Well this is unexpected.
I made the leap from the wonderful world of ITV News a few days ago, after seven very happy years, to pursue a freelance chapter in my life that I’ve described as pick n mix.
Now, if I was to read such a sentence about a stranger, I’d jump to the conclusion that something sinister had happened. However, rather boringly in my case, an ongoing health issue which has rendered me unable to do my old job for more than a year has left me with two options: remain with the safety net of my employment, but unable to do next to no work, or take a leap of faith and find things that fit with my new circumstances.
And so, here I am!
The team at Jersey’s commercial radio station, Channel 103, invited me to present their weekday breakfast show for six weeks from today (Monday), and then Beci from Business Eye CI got in touch to ask if I’d also like to be her Guest Editor for a couple of weeks, working with the team to shine a light on all aspects of business in the Channel Islands.
It wasn’t a tough sell. It’s my privilege to be given this platform.
So, today we look ahead to what I believe is the biggest free event in the Channel Islands, the Jersey Boat Show. It opens this coming Saturday and sees thousand of people pack the pontoons for all things maritime, and many things not!
While there are those who are quick to knock the finance industry, I see the boat show as a great example of the things that happen right across the islands with the support of the sector. In this case, as headline sponsor.
I wish all those organising it well, and for both them and the many who attend each day – here’s to nothing but lovely weather.
Of course, business is way more than finance.
It frustrates me that, all too often, we see business in the islands as being only that slice of the economy. There is no denying that finance is the dominant industry and the wider economy relies on it right now, but that awareness and acknowledgement should not be at the expense of what else is going on.
In Jersey and Guernsey we have fast developing digital sectors. The work being done is tremendous, and touches on so many other industry, from finance to medicine, from gaming to tourism. The importance and influence of digital is hard to overstate, and the opportunity the islands have right now should not be understated. There’s been a lot of talk about Guernsey and Jersey being digital testbeds for innovation. This is something Digital Jersey, in particular, is making great strides with.
Then there’s tourism. I think it’s fair to say this could and should be Guernsey’s year with the release of the movie The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s great to see the buzz about the film in the national press, and the many initiatives being rolled out by Visit Guernsey to entice lovers of the film and the book to the Bailiwick.
This is a one-shot opportunity for Guernsey. Here’s to everybody, whether working in tourism, hospitality and retail, or simply coming face to face with a visitor, to give them every reason to return again and again.
By the same token, the marketing efforts of Visit Jersey are paying dividends. Their ambition to attract a million visitors a year by 2030 seemed (potato peel) pie in the sky to some when it was announced a few years back. Yet the consistent growth in visitor numbers, in visitor spend, and in interest in the shoulder months either side of peak season shows a strategy and a bold vision of what tourism could look like is worth investing in.
For both retail and agriculture in the islands, life isn’t so rosy. Times are tough, margins and being squeezed, and the already dominant influence of the internet is having a growing effect on those trying to flog their wares to consumers. But all is not lost. There are those who ‘get’ what we want when we go to a shop, and that’s an experience. To see products brought to life by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, and to know a problem will get resolved with no fuss is something I’m willing to pay a margin for. However, there are still too many shops who think having a website puts them at the bleeding edge of innovation, and think having shop staff with faces like a wet weekend in St Malo is acceptable. They’re the ones for whom my choice is a hop online.
We’re at an exciting time in the world of business, a time of uncertainty with Brexit and the shifting sands of policy in the United States. That of course, is something business doesn’t like. A benign, predictable and well-regulated environment is usually preferable: something Guernsey and Jersey’s governments are at pains to point out they provide.
For Jersey, we’re days away from a General Election, with a relative mass exodus of knowledge and experience from parliament and government. In Guernsey, there’s an ongoing battle for power in the form of unofficial party politics, with groups springing up insisting they’re not political parties. They’re associations, we’re told! This is dancing on the head of a pin stuff.
Wherever this time of tumult ends, a healthy economy is vital to us all. Whether your priorities are social or economic, without a business sector firing on all cylinders, the wish-list of projects to reduce inequality and social divisions could remain a wish-list.
I look forward, in the coming weeks, to showing off the achievements of business, showcasing the concerns of industries, and offering the thoughts of those making the decisions or on the receiving end of those decision in the islands’ corridors of power.
With that in mind, if you’re a view to air or a story to share, email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org