The global business forecaster: Kent’s Richard Scase
PUBLISHED: 09:09 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:09 27 February 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Richard Scase, Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of Kent, is one of the world’s leading business thinkers of trends likely to affect our work and personal lifestyles
Richard Scase is a man of many parts. Not only an academic at Kent University but also a business speaker, entrepreneur and author.
He has written more than 23 books. His latest, Living in the Corporate Zoo, outlines trends that will affect our work, employment and spending patterns. He has won international acclaim for his presentations to major business names, government leaders and politicians both at home and abroad.
Locally, Richard was a founding director of the first commercial radio station to broadcast in Kent (now Heart FM) and the co-founder and shareholder of an online management training company. He has been rated one of the most influential people in British human resource management in a Personnel Today poll.
He is a busy man who adores his work, unlike many for whom it is “doing something you don’t much like. But I’ve always loved my job. It’s never been work to me. I enjoy writing books, doing research and giving lectures,” he tells me.
Had this baker’s son who delivered bread with his father not chosen a globetrotting academic and business life, he might have been a rock star. He was drummer and vocalist in a band and also fancied being a disc jockey.
Born in Bury St Edmunds and a pupil at Thetford Grammar School in Norfolk, Richard was expected by his parents to work for Norwich Union (now Aviva) as was standard practice in Norfolk in those days.
Instead, he went against their wishes and opted to go to university. After graduating from the University of Leicester with a BA in sociology and economics, and then an MA and PhD, he headed south for his first job – assistant lecturer at the University of Kent. “I knew nothing about Kent or the university,” he recalls.
It would be the only job he ever applied for. He went on to become Professor of Sociology and is now Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the university’s Kent Business School. Media-savvy, he gained attention with his stimulating columns both in Kent and in national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian and professional magazines.
For several years he also wrote a monthly column for Business Voice, the CBI’s influential publication. He is a frequent broadcaster and his work has featured on TV in Panorama and BBC Radio documentaries.
“I’ve always been interested in socio-economic and technological trends, and how things will look tomorrow,” he says.
“I like to vision strategies, and become engaged in policies and change. I have no time for academics who love abstract debate that make absolutely no impact upon how we live and the future direction of change.”
His Blue Chip clients include Hewlett-Packard, BT, Ernst & Young, the BBC, IBM, KPMG, MI5, Vodafone, Coca Cola, Nokia, the Economic and Social Research Council, News Corporation, Land Securities, the Cabinet Office, Clifford Chance, ICAEW, Vodafone and Archant, the publisher of Kent Life. You can add other clients, governments and professional bodies across the globe to the list. He also headlines conferences and forums for prominent Kent employers.
His energetic presentational style, pacing across a platform with forceful delivery, electrifies audiences. Richard has shared a platform with the equally restless guru Tom Peters, as well as the less frenetic Prime Minister David Cameron and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He has presented with Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, the largest company in the world.
In his book Britain in 2010, published in 2000, Richard spelt out looming possibilities that are now proven realities.
As a sought-after media pundit, his views are not always welcome. He upset Medway council by backing Boris Johnson’s proposed island airport off the Isle of Grain. He still believes this would regenerate the north Kent economy and bring enormous wealth and employment to the wider county.
He claims “much of the opposition to this scheme comes from retired people with paid-off mortgages and comfortable pensions.
“It is these people who influence local politics, not the young who are desperate for jobs and opportunities.”
Richard has long observed the power of technology and digitalisation to destroy existing business models, citing Amazon, Uber and eBay as prime examples.
He sees cyber attacks and terrorist exploitation of cyber space as major threats. DNA profiling, he says, will lead to personalised medical treatment with huge implications for the NHS as well as Kent’s pharmaceutical industry, while AI (artificial Intelligence) will transform the world of work.
Richard is the personification of globalisation. His main home is in Canterbury but he also lives in Sweden and until recently Spain. His partner Yasmin has relatives in the Lebanon, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. He is the father of two grown-up daughters who live in Sweden and a grandfather of four.
Richard has made around 1,000 presentations in nearly 40 countries. He is always on the go, jetting to Shanghai, for example, to make an afternoon presentation, or to venues in Europe, South Africa or Scandinavia. On one occasion he went to Australia for the day because of back-to-back commitments.
He is currently working with Chinese entrepreneurs at the University of Oxford, developing strategies to internationalise their businesses.
In his private life he sponsors the University of Kent Big Band, supports low-profile charities such as a women’s refuge in Canterbury and various youth projects.
He thinks national charities pay too much to their chief executives who also enjoy generous expenses that eat into the revenue that should go to needy clients.
As a Norwich City season ticket holder, he travels regularly to home games, making the most of High-Speed trains from Canterbury. “This service has changed the whole way of life for us living in Canterbury. The work and leisure opportunities it has opened up are huge.”
Richard’s chief hate is boorish, noisy and inconsiderate people who ruin the experience of a nice evening out in a restaurant.
He worries about the high cost of housing in the south east, saying it dampens wealth-creating entrepreneurship and widens the North-South divide. This citizen of the world loves returning to Kent and his home city, where he writes a regular newspaper column.
“Local roots are still the most important thing in life,” he says. “Canterbury is relatively small but it’s global with a huge diversity of cultural interests. Name me any other city the size of Canterbury with the same vibrancy.”
Despite the globetrotting, Kent remains closest to Richard’s heart. “It’s gone through incredible change with the closure of coalmines, Chatham naval dockyard and the loss of manufacturing. But I like its entrepreneurial culture, diverse economy and network of interesting people.”
He worries about skill shortages and the slowness of many firms to embrace a digital strategy.
“What’s worrying for the Kent economy is the educational system and housing market. They don’t allow talent to realise its full potential and that holds back entrepreneurial growth.
“Kent still needs an injection of hi-tech businesses. Discovery Park will succeed as a hi-tech hub. I would like to see more urban regeneration driven by hi-tech entrepreneurial businesses rather than another shopping centre offering minimum wages and part-time work. When economic growth is driven by retail spend, you create low incomes.”
Richard recently headlined a series of ‘Tomorrow’s Business’ forums for a Kent-based accounting and business advisory practice, stressing the importance for all enterprises to stay ahead of the game.
But what of tomorrow’s Scase? Curiously for a change specialist, he hates change in his personal life.
“I like being entrepreneurial but need a secure base. I will continue to travel the world but I always come home to Kent. I love its accessibility to London, its fantastic countryside and its wonderful coast.
“I enjoy walking through orchards. Few places have such exciting prospects.”
THE FUTURE ACCORDING TO RICHARD SCASE
“The projected UK population grows from 50 million to 70 million. We will be the most populated country in Europe by 2040.”
“By 2030, the majority of households will be single person.”
“Migration adds to property pressures and that is certain to intensify with the mass movement of people from war-ravaged countries to Western Europe.”
“Housing is critical to future economic performance, investment, skills mobility and social cohesion.”
“Millennials (young people) are highly creative, original and won’t be told what to do. Our paradigm of managing and leading them is out of phase with these challenging, resourceful people.”