We are fortunate in the UK to have a vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurial scene, complementing a proud tradition of industry, trade and commerce. From great British companies whose footprint now spans the globe, to innovative start-ups, there is much to celebrate. The IoD values its role at the heart of businesses both old and new, and two recent evening events reflected the adaptive nature of the institute. For the first, entrepreneurs and corporates came together at 116 Pall Mall to discuss how early start-ups and established businesses can help each other. At the second, 100 current and aspiring brand advocates gathered to hear advertising legend Sir John Hegarty. His advice for businesses needing to kickstart their creativity? “Think big, be brave and remember – there are no rules!”
In Brussels I discussed corporate governance with other directors’ groups as London was blockaded by black cabs protesting about car-hailing app Uber. The firm faces heavy-handed regulators in many European cities, but shouldn’t these officials be embracing competition which offers consumers new choices?
Digital technology allows companies to be creative and change the way we do business. We’ve got some great examples at the IoD’s Annual Convention in September, including Uber, Wikipedia, Bitcoin and BuzzFeed. Any government which wants to back enterprise has to think about how it can unleash disruptive models like these.
Free-trade deal will offer big opportunities for SMEs
YouGov polled the public on the crucial issues facing Britain. Immigration, at 53 per cent, pipped the economy (52 per cent), and was followed by health (36 per cent), welfare benefits (23 per cent) and Europe (18 per cent). Some will argue that immigration is the cause for the strain on the health and benefits systems, but the facts don’t seem to agree.
Research shows that immigrants, particularly from eastern Europe, contribute more in taxes, work longer hours and are less than half as likely to be on benefits as native Britons. Remember the Romanians in Benefits Street? There were a dozen men living in a three-bedroom house, but they fended for themselves, working all hours until discomfited local residents, all maintained by the taxpayer, drove them out. Politicians must tell the truth about immigration, not talk up people’s fears.
The European Parliament elections were dominated by the issue, with Nigel Farage’s Ukip chalking up a momentous victory. But the most worrying feature was the success of anti-business continental parties, from the left and right, with a protectionist agenda. Many of these new MEPs oppose the vital EU-US trade deal which is being negotiated. This would create the world’s largest free-trade area, bringing huge opportunities for SMEs. The IoD will continue to make the positive case for an open economy and the benefits of trade.
Reality of rising interest rates
I recently attended the annual Mansion House dinner, where we heard strong speeches from George Osborne and Bank of England governor Mark Carney. Carney gave the clearest indication yet that we are nearing the point where interest rates will have to go up. Some businesses may be worried about rate rises, but the current situation of highly exceptional monetary policy cannot continue forever. If done gradually, rates can be returned to a level where they will once again be an effective tool for managing the economy.
Congratulations to IoD champion
We offer our warm congratulations to Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director of IoD Wales, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to the economy and charity. Lloyd Griffiths, who was awarded an OBE, is a passionate and tireless advocate of the IoD. I recently joined business leaders in Cardiff for the IoD Wales Director of the Year lunch. I enjoy these events, which highlight the success of our members. Our regional Director of the Year Awards have just finished, with the winners going through to the national finals this autumn.