Did many of you roll your eyes at that headline? Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation is adamant that a no deal Brexit will have an immediate effect on the nation’s nutrition as well as causing national civil unrest. “Disturb Britain’s supply of food at your peril,” was his message to government at the recent Produced in Kent Food and Drink conference.

Lots of good food and a varied diet is a national obsession! With a lifetime of grocery analysis and management behind him he was best placed to speculate on the fall out from our protracted and dysfunctional negotiations, handing the message out with his usual blunt aplomb to the substantial audience of Kent’s leading food businesses.
Also speaking on the day were Sarah Carroll talking about the overseas opportunities for businesses grasping the latest technology in digital sales platforms. A fascinating speaker she was, recording her presentation to be shared as a podcast later in the day. One of her key messages was that consumer-facing businesses truly fit for the future need to be embracing the international digital sales revolution.

Customers spend the largest proportion of their online time via a mobile, utilising apps, well-configured websites that open in many languages, accessing sales via Messenger, Facebook, Instagram etc. It’s hard work and a balanced spread of your ‘rented’ space on line is essential – regular updates on communications and content keeping you high in the search rankings (SEO just doesn’t work anymore). There is a lot of help in this area available from the DTi, if you speak to your local adviser they will be able to link you with experts who can guide you.

Allan Wilkinson of HSBC thinks that we are complacent as a nation, frankly. He related a story of a trade delegation to China, the British team thinking they were doing really well with their annual visit, until the point that they realised that the previous delegation from a latin American nation were their on their monthly visit. That, he thinks, is a key challenge for overseas trade and we have an £8bn trade deficit in fruit and vegetables alone, almost every other productive nation is ‘out there’ more than we are, there are amazing opportunities for entrepreneurial activity.

May has also seen the Audit Court dinner for the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, this year held at Cutlers hall for the first time. With Cheryl Roux as our new Master we were not disappointed in the culinary stakes, nor did she let us down with the choice of speaker for the dinner; I am a confirmed fan of Miss Margaret Exley CBE!

Daughter of a corner shop grocer, she honed her early accountancy skills behind the counter she now has two accountancy businesses and a seat as a non-executive director of the Treasury. Her key skills are clearly in getting under the financial skin of an institution and finding out what the real risks are to their future performance and success.

Even businesses like RBS and HSBC with highly qualified and experienced boards made almost fatal flaws in their lack of understanding in the rapidly shifting economy. Both terribly over extended, their heat maps, risk registers and their work with other multi-nationals didn’t protect them. She had four important points that boards need to remember:

  1. Take control of the future agenda.
  2. Beware of irrational behaviour in exuberant people, work should be fun but there is such a thing as having too good a time at work.
  3. Have someone on the team who doesn’t fit the general view.
  4. Don’t let the board become too big and unsociable, bring them together.