East Anglia: Adnams and New Anglia LEP chief Andy Wood on how engagement makes the economy stronger
- Credit: Archant
Andy Wood combines his “day job” as chief executive of Adnams with leading roles in organisations such as the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the regional branch of the CBI, amongst others. Here he tells Sheline Clarke why he believes it is vital to engage.
A quick glance at Andy Wood’s resumé reveals that he is a very busy man.
The chief executive of Southwold-based brewing and leisure company Adnams was instrumental in establishing the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for Suffolk and Norfolk and has chaired it since its formation three years ago.
He is also chair of the East of England CBI and a director of renewables company Adnams Bio Energy. He is non-executive director at start-up company Extremis Technology, which is bringing life changing technology to help the victims of hurricanes to market and a director of ethics-driven SG Wealth Management. Despite this busy schedule Andy has also found time to study and has an MBA, a Doctorate from Cranfield University and two honorary doctorates in business and science. He has even co-written a book on lean and green business systems.
It is no wonder that last year he was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services not just to business but also to community, the latter being a big motivator for him personally and for his company, which is well known for its values-driven approach.
“I have a fantastic team around me here at Adnams,” says Andy, “and they should take a lot of credit as well.
“They understand the importance of Adnams engaging in the community. For a long time Adnams has had a set of values and guiding principles that go beyond just making money. It is important that shareholder value is delivered, but there is a broader engagement with business and communities which I think is very important and particularly important at this time, when we are experiencing a period of austerity, and actually trust in business is at a pretty low ebb.
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“Economist Milton Freidman believes the mantra that the business of business is business, and everything trickles down from that. Our view is that it probably needs a bit more prompting, and it is important that a business like Adnams engages.
“We are a very well liked brand in East Anglia and anything that we can do to make the East Anglian economy more successful actually reflects back on this business.
“We sell our products here and if the community is feeling better about economic prospects then the whole economy lifts, and Adnams wants to play a full and active part in that.”
Adnams has long been committed to doing the right thing and ensuring that its impact on the environment, society and business is a positive one and that it operates in a sustainable way.
Its desire to share what it considers best practice underpins its belief in engagement and Andy’s ultimate desire to be involved in the framework of business throughout the region and sharing his experience far beyond the confines of his Southwold offices.
“It has been very interesting. During this whole financial crisis and this period of austerity, trust in business has fallen as it has in other sectors of the economy, and people have looked to Adnams, its values-based business model, the way it routes itself in communities, the way it cares about people and planet, and some have beaten a trail to our door, to try and learn from Adnams.
“I don’t think we are conceited enough to say this is the only way to run a business, it quite evidently isn’t, but it is a way and a way that treads a little more lightly than the cut and burn of some other approaches out there.”
Perhaps the most obvious example of Adnams desire to engage has been Andy’s leadership of the Local Enterprise Partnership.
“The forerunner to the LEPs were the regional development agencies and EEDA was dealing with six counties in the East of England, whereas the LEP has just two, Suffolk and Norfolk, and I think it is easier for people to relate to that geography and I think there is a rekindled pride in Norfolk and Suffolk about what they can do and contribute to the UK economy. There are 60,000 businesses in these two counties, many are small businesses which are the lifeblood of the economy, and I believe there is a rekindled pride about what we can achieve and contribute.
“Business people across the two counties think there is more in common than there is pulling us apart and we are seeing great co-operation across the border.”
But leading the LEP hasn’t seen Adnams stand still. Far from it.
The company continues to lead by example in developing policies that reduce its impact on the environment, culminating in a partnership with Bio Group and the formation of Adnams Bio Energy, an innovative joint venture that has seen the installation of an anaerobic digester at Adnams’ distribution centre at Reydon, itself a beacon for sustainability.
“The political debate about the environment is still fractured,” said Andy, “but this makes business sense for us and I think environmental considerations will become mainstream because businesses see it as the right thing to do.”
There has also been diversification for this most treasured East Anglian brand.
Since becoming managing director in 2006 and chief executive in 2010 Andy, alongside chairman Jonathan Adnams has overseen the launch of the Kitchen & Cellar shops and more recently Adnams foray into distilling.
“Make no mistake,” says Andy, “the UK beer market is a hugely competitive place and it is characterised by consolidation at the top of the market on a global scale and fragmentation at the bottom with the micro brewers popping up on most street corners. I think they have contributed much, however, in that they have brought different styles and ingredient and ways of doing business, so they have made businesses such as our own sharpen our pencil.
“I think we have reacted to that going on in the market quite well. But, it is going to be a tough place because not only have we got that increased competition, you have got falling consumption of alcohol, more suppliers chasing less volume and you have got a switch from people drinking in pubs and bars to drinking at home.
“We spotted these things very early on and we launched our Cellar & Kitchen business which gives people a much broader and deeper understanding of the Adnams brand and what it can do, and we launched our distilling business. Micro distilling is a very interesting developmental point in the UK market and we are one of the first in there and that’s been very positive too. So whilst beer is our core, in a market that is very dynamic and in a state of flux, we have developed adjacent markets which are starting to really bear fruits for us so its about how we can stretch the Adnams brand and reach out to new sections of the market.
“Jonathan and I work very closely together. We both share a love of this part of the world and both clearly understand the values of the company, and that businesses have a higher purpose as well and we both understand that having the economy of East Anglia really firing is desirable for Adnams.”
So would he like to see other company bosses engaging more with the local community?
“That’s a choice for individual business leaders and how they want to engage. This is our way of doing it, but it is not the only way.”
Fulfilling his many and varied roles often means long working days but Andy always finds time for family, watching Norwich City and having a pint of Adnams’ finest with his mates on a Friday night.
“There will come a point in the not too distant future when I will hand the local enterprise partnership on to somebody else when the time is right. I think when you enjoy something it doesn’t feel like hard work; I have got a fantastically interesting job and a stimulating group of people to work with here so, it’s pretty good really.”