Opinion

The great city debate: It's a London thing

9 min read

24 December 2014

There’s an ongoing discussion about which city should take the mantel as the "world’s best" for setting up a business. For Alex Cheatle, CEO of the Ten Group, the decision is easy – it’s London. Here, he explains why the Big Smoke is hard to beat.

With 16 offices across the world and concierge coverage in most of the countries in the world, I have a good understanding of how the globe works culturally and economically and it still astounds me how extraordinary London is compared to other major global hubs.

It’s one of the world’s most complex cities on earth, juggling its serious financial clout with world-leading cultural, sporting and gastronomic scenes. On top of this it’s home to 8.3m people from every nation and walk of life. This dynamism was the major trigger for setting up the Ten Group in 1998 – I noticed that where there’s lifestyle complexity, there’s a need for lifestyle management. And that’s where our concierge service comes in. 

The capital of culture

In the world of lifestyle concierge, it’s crucial that we have our finger on the pulse, and there’s no better place to be than at the forefront of it all in London. British culture has had global appeal for centuries and it’s becoming clearer than ever that the UK is edging even further ahead of the pack when it comes to dining, the arts, music, theatre and sport. 

Just speak with one of our restaurant specialists in our London headquarters and you’ll quickly understand the culinary revolution that’s occurring in the capital. From pop-ups and street vans run by young, home grown talent to top international chefs setting up ventures in Mayfair and Marylebone, the food scene is exploding. We’ve reached a point now where the newest restaurant openings or gig announcements are met with an elevated frenzy – a phenomenon boosted by intense social media activity and the public’s fear of missing out. 

Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo are no strangers to of-the-moment trends and fads, but when I compare statistics from all of Ten’s global hubs, from Melbourne to San Francisco, it’s clear that London has the fullest reservation books, the busiest box office lines and most progressive arts scene. 

Over 16 years we’ve built a huge network of contacts and suppliers in London and I can confidently say that we have the city dialled. This means we have the necessary skills and experience to expand this model when we open a new international office. I truly believe that if a company can understand how things work in London – economically, socially and culturally speaking – it can transfer that knowledge and experience to any of the world’s cities and it’ll all fall into place. Of course, there are always cultural and business differences to contend with, but the groundwork will be there. 

Read more about London as a centre for business:

An entrepreneurial hotbed

On top of its cultural dominance, the capital has become a very attractive place for entrepreneurs, with a number of government initiatives, private funding programmes and business incubators at hand for start-ups and SMEs to take advantage of. The introduction of the EIS in 1994 and the SEIS launched in 2012 have done wonders in boosting the entrepreneurial environment. With higher rate tax payers attracted by the schemes’ high growth potential and substantial tax relief, it’s become easier than ever for fledgling companies to catch the attention of the capital’s ever-expanding pool of business angels. 

Once an entrepreneur gets their business of the ground, the network of support is unrivalled. Programmes like my brother Duncan’s group TheSupper Club, a network of the UK’s top entrepreneurial visionaries and innovators, are doing fantastic work in supporting successful, fast-growing companies.  

Finding top quality staff is straight forward, too. With one of the highest concentrations of higher education in the world and over 100 of Europe’s largest companies based here, London attracts top talent from across the globe, giving businesses the chance to create a truly world-class workforce. From Ten’s crucial first hires to the diverse range of vacancies we fill today, Ten needs to ensure it is employing specialists in niche areas and we have never had a problem finding the best people for the job, in whichever language we need. 

A recent study shows that more than 100 of the world’s languages are spoken here in London. Ten was working as an “international” company from our London headquarters for years before we opened offices in the US and beyond. This was only made possible by the city’s multi-cultural society. As the debate about immigration rumbles on, I know the Ten Group simply wouldn’t be based in London if it wasn’t for the city’s hugely diverse mix of talent. Also, as our global reach has expanded I have become very aware of how employment-friendly the UK laws are compared to legislation on the continent, Asia and many developing countries.

The playground of the rich

When it comes to converting your ideas into profit, the Big Smoke will deliver. That’s not to say the streets are lined with gold, but consumers in London are as engaged as you’ll find anywhere and you can guarantee there’ll be a demographic that will want to buy your product or use your service. We’re a city of spenders and the most recent study conducted by the Centre for Retail Research in 2011 showed that London was the shopping capital of the world, with an annual high street spend of £64.2bn, beating Tokyo, New York and Paris by some margin. 

If you’re in the luxury sector looking to support a wealthy customer base, there are few better places on earth. A recent study by the New World Wealth consultancy shows that one in every 35 Londoners – amounting to 395,600 people – now own assets worth more than $1m. OK, so this amounts to around £590,000, but it’s not to be sniffed at. On top of this, there are said to be 9,700 multi-millionaires and its home to 10 per cent of all the billionaires in the world. 

Of course, the city has its downsides. The cripplingly expensive office rental prices can be off-putting for many entrepreneurs, but with areas like Dalston and Peckham offering more affordable spaces there are always workarounds. Since Ten’s inception, London has been a solid business base from which to develop our fast-growing company and, when I compare it to other cities in which we now operate; I wouldn’t have it any other way.