COVID-19 restrictions meant this year’s Invest In Rossendale meeting between Rossendale Council, business association Valley at Work and East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce went online via Zoom.

The guest speaker at this year’s event was Edge Hill University Professor Simon Bolton.

Simon who has worked in more than 40 countries, had a manufacturing business in China and had been a problem solver for Proctor and Gamble advised the local business leaders to dedicate time to managing their business and not let it manage them, to ensure future success.

He explained to the audience of 43 how he failed his 11+ but went on to do a degree in industrial design at the Royal College of Arts in London before naturally growing and transitioning into the work he does now.

With East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Simon has led a Crisis Recovery Programme in response to need.

Since lockdown, 87 businesses have attended with the key focus: reacting, planning, stabilising and refocusing to help businesses recover.

Simon said: “Businesses didn’t have a choice but to adapt when COVID-19 happened. It has accelerated their response rate to issues and as productivity is going to move faster so the decisions will have to be made quicker.”

He also urged bosses to manage their businesses and not let their business manage them.

Managing Director of Rawtenstall-based Viva PR Tony Garner has worked with Simon for 18 months.

“Simon gets results because he understands how businesses work and the challenges they face.

“He has helped me transform the way the team at Viva work. The results speak volumes. Our turnover is up by a third in that time and we have been named Agency of the Year for the North West twice.

“He challenges you to continually push to improve and is uncompromising in that respect. It isn’t always easy but it’s worth it if you can commit to making the changes you need to.”

Businesses attending described the meeting as interesting, informative and insightful.

Rossendale Council Leader Councillor Alyson Barnes outlined the ‘challenging times’ felt by all, but how there had been great examples set, including Zoom innovation by Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Helmshore.

She said: “As a council we have distributed £16.3million in business grants which was a massive logistical task and just over £900,000 in discretionary grants.

“The Economic Development Team has also spoken to over 250 businesses about COVID related issues and offered support.”

Chief Executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce Miranda Barker outlined the work of the organisation and highlighted the success of the Rossendale Business Leaders’ Group that brought together major Rossendale companies.