Steve McNally and Suzanne Chesterton interview Nigel Griffiths, Chair of the Business Council, Cardiff Capital Region.
Last week, Nigel Griffiths (newly-appointed chair of Cardiff Capital Region) told us about his journey from a small mining village in the Swansea valley to an extraordinary business career that’s seen him build, lead and manage change in sectors as diverse as Technology and Public Broadcasting.
In the second of our interviews, Nigel shares with us what he thinks he brings to his new role and his evolving thoughts on the measurable impact the Business Council can make for businesses right across the region ….
“I’m very excited about making a practical and sustainable difference to businesses across South East Wales and a few things are already beginning to become clear since my appointment in December. The first thing is that I’m not a corporate animal who’s here to theorise – my own credibility has been built on improving things and getting things done. I understand the challenges being faced by SMEs in particular as I’ve been there myself on numerous occasions. 2020 was extraordinarily difficult for many companies, but out of turmoil comes opportunity – and I want to help businesses grab that opportunity.
“Building further on the work of the current Business Council”
“I’m also encouraged that we can build on the ground work already done by the Business Council and evolve still further. I’ve already been approached by some exceptional business leaders who are in big chairs at the moment, running businesses with high international and local profiles. These are people with busy lives who are prepared to give up their time to make a real difference – and that tells me we can add still further to the impressive Board we already have, bolstering still further with key industry figures from a diverse range of sectors, all of whom want to help businesses succeed right across the region. I want to emulate what Frank Holmes has done at the EGP – getting ahead of the curve, continually enhancing an expert board that’s able to talk with authority about the challenges we face and show what we are doing to achieve our goals.
“Seeing the gaps in what we currently do to help business – and what we really need to do”
“Because I ‘get’ the challenges that businesses face, I can see the gaps in how the establishment in Wales currently tries to help businesses – and the practical help that they really need. I also know from first-hand experience what many of those businesses need to do to make a step-change in their performance. Beyond that, I’m also keen to harness the massive Welsh diaspora out there. There’s probably 10 times more successful Welsh business people operating outside rather than inside Wales – let’s use all that additional wisdom to our advantage in any way we can.
“It’s time to raise our own ambitions to be the best there is”
“If I’m honest I also think it’s about time we raised our own ambitions for the City Deal. Why not aim much higher to do much better? Why not be the best there is, nationally and internationally? We’re almost apologetic in Wales about being successful. When I sold my businesses I received a totally different reaction from my friends in London and those in Wales – and it said to me that we need to create a belief system that says you can be what you want to be here in Wales.
“We need a belief system that you can be what you want to be here in Wales”
“The support we offer needs to be practical and emotional as well as financial, especially as our SMEs and entrepreneurs don’t have time to think through what they don’t know. In the business service sector – whether it’s IT, Recruitment or Corporate Finance – I’d back myself to increase growth of any company by 25% in two years, if the market is there. You don’t do that just by throwing money at it. You achieve that by throwing insights, skills and methodology at it, being ambitious and looking at the world differently.
“It’s about understanding your market and the mathematics behind growth”
“Although I’m a trained accountant with a degree in law, I’m a sales and marketing guy at heart – and to me success is built on understanding the market and the mathematics behind growth. How do you measure your sales performance? What’s the ROI on your marketing spend? Do you have the right systems? You can often get as much financial help as you want, but securing subsidies won’t create the real value in your business, that starts with understanding who buys from you, what’s differentiating you in the market and where innovation can give you the edge. Where’s your money coming from? Where’s your growth coming from? Where’s the market development coming from? How do you open up in Europe, in Asia Pacific? These are the questions our businesses need to be asking – and no MBA in the UK will give you the answers.
“Making 500 SMEs 25% more effective would create £1 billion extra profit and 10,000 more jobs”
“As an example of what the Business Council could achieve, imagine taking 500 SMEs in our region and making them 25% more effective. That would create a billion pounds of additional profit and 10,000 new jobs. Those are the type of things that need to happen, as well as the inward investment and everything else that’s part of the 20 year strategy.
“The only reason I’m doing this is because I want the region to be more successful at the end of my tenure than it was at the beginning. I see great energy going into growing the clusters and securing the inward investment, which is fantastic. But what about the 10,000 companies that are already here, paying tax and employing people? We need to get all the boats to float. And that in my view is what the Business Council is for – a credible conduit of positive direction, articulating the many needs of our businesses; and also an engine of practical deliverables that can be measured, proven – and continually built upon.
“We need to get all our boats to float”
“How can businesses help deliver that? It starts with a fully thought-through, properly costed, energised business plan for success – asking the big question: ‘How are we going to do this?” And I also want people to create a support network to help each other – a network of ambitious business minds who can actively help each other. We can provide support to make that happen. I’ve been helping businesses overcome organisational change for many years – from digital transformation to recruiting new people – and I’ve had great insight into the emotional journey, particularly about giving people the courage to succeed. Fear of success is more dangerous than fear of failure. That extra 10%-15% ambition creates that super-profit, that ability to re-invest. The Germans are brilliant at it – Porsche and BMW are still largely family owned because they have built a powerhouse on ambition.
“Let’s learn from the best and join them, celebrating our heroes in business and helping them achieve real success.”