As I write this there have been commemorations and memorial services remembering The Few, those who fought in the Battle of Britain seventy years ago, and without whom I probably would not be here running my business in a free society. It is almost unimaginable what might have happened to European politics and culture in the intervening period, and what suffering there would have been beyond the terrible things that happened back then.
Of course very little in modern society can quite compare with what The Few did, but we should be very grateful to those in the last seventy years who have helped preserve our freedom with their courage.
It struck me recently that there are so many people making all sorts of contributions to our society including the business fabric of the modern economy. They did their bit and are so easily forgotten. My Dad spent time in North Africa, the Middle East, Italy and Austria during the Second World War. If it sound a little lame to say “spent time” it is because he has never talked about it much. I know that those years were mostly pretty unpleasant. The desert was a very uncomfortable place to be. Dad was in Signals, but was still a target landing on the beach in Sicily. He did his bit. Later, he worked in the City for a well-known bank (not one of the infamous ones), but he retired a long time ago and no one there today would know about his contribution.
My wife’s Dad joined the Navy in the Twenties and to his chagrin was injured on duty before the start of the Second World War and he was invalided out. He became a salesman, and a good one. He was the first to sell the beer produced by a well-known (then just local) brewery to non-ties outlets, free-houses, clubs and so on. The company is now huge and international, but to give you a clue it all started in Bury St. Edmunds. His son, my brother-in-law carried on the good work, but it would be nice to think my wife’s Dad, whom I never knew, was still remembered by more than just his family.
We work with others through our lives and their efforts help our employers and often our own businesses thrive. We have learned from other workers from the day we started in the working world. We always must owe a lot to those with whom we have worked, and maybe we have made small contributions to their lives too.
Isaac Newton was perhaps thinking more in terms of science and maybe philosophy when he said “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants” but everything we have in business and in our society is from standing not only on the shoulders of Giants but on the shoulders of the little people, many or most of whom are forgotten. I think we owe it to ourselves and to them to remember while we can how we have come to where we are.
© Jon Stow 2010