Time for reflection on that Emma Harrison interview. The Daily Mail gave her the chance to tell her side of the story, ironically. I know from the stats for this blog that it was the Mail's monstering of her that did most of the damage. So let's look at what's being said.
It's impossible for us to know whether Harrison herself was the business brain behind securing all those contracts and connecting with the right people. Clearly she saw herself as a charismatic leader, the company figure-head. She encouraged the culture of the business, driven by targets and rewards. Was she surprised when some employees cut corners? What emerges from the interview is a lack of understanding about real business. Outsourcing is very different from the sort of entrepreneurship she sees as her expertise. She says: "People say it’s taxpayers’ money, but it is profit honestly earned over many years on orders that were placed with our company. I've been investing in this business, taking massive personal risks, for years. This was not a dividend of one year, it was a result of 25 years of work. I agree it’s a fantastic amount of money but I have tens of millions of pounds invested in A4e, some of it supported by personal mortgages. I'm not a gambler, I was very exposed. Any entrepreneur will understand this. I'm the majority shareholder in A4e. I'm taking all the risk."
Take that first highlighted phrase. An outsourcing contract is nothing like an order placed with a company. If I make widgets or run an accountancy practice I only get paid if I do the work I've agreed to do. If I mess up an order or an account I won't get another one. My business depends on delivering what I said I would deliver, and being better than my competitors. That is far from how outsourcing works. A4e, like the others, has consistently failed to deliver, as its business grew.
As for "massive personal risks"; I can't see it. A genuine entrepreneur would take that apart.
The real problem for Harrison was hubris. She believed her own PR. She has never publicly debated with the critics of her company and herself. Until she does that she will not be credible.