Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business

Exclusive Interview: Ashley Rogers, Business Growth North Wales Conference

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Ashley Rogers from the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council, tells Business News Wales about his role, the Business Growth North Wales Conference & Expo and what makes the event unique.

1.  Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Business Growth North Wales Conference?

I started work in the family tourism business in North Wales, then studied Marketing at Uni in Yorkshire, before seeing something of the world e.g. living in Florence, Melbourne and Madrid. After having worked in Marketing/Product Development and commercial management across Europe for multinationals and SME’s, I managed the Northern European Division for Enterprise Ireland (the Republic of Ireland’s trade development body) on Retail Markets, before returning to North Wales a few years back.

Since then, I’ve divided my time between independent consultancy at Gill & Shaw Ltd and regional economic development for North Wales, as Chairman of the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council. The Business Growth conference is the Business Council’s 1 major annual public event, bringing together Business Council Members (e.g. the FSB, Chamber of Commerce, IOD etc…) with Public & Private Sector partners (e.g. Business Wales, our Local Authorities, the MDA), for the benefit of the region’s businesses.

2. Tell us a little bit more about the Business Growth North Wales Conference

The concept of the Business Growth conference is a little different than other events….it’s all about providing businesses with the information and inspiration on key growth opportunities, and then in the expo area, having the key support partners/agencies and organisations that can help business, access those growth opportunities.

3. What can visitors expect from the event?

A great line up of speakers covering key opportunities and areas for business growth, matched with 45 Exhibitors, with the experts/advisors and programmes to support that growth.

4. What speakers can we expect to see at the event?

Our speaker include Directors from market leaders such as Moneypenny and Airbus, experts on key export markets e.g. China and the US, as well as senior Exec’s from local partners, covering key investment projects in the region.

5. What topics will be covered at the event by the speakers?

World class Innovation, the Chinese & US export markets, major investment projects and the opportunities for business, best in class manufacturing/services and tourism.

6. How many years has Business Growth North Wales Conference been running for?

This is our second year. In year one, we had over 300 delegates, so a pretty good start for a new event.

7. How much will tickets cost and what do they include?

Tickets include the full conference and expo, plus coffees/teas and a buffet lunch. Excellent value for £25 plus vat!

8. What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?

Perseverance, being open minded and the ability to focus on your objectives. The first keeps you going when others would give up, the second enables you to take on the input and ideas of others, and the third helps you to ignore distractions and to keep your eye on the end game.

9. What are your top three tips for success?

Focus on the need or problem that your product or service solves for the Customer

If feedback from Customers means that you need to tweak that product or service, then do it. Products & Services need to evolve over time. As long as the Customer is happy, and you have a profitable and sustainable business, then everything else is just noise.

Never forget number 1!

10. Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?

Short term the lack of certainty (over and above what we normally experience in business) in leaving the EU. Medium and long-term issues are more around the digitisation of industry and maintaining some sort of competitive edge in key sectors. How quickly we can adopt and adapt new digital technology and the provision of the skills base needed for that, will dramatically affect how well we do.

11. Do you have any predictions regarding the impact of Brexit on your sector?

I think we have all heard enough predictions on Brexit and its impacts. When we have something fixed we can review, in terms of a final deal, then we can predict the impacts…..until then, business is just getting on with business.

12. What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?

We have an excellent lifestyle offer, great connectivity to both Ireland, the rest of the UK and mainland Europe PLUS a reasonable skills base and decent supply chain depth for businesses moving to the area. As a small nation, we also have the ability to be nimble, when it comes to responding to business enquiries from overseas potential investors. That’s a pretty good package!

13. What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?

Play on our strengths more at a regional level e.g. North Wales has an outstanding manufacturing base and burgeoning energy sector, and is perfectly positioned between the rest of our wider Northern Powerhouse region and Ireland. Each region in Wales has something different to offer and we need to reflect that in our Inward Investment offer…. Wales does a pretty good job of marketing itself, but more of our inward investment marketing needs to be done in partnership with those in the regions and Welsh Government.

14. What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?

For me, digital is absolutely key, so everything connected to Industry 4.0….whether that’s coding, 3D data capture and manipulation, additive manufacturing or the Internet of things. Regardless of your sector, the digitisation of industry needs to underpin everything we do. Our businesses need to be drivers, not passengers in the 4th industrial revolution.

15. How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?

It’s critical for a healthy and sustainable economy, that there is a very close relationship between business and both HE & FE. Without that, there would be a real disconnect between demand and supply for skills, which is not in anyone’s interests. On a regional level in North Wales, we have a good foundation through our Regional Skills Partnership, but there is still more work to be done, as it’s very much a moving target, given how markets and the skills required for them, change over time.