I WAS asked this week why we British are happy to settle for the second prize. Why, as a nation, we celebrate the plucky loser and the athlete who gives his all, but falls just that little bit short.
To add a little context to this rather ridiculous question, it was during a radio interview when I was asked to reflect on the heart- breaking Wimbledon final defeat of Andy Murray at the hands of tennis’s Supreme Being, Roger Federer.
While I have my own thoughts on tennis, I don’t for one minute believe that we in the UK do rejoice in mediocrity or failure, rather we embrace effort, refusal to quit and those occasions when our sporting heroes demonstrate how much they genuinely care about what they do.
My answer to the question was simple – the majority of us refuse to settle for runner-up gongs in life or in business ... certainly not in the North East.
We have a plethora of world- leading firms here.
There is Soil Machine Dynamics building machines that would not look out of place in a sci-fi movie that are built plough furrows along the sea bed for subsea cables and pipelines.
Or what about Kromek? A company that is pioneering digital colour imaging for X-rays used in everything from medical procedures to space exploration.
Then there are the talented individuals behind International Innovative Technologies who are breaking new ground (literally) in the field of milling material down for scientific processes.
These are just some of the companies that didn’t settle for a place in the market, they became leaders in their fields.
Isn’t it also fair to say that to aim for the pinnacle and not quite make it, isn’t always the tragedy it is painted to be, as I’m sure Mr Murray would grudgingly agree when he banks the £500,000 he earned for finishing second.
Likewise, many a business will bid for that large contract knowing that failure to land it is not the end of the world and that the ancillary supply chain or sub-contracted work may prove just as lucrative.
As American advertising giant Leo Burnett once said: “When you reach for the stars you may not get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
I wonder if I will be asked a similarly-themed question when our Olympians bring home the gold this summer?
:: James Ramsbotham is chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce