As regular partners with K-Club events GM Business Connect enjoy a great range of high-profile business speakers from many different businesses, organisations and sectors. The breakfast events are held five times a year at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford, and are designed to allow guests the opportunity to meet other senior business leaders and like-minded entrepreneurs in a club environment. As well as networking at the events, the guests enjoy a full English breakfast followed by two inspiring speakers. For the event at the end of September, the room was filled to capacity with over 120 attendees listening to Chris Panayi, specialist music sector accountant, and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
First to speak was Chris. In April 2003, Chris Panayi was sitting in the VIP area of Earls Court as a guest of a concert promoter who is a client of his firm, watching Paul McCartney perform ‘The Long and Winding Road’. He looked around. He and his wife were sitting amongst music megastars, professional footballers and prominent politicians. The sentiment of the lyrics made him reflect on how his life’s journey had taken him from a house that was torched in Larnaca, Cyprus in 1956, to sitting amongst all those famous and successful people. Chris started his business as an accountant and business manager in October 1980 with a single client. It wasn’t long though until his passion for music created an opportunity to work with all genres of the entertainment and arts sector, and the business grew organically for almost 40 years, building up a client base of about 450 clients across the globe, trading as CC Panayi & Co. Chris created a speciality offering which covered all aspects of music, including artistes, management companies, recording studios, sound and lighting companies, publishing, record producers and writers, concert and crowd security companies and an extensive list of other music related businesses.
Recognised in the Centtrip’s directory of the top 25 Accountants in the Music and Entertainment Industry, Chris has a real passion for supporting music industry clients, from international high profile and rising star musicians as well as other industry related businesses, whilst providing sound business and financial advice. He is proud to include the likes of Emeli Sandé and Guy Chambers amongst his client list. In June 2018, CCP was voted by music managers as a Legal & Accountancy top 50 firm and in July of the same year, the business merged with Leeds-based Chartered Accountants, Hentons, with the combined business sitting within the ‘Top 100’ firms of accountants. Reflecting on his contrasting life from dangerous upbringings on a personal journey from poverty and violence in Cyprus as a child, to sitting amongst celebrities and politicians as a VIP, Chris considers himself to be the ‘one of the luckiest men alive’. He shares with the K-Club audience his life lesson – ‘never be a victim’ – and elaborated with the sentiment of always being ‘forward looking’ and never lamenting the past.
After finding music when he was 16 years old, it began a love affair that would lead him to start out in 1980 with his own business. Having developed his business to now having over 30 staff and a client list of many famous musicians and singers, he considers his job to be ‘heaven sent’. Business too, hasn’t always been simple, he stated. For example, his business suffered very badly in 1993. Instead of falling to his knees, he decided to fight by working 15-20 hours a day and after a lifetime of success, he is now approaching 70 years old and planning to retire (although he has been doing that since the age of 55). Chris reiterated that there was always a choice in life – to be a victim or not. He referred to having taken advantage of opportunities, to see doors as open and not closed, to accept the help of others – to see that when others ‘make it’ emphasising the fact that you can too. Feeling that it his duty to ‘transmit’ encouragement to young people as a father and grandfather, he has also established a football team and nurtured many careers too, reiterating the need for time and effort. Having sold his business last year, he looked back on the many times when he was told he couldn’t do things – and went on to do those very things – his own way. Having to take ownership of his own goals in life has in fact been the making of him. “It is only now that I have entered my 70th year, that I’ve started to reflect on how I have gone from having holes in my shoes to winning accolades and recognition from my peers.” The road from Larnaca has certainly been long and winding, with potholes as well as beautiful straight smooth surfaces!
After Chris’s very personal story, Andy Burnham was next to speak.
Andy began by acknowledging his own concerns over the current political uncertainties. However, he proposed a return to a more positive thinking approach. “As in all aspects of life, when you go through profound change, in the end positives appear.” Reporting on devolution in Greater Manchester over recent years, Andy explained that he was very conscious of being able to show tangible evidence of delivery on his mission of tackling homelessness, the skills agenda and transport. He observed that devolution was essentially about thinking and acting differently to get better results for people, especially through a ‘whole society approach’. Talking on the theme of homelessness, Andy shared that since November last year, his team have seen 300 people supported off the streets and into accommodation every night of the week across all 10 boroughs. They have also secured the NHS as a funding partner and have contributions from Greater Manchester Police and the Ministry of Justice. As well as the moral issue of rough sleeping, Andy explained that he gained his support by highlighting the financial costs. He proposed tackling the problem by spending £32 per night per person to ensure they have somewhere to go, rather than spending twice the amount on services that would otherwise be required to counter the effects of rough sleeping.
Building an ambitious ‘movement’, Andy further cited partnerships across communities, pulling in the same direction, including Premier League footballers and music industry professionals too. Looking at education policy and its restrictions, Andy went on to talk about how his team forged new inclusive pathways to support all young people; “35,000 of 16-18 year olds across Greater Manchester all possess an ‘Our Pass’ that gives them free bus travel and free tickets to events to ensure that our young people can aspire and take part in inner city opportunities – it’s a matter of instilling individual hope for the future by throwing the doors open to them.” Touching on work experience opportunities, Andy commented that his Bridge GM scheme addresses this lack where schools and businesses are paired to make connections. The intention is also that the businesses will influence the education system too because teachers often don’t know about or see the changing reality of business and the working world. “Regarding challenges for businesses, this is a first step toward support for young people. Manchester is about to get its own UCAS style system – later this year we will be launching a single portal for all apprenticeships here, so that a 15/16-year-old can go online and see everything that Greater Manchester has to offer. We are also asking prominent individuals across the city region to join a work shadowing scheme so that a young person can get a foothold in those worlds and imagine themselves in a multitude of roles.
“Often, young people simply don’t have the parental connections or support to access the worlds of skyscrapers or MediaCity and the campaign is to change that. There is also an apprenticeship match system to pair up bigger and smaller businesses to help make the best use of the money available – and not have it simply going back to the treasury.” Regarding transport, Andy posited that the challenge here is much bigger in terms of scale. “Our antiquated transport system does not support the growth of Greater Manchester, nor attract investment.” Giving examples, he commented on the deregulation of the buses setting their own routes and fares and the trains having a lack of accountability. “To cope, the aim is integration between systems, also encouraging cycling and walking. There is the need to apply Metrolink principles – accountable, reliable and affordable – to the problem and resolve the high costs of journeys where the systems are competing. People simply can’t make multi-modal journeys because of the cost at the moment. Within two or three years we hope to have a cap on the cost of bus and Metrolink journeys like they do in London with eventually a single-ticketed system in 7-8 years. Recently at the Convention of the North the Prime Minister attended and announced that control of the commuter rail system will be given to Greater Manchester so that a single-ticket, integrated system can be achieved. Furthermore, trams will be arriving at the Trafford Centre next year and partnerships will be developed with neighbouring authorities to improve transport into Manchester. Walking and cycling initiatives will also help to decrease the number of short car journeys and the resulting congestion, with bike hire becoming another part of the integrated system.”
On concluding his talk, Andy referred to the EU referendum result in 2016 as an instruction from the British People to Westminster to do two things. One – rethink the relationship with Europe and two – instruct Westminster to rethink its relationship with the rest of England. “The way people voted clearly demonstrated that the people were seeing that the system isn’t fair,” he said, “We are living in a London-centric country. There is a need to rebalance the economy from South to North.” Although disagreeing profoundly on what they are doing on Brexit – with a no deal Brexit potentially creating huge difficulty – Andy stated that he felt aligned with the government’s approach to economic growth in giving increased power to the individual cities to enhance control over destiny, decisions and direction. “This in turn would lead to a healthier country – a better way of doing politics, the beginnings of a fairer rebalanced UK including social change and the building of a positive momentum for Greater Manchester.” Ending with comments on how he felt privileged to be in the role of Mayor of the Greater Manchester city-region, Andy concluded that through positive, consistent progress, Greater Manchester would be at the forefront of the nation’s future.