Mixing business with politics

The Argus: Rob Shepherd, CEO of the Press Dispensary and chair of Brighton Green Party Rob Shepherd, CEO of the Press Dispensary and chair of Brighton Green Party

By Rob Shepherd, CEO of the Press Dispensary and chair of Brighton Green Party

They say never mix politics, religion or business at the dinner table. This alarms me because – and I’ll come to religion in a moment – I can talk for England about business, politics or a mixed green salad of the two.

The thing is, Brighton and Hove’s a fantastic place to run a business, as I have done for more than 10 years.

There’s a degree of friendliness in our business community you just don’t find elsewhere.

It’s a feature of our city by the sea that business owners are more open-spirited and less suspicious or defensive than in many places, meaning we get far more out of working, socialising and helping each other than if we glaringly pretended that business and pleasure don’t mix, even at dinner.

And the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, for which I have a lot of enthusiasm and an occasional tendency to chair debates (next one in February, seats going quickly) or introduce breakfasts (Carluccio’s, Fridays, book now,) is right at the heart of that.

In another heart of this famously green city is the Green Party, of which I recently, and proudly, became chair, which leads to the question of whether politics and business can mix in a way that even allows time for dinner.

Down to belief

Any business owner will agree that running a business is hardly a nine-to-fiver. It’s more a religion (I said I’d come to it).

The same is true of politics. If you believe in a thing – and I do, in the furtherance of environmental and social justice through the political process – you cannot consign it to byways and hobby days. Beliefs have a way of taking hold, of demanding all you’re willing to give. There’s that religion thing again.

But if business and politics are both so demanding, can they mix? Not just at the dinner table but in that hallowed 21st century tabernacle, the diary?

For me, yes. They’re complementary, demanding many of the same skills and experience. Good management. Good communications. Foresight and instinct. And in Brighton, many businesses have a green heart (one of the fastest growing sectors), while many Greens are in business.

The combination’s demanding, certainly, and I see as much midnight oil as extra virgin. But together, they’re a dish worth savouring, enjoyable and fulfilling (steady on!).

So if I do talk business and politics at dinner, forgive me. It’s only religion.

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