Huddersfield MMB Lunch Club Round-Up
Posted: Thursday June 27 2019
By: Katie Mallinson
In the second instalment of MMB’s recently-launched Huddersfield event, business leaders were invited to Lindley’s Manor House to discuss what risks they faced during unpredictable economic climate – and how they are overcoming them. Heading up the table talk was Katie Mallinson, managing director of Scriba PR, who was able to draw on her own experience of risk – having set up the agency in 2013 – as well as seek crucial insight from some of the town’s key decision-makers…
Huddersfield MMB Lunch Club Round-Up
Topic: Taking calculated risks – is there a secret formula
Welcoming attendees, Katie opened up the floor to discuss the elements of risk and overwhelming external pressures SMEs faced during unpredictable times.
Referring to an article from Statista, which listed the top 10 key risks facing global organisations in 2019, Katie revealed how these included supply chain vulnerability, cyber-crime and economic difficulties, as well as competitive threats, the impact of tech and even natural disasters.
But which risks resonated with the business owners and leaders at the June lunch club?
Abbie Coleman, founder of MMB and magazine editor, said: “I think on a local level we can’t ignore business rates. After speaking with SMEs across the region, they’re becoming a real concern, particularly the sheer volume of what they’d have to pay out if they grew – it would be astronomical.”
Danielle Firth, Heritage Yorkshire’s general manager, added: “I do wonder how some independent business owners cope because some pay as much in rates, as they do in rent. I think it comes down to the industry, but these changes to business rates and relief – which came in a few years ago – have changed the game for so many people.”
Moving on to how small businesses were using alternative methods in order to minimise risk and reduce operational outgoings, Applied Digital Marketing’s managing director Steve Sykes and Annabelle Hill, director of Connection Furniture, discussed using flexible hours options, and tax partner Rachel Engwell underlined how her organisation, Grant Thornton, has been offering co-working spaces for start-ups to save on costs.
From that very topic, the debate led onto how managing a new kind of office culture – such as introducing flexi-time and remote working – could also help combat the skills shortage.
“This is definitely something businesses are concerned about,” said Tracey Hopkins, finance and operations director at Howarths. “We’ve found that talent tends to move to bigger companies – outside of their home town or city – which means SMEs are struggling to compete.
“However, by using their HR strategy more effectively, and concentrating on the things people care about, organisations can add value and retain talent.”
In agreement, Andy McCaul, director at The Bigger Boat, added: “Money is a problem to a point for people, but once you’re in a role other factors come into play. Our biggest challenge has been around how we compete with the likes of Leeds and the vacuum of a big city pull. However, we’ve found that by concentrating on getting the right in people and balancing what they want from their work, that provides a stable team.”
Speaking about her experience of adjusting Applegate Properties’ HR strategy, managing director Amy Wray explained: “We highlighted how autonomy and working differently provided for a nice place to work, and that made a huge difference to the calibre of staff we attracted. It took time, but it was such a worthwhile process.”
Having looked into different ways in order to manage the risk of a talent shortage, Katie asked the group if they felt they took many gambles in their businesses. Or were they averse to delving into the ‘unknown’?
“I don’t personally think it has to be one or the other,” said Katie. “On the spot, I’d say I was risk-averse but someone else might say I’m a risk-taker because I’ve set up my own business. It’s about how you interpret it.”
Michelle Crowther, marketing and business development director at Crowther Chartered Accountants, added: “Yes, it’s about understanding what you’re willing to lose. For me, I feel I’m a risk-taker because I go with my gut and make decisions.”
# Huddersfield MMB Lunch Club Round-Up