Embracing change… together

Two years ago I started my role as vice president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. It’s been the fastest two years I think I’ve ever experienced. In 24 months, so much has changed…

In 2017 the Brexit process was well underway – that’ll be sorted before I’m president, I thought.

In 2017 hopes were high for a devolved Yorkshire. Today, such is the frustration with the lack of progress, the northern media and many business leaders have launched a #powerupthenorth campaign to move our region up the Government’s agenda.

There is, however, some much better news! In 2018 we saw the launch of the Bradford Economic Growth Strategy which aims to add £4bn to our local economy and create 620,000 new jobs. By early 2019, we heard how in 12 months it had helped kickstart 4,127 new businesses. That’s 15 start ups every day – and 6,500 new job roles.

In 2017 Bradford Manufacturing Week didn’t exist. Today it has provided around 3,000 work experiences for pupils in half of the district’s secondary schools. 6,000 experiences are pledged for 2019.

Bradford and Ilkley have become Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), empowering local business people with the resources to facilitate positive change to benefit their communities.

On a personal note, since 2017 my son has completed his GCSEs, my daughter is preparing to study journalism at the University of Leeds, my business – Approach PR – has four new members of staff, doubled its work space and gained 12 new clients.

If there’s one certainty in life, it’s change and while change can be hard to cope with, embracing it is the healthiest way to manage it.

As a small business owner, change is without doubt one of our biggest challenges. How often do you hear yourself say, ‘if it could just stay the same for a while, level out.’ ‘If I could just know what’s around the corner.’ ‘If only we could plan for what’s ahead.’

The frustrations of feeling ‘out of control’ is why Brexit is so challenging for many businesses. Not knowing what’s to come can be a source of worry, frustration and has the potential to impact on planning and productivity.

In 17 years of being a member of Bradford Chamber, I’ve seen its networks, its training and its resources help businesses navigate their own uncertain futures. We can’t always predict but sometimes we can prepare.

My world is changing dramatically again as I step into the role of President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce. I’ve an idea of what’s ahead but no doubt that’ll be subject to change, with a few surprises thrown in! I can prepare to some extent and I will throw my heart and soul into the role. As a small business owner, I plan to use my experience of running a business to help others with theirs.

As only the second female president in the Chamber’s 168-year history, I’m aware of the positive impact of change. And what is a certainty is that Bradford’s 15,500 strong business community has a work ethic, an industrial heritage and a track record of not only embracing change but leading it. Just look at the district’s ‘Pioneering Bradford Lasses’ initiative for evidence of that.

We don’t know what’s ahead and these are turbulent times for business but our networks, our mutual support, skills sharing and sense making comes from a spirit of community which is stronger than ever within the Chamber membership. Yes, there will be testing times ahead – that’s just business and life – but our voice is at its loudest, our power at its strongest and change is at its easiest, when we work together as one.