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Ashcroft helps push North West to new heights

John Ashcroft has achieved huge success in his career to date and has become a strong influence in the economic development of the North West of England. He says it is great to be involved in the development of Manchester at this exciting stage in its growth and is glad to see pro-manchester now involved in so many facets of business life.

John started his working life at Reed International, then moved to home fashion group Coloroll in 1978, where he ultimately became CEO and Chairman. After leaving the group in 1990, he studied for a doctorate and worked in consulting and corporate finance until 2009, when he started his current role.

A passionate economist, John has also held a wide range of other distinguished roles and has been publishing The Saturday Economist every week for more than five years.

Despite all this, he jokes that his most outstanding achievement was entering a ‘Can you sing?’ charity event with Fran Eccles-Bech, CEO of the Manchester Law Society. ‘Our interpretation of Elton John and Kiki Dee had the audience rolling with laughter while plugging their ears at the same time - no mean ergonomic achievement,’ says John.

Dedicated to development

John was born in Wigan and is dedicated to the development of his region and especially pro-manchester, which was set up in the 1980s to boost the profile of professional services in the city. The job has led to him taking a number of other important roles: Director of Marketing Manchester, Chief Economist for the city’s Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Association of Greater Manchester Business Leadership Council and a visiting professor at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.

He also wrote the first ever budget for Greater Manchester Local Authority, which helped give the city a better standing in the national budget and improved relations with the Treasury.

When John took on the pro-manchester role, he initiated a 70-point plan to increase revenue, build membership and raise the seniority of individual members – all of which he has achieved comfortably.

‘All the leading names in the city are involved now,’ he says. ‘We run almost 150 events with over 5,000 delegates a year. These include two major conferences and corporate finance and property lunches.’

Pro-manchester’s business development programme includes a club for small and medium-sized enterprises, which offers free advice to 25,000 members in Greater Manchester. It continues to expand with plans for quarterly events in 2017.

John says the key to the group’s success lies in staying true to its goals and always striving to improve on them. ‘We always aim to be a learning organisation that is open, truthful, honest - and a great place to work,’ he says. ‘We want our people to have pride in what they do and to trust and enjoy working with their colleagues. Also, the managers set tough standards of performance for themselves.’

Never stop learning

John says his philosophy is never to stop learning and jokes that his obituary will read: ‘could have done more.’

His work-life balance has been poor as ‘economics and strategy are pretty much 24/7 experiences.’ He says: ‘Addiction to the news is a bad habit for any economics commentator. I have been blogging on economics for over 20 years and we have built The Saturday Economist to one of the largest brands in the UK.’

Despite all this, John does have some time to relax and play tennis, and go to the cinema and other musical events. His long-term personal goals include continuing to enjoy these hobbies and to keep developing the profile of pro-manchester nationally and internationally, as well as the profile of The Saturday Economist.

Plus, he still needs to work on his singing.