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The Ups and Downs of Business: A blog by Connect Yorkshire CEO Nick Butler

22nd September 2017

We held a panel event on Thursday 21st Sept at the HTAFC Training Ground in Huddersfield which is the third year we have held this event. It was well attended by about 50 Sponsors made up of HTAFC sponsors and our members. The commercial operation at Huddersfield Town puts its rivals to shame led as it is by their Commercial Director Sean Jarvis. Sean led the Q&A


The Panel


At the last minute one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence backed out so we had a panel of 2 instead of 3 – but the 2 did more than enough to make the attendees go home feeling they had had an informative and enjoyable evening.


The Panel was John Sutcliffe the ceo of Henry Boot Plc and Rob Whitehead the owner and ceo of Serious Sweets. Not only were the 2 from entirely different industries but their experiences were completely different. John is a chartered accountant who has served as FD at 3 Yorkshire based listed companies – Abbeycrest plc, Town Centre Securities plc and Henry Boot plc based in Sheffield – where he was promoted to ceo in 2016. Rob Whitehead joined his father-in law’s business when he was a young lad and built it up to a £45m t/o business during which time he became known as the King of Lard! He sold his “oils” (cooking etc oils) business last year and now runs The Serious Sweet co-fudge etc in Harrogate.


The Ups and Downs of Business


The construction and property sectors are very cyclical; the worst downturn John had experienced was 2007 when development almost came to a halt; typically the choice was between stopping work at a new shopping development leaving you with a half finished project that was worthless and completing it but knowing nobody would buy it. Currently prices are at the top end, Brexit is not helping confidence but John doesn’t think there will be a steep decline like in 2007 but a gradual slowdown/reduction in prices.


The food industry is very different. A recession doesn’t make that much difference. Culture/ food fashion affects it more-for example fat and sugar are “out”. The big 5 supermarkets  are squeezing the big suppliers all the time-the smaller ones are less affected.


Long term strategies


Employ as good quality people as you can afford – and listen to them and delegate to them.


Good people make you look good.


Brexit is a real problem in both construction and food production. 30-40% of the workforce in construction is from Europe; in London it’s 70-75%.


Try to have long term cordial partnerships – Henry Boot has worked with educational establishments over many years.


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