Handing the baton on


Image of Graeme Smith CEO Jersey Business

After 34 years working in banking and the last 8 years leading the Jersey Business team, I will from end of Feb 2023 be ‘handing the baton on’ to a new CEO (Paul Murphy) as I retire from full time employment.

Yes, I intend to keep busy with interesting Non Executive positions, but fundamentally my days of full time employment will be over. So rather than consider just the past year, I hope you will allow me to look back a little longer to my tenure of Jersey Business.

As a leader taking over an existing role you always hope your focus can be on building on what was achieved before you and not being tied down in major restructure or change. I was fortunate that the experience and engagement that already existed in the team, allowed me to focus on how we could continue to develop to better support the needs of the business community and the priorities of Government.

We quickly moved from an organisation predominantly supporting start-ups to one which also supported existing businesses to improve their productivity and to spread best practice. The service we delivered was highly valued by the businesses, although our funding meant we remained more reactive to individual businesses needs and less focused on broader sector issues. My frustration was that ideally, I wanted JB to play more of a pro-active role in helping develop longer term sector wide strategy to tackle some of the more systemic issues that were hampering sustainable growth and productivity.

When the COVID 19 pandemic arrived, the whole JB team had to pivot and provide critical support both 1:1 with business owners and to enable to government develop the relevant support that was required. We were able to build on the existing team’s core strengths by recruiting high quality individuals and then to deliver relevant and impactful help to a much broader range of businesses.

Throughout the whole Covid period, I have been very proud of the way the JB team were there for businesses large and small, being that trusted sounding board in the most challenging of times.

One of the effects of the work we did during Covid was achieve a much greater level of influence both across sectors and also Government policy. Building on this we are now able to play a really pro-active role supporting industry in its dealings with Government and at the same time helping Government develop better policy and better implementation of that policy. We truly are the trusted partner of business and Government.

Whilst I’ve always loved the challenge of being a CEO and all that it brings, I never wanted to get too far away from what being on the ‘front line’ means and the rewards it gives you when you see businesses flourish, which at the end of the day is what JB is all about.

One particular example I would like to share is the success story that is ‘Strive’.

It was back in 2014 that I met with Ben Harvey to discuss his exciting new project to develop a sports facility the like of which Jersey had not seen before. Along with my colleagues in JB we helped Ben develop the business case which ultimately assisted him in raising the funding from likeminded investors. What I always remember from this time, apart from Ben’s natural passion which he had in abundance, was him being so confident that he could bring the likes of the New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ to Jersey to use what would be world leading facilities. Not only did that give me confidence in his ability to develop a strong business but also the value this would create for the whole of Jersey’s economy.

It reminded me of the famous phrase ‘If you build it, they will come’ from the Field of Dreams film. If Ben got the investor support and then planning support, then I had real confidence that professional international teams would come and that would drive both a successful business and also great wider economic opportunities for Jersey.

With the Lions and England rugby teams both training at Strive we have seen Ben’s vision come to life and I’m delighted that JB has played a role in helping him achieve this. We continue to work with Ben on the next exciting phase of his business journey.

Perfect time to ‘hand the baton’ on and wish Paul the very best for 2023 and beyond.

Article first appeared in the JEP on 14.12.2022

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