Millionaire businessman urges Shropshire businesses to diversify

The co-founder of secondhand electronic purchase and sale site musicMagpie has called on more people to diversify in order to grow their businesses.

‘Adapt to change’ – Walter Gleeson
‘Adapt to change’ – Walter Gleeson

Walter Gleeson said many businesses remain reluctant to change, but added it was more important then ever to help businesses grow and recover following the pandemic.

Mr Gleeson, who has recently become a shareholder and director of AFC Telford United, was headline speaker at Wednesday's Shropshire Chamber of Commerce business conference.

He said: "I want to encourage diversity in what is predominantly white, male-dominated industries – I.T. being one of them, as well as engineering.

"I am also trying to encourage more businesses to diversify, especially after Covid. Don't be afraid of going online. That is a growth area for them really.

"It doesn't suit every business, but people have also realised they don't have to be in the office five days a week. They can work from home and be flexible with their working hours. I think businesses need to adapt to change.

"A lot of businesses are still reluctant to change and say 'that has worked for us so why change?'. But these are the businesses that are standing still and are not going to grow.

"With inflation and the cost of things are going up, they are actually going to go backwards.

"The one thing I would say is take advice – be it from family member, accountant, or the chamber itself. Never be afraid to take it. There is no such thing as bad advice."

Speaking of the impacts of the pandemic on his business, Mr Gleeson added: "It was challenging. There were days where we thought we would have to shut up shop and close the doors, but what we have found is because we had launched in the tech marketplace, people wanted tablets and phones to work from home.

"It was a really good thing for us as a business. If anything we struggled to get stock."

Mr Gleeson has also set up a new company, Highclear Investments, bringing together a team of experts to inspire, innovate, motivate and discover new and emerging young ‘tech-stars’.

Among the other high-profile speakers was Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce and former head of operations at 10 Downing Street.

Business psychologist Heidi Hunter-Cope delivered a presentation during the morning session on how companies can get recruitment strategies right more often.

Joe Lockley, founder of fast-expanding Bright Star Boxing in Shifnal, which is helping people who have fallen out of mainstream education, also shared his inspirational story.

There were two panel debates at the conference – one looking at skills and training, and the other turning the spotlight on manufacturing and engineering.

The conference ran alongside a showcase of Shropshire businesses at the Mercure Telford Centre hotel – two days before the chamber presents its annual business awards.

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