Facing the future – diversity breeds resilience in business

A panel of business leaders at the Rainmakers Conference assessed the prospects for the year, including what businesses can do to support their long-term growth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Following a very turbulent few years for companies, panellists discussed how firms can build up their resilience over the months ahead, while exploring issues around diversity in workplace culture.

The panel was chaired by Michael Taylor, TheBusinessDesk.com’s editor for the North West, and included Erika Brodnock, CEO of Kinhub, Jen Murray, head of financial sponsors at Shawbrook Bank, Sophie Lawler, chief executive of Total Fitness and Samuel Roberts, chief strategy officer at The LCap Group.

Lawler detailed the torrid time her company had endured during the pandemic, commenting: “Through Covid our sector was closed for the longest period and received the least support. We lost 25% of our base overnight and had to think very carefully about staying true to our core competency.”

Murray said businesses have had to dig deep to survive and grow over the last few years, adding the shocks to the economy were still making themselves felt on the deal making landscape.

“If lenders are busy it’s a good sign for the economy,” she said. “This time last year it was a bit too quiet in terms of new deals but we are seeing activity picking up again, which is encouraging.

“However, everybody has learned to expect the unexpected and a lot of people are taking their time in choosing their partners. The whole deal process has slowed dramatically.”

Roberts said it is challenging to build effective business leadership teams in such volatile times, adding that those teams which can attract diverse opinions will be more resilient.

But in focusing on gender diversity in leadership positions, he noted that while an average of 17% of executive board posts are occupied by women, this varies widely between companies. He warned many businesses still have no female representation at all on their boards.

Lawler said: “Diversity comes from having high levels of organisational trust. When you have that, people speak up and expand the debate. And when you expand the debate you have better decision making.”

Brodnock added that she advocates for people to be authentic and to “be their whole selves” at work, which she said helps businesses thrive.

“It brings diversity of thought to the table and we’re now seeing people who were previously overlooked in organisations now having their voices heard,” she said.

“‘Psychological safety’ is what makes the difference – it’s not just about hiring a woman because you have to be seen to hire a woman to be diverse.

“It’s about creating an environment where everyone feels safe to enough to make their voice heard and understands that won’t be used against them.”

TheBusinessDesk.com believe passionately that the jobs created, specialisms developed, and the entrepreneurs unleashed give the Rainmakers community the right to a seat at the table and a voice in the debate on the economy of the North.

This platform, like the 2024 Rainmakers conference, is an opportunity to not only celebrate the contribution from funds raised and deals created, but also to look to the future at the challenges ahead.

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