The past two years have been tough for the mortgage market. Jobs have evaporated and budgets have been slashed.
The scale of change in the market and contraction in the intermediary sector has been unparalleled. A £360bn gross lending market in 2007 has contracted to a measly £143bn.
Everyone has had to adapt to this change in the size of the market but some have dealt with it better than others. So why have some been able to make the best of a bad situation or even do better than before while others have been left by the wayside?
This week’s book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr Spencer Johnson, deals with just this question. It’s a slim publication with large print that will probably take you no more than half an hour to read.
Broken down into three sections, the first part involves a discussion among a group of old friends who have got together for lunch after a school reunion.
The second and main part of the book is a story narrated by one of the friends about four characters who live in a maze and search for cheese.
The third part returns to the school friends for a discussion of the cheese story and what it means to them.
The central story is about two mice called Scratch and Sniff, and two small humans called Hem and Haw. All of them live in a maze and eat cheese – specifically the cheese in Section C of the maze.
Then one day the cheese disappears. Scratch and Sniff immediately start rooting round the maze for another source of cheese.
In contrast, Hem and Haw hang around in Section C, mulling over what happened to the cheese.
Instead of doing the same as Scratch and Sniff and finding other sources of cheese, they rail against the injustice of what has happened to them.
They are too scared to explore the maze and don’t see why they should be the ones to adapt.
Eventually, when they are both totally emaciated from lack of cheese Haw decides to explore the maze. The rest of the story is about what he learns as a result.
If this is all sounding a bit childish to you that’s because it is – it’s a simple story about dealing with the loss of something important and being fearful of change.
As a reader, you then work out who is closest to your character.
Are you like Scratch and Sniff who just get on with it, or more like Hem who refuses to do anything about the situation and suffers?
Or are you Haw, who eventually comes round to accepting there’s a problem and finally finds a new source of cheese?
The lessons of the book don’t only apply to work, as the discussion among the male and female school friends reveals in the third part of the book. The cheese can represent all manner of things – relationships, money or even how we interact with our children.
The lost cheese of the mortgage market is the huge amount of commission that resulted from a booming housing sector. When the market stumbled so did many brokers as the number of deals plummeted.
The parting message of the book is that by keeping a positive attitude and not fearing change, you too can find an alternative source of the smelly stuff.