Michael Hayman MBE: Back Brand Britain to give firms the confidence to grow
This article first appeared on City A.M. on Wednesday 26th April.
“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” The sage words of Don Draper, protagonist of hit adland drama Mad Men. This may be the advice of a fictional character – but it is something our real-life politicians might want to consider as the nation prepares to cast its vote in June’s snap General Election.
The last time we were at the ballot box was for the EU referendum. Looking back, much of the run-up felt like a campaign crafted around what we might lose rather than what we stood to gain.
Weeks of Project Fear and the unrelenting premonition, on both sides, of the doom awaiting voters who swung the wrong way was not the positive message needed to build business confidence or belief in the potential of a nation.
So what would Don Draper say now? Perhaps that a new election is a new opportunity. A chance to look at the nation in a different way – through the lens of ambition. What does it mean to be ambitious in a post-Brexit world?
Perhaps the Prime Minister is taking note. Setting out her stall on visits to India and the United States, she stressed the opportunity for a free trade Britain. A country with a global outlook and an export culture to match.
Britain needs to increase its stock of growth companies if it is to prosper outside the European Union. We need to hear more of this over the coming weeks – to hear the drum banging for Britain’s exporters and their role in our economic future.
With this in mind, we announce the 2017 cohort of The Leap 100. These are some of Britain’s most ambitious and fast-growing companies. From cyber security to footwear and food tech to recruitment – there are few sectors in which our Leap 100 don’t have an impact.
It is a list packed with the kind of firms able to keep Britain’s export cogs moving. From Brompton Bicycle and Eve Mattresses through to JoJo Maman Bébé, these are shining examples of what makes Brand Britain special.
Make no mistake, there is a Brand Britain. It stands for quality, creativity and innovation the world over. But it needs nurturing and it needs to be reinforced. It is often said that reputation is the “Cinderella asset”, and you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The way we are perceived is important – we need to be seen as an open, confident country with the attitude to succeed.
There is so much to play for. The UK has the potential to be the best place in the world to start and grow a business. It has a thriving ecosystem with the ambition, agility and ideas to make it a world leader.
This is why an election campaign that champions UK ambition really matters. Firms need certainty and optimism right now. They need the confidence of growing a business in a country whose political leaders believe its best days are still to come.
The CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn touched on this last week – calling for political parties to show their dedication to business: “Firms will want to hear commitments from all parties to work in close partnership with business to make the UK economy the most competitive in the world by 2030.”
This is our opportunity to make it happen. We need our politicians to speak positively about our place on the world stage. We need to restate Brand Britain. And it doesn’t take the wisdom of Don Draper to tell us how important that conversation will be in the run up to polling day.