In this series we ask key figures in the region and from our core sectors to share their insights.
We spoke to Hannah Kendrick, Partner with Squire Patton Boggs and Corporate Practice lead for the global law firm in Leeds, about the current climate and future prospects for business in our region.
It was in July 2020 that we asked your firm’s European Managing Partner, Jonathan Jones, what his predictions were for Leeds City Region as “we emerge from the COVID crisis and get back to business”. Nearly two years later what are your thoughts?
It does seem incredible, doesn’t it, to be having the same conversations we had back then, but hopefully this time we have firmer grounds for optimism and there is a real buzz as businesses get back to the office. Many are balancing the benefits of working from home with hybrid working models, but there is a definite excitement about getting teams back together for real meetings and networking events.
Work didn’t stop, of course, during the pandemic and we’ve been working with some great businesses throughout lockdown. Many senior people have taken the opportunity to focus on strategic planning, which has significantly strengthened their business offer.
What is focusing the minds of business owners and senior management teams currently?
The Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda is at the forefront for many organisations, with more traditional businesses, such as in manufacturing, but also particularly in the healthtech and medtech sectors and any business where effective customer engagement is critical to their success.
COP 26 has focused many business leaders on initiating actions and setting clear targets to reduce their environmental impact and many innovation-led businesses in our region are addressing climate change with the research they are undertaking and the products and services they are developing.
At the same time, quality of life has risen to the top of many people’s priority lists and this is where our region has a very distinct advantage as a great place to live and work. Our talent pool has always been strong and is growing stronger.
What about investment – is our region attracting its fair share?
The right business will always find the right investment and we’ve been incredibly proud to connect investors with whom we have close relationships, with some truly outstanding business propositions from the Nexus community.
The world has become smaller in the past two years and a potential investor working from their bedroom in, say, San Francisco can be looking intently at start-ups in Leeds which fit their investment profile.
Investors are very open-minded currently and there is competition for the right investment assets, with tech-based companies particularly well-placed.
Working with those businesses from an early stage, our advice is always to get the fundamentals in place from the start. Investors will look at the foundations of the business including shareholder arrangements, Intellectual Property protection and other business plan basics and that will go direct to your value as you scale up. Getting it right at the start often leads to longer-term investment relationships across every stage of your business’s development and allows a business the chance to focus on what is important to achieve growth.
We have huge potential to attract more investment here and drive international growth, but we must act as one region – the North – and communicate the strength of our combined offer.
What role do innovation hubs such as Nexus play in driving growth in our region?
It’s been fascinating to watch the growth of the Nexus business community – recently having celebrated its 100-member milestone – and a privilege to work with many of them on some incredible business concepts and models.
Shared experience and best practice are fundamental to that community and as professional services partners, we’ve been able to facilitate that across a wide range of legal and business planning issues. Business owners at start-up and scale-up stage often ask us “have you come across this before?” or “have you had to tackle anything similar?” and the answer is almost always yes – and we’ve got some great role models within the Nexus community to demonstrate how to get the best results.
Skills and talent are also crucial to business success, of course, and as the University of Leeds’ innovation hub, Nexus brings invaluable access to top graduate talent in science, technology, IT and many other skills, with knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP’s) benefiting many businesses as they scale and grow.
And Nexus is now home to one of only 11 Space Enterprise Laboratories in the country – another major attraction for top graduates. These are the people who will drive our region’s growth for the next 20 years – it’s going to be incredibly exciting to be part of the team which helps them fly.
Explore more insights from our ‘the view from here’ series:
The view from here – Melanie Ellyard, British Business Bank
We chat to Melanie, Senior Manager for Yorkshire, Humber and Tees Valley, UK Network for the British Business Bank about the current funding landscape for business in our region and what she sees should be our key priorities for future growth.