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Sector Response – Top Business leaders call on the UK to tackle productivity gap at the launch of ‘Be the Business’

A group of business leaders today (11 July) issued a rallying call for British businesses to engage with solving the UK’s poor productivity at the launch of ‘Be theBusiness’, a movement which will inspire businesses to be the best they can be, providing practical tools to assist them and be a catalyst for change.
Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, comments: “It’s great to see so many business leaders recognising how better management and leadership will contribute to fixing the UK’s productivity problem. The Be the Business movement from the Productivity Leaders Group is an excellent step in the right direction, and the CMI welcomes its plans for improving the performance of UK firms.
“We especially applaud the practical app unveiled in the campaign launch, that everybody can use to assess, benchmark, and improve on key management practices. We know that good management inspires good performance, and we look forward to collaborating with Be the Business to help bring more British companies on board.”
‘Be the Business’ is the brainchild of the Productivity Leadership Group (PLG).

Founded in 2015, the PLG is a group of some of the UK’s best performing and internationally recognised companies. Chaired by Sir Charlie Mayfield, it was formed to address the under-performance of productivity in the UK.

If a lot of companies do a little bit better it would add £130bn in value to the UK economy. In an event at Channel 4’s HQ, the PLG today launched Be the Business, a movement which will enable businesses to improve their own operational processes and commercial excellence through benchmarking, collaboration, better leadership and talent management.

Sir Charlie Mayfield explains: “We aim to support businesses in three principal ways. By inspiring leaders with actionable insight that helps businesses to set goals and measure progress. By providing modern tools that enable businesses to work out how good they are compared to others they choose. By encouraging sharing of best practice within communities of businesses across the UK as a catalyst to enable people to find out what’s worked best for others seeking the same improvement.” – tools and inspiration will allow businesses across the UK to connect and collaborate. The online resource will feature two core elements: a unique benchmarking and measurement tool, and a collaboration hub.

Many businesses fail to measure their performance and are unaware of their own potential. Only by measuring performance and productivity can companies benchmark themselves, identify potential areas of improvement, implement changes and then measure the effect.

Be the Business’ benchmarking tool will allow business leaders to create their own personalised dashboard and confidentially analyse their own organisation for digital maturity, talent management, leadership and future planning – the four key drivers of productivity. This application will allow continuous measurement, benchmarking against other companies by region, sector or size and enable leaders to see their weaknesses and opportunities.

The collaboration hub will host a collection of assets including webinars, case studies, examples of best practise and training options. It is a place where businesses can share ideas, collaborate or recommend local resources. It is designed to grow as Be the Business grows, empowering businesses to build their own networks and connections too.

Sir Charlie continues: “We’re not going to be telling people how to run their businesses. Instead we want to breathe oxygen into thousands of business-led initiatives and communities across the country. We’re going to celebrate and encourage.

“We are changing the pitch and the tone of the language that most often accompanies ‘productivity’,” added Sir Charlie, “This has to move from being the preserve of economists to entrepreneurs. That’s why this is a movement not a programme. It’s a long-term mission for everyone who wants to be the business.

It’s open, inclusive and all about aspiration.”

Productivity through People – a catalyst for change

And example of this local and grassroots way of working is already demonstrated in a special collaboration between industry and academia in the creation of Productivity through People – an innovative 12-month programme for SME leaders. By sharing critical insights for success regarding people, leadership, communications, innovation and ultimately productivity, the objective is to create a high-performance workplace with a fully engaged workforce.

Two pilot schemes are already underway in partnership with Lancaster and Bath University Business Schools. Forty two delegates representing 34 businesses are currently on the scheme. Together they represent a combined turnover of £2.7bn and 7000 staff.

The results are already starting to show.

Chris Blade, Managing Director of Cumbria Crystal on the North West programme says: “I’ve brought about a range of small incremental improvements within the company: engaging staff, getting them to look at working differently, bringing about small 1% changes.

“Things that we can do quite reasonably within the company. Collectively they add up. So in the first six months of this year, since I’ve been on the course, I’ve actually increased the company turnover by 41% compared to the same period last year.”

The ambition is for Productivity through People to continue to grow so that by 2019, the programme will run two courses per year, from seven locations across the UK.

Sir Charlie notes: “Productivity through People is just one example of the work we want Be the Business to inspire.”

CEO Designate of the movement, Tony Danker, sums up, “The future of the British economy lies in the hands of businesses of all sizes; all regions and sectors. Be the Business will only have a staff of 20. Our workforce, however, is the 20+ million across British business.

“This is a time for business leadership. Not only must we grow this economy, we need to make it an economy that works for all. The path to progress is the improved productivity that drives employment, higher skills, higher wages, and higher profits.

“This is a moment we cannot miss. For every business to raise its game and in turn transform our competitiveness as a nation. The productivity movement we are building is real. It’s time to be the business”

In summary

• Be the Business will provide tools, tips and training to inspire and enable leaders across all sectors and all organisation sizes – from sole operator to global corporation – to transform their businesses.

• Be the Business is an evolving and growing movement for change. This is just the start.

• The initiative is supported by multi-national corporations, high street brands and successful entrepreneurs.

• Be the Business is welcomed and is endorsed by the UK government which has provided £13m seed funding over three years.

• Over the next three years Be the Business hopes to encourage over 50,000 businesses in the UK to take action to improve their level of productivity.

• Be the Business will offer UK businesses of all sizes a bespoke plan which offers practical ideas to deliver tangible improvements in productivity over the long term through its unique benchmarking tool as well as providing a resource to connect with a broad range of businesses to create a UK-wide movement of British business leaders

•This launch is an invitation to be part of a dynamic movement for better run businesses. Find out more at

About The Productivity Leadership Group: The UK suffers from a serious and long-standing productivity gap, currently standing around 35 percentage points behind Germany, 30 percentage points behind the US and 9 percentage points behind Italy. Analysis undertaken by McKinsey shows that whilst the UK has many well-run businesses, the country also has a long tail of businesses whose productivity is below what is expected of similar companies. This problem is seen across the spectrum: in small, medium and large businesses, and in all sectors of the economy. A modest improvement in productivity across a broad base of firms could unlock over £100 billion of Gross Value Added (GVA) every year.

In July 2015 a group of senior business leaders started to explore what practical action businesses can take, on the ground, to improve productivity within specific sectors of the economy. The group included representatives from a number of industries, and focused on building a movement for business improvement, in a way that engages business leaders, managers and employees.

The result is Be the Business which will provide a catalyst for transforming business culture, focusing action and resulting in more well run businesses across the UK.

Be the Business will be private sector-led and receive £13 million in seed funding from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, phased over three years. After this, it will be self-funding.

Tony Danker will take up his post as CEO in the autumn 2017. It will have an advisory group and a team of around 20 staff.

It will also draw on the expertise and advice of the UK business leaders who have contributed to this work to date:

David Abraham – Channel 4

Tera Allas – McKinsey Global Institute

Jeremy Anderson – KPMG

Sir Roger Carr – BAE Systems

Roger Connor – GlaxoSmithKline

Ian Davis – Rolls-Royce

Carolyn Fairbairn – CBI

Doug Gurr – Amazon

Christopher Handscomb – McKinsey & Company

Lady Barbara Judge – IoD

Dame Fiona Kendrick – Nestle

Sir Richard Lambert – British Museum

Prof Juergen Maier – Siemens

Sir Charlie Mayfield – John Lewis Partnership

Sir Mike Rake – BT Group

Phil Smith – Cisco

Nigel Whitehead – BAE Systems

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