CEO Perspective – June 2019

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”

John Lennon


I think we can all relate to that quote and certainly after 90 days as the new CEO of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce, that is so true. We are all busy and working hard with our businesses and supporting families. The CEO Perspective has been set up to share Chamber news and activities from the CEO viewpoint and also to shed some light on activities that may not be in our usual membership updates. I hope you find this informative.

I have had the opportunity to meet Ian Thomas, the CEO at the Kingston Council, several times and met several senior Kingston Council officers. They have been engaging and informative about their local plans and recognising where there are strengths and weaknesses. They are quite new to their roles too but I am encouraged at the determination to actually deliver on their agendas. Even when the unexpected happens, such as a WW2 bomb being uncovered, the Council, emergency services and Kingston First responded admirably and swiftly. The news of the bomb, which was also announced at the Chamber AGM, will certainly make the minutes interesting to read.

Kingston EXPO

The Kingston EXPO was held on Tuesday 11th June at the Kingston University Business School. The Kingston Business Expo has grown year on year and is now recognised as the largest business networking opportunity in south west London. The continuing support from the Kingston Council, HSBC and Kingston University was greatly appreciated.

We were delighted to have Sir Ed Davey MP attend the networking breakfast, alongside the new Mayor for the Borough, Councillor Margaret Thompson. The headline speaker was Joy Foster, the founder of TechPixies. Winner of Women in Business Startup of the Year Award in 2018.  With Business Clan delivering a series of business seminars, Speed networking  and an Advisory Hub (with BoConcept creating a unique furnished zone), the day was a great showcase for the exhibitors, with a wealth of knowledge at hand for visitors. There was a genuine atmosphere of collaboration and conversations and ended with a well-earned glass of wine, courtesy of supporters, Russell -Cooke Solicitors. Up next in November, Chessington EXPO!

McDonalds Litter Campaign

In late April, we supported McDonalds, one of our Patron partners, in their  Love Where You Live litter campaign.

Twice a year, their staff get out into Kingston and collect litter as just one contribution in their efforts to improve where we live and work. McDonalds do far more than we are aware of in their drive to improve recycling, from the implementation of paper straws to the use of oil in the kitchens.

Kingston University Strategic Vision

In May, I attended an In Conversation with … event at the House of Lords, where Vice Chancellor of Kingston University Steven Spiers, discussed the strategic challenges, direction and opportunities facing the University. Kingston University and Kingston College, two of our Patrons, are not only fantastic educational drivers in the Borough, they also contribute to the Borough in terms of skills and employment. The impact of Brexit could be significant and will have an adverse effect on many educational bodies. It is frustrating that their voice is not heard louder in the national debates.

Welcome to Summers Inman

We are delighted to have Summers Inman join Kingston Chamber as a new Patron. With over 90 years of experience in the construction industry and a highly skilled multi-disciplinary team, Summers-Inman works in all of the construction sectors and offer a diverse range of construction consultancy services to clients on a national and international basis. With Lee Orchard, their Southern Management Director, they have an engaging and determined advocate for all things Kingston. We are looking forward to their input at Patron lunches and meetings.

If you would like to find out more about becoming a patron member, please contact [email protected]

Young Enterprise
At the end of April, I went to view a local semi-final of students at the Kingston and Richmond Young Enterprise Finals. Young Enterprise is an educational charity of long-standing that is focused on helping our young people develop essential employability skills and attitudes which enrich their academic learning.  It was so impressive to see creativity and resourcefulness in the students. I was also heartened to see from the Kingston Chamber the contributions from Kat from IQ in IT and Chris Hirsch from Holland Hahn & Wills who were supporting Young Enterprise as judges. If anybody would like to learn more, contact Chris Suckling on [email protected]

In May, I was invited by Raynes Park High School to join a new panel of local schools, including Wimbledon High, Kingston Grammar School, Tiffin Girls, Lady Eleanor Holles, Ursuline High School and Kingston Academy to explore how the Kingston Chamber and Merton Chamber of Commerce could be involved with student work experience. The Government initiatives have placed greater weight on employers and schools to engage in work experience but the solutions are not straightforward. It was a productive start and some areas we can move forward with but it was very informative to understand the challenges that schools face – and how they are trying to reach out to businesses.

Just recently, it was my pleasure to return back to my old school, Kingston Grammar School, to be one of the Dragons in their Dragon’s Den competition. Yet again, one of our Patron’s, Holland Hahn & Wills were involved, with Amyr Rocha-Lima supporting as a mentor for one of the teams. It is quite personal to me that as individuals or businesses, we try to give something back to our younger generation and help bridge some gaps.

Finally, this week, we had a Patron’s Breakfast, hosted at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Kingston. The focus of the breakfast was to discuss the question: What can be done to encourage more businesses and job creation opportunities in the Borough?  The Patron meeting brought our partners, Kingston University, Kingston Collage, Summers Inman, McDonalds and Holland Hahn & Wills together with Kingston Council.  We were joined by Ian Thomas, the Council CEO, and also present were Pearson Hards from New Malden, Willmot Dixon and Robert O’Dowd from the Rose Theatre.

The conversations were informative and highlighted a number of strengths (aspirational place to live) and weaknesses (the need for more affordable homes, sustainable incubation hubs and joined up work apprenticeship schemes). There is an interesting fact which highlights that we have approx. 35,000 people commuting into the Borough every day, but 45,000 people commute out every day.

The strength of these Patron meetings is the sharing of knowledge, expertise and to bring a purpose to the business agenda within the Borough. The partners are strongly committed to making Kingston a vital business community, as well as driving the cultural and tourism benefits that we underplay and undervalue far too much.

I hope this gives you a brief insight to some of the many activities and areas of Kingston business life the Kingston Chamber is involved with and supporting, with our members and partners. We are here to Connect, Support and Influence

All the best

Forbes Low
CEO Kingston Chamber of Commerce


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