More than 300 leading business people gathered in Gateshead for the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Spring conference, to discuss how ‘Together We Can Take On The World’.
Entrepreneurs from across the UK and around the world spoke at the conference, focussed on the future of leadership and entrepreneurship, in Hall 2 of The Sage Gateshead.
Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, opened the conference with a message of an improving economy, saying: “There is a real, positive upward trend.
“Of the 150,000 businesses here in the North East, 75% are one man or one woman businesses. If each of those businesses took on one person we would wipe out unemployment overnight.”
One of the speakers was Floyd Woodrow, an ex-head of the Counter Terrorist Unit and a decorated former Parachute Regiment and SAS soldier.
Now managing director and founder of Chrysalis Worldwide, Mr Woodrow has a reputation for designing and running leadership and elite performance training for business, government, sport and the police.
He told the audience: “The ability for you as leaders to create the right environment for the leaders of tomorrow is critical, because that’s what leaders do. They create the future.
“You’ve got to have courage. Without courage, nothing happens, none of the things worth having in life are going to be given to you.
“You have got to fight for them. You have got to have discipline, especially as a leader you have to perform at that level.
“I’ve been involved in leadership my entire life and I still don’t think I’ve got it. It’s evolution.
“The best leaders are going to listen to everybody in the room and say ‘help me make my plan better’.
“In my entire career in business and in the military, I’ve only ever twice had to go against my team. Every other time, they have helped me to make my plan better.”
Charlie Mullins is the archetypal entrepreneur, having started his business, Pimlico Plumbers, from scratch in 1979 and building it into a multi-million pound enterprise.
The company now generates a turnover in excess of £25m, employing more than 260 staff.
His advice harked back to his days as a young boxer in London.
He said: “To succeed, you have got to put all and everything into it.
“You’ve just got to go for it. I know it’s corny, but you’ve got to be confident, have the will to succeed and believe in yourself. A bit like a boxer, if you take a knock in business, it’s important to get back up.
“I find in business, the harder I work, the luckier I become. You are not going to get nowhere without hard work.”
Richard Tait, of Golazo, is one of the Seattle area’s most accomplished entrepreneurs.
After starting his career at Microsoft in 1998 he left to launch Cranium Inc, which became the third largest games company in the world, selling more than 4 million games in 22 countries and winning a world record five game of the year awards.
A time at Starbucks followed, pioneering healthier alternatives in more than 10,000 stores, before founding BoomBoom, the Seattle branding and innovation lab, where he co-founded four companies in the last two years, including Golazo, a football mad company making natural sports fuel.
He said: “We had a clear sense of purpose and mission that we would let people get lightened and enlightened with the creation of Cranium. We gave them a platform to show the world what they are capable of, it gives them a chance to shine.
“Rule number one in our book is ‘have a mission’.
“There is nothing more inspiring as humans than having a sense of purpose. If you can’t say to me what that mission is right now, either change it or learn it. Life’s too short.”
Meanwhile, the conference’s Post-Election Panel, chaired by the BBC North East and Cumbria Political Editor, Richard Moss, looked at issues arising in the aftermath of the General Election.
Panelist Gillian Hall, of Gillian Hall Consulting, a non-executive director of the North East LEP, said: “Locally, most of this region voted Labour.
“There is a history of antagonism with Conservative governments. We have to make sure we all work together, we persuade the local politicians that there is a greater goal to play for. It’s not who gets to be mayor, who gets to lead the LEPs, or whatever.
“It’s the bigger job. It behoves all of us to understand the environment we are operating in and to be vocal about it.”