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Abolish work meetings. Look beyond qualifications and experience. Spend as much time collaborating as you are competing.

Just some pieces of business advice that leading CEOs from across the UK offered during our ‘Three Things’ summit last week. The likes of Dame Sharon White, Chair of the John Lewis Partnership, Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy and Lord Karan Bilimoria, President of the CBI offered small business leaders just three pieces of positive, forward-looking, and actionable advice to help them build back better in 2021.

Broken into three key areas – digital, workplace, and sustainability – the virtual event was the antidote to typical pandemic webinars as it looked ahead to a positive future and armed small business leaders with actionable ideas to take away and implement immediately in their businesses.

“Don’t be a tech snob,” declared former Graze and Innocent CEO Anthony Fletcher during the digital session. Panelists urged small businesses to embrace the plethora of cheap and effective software solutions that can streamline sophisticated processes without the need for technical knowledge and skills (examples include zapier, and IFTTT).

The workplace session on day two focused on the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equality in the workforce. “Diverse companies are more innovative, creative, and successful. The team at Cobra Beer is a micro–United Nations, which creates a phenomenal buzz of diversity,” said Cobra Beer founder Lord Karan Bilimoria during his keynote address. Panelists discussed the best ways to create a truly inclusive and future-proof culture within a business, including looking outside traditional channels of recruitment, focusing on learnability instead of prior experience when hiring, and connecting at a deeper level with your own workforce (not just stakeholders and customers).

The third day of the summit shared ideas on how small businesses can play a meaningful role in building back a better planet and society. “You don’t have to be a massive business to build back differently, and we don’t want to go back to the way we did things before,” said panelist Sally Bailey, Chair of Weird Fish and former CEO of White Stuff. At a time when more companies are thinking beyond profit to ensure they’re sustainable and socially responsible, the discussion focused on how businesses should be transparent, set targets, make commitments, engage third parties, and work collaboratively with competitors to have a clear and positive societal impact.

A consistent theme across the summit was the importance of having clarity of purpose to help small businesses build back better, an idea best summed up by Greg Jackson: “Business is about identifying what you can do better. Identifying something that isn’t as good as it should be in society and having the gumption, the imagination and the vision to put your own life, livelihood, career, and reputation on the line to try and fix that. By all means, get rich. But make others rich in the process.”

We have picked out some of the most salient pieces of advice from across the three sessions. To watch the full sessions or individual speakers, visit our ‘Three Things’ website.


  • William Reeve (Goodlord): Abolish in-person meetings so those working from home don’t feel like second class citizens.

  • Jill Easterbrook (previously Boden): Be ruthless with your budget. Anything you did without last year, think carefully about whether you put it back in.

  • Anthony Fletcher (formerly Graze and Innocent): Understand how Amazon algorithms work and use it to your advantage.


  • Greg Jackson (Octopus): Everyone is talented. You just have to find the right job for them to flourish.

  • Claudia Harris (Makers): Hire bravely. Look beyond prior experience and qualifications – focus on learnability and find people from different backgrounds.

  • Ed Perry (Cook): Consciously connect more with your staff. If you’re not spending at least 25% on internal comms, you’re not thinking seriously about culture.



  • Sharon White (John Lewis): Learn from others. Think about your networks, and build new friendships, especially with businesses and leaders you admire.

  • Doug Lamont (Innocent): Spend as much time collaborating as you are competing. Modern business is a team sport, and relentlessly competing to win isn’t sustainable.

  • Tim Lee (Mindful Chef): Be very clear on your purpose, and use it to navigate difficult decisions, and to manage conduct or debate in your business.

To watch the sessions or individual speakers, or read summaries of the advice given, visit

2022-12-01T11:16:02+00:00May 13, 2021|
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