Size Zero Business

At the end of 2013, Philip Letts moved his AIM (Alternative Investment Market)-listed technology business, blur Group, from London to Devon. In the process, the entrepreneur saved almost £200,000 a year on rent, and secured his company a prime position on the new Exeter Science Park. All very sensible, but there’s more to this story than a well-executed relocation. Because Letts’ company is, in many ways, a laboratory for how business will be conducted in the future. Every aspect of blur Group’s operations is scrutinised for maximum efficiency: its location, its employee-to-subcontractor ratio, revenue per head, its IT infrastructure (all cloud, rather than server-based), individual customer profitability. No one has a personal assistant, and taking taxis is strictly forbidden. Blur Group’s own business is about creating an automated platform for the purchase of B2B services such as marketing and design – an eBay for the service economy.
Letts is a student of business as well as a successful practitioner, so he’s written Doing More with Less: A Guide to the Size Zero Enterprise to share learnings about blur’s ruthless pursuit of efficiency and his own management approach. Typically, it’s a small, economical publication, produced through a cloud-based publishing app and printed overseas. Letts’ ultimate role model is Amazon, who realised from inception that the value of a retail business was not in its stores, but in its ability to manage inventory. As a result, Letts points out, “Amazon’s revenue per employee hit $855,000 [£560,000] last year compared to a storebased operation like Gap, which managed a modest $108,403 [£71,000].” Other heroes include Ryanair, Foxconn and Nike – hardly warm and cuddly employers, but extraordinarily efficient in supply chain management and utterly focused on the difference between core and non-core activities. Talking to Letts, he admits that his analysis of the future is worrying, but his logic is persuasive. He claims that their mission is to bring machine learning to the service industries, and the reality is that machine learning isn’t going to get less intelligent. Automation is going to displace jobs in many sectors, but, the thing is, this is the way things are going and it can’t be stopped.
Oxford academics Dr Carl Benedikt Frey and Prof Michael A Osborne predict that over the next 20 years, the US will have lost nearly half of its workforce due to automation, so it’s up to governments to think about where human labour will be best deployed. The world in 2050 will be bloody different. Within his own company, Letts operates a one-to-ten rule: the ratio of full-time employees to the total ecosystem of service providers must always be one-to-ten. This raises an intriguing issue: in which areas do full-time staff add real value? In the future, says Letts, leaders will have to learn to manage loose ecosystems, not just direct reports. Some will find Letts’ analysis of future business too brutally reductive. Where is the space for camaraderie and warmth in his vision of business, they’ll ask. Won’t ‘size zero’ enterprises just be empty and devoid of instinct and human creativity? In person, Letts is actually loud and gregarious, though he’s probably a hard taskmaster, and working for a boss who’s always wondering whether a machine could do your job better must be anxiety-inducing. But there’s something undeniable about his thinking. The challenge is for us, as humans, to innovate within a new, automated world; to put flesh on the size zero frame.
Adapted from www.managers.org.uk


Ex. 1 Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) Alternative Investment Market: __________
2) characterized by good judgement: __________
3) to check sth in great detail: __________
4) the ability to make a money: __________
5) cruel: __________
6) not too impressive: __________
7) completely: __________
8) brotherhood / companionship: __________
9) easy-going, funny, open: ___________
10)causing people to be afraid: __________
11)without a doubt: __________
12)meat: _________

Ex. 2 Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1. a well-executed                                     inventory
2. employee-to subcontractor                forbidden
3. revenue                                                  activities
4. sth is strictly                                         management
5. service                                                    ratio
6. to manage                                             relocation
7. supply chain                                         jobs
8. non-core                                               labour
9. to displace                                           economy
10. to deploy                                            per head


Ex. 3 Provide English equivalents of these expressions:

1) w trakcie
2) infrastruktura w chmurze
3) zautomatyzowana platforma
4) dążenie do czegoś
5) od początku
6) uczenie maszynowe
7) podnieść kwestię
8)  pracownicy etatowi
9)  prowadzić działalność
10) bezpośredni podwładni
11) pozbawiony czegoś
12) osobiście

Grammar corner…

We have a special tense in English that expresses your expectation as to the completion of sth in the future. We call it Future Perfect (also in the Continuous aspect) and it’s a situation that remains a future expectation until a specific point in the future when it becomes reality (Present Perfect, i.e. sth that has just happened). For instance: In 20 years’ time full-time jobs WILL HAVE DISAPPEARED. Until 20 years from now it will still be a future expectation, when 20 years have passed, you will be able to say: ya, full-time jobs have disappeared. The prediction has become reality. Just now.


Ex. 4 Fill in Future Perfect.

1. I ____________________ (leave) by four.
2. ____________________ (you/finish) the report by the end of the day?
3. When ____________________ (we/do) everything?
4. She ____________________ (finish) her tests by then, so we can go out for lunch.
5. You ____________________ (read) the information bulletin before the next meeting.
6. She ____________________ (not/finish) work by nine.



Alternative Investment Market –  Alternatywny Rynek Inwestycyjny
sensible  – rozsądny
to scrutinize sth –  szczegółowo coś zbadać
profitability –  dochodowość
ruthless –  bezwzględny
modest  – skromny
utterly –  całkowicie
camaraderie  – towarzyskość, braterstwo
anxiety-inducing  – wzbudzający lęk
undeniable  – niezaprzeczalny
flesh –  mięso
a well-executed relocation –  dobrze przeprowadzona zmiana lokalizacji
employee-to-contractor ratio  – współczynnik ilości pracowników do
revenue per head –  dochód na pracownika
sth is strictly forbidden –  coś jest surowo zabronione
service economy –  gospodarka oparta na usługach
to manage inventory –  zarządzanie inwentarzem
non-core activities –  działalność niezwiązana z podstawową działalnością
to displace jobs  – przenieść miejsca pracy
to deploy labour –  zaangażować siłę roboczą w coś
in the process –  w trakcie
cloud-based infrastructure –  infrastruktura w chmurze
an automated platform  – zautomatyzowana platforma
pursuit of sth –  dążenie do czegoś
from inception  – od początku
machine learning –  uczenie maszynowe
to raise an issue –  podnieść kwestię
full-time staff  – pracownicy etatowi
to operate –  prowadzić działalność
direct reports  – bezpośredni podwładni
devoid of sth –  pozbawiony czegoś
in person –  osobiście
cuddly –  milutki


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Ex. 1
1) Alternative Investment Market
2) sensible
3) to scrutinize sth
4) profitability
5) ruthless
6) modest
7) utterly
8) camaraderie
9) gregarious
Ex. 2
1) a well-executed relocation
2) employee-to-contractor ratio
3) revenue per head
4) sth is strictly forbidden
5) service economy
6) to manage inventory
7) supply chain management
8) non-core activities
9) to displace jobs
10)to deploy labour
Centrum Języków Obcych Archibald poziom B1/B2
Ex. 3
1) in the process
2) cloud-based infrastructure
3) an automated platform
4) pursuit of sth
5) from inception
6) machine learning
7) to raise an issue
8) full-time staff
9) to operate
10)direct reports
11)devoid of sth
12) in person
Ex. 4
1) … will have left …
2) Will you have finished …
3) … will we have done …
4) … will have finished …
5) You will have read …
6) … won’t have finished …