After almost 20 years as head of Menter a Busnes, chief executive officer Alun Jones is to step away from the company he joined three decades ago.
Alun, who has been with the company since its earliest days, will leave Menter a Busnes this autumn. His decision comes after nearly two decades of guiding it to commercial success, cementing its reputation as a driver for rural enterprise, and championing the use of Welsh in business.
During his time at Menter a Busnes, Alun has seen the size and scope of the not-for-profit company flourish and become a leading independent economic development company specialising in tailored support for new and growing businesses throughout Wales and beyond.
He is particularly proud of Menter a Busnes’ contribution to promoting the Welsh language and its accomplishments in bringing employment and nurturing economic opportunities in rural communities.
Based in Aberystwyth, with offices throughout Wales, Menter a Busnes has enjoyed particular success operating in agriculture, skills development, and food and drink. As such, the company manages several programmes on behalf of the Welsh Government, including elements of Farming Connect and Cywain.
The services Menter a Busnes provides range from start-up support to export assistance and from the succession of farm businesses to the organisation of international trade events. Also, through its Mabis service, the company offers a range of bilingual business services on a commercial basis.
Alun joined Menter a Busnes in 1992 to manage a rural diversification pilot project (Cwysi). It was the company’s first involvement with the agriculture sector, and some of the pilot’s techniques and services provided the foundations for the subsequent Farming Connect programme.
In 1997 Alun became a director and was appointed CEO in 2003. During that time, he has been responsible for the company’s performance, vision and strategic development. Under his leadership, Menter a Busnes has grown from a business with around 20 staff and a turn-over of around £1.5m to a company employing 145 staff (plus 50 freelancers) and a turn-over for 2022/23 of £20m.
“Being able to shape the company’s growth and development has been a real privilege. Creating and facilitating job growth in rural areas has always been a goal, and we believe in having local people deliver local services as much as possible.
“One of the things that offers me the greatest pleasure as an employer is offering work opportunities to people, who like myself 30 years ago, want meaningful work in their home area. Just looking at my immediate home area (the Dyfi Valley), Menter a Busnes provides employment for 12 young graduates from rural backgrounds who have been able to remain or return to their home area.”
Also, part of the company’s initial remit was to address the under-representation of Welsh speakers in certain aspects of the Welsh economy. Some 95% of Menter a Busnes staff are bilingual. The company’s success in promoting the language and catering to Welsh speakers’ needs has become part of its USP.
When he leaves, Alun will do so with the knowledge he has helped take Menter a Busnes from a niche service known by few to a national service provider whose innovative and ‘can-do’ attitude is there to answer the needs of Welsh businesses.
“I’ve been privileged to work with really good people over the years. We have a low staff turn-over, and we’ve been fortunate to attract high calibre individuals who have helped shape and develop the company.
“We are a service provider, and therefore our staff are our most important resource. We give them every possible opportunity to develop their skills and experience. Sometimes that means they progress their careers elsewhere and go on to achieve great things with other companies – which I see as a mark of achievement for Menter a Busnes and how we operate as a business.
“But on a personal level, I’m looking for new challenges, too, and I would like to use the knowledge and experience I have gained at Menter a Busnes. It’s time for me to move on and to try and make a difference in other ways.”
Chair of the Menter a Busnes Board of Directors, Fflur Jones, said,
“We will be very sorry indeed to say goodbye to Alun. His involvement with the company since its early days means that he has an incomparable amount of knowledge about the business and the rural economy here in Wales.
“Not only has he been an exemplary figurehead, but he has also been the heart and soul of the company – nurturing its ethos, expanding its services, and promoting the Welsh language in the business world.
“The Board and all the staff wish him well for the future, and thank him for all his endeavours for Menter a Busnes. Given his proven track record, whatever venture he will next embark upon is also bound to be a success.”