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'Deal or No Deal? The Future for British Business' - Our Lord Digby Jones Business Lecture 2017

'Complacency is the biggest disease within business'...some wise words from our keynote speaker, Lord Digby Jones, at the 11th Annual Harvey Nash Business Lecture, The event, attended by more than 100 business leaders at the Crowne Plaza Hotel within Birmingham's NEC on Thursday 12th October, addressed the challenges, opportunities and necessary measures for business success in the face of Brexit.

View the photos of the event

This year's hot topic was:

'Deal or No Deal? The Future for British Business'

Opening up the morning was Harvey Nash Director Natalie Whittlesey with a strong statement; "what a difference 18 months can make". Natalie shared some of the results from our snap survey, which were contrasted with our findings from last year's event. These results were very interesting and showed that 57% of respondents were extremely disappointed with the Brexit results. 64% thought that the negotiations are going 'very' or 'quite' badly at the moment, although 59% did think that Labour would be worse at the negotiations than the Conservatives.

Our CEO Albert Ellis then took the stage to briefly share his thoughts on the results and also to introduce Lord Digby Jones. Last year Albert had referred to himself as a 'reluctant remainer'. This year he is now a 'recovering remainer', although interestingly, if there was a chance to vote again he may not vote the same, feeling that all of the scaremongering doesn't seem to have come to fruition since talks have started.

The discussion was handed over to Lord Digby Jones, to try to offer a balanced opinion around what should be done next for Britain and our businesses. The process of leaving the EU is now happening and we will have to make it work both as individuals and as businesses. We have to catch up with the rest of the world - "This is Asia's time; India wants your lunch and China wants your dinner". We have to be aware of the growth overseas and use this to help our businesses.

Reflecting on how current negotiations for leaving the EU are being handled, Lord Jones made it clear that it wasn't going to be easy, but some fundamentals needed to be in place; the UK should have full control of its borders and how they are managed, trade relationships should be made afresh, and finally we should have a sovereign status. The survey results showed that 83% of people did not think that Theresa May would be in power in 2022 for the next election, but Lord Jones said that currently no one wants her job, apart from maybe Boris Johnson. Lord Jones would expect May to be in power until 2020 and over the next 3 years advises she build a fresh team around her. He hoped she would bring diversity to the party and that someone from this newly created contingent would fight for the vote in 2022.

Lord Digby Jones spoke very passionately about how consumers are changing and not only businesses but politicians too need to understand this. Mobile phones have been a key player in the change; "they (phones) have empowered in a fabulous way and enhanced business. It's allowed people to shift the dynamic of communication to unilateral intercourse; the days of leaflets and show leather are over". How we market and communicate with our consumers is constantly changing, are you keeping up to date with this? 'Complacency is the biggest disease within business' and if you are complacent then how can you expect to win over you competition?

In all, it was a great morning with thought provoking discussions and networking opportunities for everyone. The next few months are likely to be uncertain, but even with a Brexit revote today, Lord Jones feels the results would be the same (though some people on both sides may swap camps). Do you feel that you and your business are well prepared for the upcoming changes? And if not, how can you get to a ready state?

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Natalie Whittlesey
Emily Heaton
Rajeda Rahman