Why MIPIM works for us

Writing this blog gives me the chance to reflect on an exceptionally busy first couple of days at MIPIM, the world’s biggest property and real estate exhibition. 

The headlines have you believe that this is a week-long party with champagne, yacht charters and excessive parties exemplifying the worst excesses of capitalism. Blogs like this one tend to counter this with tales of long arduous days locked in negotiations in windowless rooms thrashing out tedious details.

The truth lies somewhere in between the two. The helicopters, yachts and private lunches exist, and are no doubt well attended, but those of us serious about regeneration and development are filling their time with meetings and working hard on things that add real value.
MIPIM focuses the mind, it takes you out of your everyday work and gives you the space and time necessary to meet those it is often difficult to reach back home. For cities like Derby that is of critical importance as we compete with the other 63 UK cities and beyond. 
At MIPIM you can meet those important gatekeepers to organisations more easily than anywhere else. Relationships are made at MIPIM that can lead, usually after years of work, to developments such as Jensco’s Friar Gate Square in Derby and, on a shorter timescale, to businesses deciding to locate in the city once they’ve got a feel for its momentum and economy.  

Our Embassy event, which took place this morning was standing room only as a packed-out room heard about the progress being made on Derby’s city centre masterplan, alongside a keynote speech from Paul Harris, Director of Economic Development at Rolls Royce. This powerful combination of public sector regeneration momentum alongside globally-recognised private sector investment really does set Derby apart as a prosperous, high-growth location and, in a place like MIPIM, that counts.

My final point before I sign off and head out to the rest of my day (7 meetings, 2 conferences and, yes, a Midlands Engine drinks reception) is that, in my fourth year here, it is evident to me that MIPIM is an essential part of the inward investment calendar, and that Derby gets it right. MIPIM isn’t about the location, the yachts or “the show”. It’s about face-to-face contact, relationship-building and finding a way to promote your city on an international stage. Our focused approach, centring on collaboration in the Midlands Pavilion and a dedicated Derby breakfast event, works for us.

Learn more about Derby at MIPIM

My first (ever) day at MIPIM

With 2018 being my first MIPIM, I have to admit I wasn’t completely sure what to expect from the experience. I’ve spent the best part of the last six months preparing for the biggest investment event in the Marketing Derby calendar, so I was nervous and excited to see it all come together. MIPIM veterans warned me how exhausting it would be, filled me in on the events that were not to be missed and constantly reminded me to pack comfy shoes and an umbrella.

The networking started on the plane, as we travelled as part of the Midlands UK delegation from Birmingham airport, but Tuesday was the first day of the exhibition. From the moment we boarded the train in Nice my expectations were met and exceeded. The journey into Cannes was as stunning as promised, and the closer we got, the more the train filled with delegates making their way to MIPIM. The anticipation built further as we walked down towards the Palais des Festivals and the crowd swelled – while I expected the scale of the exhibition I had no idea of the volume of people that would attend.

2018 is the second year Marketing Derby has collaborated as part of the Midlands UK Pavilion. 2017 was incredibly successful, and 2018 looks set to build on that with improvements to the Pavilion including a terrace area for meetings and air con – we weren’t sure how much use we would get out of these in advance due to the adverse weather conditions but luckily the sun shined on us today and our packed meeting schedule went ahead as planned – all while we got a much needed hit of vitamin D.

After a crammed schedule on Day 1, I was ready to recharge the batteries when we finally made it back to the hotel at about 10:30pm ahead of the fully booked Derby City Embassy and some big announcements for the city.

Stay tuned to MDTV for live updates throughout the week.

Learn more about Derby at MIPIM

Bounce-hit: the art of precise language

Thank you to Sarah Ball from Bondholder Balls2Marketing for this wonderful account of the Dave Alred event, as part of Derby Book Festival.

As a grandparent, the words four-year-old child get me every time. This is because my oldest grandson Alfie, is precisely this age. It immediately puts me into super listening mode.

Children, and the way they learn, were at the centre of a superb talk today by Dr Dave Alred MBE. Before his talk, I'd not heard of him, or his work. What attracted me along with 150 other members of Marketing Derby to University of Derby was the parallel he made between sport and business. 

Dave’s talk was part of the Derby Book Festival and he was brilliant. He had all the examples of a highly successful coach and mentor for when things go brilliantly well, but it was his explanation of when things don't go so well that made his talk exceptional.

Take a four-year-old child. He's playing tennis, which Alfie does, and he's told - keep your eye on the ball. Positive language, that's always good, but without direction it's pointless. As Dave so astutely said, the child can be following all the rules but simply watches the ball fly past his racket. Is the child wrong? Of course not, they’re following the instructions to the letter.

I had a recent experience of this with Alfie. Taking him on a cycle ride my husband Andy asked him to go around the potholes. The first he managed brilliantly, a full 360 degrees around it, but the second he looked up and said: Pops there's not enough space to go round this one. Andy and I laughed so much because he had completely understood the instruction and carried out exactly what he was told, but his understanding of 'going around' and ours was very different. 

To coach someone well according to Dave, is the precision of the instruction. You want to remove any doubt from the action you want someone to take. Take Rob Andrews the former rugby player for example, Dave's instructions to him were to look at the stitching on the ball. Why? Because it's difficult to think of anything else while you are concentrating to that level. What happens is the task becomes all-consuming and whether you're doing it on the practice field, or in the final of an international competition, is almost irrelevant. 

I've made it sound rather simple. And I'm not convinced it's complicated. What I think is that it takes a special person to explain this. Dave started his talk with a quote from Rudyard Kipling: The most powerful drug known to mankind is language. 

Dave didn't use jargon or talk about a system he's created. He keeps everything he does simple. Negative language highlights the exact opposite of what you want. If I want someone to take a positive action, I cause confusion if I start talking about what I don't want you to do. So keep your arm straight is better than don't bend your arm. Anyone in the room today would have gotten the importance of this instruction as it was the example we put to the test. 

The task was to find a partner and put your hand on their shoulder facing up. The other person had to try to bend the straightened arm. Sounds simple, and it was. We all managed to follow the instructions. Then one from each pair was asked to leave the room. The remainder were given a technique to make them stronger.

The second time around it was much more difficult to bend the persons arm. We were then all let in on the secret. The placing of the feet, the core connected, look past your opponent, the fire in the belly and the pointed finger to the wall all played their part. We had to concentrate to do it, but I'm sure the trust we had in Dave also helped. 

I have taken three lessons away from today. First I will help Alfie with his tennis. I will use the bounce, hit method where you say bounce as the ball bounces and hit as your racket connects with the ball. At four Alfie is already better than me at this, but I reckon using this technique I can say bounce and hit at the right times. I'll keep you posted! 

The second is to use language that's more precise and positive. We love language. We like words just because they're beautiful. But humans love negatives, they dwell on them so positive actions sometimes get overlooked. For marketing we are always aiming to simplify messages so that they're relevant and pertinent to readers, and that's what Dave was saying. 

The final lesson is to maintain focus, you need to be occupied. This additional business means that you can concentrate on the task in hand. I'm writing this. I'm on the train, and every time there's a stop or an announcement it takes me away from my task and my train of thought (sorry about that one!). When I come back to focus I continue. My environment is creating confusion and it affects my performance. It's good to know because I can see there are times in the office where I allow myself to be distracted, and I can do something about it to make myself more effective. 

I know that we already use these techniques because working with many technical products and components means we have to distil the tech speak into language for humans. We spend a lot of time creating these messages so we really understand the theory and we see this as an important discipline within marketing. Now, having listened to Dave, I need to extend this to the rest of my life... 

Sean Price talks digital and skills development

Sean Price, Managing Director of Bondholder digital agency iBox discusses the need for entrepreneurs in Derby and his focus on delivering digital skills development in the city.

Derby is renowned for being a city of innovation, home to some of the greatest companies in the country. When you think of entrepreneurship in Derby, it’s easy to think of the likes of Mel Morris, however there are thousands of names you would never hear about, starting up in business, failing, and starting again.

As Managing Director of Derby based Digital agency iBox, our entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t be stronger. We believe in not only growing a fantastic business with incredible clients and a team of energetic people in-house that are all entrepreneurial in their own right, but developing the next generation of skilled workers for this digital era.

It’s a phrase we have all heard: ‘Fall down 7 times and get up 8’ - a true entrepreneur doesn’t give up, an entrepreneur will fight adversity and figure out solutions to problems that others do not. It’s with this in mind that with our digital creative agency iBox, we are tackling the two biggest problems we see in Derby.

The first being the skills crisis with our iBox Web & Software academy. In partnership with Derby College we give back our time to teach master-classes to students, provide work placements, and eventually jobs within our organisation thus developing the very best web designers, developers & digital marketers whilst discovering their individual talents over the course of the year-long programme.

Our academy operates side by side with others who are not just passionate, but obsessed (because that’s the level it takes) about their businesses such as

These companies launched their academies with Derby College alongside our own - it shows the level of entrepreneurship and dedication that exists in the city.

It doesn’t stop there, we also are incredibly passionate about supporting local entrepreneurs and their businesses through our derby.digital efforts.

Derby Goes Digital

Things are different...we've gone fully digital, and for Derby businesses, it is time to change.

Posted by Derby goes Digital on Friday, 16 October 2015

Our second initiative derby.digital aims to help promote and support the entrepreneurs of the city in developing their digital strategies and promoting local businesses to the world.

A common misconception is that 'going digital’ (web design, marketing, SEO, social media) is a costly investment, or is something that doesn’t need as much attention. This is what we aim to help educate companies with. Our derby.digital campaign is taking over a decade of experience in web and marketing to help companies with smaller budgets tackle the digital world and grow their businesses.

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most difficult and lonely paths to take in life - at iBox we want to help. As a rapidly growing digital agency in Derby, our e-Commerce website design work has been put in front of the likes of Richard Branson - our clients are all entrepreneurs. Working alongside really exciting, energetic people is what really keeps us buzzing every day.

GEW 2015 is another opportunity to look at and focus on those that are building the economy, taking the risks associated with greatness, and every last one should be celebrated.

The story of league tables and cities

Last week the Derby Telegraph ran a story listing Derby as one of the best cities in which to live and work.

A company called Statista, having analysed salaries, employment and living costs, produced a table ranking the UK’s 64 cities with Derby coming second.

I was asked to comment and, of course, did so, albeit with a little restraint (these lists come and go, there are no silver bullets etc). 

In my experience, such league tables need treating with some caution as they invariably throw up oddities, depending on the statistics on which they are based.

In this particular table, Derby scored second and Cambridge came in third. So far, so good you might think. That is until you learn that Blackburn topped the table in first position. 

Another table released recently measured cities by SME expansion and in this Derby came out a credible fifth. Joining us in the top ten were the likes of Aberdeen, London and Leeds – bottom, in 64th place, was Hastings, with Blackpool and Grimsby just above.

Finally, another report looked at what they called the ‘new work’ economy. In other words, cities that attract knowledge intensive businesses of the future.

The results were produced across a UK map with each city given a green for good, red for bad. 

No surprise, but the map was a sea of green in the south and splattered red in the north. 

There were a few outliers breaking the mould, poor old Hastings in the south being red, and Manchester, Leeds and York in the north, being green.

I think that tables fuel perceptions, which in turn influence decisions - personal and corporate

The Midlands didn’t fare too well I’m afraid, with only Coventry and Derby scoring green, the rest being red.

So, does any of this matter? Are any decisions taken on the basis of league tables? 

I think that tables fuel perceptions, which in turn influence decisions - personal and corporate.

When each series of the book Crap Towns is produced I flick through just hoping that Derby does not appear (it doesn’t). I know it’s a bit of unscientific fun, but it does shape narrative.

When the Lonely Planet travel guide described Derby as the UK’s Real Ale Capital, believe me, it kind of helps.

No single table is the silver bullet, but if your city invariably appears near to the top time after time, as Derby does, it creates a positive story on which one can build. 

Last week the Centre for Cities think-tank launched an important report on urban demographics, analysing why people choose to live where they do.   

There is the obvious observation that young people prefer city centres, over-30s prefer the suburbs and over-55s the hinterland.

However, following post-war 50-years of city centres being ‘hollowed out’ of people there is now a well-established trend in the growth of city living. 

In fact, the report shows that residential growth in city centres over the past ten years has been 37%, way above that of the suburbs (8%) and hinterlands (6%).

The trend is driven by the so-called ‘millennials’ - young, educated knowledge workers - and is most marked in larger cities, though now spreading to the medium-sized cities of which Derby is one of 30.

We are on the cusp of an explosion in student accommodation, office to residential conversions and new build to sell/rent schemes. 

Leading the way is Compendium Living’s Castleward with 160 units (eventually 800). 

But, add to this Derby’s only current tower crane, constructing London and UK’s 350-unit student scheme on Cathedral Road, the conversion of Roman House and St Peter’s House (another 280 units), Wilson Bowden’s Full Street riverside apartments, Radleigh Group’s Weavers Point and Jensco’s Two Friar Gate Square scheme going through planning permission and there are over 1,000 residential units on the way in central Derby.

Over the next five years, taking into account Castleward, the Nightingale Quarter and Riverside, and we anticipate a further 2,000 units being developed.

The Centre for Cities report is clear. Successful cities of the future must cater for city centre living or they will fail to attract talent.

I agree that Derby must keep a weather-eye to balance between city centre offices and residential – in truth, we need both.

But, it’s not a zero-sum game, far from one negating the other I see the opposite. 

More city living will lead to more city working; we just have to plan our interventions to facilitate this.