The region’s business leaders have been encouraged to ‘just do it’ when it comes to innovating and exporting their goods.

Members of the Business Exchange at Teesside University in Darlington heard from Will Butler-Adams OBE, the Chief Executive Officer of Brompton Bicycle, Britain’s biggest bicycle producer.

Since joining the company in 2002, Will has helped to grow it from 24 to 240 staff, selling 45,000 of its unique folding bicycles each year.

He has also launched a bicycle hire scheme and is spearheading developments in electric bike manufacture.

Will, who was named in the Evening Standard’s Progress 1,000 list of influential people, told the Business Exchange about his ambitions for the company and the methods he has used to help it grow.

He said that he likes to create managed disorder in order to disrupt comfortable thinking and create innovation.

He also said businesses should not be scared about looking towards foreign markets for their goods and services.

Brompton Bicycles exports to 45 different countries, accounting for 80% of the company’s sales.

“Exporting is fun,” he said. “Don’t spend years deliberating about whether you should or shouldn’t. Just make a small investment to attend a trade fair or show and that will usually tell you everything you need to know.

“If you deliver something that you believe in and will augment the customer experience then you will see things grow.”

Professor Jane Turner, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement), said: “Being able to engage with Will to better understand the realities of leading his business was quite thought provoking as he reinforced the fundamental responsibility of being a leader and the importance of your employees.

“His approach to innovation, which involves being daring and bold, is underpinned by an absolute belief in the product and service that his business offers, which was very motivating to hear.”

The Business Exchange is a network of senior leaders from businesses and organisations in the North East and North Yorkshire with events held at Teesside University’s Darlington campus throughout the year.

The events include a talk from a high-profile national or regional business speaker, followed by a question and answer session and networking time.

Future speakers include BBC business correspondent Jonty Bloom and Formula One engineer Rob Smedley.

For more information on the Business Exchange contact 01642-384068 or email theforge@tees.ac.uk.