Like millions of global sports fans it was greatly disappointing, not to mention embarrassing, to witness recent events unfold as former England football team manager Sam Allardyce was caught red handed in a conundrum far more perplexing than any tactical challenge he had previously faced in a thus far unspectacular albeit steady career.
I’m sure most know the details so I will spare regurgitation. It did, however, get me to thinking in a broader capacity as to what the business world could potentially learn from Allardyce’s indiscretions and two key points subsequently materialised.
For those unfamiliar, in the UK only the role of the Prime Minister is more high profile than that of national football team manager. Assuming the role, especially if the candidate is indeed English, is the holy grail and Allardyce had every chance to achieve legendary status and write his name into the annals of history. Well he certainly did that but in completely the opposite manner. He well and truly dropped the ball. He let the team down. He let the nation down. As one respected broadcaster commented: “He had a plate full of lobster yet he couldn’t resist reaching across to a neighbouring table to steal a chip.”
Why? What fuelled this insane decision to meet with relative strangers, engage in such a precarious conversation and disclose so much as to compromise his position as king of the castle? Greed? He was being paid GBP 3million a year so surely not? Pure stupidity? No, as you don’t get to climb such heights if the lights are on but nobody is home. Ego? Possibly as Allardyce wasn’t known as “Big Sam” merely on account of his physical stature! Whatever the reason, to display such unethical conduct and blatant disregard is baffling, disappointing and a microcosm of the notion of money over morals that seems to be undermining sport, business, politics and many walks of life in this current age.
It demonstrated the significance of a robust culture within an organisation, manifested by best practice conduct. It proved that ethical decision making and accountability is imperative, especially at the highest level. But surely that’s a given, right? Surely the modus operandi should always be based on doing the right thing, of conducting oneself in a proper and ethical fashion?
Allardyce’s response was that “entrapment had won.” For a man renowned for building teams around a strong defence this was a weak call and wildly missed the point. Of course the topic of conversation was wholly unethical, his conduct downright wrong and I am not in any way condoning this nor am I dismissing this as irrelevant. But, in all actuality and to support my broader point, it should never had got to the situation where a meeting took place, let alone a conversation. It simply shouldn’t have happened, end of.
The team who allegedly “entrapped” poor Big Sam were posing as representatives of an investment consortium from the Far East. They were actually a team of journalists from one of the UK’s most respected newspapers. And this is the principal point of the piece and my argument. Surely Allardyce and his advisors must have stopped to think and check before agreeing to meet, especially given he is constantly under the microscope of the public gaze? His reputation, his career, his future has been seemingly destroyed by a lack of proper research and due diligence. Sloppy you could say. Maybe, but what can business professionals learn from this sorry affair?
It clearly illustrated the genuine importance of knowing who you do business with, of who you are meeting with. Of conducting stringent and thorough enhanced due diligence and background checks on any 3rd parties or potential business partners before you sit down and enter into any form of commercial dialogue with them. Or any dialogue for that matter. (And no, of course I’m not saying it’s ok to conduct this due diligence and proceed into unethical discussions or engagements regardless).
Big Sam clearly failed to do this and his empire came crashing down after only 67 days and one game in charge. With an ever increasingly complex regulatory environment and focus on enforcement by local and global authorities, business professionals would be wise to heed Big Sam’s imprudence – even if your corporate culture and conduct is on point, engaging with any 3rd parties without knowing who they are can pose a very serious and potentially catastrophic threat. To reverse the slogan of one well known sports manufacturer: “Just don’t do it!”
I wonder what Big Sam would do now if he had the power to turn back the clock? What would he impart as invaluable advice from his experience? I would imagine that the importance of having a robust due diligence process would be high on his list. Know your 3rd parties, know who you are doing business with. Invest in this. It will pay dividends in the long run.
Similar topics and themes will be explored in detail at ethiXbase’s 2nd Asia Pacific Ethics & Compliance Summit on November 18th in Singapore. If you haven’t already then register now. As an FYI Big Sam Allardyce will not be speaking….
By Ben Tirebuck, ethiXbase