Round-up of 2013 Institute of Directors Conference

The high flyers of business and politics descended upon the capital yesterday for this year’s Institute of Directors (IoD) conference. In the grand surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall, thousands of business leaders spent the day networking and discussing the current issues affecting UK business.

The IoD promised that the conference would set the agenda for the UK business community going forward, create thought leadership and drive inspiration for the UK economy. Quite a promise!

From the chancellor’s words on the economy to Richard Branson’s advice on running a business, here’s a round-up of the highlights from this year’s conference.

Osborne, Johnson and Ummuna: Economic Recovery

The politicians, particularly the Chancellor, were talking up the successes of the path through austerity, without getting too ahead of themselves.

“The British economy is looking better, it is growing in all sectors, 1.4 million new jobs have been created by British businesses.” 

“Britain is turning a corner but we have a long way to go. Unemployment and our deficit are both still too high,” said George Osborne.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson expanded on what he saw as London’s central role in the recovery.

“London is an asset to the whole of the EU and I believe that in the next 18 months the UK economy will start firing on all cylinders.”

While adding in his own trademark metaphors – this time using Costa Concordia…

“It’s fair to say that the UK economy has finally reached its Costa Concordia moment. Because after two-and-half years of parbuckling, the labour is complete and the rotation has been accomplished and though the damage is still I think manifest and the caissons have not yet been entirely drained of debt, I think you would agree that the keel is off the rocks and at last we can feel motion, relief,’ said Boris.

Chuku Umunna, MP, was also looking towards the future.

“We need to be doing much more to prepare our economy for these global forces that are transforming the world,’ he said.

“And in doing so, we must heed the lessons of history. A lesson of an unbalanced economy over-reliant for growth on sectors like finance and housing, and on London and the south-east.”

Shields: The Technology Revolution

Joanna Sheilds, CEO of Tech City, talked about one of the forces for change, the rise of technology.

“Tech stands out in our economy as a bright spot, and it will fuel a wave of entrepreneurship over the next five years as the sector grows.

“Technology is transforming business and society in a huge way. We are seeing creative disruption, we are seeing products unlock growth potential, and we are seeing small companies come in and compete with the traditional big firms,” she said.

Richard Branson: Get Stuck In

In the face of all this change, Richard Branson urged business magnates of the future to take some chances.

“The best way of learning to run a business is to just do it,” Branson said. “You can go and learn at school and university, but there is nothing like just getting out there and trying for yourself,” he said.

While he admitted that he hadn’t always taken his own advice, he urged businesses not to be shaped by a fear of failure, which I couldn’t agree with more.

“Don’t be overly concerned or scared about failing. Eight out of ten will fail at the first attempt, but we admire people for trying, instead of sitting by and watching others try.

“You might fall flat on your face, if you do get back up and go again. If you fall, get up and keep going until you make it a success.”

The message it seems is the UK hasn’t recovered yet, and it’ll need UK businesses – inside and outside of London! – to seize opportunities and take a measured gamble or two to really turn the corner into economic recovery.


Featured image by Donkey Hotey