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Cumbrian business leaders share their secrets for success on the national stage

Maria Whitehead & Barry Leahey

Two of Cumbria’s most successful business leaders travelled to London in March, to attend the Be the Business Festival at the Royal Institute of British Architects as guest speakers.

Be the Business, established in 2017, is made up of a group of like-minded business leaders from across the UK. They have formed a group of individuals who are committed to sharing ideas and learning to address the productivity and under performance of UK businesses as a whole.

The group which has ambitious plans and has already established a national business mentoring programme is partnering with businesses, schools and industries to make executive education more accessible and is uniting localised business communities to share knowledge and to learn from each other.

The evening’s events got underway as the Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark MP, opened the Be the Business Festival. After which a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions took place before an evening of business showcase talks got underway, led by some of the most inspiring voices in UK business including Maria Whitehead MBE and Barry Leahey MBE, who talked about their collaborative partnership and how that had provided both businesses with new ideas for growth.

Fellow speakers included Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, who shared his thoughts about empowering employees to deliver business growth, Doug Gurr, head of Amazon UK, who talked about how to succeed online, Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, dean of Bath University Management School, who shared her insight on how to be a better leader, Hosein Khajeh-Hosseiny, chairman of Trinity Sky, who outlined his thoughts on how to grow a business, Matt Carr, commercial director at Carr’s Pasties, who shared his experience of working with a mentor and Rannia Leontaridi OBE, director for of Office for Artificial Intelligence at BEIS, who shared ideas about how AI could create future jobs in UK business.

Talking about the evening and her experiences of collaborating with other businesses Maria Whitehead MBE, co-owner of Hawkshead Relish, said: “Be the Business is about bringing together companies of all sizes to make the UK home to the most ambitious businesses in the world. Increasing revenues, reducing costs, acquiring new customers and entering new markets are all things that UK businesses of all sizes are concerned with. Collaboration is at the heart of this process, something that both Hawkshead Relish and Playdale Playgrounds have firmly embraced in recent months, by sharing insight, ideas and by looking at problem-solving from a different standpoint. By doing this we have both grown elements of our respective businesses and learnt significantly from each other. As a result of this shared experience, Barry and I were only too happy to become involved with the Be the Business. Like all the other businesses involved in the group we want to provide the inspiration, tools and resources for businesses to get started on improving their own performance and ultimately helping the UK economy grow further on the world stage.’’

Barry Leahey MBE, MD of Playdale Playgrounds, said: ”Team Playdale’s efforts to deliver products around the world have resulted in our fantastic global growth. I would urge everyone to explore their opportunities and follow the same path! We would not have achieved our export success if we had not been guided, directed and learnt best practice from others. There is no need to reinvent the wheel and the help is out there for you. I firmly believe that ‘if we can you can’.”

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