WHO’S that jolly red nosed character in the photograph above?
Swap the sheep for reindeer and the overalls for a red and white suit and maybe I could just about pass for a cut price Father Christmas.
OK, please yourselves.
This was me yesterday morning helping feed the sheep on my friend Sir Gary Verity’s farm high up in the Yorkshire Dales.
After dinner in his local village pub I’d stayed in bed as long as I could the following morning to try to avoid getting roped into the multitude of chores needed to keep a sheep farm running.
But within minutes of emerging from bed I was swaddled in fleeces and over trousers and clinging to a bale of hay on the back of a quad bike flying across fields fringed with frost and ice.
I said it looked like Gary had decorated his sheep for Christmas, but of course the markings show both which tup has mated with which sheep and the coloured dots are added after a scan by the vet and indicate how many lambs they are carrying.
All the “girls” in the photo are expecting two or three lambs between late February and early March.
The December sun was weak but stunning and temperatures showed no sign of rising above freezing as we distributed the hay and feed around the fields watched by nervy partridges and skittish pheasants and a young hare scampered puckishly along the base of a drystone wall.
We had returned from the pub by moonlight the previous evening and warmed up in front of the fire with a bottle of Cote du Rhone GV had brought back from his summer trip to Provence.
As we caught up on each other’s news and gossip I wasn’t surprised to learn that I’m not the most important person he has welcomed as a guest at his farmhouse in recent weeks.
In November Prince Albert of Monaco spent a night there when he visited Yorkshire to attend a charity do.
The two met through Gary’s work with the Tour de France and have become good friends.
Apparently Prince Albert flew into Leeds Bradford Airport from a short business trip to New York where Gary collected him and his aide de camp and security detail and drove back to the farm for lunch which included a fruit crumble made by a local farmer’s wife.
The following morning a helicopter arrived to ferry the ruler of Monaco back to his jet to fly him home to the Principality on the Cote d’Azur.
I reflected on this as I blew on my icicle-like fingers and defrosted my car windscreen before driving home through the stunning Yorkshire Dales.
WHEN you struggle to begin an event focused on helping people network and build stronger business relationships because they are all already chatting to each other, I’d say that’s a good start.
Fresh Thinking Capital’s innovative Fresh Thinking Network events for young talents in the business, finance and legal community in Leeds finished the year on a high last week.
The programme started in September and considering the latest event was only the fourth one, those on the programme have already forged strong connections with each other.
I compere the monthly events and they alternate between two formats – an inspirational guest speaker plus a workshop by high performance coach Simon Hartley and then a discussion involving a panel of experienced experts.
Last week’s event, held at Mad Frans bar in the Wellington Place development on Whitehall Road, saw a panel giving tips and advice on networking and building relationships in business.
Alex Fogal of EY, Howard Smith of Interpath Advisory, Yasmine Holliday of Nucleus Commercial Finance and Chris Silverwood of Corpfin told the audience some fascinating stories about some of their most successful networking experiences – and a few they perhaps want to forget.
The clear message was that it is not easy but hugely rewarding and you get as much out of it as you are prepared to put in.
I told the audience that the only reason I was involved in the event was thanks to networking and business relationships.
Chris Silverwood put on a drinks event for clients and contacts in Harrogate in November last year – one of the first after the many restrictions imposed during the pandemic – and I chatted to Andrew Walls from Fresh Thinking Capital who said he and his co-founder Mel Hird had an event-based idea and would I be interested in discussing it with them.
While you can’t always hope to win direct business from networking, I’ve always found that if you can meet an interesting person with a good story then it has been a worthwhile event.
I CHOSE the theme of storytelling for a speech I gave to the UK Israel Business Breakfast Club this week.
I told the audience that UK Israel Business director Colin Glass and his colleague Jane Clynes have had an impressive roster of speakers at previous events.
“Senior politicians such as cabinet ministers need around 12 months notice to book them for such a speaking engagement,” I said.
“Equally, diplomats such as ambassadors need to be contacted nine months in advance while even leading entrepreneurs and business executives need six months notice to be booked to speak at an event like this.
“So when Jane Clynes phoned me last Tuesday I was delighted to accept her kind invitation to speak to you today.”
It wasn’t quite last Tuesday, but I was a late replacement for a speaker who had cancelled and I was delighted to accept.
I received a warm welcome and over bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese and I was able to chat to many old friends and business contacts including Colin, who was finance director and a key advisor when we launched TheBusinessDesk.com, Edward Ziff of Town Centre Securities, Russell Manning of the estate agency group Manning Stainton, Richard Cramer of Front Row Legal and Nick Dyson of Blacks Solicitors.
The breakfast sponsor was environmental business Andel run by Mark Harris who I knew when he was leader of Leeds City Council.
After 30 years as a councillor he told me he’s enjoying business more and doesn’t miss the civic world at all.
My speech was focused on the common thread throughout my career, whether as a journalist or in events and communications – helping people tell their stories.
I reflected on the strength of the business relationship between the UK and Israel which I was fortunate enough to see first hand some years ago on a visit to Israel for a delegation from Leeds organised by the Leeds Zionist Federation.
Our host was the charming Philip Margolis and we stayed in Tel Aviv and visited Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the historic site of Caesarea.
It was fascinating and I clearly remember how advanced the technology and healthcare businesses we met were.
I briefly mentioned my career but told the audience that I’ve always found other people’s stories much more interesting than mine.
I recounted my favourite stories about other people I’ve met including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Parkin, Sir Ken Morrison, Lord Hanson, Ken Bates when he was chairman of Leeds United and the late Yorkshire and British business legend Lord Hanson.
In the questions afterwards, Edward Ziff commented: “Your stories about Ken Morrison were great…but try being his landlord!”
Of course Edward’s company, TCS, owns the Merrion Centre in Leeds, where Morrisons has a store.
I said I had built my career on being trusted by others and trusting them.
My business, COPA, is built on trusted relationships with people I like and respect.
Richard Cramer asked me to interview Steve Parkin on Zoom during lockdown which was a great opportunity for me.
And I recently compered a live event for Richard with Michael Cheika, the Argentina rugby coach.
Through Richard I met Jonny Ross who I’ve worked with to bring several events to a virtual audience on Zoom.
I told the audience that another trusted contact and friend is Carla Stockton-Jones who I met when we were both on the board of the Maggie’s Yorkshire cancer charity and I have been fortunate to work with during her time at Sky and now at Stagecoach.
I was fulsome in my praise of Carla’s talents and Jane Clynes now wants her as a speaker at a future UK Israel Business Breakfast Club!
I’ve always trusted Colin Glass and I valued his opinion when I started TheBusinessDesk.com.
Some say that business is down to networking, but I say it is about loyalty, respect and strong connections and that is what makes me most proud.
What was lovely was that several members of the audience came up to me afterwards to share some of their stories.
THIS blog is now taking a break for Christmas and New Year.
I shall be toasting the festive season with a small libation with my tailor James Michelsberg in Sous le Nez this lunchtime.
I owe him a drink after I mentioned last week that I’ve been wearing a vintage overcoat and he, in his customary understated way, said he believed the “sartorial gods are weeping” at this news.
As the year comes to a close, I think we all hope that 2023 can be a bit less eventful politically than the current one.
Four different Chancellors of the Exchequer is three too many.
Three different Prime Ministers is probably three too many, given what little they all have achieved.
But let’s be positive.
Can I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and successful New Year.
Have a great weekend and a wonderful Christmas.