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I was privileged enough to be a Question Time panel member at yesterday’s inaugural Talk of Manchester event. Great event harnessing just about everything that is great about Manchester….and the North West.

The event opened with the perennially incredible, motivational and energetic Michael Finnegan, CEO of i2i – the Peter Kay of business speaking. Michael is always a great orator whether on stage or one-to-one, speaking immense sense about the benefit of self belief, positive energy and the fact that YOU can do anything YOU want. Very much reiterating my blog of earlier this week: Your Life, Your Business, Your Career; Your Hands.

Tales of  working with several leading sports stars/teams and taking them to the top of their game, and making us all laugh, a lot, he left the 100s of delegates buzzing, filled with energy having set the tone for a fantastic day, having banished every negative word from their vocabulary and leaving every delegate thinking about where they could hammer their ‘Mary Peters’ nail whilst being adamant that they would never again be a Lord Voldemort.

The day progressed through comedians, lawyers pretending to be comedians, an incredible insight into Media City from former BBC News presenter and FA Exec Paul Newman, then through Question Time and ultimately to the headline speaker: Michelle Mone of Ultimo bras.

Internationally renowned Businesswoman, Entrepreneur and Glaswegian straight-talker. Whether we knew about her or not, the room fell in love from the second she opened her set with her heart on her sleeve, tackling head-on her recent ‘events’ and why they were merely serving to make her stronger.

Michelle’s rags to riches story is compelling, the practical evidentiary case study to everything Michael Finnegan had said 4 hours earlier. Michelle proved that she has taken her two prime assets and created an internationally successful, market leading business. Her assets were very evident yesterday (I’m talking about her Attitude and ability to spot Opportunities….?).

From her early entrepreneurial days running a newspaper gang in the tenement buildings of Glasgow, at the age of 11, to her £500, £mutli-million product launch into Selfridges. From mailing product to Hollywood stars (and becoming Julia Roberts’ key Supporting star in Erin Brockovich) to telling the CEO of Saks 5th Avenue to ‘leave her alone’ in a style that only someone from the East end of Glasgow could; Michelle proved that anything is possible if you emulate her assets (still talking about Attitude/Opportunity….).

Our bit, Question Time, was the chance to engage with 200 business leaders. My fellow panel members had an incredible pedigree, all controlled by event compare extraordinaire, Dimbleby beating, host Michael Taylor.

Jennie Johnson, CEO and founder of Kids Allowed, undoubtedly the most forward thinking childcare/nursery provider around; Tim Bacon, Living Ventures CEO and brains behind many of the region’s top restaurants; Marc Duschenes, former city wunderkind and now CEO of Bayfield Capital; and last but far from least, my good friend in lycra, Phil Jones, preeminent business brain, technologist, opportunity engineer and MD of Brother UK….and of course me whose tags seemed to be ‘Notorious’ & ‘Outspoken’ as well as ‘HeadHunter’ & ‘Business Commentator’.

Despite mostly all knowing each other beforehand, the panel gelled and were hopefully able to give great opinion, insight and business advice to the room. Discussing everything from our decision not to take part in the recession; women on boards of directors; whether to listen to or ignore customers; and the advance of technology. It was great fun, but with a very serious undertone.

The whole event was an unmitigated success, and great testament to the founder & organiser , Paul Kilroe. The whole event also typified what is great about Manchester and Manchester business: It’s People.

As a Head-Hunter, I have seen, been immersed in and promoted the notion that people are the most important resource and component in any business and thus the attraction of the best people for your business has to be a prime focus for any business with any desire to improve or change for the better.

As any person climbs the corporate ladder and increases their influence and responsibility, their personality becomes ever more critical, and their attitude becomes as important as any of their specific skills or experience. As Michael Finnegan exemplified with his Lord Voldemort story, a manager/leader’s demeanour first thing can set the tone for the entire business for a day – potentially 1000s of man hours.

But even more so, their overall attitude to life is often the most critical factor behind success. As we touched on in  Your Life, Your Business, Your Career; Your Hands, Your seat in either the “We can do this” camp or the “I’m not sure” camp is business, and life critical. Henry Ford: Whether you believe you will succeed or not, you are probably right.

As parents/managers/leaders, we all have a duty of care to ensure that those who we influence are immersed in positive thought; Encouraged “they can do anything” more than told they are can’t. No-one can under-estimate the massive, beneficial future impact that will have on them, and on you. It’s all about a positive attitude.

Judging on yesterday, Manchester and the North-West has it in buckets, and it is without doubt a major factor in our regions success….and it will be a critical component to ignoring the current technical recession the country is in. Reminding ourselves that every minute spent obsessing about a 0.2% drop in UK GDP is a minute we are not focussing on our own businesses. Let your competitors worry about incremental movements in GDP while you steal their market share. Business as usual.

If in doubt, just think about Michelle Mone’s assets!

 

Another blog on last night can be found here from Phil Jones

Michael Taylor’s thoughts on the event can be found here