I was recently invited to attend and participate in ‘Belfast International Homecoming’ - the largest gathering of the diaspora in Northern Ireland, with the purpose of welcoming a global family including politicians, entrepreneurs and many more, to join the discussion about building a better Belfast.
I met a wide range of successful businessmen and businesswomen however, what struck me the most, was a panel of five extremely inspirational and determined young Northern Ireland natives.
When asked what would be their ask for Northern Ireland, they spoke openly, confidently and with drive and passion. Kristen Guy, Training Consultant, Deloitte, Belfast responded with, “An inclusive society and support for LGBT in all work environments- let people be who they are, life is hard enough.” Matthew Thompson, Writer & Podcaster from Belfast also added, “That we support each other, that we move away from the ‘who does he think he is’ mentality and applaud success instead of envy.” Much to my surprise and delight, and unprompted, Jenny Gregg, Founder, Crafted Equestrian from Belfast also commented, “Continued support of the work of Women in Business who are supporting female entrepreneurs.” One of the young people who had been through the foster system, social worker Billie Jo Mc Dowell, asked for the equality of opportunity for all children and the final ask, from Sophie Mc Donald , Head of Analytics at Options Technology, was to make Belfast and NI a fun place to be with bigger events and concerts.
All five youth ambassadors had a vision for a better Belfast, a better Northern Ireland, and they are making themselves heard. No-one chose to speak about the pantomime that is Brexit. Their answers did not speak of money, power or politics, their answers spoke of people. Amongst the confusion, we have forgotten what really matters, the people of Northern Ireland, the people that will make our economy great - we must do what we can to have their voices heard.
It is about time that businesses begin to think more about people, their employees, their customers and themselves. Yes of course, it takes money to run a successful business, but, without the people, who do we have to support us and to drive us further? Cash can only get us so far. Taking the time to remind ourselves and most importantly, the people around us, of how immensely invaluable and instrumental they to our success, will have a crucial impact on how we continue to grow and prosper.
Later that day, I joined the Brexit panel. We were asked about the biggest challenge Brexit has presented to us. I commented that: It is a distraction, it is divisive, it is boring, and it is not over, nor will it be for years. The baying for power and control on all levels has spiralled into sheer chaos, and to add insult to injury, millions of pounds are being burned on the Brexit information campaign. Funnily enough, businesses are propelled into feeling that they should be holding series upon series of Brexit information talks, conferences and so forth, when really, we don’t have any concrete information to share. I say it is time to listen to our young people. In fact, let us listen to all our people, it’s time for a referendum, it is time for an election.