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Meet the team – Shevaun Haviland, Director General

BCC's new Director General, Shevaun Haviland shares some thoughts as she begins her first week, some background about her career to date, her priorities in the role and the challenges and opportunities of starting a new job during a global pandemic.


Q. What is your vision for where the BCC and Chamber Network should be heading?

I am delighted and excited to be joining the BCC as the Director General this week.

We are coming out of an incredibly difficult year for our economy, having been through the twin challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and changes to trading conditions resulting from the UK’s exit from the EU.

Our businesses will need to focus on post-pandemic recovery as well as adjusting to our new global trading status and we will need to help guide them through some choppy waters ahead.

However, with these challenges come opportunities. We have already seen business adapt to new digital demand and an increased focus on local communities, a sense of place and business as a force for good.

We are already seeing the green shoots of recovery, and as the BCC, and as a Network, we could not be better placed to take advantage of our collective strengths to be a driving force in helping our members recover, grow and prosper.

I see the key opportunities falling into four main areas.

1.Global Markets

We already have huge assets in our Global Business Network, trade knowledge and the ChamberCustoms business. How can we leverage all this to take the best export scaleups from around the country and fast track their growth into new markets?

2.Digital and Data

As a network we need to be able to provide the right tools and services to ensure our businesses can thrive in the new online, remote, digital word we live in. This will be from both an e-commerce and data management point of view, but also to help employees ensure they have the skills and capability to be able to deliver in this new marketplace.

3.The Green Economy

The climate crisis means we need to look to new ways of living and working. Entrepreneurship and innovation are at the heart of our businesses and that will enable them to be leaders in this new, global challenge. As the UK hosts COP26 this year how can we leverage new investment in the green economy for our network?

4.The commercial imperative for Purpose

Consumers are demanding that brands must not only provide great services and products, but also be fair employers, support their communities and have a positive impact on the planet. Many of our businesses already do much of that. How can we help them tell their stories of purpose to their customers?

I am excited about taking on this role because I believe that a strong economy and sustainable businesses are a force for good, and that the BCC and the Chamber Network can be a key driver of that change.

Q. What are your priorities for your first few months in this role?

The first thing I am really looking forward to is meeting you all! I want to spend the first couple of months meeting as many Chambers, member businesses and stakeholders as I can and hearing from you!

It will be fantastic to be out and about again meeting Chambers across the UK. I want to hear all your ideas for the BCC and how we can best deliver for, and with, our members.

We have our Global Annual Conference in June which will be a great opportunity to hear from a wider audience about the key issues on the horizon.

By the end of my first quarter, I want to be able to have done a lot of listening and have a well-developed vision of how we want to build the organisation together over the next 5 years.

Q. Could you tell us a little about your career to date?

My career to date has taken me all over the world, working for both large corporates, as well as start-ups and scale ups.

I started my career in consultancy in London and New York before joining the Walt Disney Company in London and then Paris, opening the second theme park at Disneyland Paris. I moved back to London and spent 5 years with WPP running global accounts and having two children. I decided then was my moment to start my own company and built Independents United over the following 8 years. We were at the forefront of the digital revolution, building social media strategies for global businesses. This took me into the world of early Edtech development for a charitable Foundation and then later a VC backed start up called Dot Native. Latterly I spent 5 years in the Cabinet Office and No10 managing business partnerships and built and ran the Inclusive Economy Partnership.

I hope the mix of commercial digital start-up experience, large global corporate operational management and the multistakeholder policy environment of HMG will give me a great jumping off point for my new role!

Q. You have led many teams in the past. How would you describe your philosophy?

I believe we all need a sense of purpose. We need to know why we get up every morning and what our goals are. As leaders we need to understand what motivates those around us and be able to build a strong long-term vision that we can all get behind and articulate.

I am open, positive and enthusiastic. I like to empower my teams to deliver and feel fulfilled. Where we encounter problems, we find solutions, together.

As much as I have led teams, I have learnt from them and that fun and rewarding partnership is what I look forward to building with you all.