My first 75 days

The new chief executive officer of West London Business describes his early experiences in the job and the opportunities ahead.

Ten weeks ago I was delighted to step into the exciting and challenging role of Chief Executive of West London Business.

As a West Londoner for a lifetime, days spent on the road since I started meeting member companies and other key stakeholders have once again shown me what an extraordinarily dynamic, high energy and capable business community WLB represent from logistics to tech to pharma and food.   Daily criss-crossing of a geography that spans seven north-west London boroughs from London Borough of Hounslow through to Barnet, has also reminded me of the sheer diversity of our community.  Almost fifty percent of our community was born outside the UK.  The cultural insight and global connectivity this provides, alongside the catalytic effect of Heathrow airport as a global gateway, would seem to be critical ingredients that explain why we are the UK’s second largest economic powerhouse (a £50bn GVA economy), after the central London zone.

What quickly came through in conversations with member companies and partner organisations – and from our online survey in September – was a need to more easily navigate the WLB offer.  This is why one of the first changes our members and supporters will start to see is all our service offer being organised around three pillars: Insight, Voice and Connections.  Our value proposition will also increasingly be differentiated to respond to the varied needs of micro, small, large and corporate members.

With long established relationships that span the private, public and non-profit sector it has come through strongly in dozens of conversations that WLB’s members and partners value the insights we can offer – helping you understand a highly complex marketplace.   
Whilst in the past access to our knowledgebase has often meant a phone call to the office (still welcomed of course!), moving forward you can expect much more to be available at the click of a mouse through our website.  As www.westlondon.comgoes through a second round of upgrades, by the New Year our ‘Members’ Only’ area will offer: a West London data dashboard; a West London public policy portal; Business information tools; and Business leader briefing notes and videos.

Business leader briefings will explore topics such as: Personal effectiveness, operations management and Innovation – and you will find these are regularly promoted through our relaunched monthly BusinessWeste-newsletter.

Half way through my first 75 days at WLB we had first Sadiq Khan and then Zac Goldsmith confirmed respectively as the Labour and Conservative candidates for Mayor of London.  Alongside this the Green Party selected Sian Berry and the Lib Dems Caroline Pidgeon as their candidates for mayor.   A lively debate between four capable individuals will now unfold.

Work is underway to update and republish the WLB policy manifesto in November, setting out the North-West London business community’s priorities for the next Mayor to deliver.  It is critical that whoever wins in 2016 they recognise North-West London’s role as a driver of the London and UK economy and the investment required to sustain our global competitive advantage.   

In the weeks ahead we will detail WLB’s approach to unpacking the detail through 2016 of four critical areas for the sub-region’s future:
       Transport and infrastructure
       Education and skills
       The Built Environment
       Sustainability and climate change

If these issues are of a personal or business interest, please get in touch with the team and we would be delighted to involve you in the development of our public policy programme.

Delivering the B2B connections that drive our economy forward is perhaps what WLB has been best known for over the past decade.  Always popular, on 24 September we returned to Fullers Brewery for an evening of speed networking and fine beer hosted by Richard Fuller.  One of our most memorable events since I started was the latest in our Business Leaders Lunches series with John Holland-Kaye sharing his career journey from honing skills selling sweets in the school playground to CEO of Heathrow.  Our property lunch series is also hugely enjoyed – and Ben Giddens of Quintain gave us a passionate tour of his past decade driving forward their ambitious scheme around Wembley on 2 October.  

We are now of course in the final countdown to our third Annual Awards.  An impressive range of entries came in covering three themes: sector leaders; sustainable and responsible business; and driving our economy forward.  At the awards shortlist party at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel on 15 October the excitement amongst nominees as to who might come away with the awards, when West Londoner Jason Donovan presents on 26 November, was palpable.

In the year ahead we will bring new depth to the events programme, linking it more clearly back to our public policy agenda.  We will also convene new professional networks for HR, estates management, public affairs and other professional disciplines.

A fast paced future
As the sub-region and our members respond to the ever accelerating global economic environment the pace of delivery and change at WLB will have to match.   The board and I remain determined to work with our members, supporters and public sector partners to put the North-West London powerhouse front and foremost in the minds of London and national leaders as they make decisions about future resource allocation.  Given the scale of the challenges and opportunities before us I have no doubt the next 75 days will be just as exciting and fast paced as the first.  If you have ideas and views to share my door is always open, so please get in touch.

This article also features in the Autumn 2015 issue of BusinessWest.