SELF-MADE multi-millionaire Gill Fielding had a simple message for local businesses worried about the recession: Tough bananas.
The blunt-talking entrepreneur, who made her fortune investing in land, property, shares, commodities and businesses, was a guest at the Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting at The Dome.
She gave an entertaining 10-minute talk – “I’m not going to be talking for long, because the bar’s open soon” – about the challenges facing local firms, and the grants and loans available to them.
She said the national economic climate was an irrelevance. “What’s important is our own micro-economy,” she said.
“If we’re in a double-dip recession, a triple dip, or a quadruple dip – who gives a monkey’s, as long as the local economy is doing well? We need to focus on what we need for our businesses to be successful, and our own strategies.
“The Government can’t give a proper focus to every one of 4.5 million small businesses. But we can.
“Our small and medium-sized enterprises are disparate people – not desperate people. We need to think about what matters to us, the local issues, not about all the big stuff.”
Gill also spoke about her role as a government adviser, as she had been invited to take part in several working parties in the past year, and is a regular visitor to Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.
“Everyone wants to know about Downing Street, what it’s like inside, how the door opens at exactly the right time, and what the toilets are like.
“Remember the days when we used to knock through neighbouring homes? It’s like that – it’s 11 homes knocked into one, so when you step inside, you’re in a big room.
“On the way in, you need to pass security at the end of the street, then walk to the door. You hope upon hope that the door will open, and you won’t be left outside shouting ‘Wilma, let me in...’
“As you step on to the black mat outside, the door opens. And inside is a man with a variety of computer screens, who has been monitoring you down the road and seeing you coming, and can open the door at exactly the right time. He must have been trained to get it so right every time.
“And the toilets? Well, they’re rather plain, no creams, no hand towels. They were probably nicer when Margaret Thatcher was there.
“My male colleagues told me the gents’ were rather luxurious, but I’m not sure I’d really trust a man’s evaluation on a subject like this.”
As a thank-you for giving the talk, Gill received a hamper of locally-produced goodies – which included a cupcake with her own image in the icing.