Welcome from new SBF Chairman

Tracey Carter Chairman, Spelthorne Business Forum

Dear SBF members,

I would like to introduce myself as the new Chairman of the Spelthorne Business Forum.

The previous Chair, Mike Ramlakhan, has been leading the SBF for the past 5 years and we are extremely grateful for all his hard work and vision in taking the organisation forward. Mike stepped down in October 2020, however we are pleased that he will remain on the Board of Directors to help support local businesses through the challenges ahead.

With a new Chairman there is a new strategy which I have developed with the help of the Executive Board who are all dedicated to the task ahead in developing new support mechanisms to help the businesses in Spelthorne not only survive but thrive!

Spelthorne Business Forum Strategic Plan September 2021/22

What is the SBF

The SBF is a local business forum created by a collaboration between Spelthorne Borough Council and local business leaders. The SBF was started around 15 years ago by local councillors as a monthly social business networking group but has grown in popularity over the years.

In 2015 Mike Ramlakhan took the Chairman’s role and, with Tracey Carter as his Vice Chairman, he quickly changed the SBF to become a more business led group with more focus on sectors and business support.

A new website was created which allowed the SBF to promote local events and workshops, publish business news and a directory listing page for businesses to promote themselves.

New events were introduced including an annual Budget Breakfast and the very popular riverboat networking cruise as well as sector focused events for property, transport & infrastructure, finance and regular workshops.

The SBF has also supported many successful initiatives such as the Spelthorne Business Awards, the Business Plan Competition and a Start your own Business in Spelthorne book.

The membership has grown from around 200 members to just over 720.

Our mission is to help bring economic stability and prosperity to Spelthorne by continuing to provide a platform to deliver a range of benefits to our members including networking, support, workshops and mentoring.

Our aim is to be the voice of Spelthorne business, liaise with local and central government, champion the innovative and create an environment where businesses can thrive.

Recent events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty around Brexit have put a huge strain on business and so now, more than ever, it is important for the SBF to come together with local partners to help protect the local business economy.

We exist to make Spelthorne a great place to do business!

Values

Each SBF member brings their own experiences and skill sets. We want to harness this wealth of experience and skills to create an environment where businesses feel connected to each other and can create long term business relationships.

By putting our members at the forefront of this organisation, and by offering a value proposition and providing opportunities for education, skills and growth through events and dialogue, the SBF can quickly become the place to go to do business.

Member engagement is key to the success of the SBF and we recognise that the strength of the team is greater than the strength of the individual. The SBF aims to create an environment where business can work with each other to achieve collective success.  Businesses do not stop trading with each other because the border stops at another local authority area, and that is why membership of the SBF is not restricted just to Spelthorne businesses; it is open to any businesses trading on and around our borders – together we are stronger.

The SBF supports equality and provides equal opportunity to individuals across Spelthorne for support and advancement of their business.

Creating a Community

A sense of community is what separates the SBF from other regional support organisations. Spelthorne Business Forum is made up of like-minded individuals and businesses who are working towards a greater goal. By engaging with our business community and local residents to demonstrate that we are passionate about this borough and understand the relationship between the residents and the businesses we can continue to grow the membership and become a prominent part of the community as a place that champions skills, innovation,  education and growth.

Leadership

A successful organisation has leadership at its helm and the role of our committee is to steer the general direction and ensure the SBF fulfils its purpose.

Both members and the committee will be involved in the decision-making process and results recorded and assessed so that successes and failures can be learned from.

The SBF leadership team are part of an important conversation that moves commerce forward through the opportunity to join and contribute to committees with a sector based approach, legislative affairs, and local government policy. The SBF aim to be a leader of opinion that local business looks to for guidance and support and to seek to influence local and central government decision makers to respond to the needs of business.

Data is the most important tool for understanding and planning goals for the SBF. The aim is to track and evaluate the interaction with the SBF members and gather their views through surveys and interactive tools to ensure we understand the challenges and needs of the business community.

The SBF website has been designed with the tools needed to create surveys and evaluate event interaction – however investment is needed to develop this tool to reach our objectives.

Participation from members is key to the success of this strategy. Events and surveys are key tools to collect feedback and shape the SBF.

Active contact makes members feel that their voice is valued and appreciated and brings them further into the group.  A digital strategy will be at the heart of this – as more people are spending their time online and working from home, communications are becoming ever more important after the Covid pandemic.

The success for the SBF will come with businesses understanding our offer and engaging with our activities and forums.

By aligning our strategy with the local council’s Economic Strategy and post COVID-19 Recovery Plan, we can ensure we are delivering successful outcomes where it is most needed in the community.

Strategic Statement & Priorities

We will increase our membership by increasing our engagement with business owners and employees across Spelthorne and create a reputation as a trusted and influential local business organisation.

The goal will be to increase the membership in 2021 to 1000 members through company engagement via events (both virtually and, where possible, physically), workshops, forums and social media posts.

At the end of 2021 we will evaluate the activity to make decisions about which engagement approach is the most effective in achieving our goals and update our strategic plan with metrics for 2022 and beyond.

We believe our diverse membership across many sectors, industries and professions gives us the opportunity to create a reputation as the leading conveyer and connector in the Spelthorne business community.

We can enlist the members to participate to help deliver a solution driven support network beyond the traditional benefits such as visibility and business development. The heart of the SBF membership lies in working together to make Spelthorne the best place to live, work, start and grow a business.

We also understand that, with the rapidly changing economic landscape with Covid 19 and Brexit, we need to engage and attract a more diverse membership from all ages and sectors to ensure we are truly representative of all businesses in the area.

Other priority areas are;

Talent & Workforce – Covid 19 has created a challenging economic climate which will result in many job losses and loss of traineeships. The SBF will advocate for and lead projects aimed at supporting businesses in attracting, retaining and training a skilled workforce. With many high tech and high growth companies moving into the area there is an opportunity to help drive the skills agenda to ensure businesses are recruiting local people for local jobs.

Facilitate the relationship between business and local education partners to ensure the skills that are needed are being delivered to local residents.

Promote apprenticeships, training opportunities as well as signpost funding opportunities by working alongside the council and local training providers.

Regional Competitiveness – Promote Spelthorne as a place to do business with excellent connectivity to its close neighbours Heathrow Airport and the City of London. A connected place with the M25, M4 & M3 all in close proximity giving businesses a fantastic location to ensure they are connected both across the UK and globally.

Competitiveness is defined by an area’s ability to attract capital, business talent and visitors. Based on these factors in the 2019 competitiveness index by Cardiff University, Spelthorne was placed 59th out of 379 local authorities, putting the borough in the top 16% of local authorities in the UK for competitiveness.

When measuring competitiveness, Cardiff University took into account a variety of factors including: –

Economic activity rates, business start-up rates per 1,000 inhabitants, number of businesses per 1,000 inhabitants, proportion of working age population with NVQ level 4 or higher, proportion of knowledge based businesses, gross value added per head at current basic prices, productivity – output per hour worked, employment rates, gross weekly pay, unemployment rates.

These factors indicate the strength of an area to attract and retain new businesses, and it signals to businesses who are looking for a place to move to or set up that Spelthorne is a premier location. Spelthorne is already home to the BP International Centre for Business and Technology with more than 5,000 staff on site, as well as the world renowned Shepperton Studios which has recently committed to a £50m investment to be the world’s second largest film studios.

However we cannot rest on this alone as the impact of Covid 19 is predicted to have a devastating effect on Heathrow Airport and its related businesses – and this will have a direct impact on Spelthorne residents.

The Spelthorne Business Forum can assist and support Spelthorne Council in its economic recovery plan and must align its strategy to support the council’s objectives to ensure the best outcome for its members and local businesses. The aim is to improve our UK competitiveness and the measure will be against the factors detailed above.

Operational Alignment with Spelthorne Council

“The Spelthorne Economic Strategy was refreshed in February 2020 and builds upon the first 3 years of the 2017-2022 Economic Strategy and continues to focus on prioritising the key needs for business to settle, grow and thrive.

Through the strategy the borough aims to realise its ambitions and release its potential as a

leading economy, not just in Surrey but the wider sub-region. The strategy has been produced at a time when the local, national and international economies are all taking stock and preparing for the future with regards to the impact of significant events and decisions such as the Government’s preferred location of Heathrow for the UK’s additional runway, southern rail access to Heathrow and, of course, Brexit. Now with the added consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic.

In November 2017 the government launched an Industrial Strategy designed to strengthen the five foundations of productivity; ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places. This strategy recognises those ambitions and are referenced within the Council’s Economic Strategy. The health of the Spelthorne economy has shown remarkable growth over a number of years, as evidenced by our position as 59th out of 379 local authorities, putting the borough in the top 16% of local authorities in the UK for competitiveness. Spelthorne possesses the foundations envied by other locations, particularly given its proximity to London and Heathrow, forming part of a powerfully functional economic area; the M3, M4 and M25, which help drive the prosperity of the south east, all run through or in close proximity to Spelthorne. The area also contains some beautiful attractions such as Staines Moor, 11 miles of the river Thames and much more. Members and officers of the council are united in working hard to ensure that economic growth and the associated benefits to our community continue to grow and Spelthorne can compete with the best.

We are already witnessing significant developments in the borough, particularly in Staines-upon-Thames where over the course of this strategy we have already seen a new hotel, residential accommodation and additional retail space. This will further add to the attraction of the borough to those who wish to locate their business or indeed, live, work or shop in Spelthorne.” 

READ HERE: Spelthorne Economic Strategy  

The SBF strategic plan is designed to create alignment with the Spelthorne Economic Strategy as referenced above and Economic Development Recovery Plans for 2020 / 2021.

This includes tasks under the following themes;

  • Growth & competitiveness
  • Implementing developments
  • Education provision
  • Promoting education, training and high level attainment
  • Assisting work readiness
  • Health improvement
  • Affordable housing delivery

Economic Development projects and goals also include;

  • Transport & Infrastructure Forum
  • Property Forum
  • Business Awards
  • Business Incubator
  • Apprentice Levy Scheme for small businesses
  • Visitor Economy Forum
  • High Street Recovery Forum

SBF 2020 2021 Key Objectives

We need to meet the economic challenges that businesses are facing today to stay resilient in the face of Covid-19 and be able to react to the changing markets post Brexit.

This requires a strategic plan designed to add value to our members, help them navigate the challenges and lead a path forward for sustainability and long term growth. We need a framework of clearly defined and measurable goals, all of which link with our core strategic objectives:

  1. To increase engagement with our members by increasing our engagement with business owners and employees across Spelthorne
  2. Create a reputation as a trusted and influential local business organisation. We will need to evaluate the technology used to ensure the systems and tools we have in place enable us to deliver our objectives and measure our engagement and success. We will update the following key objectives annually and at that time review the strategic report for updates and relevant changes.
  3. Create a membership survey to establish member’s needs / views on SBF services and appetite for membership fees.
  4. Review our brand and develop a marketing and events plan to increase membership.
  5. Review the website functions and create a web development plan to improve & upgrade tools to deliver objectives.
  6. Create a new membership strategy and revenue plan.
  7. Create an onboarding plan to engage members and ensure retention.
  8. Create focussed groups around strategic sectors (Property, Transport & Infrastructure, Skills etc..)
  9. Review Spelthorne Council strategy to ensure alignment / create working group to deliver actions.