It was an absolute privilege and pleasure to attend the Bridport Business Awards 2021. Like everything else over the past year plus the awards were impacted upon by the Covid pandemic. Launched on the 11th November the Awards were due to be announced and presented in March but restrictions around social gatherings meant we have had to wait until June to find out who the winners are.
Following the initial introductions and the safety briefing I was invited to the stage and delivered the following speech:
Businesses have had to adapt to survive throughout history, but the pace of change and innovation has accelerated incredibly over the past 50 years. Who would have thought in 1970, that in 2021 people would be waving their watches over cash machines to pay for goods, and that carrying cash would almost have become obsolete and for some, socially unacceptable.
Combine that with roller coaster financial boom and bust periods like:
The era of discontent in the 1970s when strikes, the 3 day week and interest rates in double figures were the norm;
The Boom years under Chancellor Nigel Lawson in the 1980s;
Recovering from the recession caused by leaving the ERM under Chancellor Norman Lamont in the 1990s;
Going from stability to financial crisis under Chancellor Gordon Brown in the 2000s;
Followed by the Austerity years imposed by Chancellor George Osborne.
And then just when we thought things were about to get better again, WHAM, the Covid Pandemic strikes.
But the business community is resilient. By their very nature business people are optimists, innovators and above all entrepreneurs. Running a business is a very risky occupation and it takes a special kind of person to be willing to potentially risk all in order to do so.
The past 15 months have been particularly challenging for the business community. Through no fault of their own, many have had to remain closed and furlough their employees. This has particularly been the case across the hospitality sector which has had to endure the longest period of severe restrictions.
I am not a great believer in life’s crossroads because at a crossroad you can carry on in the same direction. T-junctions are much more interesting because you have to change direction. The Covid pandemic is I believe one such T-junction.
As I mentioned at the start of my speech throughout history businesses have had to adapt to survive and the Covid pandemic has certainly proved to be a spur for that. Local businesses large and small have had to look to innovative ways to serve their customers. Click and collect, home deliveries, and an increased on-line presence have become part of the norm for even some of our smallest businesses. An ‘If the big boys can do it so can we’ mindset is proving to be a positive asset.
Don’t forget that Amazon, the most powerful online presence at present, and seen by many as the enemy of local businesses, started life in Jeff Bezos’s garage on July 5th 1994.
Business is a vital part of what makes Bridport such a vibrant town in which to live. It is not only the high street with its range of wonderful shops but businesses large and small beavering away on trading estates, in offices and at home that make this an economically healthy town throughout the year.
No business is an island. All businesses rely on other businesses for supply and distribution, and of course its customers. It goes without saying, the more successful and prosperous a business is, the more all those connected with it benefit too. At the heart of any successful business is its staff, when at work they are its lifeblood and its public face, when not at work they become consumers and more importantly your ambassadors. Never underestimate or undervalue your staff!
One final thought to leave you with. In 1971 Britain went decimal, since then we have lived and worked through a technological revolution as profound in its impact as the first industrial revolution. The next 50 years will see businesses having to respond to the next Industrial Revolution which is already well under way. The three E’s Environment, Ecology and Ethical are at the heart of this emerging new world. What changes will you have to make, and what changes can you start to make now, to respond to the climate and environment emergency that is a legacy of the way we have lived and done business in the past. Future generations will not forgive us if we fail to act now.
During my term of office as Mayor I have tried to be as supportive as I can of local business. On several occasions I have used my blog to promote business related topics including these awards. More recently I have used the Blog to encourage people to Shop Local, promote the Bridport ShopAppy app which is another innovative way in which local businesses can compete with the on-line giants. I have also made a point of getting out and about and meeting as many of you as I can to say thank you personally for your efforts throughout the pandemic.
I know that both the residents of Bridport,and our visitors, love our business community. You may feel taken for granted, or even abused at times, but for every angry customer there are many, many more who love you, love what you do, and love the way in which you have gone more than the extra mile to support and serve us through these most challenging times. On their behalf I would like to thank you for all you continue to do for us day in day out.
Thank you, you are all winners in my eyes.
The Awards ceremony was held in the Tithe Barn, Symondsbury and following a delicious alcohol free lunch it was time to announce the winners.
The winning businesses this year were:
The following images give a flavour of the joy each of the willers felt on their name being announced. To win one of these awards each business has had to fight off competition from a number of others that also provide goods, services and service of the highest order.
My congratulations to all the winners.