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It is essential leadership skills and their importance to business growth, resilience and productivity gains are addressed The region has been named one of the best


places to start a business in the country, reinforced by major investments in transport and logistics infrastructure on the M1 corridor and East Midlands Gateway, which are boosting connectivity and demand for local services, production and distribution. Each of the three main cities has its own strengths and attractions for new starts and inward investment. But there is scope for greater cohesion between them.


WHAT CAN BUSINESSES DO? It’s easy to overlook the readiness of SMEs to address the challenges they face. It’s natural to concentrate on immediate issues, but also vital to ‘think beyond now’ and reflect on more strategic opportunities as well as emerging threats. There is growing and significant evidence,


from business and research organisations, and well-established leadership programmes, of the strong connections between investment and commitment to leadership development, and consequent improvements in business performance and resilience. This demonstrates the value of carefully-designed and delivered leadership development programmes. Our report shows supporting leadership development was a low priority for most firms, a concern at a time of change.


BUSINESS LEADERSHIP FOR THE EAST MIDLANDS


At present, there is no single voice for economic development or for businesses in the region. This is increasingly criticised by our business leaders. This is unlike the West Midlands, where the West Midlands Combined Authority are achieving a stronger and strategic focus for action and


‘Businesses can’t change the political


landscape, but we can try to work across it more effectively’


business support through its business and economic partners, or indeed the Manchester and Leeds city-regions. Businesses can’t change the political landscape,


but we can try to work across it more effectively. National and regional business organisations, including the CBI, IoD, FSB, LEPs and, of course, the Chambers, need to focus together on creating the conditions for business resilience and growth in a period of quite unpredictable change. There’s also scope for our university business


schools, including those accredited with the Small Business Charter award for support for small businesses, to support them and work with business organisations on this, as some are already doing. A new programme, led by the Small Business


Charter, is a national pilot project to drive productivity improvement in micro-businesses through leadership and technology adoption called ‘Leading to Grow’ through managing new technology adoption. It is targeted in scope, to 150 micro-firms across the region, from January to July 2020 and will enable three Business Schools (De Montfort, Leicester, and Nottingham Trent Universities) to work with firms across the region, in partnership with the Chambers, LEPs and others. It will deliver an initial programme to raise the profile of small business leadership and provide practical support. This will inform future support programmes, regionally and nationally. It is essential the profile of leadership skills


and their importance to business growth, resilience and productivity gains are addressed with development organisations, funders and SMEs themselves. It is essential for all of us, from big business and Government to local decision- makers and the SME community, to work together to ensure the region not only weathers the current storm of uncertainty, but emerges stronger from it.


This article is from the executive summary of a report, ‘Why leadership matters for micro and small firms in the East Midlands?’


business network November 2019 55


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