I found myself watching the film of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory recently (the Johnny Depp one sadly, not the far superior Gene Wilder original….). Amongst all the singing and the teaching of lessons to obnoxious children, I couldn’t help but notice three themes with real relevance today. I’m sure there’s more if you look hard enough, but to start us off:
Immigration and its impact on local labour markets.
Should Willy Wonka have been allowed to bring Oompa Loompas from Loompaland to work in his factory? Were they just a cheaper option than the previous employees or did they bring unique skills? Was having them live within the factory the best way for encouraging integration and contribution to the local community or would it only breed resentment?
Loss of jobs to automation.
Few would argue that, were they running the toothpaste factory, they wouldn’t also have considered replacing Charlie’s dad with a top-putting-on robot (it did look very effective). But what did that have to mean for Charlie’s dad – the sole earner in his household. Could the company have found other work for him? Were there local opportunities for him to retrain?
And finally, business succession.
The story is, of course, effectively one of succession planning. Willy Wonka had no obvious heir, and, aware of his own mortality, he sets about finding a successor to own and run the factory. Was picking between 5 golden ticket winners an effective plan? Was Charlie the right successor? Much as we could criticise this strategy, bear in mind that only 13% of UK family businesses have a robust, documented and communicated succession plan. If you’re in the other 87%, it’s hard to criticise the Willy Wonka plan. As they (almost) say, people in glass elevators shouldn’t throw stones……
We’ve successfully worked with many businesses, including family companies, on defining and implementing their succession plans. We have yet to resort to putting tickets in chocolate bars!