BUSINESSES in York could improve their growth by ensuring they better represent their customer base, a trainer of police forces around the world has said.

Tod O’Brien, who now runs an independent consultancy called 2b Leadership And Diversity in York, said businesses could be missing out on new customers through a lack of diversity in their workforce.

He said: “Businesses grow better when they’re more diverse because they appeal to bigger markets.”

He said whether they are looking at international markets, or trying to appeal to customers from different backgrounds in their own region, research shows they could increase profit and turnover.

But York’s business community isn’t as diverse as other cities, like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, he pointed out, which could also discourage business people from different backgrounds to set up their business in York.

Tod, who moved to York with the Army in which he served until 1989, was a police officer for 14 years, during which he became a curriculum development officer.

He has since trained police forces all over the world, including Kenya, Namibia, Bangladesh and Mexico, as well as specialising in leadership and executive training in businesses.

He said businesses can grow through improving their relationships with customers, which means greater self-awareness at leadership and employee level, to establish trust and provide continued customer service to minority groups.

Tod’s work with businesses, based on emotional intelligence, covers relationship management from ensuring leaders and employees have an awareness of different cultural backgrounds.

He said that as Christmas approaches, more diversity in the workforce could prevent businesses from having to shut down during Christian bank holidays, providing instead a continued service for customers who don’t celebrate the same holidays, and in return giving employees of other faiths time off to celebrate the religious holidays important to them. He said diversity also includes considering the needs of other customers, such as disabled people, for instance considering dyslexic people, when putting together websites.

Starting in business, this acceptance and awareness would then disseminate to the wider community of York, he said.