Category Archives: Big Business

The future of the Custard Factory – Part 2

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about what might be the future of the Custard Factory, claiming that its capacity as a music venue had somewhat reached its terminal velocity. Every big night is full but you can’t expand financially until you expand physically.

Time for the Custard Factory to fulfil its potential
Time for the Custard Factory to fulfil its potential

The answer to the conundrum may be answered by the forthcoming Bodies Revealed exhibition and similar events. Bodies Revealed is open all day, six days a week and is expected to bring 6,500 people through the doors of Custard Factory’s Space 2. That is a consistent number that doing big club nights simply can’t compete with. In addition to that, every visitor will no doubt drop into ‘Yumm’ for their lunch, The Old Crown for a pint and do some shopping in the flea market or COW. The knock on effects for the local economy could be profound.

It also provides invaluable PR for the Custard Factory. A new breed of customer will be taken into the creative beehive and see what everyone gets so excited about. It could inspire bigger exhibitions or events to use the Custard Factory, in turn perpetuating more business to the complex and its neighboring amenities.Bodies Revealed

The Gallery, Old Library, Theatre and Factory Club could all benefit from the extra exposure and visitor footfall. The potential of the Custard Factory has been the talk of creative Birmingham for some time, maybe now it is the chance to fulfil it.

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One single vision – Where next for Birmingham

With the departure of Clive Dutton, who has been so instrumental in securing the future of the city, thoughts turn to ‘what do we do next?’.

Do we carry on as we are, or do we introspect a bit and refine our strategy? These are tough questions and it proves what we should already know; town planning is not easy.
custard_factory
Our glorious leader, Anthony Tattum, said so eloquently in the Birmingham Post‘s ‘Pen Portrait’ (Sorry Alun) that Birmingham ‘needs a single vision’. I didn’t know he harboured this opinion until I read it in the paper, and I have to say I agree.

There is a relentless tug-of-war between seperate sectors on how the future of the city should look and feel.

One side would prefer to capitalise on Birmingham’s burgeoning creative industry and Digbeth based online innovation, whilst the other side would rather a more urbane, modern chic. See it as BrindleyPlace versus The Custard Factory.
brindly place
But here is the problem, it is difficult to achieve both and I can’t see the council favouring post-industrial developments such as Fazeley Studios over slick new builds like The Library and New Street Station.

Is there a middle ground or should we develop Digbeth and Eastside in the creative mould whilst cleaning up the city centre with modern designs?

Personally I think the creative industries are the future of this city and it gives a unique selling point; it would make sense to invest in these areas.

The only thing we do know is that we need to pick a direction and run in it.

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Clive Dutton: The Council’s Gareth Barry

If you’re working in Birmingham, it will not have escaped your notice that Clive Dutton has left behind Birmingham City Council in favour of Newham council. On the face of it, it looks an odd decision until you remember the borough’s Olympic ties. Some would call him a traitor, others just simply ambitious.

Jumping ship just when things were looking good, taking the money after gaining nationwide recognition, sound familiar?

barry

It must have been a tough decision, BCC is the biggest council in Europe and he has implemented plans that will see the city’s most significant regeneration since..well, a long time. On the other hand, joining the Olympic project and having the opportunity to create a bit of history and play a major role in this country’s largest project in a generation is surely to good to pass up.

Mr Dutton is clearly an ambitious man and, from personal experience, a very focused and driven individual and an opportunity like the Olympics would have been unturndownable (it’s not a word but it is now).

Clive_Dutton

So what has he left behind? New street station, the new library (not as good as the old), Olympic swimming pool and Masshouse justice courts. Only one problem with them, none of them exist, and I’m willing to bet at least one of them doesn’t happen (although that is not what I hope). That isn’t necessarily his fault, he’s only been here 4 years, not much time to get bricks and mortar in place.

As for ditching Birmingham, I think you would have to be mad to try and hold him to account in terms of loyalty. It’s similar to Barry leaving Aston Villa for Manchester City. A man that has done a lot of good work for his team for some time but has decided to leave for more money and potentially a much better team and the chance to create their own history.

The promise of the opportunity is infinately more attractive than staying where he is, where he has taken his department about as far as he could, albeit with success just around the corner.

I say, enjoy the pay rise, make your mark and one day we hope to say the man that regenerated London used to be one of us.

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It takes great leaders to make great businesses

I am perpetually stunned how one or two people can have such a huge influence over market share, global trends and fashion. The heads and CEOs of major companies have untold power, and like everything, you don’t know how much until it has gone.
225px-Steve_Jobs
In today’s Guardian is an article about how Apple are and will struggle in the continued absence of Steve Jobs. Apple is one of the most recognisable brands in the world and continue to innovate at the highest level. You would think a company with such a huge amount of staff and expertise wouldn’t miss one man, but they do.

Apple’s recent keynote speech, Steve Jobs’ expert field, was run by Vice President Scott Forstall, a worthy successor and a key part of their success. But even he dropped a handful of clangers, a mistake that simply wouldn’t have been made under Jobs.

Now we all remember in the 1990s when the power shifted from Apple to Microsoft. What changed that could have created such a shift? Steve Jobs wasn’t running the show then and Bill Gates was, at Microsoft. Fast forward a few years and the trend reverses. What could have brought that on? Steve Jobs muscles out great designs and ingenius partnerships (music industry and iTunes) at the same time as Bill Gates starts handing over control of Microsoft.

Are these differences because these people are just truly special businessman, creatives, deal brokers and people managers? Perhaps they had too much control and their lieutenants couldn’t possibly take in all the information and knowledge their autocratic leaders have developed over the years.
255px-Bill_Gates_World_Economic_Forum_2007
The fact is all people need to be lead to a certain extent and a great leader can inspire untold success through force of character, vision, hard work and focus if their troops are willing to follow.

Let me know your thoughts on this. Are you a business leader with an opinion or are you a member of staff that has overachieved thanks to strong leadership? Maybe you have an opinion on Jobs and Gates, just get in touch.

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Buy Birmingham Midland

Gather round all you inhabitants, business men and women of Birmingham and the surrounding regions.
buybirminghammidland hires
We are pleased to be launching the new ‘Buy Birmingham Midland’ initiative that we are hoping will go some way to increasing prosperity and cultivating local pride for the whole of Birmingham and Midlands.

To help West Midlands’ businesses survive the recession, we are spearheading a B2B campaign – Buy Birmingham Midland – encouraging organisations to choose regional suppliers and workers, to support the regional economy and kick-start a new era of commercial solidarity in the West Midlands.

The brand has been designed in Mono, allowing anyone who is interested to print the logo for free on any promotional literature and we would like to encourage people to show support for the scheme by copy and posting the above logo to their email signatures.

Regional businesses will be asked to sign up to the Buy Birmingham manifesto that will require a commitment to certain criteria.

To express an interest in signing up or to pledge your support, please feel free to get in touch. Please ring 0121 200 0910 or email k.laurie@bcguk.com. The new website will soon be on its way.

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Big City Plan needs a Big City Philosophy

I, and many others, attended the Big City Plan meeting at the Council House last night to hear about the Council’s and the public’s ideas for the City. Before I go any further, I think it is worth mentioning that allowing citizens the chance to influence how their city should grow is a very encouraging thing for the Council to practise.

After Philip Singleton’s talk about the City Plan, the great unhosed mob of civvies filed into their groups to discuss problems and solutions while staff wrote down all the thoughts culminating in 3 main points that would presented back to the council.

To give my own point a plug, I feel strongly that physical communications must be set up between the BullRing and The Custard Factory because if you didn’t know what was down in Digbeth you would never go down, simply because the adjoining walk is not a particularly inviting one.

But by far the best idea, I thought, came from John Mostyn (or at least his team) that the Big City Plan needs a philosophy that we can then act upon. One of the problems Birmingham has had in its regeneration is a lack of cohesion and common thread between the seperate areas of regeneration as well as a lack of sympathy with the culture of independent marketers and establishments. Personally, I think the city should base its philosophy around the independent creative community creating visual arts centres and helping the community have a national platform to show off the city’s talent. On a slightly bigger scale, I also think a international landmark would be a great way to turns eyes on to Birmingham.

Once a philosophy is agreed upon, it would become significantly easier to decide on architecture, angle, what people to target for population growth, amenities and cultural hotspots. Lets hope Mike Whitby and his crew don’t let us down at the final hurdle by ignoring his citizens, particularly with regards to the Big City Philosophy.

Big hello to everyone who attended by the way.

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The importance of being social

'The terror of the ladies'

'The terror of the ladies'

Every economist and accountant worth his/her salt that I have spoken to / badgered / pestered / stalked recently have all given the same tip for businesses looking to survive the crunch; LOOK AFTER YOUR EXISTING CLIENTS/CUSTOMERS.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, recession is a poor practise cleanser and punishes anyone who executes poor business and customer relations. This is where I feel social media comes in. The beauty of social media is that it is an honest forum where any cynical posting gets sniffed out and ignored almost instantly. The point is that you simply communicate, nothing special nothing salesy, just like you would if you were talking to someone in a pub. This means businesses can take off their suits and talk to the online community in the manner the system was set up for.

Blogs give companies a chance to talk about whatever they like, safe in the knowledge that the only people who will read it will be people who want to read it. Consumer companies can tweet directly to their audience without having to sell them anything, just chat about matters of the day. It is all about finding the right community. There are so many communities on the web that you will always be able to find people that are interested in what you say and you interested in what they say. 

Sadly, most financial directors won’t see the point in such time consuming activities which don’t directly sell a product to the masses, but something we forget in this country is the need to keep customers happy at all times and at whatever cost.

The importance of customer service can be summed up thus: Near where I used to live were two pubs, one had a Sky TV, pool table, gambling machines, conservatory and dart board – the other played crap music at a low volume. One pub was rammed day and night, 7 days a week, the other only had a slow and steady small customer base. Guess which one had the better customer service.

Social media, simply put, can help charities, businesses, local governments and organisations communicate with their audience in a way no other medium allows them to do. Only two rules: Share and be honest.

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