It’s not often that the Queen drops in on a business conference in Burnley. But a visit from the Windsors was what delegates to the Small Firms’ Summit experienced this week.

Debate on the burdens of red tape and lack of skilled workers was temporarily suspended as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met selected guests.

The visit may have contributed to the upbeat mood of small firm managers as they met at Burnley College on the impressive University of Central Lancashire site in the town.

Also helping put a smile on delegates’ faces was the opening speech by Stephen Falder, a Cheshire businessman who invented the highly effective anti microbial product Byotrol which he exports around the world.

Stephen is an avid Manchester City fan and his voice was still a bit croaky as he enthused about the advantages that small and family run businesses can have over the big boys.

“You need passion and fun” Stephen declared and told us how he’d named a product for keeping barnacles off the keels of boats “Slippery Bottom.” It rushed off the shelves.

He set off a lively debate by saying claims that regulation was strangling small businesses were overdone. He’d been to Europe and said regulators in Brussels and elsewhere were prepared to listen if you didn’t rant and explained the problem convincingly.

Byotrol had been through the hard times in 2008. Everyone-managers and workforce-had gone on to a four day week and were in a good position to spring back.

The conference then debated a number of issues affecting small firms including the quality of young people emerging from schools and higher education.

There seemed to be agreement that some youngsters were under the impression that a degree would guarantee them a place half way up the management tree when in fact they needed to be prepared to start at the bottom.

There was a call for teachers and university lecturers to get business experience on the shop floor and for youngsters to be given every encouragement to start enterprises when they were in their late teens.

Firms were encouraged to make work experience meaningful and the conference ended with calls to the government to take action on business rates and the growing number of extra charges firms were being asked to pay for a range of services.


Meanwhile over at the Liverpool Economic Forum calls were once again heard for all agencies in the City Region to work together.

The new mayor Joe Anderson was billed to be there but was already strutting the world stage at an event in Paris. This was one of the ideas around the creation of the post that seems to have got off to a quick start.

If Joe had swapped Old Hall Street for the Champs Elysees he would have heard an old cry for agencies supporting business in the Liverpool City Region to work together.

The panel including Wayne Locke (Space Northwest), Neil Murray (Redx Pharma) and John Schorah (Weightmans) clearly had concerns about whether the new Local Enterprise Partnership, Liverpool Vision and the councils on Merseyside were all pulling in the same direction.
This may be a task that Joe Anderson can undertake, but he is only mayor of Liverpool, an early sign of the folly of not making this a city region post.