I LOVE MANCHESTER

26/08/2011

I Love Manchester

I was walking through town this morning and I have to say – what a great spirit of ‘fight back from descent’ there is. Hard working people who care about their City. In an age of doom and gloom we should pay as much time focusing on the positives, and what I saw this morning was exactly that – Albert Square was buzzing with activity and preparation. The posters in the windows and the people giving up their time, effort and energy to do stuff are a great antidote to the bunch of hooligans who want something for nothing.

The reality is hard graft always wins out in the end. I am particularly impressed by those retailers who have had their windows kicked, premises vandalized along with stock damaged or stolen and have quickly dusted themselves down and cranked up the till quickly.

As we have seen in Manchester on two occasions, adversity always brings out the best in the City; the bombings being the catalyst for the fantastic centre we now have, and the riots having brought people together to make a clear commitment that such non sense will not be tolerated. Who knows this could just be the catalyst for a block busting global business from Manchester City Centre…


We Need More Mavericks

04/07/2011

This post follows on from blogs I have written over the past few weeks. Mavericks are passionate, focused, determined and  often a bit off the wall; they are catalysts for change in politics, business and society in general. Mavericks exhibit extremely strong views and challenge opponents with an intensity that cuts like a laser beam. They remain strong to their views never waver in the face of adversity – they live by the principle of when the going gets tough the tough get going. Embedded deep within their psyche is the need for justice, truth and change for the better. They must accomplish their mission because its means so much to them.

One of the best accounts of Maverick behaviour I have come across is that of Pedro Zaragoza Orts, the Mayor of Benidorm from 1950 to 1967. He transformed it from a quiet fishing village to a magnet for tourists, it has  become one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and the basis of an award-winning Granada TV programme.

Zaragoza, sold the idea of economic transformation to the late dictator General Franco, one that would lead to allowing bikinis on the beaches! Even in the face of excommunication from the Pope he helped to make the place attractive to millions of foreign tourists who took package holidays to Benidorm. The resort changed forever, from a small village of 1,700 to a bustling holiday city today of 70,000.  This happened because Zaragoza did not want to see his fellow citizens suffer in the  challenge of economic decline. What an achievement – an individual who was in absolute service of his community.

I want to see more of this character in my beloved Manchester, because it’s lacking, ambassadors such as Sir Howard Bernstein. In my view he has done a brilliant job in changing the economic fortunes of the City. We need more of the same, individuals who are on a mission to change for the better and the greater good – not for their own personal gain or profile. Time for change in Manchester!


High Growth Foundation – ambition into revenue

23/06/2011

I am delighted by the feedback from our High Growth Foundation forays. There is so much energy, ambition and desire from many entrepreneurs to build bigger and better businesses, even in the face of the current economic challenges. With such deeply rooted personal intentions I hope the HGF will trigger the necessary game plans to move dreams into revenue reality. My vision for the High Growth Foundation is to provide a vehicle to support ambitious individuals on their growth journey. Many of us are motivated by the stories and experiences of others, they help to rewire old thinking and give way to new possibilities, ones we may have thought were out of our grasp. Facilitating conversations between likeminded individuals will deliver a breeding ground for the next generation of global and companies of scale. The HGF will be the catalyst for experience sharing and learning new ways of solving the challenges that come with growth. Any movement or community of significance started with individuals who had a common goal – Manchester music scene, Impressionists in Paris, Motown in Detroit..

I am keen for members to get involved by sharing their stories and experiences, I am also encouraging participants to gain insight and seek advice from other members who may have experienced similar problems.  With over 60 members so far I am really chuffed that this new forum will start to address the gritty, granular and complex matters of growth – the text books often don’t get anywhere near the real issues, this is because people and their associated emotions often hinder growth and at a worst case hold it back.

The High Growth Foundation marks the dawn of a new beginning for busy (and lonely) people wanting business advice – guidance that is founded on experience and empathy with the journey. Equally it is my wish for members to be a voice for the growth community.  This will help to inform many of the policymakers on how difficult growing a business can be and indeed what support is needed at the coalface.

SME’s are the unsung hero’s of the economy and will drive new jobs over the coming years – they need all the support they can get – however, this must be quality. By collaborating with our friends, trusted partners, and individuals with the credibility to help gazelles, my crusade is to build energy and momentum in this valuable space of the UK economy.

Individuals who take risk deserve to enjoy the success that comes with the hard graft and dedication of setting up and running their own business. Please contact me if you want to join the crusade……..


Where is the next Tony Wilson?

15/06/2011

Regional economies are built on big personalities and individuals with the passion and determination to succeed. Tony Wilson in my book was a hero. He made a significant contribution to Manchester and the North, his enthusiasm for music, culture, regeneration and business in general was amazing. His personal brand became synonymous with promoting the Regions business interests. He did things for the right reason, the greater good of the people who made this place their home.  He made a massive difference in many ways leaving a legacy that many of us can only dream of.

He put Manchester on the world stage and contributed to its brand and profile. Others have tried to follow but without the same impact – probably because they have their own interests at heart, namely celebrity status and not making it a better place for the next generation of stars.

The challenging economic environment I hope will see the emergence of a new generation of individuals with the same passion and determination of Tony Wilson.

 

 

 

 


The Power of the Brand

05/05/2011

I was sat in Costa Coffee on Oxford Road in Manchester this morning and it created an extremely thought-provoking experience. Having been in a meeting nearby, myself and colleague Heather, decided to go and have a brew to catch up on a few things that needed to be sorted for next week……..

Within the space of 5 minutes a queue of 30 people deep developed, an orderly line leading out on the street. With only two people serving – who I must admit were doing a fantastic job – an amazing buzz was maintained in the cafe, no one moaning or grumbling.  Many of these customers had been waiting for over 15 minutes for a take away coffee without complaint. Under normal circumstances most people would have walked out but they just waited with amazing patience.

Popular brands can withstand challenges because they act as a magnet to others and create a customer experience that breeds loyal followers. There was a spirit about the place that combined – great location, sound employees, quality product and a physical environment that pulled people through the door. At the end of the day those waiting could have gone 100 yards up the road and purchased their breakfast without the painful wait – but the power of the brand and the experience acted as a form of gravitational pull to Costa fans. I got the feeling that there was no other place to go when the reality was other options did exist.

A great customer experience is enhanced by a fantastic brand, a lesson for all growth wish entrepreneurs who want themselves and their business to stand out from the ground.


Manchester’s next big focus

27/02/2011

I participated in an interesting debate on Thursday last week on how to strengthen the Greater Manchester economy through science and innovation. There were some really lively comments including Sue Woodward’s from the Sharp project – the essence being lets stop talking about strategy and policy and get on and do stuff. Those comments were totally endorsed by myself as a passionate advocate for getting on and growing the economy through supporting high growth companies in the Region. We must make the transition from policy to “how to…….and action”. We are drowning in strategy studies and reports, to be honest, I am quite dizzy with it all, reading them could quite easily become a full time job. Lets get on and build on the good work already underway.

There have been some fantastic examples of regeneration projects in Greater Manchester and the broader North West. In recent years MIDAS has done some brilliant work in attracting inward investment – going forward, we must start to focus on growing our own talent. That means identifying and working with those entrepreneurs who can grow their business to say 50 employees and above, more gazelles! Building on my blog from last Saturday I am sure there must be a potential “Google” or “Facebook” type sat on our doorstep. One thing is for sure we have the talent – we just don’t have the breeding ground for them to surface. Well not yet!

I am massively in favour of attracting foreign investment, however we need to nurture and grow our own superstars – those global businesses headquartered in our backyard.

It about harnessing ambition and doing something with it. In May 1904 Charles Stewart Rolls met Henry Royce in the Midland Hotel in Manchester – it’s where salesman met inventor. That meeting led to the start of one of the world’s greatest brands and success stories in history. A Daily Telegraph article wrote Just hours before Charles Stewart Rolls met Henry Royce he confided to a friend that he had but one ambition: to be the greatest name in motoring.

Its individuals with this drive and clarity of personal intention who need help. Fusing great commercial propositions with entrepreneurial flair and determined mindsets is what will drive our economy – not only in Manchester and the North West but also nationally. In my opinion this is what the LEPS should be doing.