June 27, 2019 admin Recent Forums

Recent Forum: Foster Denovo, 27th June 2019

Our thanks to Grace Agnew and Foster Denovo for hosting a fascinating lunchtime meeting on 27 June 2019. Several themes emerged: Entrepreneurial passion, corporate culture and whether, north of Birmingham there is support for HS2.


Nimesh Shah is a partner in Blick Rothenberg’s private client team in London.  He talked of his perceptions when moving from Manchester to work in the capital. The scale of support for businesses in London far outweighs that in the northern cities whether it be the advisory offering or simply transport infrastructure. Commuters in London may moan about the tube but we don’t know how good we have it.  Rail links between the northern cities are inefficient and expensive. The view from the north is that the huge investment in HS2 could be better spent upgrading rail links between Liverpool / Leeds / Newcastle and beyond.

But Nimesh is optimistic. Although it seems that London devours talent and investment to the detriment of the northern cities, a number of London businesses are moving their support services / back offices north, and businesses in Manchester/ Liverpool and Edinburgh are looking east and fast establishing business links with Asia.


Tom Lionetti-Maguire is the Founder of Little Lion Entertainment. Having once worked as an actor in “Secret Cinema”, an interactive cinema experience, he recognised the opportunity for a more experiential form of theatre. His visionary “immersive theatre” creates unique experiences in which the audience is the star of the show. Only 5 years ago Tom set up Little Lion Entertainments and with£1m raised through “perk based” crowdfunding he acquired the rights to the Crystal Maze, and established the first Crystal Maze LIVE Experience (CMLE) in Kings Cross, London. A further CMLE was opened in Manchester in 2017; and with venture capital of £6m Lion has recently opened its newest CMLE in the Trocadero, London. Opportunities are opening up in Central and South America, the Middle East and Texas too.

With his passion and vision Tom is clearly ahead of the game … this year Disney opens its two Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attractions reportedly costing US$2billion….. that’s some endorsement of his immersive theatre concept.


Keith Black is the CEO of Regatta, one of the best recognized outdoor clothing brands in the UK. He spoke passionately and engagingly of the journey from a little known and rather dull UK clothing company called Rysol, to the well-recognised, and highly successful international brand. Visiting the Canton Fair with his father in the 1980’s, their eyes were opened to the incredible value available through sourcing and manufacturing in China (and subsequently Bangladesh). The company cut out the middle man, established a number of product lines, and focussed on getting the right balance of product design, price and quality. Regatta was founded in 1981 with just 12 people. It acquired Craghoppers in 1995, Hawkshead in 2010 and launched Dare2be in 2015.

Keith believes that the culture of the family owned business sets it apart. Regatta’s culture is founded on a non-hierarchical structure, great relationships, respect and courtesy. He is “relentlessly entrepreneurial” and has never lost his hunger to win and to succeed and encourages his people to be the same, to operate as owners, and share in the success of the business. He is clear that financial incentives are fundamental to this..

Today the company employs 1900 with a turnover of around £270m….. and if further proof of its success was needed, Regatta made its first shipment last year……….. toChina!


Maria Coulson, Managing Director of Ricordia Consultancy is passionate about people, and specialises in wellbeing and inclusivity at the heart of business, and in organisational and cultural development.


She is passionate about creating an inclusive culture but believes that in many organisations there is an overemphasis on diversity and an under emphasis on inclusion. Maria believes that while diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice. But the more diverse the workforce, the harder it will be to create or change an organisational culture and she cautioned that people can often be stifled by an established corporate culture and the need to fit in with it. Everyone needs to feel respected for who they are and what they bring, and wants to feel that what they bring as an individual is valued. She stressed the importance of trust in an inclusive culture and the need for people to feel comfortable in speaking up without retaliation or retribution.

Maria summed up saying that an inclusive culture does not come about through ticking boxes. The values must be lived by senior and middle management, in fact at all levels throughout the firm


Karl Spencer is the Founder of Safety PAL. Twenty two years ago he started a successful engineering company, but in 2014 after a breach in H&S regulations he realised just how little he and other directors understood about the law. As a result of a preventable breach of H&S legislationand despite having five separate Health & Safety ( H&S) accreditations in place he was fined  £250,000. The incident lost his business £3-£4 million in orders, and numerous redundancies followed as his strong client base went elsewhere.

But Karl grabbed opportunity from the jaws of adversity. He recognised that businesses often fail to implement sufficient standards and procedures due to pressure of work and time, costs, technology and knowledge. His solution? He developed “Safety PAL”, a purpose built safety managementsystem tailored to ensure that a company’swork processes match exactly what is required by the Health & Safety at Work Act.



Philip Davies MP has been the Conservative MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire since 2005.

He picked up the theme of the need to invest in the Northern powerhouse. A plane needs two engines to fly, he said, and for our economy to fly, we must use both engines….. Both London and the South East and the North of the country. And, he reminded us Londoners, the North extends beyond Leeds and Manchester, to Bradford, Hull and Newcastle. He believes that London is “pouring money at the North” without consultation. The key to the North is infrastructure investment.  What is needed to drive the Northern Powerhouse is HS3 (a rail link connecting Liverpool to Hull and Newcastle).

Unfortunately there was no time for Phillip to share his views about Boris or Brexit…..

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