It wasn’t a boycott by Guardian readers that tripped up Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, but a failure to manage City expectations.
I must know every hackneyed quote about reputation ever written by Shakespeare – or more likely made up by his modern-day philosophy-peddling avatar, the reputation management guru out on a pitch.
The one that really annoys me is “who steals my purse steals trash”; an Othello quote that refers to the pilfering of a reputation as being far worse that the swiping of a wallet.
Whenever I’m in a room with someone quoting that one, I instinctively check my wallet.
So what does it have to do with Sports Direct’s disappointing Christmas if Mike Ashley got in the papers for searching his distribution centre staff and, by not paying them to be frisked, allegedly breaking the law on the minimum wage?
Building a reputation
The whole episode might have enraged the Guardian-reading Sports Direct haters, but most of Mike’s customers probably thought that, on those wages, he was wise to frisk them.
“The truth about reputation, in business and in life, is that you build your own. You can change it, modify it, milk it – but it’s all your own work”
Tom Wyatt, ReputationInc
The truth about reputation, in business and in life, is that you build your own. You can change it, modify it, milk it – but it’s all your own work.
Good old Mike Ashley has been entertaining us for years with his ‘sod you’, two fingers up to the City cheeky chappy persona. But all along, he’s done the business.
And that’s why he has pulled in prominent City followers and investors – who have often seemed to be delighted with the idea that joining Mike’s gang shows them to be men of superior judgement and wisdom.
Not too many moaned about him getting rid of non-execs or incentivising potential sons-in-law on the way up.
And the share price didn’t seem to reflect the furore about zero-hours contracts, appointing Wonga as sponsors of his football team or even sacking that nice Mr Pardew.
But if you decide to make a pet of a semi-house-trained pole cat, you should be aware that, if he lets one go, there will be unpleasant consequences.
Sports Direct’s poor run in to Christmas is pretty well par for the course in a miserable, weather aberrant and rainy quarter which has tripped everybody up in the clothing and footwear sector.
His crime in City eyes is failing to manage expectations and falling flat so soon after signalling all was well. And it wasn’t a boycott by Guardian readers that tripped him up – he doesn’t sell their kind of sandals.
- Tom Wyatt is a reputation consultant at ReputationInc