Last year began with the loss of several heroes and icons in quick succession, and we then saw several more seismic changes on the political landscape, leading to some significant uncertainty.
Internationally the US Presidential election, nationally the Brexit outcome and locally the airport runway capacity decision are all huge factors which will have impacts on our businesses that are next to impossible to predict.
Whether you sought to predict the events of 2016 using ancient methods of reading entrails, the traditional skills of reading of the tea leaves – a la Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander one of the icons we lost) – or using the modern ‘science’ of polling, your predictions were likely to have been equally unsuccessful.
So how on earth can we see what we are headed towards in the coming year? It is a rule in advocacy not to ask a question to which you do not know the answer, but it is a rule that I have just broken.
I cannot see how anyone at this stage can possibly predict precisely where we are headed as a country or as an economy. When, or indeed if, Article 50 is triggered the result from any subsequent negotiations and whether that deal is then endorsed both remain far too uncertain for my liking.
But clearly an echoing of these comments above may be valid but achieves nothing in terms of moving our businesses forward. Our economic and political landscapes may not be the ideal we would wish them to be, but then when have we ever encountered that particular Utopia?
One of the strengths of our business base in this country and, I would suggest, particularly in this region is our adaptability. As I have mentioned previously, most businesses in the region that I have spoken to in respect of Brexit favoured Remain. However, following the result I think most are now equally clear that we need to ‘get on with it’. There is little optimism that the UK will manage to negotiate a sparkling advantageous deal. But there is a desire to find out what it will be as soon as possible so that we can then all get on and make the best of it.
Ultimately the only certainty will always be uncertainty. We can never confidently predict what we are going to be faced with in a few months time – last year showed that emphatically. However, that simply reminds us that we need to plan with flexibility and with resilience and agility in our businesses. It looks like we may be in for a bumpy ride in the next couple of years, and those “interesting times” are going to continue for the foreseeable future. But given the undoubted talent in our region I believe that we can buckle up, commit to the journey and make the most of our opportunities.