A BUSINESS forum is launching an initiative which takes in the views and opinions of its many members and partners to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum launched its Forward initiative, yesterday, to encourage North East businesses to look towards the future with confidence.

The Forum, which has over 300 members has been carefully listening to their views over the past six weeks to understand how they will respond to what has been described as the ‘new normal’.

As a result, it is now embarking upon an ambitious programme of events to share the combined expertise and experience of its members and partners to focus firmly on the future.

Jonathan Lamb, the Forum’s chief executive, believes this valuable resource – together with access to additional mentoring and professional advice – will allow its members across the North East to prepare for the opportunities that will arise as the country and the world begins to emerge from lockdown.

Vikki Jackson-Smith, managing director of Hartlepool-based J&B Recycling, said: “For us, moving forward means delivering the highest standards through continuous development of both our staff and our processes, and our focus is to find innovative solutions to improve efficiency and to continue with our growth to provide sustainable employment in the North East.”

Paul Drake, operations director of Sapere Software, which is located in Stockton, added: “We’re quite positive about the future because the pandemic has helped speed up the adoption of digital transformation projects.

"In the North East we have the skills, knowledge and experience to help fellow business colleagues thrive and compete on the world stage.”

Nicky Jolley, founder and managing director of Darlington-based HR specialists HR2day, said: “Our intention is to work even closer and be more transformational with the companies we work with rather than transactional.

"We look to get the best out of people to add the best value.”

The programme planned by the Forum will initially continue with online events which will evolve into physical events as restrictions are eased.

They will focus on a range of subjects which will help its members lay the foundations now for sustained growth in the future.

Mr Lamb added: “For the past six weeks many businesses have been focused on dealing with the immediate challenges created by the lockdown, such as changing working practices, staffing and finance.

“However, now is the time to look to the future and the opportunities it will bring. While supporting our members to overcome the current challenges of COVID-19 is still our priority, our Forward programme shines a light on the optimism and positivity of our region's business owners who are already making long term plans for business growth and prosperity.

“Many entrepreneurs have had to re-evaluate how their business works and we must now all work together, proactively, to develop successful long-term strategies and ensure entrepreneurs continue to drive the North East economy forward.”