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Posted: 12 Dec, 2022

Micawber or McKinsey? A past or a future?

Robert Lefroy was a banker for 28 years and much of my career involved working with companies that required turnaround. Those running smoothly could be in danger of being taken for granted as they never drew your attention.

The TMA is a worldwide brand, and I was looking forward to the United Kingdom’s 2022 gathering, Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Inflationary Fire. I have covered the highlights but there were so many that the TMA’s house slots did not make the cut.

Dr Angus Armstrong from Lloyds Bank Group delivered Setting The Scene – Our Economic Backdrop. I missed the opening sessions, travel difficulties, but I was in time to hear Into The Den With Touker Suleyman.

The Dragon’s Den stalwart arrived in London, from Cyprus, as a lad. He told us of his early days in business where he had to crash to pick himself up again. His experiences in the rag trade and encounters with Stuart Rose and Philip Green along the way were entertaining. He met a Turkish cloth producer and this inspired an array of competitively priced and stylish garments, assembled by East End sub-contractors. Many carried the legendary Ghost 1990s label and were found on the rails of retail groups, including the long-forgotten C&A.

He also relayed an inside account of the Dragon’s Den series, but his expose of some dealings with a leading, but out of order, global brand must remain shrouded. Aged 69 he still works a seven-day week, loving what he does and keeping a regular presence in his Hawkes and Curtis London shop.

Asset Based Lending In A Stressed Economy starred four asset finance captains: John Bevan, of Secure Trust; Peter Jaffe, of Callodine Group; Tim Smedley, from Bibby; and Lisa Wood, of Praetura. The mood was low key, but constructive too, and a theme of staying close to clients to anticipate challenges was evident. Tim was forthcoming on the techniques and his definition of what is a fraudulently submitted invoice was simplistic, but pragmatic too.

Garry Wilson of Endless LLP highlighted the turning points in his career and the crunch when he was appointed a partner in his early 30s at Arthur Andersen, just in time for the backlash from Enron.

“Endless LLP is a UK-based private equity investor with one distinct goal: to make business better for everybody.” The mission statement says it all and Garry told us of the growth of the business, the many good days and the losses. His hilarious definition of EBITDA we keep to ourselves but the number of companies beating a path to the Endless door tells the story. They all seek turnaround, and its inherent improvement to every aspect of a business and its ambitions.

The session was labelled Venture Capitalist And Restructuring Professional – Can You Be Both? Garry believes yes and Endless LLP is the living proof. His chairmanship of the BVCA in the coming year could be enlightening.

Farida Gibbs of Gibbs Hybrid presented on Diversity – Working For The Cabinet Office And As An Entrepreneur.

Farida was summoned by the Cabinet Office and quizzed as to real diversity covering race, colour and LGBT and not just in recruitment but in supply chains and all areas of business. She told it that the private sector was way ahead of the public sector.

As an entrepreneur she is a natural. Her newsagent father would rouse her from bed at 3am to write names and addresses on newspapers for his team of paperboys. That work ethic has endured and the Gibbs Hybrid website is worth a visit.

Sir Tim Smit KBE, he of Eden Project fame , took the stage for The Crisis Today Will Be History’s Turning Point Tomorrow: The Inability Of People To Spot Opportunity.

Tim has little time for life’s institutions, bankers, politicians, museums and corporations; he claims all spend too much time trying to impress each other and miss so much opportunity.

His golden rule is to accept every third invitation. It broadens the outlook and on one occasion landed the Eden Project a large grant. You listen to him because he is a capitalist but one with a difference. A rebel but always with a constructive alternative. One scheme at Eden is a borehole that penetrates 4.5km into the earth, exploiting fissures in the granite. The hot rocks produce enough warmed water to heat much of the Eden project and, ultimately, much of the surrounding community’s houses too.

A visionary. How many of us are so locked into the ebbs and flows of our business that we fail to look over the parapet and see what else is possible?

Living In The Grey – Negotiating In The Area Of Public Scrutiny, by Steve Biglands of Sussex police, was a riveting account of how our police forces manage firearms in society today but above all, how trained negotiators seek to defuse potentially explosive situations.

In the TMA’s clubbable setting, speakers let slip indiscretions. As a guest and journalist, I will not report them. If you want to hear them, you need to be there.

A great conference, rich in content, ably moderated by an empathetic Andrew Pepper

 

Event report written by Robert Lefroy from Business Money 


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