I don’t like it when obstacles get in the way of business says CBI chair

Paul Drechsler

Business Leader Magazine was amongst the four hundred plus business leaders that attended the 2016 South West Annual CBI dinner at the Marriott City Centre hotel in Bristol.

CBI President Paul Drechsler CBE was the keynote speaker at the event and told the room that ‘looking at opportunities internationally was key to driving productivity in the South West and UK,’ following Brexit.

He said: “Post Brexit I would say three things to business owners. Firstly, to keep doing what you’re doing and focus on your business and its customers; secondly to look at the opportunities to expand your business abroad; and thirdly to think about how you can innovate and develop new products and services.”

He also said that he was ‘fed up’ with business owners being vilified and that bad business practices were the exception not the rule.

With Article 50 yet to be triggered he said that David Cameron’s swift exit had helped to dampen some of negative impact of leaving the EU.

He said: “We were very concerned about political leadership and instability following the vote but this was corrected very quickly; and coupled with some smart decisions made by the governor of the bank of England, it has helped to dampen negativity.

“But we have a long way to go and business has to work in partnership with government to ensure we have absolute clarity about what we want to achieve and to what time frame we want to work to.”

On the UK and South West’s balance of payments deficit, Mr Drechsler stressed that there were companies in the region that had products and services they could export but didn’t do so at the moment.

“I’m incredibly proud of UK business and its leaders but we could always do more and we are behind Germany when it comes to productivity. How do you change that? By increasing sales and driving innovation,” he said.

Mr Drechsler also said that three common concerns business owners raised with the CBI were the apprenticeship levy, national living wage and business rates – with the latter penalizing business owners and helping to damage the high street.

Andrew Livingston - CEO of Screwfix

Andrew Livingston – CEO of Screwfix

On the night Andrew Livingston, CEO of Yeovil based Screwfix, also spoke.

He recently replaced UWE Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West as CBI South West Chair.

He said that his customers were still busy and that consumer confidence was holding up, with his company’s recent trade pulse survey showing positive results.

Andrew spoke about the importance of connecting education and business; and also said he was frustrated with some of the region’s infrastructure.

“I travel lots and get to see what standards are like across the world and we lag behind some places when it comes to things like mobile coverage and major road networks. I don’t like it when obstacles get in the way of business; and enterprising people are held back by things like poor broadband,” he said.

Deborah Waddell, CBI South West Director, also spoke on the night and thanked Professor West for all his work as Chair.

Barclays head of large corporate banking for South West and Wales, Lee Everson also addressed guests and noted how the event attracted many of the region’s top business people.

The dinner was sponsored by CBI members Barclays, Burges Salmon and Plymouth University.