If there is one modern business term that I despise, it is the use of the word “leadership” when the speaker actually means “management”. I never rate managers by their leadership, but I might judge them according to their followership.
A close second is the patronising term “our people”, which is meant to mean the staff employed by a company. Actually they are not “your” people. They are the people who pro tem you employ, and who when the occasion suits you may well throw out on the scrap heap, but more likely they will simply decide they don’t want to be known as “your people” any more, and leave. They know it and so do you, so stop pretending.
But right up there is the word “partner”, often used by technology companies to exaggerate their relationships with suppliers, customers or shareholders who might flood the company with cash if business takes off but are much more likely to walk away when it burns. Get this straight, a partner is another company that enters into a joint venture with you with a view to sharing the profits with you. It is not a supplier or a customer whose interests are fundamentally different. What you save from your contract costs them money, and vice versa.
So when I read this part of Ryanair’s profit announcement this morning, my toes were curling.
I regret to report that we have made little progress in our discussions with Boeing for an order of 200 aircraft for delivery between 2013 and 2016. We won’t continue these discussions indefinitely and have signalled to Boeing that if they are not completed before the year end, then Ryanair will end its relationship with Boeing and confirm a series of order deferrals and cancellations. We see no point in continuing to grow rapidly in a declining yield environment, where our main aircraft partner is unwilling to play its part in our cost reduction programme by passing on some of the enormous savings which Boeing have enjoyed both from suppliers and more efficient manufacturing in recent years.
We would prefer to grow, but if Boeing doesn’t share our vision, then I believe that Ryanair should change course before the end of this fiscal year and manage the airline over the next three years to maximise cash for distribution to shareholders. If we cannot invest our surplus cash efficiently in new aircraft, then we should distribute it to shareholders.
For all Michael O’Leary’s bluster, I wonder whether Boeing really consider themselves to be his "partner". Indeed we can conly speculate whether they just see this as a preamble to a climbdown. Ryanair already operate 210 leased planes with a further 109 to be delivered before the end of 2012. The orders he referred to were a further 2000 to be delivered between 2013 and 2016. 150% growth over 7 years. That’s 14% annual continuous growth of a fleet that is already bigger than BA, although traffic at many Irish and UK airports has slumped, with Ireland facing a decline of 15% of its air traffic, and the UK set to lose almost 10% of its traffic according to the airline. Very easy then for Boeing not to share the vision of their “partner”. Particularly when “sharing a vision” really means “dropping prices”.
And don’t get me started on domains and spaces. These people know no maths.