Tees Talk: ‘I don’t know if I’ll be here at the end of the year – so get your priorities right’

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

In the first Tees Business LIVE event, we asked our panel of five business leaders for their professional and personal hopes for 2021 – but Professor Jane Turner’s was poignant as she fights late stage ovarian cancer.

Frans Calje, CEO, PD Ports

When the first lockdown happened, I was so proud of the way PD Ports and the people that we work with stood together. It really united people. I think the challenge we have now is to keep the momentum going and keep people re-energised.

If we get to the end of this year – if we see the light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccination programme rolling out and some sort of new normal – with the same ethos and ethic that we had in 2020, I will be so pleased.

Personally, I have so many challenges. The business, Covid, Brexit. There are a whole load of files on my desk and every single one of them deserves my attention and each is a challenge in their own right. To keep my sanity throughout 2021 while trying to deal with these in good order would be a great result for this year!

Jane Armitage, managing partner, Jacksons Law Firm and Tees Businesswoman of the Year 2020-21

All my hopes are to do with people. Professionally, I’d love to walk back into the office, feel the buzz and meet all sorts of different people.

I’ve been given a tremendous honour being named Tees Businesswoman of the Year, so I’d like to use that to inspire the next generation. I want to do lots of things to encourage the next generation in business to create and follow their dreams.

I think our young people have had a really tough year. They need to know that this is a blip and that there is a really bright future out there for them. If I can do something in a small way to encourage them to believe in themselves, then I would be really happy.

Personally, I know we should all have big ambitions, but I would be really happy just to sit down for a curry night with my family, see my mum and give her a big hug.

Dean Benson, founder and CEO, Visualsoft

Professionally, something that’s really hit home for me is digital poverty. I’d never heard of it before Covid but thinking specifically about kids who haven’t got access to computers or the infrastructure for home-schooling, it really struck me, so I’m glad we are all working together for people in the area to get rid of digital poverty. I’d like to think we can carry on doing that.

Personally, I would like to use the outdoors more than the fridge! Seriously though, I’d like to make myself more available for people who need help. Even if that simply means just putting time aside and being available to have a chat.

Dom Lusardi, technology consultant and Tees Tech Ambassador 2020-21

One thing I really look forward to is new ideas, new ways of working. During Covid, we’ve had to pause and take stock and see where we are, so I look forward to committing to things and seeing what the future might be.

I’ve been working with the council, charities, the combined authority and there’s lots of support and lots of people doing really great work to pull us out of this situation. I’m really looking forward to seeing that come to fruition. I advise anyone in the digital sector to see where we can help other businesses.

From a personal point of view, I can’t wait to give someone a big hug and take a walk down Albert Road to Piejackers and treat myself to pie, peas and gravy!

Professor Jane Turner OBE, pro vice-chancellor of enterprise and business engagement, Teesside University

I’ve heard some awful stories about digital poverty and about the suffering of young people during Covid. In one family, the parents, who were on zero hours contracts, had lost their jobs and had their washing machine repossessed.

The mother had gone into school distraught that she couldn’t put her four kids in clean clothes. The school rallied round and got them a washing machine – I mean, it doesn’t get more serious than that.

So, professionally, I want to use my position to influence and hold the ladder down for people who are really struggling.

If we are really serious about the levelling up agenda, we need to join forces as a business community because if we sit and wait for the government, it will never happen. We have to do something positive for our region, otherwise we will be set back 20 or 30 years.

Personally, I have cancer and I don’t know how long I have left – I don’t even know if I will be here at the end of the year. I learnt a long time ago that holidays aren’t important – it’s people, your loved ones. So get your priorities right, because none of us know what’s around the corner.