D&S column: doing business in the digital world

BEFORE I became an MP, I spent my working life in business ­–­ in the UK and the US.

I helped small and medium-sized businesses grow and develop, to find new markets and opportunities and make a bigger contribution to the communities in which they operated.

Flourishing businesses are fundamental to making our society work. Without strong, profitable enterprises creating employment we can’t pay for the public services we value so much.

That’s why supporting local business is one of my campaign priorities. I want to create the conditions that will help businesses in Richmondshire and Hambleton grow.

A fundamental aspect of doing business today is the digital world. Few businesses, if any, can turn their back on the growth opportunities the internet and social media offer.

So I was very pleased, with the help of our two district councils and broadband delivery company Superfast North Yorkshire, to bring Google’s Digital Garage to the Holiday Inn Scotch Corner next week.

The touring Garage is two free workshops on Friday from 11am offering businesses practical tips and crucial skills for the digital age.

Experts from Google will run the workshops on making the internet a growth engine for business. One workshop covers creating web sites that promote businesses effectively, a second workshop will show attendees how to use digital marketing techniques to win more customers.

Government research shows that SMEs with a strong web presence grow more than twice as quickly as competitors, create more than twice as many jobs, and are 50 per cent more likely to sell outside their immediate region.

By encouraging a variety of businesses to use the internet effectively, from entrepreneurs and one-man-band start-ups to larger companies, the workshops aim to prove that, with the right training, any business can become a digital business.

There are still some spaces left on these free courses. Go to https://events.withgoogle.com/the-digital-garage-on-tour-richmond/ to register.

While digital skills are essential, old fashioned face-to-face networking is also important and last night I was pleased to attend the first anniversary of Thirsty Thursday, a Stokesley-based networking group.

It meets regularly at The Mill pub in the town and so far 150 businesses have come together on an informal basis to share experiences, offer support to each other ­– and do business. Running a small enterprise, especially in a rural area, can be a lonely experience so getting together with people facing the same issues can be really rewarding and enjoyable. All credit to Anna Addison and Sue Thompson for establishing Thirsty Thursday.

JUST a few weeks ago, I took my young daughters to Paris for the first time. They loved it.

So it was particularly shocking – and chilling – to see the streets where my family had so recently enjoyed an weekend break filled with armed police, ambulances and fearful crowds following last Friday’s atrocities.


The Prime Minister’s announcement of more resources for our intelligence services and special forces was most welcome. We have to stand strong in the face of this growing threat.