For our commercial director, Mike Brown, much of last week was taken up by the Institute of Directors Open House 2018 here are his observations from the event for those who couldn’t make it:


Brexit Minister, Robin Walker gave a keynote address on the choices facing the Government and the opportunities on the horizon for business as we navigate our way out of the EU. I expected another speech long on promise and short on detail and I wasn’t disappointed.  Whilst I appreciate that they are in a negotiation and do not want to divulge all, they need to say enough to give business confidence that they have a plan.  That is not happening.  Also the Minister did not stay for questions which was disappointing.  He had a room full of business leaders who may have been able to offer useful insights, but that opportunity was passed by!


An excellent presentation on sales and marketing strategy from Darin Enefer – Senior Consultant, Mercuri. He provided some excellent advice on sales and marketing, but the point that stuck with me most was on “moments of truth”. These are points when a customer comes into contact with your business – what do they see and what do they feel. Quite often in the course of a busy working life this aspect can be forgotten, but it shouldn’t be as fundamentally it is about making your business welcoming to customers. So putting this at the top of your business agenda is key.


One of the most inspiring sessions was a panel session on Wellness at Work chaired by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – Independent Chair, ukactive. As an organisation we have been introducing more measures to support people’s physical and mental health but the session discussed how playing a more active role in encouraging wellness by positive intervention could enhance people’s long term health, with the added benefit that employee loyalty and productivity will also be increased.

The ukactive organisation focuses on a long-standing and uncompromising vision to get more people, more active, more often.
They are committed to improving the health of the nation through promoting active lifestyles. ukactive achieve this by facilitating big impact partnerships, championing innovation, providing high quality services to their members, campaigning, providing research and sharing insights.


Cyber risk is something that all companies are trying to come to terms with so it was interesting to here what Andy Thomas – Founder and CEO, KYND – had to say on how preventable Cyber risks are, without resorting to expensive technical solutions. One of the most basic things was making sure that your patch management is up to date. So don’t delay the security updates, the consequences could be far greater than the time lost while your machine is updating.


A very interesting discussion on the future of business in the 21st Century by Matthew Taylor – Chief Executive, RSA. Flexibility has long been stressed as a key priority and will remain so. However Matthew made it clear that we cannot be one dimensional about that and stresses the importance of measuring and monitoring the quality of work. He also stressed the importance of lifelong learning in order to help people keep abreast of technological change (I am going to have to get up to speed on blockchain) and that we shouldn’t fear future technologies such as AI. History has shown that technology changes people’s jobs it doesn’t replace the need for people working!

Matthew Taylor is a British former political strategist and current Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). In 2005, he was appointed by incumbent Prime Minister Tony Blair as head of the Number 10 Policy Unit. He is a writer, public speaker and broadcaster who has been a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze since 2008. In October 2016 he was appointed Chair of the Review of Modern Employment established by Prime Minister Theresa May.


The session on Future Proofing Your Business. This was effectively on the importance of corporate governance in your business. It also touched on the proposed revisions to the Corporate Governance Code 2016. Here is a link : FRC Corporate Governance
The existing code is best practice for business built on the law. The new revision is going to include additional guidance on diversity of boards, staff involvement and engagement among others.
It was an instructive session and as well as touching on areas such as AI at board level provided real practical advice.


Very interesting to hear what Bo Ji – Chief Representative & Assistant Dean, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business – had to say about the importance of strong branding and the role of social media in the future. Especially interesting was his view on how China perceives the UK as a brand. Whilst other countries had a very defined branding – for example Germany stands for quality and reliability – for the Chinese, the British branding was unclear. We were also at the bottom of the innovation index that they consulted, which is the opposite to what our politicians have said! However, perception is the truth and the UK has a challenge to change that if it wants to do more business with China. It was noted that the Germans do six times more trade with China than we do. Mike Brown – Business Development Director at Geo-Environmental Services.

Bo Ji is a TEDx speaker, a China expert and an advocate of EU-China trade. Bo is currently the Assistant Dean of Global Executive Education & Chief Representative for Europe at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB); a top business school with more than 10,000 chairman/CEO-level alumni. Bo had a successful, over-20-year business career in Global Business Development, Innovation, Strategy, Supply Chain Management, and M&A to name a few. He served as the senior executive at the headquarters of many fortune 500 companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Pfizer, Wrigley and Mars. He is also a strong advocate of startups’ expansions into China, and instrumental in developing the “China Start” program to help European startups to expand to China.