My speech on – Business Leaders must go social themselves

Yesterday, 16th November 2016, I was very privileged to speak at the Annual Conference for the Local Enterprise partnership that supports Surrey and Hampshire, Enterprise M3.

I have shared my talk here about the responsibility and need for Boards of Directors to be socially engaged and connected – no longer seeing this as a delegated task.

It was a 15 minute talk to a room of 200 Business leaders from Councils, Education, Large Companies and Small. The people that make up the economy.


I have 15 mins to have an impact on you about digital skills and the talent you need around you. The talks today have encouraged you to think about how your organisation should embrace digital, I am sure you will have been writing lists of things to delegate to staff. My talk is about YOU. About you as a Business Leader gaining these skills going social.

The talent you need! Not the talent your staff need. You must lead and be a digital leader

In this room today we have Business leaders, from many sectors, all sizes, some commercial, some not-for-profit. We are all part of an ecosystem, a community that make up an economy.

I know that if we were all better connected through having improved digital awareness and skills we would grow the wealth of our region


Digital leadership is no longer an option in business, at one time it was, you could get away with saying “my marketing team manage twitter”.

Treating Twitter as a marketing broadcast medium, telling yourself “I have gone social as a company as we tweet”

Again, my talk is about YOU and the fact this is not a skill you can delegate. I think Hillary Clinton learned that the hard way

For good (or for bad) all business leaders need to engage, listen and share their thoughts and values

It starts with your mindset and motivation, the rest is about your skills and the skills of your staff

  • Only one third of Boards able to keep up with advancements over the past 16 years
  • The chasm  – between CEO and Boards use of social media versus their stakeholders (customers and employees)
  • Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Lucent, IBM Year 2000 $900bn Market Cap 550,000 jobs
  • Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle Year 2016 $1.8trn Market Cap 430,000 jobs
  • 80% of boards claim to have little or no understanding of these Social technologies (PWC)
  • When you are trying to cross the chasm to the new world – you need people who have travelled the distance and are willing to take the risk immersion

Let me tell you my story… in 1998 I believed that the huge opportunity for the internet was the power of connectivity, not the power of E-commerce.

My husband and I built Ecademy, the first Social Business Network. Note the word ‘social’

  • We believed in Friendship First and Commerce Second.
  • We believed that trust was going to become to most valuable business asset and trust could only be built with the type of values a friend has.

This is why this new world is all about being ‘social’

  • To be open
  • To accept random new friends into your life
  • To support others, not to control others to your agenda

Thomas Power, in the room now, Co-Founder of Electric Dog, created the phrase “be open, random and supportive ORS

A mindset for the connected world, leaving behind the institutional thinking. , Closed, Selective and controlling.

We built a SOCIAL BUSINESS NETWORK across 200 countries and had over 600,000 people that became business friends.

We observed the behavior of people and we could see the evidence of business growth by those that were ORS.

What we also noted is that Ecademy attracted the SME sector, not the large companies, not employees. LinkedIN was founded 4 years after us, and they won that battle, they didn’t ask anyone to change their mindset.

However, the battle is ongoing…

We believed that community was more important that commerce in building trust.

FaceBook is now entering the market for MarketPlaces and we will see if over time as point system like eBay can defend itself against the power of community.

My heart beats very fast for the Sole Trader, the Micro Business, the 95% of the business population that feed the food chain, your supply chain, or maybe you.

This group of people have learned how to socially network online and the owners are winning business in their local communities by being Known, Liked and Followed

96% of good searches are for the local supplier, I now believe the online and the off-line should merge, more about The Business Cafe later.

If you are a business leader and you are invisible online, then you are invisible – full stop.

  • People want to verify you online
  • They want to see if you are real
  • They want to look you up and see what matters to you
  • They want to see what conversations you are having

Being social and visible shows the quality of the leader’s

  • Intelligence
  • Trustworthiness
  • Humaneness
  • Courage
  • Discipline
  • Connected Leader
  • Social Leader
  • Social CEO

This may seem intrusive, but this is the new world and it is the transparency that people now want, you want it, I bet you read about others before you do business.

Twitter is a tool for you as a person, for you to engage with your staff, with suppliers, with customers. It cannot be a place for advertising your products.

You have to help staff care about your company

You have to trust staff and train them in your values and how to communicate, you can’t just say “no one in our company can tweet”, that is like stopping people using a phone 40 years ago.

So, given that you are noting this importance, let me show some empathy…

  1. I can understand you don’t want to network online “in fact, I don’t enjoy networking, but I do love making new business friends
  2. I can understand technology leaves you cold, “I find it frustrating everytime my husband says “Pen, you need to learn this now… it is the worst form of pillow talk”

So, a bit of a Gerald Ratner comment, “I hate networking and I hate technology”

But I love people and I love sharing my passion and driving an agenda and I need to learn technology to do that.. to connect.

In a world where people are exhausted and overwhelmed by the technology and choices, now 5.5 million companies in the UK, constant launches of new technology. How do we all cope?

It starts with learning to be a connected leader.

Learning to use the tools such as Twitter to sense life around you. Learning to use Cloud software to be nomadic and responsive wherever you are and to communicate in real time.

What have I done in my life to help this message, I am a doer, not a talker..

  1. Built a community across the world
  2. Wrote Digital Business Britain Manifesto and the plan to spread a Digital Mindset and digital skills across the UK
  3. Built the Digital Marketing Apprenticeship – under the DYA, now acquired by Seetec – (in the room)
  4. Now I am bringing The Business Cafe to towns across the UK to deliver skills and build local business communities, helping the Business App companies find a route to the market where their products are most needed

You and your company should be doing the following

  1. ensuring all senior staff have digital skills for the modern connected world
  2. employing Born Digital youths, under Apprenticeships
  3. Understand how to be connected as a company to staff, suppliers and customers in real time, openly
  4. Define how your company can build trust in a connected world and build that vision from the top down, using the digital world to spread it

I would love to meet three business leaders to meet and discuss these things with from today , so if this is you, come and see me and let me guide you. This is my commitment for you to

  1. Go digital and social
  2. Show you how to hire a Digital Apprentice or train up an existing member of staff

These are exciting times and we all have to embrace the opportunity in front of our face.

We all have to open our minds and see the opportunity that being connected can bring to a company

We all have to be truly connected, individually and as business friends.

This region must go social


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Post Author: Penny