5 May 2021
Six months ago, successful entrepreneur and local businesswoman Shalom Lloyd joined SEMLEP as a Board Member. The Board includes representatives from both the private and public sectors, and it is the Board Members’ job to ensure that local voices are heard locally, regionally and at a national level on economic issues. As a business owner herself, Shalom brought with her 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and a passion for connecting with people, businesses and her local community.
With six months of experience on the Board under her belt, we decided to sit down with her and ask how she’s finding it so far, what she’s already managed to accomplish and what she would like to see happen in the future.
So, Shalom, how did you first come across SEMLEP?
Milton Keynes is a very small place, and one of the things I pride myself on is building relationships. Networking and social capital mean a lot to me. I love meeting people, and I’ve met some amazing people in Milton Keynes. One of them is a wonderful lady called Yvette Lamidey, and when an opening on the Board came up, Yvette asked if I’d heard about it. And I thought, ‘Oh God, I’ve always tried to avoid being on any boards or anything like that; do I have the time?’
But this one was for SEMLEP. It was an organization that I’d followed in the past, but to be honest I didn’t actually know too much about it. However, I knew two people who were on the Board, Julie Mills and Yvette, who are both people I really respect. In addition to my conversation with Yvette, I spoke with Julie, and based on those conversations, and what I knew about the organisation, I decided to apply.
What made SEMLEP different to other organisations? What made you want to get involved?
I still didn’t really know SEMLEP in depth, but for me it was all in the name: ‘South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’.
‘South East Midlands’. This organization sets the strategic priority for our local economy; Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. This is the community where I live. It’s all about supporting our businesses and fulfilling our economic opportunity.
‘Local’ spoke to me about community, the residents, the businesses, the environment. That was a tick-box for me.
‘Enterprise’: A £50 billion economy, strengthening economic growth and priorities. We are talking business, entrepreneurs, SMEs, corporates.
Then you have the P for ‘Partnerships’. This speaks to facilitating partnerships to realise the whole region’s opportunities. In Partnerships one includes innovation, industry, diversity, technology, local authorities, educators, people in the finance sector.
Just thinking about the name ‘SEMLEP’ and what it represents, what it means, was a massive attraction to me.
Could you describe your first six months on the Board?
First of all, it put me massively outside my comfort zone. I am a natural control freak and I like to know about everything around me. When I was interviewed for the position, I sat in front of a panel of about eight people which was a huge surprise, but it also showed the seriousness, the thorough recruitment process and the importance of the role.
Going through that rigorous recruitment process, and then joining my first my Board meeting, was at first exciting, but I soon realised that I had no clue what people were talking about. I’d had all this information sent through to me, and Judith Barker, Director or Programmes and Governance kindly walked me through a lot during my induction, however, with a lot to take in, keeping up with conversations was a bit of a struggle. It is fair to say that I was very much out of my comfort zone at my first Board meeting.
The topics discussed were interesting, fascinating, and of significant impact. Wanting to be part of the decision-making process facilitated my desperation to get up to speed, contribute and add value.
My first Board meeting gave me the opportunity to listen. People want you to come in here and succeed, to do the right thing. I kept thinking ‘Value! Value! Value!’ I need to be somewhere where I add value, and an environment that adds value to me. At that stage though, I didn’t feel that I was adding value or bringing anything to the table. Coupled with meeting my peers remotely due to COVID, that was the initial feeling that I had for the first few months.
Since then, have you been able to use your perspective as a business owner to help influence decision-making or add value in other ways?
I think I’m getting there. You always add value in the areas that you know, and I realized that an area where I add value is SME’s and small businesses; that’s a strength for me. The Growth Hub, for example, is an area that I find very interesting, hence I am gravitating towards the amazing worth the Growth Hub has to offer businesses. This is an area where I feel I can really bring my skill set and take something away, Like I said, it is all about value add.
Which projects have you enjoyed working on most?
I have not worked on any specific projects, yet, but I have been able to contribute bits and pieces where I can, and support some key decisions, which is great. The excellent SEMLEP team that Hilary has built makes my life as a Board Member easy. You guys go and do your jobs, then bring your findings to the Board. That way we can make informed decisions, based on the thorough due diligence, hard work, the slicing and dicing and putting back together of projects and initiatives it is brilliant.
What are your personal ambitions as a Board Member? What would you like to be able to achieve?
There are a few things that interest me, areas where I would love to be involved in. It is no surprise that currently people talk about Covid, Covid, Covid, but Brexit and its impact on business is also a big topic for us.
In terms of my passion, I am looking at the diversification of business types, sizes and skills, and looking at emerging innovative businesses. Drug development in terms of Research and Development in the pharmaceutical industry is very much a passion, plus anything that is truly innovative, and has an environmental impact are of particular interest. Our green targets in the UK are going to be very challenging, and I am passionate about how our region is going to impact the UK’s results. I see opportunities in diversity, I see opportunities in people, and I am looking to be involved in as well as contribute to the kinds of projects that would tick those boxes for me.
Any final thoughts about SEMLEP?
SEMLEP is very special, and I frankly did not realise how special it was until I joined the Board. Today, I am realising what it brings to the table, what it brings to our community, and how it adds value. I have also come to appreciate the calibre of people on the Board, their individual skills, and years of experience. Change is upon us, and these are exciting time ahead, making it a great time to be part of the organisation. With Covid restrictions ending, I am looking forward to finally being able to meet other board members face-to-face and start to build relationships with them.
There are exciting times ahead.