Inspiring enterprise should be celebrated more

In a week when business and businessmen have, once again, had a bad press, I think it is important to remind ourselves that, on the whole, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and business owners are the good guys and gals.

Carilion’s demise is a disaster, particularly for the thousands of those who are employed by the company, and its supply chain, made up of many SMEs. The Carilion crash will also impact enormously on some hugely important infrastructure projects across the UK.

For this reason, my belief is that the government should have bailed the company out, albeit by taking a large shareholding in the firm on behalf of UK Plc. Instead, an inevitable focus on the handful of fat cats at the top of Carilion, with their unwarranted bonuses and lavish lifestyles splashed all over the media, meant that the debate wasn’t about what was the right thing to do for the long-term, with the safeguarding of jobs and those important projects prioritised, but what was politically expedient to do in the short-term.

Against a backdrop of stories slamming the Carilion fat cats, a weak Prime Minister was only ever going to make the wrong decision.

In the past couple of days, the Presidents Club has been making the headlines, and for all the wrong reasons. In short, wealthy businessmen came together for a charity event, and whilst raising a couple of million pounds for very worthwhile causes, the female hostesses at the event were sexually harassed by some of the guests. Some of the lewd behaviour witnessed by the Financial Times reporter who ‘exposed’ the misbehaviour was appalling and has rightly been criticised. However, the reaction to the story has been almost hysterical, and again plays into a narrative that suggests that people who are in business and have money are all ‘men behaving badly’.

So, it has been refreshing that Downtown has demonstrated, through a series of events this week, that not only are entrepreneurs and businesses largely a force for good – but that they can be inspirational too.

The force of nature that is executive business coach Michael Finnigan had the Downtown Birmingham crowd walking on air following a breakfast event we hosted with him on Tuesday. Lancashire – lad Finnigan, who has motivated leading sporting personalities to become champions, and supports sales teams from some of the largest brands in the world, gives a whirlwind presentation that reminds us why ambition, positivity, and selling is good. If you haven’t seen him in action, he’s coming to a Downtown event near you very soon, so check him out live – or watch this video of him in action.

Next up Downtown Liverpool hosted a private dinner with social enterprise Recycling Lives. Their directors told us of their incredible, innovative work with the homeless and ex-offenders.

The success rate of this waste recycling company in terms of social impact is phenomenal. They take some of the most vulnerable, isolated individuals from the streets and some of our prisons and save their lives. That’s not bad is it? And its work being delivered by a business.

Over to Manchester for an afternoon event on Wednesday, and we were up close and personal with Mancunian millionaire (or possibly billionaire by now), Scott Fletcher. The head honcho of ANS Group had the Downtown audience gripped with his energy, commitment, and talent for business, as he told us of his journey from a tough upbringing in the less salubrious parts of his home town, to where he finds himself today.

Throughout his exceptional contribution, Scott was referencing those who had helped him along the way and emphasising the importance of looking after those who work for you, and with you. He has also invested in many other businesses and local entrepreneurs in recent times, giving priceless advice and mentoring to the next generation of tech business leaders in the city.

Finally, and staying in Manchester, we hosted our first gala awards dinner of the year, Mancoolian 2018, celebrating the individuals from across the city who had made a positive contribution to the Manchester economy over the past twelve months.

Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Diane Modahl, who now runs her own business, whilst supporting the sporting aspirations of young people from Manchester, was our keynote speaker, and we awarded an array of talented individuals who have been building businesses, delivering jobs, and helping to grow the economy with Downtown awards.

These are the people who truly represent business. It is a shame they don’t get the coverage and the headlines that some of their less impressive peers seem to be getting increasingly these days. Perhaps the media, mainstream and social, needs to change that?

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