With Ed Reid, owner of The Alternative Board

THERE’S been the usual mixture of good and bad economic news over the past couple of weeks. There hasn’t been the immediate post-Brexit apocalypse some commentators had predicted, but the negotiations to leave the EU have barely begun.

But none of this has stopped Liam Fox, current Secretary of State for International Trade, who has made his feelings known on British businessmen. The country, he declared, was “too lazy and too fat”, with businessmen preferring golf on a Friday afternoon to trying to boost the country’s prosperity.

Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, said that Mr Fox had “never done a day’s business in his life”. I suspect that several members of TAB York would respond in significantly stronger terms…

Of course the comments are nonsense and insulting to the overwhelming majority of people running SMEs – and worryingly they show an International Trade Minister alarmingly out of touch with… well, trade. But there are possibly even more important considerations than that.

I’m not fat and I hope no one considers me lazy. I did, however, play golf on Thursday and I make no apology for that.

I’ve repeatedly stressed the need for time away from work. ‘Work hard, play hard’ might be a cliché, but it stops burnout, keeps you fresh and gives you a broader perspective on life.

As the worlds of technology and business continue to change ever more rapidly, then knowing about – and learning from – seemingly unconnected disciplines will, I think, become increasingly important. It can also be a lot of fun.

Rather than criticising people running businesses, perhaps our politicians could learn from them – not least in being able to take planned, productive time off. If I see someone who never takes time off then I see someone who’s heading for trouble.

So I’ll continue to encourage the members of TAB York to work hard and play harder. The idea that any of them opt to do less than their best is simply wrong: the moral obligation they feel to their businesses, their staff, their customers – and the work ethic that flows from that – is something I’m honoured to see on a daily basis.