Northern Lights: A good deal is not about winning - but having benefits for all involved

More space for new businesses in Sheffield
More space for new businesses in Sheffield

Last week it was announced that 1,200 jobs are coming to Sheffield. This is great news.

It is even greater news when you look at where these jobs will be – they will be in the former enormous Polestar building by the M1 – and the companies behind the jobs – Clipper Logistics and fashion company Pretty Little Thing – are both rising stars in the internet age.

In terms of getting to London and all other English major cities, we are second only to Manchester. Ability to make good and sometimes great buildings to occupy all make winning easier

However, this is undeniably different from the preceding successes with McLaren and Boeing.

There are though some similarities in how these deals were landed, and also credit must go to the strong and attractive place for business that our city has now become.

The skilled workforce we have in the city – one of the most skilled workforces of any major city in the country – in addition to better connections to other parts of the country than many can offer – we recently worked out that in terms of getting to the capital city London and all the other English major cities, we are second only to Manchester for average journey times.

In addition, our ability to make available good, and sometimes great, buildings to occupy all make winning easier.

So, well done to Sheffield and also to the City Region, both the place and its people for these “wins”.

What is especially pleasing for me is that the recent successes we have had have not been as the result of the lottery of a talent, parade whereby you display your wares alongside all the other places.

The odds on winning those sorts of competitions are pretty long, and ultimately the choice that is eventually made about them often proves not to be the best, as it is made on what looked good at the time.

And, let’s face it, there can be a temptation to overstate in order to win. Over-promising and under-delivering is a recipe for building a bad reputation.

Instead, with Clipper, McLaren, Boeing and others, we develop a relationship with the company as they work through the decision that they are going to make. It is in that way that we get to know each other, we also work through challenges with time and space to do it and so, when it lands in our place, it works for all of us.

By doing this it also makes it more likely that it will come here as the decision is shaped to fit.

Someone once said that a good deal is not about winning, but it is about making sure that there is something in it for all concerned.

And experience shows that while we don’t win them all, our success rate is very good and it is certainly better than through the routine talent parade.

We also want Clipper, Pretty Little Thing, McLaren and Boeing to be the ambassadors for us and to tell others to do what they did.

If they feel good about what they went through then they will happily tell others about it.

Word of mouth is a very powerful thing, especially when such big brands are speaking up for you.

However, there does though remain one big risk that all places face.

We usually assume that the “selling” starts when the relationship starts. It does not.

Recent analysis suggests that companies looking to invest in a place have done 40 per cent of their “checking out” before they ever get in touch.

So in many ways we will never know what we might have had.

What we do know though is that in terms of companies talking to us about investing in Sheffield then we have never been busier.

What people see about our city and hear about our city really matters.

It forms an impression about the city and it shapes an opinion of us before we ever get a chance to.

Being as busy as we are quite simply means that impressions and opinions are going in the right direction and that is down to the effort of many, not few.

It is working so let’s keep on.

Apologies now, but this next and final paragraph has nothing to do with the above, but as the Returning Officer for elections in Sheffield, I cannot pass by the opportunity to say something direct and simple. PLEASE VOTE today, Thursday May 3.

You have the opportunity to vote not only for City Councillors but also for the first ever elected Mayor for South Yorkshire just as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham did for their places last year.

I know you have an opinion. Turn that opinion into a vote. Thank you.

n For more business news see pages 58 to 61.