It’s time for Britain to become a nation of exporters – Telegraph

This is an important, must-read article by Sir John Peace in the Telegraph. Check it out!

via It’s time for Britain to become a nation of exporters – Telegraph.

Sir John explores the challenges and opportunities in securing a quantum increase in UK exports.

This article should be read in conjunction with the Cole Commission – Interim Report – Turning the dial on UK exports.

John Gelmini and I have been banging on about increasing UK exports for nearly four years.

Here are some of my own thoughts.

Firstly, I think that there needs to be a massive incentive to get increasing numbers of the UK’s young people to experience working and living in foreign countries, together with fiscal stimulus to learn languages to fluency level.

This is based upon my own first-hand experience of doing business in many parts of the world. Time and time again opportunities came my way because of language skills.

Top-quality language tuition is too expensive. It must be both subsidized and streamlined to make it a national skill-set.

Secondly, I think that the UK government needs to focus upon professionalizing selling. Modern marketing is an advanced science, and best practice should be deployed to increase export penetration. Too many UK businesses still try to ‘peddle their wares’ in export markets.

Thirdly, there is a need to focus on key industries, taking a strategic approach, concentrating on the top three sectors.

Fourthly, brands really matter, so we should leverage Britain’s top brands into ‘UK excellence’.

Fifthly, there’s an urgent need to develop a winning strategy for Britain’s SMEs (small medium enterprises).  We must explore the barriers to growth, especially exporting and mitigate the risks effectively. Barriers are likely to include financing, securing top-quality, cost-effective professional advice, and fiscal incentives to encourage risk-taking in SMEs.

Sixth, There’s a need to overhaul public sector support for business, especially exporting. In this regard, staffing needs to be from people who have the first-hand-experience and ‘have the t-shirt’ – there are too many skilled older people ‘on the bench’ – similarly, there are young people who have traveled who are under-utilized.


How to Leverage UK Economic Growth: Positive Industry Policies and Deployment of Professional Interims? – Best Blogs Series

Regular readers of this blog might be getting a bit tired of me regularly banging on the drum about Professional Interims but please stay with me for the moment!

To remind you, recent posts have included:

This week the Chinese Premier visited the UK, starting at the Chinese owned MG plant in Oxford – the next day he and David Cameron announced a large trade deal but it seems that a few days later, Germany got a much bigger prize. This prompted me to think about constraints on UK exporting. Meanwhile, President Obama announced that the US must invest in manufacturing, especially cars, planes and wind turbines – this caused me to challenge a journalist on Twitter “whether the UK had an industry policy?” On a personal basis, I have continued with my “Catch 22 campaign” to try to get more professional interims into the Public Sector to help with transformation (delivery of reforms) – this has included numerous discussions with interim providers, other professional interims and the Cabinet Office. Meanwhile, I have followed other news about Government U-turns, lost stamina for reform etc. I also called Andrew Turner, a fellow professional interim to alert him that our joint blog “What’s the Difference between an Executive Interim & Management Consultant?” was still getting a large number of hits on a weekly basis. Andrew is a seasoned Interim Chief Executive, specializing in change management, business strategy and performance improvement.

Let me now try to weave a coherent thread here. Andrew spent much of his career overseas, especially in the Americas and we started taking about deploying interims to help businesses grow overseas markets, either with exports, acquisitions or joint ventures. A few days later, our thoughts had moved to scarcity of specialized resources to grow businesses. Andrew articulated the argument in a LinkedIn professional debate as follows:

Technology is driving the workplace towards ever more specialised segments. Whereas 20 years ago a specialism would encompass a fairly wide band of knowledge, today that band is being broken down into ever smaller subsets, creating specialists in each one of them. As a result, there is an accelerating trend towards organisations and people transferring tasks which are not part of their core competence to external skilled experts.

To clarify, this is not the same as outsourcing, where whole chunks of work are delegated to third parties to carry out more efficiently than would be the case if kept in-house. Rather, it is the transferring of peripheral activities to specialists (micro-specialists if you prefer) who can carry them out far more skilfully than we can. For example, who has ever spent time creating a mediocre PowerPoint presentation and wishing it could be done by a skilled show designer?

Perhaps this is what David Cameron had in mind when creating his vision of the “Big Society”? After all, government is just as affected as everyone else by this move towards specialisation; they cannot expect to be all things to all men, so perhaps professional interims can become the micro-specialists that support and give substance to the PM’s vision?

My “Catch 22 campaign” has convinced me that the Government, politicians and other stakeholders did not fully grasp the potential of professional interims – there is still too much dependency on consultants, in my view. I started thinking about how to try to convince the Government to adopt a positive industry policy towards professional interims?

At some stage in the week, the penny dropped and I realized that in comparison to China, France, Germany, USA, Russia etc. the UK Government did not have a positive industry policy. I have recently started reading Peter Mandelson’s book “The Third Man” and I suppose that I was sensitized to industrial policy (Peter Mandelson really has an expert grasp of this subject). Anyway, the hares really started running in my mind. I appreciate that George Osborne as a strong believer in neoliberal, monetarist economics probably does not have too much time for Keynesian interventions but surely industrial policy must be on Vince Cable’s radar, as well?

Given the editorial freedom of my own blog, this prompted me to hypothesize that:

In order to grow the UK economy more quickly, the Government needs to:

  1.  Articulate positively policies for all major industries
  2. Identify major resourcing constraints by major industry
  3. Identify support groups, like Professional Interims, that can help the Government identify, risk assess and implement the required changes and delivery programmes (highlighted as constraints under (2) above)
  4. Explore greater and more effective deployment of Professional Interims and Independent Consultants to design and deliver transformational change programmes cost effectively at the local and regional levels (Big Society), dovetailing with major consultancies operating at the national level