine benefits.” However, she is firmly of the view that responsible business – like charity – begins at home, and the way her Club behaves day to day in its dealings with customers, suppliers, and neighbours are all issues she takes very seriously. For example, Hearts has taken the decision to pay its staff the Living Wage. She said: “One thing I noticed fairly early on is that football has a tendency to over rely on the goodwill of staff. Many people who work in clubs are supporters, and the club is something that is close to their hearts and that is admirable and positive. But there is a little bit of a tendency to use that too much, to rely on it. I think it is vital that we treat staff properly and with respect, and demonstrate that we value the job they do for us. “At the end of the day we want to recruit and retain the best people that we possibly can. To do that, we need to make sure we treat them fairly and well.”
But she’s equally keen that the Club deals well with its suppliers and customers. “I think when it comes to doing business one of the most responsible things we can do is ensure we treat our suppliers with respect, and for me the key to that is paying bills in a timely way. “One of the big issues faced by many smaller businesses is cash flow, and it is the responsibility of all of us to pay our bills in a timely way that shows we value and respect our suppliers, and that does not harm their business. If we are slow to pay them, then they will have to be slow to pay the people who supply them, and so on until eventually someone down the lines goes out of business.”
She is also determined that Hearts play their part in their community. “We have a fairly big event on at Tynecastle every couple of weeks – and while it brings lots of economic and other benefits to the area it can also cause some disruption for people who live around the stadium. “Away from match days, the stadium is also used regularly as a venue for a whole variety of events, during the day and night time. It is important that we do everything we can to be good neighbours. For that reason, there are signs all around the ground asking those visiting the stadium to respect our neighbours, and to behave appropriately when they come to and leave Tynecastle.
“I support the Responsible Business campaign for a number of reasons, but I suppose the key ones are these: First of all, it’s the right thing to do. Businesses should behave responsibly – after all the alternative is that they don’t behave responsibly and clearly that is wrong. “But as well as being the right thing to do, responsible business is also good business. There has been a load of research that backs that up. Businesses which behave in a positive way are more likely to attract and retain good staff, loyal customers, and suppliers. Surely that’s the best way to do business.”