David Parkin on how Huddersfield will conquer the world and a royal appointment


THIS time last week I was hosting the launch of Export Exchange, a new initiative from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and the Department for International Trade with funding from the European Union’s Regional Development Fund.

The scheme is aimed at bringing together a group of experienced exporters, known as ‘Patrons’ to share their knowledge and experiences with companies from the Leeds City Region who are looking to grow their overseas sales, or those wanting to trade abroad for the first time.

Held at the headquarters of Leeds telecoms, data and software business AQL in the former Salem Chapel, the event attracted plenty of media coverage, including being filmed by BBC Look North.

The story ran on that evening’s show and the report started by describing the launch as a “glamorous and inspiring” presentation, just as the camera hovered over me addressing the audience.

Glamorous and inspiring.

Two words that aren’t associated with me nearly enough.

Well, never.

But they will in future. I’m having some business cards printed with them etched on either side a photo of me.

I also plan to add the description: ‘Man About Town’.

It covers so many options.

Anyway, back to the launch of Export Exchange, which we aimed to make fast moving and engaging, a bit like a magazine-style TV show, with interviews, clips and interaction.

The stunning venue certainly helped. It is a restored 18th century chapel in which AQL has created an auditorium above what would have been the nave of the chapel, which has been glassed over and houses its data centre.

Fifty launch Patrons have already agreed to take part in the unique initiative and the plan is to grow this network strongly over the coming weeks and months.

Among them was Dr Adam Beaumont, founder of AQL, who joined me on stage to tell the audience about the history of the venue, what his company does and why he is so keen to support Export Exchange.

What I like about Adam is his honesty. Like most leaders of businesses, he is happy to share his experience – both good and bad – in a bid to help others.

Adam admitted that in the early days of his business he missed out on getting Skype as a client, but that experience has helped AQL become what it is today – a company that counts over 35 of the FTSE 100 as clients.

The initiative was launched by Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the LEP, and Marian Sudbury, director of the Northern Powerhouse for DIT.

They presented certificates to the Patrons and I pointed out that getting a photo with Roger Marsh is the Yorkshire equivalent of a selfie with Kim Kardashian.

Under the ExportExchange programme, the patrons, all experienced exporters and business leaders from across the Leeds City Region – which includes Skipton and Harrogate in the north, Barnsley in the south, and York – will share their expertise on every aspect of exporting and growth with fledgling SME exporters.

I’d asked Sean Jarvis, commercial director of Huddersfield Town, to share some of the club’s plans around the opportunities from promotion to the Premier League.

Its penalty shoot-out triumph at Wembley Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday in May, saw the club instantly transformed into a global brand.

Huddersfield Town will now compete in the most watched sports league in the world with promotion worth an estimated £180m.

The Premier League is broadcast in 212 countries worldwide with an audience of 4.6 billion fans globally.

And make no mistake, Huddersfield Town will grasp this opportunity with gusto both on and off the pitch.

Relationships have already been built across the world, even to the stage where the club, known as the Terriers, are looking to make the most of its being the Year of the Dog in China in 2018.

Joining Sean on stage was Jonathan Sands OBE of Leeds-based but international brand and design agency Elmwood.

Jonathan’s business works for global groups like Heineken and Procter & Gamble and he has done work for the Football Association on a World Cup bid and recently completed a big piece of work for Arsenal Football Club.

Despite being a Derby County fan, he is a visiting professor of innovation at the University of Huddersfield so is keen to help the town’s football club as much as he can.

He said building relationships with clubs that share Town’s blue colours and focusing on countries where blue is a popular colour would provide early momentum and exploring opportunities with overseas sports organisations that share Huddersfield’s ethos, such as the Green Bay Packers American football team.

Given Huddersfield Town will be Yorkshire’s only representative in the Premier League next season, let’s hope the whole of the region gets behind them.

Roger Marsh told guests at the launch: “Leeds City Region’s economic success depends on the growth of our business sector. That much-needed growth could come from selling more overseas, creating a positive impact for local businesses and the wider UK economy.

“ExportExchange is one more way we can help the people who run businesses, and we look forward to building a supportive and lively community.”

More information on the initiative and how to receive free overseas trade advice and support is available at: www.exportexchange.co.uk.



I was at the IoD’s Director of the Year Awards in York this week as a guest of Caroline Pullich of Barclays.

It was nice to catch up with Stephen Martin, the former chief executive of construction group Clugston, who has recently been appointed Director General of the IoD.

He was a big supporter of TheBusinessDesk.com when we launched it and was a judge for the Masters awards.

He also was the first ever subject of Channel Four TV show, Undercover Boss, in which he disguised himself to go and work among his employees.

There were some worthy winners of awards but I couldn’t quite work out how Herwig Vennekens, the managing director of Haribo could be only highly commended in the large company director of the year category but then be named Overall Director of the Year.

At least he was there, the winner of the Judges’ Special Award for the North East, the chief executive of Sage, sent a video message while the Lifetime Achievement Award for Yorkshire went to Lord Haskins, formerly chairman of Northern Foods, who also didn’t make it.

However it didn’t take the gloss off the evening for me, I won two first class tickets on Virgin Trains East Coast in the raffle.

As I went up on stage to collect the prize I whispered to awards compere and BBC correspondent Danni Hewson: “I hope they are tickets on a train that is on time and hot food is served.”

She ushered me back to my seat sharpish.

Virgin Trains makes great play of its services, but if it is to win over the business community then it needs to find some more consistency and quality.


NEWS that Prince Harry was visiting Leeds this month was greeted with obvious excitement.

Given the focus he and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have provided for support for those suffering with mental health issues, he was in the city to attend an event hosted by the Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) called Leeds Leads: Encouraging Happy Young Minds, aimed at addressing the mental wellbeing of the city’s young people.

I’d written off getting an invite to the event at Aspire, until an email arrived from LCF Chair Rachel Hannan.

“I always very much enjoy your blogs! Given an event is just not a ‘proper event’ without you in attendance…I have great pleasure in inviting you to our thought provoking mental health event with special guest, HRH Prince Henry of Wales.”

Now that’s the kind of email you want to receive.

I suppose with me there it would automatically be glamorous and inspiring.

Well they didn’t need me to make it inspiring, some of the stories we heard were certainly that.

And glamour? Well, when Prince Harry left, I would say most of the women in the room would have happily left with him.

He spoke really well and seemed very engaged with the subject, one which is clearly close to his heart.

The next generation of royals are certainly an impressive bunch.

Equally impressive was Stevie Ward, a 23-year-old Leeds Rhinos rugby player, who has enjoyed the highs of being a Super League winner but the lows of depression.

That prompted him to launch the Mantality website aimed at millennial men which combines inspiration content and doesn’t shy away from tackling the issue of mental health.

Given powerfully-built Stevie combines model good looks with an articulate honesty, I think most of the women would have settled for his company, had Prince Harry not been available.

Anyway, I’m off to add ‘By Royal Appointment’ to my new business cards.

Have a great weekend.

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