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All-Industry Conference Day One Review: Part two
Published:  15 June, 2019

A day that ‘engaged, enlightened and entertained’ – just as the BMF promised .

Following a short break, session two entitled ‘Building Your Skills’ got underway.

First up was Richard Walton, a counter terrorism expert, with 30 years’ experience, who now runs his consultancy business Counter Terrorism Global.

He spoke about the terrorism threat in the past, now and where it is going in the future.

When Walton first started in 1979, the IRA was bombing London, which was reflected in the fact that seven floors in his offices were for to deal with Irish terrorism, with just the one desk for international terrorism – that is the exact opposite now.

Walton offered his experience of leadership and a few pointers as to how it can be achieved. “You are all leaders in your field, agents for change. Leadership is the ability to inspire change and make a difference,” he said.

After sharing a slide with a map of the world where terrorism is occurring, which has not changed over the past decade, Walton said that two globally networked terrorist organisations means that terrorism can reach anywhere in the world. The current Islamic terrorism threat is based on an ideology that has been around for 25 years and looks like it will stay.

Walton warned of the growth in all forms of extremism across the world, due to social media, and predicted that environmental extremism will start soon.

Walton then introduced slides on a number of terrorist attacks that have happened over the years around the world, explaining the history behind each one, some of the mistakes that were made and the lessons learnt.

“The power of social media can be a force for good or for bad,” said Walton. “Social media can empower people to do bad things beyond their dreams. Modern day terrorists can now tweet from the desert and we can all watch it.

“Social media must be a force for good, and every one of you has the ability to influence how it is used.”

Walton also believes that state cyber attacks are now a “big deal” and a new frontier for attacks.

“The capabilities are there for people to attack your business if you don’t have cyber defence systems in places in place, so you need to have people in who do understand this,” he said.

“We haven’t seen cyber terrorism yet as those behind attacks like to have a lot of people dead with a lot of people watching.”

Walton ended by highlighting how the counter terrorism team was working in Qatar to ensure there was a safe football World Cup in 2022 and how he has seen first-hand the wonderful opportunities that are available for the merchant sector.

Edwin Morgan, Interim Director General for External Affairs at the Institute of Directors, spoke about aims “to bring business together as connection is what business is all about”.

Engaging with the audience, when Morgan asked who was confident that there business will be successful over the next 12 months, the majority raised their hands, but were split when asked about the future of the UK economy.

On the subject of leaving the EU, many businesses were suffering from Brexit fatigue and this was having a big impact on getting the bodies with the skills required into the industry.  

“This is a shaky period and there is point pretending it isn’t. There may be uncertainty, but building is the only sector where investment is rising. The UK unemployment rate in Q1 2019, and in May, is 3.8% - the lowest figures since 1974.”

The audience was then asked who had difficulty in recruiting staff and many hands shot up straight away.

“Not only is it harder to find workers from abroad, but wages will also go up as a result of that, so it is a double whammy,” said Morgan.

Morgan believes that those with disabilities are one of the biggest opportunities for growth. A slide showed that while the 3.8% of the UK workforce is without a job, that rises to 8% for the disabled. While there is inactivity with 20.8% of the UK workforce, 43.8% of disabled people could find a job but are not looking.

“That is a huge pool of talent that could be a potential employee and offer the employer a much bigger market to exploit,” said Morgan. “One in three people born today are now likely to live to 100, so there will also be a rise in age related disability. We are going to need more buildings which is good news for the builders’ merchant.”

Finally, Morgan asked the delegates whether they had a contingency plan in place to cope with a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. About 20 hands went up. “When you don’t actually know what you are preparing for, what can you do? Very little. If the political process doesn’t work, it is not the fault of your business.”

The ‘Building Your Skills’ session ended with an entertaining speech by Sports Psychologist Michael Caulfield, introduced by Gethin Jones who said “you don’t have to know about or watch sport to enjoy this presentation”.  

The theme throughout was people and the role everyone plays in life. Caulfield referenced three phrases from the ‘beautiful presentation’ given earlier by Laybourn and Benjamin. “Don’t be embarrassed mate”, “You will be alright mate and “He just gave me a bit of hope”.

Caulfield also referred to Walton’s speech and the 20,000 people spoken to after one of the terrorist attacks and on Brexit he said: “People talking not shouting would have sorted Brexit out”.

Having worked with top sports stars, such as Gold Medal winner Sir Mo Farah, footballers Frank Lampard and Eniola Aluko and champion jockey A P McCoy, Caulfield was able to share his experiences of how sport fascinated him. For Walton, it was all about the real life stories behind the star names, not the success and the glory.

Sport has an ability to get people talking, said Caulfield, and cited examples of the New Zealand rugby team, who shared the pressure they feel just representing their country and the England Lionesses, who spoke openly about the hope and joy of playing for their country.

Caulfield said: “We have people talking openly now about sport, why not in politics and business?

“I am proud of sport, that it has learnt to talk, to cope, to open up,” he said. “Win at all costs is horrible, it can only ever result in tears. Win at all costs never pays.

“Talking works. Take Neil and Jonny’s talk, it doesn’t get more raw and emotional than that.”

Lunch followed before delegates had a chance to take part in the Merchant/Supplier Exchange, sponsored by Builders’ Merchants News, while Speakers Corner allowed speakers to meet up and personal with all attendees.

The evening was left free for everyone or for individual Dinearounds at the Posat restaurant in Dubrovnik.

 Read our review of Day 2 of the Conference here.