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Ajaz Ahmed says the customer isn't always right

Freeserve founder Ajaz Ahmed was among the speakers at an intrapreneurship conference in West Yorkshire

Ajaz Ahmed

Yorkshire firms are losing valuable employees and opportunities for growth because staff that are stifled by lack of creativity and freedom are leaving to set up their own entrepreneurial companies, a conference has heard.

The conference on “intrapreneurship” heard from Freeserve founder Ajaz Ahmed and Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, who has injected a more business-led and intrapreneurial approach within the council.

He told delegates that local authorities should become more like businesses – but businesses should become more community-involved like local authorities.

He said Leeds had been a sleeping giant and by failing to act like a big city, had not achieved its full potential. Since he arrived at the council, he had encouraged Leeds to think bigger, create hope, growth, optimism, buzz and deliver real change – with developments including Leeds Arena, Trinity Shopping Centre and Victoria Gate.

Mr Ahmed,who has strong links with Huddersfield, showed his intrapreneurial spirit when he successfully persuaded his then employer Dixons to set up Freeserve, which at its peak was valued at £9bn.

He said that many intrapreneurs succeeded because they didn’t know the rules. As a young shop manager, he bought a computer, but no-one knew how to get onto the internet. He saw this as an opportunity to give Dixons a competitive edge and took his ideas straight to the top of the organisation.

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