The Journal’s recent 2015 North East Business Executive of the Year Awards dinner brought together a stellar cast of regional business luminaries who are driving the commercial success of many of our best-known firms.
They are responsible for the employment of many hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the North East and elsewhere, for setting the business strategies that will collectively bring in billions of pounds of revenue and for ensuring their organisations are continually evolving to meet their customers’ and markets’ changing needs.
Yet when we see the giants of the North East business economy today, it’s easy to forget how every one of these companies started out from scratch with a simple bright idea.
Greggs began with a young man delivering eggs on a pushbike, while international software company Sage has its origins in a Newcastle student’s summer job and transport giant Arriva grew out of a second hand motorcycle shop in Sunderland.
Stories such as the founder of a now well-known High Street retail chain straightening out bent nails so he could still sell them in his hardware store are also far from uncommon.
For some, it wasn’t a single bright spark that set them on their way, but a long slow slog working out what their customers wanted – Proctor & Gamble, for example, took 42 years to develop their breakthrough Ivory soap.
There is sometimes an assumption that these big business names were created as they are now with a fully formed business plan, an innate knowledge of running a business and possibly a desire for a private yacht, but in our experience of investing in the ideas, energy and commitment of North East entrepreneurs, reality is often much more run of the mill.
For example, sporting friends Steve Harper and Richard Metcalfe launched their Oddballs underwear brand that we backed earlier this year after a chat in the pub about how to raise more money for cancer charities, and many of the businesses in which we invest are run by hard-working people who want simply to make a difference to their and their family’s lives.
November 16-22 was Global Entrepreneurship Week, and as a business that is passionate about investing in growing and developing regional companies, we’re shared in promoting it here in the North East.
Without expanding small businesses and ambitious owners/managers today, there will be no future giants of British industry.
The audience at The Journal dinner could well have contained the chief executives and managing directors of the next generation of North East business giants, and it’s in all our interests to ensure that they have the infrastructure they need in place to thrive.