John Martin St. Valery OBE – A look back on the last five years at the end of his Chairmanship

Date Posted:Thu, 9th Jun 2022

John Martin St. Valery OBE – A look back on the last five years at the end of his Chairmanship

At today's AGM, John Martin St. Valery OBE ends his tenure of Chairmanship for the British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates. Here John shares his thoughts on the last five years and thanks the members, sponsors, Board and Business Team for their support and continued enthusiasm for the BBG.


From a position that I have held with great pride in Chairing the BBG for the last five years, I have seen huge changes in the region – reflected through the ever-evolving membership base.

As I step down at today’s AGM, having completed an extended Chairmanship tenure, I am leaving a very different BBG than when I was voted in in 2017 but three things have stayed the same; loyalty, advocacy and resilience.

In terms of loyalty, we have retained some members that have been with the BBG – for its entire existence – 35 years this year. The BBG was created to support the first pioneers of British industry in the region to provide a slice of home for the career-change seekers and original entrepreneurs. The BBG has grown as a network and an ecosystem supporting British owned Dubai-based business, UK professionals and UK PLCs through the 35 years – with some definite ebbs and flows and here are my observations:

As a company founder myself, I had to navigate the hard way back in 2001 as I set up my own company formation business – an idea generated through my own need and experience. Whilst I don’t take the pain and frustration away that today’s entrepreneurs feel in setting up in the UAE – it is definitely a lot easier, supported and encouraged with the UAE Government’s mission to gather information, reflect, improve and enhance the processes around being an entrepreneur. With loyalty comes the need to trust and the BBG has remained a trusted base and soft-landing for many who have or are exploring the region. British people are naturally attracted to standards, familiarity and experience, which is why the BBG continues to provide for a loyal following.

Advocacy is an integral pillar of business here in the UAE, before social media and e-comms, it was even more important to cultivate brand ambassadors out of your clients and employees. I always appreciate the time it takes someone to provide feedback or make a referral as it can only inspire or improve your proposition to further enhance your proposition and increase prospects. We celebrate member advocacy and are very aware how fragile that position is, just as quickly as someone can have a positive experience and tell five contacts, they can have a bad experience and share a negative view that is very difficult to undo! I would say that this region is particularly sensitive to advocacy and strives for optimal experience.

Over the 35 years of the BBG, the term resilience will have featured throughout – required for companies navigating their way in an unknown region – families moving from the UK and all the transition logistics - but the 2020 pandemic certainly generated the highest levels of resilience. Through our membership engagement we are aware of many businesses that were hit extremely hard by the lock down, the uncertainty and travel restrictions. Through the recovery there has been a huge adjustment period for new working arrangements, employee management challenges and of course huge financial pressure. However, the members that showed the greatest resilience across multiple sectors are now enjoying growth, consistency and some even have a greater confidence to look further afield in to new markets across the GCC and even back to the UK.

I look forward to continuing to support the BBG membership through my newly appointed role of Director, Government Relations on the BBG Board, where I will be focused on the existing UK UAE trade corridor and development of GCC Free Trade Agreements working closely with the British Embassy, Department for International Trade, UAE Government and Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

My heartfelt thanks to the full membership, our sponsors and industry stakeholders for supporting my Chairmanship with the BBG. I have thoroughly enjoyed this very active role, the extensive events programme, the progress, watching members go from strength to strength and above all… having had the opportunity to lead a talented and committed Board of Directors and business team personnel who have the best intentions of every member at the heart of everything they do.

The BBG is now enjoying the fruition of 35 years of hard work, learnings, the most diverse of personalities and strategies, social and economic volatility and it now enters its next stage with an appetite for digitalisation! I have every confidence that with Andrew Mortimer as the new Chairman and CEO of the BBG, we will see huge leaps forward in our proposition for the continued betterment of the BBG!


 (Caricature by Megha V Sharma)