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[19 MAR 99] THE CHAMBER PRESS RELEASE
First Female President For Chamber

Isabella Moore is to be the first female president in the 140-year history of The Chamber for Coventry and Warwickshire.

It will, of course, take her into the history books. Gender issue over.

Isabella Moore, President of The Chamber for Coventry and WarwickshireMuch more absorbing for those coming into contact with her boundless energy and outwardly cheerful and super-optimistic image, is just how the heck she copes.

She has built up her Leamington-based translation company, Comtec, into a world ranging organisation with a turnover of more than l-million a year.

From the days of 1982 when she had to take her young daughter, Sophie, with her when delivering leaflets door to door or taking work to just a couple of dozen translators, Isabella has developed a company with 650 clients, more than 400 external translators, and a permanent staff of 18.

Her current major project, to give some idea of Comtec's place in the world, is negotiating the final stages of a joint venture translation company in China, with a view to setting up similar companies throughout the country.

So, a busy business leader.

But, on top of all that, Isabella always has a long list of professional activities. Long enough, many might think, to keep a mere male fully occupied, never mind running a rapidly growing business.

Currently her list of appointments reads:

  • Board of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber, and a member of one of its important Strategic Aims Committees;
  • Board of Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership;
  • Member of DTI Languages for Export Regional Advisory Committee;
  • Represents Coventry and Warwickshire on British Chambers of Commerce Policy Co-ordination Unit;
  • Education and Training Committee of Institute of Translation and Interpreting;
  • Also chairman of the Institute's Quality sub-committee.

Being deputy president, the Chamber of Commerce, Training and Enterprise, has brought further demands on her time, including chairing a new policy committee.

She is also a full member of the Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting.

None of this prevented her ensuring that Comtec achieved IS09002 way back in 1993, and being in the vanguard of companies achieving Investor in People status, three years ago.

She is now considering going for the European Business Quality Excellence standard, and her goal for the year 2000 is to win the small business category.

Yes, fine, Isabella.

But how about a few tips on coping with it all?

For once the charm threatens to slip. There is a fleeting sense that you have asked as daft a question as how to wake up in the morning.

But, the shoulders straighten in the stylish but practical cherry red jacket, and she addresses the problem.

"I look at all my roles and set myself targets. And I keep tight control of an electronic diary," she says.

And she is off again talking about her sales role, responsibility for visiting customers, hunting for new business.

Pushed again, Isabella manages to give Lesson One without sounding like a patient primary school teacher.

"Time management is a matter of planning and looking ahead so that you don't get conflicts of interest.

"It's something women are good at-the one concession you will hear me make to the gender issue. Men are good at concentrating on one thing or compartmentalising. Women are good at juggling."

Next year's president of The Chamber is more interested in talking about helping companies to realise that they have to create time to stand back and take a long, cold look at how their businesses are run.

She says:

"A Business can never stand still. It must move forward or it will stagnate.

"I'm fascinated by new ideas and the use of IT in a small business environment to improve competitiveness and the effectiveness of working practices

"Coupled with a committed, highly-trained workforce, these are the ingredients for success.

"In the end we have to create a perception in our customers' minds that we give a better service than the competition.

"A knowledgeable and competent workforce is an essential factor in creating a customer-focused business, and retaining customers is a very important issue for small businesses.

"Acquiring new customers is expensive."

Does she know how expensive?

The graphs on the wall for all to see, detailing targets and achievements, sales and costings, should have warned me to remove the first half of that question. She answers with a precise figure, to the penny.

It was only three years ago that her husband, David, joined the business. An engineer and computer systems specialist, he now runs Operations at Comtec.

"We work well together-while I'm systems driven, he is more creative. However it is always difficult to close the office and not talk shop."

But I sense that we've strayed from the point.

What she really wants to talk about is her vision for The Chamber in the future.

She believes that her term as president of the Mid Warwickshire Chamber gave her a good feel for local issues.

"Perhaps the most important," she says, "is improving communications between small businesses and strategic organisations in our area such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership to ensure that the private sector view is heard.

"I hope the policy committee will be looking at this issue.

"We must also be the conduit for collecting information and research by various bodies, such as the county council.

"I would also like to see more involvement of larger business in a mentoring capacity. Yes, I would love to move that forward-spreading best practice down to small business, and enabling them to take advantage of the expertise of our area's best companies.

"There is also plenty of scope for raising awareness of just how useful The Chamber's facilities are-I could provide a long list of how it has helped us, especially abroad, such as improving our appreciation of IT in establishing a supplier network in China."

So she lists next "spreading the gospel" about the need for, and use of, Information Technology.

She says:

"There is enormous scope for raising knowledge of its uses."

Isabella admits that use of IT has had a dramatic affect on her own business. She quotes as just one example the improvement a translator's output from 1,800 words a day to around 4,000-largely by using computer assisted translation tools to build up a client database of technical terms and improve consistency.

And where will the business be in ten years time?

That results in a long, long, pause.

"I never think that far ahead. We have planned for the next few years, of course, and I would like to feel that we will continue to be regarded as an innovator in our industry.

"But I also want to stay involved in wider issues of our business community. I enjoy this contact and believe that everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the success of our region."

And it's back to business:

"We need to look at the problem of manufacturing decline, how hi-tech and new industries can at least arrest that and help to create the high value activities Britain needs.

"We must also continue to improve the skills of our workforce-finding people with the right skills is a persistent problem.

"We need also to consider the needs of businesses when training young people compared with other European countries we have a lot of catching up to do.

"In addition, British businesses have to be more outward looking and not afraid to go out and look for new markets. And to learn not to give up at the first hurdle.

"There is much help around available to businesses and it's worth taking the trouble to find out."

So that, at the end, is how Isabella Moore copes with it all.

She simply loves being involved in all aspects of business.

MORE INFORMATION:  Barry Lloyd-Jones   01203 654260
   

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CWN / Business / The Chamber / 19 Mar 1999

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