Global Britain – with a Northern accent

Gemma Bailey, director of Bailey Instruments, on how her ‘Northernness’ has become a huge asset in a global economy

Gemma Bailey
Gemma Bailey, director of Bailey Instruments

 

I know what people think about the North. Even now, 30 or 40 years after the industrial age began to wind down, and the factories, shipyards and workshops closed, people still picture the smoke in the air, the soot, the darkness. Matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs.

It’s funny, because in many places it really couldn’t be further from the truth. People who think it’s “grim up north” really don’t have a clue. 

‘Granadaland’ is no longer a place that painter LS Lowry would recognise. In my lifetime, northern England has been revolutionised. In Liverpool, the Albert Dock was transformed in the 1980s to become a visitor attraction, retail centre, arts destination and media hub (This Morning started there, after all). I studied public relations at Leeds Metropolitan; the city now has the Royal Armouries and NHS England at Quarry House. 

So why is this important? Well, as an export director, I travel a lot – but I take my northern-ness with me. It’s a great asset. For one, I think I can read people pretty well, and I take people as I find them. It informs my wider perspective on business, which is to follow my feelings. So I base my approach to business on three things: honesty, passion and dedication.

Honesty is simple enough, but some people find it hard. They worry they should be doing something more or different, or sugar-coating bad news. I don’t agree. People recognise and respect people who mean what they say. 

Passion is also important. At the moment, I’m campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of amputation resulting from diabetes. My company, Bailey Instruments, manufactures monofilaments which are used by clinicians to detect the early signs of neuropathy.

That early detection can radically reduce the need for amputations. It’s a cause I believe in 100%, because I’ve seen through my work the devastation that losing a foot or lower leg can cause to patients. I will talk and talk and talk about this, to any audience, anywhere, and I know I’ve got a compelling story.

Again, there’s a personal component to this. The prevalence of diabetes in the UK isn’t uniform. There are hotspots – and the north has quite a few of them. The disease is especially common in Oldham, Rochdale, Blackburn, Bolton and Ashton-under-Lyne. As a region, we have rates of diabetes 18% higher than the south east.

Add to this my dedication to monitoring and early intervention, I’m doing everything I can, from writing columns like this or racking up the miles attending conferences and trade fairs. I’ve even launched a podcast, Health Exposed, because I believe in the message, and I think I can make a difference. Because ultimately, it’s not just the north who will benefit from change. It’s all of us. 

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