Comment – Do we need a “fit and proper person” test…?

Do those that preside over repeated company failures merit a place in our industry?

Before anyone can become a UK football club owner, they must undergo what is known as a “fit and proper person” test. Based on some of those that currently own clubs, presumably that test consists of (a) do you have a shed load of cash that you don’t mind frittering away (b) do you have a skin thick enough to withstand the abuse that will doubtless come your way from your fans in the event of a defeat, (c) have you murdered anyone this week, and – of course – (d) do you have the credentials to run a business.

At a time when the demolition industry is littered with individuals that have sunk more companies than German U boats sank allied ships, surely the time has come for the sector to enforce a “fit and proper person” test of its own. Think about it. A person needs to undergo a touch screen test to be allowed on a UK demolition site. A person needs to undergo extensive training before he or she is qualified to drive a high reach machine or run a contract. Yet any smooth-talking person with a sharp suit and a line in business patter can become a company director, even if they were at the wheel when their previous company dived head-first into oblivion leaving dozens or more unemployed and the – often fatal – financial losses of suppliers and sub-contractors in their wake.

Of course, to err is human and even the biggest demolition companies are vulnerable to a contract gone awry, a client’s refusal or inability to pay, the vagaries of the economy, and just sheer bad luck. Show me an entrepreneur that has not had a brush with bankruptcy and I’ll show you a person who is playing it too safe.

But there are some individuals that have gone down more times than Linda Lovelace, made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, and yet seemingly retain a Teflon coating of respectability. Indeed, it has become a standing joke that, upon hearing of a demolition company’s collapse, the default response is “they’ll be back”. And, as sure as eggs is eggs, they usually are; and often within a timeframe that suggests the bankruptcy wasn’t just financial but moral as well.

Of course, a bankruptcy generally results in the directors being disqualified from future directorships. However, it does not disqualify them from restarting the company under another guise and operating it as puppet-master with directors and workers – many hand-picked from the newly-collapsed company – to do their bidding.

Surely there must come a time – when a person’s CV demonstrates time-served with two, three or more failed companies – that the alarm bell of financial irresponsibility should start ringing?