Trio back mayors as “business leaders”

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

A leading Tees trio have defended the result of a Tees Business poll that saw mayors Ben Houchen and Andy Preston take the top two places as the region’s most inspiring business leaders – with one describing the pair as “the best marketeers the Tees region could ask for”.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen topped the annual Tees Business poll on the region’s most inspiring business leaders for a third successive year, while Andy Preston – his Middlesbrough counterpart – took second place, making him the only person to finish in the top three every time since the poll was launched five years ago.

The highest-placed business owner was Wilton Group’s Bill Scott, in third, with PD Ports’ Dutch CEO Frans Calje the first in the list not born in the Tees region.

Some have suggested that neither Houchen nor Preston should be included in the list as they are politicians rather than business leaders, but how do leading business figures feel about their success?

“Ultimately, the people who have voted have felt strongly enough to do so,” said Elaine McLaine-Wood, managing partner of Punch Robson Solicitors, speaking in our Tees Business Leaders debate.

“In my opinion, if Andy wasn’t mayor he’d be on that list anyway. He founded the CEO Sleepout and was fantastic at the Philanthropic Foundation, so he would have still been top 10, at least.”

The Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A

Welcome to the weekly Tees Business Leaders Online Q&A.This week we’re talking about the Top 30 Most Inspiring Businesspeople for the Tees region, as voted for by Tees Businesspeople.We’re joined by three who made that top 30: Yasmin Khan, founder of the Halo Project; Mark Easby, founder and managing director of Better brand agency; and Elaine McLaine-Wood, managing partner of Stockton-based law firm Punch Robson Solicitors.

Posted by Tees Business on Tuesday, 14 July 2020


Mark Easby, managing director of Middlesbrough-based brand agency Better and chairman of the charity High Tide Foundation, agreed: “You only have to look at the attributes these men have – the spirit, the drive, the passion and commitment they show for the region.

“They’re two of the best marketeers a region could ask for to showcase what we can do here. There are significant eyes, nationally and internationally, on the region – and that’s in no short part because of those two.”

More than 200 people voted in the poll and Yasmin Khan, founder/director of Middlesbrough-based charity Halo Project agreed that the result reflected the views of the business community.

“You’ve given a poll to the wider public and they have voted in the way that they have, so you have to take the result. If that’s what the sentiment is, then it’s a credible and deserved result.”

Along with the mayors’ ongoing popularity, the region’s businesswomen continued to make their mark in the poll, with nine ladies making the top 20 and 12 in the top 30, topped for the second year running by Professor Jane Turner of Teesside University.

With only three women making the top 30 just three years ago, Yasmin believes we’re certainly a lot closer to parity when it comes to the businesswomen in the Tees region.

“The platforms are there now and the visibility,” she said. “When you have women leaders in senior positions it has an impact on the workforce. I also think that the creation of the Tees Businesswomen Awards is something that has given impetus for women to come out and show their success.”

Elaine, who finished in the top 30 for a second successive year, added: “The poll needs to be on merit, but it’s good to give that inspiration to younger generations of women, to show them they can do well. The business community is predominantly male. That hasn’t changed, so it’s great to see women featured.”

Mark, who made his debut in the top 30 most inspiring at number 25, commented: “Women are getting the recognition they deserve. Just look at someone like (director) Chloe Clover who is making a big splash very quickly with Wander Films.”

The trio debated whether the BAME community was under-represented in the list, with only Yasmin at number 12 and Hungary-born Mike Racz – a new entry at number eight – featuring in the top 30.

“There are very successful people within the BAME community who do need to be recognised,” said Yasmin.

“I’m all for merit, but sometimes there are inequalities and you can’t move away from that. So, without jumping on the bandwagon, we have to accept that they exist and to encourage, support and identify these business and understand the reasons why.”

As time moves on, Tees Business hopes to see yet more fantastic and inspiring leaders make our polls. From the small busines leaders making waves on the Tees to charity leaders, representatives from our ethnic communities and the fantastic women of our region.

See the full top 30 in the summer issue of Tees Business here.