New King, new PM, new start – tough work ahead

September 20, 2022

To say that our late Queen Elizabeth II will be a hard act to follow is a huge understatement. Only a few weeks ago, in a short article, I posed the question “Would the Queen make a good CEO?. It’s a theme I reflected on again after a weekend of lengthy queueing to see Her Majesty lying in state, followed by probably the most spectacular and dignified funeral a monarch has ever been afforded – a sign of the affection in which she was held the world over.

This week, many individuals and businesses in the UK will come down to earth with a bump.  Summer is over. The funeral is over. We have a new King and a new Prime Minister, both of whom will only now get started in earnest tackling a gargantuan task: managing an unhappy country facing very tough economic challenges.

While King Charles III has had a longer run-up than most, he suddenly becomes a boss on a very large scale. We’ve pointed out before that the British Royal Family is often referred to as ‘The Firm’ by some of its own members. It’s a tightly run operation, in which key players are expected to pull their weight in service of the country – none more so than the late Queen. The corporate analogy is not wasted: Forbes estimates that the Royal Family’s  annual contribution to the UK economy is around £19 billion, mostly through tourism.

Like a CEO, the King becomes ultimately responsible for sustaining this income stream for the UK. His mother carefully navigated reputational issues around certain family members no longer on the A-list while staying mindful of the ongoing cost of keeping the show on the road. Some would say the new boss’s challenge is rather more existential: sustaining the monarchy itself in very different times from 70 years ago when the Queen acceded to the throne.

The Harvard Business Review cites three key challenges for new CEOs that might also face the new King:

  • Operating in the shadow of their past
  • Making tough calls that disappoint supporters
  • Establishing the right pace of change

Overall, King Charles will need to emulate his mother in being open minded and quick to confront problems. He already has a reputation for working exceedingly hard, which can’t necessarily be said for every corporate boss in the land. For both King and business leader, progress in building a legacy to weather future storms requires impactful, inspirational leadership. The Queen displayed these valuable qualities in abundance during her 70 years on the throne.  We at Buchler Phillips send our very best wishes to King Charles in this very difficult week for him; a time for the nation and its businesses to move forward with hope, courage and determination.

Written by Jo Milner, Managing Director at Buchler Phillips, the UK’s leading independent corporate recovery, restructuring and turnaround firm.

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