Page 28 - London Business Matters May 2020
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 28 Your business   May 2020 Two minute interview  John Higginson of Higginson Strategy           Who are you? I’m the co-founder of Higginson Strategy, a communications agency for purpose-driven organisations and businesses that are really think- ing hard about the effect they have on people and the planet, above and beyond simply making a profit. What is your connection with the London Chamber of Commerce? Higginson Strategy became a mem- ber of the London Chamber of Commerce at the back end of last year. I’m a Londoner myself, so I was very proud to become a mem- ber of the biggest chamber of com- merce in the UK. What was your first job in London? My first job was trying to sell makeup aged 14. I answered a job in a local paper for an Avon-type business ask- ing a question: ‘Want to be your own boss?’ I was very keen to start making money. There were two problems: 1) You needed to buy a test kit, but the woman who I answered the advert to was kind enough to let me borrow hers for the first one. 2) The more fundamental problem was that I “London has always been excellent at embracing change, so I’m very excited to see how London adapts to the new environment we face as we leave the EU.” My first sale was in at a gather- ing of my mum’s friends. I thought this was a great opportunity. So, I set up my stall in the friend’s front room. My naivety hit me at that point. These women would have been about 40 years’ old. Younger than I am now. But to me they were ancient. I suggested a wrinkle cream product to one of them. Anyway, for that I received stern words and my career in beauty never revived. Which one business achievement over the last 12 months are you most proud of, and why? Getting a Clean Air Bill into the Queen’s Speech last year. As a Lon- doner I have children who go to a school that is in breach of air pol- lution levels, so it’s an issue that I am very passionate about. Having a specific Clean Air Bill means that there will be much more joined up thinking when it comes to tack- ling air pollution, from people who are burning wood stoves, to people driving polluting cars, to flights, to people on building sites. At the moment, these elements are completely separate, and you have to look through different bits of legislation and pull them togeth- er to find violations. The Clean Air Bill will enable us to think in a joined-up way about the actual end-result, which is tackling air pollution. “If there is one thing I hate about my job it’s ... ...doing timesheets. As a profes- sional services business we have to do them. I have to make sure everyone who works for me does then but I am useless at doing my- self.” If you were advising a young entrepreneur which business person would you suggest as a model? Richard Branson. Being passionate about the end customer is very im- portant. Having a product that you yourself would use and you your- self can get passionate about. If you think in that way, that’s the best way to grow your bottom line. Businesses that fail to think in that way can get stuck. Sometimes you have to turn down money and business in the short term, but by doing that you can create a business that has stronger foundations. Branson has demonstrated this focus on the end customer in all his businesses from aviation, to records, trains, holidays and finance. Each time he’s added something to turn it into a product that people aspire to buy and use. How has Covid-19 impacted your business? Our business is well set up for work- ing from home. We have always run our two offices as one. However as a consultancy we are affected more quickly by fear of economic uncer- tainty. It is easier to cancel a contract than to make someone redundant. We lost a couple of smaller clients through fear straight away. Other work that we would have ex- pected to come in didn’t. But we have made gains in other places. We have won two clients who have turned their businesses to supporting the NHS with vital equipment. Being set up as an agency that supports organisations in ‘doing good’ has helped us here. We spend a huge amount of time on Zoom now and we have to work hard- er for every penny. But it is making us stronger. It is great to be tested. What measures have you taken? My wife (and business partner) Clodagh immediately came off the payroll so she now does the home schooling and I look after the busi- ness. We have set up a rapid response Speaker Bureau which allows jour- nalists to get quotes and interviews with our expert clients. We are using lock down to get meetings for our cli- ents with people we might not other- wise get to meet with as their diaries have been cleared. How do you think the transport system in London can be improved? I would love Crossrail to open, and the Bakerloo line extension down to South East London to be signed off. And I would welcome another bridge between East and South East London. I would also like to see tens of thousands of rapid electric charg- ing points to be installed across London to make buying an electric vehicle a far more viable option. I’m a bit of a transport geek. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about London? I love the fact that despite being a city of nine million people we have huge amounts of green spaces. My least favourite thing is the air pollution. If you were Mayor of London for the day which one thing would you change? I would invest heavily in electric charging points. What challenges face London? London is at a really exciting point in our history. Change is where champions are created and new businesses arrive. London has al- ways been excellent at embracing change, so I’m very excited to see how London adapts to the new en- vironment we face as we leave the EU and as we seek the answers to the most fundamental challenge of all of our lifetimes which is tackling climate change.  didn’t know anything about beauty.      

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