Business News Wales has interviewed Adrian Field, who is managing Cardiff BID. He talks to us about his wealth of experience in Economic Development and City Centre Management. He also tells us about the impact BIDS have on the economy and shares his views on the importance of education for the next generation.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within (Organisation)?
I have worked in Economic Development and City Centre Management / BIDs for 18 years, beginning my career at the Chamber of Commerce in Worcester which was a great place to understand best practice and business operations. I have been lucky enough to work in beautiful towns and cities as I did Economic Development for Malvern Hills District Council before becoming Warwick Town Centre Manager for 4 years. The opportunity to start a Business Improvement District (BID) in Worcester came up in 2008 and I was there until January this year when the lure of heading up the new BID in Cardiff was too great.
BIDs are a means of allowing businesses within a defined geographical area – in our case Cardiff city centre – to determine the projects that they would like to see undertaken which will boost the trade and the city’s trading environment as a whole. They have to be over and above any projects statutorily delivered by Council’s or Police and are funded by a levy of 1% of a businesses’ rateable value.
They are set up only if over 50% of the businesses vote in favour of the proposals. In Cardiff, the figure was 84% and we run for a 5-year term before a new ballot takes place. I head up the company, which has a team of four office staff plus our seven new Street Ambassadors, and ensure that we achieve the projects that the businesses want delivered. I also look at the strategic direction of the company with our voluntary Board of Directors, made up of 16 senior staff of city centre businesses, covering all sectors.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
The great thing about a BID is that we can react quickly to the needs of businesses and we can make tangible impacts to the businesses who fund it.
Opportunity wise, we need to build on the fact that we are attracting world class sporting events and performers which gives us an international profile like never before. We need to ensure that we harness this to attract world class businesses and the opportunity that brings.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
Not at all, I have been very lucky to have been in working environments and teams where I have been able to be creative with ideas with a strong staff support network. It is something I am keen to instil into my colleagues now.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
Investing time and effort in the right people. Having employees who are looked after, well managed, and all know the aims and objectives of the company so that everyone is focused on the same goals will go a long way to ensure that they are loyal and ambitious. Continuity is also key – can that business continue with minimal disruption if an employee leaves?
What are your top three tips for success?
- Communication – inform your colleagues and businesses of what is going on, what is being delivered. We have 994 businesses who want to ensure that their money is being spent appropriately – they need to be and are informed!
- Listen – you cannot afford to assume that you know what your clients / customers want without listening to them.
- Don’t be afraid to pinch good ideas from elsewhere. There have been some great projects delivered by BIDs elsewhere in the country (there are over 260 UK BIDs now) and I am not afraid to adapt and deliver these locally but learn from their mistakes. Equally I am happy to share best practice of our projects with other towns and cities – I see it as a compliment.
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
There are 11 BIDs in Wales at present with other towns looking at these as models for town centre improvements. I would urge the businesses in those areas to consider the benefits of a BID so that they can help shape the vibrancy of what is an ever-changing High Street. Businesses in town and city centres really must ensure that they are digitally savvy to ensure that their market audience is much wider than those who pass their front doors.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
The issue of exporting is one which we must be very careful about, given Brexit. We need certainty on its implications as soon as possible so that businesses can potentially adapt accordingly. The same applies on the issue of EU nationals who currently work here. I can’t see it happening but if they are unable to continue working here, is there a supply of willing people prepared to take on the roles which EU nationals have undertaken over the years?
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
I think that Brexit might result in fewer EU nationals choosing to come to Wales and the UK as a whole, and so we will become more reliant on ‘Staycations’. This will make it harder for Cardiff to reach its aim of attracting a more global audience but it is certainly not impossible. We will also need to ensure that issues in town and city centres, that require funding, are potentially flagged up and lobbied for differently as we lose funding which will previously have come from EU funding streams.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
Strengths are the commitment of the people who aren’t afraid to work hard, support from the Welsh Government and it being an affordable place to invest. Weaknesses are its transport links, which hopefully the new Metro system through the Cardiff Capital Region programme will rectify, as well as flights to and from Cardiff Airport going to new, key locations.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
Cardiff has been doing very well in terms of attracting new businesses but you can never do enough marketing and I am a big believer in using case studies to help demonstrate the opportunities. Attendance at international inward investment conferences as well as delegations for familiarisation visits is also crucial.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
I still think that more needs to be done to prepare youngsters for interviews for jobs as well as applying for them in the first place. I have seen a lot of lazy, ill thought out applications and queries relating to positions I have been trying to fill. I also think that the next generation needs upskilling in promoting themselves as people, in order to sell themselves as a viable proposition more. Make them stand out from the crowd when they are preparing for post education life.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
It is vital. We need to ensure that we retain our future leaders in the area where they were educated before they go off elsewhere in the UK, links between business and higher education are a crucial element of this. This is one of the reasons why we are keen to be involved in the Cardiff Commitment which aims to ensure links are there through pledges which will intrinsically link business and schools, colleges and University.