Seaside splendour met entrepreneurial endeavour as The Business Day kicked off its formal shoes and dipped its toes in traditional British summer surroundings.
Bridlington Spa brought the outside in for the Humber Business Week 2023 finale, with a huge helter skelter erected under the venue’s magnificent decorative dome as a spectacular functioning centrepiece. Enjoyed by many, the slide to the bottom was readily swapped for the race to the top during a day of engaging entertainment and heady inspiration. Fairground stalls, candyfloss and popcorn became as prevalent as talks about growth, achievement and further economic development craved by all.
And beyond the sometimes competitive sideshows and break-out sessions covering a range of topics, headline speakers brought a distinct flavour of sporting business slightly more serious than the crazy golf and go-karting on offer.
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Clare Balding CBE and Keith Harris are giants in their respective fields, and with host Gyles Brandreth guiding them through, enthralled the audience with their life stories.
And the traditional seaside fayre served up for lunch was a chance follow on from the first keynote speaker’s appetite whetting opening.
From literally earning scraps to eat from his local chip shop at the age of nine, to pulling together a billion pound deal to try and buy Manchester United, Keith Harris’ career clearly impressed.
The merchant banker who went on to become English Football League chair and then deal broker, gave an insight from being wowed on Concorde trips to New York to the ITV Digital fiasco, while being less than complimentary about his dealings with the Glazers at Old Trafford.
Clare Balding CBE, centre, was the headline speaker for The Business Day, joined by clockwise from top left, Abbie Eaton, Keith Harris, Rachel Fellows and Gyles Brandreth. And he gave out some strong business advice too as he compared his two professional passions.
Harris, now co-chair of sports marketing agency The Treble Group, said: “The most important thing is that football is a team sport. You don’t always see it when you see geniuses like Messi, Ronaldo, Maradona or Best, but it is a team sport and so is business. One person may steer and inspire a business but unless there is a team that backs that up and members of the team that replicate it, the business probably won’t succeed.”
He told how judging the quality of the person, their focus, determination and whether they gave off the confidence they could deliver on what he would back when in banking was as important as any business plan – when he revelled in providing the ammunition to match such ambition. And he gave hope even in tough economic periods like now.
“Money is a commodity and even in difficult times, good people with good projects and determination to make it happen with entrepreneurial will, they will always be able to raise that money,” he said. “A good banker should realise they are the assistance to the success of other people. They are the concrete.”
Splitting up the sport-focused guests was a perfect tea break, with Rachel Fellows chair of the collaborative CEO group at Bettys & Taylors Group – the company behind Yorkshire Tea. Also group communications director, she explained the importance of getting the message out, outlining how “good communications will pay dividends,” having worked for Asda and Kellogg’s before finding her perfect fit with a business with incredibly strong values.
Having transformed the stage into the company’s renowned tea room there was a further backdrop change for the headline act, as Wimbledon’s Centre Court emerged for Balding.
From intentionally falling from horses to become a better rider as a child to boarding school suspension for shoplifting, it was a warts and all canter through her life. Having fancied politics before switching to the media in a bid to change the world, Brandreth asked if she had – and the soaring profile and participation in female sport was the answer.
“I’ve made a noise about women’s sport and I’ve made it consistently.” she said. “When I joined Twitter I promoted every single thing, trying to show the media, broadly, how more information was needed.
A postcard from The Business Day. (Image: Reach Plc) “Sport means much more than what happens on courts, pitches, race courses and in pools, it is bigger than that and needs to be bigger than that. It nurtures progression and that bigger message is how we change the world.”
Being back in East Yorkshire also reminded her of a foul-mouthed rant received from the Princess Royal while racing at Beverley after her horse jumped in her regal opponent’s path.
And her early riding passion – her father was a successful trainer – gave her an inner confidence she recommended to the audience.
“It is important to have one thing you are good at, that no-one can question,” she said. “You have always got that then, even as a mental fallback.”
And she urged business leaders to back women’s sport after one delegate told of his delight at seeing the Lionesses in action last year.
“If you can find a way to connect with women’s sport, that’s great, and do offer a shared experience to clients and workforces. Shared experiences that are camera-out moments, where we are all seeing the same view, feeling it together. It helps build strong teams. That’s what makes life enjoyable and successful.”
The entertainment offered by The Business Day was certainly camera-out magic, with back stories of brilliance delighting once again. Regular host Brandreth declared it the best Business Day he had known, having celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with a stay in East Yorkshire ahead of the event.
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