The success of Highland Business Week 2018

A month on from the Highlands' biggest week of business events, we review why holding Highland Business Week is important to the Highland economy. 

From the 24th to the 28th September this year we celebrated the sixth annual Highland Business Week, now a thriving and much-anticipated fixture in the business calendar, where we provide businesses with the grow their network, improve their understanding and an opportunity for the region’s successes to be celebrated and rewarded.

The Highlands and Islands is served by a diverse range of organisations operating across a huge geographical area and the Week is an opportunity for us to highlight and learn from the collective achievements of our region.

This year’s Highland Business Week commenced with a Chamber Keynote Lunch: Is your business Brexit ready?

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There has been serious lack of clarity around key issues that will affect us all come 11am on 29th March next year. In an effort to create a better understanding for businesses, we invited Liam Smyth, Director of International Trade Facilitation at British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), to deliver a presentation outlining what kind of outcome we could expect from the government’s talks and what businesses can do to help themselves.

The departure from the EU will bring change for every sector. While individual firms have differing views on how Brexit will affect them, some of the key issues raised at the event were; increasing supply chain costs, changes in safety and environmental regulations, greater scrutiny on origin of goods being exported, a shortage of low skilled workers, increased responsibility on employers to carry out ‘Right to Work’ checks.

Brexit is causing problems and will do so for some time. But it will also provide opportunities for Highland businesses which will continue to trade with Europe and elsewhere in the world, no matter what is finally agreed in March. Attendees felt these opportunities might include; potential for new manufacturing businesses, an opportunity to expand the skills base in the UK, becoming domestically more competitive leading to an increase in domestic trade, some believed that our prolonged currency drop would lead to an increase in tourism from both within and outwith the EU.

We need to ensure we take advantage of those opportunities. There are practical steps that all businesses can take now to start planning ahead with support from Inverness Chamber of Commerce, our Local Export Partnership (LEP) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Including downloading the Business Brexit Checklist

Tuesday saw the return of the Highlands’ only dedicated business to business exhibition, Highland Spotlight.

As well as an opportunity to make new contacts and find new buyers and suppliers, Spotlight was a chance to showcase a wide range of products and services available in the north of Scotland. Three seminars which ran alongside the event added value for attendees; by informing them on issues such as Making Tax Digital, offering advice for future proofing your business and delivering marketing and branding guidance.

Over 500 attendees took part in the Exhibition and the feedback we have received from both visitors and exhibitors has been positive. With most responses suggesting that; the event was well organised, both the quantity of visitors and quality of discussions, were valuable, 95% of visitors found registration easy and were happy with opening times, marketing of the exhibition and related seminars was seen to be effective.

Of course, as with all of our events there are things we can learn from and improve, and we will continue to review the event to ensure that every year we provide a valuable event that delivers the needs of our business community.

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We are grateful to our members who helped add to the success of Highland Business Week by running events during the week; this year we were pleased to work with Ledingham Chalmers who delivered 2 events as part of their Collaborative Decommissioning Roadshow in Inverness on Wednesday and Wick the following day. Also on Wednesday, CREATE invited businesses to consider their target market at their ‘How Well Do You Really Know Your Customer’ event. On Thursday RBS hosted a breakfast with Stuart Mason in which he advised attendees ‘How to Wreck Your Business’.

Our Highland Business Awards are a highlight of the week and the Lunch and Ceremony serves to conclude the week. As Stewart Nicol, Chief Executive reflected in his speech: “In running this Highland Business Awards Lunch, Inverness Chamber of Commerce seeks to recognise and celebrate the very best of Highland Business achievement.” 

Year on year we have been delighted by the high quality of entries and also the range of companies taking part, they identify the best businesses and individuals throughout the region and the integral role they play in sustaining a successful business environment.
Stewart had a message to those businesses: “Having entered my organisation into awards, I really understand the pain of not being short-listed, never mind not winning.  To be shortlisted in today’s ceremony is a remarkable and worthy achievement.  Which also means each of our winners are truly outstanding in their field.”

We hope that all of our finalists continue to make the most of the achievement and hope you use this healthy competition to raise the quality bar and encourages best practice. 

We heard from some of our winners about why they felt it was important to get involved in these Awards, and how they felt about taking home the trophy (double click the video to open in full screen): 


For the full list of finalists and winners click here. 

View images from our two anchor events of the week our Highland Spotlight Business Exhibition and our Highland Business Awards by clicking on the images below.

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