Huey The God Of Surf

Screenshot 2019-07-09 at 22.53.16Huey the God of Surf was right where we had left it. The rusted paintwork, which we’d plastered in Hot Tuna and Quicksilver stickers, was a bit dustier but the surfboard was still on the roof and, most importantly, the boot hadn’t been jimmied open. We couldn’t recall how this old car, a Valiant Regal,  got the name but being 21 and far away from home it seemed funny at the time.

Our aboriginal guide came round the back and when he saw what was inside the cavernous boot his eyes lit up and he roared with laughter. We did the deal.

For three days he had guided us around a national park and told us about the termite mounds, the kangaroos, the snakes and crocodiles, the stories of the Dreamtime and the value of the walkabout. In turn I spent three days persuading him that rather than cash maybe he would consider payment in the form of board shorts.  I had a lot of them. Two thousand pairs.

In fact I had cornered the board shorts market in Bali and brought all the shorts from every store on the island to Australia. It was a stroke of business genius or so I thought. After three years in the Manchester rain I had lain on the hot Balinese beaches and marvelled at just how cheap their shorts were. That was when I had the brainwave.

Before setting off  to travel the world I’d watched the 1980s hit film, Trading Places. At the end of the caper Eddie Murphy, playing the rags to riches hero, outwits the scheming blue-blooded bankers by cornering the market for Florida orange juice.

The sunset and I re-drew my plans. Rather than working my way round Oz I would buy all the absurdly cheap shorts I could afford on my emergency credit card and sell them in Sydney for a mind-boggling profit.  It was hot in Australia wasn’t it? Millions of Australians needed shorts ergo I would be rich and travel in style; Hotels not hostels. Business is a cinch.

A few weeks later a customs and excise officer introduced me to customs duties and the crushing of my own dreamtime. It took four months to negotiate the taxes down to a non-critical level. The trick was bringing them into the following year’s quota (and lots of pleading).

Then came the rain. It wasn’t always sunny in Australia and my background research recalling episodes of Neighbours had been sub-optimal.

I re-re-drew my plans. I would barter my way around this wretched not-always sunny island with its heavy-handed customs duties. I bartered sailing trips around the Whitsunday Islands,  diving lessons in the Great Barrier Reef, campsites in Byron Bay, underground hostels in Coober Pedy, kayaking in the Katharine River and guided walks in the outback. Huey left each one with a push start and a cloud of dust and when it settled the locals were dressed in fluoro board shorts. It was like a backpacker verison of Mr. Ben.

Through some mysterious black magic the volume of boot space occupied by the shorts never seemed to diminish and after circling the country and returning to Sydney, Huey was still heavy with the loot.

I revised my opinion about entrepreneurship and resolved to learn more. Item one: Don’t take business advice from Hollywood comedies but it take it from someone who has been there and done that.

Which brings me finally to Julian Richer. In this book he wants to move the needle of capitalism significantly away from the inequality of todayto achieve a more even distribution of wealth. The system is broken not bust and his book is a manifesto for rectifying the imbalances of wealth and income before they become so savage that it cannot be fixed. Throughout he names and shames (a tactic he encourages) countless companies that have transgressed the ethical behaviour he espouses. No matter what particular issue vexes him on any page he summons with ease a househald name that has repeated that sin. So widespread is the demonstrated malaise that it is no wonder that he has to start the book by stating he is a staunch defender of capitalism. This book is is about getting it back on track and at the heart of this are two steps:  Better regulation and, more critically, a different set of values at the heart of business than today’s selfish approach.

Unlike, say an academic or an international arbitrager of board shorts, Richer has been very successful for decades. Consequently the text is flecked with real life examples of how Richer Sounds has been ever more ethical in its operations and the consequences of this on the business, its customers and suppliers. It is this which makes the book a strong recommendation for those tryingto reconcile businesses and ethics.

Incidentally,  if any readers are interested, I have the key to a lockup Sydney and can do a very good price on some vintage board shorts.


I read:

The Ethical Capitalist

by: Julian Richer