Meet the Boss feature as published in the Northern Echo
JAMES Ramsbotham, chief executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce leads an organisation which represents more than 3,000 businesses. It campaigns for a fair deal from the Government to help the region grow and its members to get the support they need to be as successful as possible.
His career in the Royal Green Jackets, the same regiment in which his father served. His time began with a short service commission in Hong Kong where he was based for a year and included six months as a jungle warfare instructor in Borneo. This was followed by four months at Sandhurst then tours of duty around the world including Northern Ireland, West Germany, Denmark, Alaska and Belize.
His Army career also included time on secondment in Canada leading military training with the Canadian army on counter terrorism for the Olympic Games in Calgary.
After graduating in geography from Durham University and a final intelligence tour of Northern Ireland he wanted to gain experience of the private sector. He joined Barclays’ corporate business banking team.
He said: “I loved the range of customers I supported during my time in banking, working out what they needed to grow their businesses. I also carried some of my army training into banking. Two things were most relevant and still stand me in good stead – having a genuine concern for people you are responsible for, look after them and nurture them, as well as being hugely adaptable.
“I spent 14 years with Barclays in the region and after a series of promotions was corporate marketing director in the London head office. However, I found I missed the contact with customers and when I was asked to join one of my former customers, Esh Group, I jumped at the chance.
“I was vice-chairman for three years and during that time they won the North East Business Awards company of the year.
“The region I grew up in is so very different today. Perceptions always lag reality, but national perceptions of North East England are decades out of date. Being appointed chief executive of the Chamber gave me the perfect chance to really raise regional morale and self-belief.
Most expensive thing you’ve bought?
My father’s 80th birthday present five years ago. I asked what he would like that would be special. As a result the two of us toured the chateaux where Armagnac is produced.We had three memorable and poignant days
Who is the best person to follow on Twitter?
Our President, John McCabe. He is observant and pithy.
High Endeavours by Miles Clarke
When did you last cry?
A few weeks ago when I had a reunion with a number of soldiers I served with in Northern Ireland on an incredibly tough tour. People didn’t know about PTSD back then, it was 40 years ago. Our meeting brought so much back but it was very cathartic.
What is your greatest achievement?
Positively motivating others
What’s the best piece of advice in business you’ve ever been given?
Be very cautious of people who say you can trust them. Genuinely trustworthy people never say that.
Penguin because it has so many human traits and is capable of thriving in the most extreme conditions.
Most famous person on your mobile phone?
What was the last band you saw live?
Your perfect night in?
A night with all of my family members including my grandson
In another life I would be...
Exactly who I am now
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Hopefully someone who is from the North-East – a real talent waiting to be discovered.
What irritates you?
People who talk the North-East down.
What’s your secret talent?
“The problem with the North-East is the problem with the North-East. Too many conversations used to begin with, ‘the problem with the North-East is…’. Now we focus on our strengths and our advantages, not our weaknesses. He sees huge improvements today, 12 years since he joined the Chamber. “Historically this was a very different organisation. It is now re-focussed and at the heart of the business community. We are respected by employers, I believe, as very much a force for good.
“The future challenges for us all are primarily related to Brexit. We have seven ports facing East and need to stay closely connected to our main marketplaces without cumbersome regulations and tariffs which could hamper business.
“We do our best to create the best climate for growth that a company could need. It is also important we exploit our national and international connections with the Chambers of Commerce network around the world. This is another huge benefit of being in the Chamber and one I know our exporting members realise in particular.”
FIVE MINUTES WITH JAMES RAMSBOTHAM
Favourite North-East building?
Durham Cathedral. There are links to this cathedral are in my family blood. My father grew up in the Cathedral College when my grandfather was Suffragan Bishop of Durham, my son went to the Choristers’ School. My children and I are all graduates of Durham University and a most special day was when my daughter was married in the Cathedral.
What was your first job and how much did you get paid?
Scrubbing out vats in a brewery for £15 a day.
What is the worst job you’ve had?
In my first real job in the Army I had to arrest illegal immigrants from China trying to get into Hong Kong. These were pitiful people who we had to hand back to China.
What would you cook for me if I came around for dinner?
Anything with Weardale lamb.
What would your superpower be?
To travel at the speed of light as I waste so much time travelling between meetings.
Name four people, dead or alive, who would be at your perfect dinner party?
General Sir John Moore, founder of the Light Division and my ancestor; Nelson Mandela; Lord Armstrong; and St Hilda, an abbess in Whitby whose counsel was widely sought by Kings.