In the first of a series of three articles, Carl Richardson encourages businesses to accept the current wave of uncertainties and embrace the opportunities that exist on the flip side of the same coin.
Writing from the perspective of a West Midlands business that has been fortunate to have enjoyed a measure of success over the past seventy years of trading, subsequent articles will discuss the importance of establishing a national plan for the UK economy, and why driving exports and international trade is so critical to economic growth.
‘It’s a state of mind’
These simple words have been used in recruitment campaigns for our Royal Marines for many years, emphasising the power of mental resilience and fortitude in overcoming adversity and consistently achieving goals in the face of what can seem like overwhelming obstacles.
Right now, with the world facing what feels like a whole series of generational threats, challenges and changes to the post-war international order, these words feel more apt than ever.
This is certainly the case in the UK, as the country experiences a political ‘interregnum’ whilst waiting for the anointment of the next Prime Minister in early September. At the same time, a 40-year high inflation rate is impacting on businesses and households alike, and rising interest rates are changing many economic calculations for the first time in nearly 15 years. Household budgets will be under huge pressure with many people having to make really difficult choices, so how can businesses navigate this period of uncertainty and protect the jobs on which those families depend?
News about war, industrial disputes, record-setting climate change and a cost-of-living gordian knot dominates the airwaves. On the back of a global pandemic, navigating this wave of uncertainty with a ’can do’ state of mind feels more important than ever for our country and the business community which powers our economy, and, let’s never forget, ultimately helps to pay for our public services.
The Royal Marine’s world-class reputation has not been established simply by possessing this powerful mindset. Rather it is under-pinned by setting a strategy, adapting the appropriate tactics to achieve that goal and ensuring that adequate training has been done to have an outsized chance of success, an approach which has much to commend it to a wider audience.
It is of course imperative to acknowledge the series of significant challenges facing policy makers at this time, which can stymie more strategic long-term planning.
Equally, it also important to provide some balance to the all too frequent headlines which may well follow the old adage of ‘bad news sells’ in order to achieve ‘clicks’ and sales in an ever competitive media marketplace, and set out why an opportunistic state of mind should be achievable. The theme of ‘backing ourselves’ came across loud and clear during the Commonwealth Games from those who had pushed to bring it to Birmingham, and its undoubted success – which certainly wasn’t a pre-ordained given – should serve as a great example of the potential returns to be gained from maintaining an ambitious approach, whatever challenges present themselves.
To support such an attitude, we should recognise that the UK has many significant in-built factors that work in favour of the country and our businesses, and which can sometimes be overlooked or taken for granted. This list is long, but a few examples could include:
These examples may seem like ‘givens’ but should not be taken for granted, as they all help to underpin the appeal of the UK around the world, as evidenced by the top-ranking consultancy firm EYs recent ‘attractiveness survey’ which ranked the UK as the most attractive destination in Europe for foreign investment in 2021, ahead of both France and Germany.
Ozzy shows the way
The sight of Ozzy Osbourne rising out of the stage to close the 2022 Commonwealth Games, as the Black Sabbath staple ‘Iron Man’ rang out across the stadium and was beamed to a TV audience of millions around the world, was a timely example of why backing ourselves – as individuals and as the collective UK - is indeed the right state of mind to adopt as we look to the future.
While Ozzy might not be what one would consider to be Royal Marine material, or a candidate to be sent in to boost the morale of the troops, that was exactly the impact that his surprise appearance had on those who were watching. The look of pure joy on his face as he uttered ‘Birmingham Forever’ to the crowd, and hinted that he was as surprised as anybody to be appearing after a series of recent medical issues, underlined how anything can be achieved if you start with that right state of mind and then build a plan around that, as we will explore next week.