By Izzy Seddon

Smith & Williamson is the 8th largest accountancy firm in the UK and private wealth manager, which has a great focus on SMEs and the middle market. The breakfast was the third in a series of events based around the recently launched Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index, which is a survey of the entrepreneurial environment in the UK.

Guy Swarbreck, Audit Partner at Smith & Williamson led proceedings and gave insight to the Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index which measures entrepreneurial confidence in the economy. Now in its second year, the initial benchmark was set at 100.

Guy explained that for the second quarter of 2014, the Index’s 324 respondents maintained a higher level of confidence than they felt through 2013, although the overall score was one point lower than reported in the first quarter, down from 108.7 to 107.7. This shows a reassuringly steady level of confidence despite the Bank of England signalling that interest rates could start to rise later this year.

“Over 90% of our respondents are confident about the business prospects in the coming future” — most were happy with what the Chancellor has been doing “however 70% of the respondents were unable to identify any direct benefit to their business as a result of the last budget”. Moreover there’s “not enough emphasis on the entrepreneurial market and small businesses”. His opinion from the results is that Britain is trying to sell within its own shores and is therefore not exporting enough.

More about the Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index here

The Keynote speaker was Robert Phillips, co-founder and Head of Chambers at Jericho Chambers. Until December 2012, Robert was President and CEO, EMEA, of Edelman, the world’s largest Public Relations firm. He decided to leave Edelman after a conversation with the Global Chief Executive Richard Edelman on a park bench in Chicago, and announced that “the model is broken”. It was there he conceived the idea for his book ‘Trust me, PR is Dead’ which is less about the death of PR and more about the fact that the business model everyone conforms to is dead.

He said “the world is not about hierarchies any longer, it’s about networks. The world doesn’t want to buy generalism, it wants to buy expertise. The world is tired of cookie cutter solutions from the large ad agencies, pr agencies… and we have to change“. He realised he could no longer offer clients the solutions they wanted and needed to disrupt the entire sector to enable him to stay a part of it. Honesty became the forefront of his method.

He talked through what it means to be transparent as a company and currently “politics and institutions don’t understand individuals”. His analysis of the situation is that there will be a power shift “the future doesn’t belong to the CEO of an organisation, the future belongs to its employees and to its customers“.

The Q&A session afterwards led to a relatively heated debate with questions from Simon Burton — head of Exposure Communications, Mark Needham - ‎Founder and Chairman of Consumer Electronics Distributor Widget UK Ltd and Ian Maynard - Head of Marketing and Business Development at Network London. Some very interesting points were raised about crowdfunding, bank lending or lack thereof and the general state of PR.

Ultimately Robert drew to the conclusion that “the unlicensed CEO will become the incumbent disruptor, who is always prepared to challenge his or her own thinking” which is exactly what he did.