Review: BIG 50 Event

Lancashire Business View hosted business leaders from across the county for the BIG 50 event at Northcote Manor with the aim of giving guidance on driving profitability and growth into their businesses.

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The BIG 50 ranks Lancashire-based businesses by turnover. Click here to see the online version of the feature which appeared in the January/February edition of the magazine.

The panel discussion, held in association with HSBC, Themis and Haworths Chartered Accountants, gave smaller businesses the chance to learn from their bigger neighbours.

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Mark Schofield , director at Haworths, the business responsible for collating the BIG 50, introduced the morning session and said: “With the BIG 50 we extract  information from companies house and it contains some notable exceptions, the main one being British Aerospace. I think that anyone looking at the big players in Lancashire would expect them to be there, but they're not because their operations are within some huge companies and we simply cannot pull their Lancashire operations from the British Aerospace accounts.

"But of the companies which are there, we are seeing total sales of £10.8bn, a profit  before tax of £247m and they employ 65,240 people. When we did this year's report and compared it to last year, we were looking at an extra £1.2bn of sales this year, as compared to a mere £699m last year, so clearly something's going on there."

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Simon Jordan, director of Themis, co-sponsor of the event, added: "We're very proud to be sponsors of this fabulous event. If you look at the companies involved in the BIG 50 and the companies here today,you can see Lancashire is in a fabulous position. The listing looks at turnover but I think you could have a number of performance indicators that would reflect how well we're doing. The businesses involved are stimulating growth, complementing apprenticeship growth, and they are impacting on the economic well-being of the county."

The guest speakers were put through their paces covering topics including growth strategies, skills shortages, recruitment and the importance of having fun in the work place.

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Jason Gledhill, area director for HSBC, co-sponsor of the event, said: “We are a huge corporation, but it still comes down to local and regional levels. We take a lot of visual feedback and amend problems for all members of staff to see and comment on.

"In terms of skills and attitudes of staff, quite often it's about bringing in key people from competitors as well as nurturing your own home-grown talent.

"From our point of view, businesses looking to grow need to have a clear idea and strategy and then we can get behind them from a financial perspective."

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Alistair Eagles, managing director of Seatruck Ferries, said: “It's all about having fun. The moment you lose that in business there's no point. The moment you stop trying to grow and innovate you simply stop having fun.

"You need to be open and have good communication in order to develop an understanding between different departments. Also, we don't say it often enough, but saying thank you is important.

"I encourage all businesses to get as much customer contact as possible. Embrace things going wrong, learn from the mistakes and use that to grow."

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Pat Egan, managing director of Places for People Homes, said: “In the past two years our business has grown thanks to bringing in external companies who had a commercial approach and who could already do what we needed doing.

"The starting point as a leader is understanding what you want to achieve, otherwise your staff don't. You need that link from even the lowest pay grade through to the top sharing and believing in what you're trying to achieve.

"You need to set clear expectations and direction and lead by example in applying your company values. It's about taking a flexible approach in a volatile market."

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Colin Mustoe, chairman of The Senator Group, said: "As my business got bigger and I got older, I didn't want a case of farmer's son syndrome. You can't hold on to everything and not let new ideas come through and take you forward.

"We have never done a five year plan, we've always worked on 12-18 month models instead. You need to keep doing the basics and identifying the right markets."

  [caption id="attachment_51127" align="f-align-center" width="500"]DSC_6145 The BIG 50 panel on stage at Northcote Manor[/caption]