How Can Businesses Engage Future Generations? | A Q&A with Jimmy McLoughlin

17 December 2019

We sat down with Jimmy McLoughlin, who popped in to see us over a cup of tea, to talk about his time working with Theresa May, what he believes the future of business might hold with Brexit, and how businesses can look to engage with future generations.

You've had a long career in politics. From the IoD and corporate advising, to Boris Johnson’s London Mayoral Election Campaign and working in 10 Downing Street. Can you tell us a little bit about your story?

My story starts working on Boris Johnson’s Mayoral Campaign in 2008. It was exciting, as we fought a universally positive campaign that became an important milestone for Conservatives returning to Governement. A stint in corporate advisory work followed.

My passion for business was ignited when I invested in the MMC Ventures Growth Generation Fund. All of a sudden, I was meeting and engaging with entrepreneurs as an investor.

I decided to join the Institute of Directors, in the hope of refreshing a century-old Institution. Alex Mitchell and I co-founded their IoD99 network which was exclusively for founders under 40. Originally it was designed for 99 members to join for £99, within two years it had been such a success we grew it to 2,000 members.

So caught by the entrepreneurship bug, but lacking an idea, I applied for the Stanford Ignite course. I was accepted on the day Britain voted to leave the EU. A few weeks later, the Prime Minister asked me to join her new team on Downing Street.

You helped shape the British governments relationship with domestic and international businesses, what can politics learn from business, and vice-versa?

There is a lot government can learn from business. Flexibility, being nimble, and being resource-efficient is what business is great at. If you don’t adapt you cease to exist. Government is undoubtedly more cumbersome, having to balance more customers with varying different needs, but it should look at the key principles. When I was in government, I would try to ask myself every day, how is X (what we where doing that day) going to benefit people in the real world?

Business can learn from government and politicians too. Business needs to realise that we live in a constant world of campaigning and activism. Business needs to explain its message to customers, employees and other stakeholders every day. How does their business benefit the wider society? It is simply not enough to say that we employ people and provide a return to shareholders. Business and capitalism has always been about much more, right from the Cadbury, Bournville era, but it must explain that.

You have a great insight on corporate relations with government, can you share what you believe the future of business might hold with Brexit?

To use some corporate speak, there are challenges and opportunities, but it will be an upwardly positive curve as we leave the EU. The biggest challenges will be in the short term. Opportunities for new relationships across the world, combined with the regulatory innovation that we will be able to introduce, should mean that UK companies will be at the forefront of some of the most exciting technological developments of the 2020s.

If you could leave any audience with one message to take home, what would that be?

The world has changed and is continuing to accelerate at a rapid rate. These changes include living in a constantly switched-on and more scrutinised world where employees are rightly demanding more from their employers. This is not going to go away and businesses need to be prepared for how to engage future generations that will soon be employees, and before we know it, in board rooms.

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