While I generally try to avoid making ill-fated predictions and resolutions at this time of year, there are times when a passing comment or suggestion seems to put a new complexion on, and even set the tone for, the 12 months that lie ahead. So it was late last year I stumbled upon a newspaper article which alluded to the origins of the word ‘company’ as stemming from the Italian con + panio or ‘with bread’ – the idea being that a company consists of a group of people who eat, or break bread, together. This revelation, apart from highlighting my own ignorance, made me stop and think a little differently about what we do every day at Diligencia, providing information about companies around the world.
A while ago I wrote on this blog about Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens and how a company is a legal fiction maintained by a collective set of beliefs within our society at large. The notion that a company is then underpinned by a common feeling of fellowship – as expressed through the ritual act of sharing food – is powerful, and one that can help to provide a framework for doing business in 2022 and beyond.
Take face-to-face meetings, which have been so curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic for the best part of two years. Business transactions have of course continued unabated (with video conferencing often a poor substitute) but I have no doubt that relationships have suffered along the way. It is a near-universal cultural phenomenon that an agreement or business relationship is not complete until a meal or other act of hospitality has been enjoyed. For my part, that means making every effort in the year ahead to break bread – or even just grab a coffee – with Diligencia’s friends and supporters.
Another unfortunate effect of the pandemic is the constraints it has imposed on gathering employees together around one table. At Diligencia we managed to hold an end-of-year lunch and dinner in Tangier and Oxford, but there were inevitable absences and even in Oxford it has been nearly two years since our whole team has eaten together. It is easy to underestimate the importance of fellowship and levelling that such rituals engender within a corporate community, however big or small – which makes me more determined to make it happen in 2022.
Finally, in the world of regulatory compliance and due diligence that Diligencia inhabits, it is sometimes easy to overlook the importance of more instinctive, emotionally intelligent reactions to a company, corporate culture or business relationship. Whilst it is clearly no substitute for the kind of rigorous research and checks that modern compliance and due diligence demands, a gut feeling that something is not ‘right’ is still valid – and one that arguably can best be gauged in a relaxed social setting or over a meal. For our team of analysts and researchers, even without the ability to meet our subjects in person, it is crucial that we analyse companies with both logic and emotion.
Whatever your resolutions for 2022, wherever and with whomever you choose to break bread, all of us at Diligencia wish you success, good health and happiness in the year ahead.
Diligencia provides corporate intelligence and due diligence solutions for emerging markets across Africa and the wider Middle East. Our vision is to deliver clarity, inform opinions and enable decision-making for clients in jurisdictions often poorly served by accurate public domain information.