Michael Dobbs tells would-be exporters to the US to lose their ‘British modesty’

Author Michael Dobbs.

Author Michael Dobbs.

East of England business leaders hoping to build an export business in the United States were today told to lose their “British modesty” but to get themselves a lawyer and an alarm clock.

The advice came from writer Lord (Michael) Dobbs, a former deputy chairman of both advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and the Conservative Party but probably better known as author of House of Cards, the political novel adapted for television on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was delivering the opening key note address at a regional conference entitled Building Success in the US which was staged by UK Trade & Investment at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile racecourse to highlight the potential of the United States as a market for UK exports.

Lord Dobbs, who was made a life peer in 2010, stressed the size and diversity of markets in the US and said British firms started with an advantage because of the historical and cultural ties between the two nations, which meant that “being British has a distinct cutting edge in the United States.”

However, he warned, for UK firms to build business in the US, it was important for them to spend time in the States meeting customers and potential customers, rather than attempt to rely on “hired hands”, and for them to set aside their natural reserve, as “British modesty is meaningless in the United States.”


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Lord Dobbs also acknowledged that there could be frustrations in doing business in the US such as legal issues (“you will need to get a lawyer”) and time differences (“buy an alarm clock”) but the greater appetite for risk in the US also meant that it was often posssible to do deals more quickly than in the UK.

“Being British is an advantage so brag about it and take advantage of it,” he said.

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“So get that lawyer, get that alarm clock, get that frontier spirit, and get on a plane.”

: : For futher coverage of yesterday’s conference, see the BusinessEast supplement in next Tuesday’s EADT.

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