Thinking Business December 2021

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The importance of health and wellbeing n n n n n

Chamber Business Awards Winners and Finalists p10-11 The Big Interview with Jason Rainbird of Flowbird p16-17 Environment COP 26 Aftermath p20 Chamber Events p42-43 New Members p48-49 0345 8500333

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Local Knowledge - National Coverage

Welcome & Contents

The importance of health and wellbeing Some, sadly, have not survived; others are still going but have lost vital income.

Welcome to the latest edition of Thinking Business. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an incredibly challenging couple of years for individuals and businesses across the globe. While I have used this column to praise the resilience and adaptability of Kent businesses, the pandemic has naturally caused some companies to suffer greatly.

Contents 4

Chamber News


Legal Update


Members News

10-11 Chamber Awards 12-14 Members News 16-17 The Big Interview 19 Technology

Our Patrons

The pandemic has also had an adverse effect on people’s health and wellbeing – the theme of our cover feature in this edition. The importance of employee wellbeing cannot be overstated, both for the individuals themselves and the companies they work for. It’s a well-worn cliché that happy workers are productive workers, a fact that most companies seem to be recognising. We are lucky to have several private and public sector Chamber members in the growing wellbeing sector, members who are helping their staff and others to de-stress, take time out and recharge the batteries. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must look


after one another. Here at Kent Invicta Chamber, we’ve tried to be as supportive as possible to our members and other businesses in the county. This has ranged from hosting events, both online and in-person, to helping businesses access vital funds from the UK government’s financial support schemes. Some businesses have just needed a friendly ear, someone to talk to when they’ve been through a rough patch.

optimism is based on the fantastic array of businesses that we have in this county – and the Chamber will be on hand to support them on their journey.

On the positive side, there have been countless stories of local companies that have adapted, remodelled their business strategy and found new revenue streams.

Festive wishes to all.

As we approach the end of a challenging 2021, there’s every reason to believe that 2022 will be a much more successful year for the business community. My


20 Environment


25-30 Cover Feature - Health and Wellbeing

45 People behind the business

21-22 Members News

32-33 International Trade 37

Members News


Members News

39 Economy

Top Tips

42-43 Chamber Events

46-47 Business News 48-49 New Members 50 50

Last Word

Movers and Shakers

Before I sign off for 2021, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the Winners & Finalists who attended the Chamber Business Awards last month. The year might have started on a low but certainly finished on a high.

Jo James OBE, Chief Executive, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

3245 Editorial and General Enquiries Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Ashford Business Point, Waterbrook Avenue, Sevington, Ashford, Kent. TN24 0LH Chief Executive: Jo James OBE Tel: 01233 503 838 Fax: 01233 503 687 Media No. 1798 Published December 2021 © Benham Publishing


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Thinking Business is published for Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and is distributed without charge to Chamber members. All correspondence should be addressed to the Editor at Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce. Views expressed in Thinking Business are not necessarily those of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce. Reprinting in whole or part is forbidden except by permission. © 2021. Please note that submitting an article does not guarantee publication. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy and reliability of material published in this journal, Benham Publishing and its agents can accept no responsibility for the veracity of claims made by contributions in advertising or editorial content. Benham Publishing cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies in web or email links supplied to us.

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Chamber News

2021/2 Patrons recognised at Kent Business Leaders Dinner

Held at Leeds Castle in November The first Kent Business Leaders Dinner held, since lockdown restrictions were lifted was staged in the Henry VIII banqueting hall within the magnificent Leeds Castle. Over sixty guests were welcomed by Kent Invicta Chamber Chief Executive, Jo James and Helen Bonser-Wilton, Chief Executive at Leeds Castle. Keynote

David Armstrong Towergate insurance Brokers

Jane Burtenshaw MidKent College

speaker Shevaun Haviland, recently appointed Director General of British Chambers of Commerce, outlined her plans for the coming year and acknowledged the influence the Chamber network has had on government policy relating to the impacts of both Brexit and COVID-19. Before dinner, Jo along with members of the Kent Invicta Chamber Board and fellow diners, recognised and thanked the businesses and organisations that had committed to being Kent Invicta Chamber Patrons for 2021/2. The Patrons represent key sectors in the county and organisations that support and service the local business community. Jo made specific mention of two new Patrons that joined the scheme this year, Stagecoach, and Infotech

Patrons 2021/2 • • • • • • • • • • • •

Ashford Borough Council Brachers LLP Caxtons Chartered Surveyors HR GO plc Infotech Solutions UK Lee Evans Partnership MHA MacIntyre Hudson MidKent College Sleeping Giant Media Stagecoach South East Towergate Insurance Brokers University of Kent

Photography by Ali Kittermaster

Jo James hosts her table

Jonathan Piggins Corkk

Sophie Packer University of Kent

Tracey Kerly Ashford Borough Council


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Shevaun Haviland, Jo James, Helen Wilton-Jones

Matt Hayes Lee Evans Partnership

Jo Worby Brachers LLP

Luke Quilter Sleeping Giant Media

Tony Brand MHA MacIntyre Hudson

Graham Mitchell Caxtons Chartered

Matthew Arnold Stagecoach South East

The Menopause and Employment

Legal Update

A current focus in employment law is the menopause and its impact on the working lives of female employees. David Morgan looks at the existing law and potential developments. The menopause has been a focus for employment lawyers in recent months following parliamentary scrutiny of the impact of the menopause on working women. In July 2010 Caroline Nokes, the Chair of the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee, launched an enquiry into menopause and the workplace. When doing so she highlighted that 3 in 5 women are negatively affected at work by the menopause but that the issue is largely unaddressed by legislation. She announced that it was time to “uncover and address this huge issue”. The launch of the enquiry coincided with the reading of a private member’s Bill in the House of Commons – the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill, which includes a requirement that the Government considers its strategy with regard to workplace policies and adaptations to the working environment which will support women to work through the menopause. The motivation behind this Bill is that not enough is being done to support women at this stage of their life. As matters stand, while characteristics such as age, sex and disability are protected against discrimination under the Equality Act, there is no specific protection for women going through the menopause. Nor is the menopause something that that is commonly addressed in employers’ policies. Employment lawyers are not typically instructed to draft or review policies which specifically address the menopause. In some cases women have been successful in bringing claims

against employers under existing legislation when they have suffered unfair treatment as a result of their menopause. In the case of Merchant v BT plc, a tribunal held that the Claimant had suffered from unfair dismissal and sex discrimination when she was dismissed for poor performance without the impact of her menopause symptoms being investigated. In Davis v Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service there was a finding that the employee’s menopause symptoms were sufficiently severe that they constituted a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act and that she had suffered from disability discrimination when she was dismissed because of an incident caused by the confusion and stress arising from her disability. More recently, in A v Bonmarche Ltd a woman was found to have suffered sex and age discrimination after her employer refused to discuss or provide support for her menopause symptoms and subjected her to a hostile environment at work. It remains to be seen whether the Government proposes new legislation in response to the findings of the Parliamentary enquiry. Regardless of this, the next few years are likely to see this issue coming into greater focus for employers, which will be a positive step for female employees experiencing the symptoms of the menopause which impact on their work. For further legal advice on this and other employment law issues, please contact David.

David Morgan

Senior Associate Solicitor, Employment Law

01233 664711 Thinking Business


Is your current business model fit for the future? A robust business model can help businesses keep on track and move forward towards strategic aims and objectives. However, the last 12 to 18 months for most businesses have thrown many business models and plans into disarray. Now, where and how framework The now, where and how framework is very simple but can be incredibly effective if used correctly. It can be used when preparing and reviewing a business plan, acting as a roadmap for where businesses are headed. As part of any growth and management process, businesses need to first focus on where they are “now”. This puts a peg in the ground and allows for monitoring on improvement and change. Compile a list of where you are now regarding your key business drivers, but also identify the key issues, challenges, concerns, strengths and opportunities that you face. Adapting the business model is a key priority for SMEs, and as the UK looks forward with businesses reopening and restrictions being lifted, it is more important now than ever before to ensure that not only you create a clear and concise plan, but you have the ability to adapt and adjust it as different hurdles are put in your way. Eddi Taylor, Accounts and Business Advisory Services Partner at Azets, discusses how to review your business model to ensure business resilience and growth.


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From here, the temptation is to dive straight into trying to fix the issues straight away, however it is crucial to first focus on the future and “where” you want the business to be within a certain period of time. Once it’s understood where the business is now and where it wants to be, the path will start to appear as to “how” to get there and the changes and strategies that need to be implemented to achieve those goals. Within “how”, businesses should proactively focus on the overall strategies, and set clear and concise action points against each strategy.

It is also essential to lay out a timeframe for these action points to be completed and who will be responsible. This will bring in an element of accountability. Bringing your team on board and giving them specific responsibilities within this can be beneficial as they will take ownership and feel motivated to achieve the shared goals.

Reviewing and implementing Creating your business plan is important, but you also need to ensure you have the tools and strategies in place to ensure the plan is implemented. Business models should be constantly and regularly reviewed to ensure they remain relevant, and to ensure you are moving along the road from the “now” to the “where”. In a rapidly changing business world, in order to implement plans, you need to ensure you are adaptable and resilient. How well do you react to change? How well do you react when something bad happens?

A resilient business model through scenario planning An effective business model will stress test the business with scenarios that could impact the business and actions to take to ensure the business is resilient and can adapt and remain financially viable in all different situations.

Business photo created by -

"As part of any growth and management process, businesses need to first focus on where they are “now”. This puts a peg in the ground and allows for monitoring on improvement and change. Compile a list of where you are now regarding your key business drivers, but also identify the key issues, challenges, concerns, strengths and opportunities that you face." Scenario planning should run alongside the overall business model and be a key focus when reviewing. Understanding the different scenarios and the options at varying levels of impact, i.e. low, medium and high severity, can help a business remain resilient and reduces a firefighting approach should worst case “what if” scenarios become reality. Businesses who have taken this approach may have fared better in recent times, arming them with clear strategies

when faced with the many uncertainties brought to us by the global pandemic. At Azets, we have found scenario planning extremely effective for our clients over the last 18 months. Our team of trusted business advisors can work with you to review your

If you would like to discuss your current business model with a member of our team who can advise on how to ensure your business model is fit for the future, please get in touch with your local Azets advisor. Eddi Taylor, Partner at Azets (

business and structure and renew your business plan to help mitigate risks and maximise opportunities.

The Accountants and Business Advisory team here to save your precious time.


Get in touch with your local Azets advisors today. #AzetsSMEchampions

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Members News

Surviving Winter Campaign

energy supplier to access the help that’s available.

Kent Community Foundation’s annual Surviving Winter campaign to support the elderly and vulnerable will be more pertinent this year with the growing concerns over fuel price increases Each year Kent Community Foundation launches its Surviving Winter Campaign to raise awareness of the number of avoidable winter deaths amongst the elderly and to ask those who receive a Winter Fuel Payment and do not need it, to donate it to help those who do. This year with the announcement of the rise to the energy price cap, the team at Kent Community Foundation is even more worried that thousands of older people across the county may not turn on their heating this winter. Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive, Kent Community Foundation, said, “The colder winter months are an extremely dangerous time for older people, especially those who live alone.

This year we are very concerned that with the energy price cap increasing many older people across the county will be even more worried about their fuel bills and may not turn their heating on. “As we approach the colder months, we need to stress how important it is for older people to use sufficient heating to keep warm and safe from the many illnesses linked with not keeping warm. It is not widely known that energy suppliers have support packages to ensure the elderly and vulnerable can heat their homes, so if you’re struggling to pay your bill, we would encourage you to get in touch with your

“If just 10% of everyone in the county, who receives the Winter Fuel Payment, were to donate £100 to the Surviving Winter Campaign, we would have a Fund of more than £3 million to help our vulnerable elderly neighbours across the county. Therefore, we are asking those who receive the payment, but don’t rely on it, to donate it to others. But you don’t have to be over 65 to give to this campaign, anyone who wants to give, even a small amount, will be making a significant difference to vulnerable, elderly people in the county and helping to reduce avoidable deaths.” Money donated to the Surviving Winter Campaign will contribute to projects that support elderly and isolated people including lunch clubs and social events to help people stay in touch and keep active, workshops and advice, transport, befriending services, and schemes helping elderly residents with tasks including shopping or gardening. Donations can be made online at surviving-winter

Izzy PR appointed to launch Glow Arts illumination trail at Cobtree Izzy PR is delighted to be working with visual arts and production company Glow Arts, to launch its first illumination trail at Cobtree Manor Park this winter.

The inaugural event from Glow Arts, which specialises in outdoor immersive illumination experiences, will see the Maidstone park transformed into a twinkling, magical wonderland complete with thousands of fairy lights, art installations and inflatables. Izzy PR is supporting with the launch including media outreach, content creation and planning, website copy, design and photography. Headed up by Lisa Carpendale, Glow Arts aims to create an accessible, inclusive event for visitors

of all ages from Kent and beyond. Special sensory sessions will be included for guests who would prefer a more calm, low-key experience.

Lisa comments, “I realised by the middle of the summer that I had to enlist some professional marketing and PR help – to free up my time to organise and build the event. I wanted to find someone local and creative and when I spoke to Sarah, I was sure we were the right fit. “We’ve been very busy in these first few weeks and having Izzy PR with me is great – because they understand what I need and make it effortless! It's been so great having their support and not feeling like I'm doing it all alone.”

Glow Arts at Cobtree Manor Park, Maidstone, runs from 15 – 31 December. Tickets are available via the website:

Brachers advises on Fire Action sale Brachers’ corporate team has advised Paul and Louise Garry on the successful sale of Fire Action to Spy Alarms.

Kent-based Fire Action is one of the largest providers of commercial fire safety and security systems in the south east. The company specialises in the installation and maintenance of high-quality fire safety and security systems. Spy Alarms offers similar services in the south east and has grown rapidly over the past few years through acquisition. Brachers has acted as legal advisors to Fire Action since 2014, when it advised Paul and Louise Garry on the successful buyout of Fire Action’s other founding shareholders. The Brachers team was led by corporate partner, Matthew Simmonds, with support from solicitor Kieron Cummins and employment partner Antonio Fletcher. Matthew and the team advised Paul and Louise throughout the deal, negotiating deal terms and terms of ongoing involvement. Nick Parrett and Joshua Vincent at Azets provided accounting and taxation support. Andrew Shepherd, Rob Rickard and Steve Wadsworth at Entrepreneurs Hub acted as lead advisory. Matthew Simmonds said: “Paul and Louise worked tirelessly to turn Fire Action into the hugely successful business that it is today. I’m so pleased to have helped them achieve a successful sale to a trade buyer who will help the business to continue to flourish.” Paul Garry, owner of Fire Action, said: “It’s been great to have Matt and his team advise us on this important milestone for us and our business. We have a long-term relationship with Brachers and they have an in-depth understanding of our business, so we had no doubt that they would achieve a successful exit for us. “Their legal expertise and commercial acumen have been a great asset to us over the years and Louise and I want to thank them for all their hard work.” Thinking Business


Chamber Awards

Business of the Year Winner: Kent Crisps Finalist: BJF Group

Chamber Business Awards 2020/21

Finalist: Reflect Digital

An evening of celebration

Chamber members joined together to celebrate business success at the Chamber Annual Business Awards Dinner on Thursday 18th November 2021 at the prestigious Westenhanger Castle. The Awards have been a great catalyst to promote excellence in business and showcase the amazing achievements of a range of businesses and talented individuals within the County. The quality and quantity of applicants continues to increase year on year and this year was no exception. The Awards attracted a wide range of entries from across a variety of sectors, but the finalists and winners all have one thing in common, they are truly excellent at what they do and have proved this in their entry.

The Awards were in 9 categories:

Excellence in Customer Service Sponsored by Azets

Business of the Year Sponsored by University of Kent

Family Business of the Year Sponsored by Cantium Business Solutions

Construction Project of the Year Sponsored by RIFT R&D Tax Credits

Innovative Business of the Year Sponsored by Research & Innovation, University of Kent

Employer of the Year Sponsored by Office Angels

Most Promising new Business Sponsored by MidKent College

Entrepreneur of the Year Sponsored by Golding Homes

Success in International Trade Sponsored by Coface UK Services Ltd

Construction Project of the Year Winner: BBS Construction Ltd Finalist: BAM Construction Ltd Finalist: Jenner Group

The Chamber would like to congratulate all this year’s Winners and very worthy Finalists.

Employer of the Year

In addition to our Category sponsors (above) we would also like to thank our Dinner sponsor Kreston Reeves.

Winner: Reflect Digital Finalist: Base Quantum Ltd Finalist: Sleeping Giant Media

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Chamber Awards

Entrepreneur of the Year Winner: Oliver Trailor - Runway Training Finalist: Becky Simms - Reflect Digital Finalist: Laura Bounds - Kent Crisps

Excellence in Customer Service Winner: Select Technology Finalist: DMP-LLP Finalist: Sleeping Giant Media

Family Business of the Year

Innovative Business of the Year

Winner: Devine Direct Labour Limited Finalist: Red Key Concepts Ltd Finalist: Solley's Ice Cream

Winner: Bedfont Scientific Ltd Finalist: Kayo Digital Finalist: Neptune Co-working Hub

Most promising New Business

Success in International Trade

Winner: Kooties Finalist: Infinity Wellness Project Finalist: That Little Marketing Co

Winner: AbBaltis Finalist: Bedfont Scientific Ltd Finalist: Millennium Consulting Thinking Business


Members News

Sustainability Biddenden Vineyards

announces strong sales is the buzzword With the United Nations COP-26 Conference taking place in Glasgow, the word on everyone’s lips is ‘sustainability’ and nowhere more so than in the construction industry.

This sector constitutes one of the key aims of Construction 2025, a joint strategy between industry and government to put Britain at the forefront of global construction. In order for the aspirations of Construction 2025 to be realised, the construction industry must embrace the latest technological advances and developments. Building Information Modelling (BIM) helps design teams to work more collaboratively together on projects, whether the team is in the same office or dotted around the globe, and it’s only through its implementation that more sustainable building can be delivered most effectively. The team at Burns Guthrie & Partners Chartered Architects is passionate about all aspects of sustainability and designing buildings that are compatible with achieving carbon net-zero construction. This has formed the foundations of the company’s designs for many years, and it is always eager to adopt the latest technologies which assist this goal. To fully embrace digital working, Burns Guthrie has completed the implementation of cloud-based systems. The various parties involved in a project can now truly work collaboratively wherever they may be, reducing costs, both financial and environmental. This way of working means they can not only ‘design’ sustainable buildings but ‘work’ more sustainably too.

12 Thinking Business

Having seen three previous vintages with outstanding growing conditions through 2018-2020, the 2021 growing season has certainly come with its challenges for English wine producers. However, for Biddenden, with over 40 vintages under its belt and three generations of winemaking expertise to call upon, it’s been more of a return to the winemaking conditions in the UK that the company is used to – and can most definitely work with.

Throughout 2021, it’s been Biddenden’s unique growing methods, a keen eye and understanding of the importance of plant health and

nutrition, and the ability to react quickly that has paid dividends in producing a crop which sees a good volume of juice now in tank.

Tom Barnes, general manager, said: “Despite being one of the most challenging seasons we have ever seen, I’m excited about all of the wines we have in tank and how they will develop. We’ve seen very strong sales over the past 12 months, with more people wanting to support local producers and explore the quality wines we are producing here in the UK. The first of this year’s wines will be released early in 2022. In the meantime, we are seeing strong support for our Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest

Security training given seal of approval Kent-based Sight & Sound Security provides security services to a diverse range of clients. Recently the company’s training offer was re-approved by Skills for Security and the company is now an accredited provider. Sight & Sound Security created a training package after seeing a clear gap in the security industry.

2018, a dessert wine produced using the sweetest grape ever recorded in the UK, following what can fairly be described as a harvest of a lifetime, which allowed us to produce this very special wine.” Biddenden’s wines are available from the cellar door and online for nationwide home delivery. The company produces around 80,000 bottles of wine each year. For more information visit

A security officer can obtain a licence after only five days of training. The licence is renewable every three years with no additional training requirement unless there are amendments to the legislation. Therefore, officers may receive no further training in security or related skills for many years. Security officers’ duties are many and varied and the security aspect of their jobs may form only a small part of their everyday duties. Other duties often include customer service, facility and tenant management, administration, health and safety, manual handling, and mental health wellbeing, to name only a few.

Ecosan named “Best Newcomer” in UK awards Ecosan Services was thrilled to win the “Best Newcomer” category at this year’s Laundry and Drycleaning Awards (LADAs). Now in its seventh year, the LADAs have become the pinnacle of celebration for the laundry and drycleaning industry in the UK. The awards aim to recognise companies, individuals, services and products which stand out from the crowd, those bringing a new level of customer service and professionalism to the industry and helping it face the challenges of changing society and technology head-on. Ecosan had been shortlisted as finalists in two categories. Having

researched and identified a gap in the market for its services, Ecosan has been working with clients to deliver a fundamentally important eco-driven service that follows best practice by adhering to industry legislation and guidelines. Richard Brown, managing director of Industrial Laundry Equipment – one of the sponsors of the awards – presented Ecosan with the award. Sonja Wood, managing director of Ecosan Services, said: “To reach the finals was amazing but to be announced as a winner was absolutely the icing on the cake for us. For all of our hard work to be acknowledged in our industry is such an achievement for us.

“To know that whilst we are bringing innovation to this sector, we are also contributing to a greener planet and with the spotlight on climate change, this makes all of our efforts worthwhile.”

Ecosan Services offers fully serviced eco-friendly hygiene solutions to all types of businesses across all sectors throughout the south east of England. The company provides tailored solutions to meet client washroom or healthcare setting requirements alongside a wide range of floorcare solutions, and has been servicing every type of business sector with greener solutions for more than fourteen years. For more information visit

Kent woman swaps finance for fairy lights to run Cobtree Manor Winter Illumination Trail in summer 2021 to set up Glow Arts. Experienced in the arts and live events, her first goal was to use her skills to bring back some magic for everyone who missed out on festive events due to restrictions in 2020.

A Kent businesswoman is switching spreadsheets for sparkles, leaving behind her career in finance to launch the first Cobtree Manor Park winter illumination trail this December. Designed to be a magical afterdark experience for young and old, the trail will be the debut event from Rainham-based Lisa Carpendale, founder of immersive illumination events company, Glow Arts. Realising her passion lay in creative production, Lisa left her role in an accounting consultancy

Described as a dazzling, intimate event, the enchanting woodland trail will see Maidstone's Cobtree Manor Park transformed into a twinkling, magical wonderland complete with thousands of fairy lights, art installations and inflatables. Talented street performers will guide visitors through the Fairy Village and Wonderland Walkway, via the fabulous food market serving delicious treats and festive drinks. Special sensory evenings with a smaller capacity will also be on offer for guests who would prefer a toned down event, allowing them to enjoy all the magical attractions but with fewer people and a calmer environment.

InfoTech celebrates further expansion and top service rating Managed Service Provider InfoTech Solutions – a patron of the Kent Invicta Chamber – has announced that its parent company Air IT has made yet another pair of acquisitions, as the Group expands into Reading and Uttoxeter with the addition of MFG UK and INFINITY IT Solutions.

As a result of these acquisitions, the Air IT Group has increased its headcount to 270 staff across the UK – over 200 of whom perform direct service-related roles – and boosted its existing presence both in the South East and the Midlands. The announcement comes at the same time as another big achievement – having joined the Air IT group earlier this year, InfoTech is delighted to

congratulate Air IT on achieving a 4-star 'business-led' certification from the Service Desk Institute. The Service Desk Certification (SDC) is a standards-based accreditation programme, designed to help service desks to improve their processes and maturity level. It provides a framework for teams to demonstrate their commitment to service excellence, best practice and continual improvement.

The certification is usually pursued by in-house service desks and blue-chip companies but Air IT has now made its mark as the only small-to-medium Managed Service Provider (MSP) to currently hold the accolade globally. Jason Foord, Managing Director of InfoTech (part of the Air IT Group), says:  It’s a really exciting time for the Air IT Group as we continue to grow, and we can’t wait to welcome new colleagues from around the UK who

Members News Inclusivity is at the heart of Lisa's plans for the event, as she explains: "It's really important to me that this event is as accessible as possible. My team and I have worked really hard to create a spectacular experience that feels cosy and intimate, rather than overwhelming. "lt's also why, as well as the sensory evenings, we're planning a recce by a wheelchair user to ensure the trail is suitable for disabled users too - real feedback so that if we say it's wheelchair accessible, it definitely is! "There will be so much to see and explore; there really will be something for everyone at the beautiful Cobtree Manor Park - a night under the stars. "Leaving my job in finance was a difficult decision but I'm so excited to be doing something so creative and I know when I see people enjoying the trail, it will all feel worthwhile." Opening on 15th December, Glow Arts at Cobtree Manor Park will run until December 31. To find out more about Glow Arts: will be a great addition. The news of Air IT’s 4-star SDI rating is a truly unique achievement, which shows that joining the Group was a great decision for InfoTech and that we are all focused on the same goal of providing first-class customer service. Paul Rodrigues, Chairman of SDI, said: “Everyone at Air IT should be very proud of what they have achieved, and this outstanding score is a true reflection of their passion and dedication to enabling business value and driving sustainable improvements. The Air IT leadership team and everyone involved in the SDC program should be congratulated on achieving a 4-star business-led accreditation which is a worthy reflection on their commitment and hard work. “It would be amazing to see Air IT continue to develop within the SDC program and potentially attain a 5-star World Class rating at a future audit. We are proud to have Air IT as an SDI customer and to be able to have joined them on this amazing journey, well done to all involved.”

Kreston Reeves crowned ‘Large firm of the year’ for the second year running at Accounting Excellence Awards Accountants, business and financial advisers Kreston Reeves has been named ‘Large Firm of the Year’ at the prestigious annual Accounting Excellence Awards for the second year running.

In giving the award, the judging panel were impressed that Kreston Reeves were a “large firm that clients genuinely love working with”. The judges commended its adoption of sustainable development goals and innovation in its systems and processes and its “exemplary staff strategy”, with “considerable investment in training and wellbeing initiatives”. The firm has a clear strategy defined by its purpose guiding clients, colleagues and communities to a brighter future. Kreston Reeves fought off stiff competition from some of the UK’s largest accountancy firms to win the award, which it has now won in 2020 and 2018. Nigel Fright, Managing Partner at Kreston Reeves, said, “We are thrilled to have won this award again. The award is recognition of all the effort and dedication that everyone at Kreston Reeves continues to make as we work together through the personal, professional and organisational challenges of COVID and Brexit.” Andrew Griggs, Senior Partner at Kreston Reeves, added, “I am immensely proud of how all of our teams have worked together to support and guide their clients, colleagues and communities to a brighter future. It’s important to us all that we really live by our purpose and our values. We believe that it is our culture that really makes Kreston Reeves stand out as a firm to work with, so I’m delighted everyone’s hard work has been recognised in this way.” Visit:

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Members News

Ocean helps clients save time and money

Land Mapping Commission to help prevent “rural sprawl” Concern about growing pressure to build more housing in the Garden of England in Kent has led to Ashford Borough Council setting up an important Land Mapping Commission to help it protect the countryside and to avoid rural and urban sprawl. The Greater Ashford Borough – Environment & Land Mapping Commission has had its inaugural meeting. It has a big job on its hands – the borough of Ashford has the largest land mass of the 12 districts in Kent (224 sq miles), and is so large that you could fit 19 of the 32 Greater London boroughs, including the City of London, within its borders. The commission is the idea of Cllr Gerry Clarkson, executive leader of Ashford Borough Council, who

Ocean Capital Exchange is a London-based, boutique foreign exchange (FX) brokerage. Founded in Daniel Swaisland’s living room in 2017 as a one-man-band, now an intimate team of four of us are based in the prestigious Leadenhall Building in the heart of the city.

We also endeavour to procure a more rounded banking solution by sourcing for our clients a tailored, flexible finance facility in partnership with any one of our vast network of broker and lender partners.

14 Thinking Business

“Unfortunately, government has concentrated on the lower tier authorities to provide the vast bulk of the housing delivery without themselves embracing a more strategic approach. “The creation of two or three Garden Cities with several thousand homes in each, accompanied by the necessary infrastructure and employment opportunities, perhaps in the Midlands and the North of England, would contribute greatly to the nation’s housing need and ease the

The commission will undertake an independent land mapping exercise that will inform the council in shaping future strategies. It will pool the knowledge and expertise of its members in assessing the evidence given to strategically map out the Greater Ashford Borough. It will recognise that there’s a need to identify suitable locations for well-designed housing, to meet the growing population and to create economic growth to support local communities. The commission will endeavour to determine future uses of broad areas of land, in such a way that ensures that rural villages are protected from becoming merged into suburbs of Ashford or “rural sprawl”. This work will go on right in the heart of the Garden of England, where the borough is located.

Fall in trade will hit UK SMEs forced to shun EU exporting, warns tax expert months to August 2021 decreased by £1.2 billion (1.5%).

Lucy Sutcliffe, National Customs Director and Head of Customs at Azets, the UK’s largest regional accountancy firm and business advisor to SMEs, with offices throughout the South East including in Kent, believes the fall in trade between the UK and EU is a result of a failure to support EU exporters.

We have recently opened our second office in Valencia, Spain to coincide with the expansion of our international property affiliate network. We specialise in saving our corporate and private clients time and money on their FX and international payments. Our strategically selected partnerships with multinational payments institutions, and tier 1 banks by association, allow us access to the best products and services the payments industry has to offer. Our ability to buy foreign currencies at wholesale, institutional rates means that we can easily pass savings onto our clients.

said: “We have for many decades based our housing and economic growth on an Ashford Plan-led approach which, combined with other districts in Kent, has contributed significantly to the scale of housing delivery in the UK.

quite serious growing pressure on many districts in the south.”

A fall in trade between the UK and EU shows UK SMEs are shunning EU exports, a leading tax expert is warning. Latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows a second consecutive monthly fall in trade, with the effects of Brexit and the global pandemic resulting in the total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, falling by £1.3 billion (4.6%) in August 2021. This was in part due to a £0.6 billion (4.3%) fall in exports to the EU. Total exports of goods, excluding precious metals, in the three

She said: “Small UK businesses have been completely overwhelmed by bureaucracy and the additional time and cost it takes to trade across Europe. New duties, border delays and transport costs are pushing UK SMEs into rethinking trade with the EU. “The UK’s focus has been on facilitating and streamlining the importation process and easing the associated documentary demands. It has not focused on assisting exporters. “The temporary customs easements implemented by the UK since Brexit, such as deferred declarations, extensions

to the UKCA safety marking of products, product labelling. and the numerous health certification requirements, are not reciprocated by the EU. This means UK exporters to the EU have been faced with extra documentary and tariff burdens from day one.”

Lucy Sutcliffe is urging UK businesses to prepare for new border processes when the extensions and deferral period ends. She added: “UK businesses importing products from the EU should be ready to comply with the UK’s new border processes. Businesses should make sure they maintain good communication with suppliers and ensure that all relevant paperwork is provided in a timely manner to avoid delays at the frontiers. “VAT registered businesses should consider using postponed VAT accounting to avoid having to pay Import VAT at the frontier and become aware of all the special duty reliefs that can defer or exempt them from customs duty. These measures will help cash flow and ease the bureaucratic burden.”

Steve Nicoll,

Director & Business Excellence Coach, The Lean Orange

Putting the Green into Lean

COP 26 has brought sustainability to the forefront of people’s minds and businesses now really need to focus on reducing their environmental impact. “Thinking Green” is no longer optional and cannot be ignored. Lean thinking in its truest form focuses on efficiency by reducing waste and costs to improve output and financial results. However, attempts to implement it often fail due to poor communication. To achieve long-term sustainable improvements with lean, the objective must be communicated effectively, creating a clear, shared purpose that speaks to everyone within the organisation. Lean implementation is quite often presented as a business toolset and not a mindset. It is something the bosses tell us we must do, often with little or no explanation so it is little wonder that some people just don’t buy into it. Resistance can occur if we don't have understanding and emotional attachment to the cause we are being asked to support. People are naturally wary of change and reluctant to move out of their comfort zone. A company trying to implement improvements through lean may face suspicion from employees who might assume that the goal is to cut costs and improve profits that will only benefit the people at the top. They may ask “why should I bother; what’s in it for me?” For anything to succeed, people need to be passionate and inspired and this only happens when they understand the “why?” Fortunately, when the “why” is protecting the environment, it speaks to everyone. People already understand the importance of reducing their impact and

it is likely they will already have made positive changes at home because they are passionate about it. It is very likely that you’ll experience little resistance from people when you begin to communicate your plans for a lean green strategy, in fact it’s likely they’ll be queuing up to be part of it.

• Cost savings: Energy-efficient lighting, reducing water usage and cutting down on waste disposal can substantially reduce your long-term costs.

What are the benefits of combining green and lean?

• Increased productivity.

If we consider our environmental impact when making all business decisions, and then use the principles of lean thinking to propel them forward, we quickly discover that there is a natural synergy between green and lean thinking. Put simply, when we reduce our impact on the environment, we also save money, improve profitability, and enhance competitiveness. It’s a win-win! Customers are looking for sustainable products, services and partners that share their commitment to sustainability. By adopting green thinking you gain a substantial leg-up with your customers (while boosting your moral compass).

• Improved people engagement, morale, loyalty, and retention.

• You will attract like-minded potential employees and investors. • Happy shareholders. • Enhanced brand image. • You will be better positioned to meet any future climate regulation changes. At the close of COP26, Michelle Scrimgeour, co-chair of the event’s Business Leaders Group said, “Inaction is not an option” so if you want your organisation to become leaner and greener but are unsure where to start, why not contact The Lean Orange to see how we can help you? or call 07976 608521

While attracting more customers is one benefit of adopting a green, lean way of thinking, it isn’t the only one. Here are some additional advantages of becoming more sustainable in your operations:


Thinking Business


The value builder

The Big Interview

There are many challenges involved in running a company but perhaps the biggest one is to build value within the business. Jason Rainbird has made a career out of helping companies to achieve just that. Jason is the founder and director of Flowbird, a customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation agency, and his primary aim is to help clients develop, grow and maintain their existing customer base by using the information they have at their disposal. He says: “Customer information is held in numerous systems, including CRM, accounting/ enterprise resource planning (ERP) and e-commerce platforms. Many companies that invest in these systems don’t know how to get full value from them to improve business processes, sales and profitability. “Quite often managers are so engrossed in their day jobs that they overlook fundamental questions, such as: do we have a customer retention strategy? Most of us are aware that obtaining a new customer is far more expensive than retaining existing customers, yet little thought is put into the process of customer retention. It’s estimated that around two thirds of customers will switch to a new supplier because of a perceived lack of appreciation. “The most important asset in any business is the customer. With a CRM system in place, managers and staff can monitor all of the interactions with every customer, and find out

who said what and when. This is vital to ensure that customers are kept happy and nobody drops the ball.” Rather than just considering the growth prospects of its customers, Flowbird looks at their business from the point of view of a prospective buyer. The basic premise is that if they want to sell their business, or transition it to a new generation of managers, is it in good enough shape to tempt a buyer? Jason says: “We ask our customers whether their business could thrive without them if they left today. Are the right processes in place? Are they able to delegate with confidence? Our Value Builder tool helps them to address these issues.” Value Builder is a 12-point test that enables businesses to check if they’re doing things in the right way. Customers receive a score on eight key indicators that drive their company’s value, as well as a comprehensive analysis of their score and a detailed action plan for how to improve their score on each indicator. This enables them to diagnose what may be holding them back from creating a company that can thrive without them. It also allows them to identify potential threats that could drag down the value of the business, see how a

potential buyer would evaluate their business, and to pinpoint the most valuable parts of the business so they can invest more resources in areas likely to be most attractive to a potential acquirer or investor. “Our motto is: learn to love your business again,” says Jason. “That’s our message to our customers. We want them to enjoy running their business and to do that they need to see value in it. Our Value Builder helps them in that respect.” Born in Kingston upon Thames, Jason grew up in a children’s home and “loved every minute of it”. After college, he moved into sales and started selling weighbridges for a firm in Scotland. “They had a CRM platform along with the weighbridges,” recalls Jason. “The guy who was selling the CRM software left so I took on his role.” As his career progressed, Jason sold various other CRM systems and helped firms to integrate them within their business, often training staff on how to get the best out of them. He launched Flowbird in 2013 and now the company, which has 12 staff, is one of the fastest-growing firms in its sector. Jason says: “COVID-19 actually helped us because companies had time to start focusing on streamlining their internal processes. Now, though, we’re seeing the effects of Brexit on customer supply chains. A couple of our customers almost shut their business because they couldn’t buy stock. Buying and selling stuff has been made much harder so we’ve had to adapt. “We’re looking at the British market where buying and selling isn’t a problem. We’re also looking at niche markets, such as leisure and furniture, where people are still buying and selling lots of goods. Companies who operate in these markets need a good CRM to manage and monitor orders. “In future we’d like to win more business locally, so being a Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce member will help in that regard.”

We ask our customers whether their business could thrive without them if they left today. Are the right processes in place? Are they able to delegate with confidence? Our Value Builder tool helps them to address these issues. 16 Thinking Business

The Big Interview

INSIDE STORY: Jason Rainbird Favourite food? Gambian Peanut Stew – mainly because it’s a dish I can cook and people really like it. Favourite tipple? I gave up alcohol when I had COVID, probably because of the taste, and I haven’t gone back! I mainly drink water now. Before that, my go-to drink was probably gin & tonic.

Favourite holiday? For the last 25 years we’ve been going away in our caravan. However, a couple of years ago we sold the caravan and decided to try something else – various hotels and even a cruise! But I missed caravanning so we purchased another one and are using my wife’s Mini to tow it. Describe your family life? Both children have left home so family life is me, my wife and Dexter the Yorkshire Terrier. How do you spend your downtime? Walking the dog and going to the gym three times a week. Apart from that, work! What are your key strengths as a manager? An ability to motivate and retain a very relaxed attitude. I’m a great believer in giving people as much autonomy as possible. And your limitations? Technically this would be coding. Also, I’m not as good a salesperson as I’d first thought! Best thing about doing business in the borough? From a business perspective, we have very few customers in the immediate area, which is a pity. Through our links with the Chamber, we hope to change this. Famous person you’d most like to spend dinner with? Carol Dweck – she wrote the book Mindset which fundamentally changed me and how I treat other people. I think it should be part of the school curriculum. Most interesting fact about yourself? I spent most of my childhood in a children’s home and was homeless at the age of 18. Thinking Business


Bowden PR announces new client Bowden PR is delighted to be working on the PR strategy for Fashion Brand Prodigal Fox

pieces for their ready to wear collection which is available online at

Based in Sheffield, Prodigal Fox is a luxury ready to wear and bespoke fashion brand run by entrepreneurs Emma Deeks and Jackie Woolhouse.

Emma and Jackie also offer a bespoke subscription service which allows subscribers to have an online style appointment and agree on two handmade items each month.

Tired of the damage to the environment that fast fashion causes, Prodigal Fox has a team of inhouse seamstresses who make a limited number of beautiful

For more information visit

Meet Canterbury marketing agency Brandspace Media! As new members, we thought we’d say hello and introduce ourselves.

Brandspace Media helps businesses raise their reputation and profile using a strategic approach to bring brands to life, both on and offline. We are committed to providing powerful marketing communications that are responsive, cost-effective and gets results. We successfully launch new brands, invigorate old brands and are the team that organisations trust to take care of their marketing. Clients often come to us thinking they need marketing because they want more clients but often, we get them to take a step back and look at their overall brand image first as this is the foundation of any business. There is no point driving traffic to a poor website that disappoints a potential customer or a weak brand identity that doesn’t give the client confidence.

We, therefore, guide our clients to ensure their brand is consistent and then help them to market to their ideal customers to grow their business. The Brandspace team comprises multi-skilled graphic designers, web developers and PR and digital marketing experts with experience in all aspects of branding and marketing communications from brand identity to annual reports, design for print, advertising, public relations, event graphics, social media management, website design and digital marketing. Our B2B and B2C clients range from small start-ups to SMEs, corporates, charities and the public sector in markets including financial services, logistics, software, wellbeing, retail, construction, engineering, travel, and manufacturing. For more information visit


Blue Strawberry Can Help Your Health and Wellbeing This past year we’ve learned more than ever the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Moreover, business owners had to take a step back and reanalyse their business plans and strategies and how they treat and connect with their employees. Because if there is one thing every modern employer knows, their employees are the backbone and heart of their business. And for a company to thrive, you need healthy and happy employees!

Why does mental health matter in the workplace?

According to the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, better health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year. However, a Business in the Community (BITC) study showed that 77% of employees experienced symptoms of poor mental health, and 15% of employees who chose to talk openly about their mental health issues faced dismissal, disciplinary action, or demotion. In other words, business owners who want to achieve the best productivity and results need to care about their employees and invest in their health and wellbeing. Employees perform better in a stress-free environment where their work is valued, and their creativity is appreciated. Therefore, mental health shouldn’t be a perk but a prerequisite if you’re aiming for performance, and profit. Employers can help by providing their team with the tools to help with routine tasks, accelerate processes, allowing more time to focus on creativity, and mental health and wellbeing. Blue Strawberry is just the tool you need if you want to offer your employees the most precious gift of all: time!

How can Blue Strawberry help your mental health and wellbeing?

Blue Strawberry is an Ai tool designed to automatize social media post creation and build relevant online social media presence. Business owners have discovered the importance of social media posts for increased sales. Blue Strawberry can create and post social media posts for campaigns that can last 18 months based on one blog article or YouTube video. It can also create a campaign based on a YouTube video and create relevant hashtags to reach a broad target audience and increase traffic. You can save hundreds of hours. Instead, you or your employees can allocate hours to more creative and challenging tasks or simply to activities that matter for mental health and wellbeing, such as relaxing, exercising, socializing, or playing a game in the activity room. Thinking Business



COP 26 Aftermath a call to business action At Ensure Environmental Consulting Ltd, we are helping clients move through the maze of the Energy Transition and development of truly sustainable business. So now COP26 has ended, the hard work starts to deliver change and a legacy from the UK’s presidency. We need to convert the ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ into action. What we know is that Climate Change is already affecting our weather patterns and that the global response is going to influence how we do business going forward, whatever size of business we operate. For those of us in the South-East, there are a number of initiatives and changes in the pipeline that need to be considered and some are identified below:

UK Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings Strategy The UK Government recently published its full Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings Strategy. The Net Zero 2050 master plan was underpinned by billions of pounds to support green innovation and decarbonisation across the power, transport and heat sectors. This presents real opportunities for decarbonisation. Locally this includes development of commercial scale heat recovery from the

old Kent Coalfields and projects such as the UK’s biggest river water heat exchanger on the Medway, the development of new Green Waste and Biomass Recovery systems near Dartford and ground source heat exchangers for rural properties currently heated by oil. When combined, these decarbonisation opportunities give the County the potential to lead the push for a more sustainable future.

Finance Sector Commitments The IFRS Foundation announced the consolidation of The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB) and the Value Reporting Foundation (VRF) by June 2022, to create a new International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). This will create one comprehensive global baseline of high-quality disclosure standards to meet investors information needs. In addition, they also published prototype climate and general disclosure requirements. The adoption of the ISSB will help streamline this process compared to the existing situation with many competing standards, as implementation of Reporting Standards is becoming mainstream. At Ensure we are already looking at the changes this brings to how clients will report to meet Investor requirements.

The UK to be the Worlds First Net Zero Financial Centre In parallel with the ISSB announcement, the UK Chancellor announced plans to make the UK’s financial centre aligned to net-zero. Under the proposals, there will be requirements for UK financial institutions and listed companies to publish net-zero transition plans detailing how they will adapt and decarbonise towards a netzero economy by 2050. At Ensure, we are already seeing Clients pushing forward with ESG and TCFD/ISSB aligned reporting, but increasingly we find that Lenders and Investors are seeking real and demonstrable movement towards net zero by smaller companies. This pressure is cascading down supply chains in all sectors, as financial institutions will only fund or invest in companies and projects that demonstrate a Sustainable outcome.

We will be judged for our Set as a half page – don’tnot use image as he iswords. sending a different one and action and our

If you require further information, please contact: Henry Lang Director • 07772 096744 • Ensure Environmental Consulting Ltd • •

Members News

The East Kent Apprenticeship Awards are back for 2022! Do you know an apprentice that has gone above and beyond this year?

As 2022 fast approaches, the nomination process for the fourth East Kent Apprenticeships Awards opens for all East Kent businesses to put forward their best apprentice. EKAA 2022 returns to seek out exceptional apprentices and the East Kent businesses who are helping them pave their way into the world of work. Organised by Kent marketing agency Pillory Barn and in partnership with the EKC Group, the awards ceremony returns at a gala evening in 2022 after the in-person event had to be cancelled in 2021 due to COVID restrictions.

workplace as well as in education are simply invaluable, and often push candidates to be ahead of others in their field when pursuing career options in the future.” The award categories are: • Health, Social Care & Science • Education & Early Years • Hair & Beauty • Hospitality & Retail • Business Management & Administration • Construction • Engineering • Creative & Digital

Also returning are two categories which focus on public and private sector businesses and organisations that go the extra mile to offer high quality apprenticeships and champion them as a pathway into employment. The ‘East Kent Apprenticeship Champion of the Year’ award celebrates an individual who has acted as East Kent’s best ambassador for apprenticeships, going above and beyond to promote these opportunities to a wider audience. Finally, carrying over from last year, the ‘Apprenticeship Champion of COVID-19’ category remains to celebrate those apprentices who have shown adaptability and made a real difference over the past year, despite tricky circumstances during the pandemic. For more information visit

Tom Ackrill, business development manager at award sponsor ITL Group, said: “Apprenticeships are something that I hold dear, having been one myself at the start of my career. The skills gained not just academically but socially and professionally from being in the

The brainchild of We Do Social Media’s Elle Cloke, 24, The Social Media Gym will shake up the way businesses develop their social media strategies and grow networks. With access to gym kit containing a host of resources, access to personal trainers and challenges to keep

cyber-ready? What would happen if your business was hit by a cyberattack? It doesn’t matter what kind of attack it is. Let’s say you’ve noticed some software on your network that you didn’t put there. What would you do?

If your first reaction would be panic, you’re not alone. If the panic is because you don’t have a cyber-attack plan, you’ve got a problem. Around two thirds (67%) of small and medium-sized businesses have experienced a cyber-attack of some form. That means if you haven’t already, you will at some point. It’s not enough to rely on defence. No security will protect you from 100% of attacks. You also need a resilience plan to ensure that any successful attack causes minimal damage, downtime, and costs your business less.

Businesses invited to workout at The Social Media Gym Launching across Kent, The Social Media Gym will give your social media strategy a full workout, trim off excess fat from your brand messaging and posts, set business goals and get your business fit for an increased level of exposure.

Is your business

you focused, The Social Media Gym is the new way to get your business in the right shape to gain more exposure though social media.

Joining Elle Cloke in The Gym are a group of experienced personal trainers who will guide and offer advice and support to members. The personal trainers will cover topics including social media, Facebook ads, SEO, graphic design, brand photography, business support, PR, wellbeing and mindset. The Social Media Gym is a comprehensive subscription

package that begins with an induction and then offers you the right classes, exercise, challenges and personal training sessions to get your organisation’s social media into the best shape. For more information visit

There are five areas I recommend you cover in your plan: • Identify: know what parts of your infrastructure are critical to keep your business running • Protect: limit any threat against the most vital parts • Detect: employ constant monitoring to detect any threat immediately • Respond: who you need to report a potential breach to and what actions they will take • Recover: the steps to restore your business and its data to normal functionality If you haven’t got a plan, this should be a priority. Can my team and I help you pull it together? It’s always easier to get the experts involved in a specialist area. TCS Computer Services can be contacted at:

Thinking Business


Members News

Celebrating 20 years of Educational Recruitment Excellence

Three R’s Teacher Recruitment, the leading primary and secondary teacher recruitment agency based in Ashford, Kent, is marking 20 years in business this month. Business Development Manager Rebecca Parkhouse said, “It’s so exciting to celebrate two decades of supporting teachers, schools and trusts. Over the years we have helped thousands of teachers to find employment, and hundreds of schools to find the excellent staff they need. We love what we do, and we look forward to many more years of rewarding and exciting opportunities, in partnership with Kent’s incredible schools and teachers.” Three R’s operate from five offices across Kent to offer local support to teachers and schools. They also have Consultants that travel all over Kent visiting schools and registering teachers. The Three R’s mascot, Reggie, is a big part of the team and enjoys visiting events, where he is always a huge hit with staff and pupils alike. The agency prides itself on partnership working and community involvement and is a long-standing supporter of the Kent Teacher of the Year Awards, along with Young Cooks and Buster’s Book Club. Rebecca continued, “We have a strong relationship with the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) Education Division and have been audited since 2002. We always strive to work to the highest possible standards at all times, in all aspects of what we do. “After the challenges of the last 18 months, the team is stronger than ever. We have a great structure, and we are the most organised we have ever been! “The care of our teachers and schools is always forefront of our mind and the pleasure we get from our job is helping our schools and teachers to the best of our ability. “We have loved every minute of working with Kent Schools and look forward to the next 20 years, whatever challenges and opportunities they have to offer. We’re ready!”

22 Thinking Business

Brachers advises Gallagher Group on acquisition Brachers’ Corporate, Property and Employment teams have advised Kent-based Gallagher Group on its acquisition of ready-mix concrete plants from Cemex UK.

Gallagher Group is a leading regional building, civil engineering, aggregates, and property development business based in Kent. The company has been delivering its unique mix of complementary services for over 45 years, with a focus on quality and creativity alongside a commitment to protecting and improving the environment. The deal is Gallagher Group’s first external acquisition, after almost 50 years of organic growth. It will take the group’s total number of concrete plants from two to six, with new facilities in Tunbridge Wells, Sittingbourne, Margate, and Dover. This will double the business’ annual production capacity and extend its ready-mix supply network right across Kent. As well as improving provision of services, the deal will also create job opportunities in the county, with new driver, supervisory and management roles being created. This is in

addition to the retention of all staff at the new sites. James Bullock, Head of Corporate, led the multidiscipline deal team at Brachers. James was supported by Property Partner Ash Jilani and Property Associate Ben Gallafant, together with Commercial Partner Alex Cosgrove, Corporate solicitor Alistair Wickham, and Employment Partner Antonio Fletcher. James Bullock said: “This is a great acquisition for the Gallagher Group, well established as a leader in construction in Kent and the South East for almost 50 years. The addition of the new plants will not only give them blanket coverage in Kent, but has real benefit to the local community with the creation of new employment opportunities. Congratulations to Pat Gallagher and the Gallagher family, and to Lance Taylor, Sean Connor and all of the group’s management team, who I’m sure will continue to lead the business from strength to strength.”

Koni Nyirenda, a Trainee Solicitor with experience in the firm’s Vulnerable client team, explained: “Conservators are appointed by US Courts when an individual is

Sean Connor, Managing Director of Gallagher Aggregates, said: “We’re responding to our customers’ needs by investing in enhancing our capacity in the market. More sites means wider coverage, complementing our county-wide ability to offer aggregates, recycling, and muck away, and allows ready-mix customers right across Kent to benefit from our outstanding value and commitment to great service.” For more information visit

Lance Taylor, CEO of Gallagher

Could Britney Spears’ conservatorship saga happen in England?

After a decade of struggle and a longrunning, high profile legal battle, Britney Spears’ father – Jamie Spears – was suspended as her conservator. Britney’s conservatorship has sparked calls for reform across the USA and led many in this country to ask whether Mr Spears’ alleged misuse of courtsanctioned power could have taken place in the UK.

Group, said: “Having a team of trusted legal advisors is critical when dealing with an important transaction such as this. James and his team were on hand at all stages, with expert legal advice and support to ensure the deal went smoothly. We required advice on a number of different legal issues and the collaboration between the lawyers in our team was seamless and efficient.”

no longer capable of managing their own affairs due to their mental capacity, age, or physical disability. “In the UK, the closest equivalent system is that of ‘deputyship’. In this system, ‘deputies’ are appointed by the Court of Protection to make decisions on behalf of the individual who lacks capacity. Similar to the system of conservatorship, deputies can be appointed in two areas. The first, and most common type, covers property and financial affairs. The second, and much rarer type, involves personal welfare deputies who are appointed to make decisions about medical treatment and care. “While conservatorship (also called guardianship) and deputyship may sound similar,

there are clear differences. In the UK the system is administered by The Office of the Public Guardian, which administers decisions made by the Court of Protection. Deputies’ powers are limited both in terms of what they can do and how long they are required, and specific limits can be specified by the Court of Protection, such as on how much they can spend. The court can also cancel a deputy’s appointment at any time if it decides the appointment is no longer in the best interests of the person who lacks capacity. “In the UK, the deputyship system acts as a well-regulated failsafe that ensures that where a lasting power of attorney (LPA) has not been put in place an individual’s affairs can be managed by someone else. Preparing an LPA in advance of a loss of capacity can save time, money and stress, and ensures the individual’s wishes are followed once they can no longer make decisions for themselves.” Visit:

Develop and embed a sustainable wellbeing culture Infinity Wellness - Workplace Wellbeing Specialists Infinity Wellness will work with you and your employees to design and deliver a wellbeing strategy that will create and embed long-term wellbeing cultural change. We will work with you to curate a bespoke programme, using a tried and tested process:

Or follow one of our researched workshops: • Workplace Mindfulness • Leadership Edge • Being Human • Infinity Wellness Wellbeing Workout


Together, we will review your current wellbeing culture and strategy.


Working collaboratively, to create the right wellbeing strategy for your business.


Implement a wellbeing plan, always measuring and adjusting as it unfolds.

Get in touch to find out more

Tel: 07712 420441 | |

Discounts worth £100s

Partner with Benenden Hospital We’ll work with you to provide quick access to over 250 self-pay treatments and services at a discounted rate for the people you care about. Our CQC rated Outstanding hospital has a clean, infection free environment, modern, private rooms, experienced caring staff and 98% patient satisfaction rates.

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Health and Wellbeing

Cover Feature

Benenden offers safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care Founded in 1907 as a mutual organisation to help others, Benenden Hospital was originally a sanatorium for Post Office workers suffering from tuberculosis (TB). It started with Charles Garland, a Post Office clerk, who was appalled at the plight of his many colleagues who were contracting and dying from TB. Benenden, near Cranbrook, located in the High Weald of Kent, was chosen because of its rural location in the beautiful open countryside, a location adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It was ideal for TB patients for whom it was thought fresh, clean air and bed rest were key to their recovery. With cases of TB declining, the Benenden Healthcare Society expanded treatment to include chest conditions, shortly afterwards building an operating theatre, surgical wards and an x-ray department. The Society evolved into Benenden Health, offering a range of discretionary healthcare and well-being services to members. Whilst Benenden Hospital continued to provide quality care for Benenden Health members, in 2006 it also opened its doors to NHS patients. As part of its redevelopment in 2017, Benenden Hospital now has a light and bright atrium, all newly built clinical areas including Out-patients and theatres, new CT, MRI and diagnostic imaging facilities, a dedicated eye unit and a new physiotherapy suite. Today Benenden Hospital is a private hospital, which continues the principle of providing a first-class treatment for a wide range of specialities. The hospital provides treatment to patients whether they are self-pay, privately insured, are referred through the NHS or are Benenden Health members.

We work in partnership with businesses to help employees find the road to better health. By partnering with us, your members or employees can take advantage of generous discounts on our range of over 250 self-pay treatments and services, including: Cataract surgery and treatments

We are the number one provider of private cataract surgery in Kent and Sussex (based on independent reporting by PHIN, the Private Healthcare Information Network) and one of the biggest providers of eye treatments in the South East of England.

Weight loss procedures

We are the number one provider in Kent and Sussex for private gastric sleeve (gastrectomy) surgery (based on PHIN independent reporting). We offer gastric band, gastric sleeve, gastric balloon and gastric bypass surgery. There are many benefits to partnering with us: • There is no cost to your organisation – all treatment costs are covered by the employee/member

Diagnostic services

• It is easy to administer – you agree to promote our discounts via your usual channels of communication, and we will support you with our promotional toolkit

Hip and knee surgery

• Your employees/members save money – with discounts worth £100s

Health concerns can be worrying, especially right now. Our specialist diagnostics suite provides a safe and comfortable environment for tests and scans, producing quick results. We are one of the leading centres in the South East for private hip and knee replacement, so we can help your employees/members get moving again with our rapid recovery programme in a safe and comfortable environment. Your employees/members may even be able to benefit from tailored individual anaesthetic and pain control, thanks to local anaesthetic techniques such as a PENG Block, at the end of hip replacement surgery. This means they are less likely to need strong pain relief after their operation. Private GP service

Our private GP service offers 25-minute face to face appointments during the week and on Saturdays. Access on-site diagnostics, quick referrals and our in-house pharmacy, all in a safe and comfortable environment.

• Your employees/members can get back on the road to recovery – treatment can be booked at a time to suit them

Benenden Hospital is the only private hospital in Kent to be rated “Outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent regulator who ensures that health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care. Not only does the hospital benefit from numerous awards, it boasts high levels of patient satisfaction with more than 98% saying they would recommend the hospital to family and friends. Patients remain at the heart of Benenden Hospital. They are cared for by kind, compassionate and talented people of the highest calibre. Many of whom have considerable clinical experience from working in the NHS and the healthcare sector. Continuous programmes are in place ensuring that our staff continue to provide excellence in care. Thinking Business


Health and Wellbeing

Protect your health and wellbeing

The last 18 months have been testing, to say the least. The COVID pandemic has changed the way we communicate, do business and live. Naturally, by causing so much upheaval, it has had a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of many people. 26 Thinking Business

Cover Feature

You are important to us as an individual and we believe that every person should have the best quality of life possible. Therefore, we are at the forefront of technological advancements within our field and constantly investing in life-changing applications. Kent based neuroscientist, Dr Julia Jones, has been helping people to protect their wellbeing and is at the centre of a new smart wellness movement. Based on the latest longevity science, it is designed to help people stay well for longer into old age. She set up her first smart wellness centre and biohacking lab in Evegate near Ashford in 2021. From here her start-up, Neuron Wellness, beams live coaching sessions and keynote speeches worldwide to a growing list of employers, sports stars and TV celebrities.

The smart wellness phenomenon has rapidly evolved over the past 18 months, driven by the marriage of neuroscience and tech start-ups, and the realisation that five decades of diet and fitness trends have failed to produce healthy nations. Julia Jones says her smart wellness programme is effective because it directly targets our underlying ancient biology just by adopting tiny habits into our daily routines and does not rely on the flawed models of diets and gym memberships.

She has been selling the programme to businesses as a tool to help them promote wellbeing among their workforce, and it’s available to individuals via her website: The inhabitants of her local village, Smeeth, are also benefiting from her research. Many have been invited to take part in a project to reverse their biological age by making these small changes to their daily routine. The results will be published in the third book in her health trilogy in 2022.Julia says interest in her programmes and coaching sessions has rocketed since the pandemic and she’s looking forward to touring with the “smart wellness experience” as a live show in 2022.

During these challenging times, it pays to look after each other. An estimated one in nine people in East Kent is a carer, looking after a relative or friend who cannot manage without their support. They may not think of themselves as carers; it’s just what they do for a partner, child, parent, sibling or friend who needs their help. Because many carers combine their caring responsibilities with working, it’s likely that you have carers in your workforce.

Being a carer can be rewarding, but it can be challenging at times too. The pandemic has significantly increased the stress on carers and many find they don’t have time to look after their own health and social needs.Breaks from caring responsibilities can be a lifeline, but many carers struggle to get any time for themselves. Carers’ Support East Kent says more than six in ten (64%) of carers had no breaks at all during the pandemic and 78% say they don’t get the breaks they need. The organisation said: “As carers, everything we do revolves around the needs of the person we care for. It would be amazing to just feel yourself for a little while.” Can your company help a carer to get a much-needed break by donating to Carers’ Support East Kent’s Time for Me Appeal? Please donate what you can. You’ll be helping Carers to get a little me-time to do the everyday things that you might take for granted. For more information visit uk/time-for-me-appeal. Good physical health can also improve your mental wellbeing, so it’s worth taking time out to have a relaxing spa or massage once in a while. There are plenty of companies in Kent who can help with this, including Restoring Health. Each treatment that the company provides is tailormade to your needs using a combination of sports and remedial massage techniques, Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF) and bespoke exercise prescription to improve musculoskeletal alignment, ensuring a range of responses from relaxation through to postural correction and pain management.

The company says: “You are important to us as an individual and we believe that every person should have the best quality of life possible. Therefore, we are at the forefront of technological advancements within our field and constantly investing in lifechanging applications. “We are dedicated to providing you with excellent value treatment and collaborating with like-minded professionals that offer a range of services for your wellbeing Journey. “Our most recent expansion includes the current development of a range of CDB products specific to our profession, as well as a High Intensity PEMF device that has passed the UK Medical CE Certification. There are currently only a handful of these operating in a clinical setting within the UK. The recent COVID-19 lockdowns have afforded us the opportunity to refurbish our beautiful Georgian House Building in Chart Sutton. Chamber members are most welcome to join us for a coffee and share their personal business journey with us.” For more information visit:

Thinking Business


Health and Wellbeing

LycaHealth invests in KIMS Hospital LycaHealth has confirmed it is investing more than £140 million to grow its business in the UK.

The figure, which will be spent over the next five years, will primarily be invested in the south east, where LycaHealth will add the largest independent hospital in Kent – KIMS Hospital – and its associated medical centre in Sevenoaks to its medical centres already operating in London. This is part of LycaHealth’s commitment to bringing high-quality, accessible health services to local communities in the UK.

The investment from LycaHealth comes seven years after KIMS Hospital opened its doors to patients in Maidstone and follows the acquisition of Sevenoaks Medical Centre by the hospital in 2020. KIMS Hospital’s focus remains to provide safe, outstanding quality care for people across Kent. This investment will support KIMS Hospital’s ambition to expand its services and accessibility to the local community in Kent and the adjoining areas. In collaboration with LycaHealth, the hospital will be able to combine the knowledge of its dedicated medical staff with the latest technologies to meet the growing demand for fast access to diagnostics and treatments. Over the coming years, LycaHealth will be investing in upgrading KIMS hospital technology and facilities

for existing and future enhanced services, including supporting the growth of cancer care, treatment and recovery facilities. For LycaHealth – which already has state-of-the-art centres in Canary Wharf and Orpington, including its recently opened breast and screening diagnostic centres – this investment is testament to the company’s commitment to increase its healthcare portfolio in the UK, and ensure patients have access to highquality medical care. Prema Subaskaran, LycaHealth chairperson, said: “At LycaHealth, we strongly believe that if we’re to give people access to truly high-quality and rapid medical care in the UK, then the private sector should work hand-in-hand with the NHS. Our investment in KIMS hospital is a step towards us achieving our long-term

I’m delighted that LycaHealth is investing in KIMS Hospital and our medical centre in Sevenoaks. *Eligibility criteria applies

goal to provide a complete pathway from diagnosis through to treatment and aftercare for those patients who require it. Working with the KIMS team, we’ll be able to improve access to tech and strengthen the facilities on offer that ultimately improve each patient’s individual route to care, providing the best affordable healthcare for the local community.” Simon James, CEO of KIMS Hospital, said: “I’m delighted that LycaHealth is investing in KIMS Hospital and our medical centre in Sevenoaks. LycaHealth’s investment comes at a time when demand for healthcare, both NHS and private, continues to grow. With the support and backing of LycaHealth, we have an excellent opportunity to build on our success to date. As the largest independent hospital in Kent, we play a critical role supporting the local community, both as a provider of outstanding healthcare and as a local employer, with more than 400 employees. In partnership with LycaHealth, we have a fantastic opportunity to expand our healthcare provision across Kent, meeting the needs of local people.”

Are you a small business - Less than 50 employees OR Less than £10 Million Turnover, a Sole Trader or Not for Profit organisation, then you can sign up for free! • COVID-19 has not gone away • You have a Legal responsibility to protect your staff &customers • HSE are carrying out checks on Risk Assessments • Book your *Free 3 hour Zoom session • Learn how to break chain of infection • Train to complete a Risk Assessment Can you afford not to book?

Now including Sole Traders

28 Thinking Business

Cover Feature

Wellbeing in the workplace By Stephanie Unthank

Wellbeing in the workplace is no longer something that businesses simply need to be aware of. It has been reported that your manager has a bigger impact on your health and wellbeing than your doctor. Now more than ever, businesses of all sizes, need a clear wellbeing thread that increases loyalty and engagement amongst employees.

Those businesses that want to attract a diverse and talented workforce must engage in developing and embedding long-term wellness strategies that will stand the test of time, create loyalty, and retain employees. For organisations to succeed it’s imperative that employee wellbeing is part of everyday culture. Having worked in the corporate sector at a global organisation for over 20 years, I have a true understanding of what it feels like to manage work related stress, perform at a high level and lead large teams through challenging changing landscapes whilst also trying hard to find and stay balanced in my own life. With this understanding and recognising that the workplace landscape is more complex than ever, with differing working models, how do employers embed a wellbeing culture with longevity? You first need to ask your employees. Ask for their input from the very beginning. Ask for ideas and create space for open discussions so that you can truly understand your employees. Ask them what a healthy working environment look likes and show your employees how much you value them. A leadership team at this point can use these insights and then decide what’s easy to change and consider symbolic action that supports and increases employee engagement. The next step is to activate the change. Adopting a ‘you said, we did’ approach to workplace wellbeing can create a big and positive shift. Embedding transformative workplace wellbeing initiatives, with purpose, are a game changer. When we tap into employees in an engaging way, truly listen and wholeheartedly respond, we will change culture. Investing in good health and wellbeing strategies in the workplace is also proven to lift engagement, create purpose, improve communication, and boost productivity. If you don’t engage your workforce and find out what the real wellbeing challenges are, you will continue to throw good money after bad decisions which in turn will not impact your organisational wellbeing in a positive way. Infinity Wellness have designed and successfully delivered programmes and workshops to businesses of all sizes. Using a tried and tested cultural change framework we focus on shaping and embedding employee focused wellbeing strategies that not only work but are effective in how they land, engage, and embed, for the long-term. Find out more at or get in touch

Investing in the mental Health and Wellbeing of employees has never been more important

Social Enterprise Kent (SEK) knows that investing in the mental health and wellbeing of employees has never been more important. The digital age, has increased the speed of communication and has increased demand on everyone in the workplace. On top of those stresses, throw in a global pandemic and you have the perfect storm which has impacted on everyone’s health and wellbeing both in the workplace and at home.

1 in 6 employees experience mental health problems every year Poor mental health at work is costing £226 Billion on average each year 75% of line managers believe employee wellbeing is their responsibility. However, only 22% have received training What can you do as an organisation lead? Investment. Investment in training. It isn’t expensive, too time consuming and doesn’t have to be difficult, but can prove invaluable for staff and managers alike. A Mental Health first aid course will cover topics to help you identify when a colleague may be experiencing a range of mental health issues. You will learn techniques to ensure you are confident in approaching colleagues and have open and frank conversations about any issues they may have. You will gain the skills and understanding to fully support team members and they will know who in the business they can approach, if they are seeking help. In the same way you would have a nominated First Aider on site to assist with physical first aid. A happy workforce and cohesive team environment, creates a dynamic, happier and more productive workforce. SEK’s Mental Health First Aid training sessions start from £65 for a ½ a day session covering basic mental health awareness and we can train up to Level 3 accredited, for just £180 and 2 days of your time. A small investment goes a long way to helping your staff and your business. Find out more at SEK are a not-for-profit organisation. Which means, any training you book with us, will help support your local community as we re-invest our profits into our other community projects. #BuySocial Thinking Business


Cover Feature

Health and Wellbeing

Can you give a Carer a break this Christmas? Being a Carer can be rewarding, but it can be challenging at times too.

The pandemic has significantly increased the impact on Carers and many find they don’t have time to look after their own health and social needs. Breaks from caring responsibilities can be a lifeline, but many Carers struggle to get time away. 64% of Carers had no breaks at all during the pandemic and 78% say they don’t get the breaks they need. Can you help a Carer in East Kent to get a much-needed break by donating to our Time for Me Appeal? Please donate what you can. You’ll be helping Carers to get a little me-time to do the everyday things most people take for granted.

Registered charity no: 1136904

"Having a staff wellbeing offer has helped us in the way we manage our small team and recruit staff." Lustre Consulting Ltd Matt Dean, Managing Director

The Kent and Medway Healthy Workplaces programmes is funded by Kent County Council and Medway Council and endorsed by the Department of Health & Social Care.

30 Thinking Business

Ashford Canterbury


Quality Private Healthcare in East Kent

Spencer Private Hospitals offer treatments and surgeries in a range of specialties for both insured and self-pay patients. These specialties include: Aesthetics - Cardiology - Cosmetics - Dermatology - Diabetes & Endocrine Ears, Nose & Throat - Gastroenterology - General Medicine General Surgery - Gynaecology - Health Screening - Ophthalmology - Orthopaedics Paediatrics - Physiotherapy - Rheumatology - Urology Varicose Veins - Vascular Surgery Enquire now on 0800 0125051

International Trade

Export recovery remains flat amid supply chain disruption

A survey of 2,600 UK exporters has revealed that the recovery in export sales largely stalled in the third quarter this year. The proportion of firms reporting increased sales rose only three points to 30% from Q2 (27%), whilst the proportion reporting decreased sales fell by just two points (26% in Q3 versus 28% in Q2). The balance of manufacturers reporting increased export sales was +7%, down from +8% in Q2. The balance of service sector firms reporting increased export sales was +6%, up from –7% in Q2. Respondents cited issues arising from the supply chain crisis, as well as Brexit-related problems,

32 Thinking Business

as the main causes of difficulties with export sales. Some said they had ceased exporting to the EU altogether due to issues such as red tape and delays at borders. Respondents also pointed to the surging cost of shipping as a serious issue, with one firm noting that the price of a single container from China rose from £2,100 the previous year to £15,000. The shortage of lorry drivers was also cited as a factor that impacted export sales. Elsewhere, UK exporters were slightly more likely to report

increased investment plans (30%) than non-exporters (25%), although both groups remained at historically low levels. However, on other key indicators such as cashflow, both groups were broadly aligned – 34% of exporters reported increased cash compared to 33% of nonexporters, while 23% of exporters reported a decrease compared to 22% of non-exporters. Responding to the findings, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), William Bain, said: “A whole range of factors is currently providing

sustained headwinds for our exporting firms to operate in. This data must act as a warning to take export-boosting measures now. “Exports of goods are key to our economic recovery from the pandemic, but trading conditions remain fragile and businesses need further supportive measures. Everything from the new UK-EU trading conditions to raw material costs and the costs of container hire in overseas markets is constraining export growth and supply. “More focus needs to be given to lowering business costs with

International Trade

Exports of goods are key to our economic recovery from the pandemic, but trading conditions remain fragile and businesses need further supportive measures. Everything from the new UK-EU trading conditions to raw material costs and the costs of container hire in overseas markets is constraining export growth and supply.

trade partners and addressing non-tariff barriers, which present roadblocks to exports. The government must also acknowledge the scale of the problem in shipping markets. “The UK government should act now to reintroduce SME Brexit Support Grants and use its export strategy, and the Spending Review, to provide stronger export finance. It should also work with the accredited Chamber network to kickstart overseas exports from SMEs across the UK.” Following the publication of the BCC’s survey, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a £1.4bn fund to

attract overseas investment into the UK economy. The Global Britain Investment Fund will provide grants to encourage international companies to invest in key UK sectors, including life sciences and electric vehicle production.

our future economic prospects for many years. “There are many businesses involved in the development of innovative, green and cuttingedge goods and services that could benefit from this funding.

“To maximise its effectiveness, we need to look at incentivising inward investment across the UK. This includes addressing the escalating cost of doing business in the UK, increasing access to finance and improving physical and digital connectivity.”

The bulk of the fund – more than £800m – has been earmarked to support investment in electric vehicles, while a further £354m will go towards boosting investment in life sciences manufacturing, including preparing for future pandemics. Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC, said: “Boosting inward investment into the UK can provide the foundations for

Thinking Business


Post-lockdown, the recruitment marketplace is considered a ‘candidate’s market’, with more roles available than quality applicants. It is not known how quickly this will change. One area applicants are considering is what is in place regarding ongoing Covid-19 health and safety protection for individuals; with its related issues, and questions will be asked on how the company has dealt and is dealing with the pandemic. In recent years, wellbeing has been added to health and safety advice, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offering guidance and providing evidence that a safe and healthy workforce is not only happier but more productive too. There are many articles that discuss legislation and best practice, and most companies have robust systems in place. But do they all consider how attractive their health and safety record is to potential employees? Or how their current employees’ opinions may affect successful recruitment campaigns? With platforms such as Glassdoor, where employees can write uncensored, anonymous reviews, many concerns pertain to a

34 Thinking Business

lackadaisical approach to staff wellbeing. This ever-increasing transparency has prompted businesses to consider all areas of employee health. Taking advice from occupational health professionals could be a wise move to ensure that the business is a desirable one for potential employees.

Caroline Demetriou, GradForce Employer Lead, recently won ‘Most outstanding Contribution to excellence in Health, Safety and Wellbeing’ at the ‘Christ Church Staff Recognition Awards’.

When taking Canterbury Christ Church University students through the extracurricular GradForce programme, ‘Get Hired’, students not only learn vital soft skills identified by industry as being necessary for today’s workplace, but they also learn how to job search effectively. This includes how to research companies, and how to make informed assessments of whether that company can evidence its approach to wellbeing.

“After the third lockdown, working from home, for many, was becoming increasingly difficult," she said.

She shared her thoughts on how working from home has affected employees, and what businesses can do to ensure the transition back to office working is supported.

“Even those introverts who enjoy their own company and regenerate with some peace and quiet, had been finding work isolation more

and more difficult. That conversation around the coffee machine, just being able to fire a quick question across the office to a colleague and bouncing off each other in meetings was feeling like a distant dream. So, the idea that a return to the office may be possible was almost universally welcomed. The reality, however, was that it has been as difficult to return to the office as it was to suddenly leave at the start of the pandemic. This could be down to the difference in approach to wellbeing on return to the office, when compared to how it was embraced when the first lockdown happened. Most employers had offered excellent support and advice at the start of the pandemic lockdowns, to ensure that their people were mentally healthy, as well as doing their best to keep them as safe as possible from the virus. There were training courses, forums, online get togethers, a relaxation of the core hours and rigidity of the working week and a general understanding that ‘we were all in it together’. Everyone dealt with it the best they could in whatever way they needed, and this was accepted- there was a plethora of support available. This has not always been the case when returning to the workplace. Employers should consider ensuring that there is sufficient support offered to those employees who are struggling with returning to work, and in some cases, reintegrating with society as a whole. In addition to standard measures, for example the hand-sanitiser that is offered in most workplaces, the advice to still ‘don’ and ‘doff’ masks appropriately, and the continued allowance for social distancing, provision may well be needed to ensure the mental health related well-being of employees. This, in turn, will help with employee retention and will improve how the business is perceived, not only by customers but importantly, by those considering it for their career.” As part of the package available to employers taking on a GradForce student, Canterbury Christ Church University offers support to businesses. This is aimed to help ensure that they remain an attractive employer and are supported throughout the recruitment process. They can have access to developmental workshops, discounted post graduate education and personal development tools. This can include training such as Belbin, which aims to ensure

that individuals and teams communicate and work together with greater understanding. Utilising resources such as this, bodes well for a happier, healthier workplace as it fosters development and growth leading to a more productive and pleasant environment. GradForce is a project funded by the Office for Students (OfS) as part of the Challenge Competition to help local students transition into highly skilled graduate employment. One of the particular aims is to help local graduates from under-represented groups progress into graduate employment in the local small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector.

matching your roles to the GradForce talent pool and helping with shortlisting, giving interview assistance and guidance as needed

providing ongoing support for both business and graduate employee for their first year of employment.

If you would like further information on the full GradForce service, please contact

SME employment is more important than ever, as it nurtures local talent and can be a key step through the door for graduates. Many SMEs do not have a specifically defined graduate scheme or programme but are likely to have graduate-level positions to offer. Part of the GradForce offer to businesses is that the team will work closely with employers to understand their requirements. Some examples of how this can be achieved include: •

offering support defining job roles, writing job adverts, job descriptions and person specifications

Thinking Business



After two years with many people being cooped up in their homes, organisations must take the initiative to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace.


Richard Branson once said “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business”, an adage that we at the EKC Group truly believe in.

A Public Health England survey conducted in June found 40% of us gained weight during the pandemic, with an average weight gain of half a stone.

Over the last year, we’ve set up a number of initiatives to help employees improve their health and wellbeing as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

MENTAL WELLBEING We now offer staff the chance to apply for more flexible working depending on their needs, and as a Mindful Employer we offer counselling to all staff who want or need a safe and confidential space to talk about anything on their minds. EKC Group are strong supporters of life-long learning, and we aim to facilitate all staff members in pursuing ongoing studies of their choice. Reservists and volunteer emergency service personnel get paid leave to assist in their roles, giving them greater freedom to enjoy a good work life balance. It’s important that we as an employer even consider small things that we can do to improve employees’ wellbeing, for example offering a paid day of leave when a staff member moves house.

Another way of improving mental wellbeing is by helping staff get physically healthier.

Now as we re-emerge from homeworking, it’s vital that we as employers provide encouragement and support in shedding those pounds and negating the negative health and mental wellbeing impacts weight gain can bring. Staff get discounted memberships to the Canterbury College gym facilities and, if they’re referred to a ‘get well’ course by a GP, membership is free with full access to fitness classes. By helping our staff get mentally and physically healthier, we believe that they will serve as role models to our learners and create a knock-on effect among the student body.

GETTING HEALTHY TOGETHER This knock-on effect is important as teens and young people have been found to have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. As we implement a wide array of efforts to improve their social life and educational experience, this will also

boost the workforce’s mentality and drive to teach and support College life. Another thing that boosts our employees’ morale is that – now we’re back on-campus – they can see with their own eyes the difference they’re making. Whether you’re a tutor whose student has gone up a grade or two, or you’re a member of our Yarrow Hotel or Anne’s Restaurant teams who has just received a rave review about their performance, working with us provides plenty of opportunities for job satisfaction. Employment with the EKC Group lends itself to making a real difference in people’s lives and, in doing so, making a real, positive difference to your own. To find out how you can join our team and benefit from the perks of working with the EKC Group, search To learn more about how your business and staff can benefit from further training and development in health and wellbeing, email us at

Brachers advises on Beech Underwriting sale specialises in space and energy risk. Both companies are approved Lloyd’s coverholders.

The acquisition of Beech is part of Occam’s strategy to diversify into additional lines of business. Beech brings with it an expertise in terrorism insurance and a wellestablished panel of underwriting partners. Working closely together, Beech and Occam will be able to deliver a broader service offering to their clients. Brachers’ corporate team has advised the owner of managing general agency (MGA) Beech Underwriting on the sale to Occam Underwriting subject to FCA approval. Beech Underwriting was founded in 2001 by owner Geoff Stilwell and is a market leader in the placement of terrorism and other specialist related insurance, with agents throughout the UK. Occam, also an MGA, currently

The Beech team will continue to be led by Geoff Stilwell, Andrew Woodhams and Matt Gates from their Maidstone offices. Claire Williams, corporate partner, led the deal team at Brachers and was supported by corporate partner Matthew Simmonds, corporate solicitor Raul Hernandez and employment partner Antonio Fletcher. The team advised on all aspects of the transaction from initial

The Great Jaffa Cake Robbery of 2021: a simple oversight or an act of gross misconduct? The decision by a police force to fire a police constable who failed to pay full price for Jaffa Cakes reveals the range of factors that an employer can use in instances of alleged misconduct, warns law firm Furley Page. PC Chris Dwyer was sacked after failing to pay the correct price for two packets of Jaffa Cakes at a charity stall at his place of work. The packets of cakes were priced at 50p each, but PC Chris Dwyer paid a total of just 10p. At his disciplinary hearing, the panel agreed that he was guilty of gross misconduct and he was dismissed with immediate effect. Tom Swann, a Trainee Solicitor with Furley Page, said: “Gross misconduct is a potentially fair reason for dismissing an employee, provided the employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the employee in question was responsible for the alleged

misconduct, and has carried out reasonable investigation. “The decision to dismiss must also fall within the range of reasonable responses which an employer may take. Decisions that may be considered “harsh” or “lenient” can still fall within the range of reasonable responses: a tribunal judge will simply make a ruling as to whether it was reasonable for that employer to have reached the decision it did.” As a police constable with the West Yorkshire Police, PC Dwyer’s job was to enforce the law. His actions regarding the Jaffa Cakes were described by the disciplinary panel chairman as “dishonest and of a criminal nature”, and although were recognised to be of low monetary value, could therefore bring his employer into disrepute. The panel concluded that the act of failing to pay full price for the

Members News heads of terms, through to due diligence and final documentation on the basis of a split exchange and completion (subject to FCA consent). All parties took a collaborative co-operative approach, which enabled a smooth and speedy transaction. Claire Williams said: “We’ve worked with Beech for many years and it’s fantastic to see how the company has gone from strength to strength and become the successful business that it is today. Now, as part of the Occam group, the business has the opportunity to continue to develop its service offering.” Geoff Stilwell, managing director of Beech Underwriting, said: “The whole team here at Beech is really excited about going forward with Occam. This will enable Beech to continue to grow and firmly establish itself as the market leader in terrorism insurance.” Mark Fisher, Occam CEO, said: “I’m very pleased to welcome Beech Underwriting to the Occam group as we continue with our planned expansion.”

Jaffa Cakes, was one of gross misconduct entitling the police to dismiss with immediate effect. Tom continued: “Put simply, an individual, whose job was to enforce the law, broke the law himself. In addition, he was found to have breached West Yorkshire Police’s professional standards regarding integrity, honesty and discreditable conduct, and the panel found that he had given dishonest accounts when questioned, in an attempt to reduce his culpability. “Although this decision may be viewed as harsh by some, it is a good reminder for both employers and employees of the factors that an employer can take into account when dealing with instances of alleged misconduct.” For advice about employment law matters visit

b&m reveal new look Canterbury based construction consultants b&m, formerly known as Betteridge & Milsom, have recently revealed a fresh new look. This new branding aims to tell the story of 35 years of history and highlight their wide range of services that include not only Quantity Surveying but also Project Management, Clerk of Works and Principal Designer, to name a few. The exciting new visual language within the brand focuses around the company’s values; people first, collaboration, growth, construction and partnership. The new logo also showcases the ‘&’ in the name, reinforcing their ability to do more than just quantity surveying, which historically has been their most popular service. Director, Paul Gannaway, said “After 35 years in business, we’re excited to relaunch b&m with a modern and fresh take, whilst reflecting on the history of the business. We are growing and wanted a brand that also portrayed our culture and ability. We feel this new one does that and more”. b&m are currently involved with a number of high-profile projects in Kent, London and the Home Counties. Visit Thinking Business


Shaping your future: business optimism high despite challenging months ahead, finds Kreston Reeves research Andrew Griggs, Senior Partner, Kreston Reeves The business environment has never been so uncertain. The impact of the global pandemic and Brexit is likely to be felt for many years to come, bringing new challenges, opportunities and change. So too will the mitigation of climate change, the continuing impact of technology and changing working patterns. For many businesses, it is difficult to know what tomorrow might hold. That is why we have conducted a nationwide research project where we explore the issues, constraints on growth, priorities and plans for the future of 652 business leaders across the UK. Businesses must continue to look ahead and shape their future. Our research, published in a report called Shaping your future, suggests businesses are incredibly confident for their future but are facing significant challenges over the next two years, with reduced cash reserves, stressed supply chains, and a tough recruitment environment. The headline findings from our Shaping your future report include: •

36% of businesses surveyed report lower cash reserves now than at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

20% of businesses that have borrowed from Government-backed loan schemes do not expect to repay that money.

Despite this, businesses are upbeat for their future – 39% expect to see turnover increase by up to 25% in the next 12 months, and 27% expect turnover to increase by between 26% and 50%.

52% of businesses are experiencing supply chain delays of up to six months, with a third (32%) looking to reduce output and orders as a result.

62% of businesses experiencing supply chain delays expect profitability to fall by up to 10%; 29% expect profitability to fall by 11-25%.

23% of businesses are prioritising training and upskilling their workforce and 20% on staff retention to address recruitment challenges.

27% of businesses offer no incentive programme to their employees at all.

A third of businesses surveyed expect to fund future growth through retained profits and organic company growth.

Over half (56%) say they are exploring merger and acquisition (M&A) opportunities over the next 12 months.

The current economic and business environment is incredibly tough for businesses: in some ways coming out of the pandemic feels harder than it did when COVID first began to bite. The shared common experiences of the first lockdown, where all businesses had to adapt to new working patterns, no longer exist as businesses return to whatever their ‘new normal’ might be. It is encouraging, therefore, to see businesses so confident for their future – 87% of the businesses we spoke to are ‘confident’ or

‘very confident’ about the future of their business. There is much to celebrate. This does not hide worrying signs on the horizon. Supply chains are causing serious problems for businesses and are predicted to do so for two or more years. That is, say businesses in our research, hitting bottom line profits. A fifth (20%) of businesses surveyed do not believe they will be able to repay COVID borrowing and then there is the threat of rising inflation having risen to a 10 year high of 4.2%. Finding and retaining staff are also very real issues across many industry sectors and show no signs of abating. A key component of attracting and keeping staff are the incentive programmes offered over and above pay, and over a quarter (27%) of businesses surveyed offer no such programme leaving them at a disadvantage. It is important, now more so than ever, that business leaders take stock, understand those pressures facing their business, identify and plan for future pinch points, and shape the future they want for their business.

You can download a full copy of the report by visiting The Kreston Reeves Shaping your future report is being supported by a series of events, roundtables and articles over the next two years. We invite you to join the conversation at #Shapingyourfuture.

BCC responds to Chancellor’s Budget headroom to repair business cashflow diminished by the pandemic and rising cost pressures, and to invest more in growth plans to power the recovery.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has unveiled the contents of his Budget in the House of Commons. As well as pledging a significant increase in public spending, Mr Sunak announced tax cuts for businesses and a reduction in air duties for flights within the UK.

Commenting on the Annual Investment Allowance extension, Suren Thiru said: “This should provide a major incentive for firms to crowd in investment, with firms continuing to report that this is a crucial tool which gives them the confidence to push ahead with their plans.”

The planned increase in fuel duty is to be scrapped, while retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will benefit from a temporary 50% business rates discount of up to a maximum of £110,000. Meanwhile, the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance has been extended.

Commenting on funding for childcare, Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said: “Additional funding for childcare providers will help parents access high-quality, affordable childcare and remain in work, ensuring employers retain skills and people progress in their careers.”

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has given its reaction… Shevaun Haviland, director general of the BCC, said: “There’s much to welcome in this Budget for business communities across the UK. The Chancellor has listened to Chambers’ long-standing calls for changes to the business rates system and this will be good news for many firms. This will provide much-needed relief for businesses across the country, giving many firms renewed confidence to invest and grow. However, these changes must be the start, rather than the end point of the reforms to this broken system. “Additional investment in skills, infrastructure and better access to finance will be key drivers for our economic recovery and provide longer-term benefits and opportunities for businesses across the country. “While investments announced in the Budget will take time to bed in, government should consider other action that will relieve immediate pressures, particularly on smaller businesses, such as

urgent review of the shortage occupation list to allow for shortterm visas in key sectors, and an SME energy price cap. “If firms face unexpected bumps in the road, the Chancellor must be prepared to take further action to get the economy firing on all cylinders again.” Commenting on the announcement on business rates reforms, Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC, said: “We’re pleased that the chancellor has listened to our call to deliver more frequent revaluations. Moving to a threeyear-cycle will help to reduce the huge changes in rates bills that clobber firms and enable them to plan their growth strategies with greater confidence.

“However, a system that responds more frequently to changing economic conditions must be made easier for firms to navigate. The current system already generates a significant number of appeals, and if it’s not made simpler, more frequent valuations would exacerbate this problem.” Commenting on freezing the business rates multiplier and a new temporary relief for retail, hospitality and leisure properties, Suren Thiru said: “We’re pleased that the Chancellor listened to BCC’s call to blunt firms’ business rates bills amid soaring inflation. The freeze in the business rates multiplier and support for retail, hospitality and leisure will provide businesses with more financial

Commenting on infrastructure investment, Jane Gratton said: “It’s great to see the Chancellor recognise the importance of local infrastructure in driving our economy forward and levelling up communities across the country. This investment will be a welcome boost toward that goal and will be vital in achieving our net zero targets by funding more efficient, reliable and greener public transport.” Commenting on research and development funding, Hannah Essex, co-executive director at the BCC, said: “Greater funding will encourage investment in R&D, which should boost the UK economy at a time when productivity growth remains weak. “However, to ensure that UK firms remain competitive on the global stage, it’s vital that greater investment in R&D is supported by retention of our intellectual property.”

Thinking Business


Members News

Holiday Inn Ashford North supports MOD personnel

The lollipops that are good for kids

In August 2021 we were approached by the government to support the ARAP scheme. This was to accommodate MOD personnel and their families from Afghanistan until being relocated within the UK. We had heard of the trauma the families had gone through in leaving Afghanistan and being that many of these families have worked for and assisted our government, we felt it was a project we were well positioned to support. After fleeing their homes (heartbreakingly some of the children losing parents along the way) they were accommodated in Manchester to quarantine before arriving to us, sadly with only bin bags of belongings. We quickly received immediate help from Ashford Borough Council, Waitrose Ashford, County Square, Ashford Designer Outlet and local charities who assisted with toiletries, clothes, toys, pushchairs and much more. One charity in particular, Kent Kindness, has continued to be of support with its generous donations – even purchasing new suitable footwear for the children, who are currently being temporarily educated every afternoon at The John Wallis Academy. We have always prided ourselves on delivering the best service to our customers and that has continued. After a very unsettling year in the industry, by us taking on this contract, it has allowed the team to come back to work and provide a safe, comfortable environment for the families. Our guests appreciate our hospitality so are completely respectful of the hotel, meaning it is being looked after ready for us to welcome our customers back in the new year.

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Throat Soother, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12 and Kids’ Multivit can be taken all year round. Nick and Maxine, who share four children, developed the products after failing to find natural alternatives for their inevitable coughs, colds, hay fever and travel. Maxine said: They’re a great, tasty way to get daily nutrients into your kids, offering a boost to vitamin and mineral intake. “As a family, we love them and feedback from our customers who are now starting to find us abroad is great too.”

If you manage to get away on holiday, the chances are you’ll go via a plane, train or automobile. Look out for Healthipops Vitamin & Mineral Lollipops in WHSmith stores – they’re the brainchild product of Chamber members Nick Pullin and Maxine Brown. They’re lollipops, but not any old lollipop – they’re made with vitamins and minerals to help boost

immunity and general wellbeing, with added botanical extracts to soothe everyday common ailments. Plus, they’re also great for getting nutrients into fussy or particular eaters too. Their current range of eight products includes two lollipops that make ideal travel companions: ‘Ear Popper Stopper’ and ‘Travel’. Others in the range are seasonal; Winter Wellness and Spring & Summer Wellness.

They’re now looking for Kent stockists, plus organisations who would like to offer them to the children they work with. Nick said: “We’re in 160 of the UK’s WHSmith stores but we would really love to be stocked in health food outlets, local farm shops and places that stock smaller brands. “We’re hoping that our fellow Chamber members will contact us or put us in touch with people who might be interested.” For more information visit

Staff shortages helped our business grow!

24-7 Steller Packing, a contract packing company based in Paddock Wood, Kent, has seen an increase in production this Christmas with the help from sister company 24-7 Employment Solutions. Have you read that title and thought “Is this a typo?”. We can’t blame you if the answer is yes; it has been a long 20 months since COVID-19 became an intolerable part of all our lives. Just like many other businesses, we noticed a huge reduction in available staff when the laws around isolation and social distancing came in. Many of our colleagues, who are overseas nationals, quite rightly

made the decision to go home to their families rather than risk being stuck in England in such uncertain times. This was the second blow to our business after Brexit laws were also passed, which required a large percentage of our workforce to complete ‘right to remain’ paperwork, the fatal blow. The ripple effects of these scenarios at times made our production output a near on impossible task. There were times we called on internal office staff to work evenings, out of hours and weekends to make sure SLAs were met. As a team we are proud to say we powered through.

In this last quarter of the year, another turning point came when our sister company, 24-7 Employment Solutions, expanded their portfolio through months of relentless work alongside our skeleton team at 24-7 Steller Packing. The team at 24-7 Employment Solutions was already situated in offices in Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells but with the increase of manpower we have opened the doors to a new arm of the business right here at our head office in Paddock Wood! While the country is still suffering from a nationwide labour shortage, 24-7 Steller Packing is in the enviable position to have an inhouse recruitment team working in partnership with us. We want to welcome the new Paddock Wood team for 24-7 Employment Solutions and congratulate them in their success to expand a business during a monumentally difficult economic crisis. For more information visit

Staying healthy in 2022 Louise Matthews

Hypnotherapist and Reflexologist With the New Year coming up you may reflect on whether you have that balance of a great business and healthy personal life. Would you like to lose weight, stop smoking, be fitter and less anxious? I meet many professionals as a Hypnotherapist and Reflexologist and through therapy can suggest practical tools. These are my 5 top tips to consider for a productive and healthy 2022!

Balance and choice

Ok, so you may not be as fit as you used to be and you’ve over indulged but if I said “don’t think of a pink elephant” you will. If you cut out the foods that you love they will be the foods that you’ll want. Change your mindset to choose to eat healthier rather than depriving yourself, putting you back in control. Find movement that you love, golf, dancing in the kitchen or walking. Choose to exercise. Allowing yourself an hour for lunch to clear

your head and walk will be great for your mind, body, staff and business. In order for you to work well, stay healthy it’s something positive that you are doing.

Positive vs Negative

Our mind and body are connected, we’ve all felt that sickening feeling when we are anxious. However, it’s possible to re-wire your brain. Our subconscious stores our repetitive learning which include positive and negative thoughts and habits. Don’t just accept negative thoughts as being so, focussing on positive thoughts improves your mental and physical health. Have you really had a bad day? Stop and decide whether it’s actually true as every day has positives.


Research into the human mind suggests we have more that 6,000 thoughts a day, many of them being about the past or the future leading to stress. Mindfulness is about finding ways to slow down paying attention to the present moment thus improving performance and reducing stress. For a few minutes a day mindfulness can be developed, helping us to be connected to the world rather than living in our thoughts. The next time your mind is racing,

get in the moment, stop, focus on where you are and what you are doing. Simply put, wake up and smell the coffee!

Letting go

Many clients talk about the past, the business deal that went wrong, the failed relationship. Repetitive negative emotions. Holding on to these emotions will not change them. If you held a weight in front of you for an hour you might ache a little but if you held onto it for the rest of your life, it will damage you forever. It’s time to move on, accept what happened as the past, allow yourself to let go.


Research has shown that being grateful improves sleep quality, balances emotions, increases feelings of happiness, helps foster hope, reduces stress and increases your resilience. Take 5 minutes at the beginning and the end of the day to think about what you’re grateful for, it could be your friends, family, health, where you live, what you do or even that you woke up this morning. It doesn’t have to be a huge list, it’s not a competition just a few grateful thoughts will help you feel instantly better.

Head to Toe Holistic Therapy, helping to balance your mind and body through Hypnotherapy and Reflexology. For a confidential discussion please contact Louise at or go to

Thinking Business


Every week we bring you an eclectic mix of information sessions, workshops, panel sessions and training sessions with some of the top local business professionals from an array of different industries. Each event is designed to mirror our face-to-face events, offering invaluable information tailored to our attendee’s wants and needs. So far, we have helped offer over 8,000 attendees throughout our online event programme, offering support and guidance through hardship. Networking At The Friars Christmas Special Tuesday 14th December 2021 Virtual Business Networking Christmas Special Tuesday 21st December 2021 Kent Construction Focus Group (KCFG) Tuesday 11th January 2022 Virtual Business Networking Tuesday 11th January 2022 Networking At The Friars - Christmas Special Tuesday 14th December 2021 Join us for this extremely exciting Christmas Networking Special event, held at The Friars, Aylesford. Upon arrival, you will be served a choice of Prosecco, Orange Juice or Bucks Fizz followed by mulled wine whilst networking amongst peers. There will also be a selection of canapés available, before we take our seats for Christmas themed games! Wear your best Christmas Jumper, and come ready to take part in the Christmas games for your chance to win some fantastic prizes! 3:00pm - 5:00pm Members: £23.00 + VAT | Non-Members: £28.00 + VAT

How To Retain Your Current Workforce Thursday 13th January 2022 Maximising Your Membership Tuesday 18th January 2022 Employment Law Update 2022 Wednesday 19th January 2022 Virtual Business Networking Tuesday 25th January 2022 Business Planning for 2022 Thursday 27th January 2022 Kent Construction Focus Group (KCFG) Tuesday 1st February 2022

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Maximising Your Membership Members have access to a wide range of services to take advantage from. In this information event we will hear from three speakers about what benefits each of them provide to Chamber members and how you can maximise your membership benefits.

Furley Page Solicitors has forged a reputation as a leading, regional law firm based in Kent and the South East of England. Come and find out about current developments in Employment Law and the likely impact on your workforce.

Come along and hear from:

Receive practical guidance on how to prepare for changes and hear about key dates for Employment Law reform.

Steve Charles, Head of Business Partnerships at Quest. Esther Saho, SME Commercial Account Manager at The AA. Simon Wilson, Business Development Specialist at AXA Health.

You can also find out the effects on your HR policies and procedures and people management with a final round-up of case law.

Tuesday 18th January 2022 | 10:30am - 11:30am Members: Free to attend | Non-Members: Free to attend

Wednesday 19th January 2022 | 10:30am - 11:30am Members: Free to attend | Non-Members: Free to attend

Virtual Business Networking is a bi-weekly, fun way of networking which is highly interactive, sparking interesting conversations and aims to bring like-minded people together, guide forward new ideas and form new business relationships. Conversation with our guest speaker will be followed by three breakout room sessions where attendees can delve deeper into discussion, or discuss their own topic in more depth. Christmas Special | 21st December 2021 | 10:30am - 12:00pm Members: Free to attend | Non-Members: Free to attend

KCFG Physical Events are back! Hosted by members of the KCFG committee, Cheryl Causebrook and Ella Brocklebank. The Kent Construction Focus Group (KCFG) is a one-stop-shop for local businesses to discuss the future of Kent development, giving companies access to local knowledge, expertise and contracts. Join us to hear from ‘in the know’ speakers, from Kent and the surrounding areas, who will discuss current and future projects whilst giving you an opportunity to discuss your views and questions. Enjoy a Full English Breakfast at the Village Hotel Club, served from 7.30am with an anticipated finish of 9.30am. The first Tuesday of every month (except 11th January 2022) 7:30am - 9:30am | The Village Hotel, Maidstone, ME14 3AQ KCFG Members: Free to attend | Non-Members: £30.00 + VAT

Business Planning Tips for 2022 Come and hear from Sally Brady, who will help you keep on top of your business plan through 2022 and beyond. Through the morning, we will focus on: The importance of planning and tracking the cash within the business, from small to larger businesses. The importance of planning and budgetary controls and having good KPI’s/measures in place. Understanding the key figures and reports within your business. Thursday 27th January 2022 | 10:30am - 11:30am Members: Free to attend | Non-Members: £5.00 + VAT

Thinking Business


The key to an employee’s good performance is ‘happiness’. Happiness and performance result from empowered and healthy staff who enjoy active social and business connections. What can we do to spread the message, to open up and continue the conversation, to share the resources, to guide organisations to create their own wellness strategies, empowering themselves and their people to nourish, thrive and expand? Through our bespoke collaborative approach, we create and deliver a specifically tailored 360 wellness strategy, with the aim of promoting and developing a positive, healthy, and sustainable wellness culture within the workplace.

CONTACT US Sophie Higgins, Co-founder & Director John Walters, Co-founder & Director


Questae Collective

Maintenance Retail Services Fit-Out Construction Dedicated Services with Uncompromising Quality

44 Thinking Business

John and Sophie shine light on workplace wellbeing

On occasions, deeply personal experiences can trigger the formation of successful businesses. John Walters and Sophie Higgins are shining examples of this.

of that workforce are struggling with their mental health. This helps organisations to build resilience within their workforce and their business.” Questae Collective’s USP is that it offers a bespoke service tailored to the needs of each client. Off-theshelf wellness packages are left, quite literally, on the shelf.

Both are the co-founders of Questae Collective, which creates and delivers bespoke and tailored 360 wellness programmes to organisations that truly want to engage with and understand their employees’ wellbeing objectives. They launched the firm in August 2020 at the height of the pandemic, when many people’s mental health was at an all-time low due to loneliness and concerns over finances and the health of loved ones. Since then, John and Sophie have steadily built up a varied corporate client base that includes design firms,

hedge funds, software companies, local charities and the NHS. John says: “We’ve been able to help these organisations create their own wellness strategies to ensure they have a workforce that’s positive, happy and productive. Essentially, we’ve changed the narrative of businesses and helped them to really understand their staff. “We’ve developed a 360-degree wellness review that gives us the ability to measure the happiness of a particular workforce and suggest improvements if members

Sophie says: “Each organisation is different and our service reflects this. It’s great that there are more conversations around workplace wellbeing but more needs to be done. Around 80% of companies think wellbeing is important but only about 5% have a budget for it. In the next few years, companies are likely to put more money behind wellbeing strategies as they realise the financial benefits of doing so. It’s very costly to attract top talent and even more expensive to replace them. Nowadays, staff expect to work for an organisation that cares about them. If they don’t feel valued, they’ll leave.” John and Sophie are both well qualified to discuss the subject of wellness given the journeys they’ve been on. After serving in the army, John built a career in the world of office design and furnishings, working with many of the industry’s most forward-thinking, respected creative visionaries along the way. But he faced several challenges

The People behind the business that were detrimental to his mental health, including the breakdown of two marriages and a cancer diagnosis. “My mental health suffered and I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression,” he says. “I also started drinking a lot. These experiences had an influence on how I was thinking at work. I started to consider how workplace design affects our psyche, productivity and concentration. “I took a step back and started to research how I could help myself. I cut out processed food and refined sugar, wheat, gluten and dairy – and felt so much better. At a networking event on wellness and nutrition I met Sophie and things snowballed from there.” Sophie, meanwhile, studied law before landing a high-flying job in the City. But the stress of work eventually manifested itself in burn-out and various addictions, which culminated in a trip to the King’s College Hospital Eating Disorder Unit and two years of treatment. Then, however, a lightbulb moment occurred. “After years of struggle, suddenly I thought: I’m not going to back away from food, I’m going to work with food,” says Sophie. “I quit my job to retrain as a nutritional therapist, and after setting up my own practice, decided to swap the City for the beautiful seaside town of Margate. “After meeting John, I discovered that we both lived in Margate. We went for a coffee and spent five hours putting the world to rights.” That conversation was the spark that ignited their business venture. Now the dynamic duo want to build more connections locally and open up more conversations with business leaders about the importance of workplace wellbeing. If their incredible personal stories are anything to go by, it’s well worth a listen. For more information visit

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MJA Metalwork MBC housing team wins new £1.1million national award for preventing homelessness building opened by Ashford MP and Kent Invicta CEO

Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) has received national recognition, winning the prestigious Local Government Chronicle Awards 2021 Housing Category. MBC submitted its bid for the award based on the homelessness prevention initiative ‘OneView’ pioneered by the council’s housing team, bringing together data from internal and external organisations to identify people in Maidstone who may be at risk. The council set homelessness prevention as its top strategic priority in 2019 following a 58% increase in just five years. MBC looked at a proactive new approach to tackling homelessness by designing and implementing OneView – an innovative data and analytics tool – and is the first local authority to successfully introduce the new way of supporting those most in need in its community. More than 1,100 local authority professionals gathered at Grosvenor House, London to celebrate the very best in local government. The awards saw entries from council teams across the UK judged by other councils’ senior officers, with the aim being to promote new

46 Thinking Business

MP Damian Green and Jo James OBE Chief Executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, were on hand to officially open the new £1.1million building at MJA Metalwork in Hothfield, Ashford, Kent.

innovation that can inspire other councils to improve their own services. The LGC judges acknowledged the work of the innovative project created by the MBC Housing Team working with partners EY and Xantura, and recognised what OneView had achieved including preventing over 100 households from becoming homeless and reducing the risk of homelessness by 40%. Despite the heightened risk of the COVID pandemic, the initiative also reduced the administrative burden on frontline council officers, enabling them to spend more time working directly with at risk individuals. Jonathan Purle, chair of communities, housing and environment and deputy leader of Maidstone Borough Council, said: “Homelessness prevention is a key priority for the council and this scheme had cross-party support to deliver the service and help achieve this success. “This is a great achievement by the housing team and demonstrates brilliantly partnership working at its best.”

Designed and built by their own team, the new building provides MJA staff with the latest facilities and safety equipment with dedicated welding stations, advanced fume-extractors, and environment monitoring systems. Plus, multiple overhead cranes with 5-ton lifting capabilities to take on even larger jobs. In the offices there is a new training centre, design room and sales suite with the whole site carefully constructed to be eco-friendly with smart-LED lighting and electricity and heating from renewable sources. Pioneered by Managing Director Mike Allen and Operations Director Rod Harcourt, the new 8,000 square foot building finishes a six-year project to give the South East’s premier metalworking business a new centre of operations. Mike commented: “As a family business, seeing a £1.1million investment come to life, giving our team better facilities to do their jobs more safely and efficiently, is a proud moment. To be able to grow our business whilst also reducing our carbon footprint is even better”. Rod echoed his MD’s sentiments: “Having Damian Green and Jo James here to officially open our new site really enforces the pride that the whole team are feeling. We’ve been based in Ashford for decades and now have a site that matches our future aspirations and will see us continue to provide quality metalwork to Kent and the South East.”

Funding boost for Ashford International Studios at Newtown Works

Business News

Images Quinn Estates

Ashford Borough Council has welcomed the government’s decision to award £14,773,745 of levelling up funding for the Ashford International Studios, Newtown Works project. The council submitted the bid in June 2021, identified as one of the borough’s strategically important projects in its draft Corporate Plan 2022-24. The bid was supported by Damian Green MP, alongside the partners of the Ashford Strategic Delivery Board. Support also came from SELEP, Kent Film Office, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Screen South and the EKC Group. The planning application for the site was fully permitted in September 2020. The developer Quinn Estates is working with the council, alongside The Creative District Improvement Company and Time + Space Studios, as well as with the EKC Group to bring forward the studio space and new educational facility. The site has been vacant since the mid-1980s due to the challenges in remediating the site and the high costs associated with converting the 37,179m2 of Grade II-listed buildings. The funding will address these key barriers to delivery, and also enable the delivery of a digital industries skills and education centre to support local people taking up new job opportunities in the Ashford International Film and TV Studios.


PROFESSIONAL LEGAL SERVICES Residential conveyancing

Direction Law has a


strong local client base of both private individuals and businesses to whom we

Experts in New Build and Affordable

provide a range of services.

Ben Geering, development director at Quinn Estates, said: "It's excellent news that Ashford Borough Council has secured funding from the government's Levelling Up Fund; it’s an endorsement from the Treasury for Ashford International Studios.” Graham Razey, chief executive officer for EKC Group, said: “We’re exploring the various curriculum opportunities we could deliver within the development, as part of a real marriage between industry and education, ensuring the community we serve gets the skills they need. This funding will help to take this new project another step forward.” Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council, said: “This strategic project will deliver a key economic driver for Ashford and Kent, much-needed inward investment for the UK and will regenerate a nationally important railway heritage site.”

Housing For over 45 years our growth has been borne from our relationships with clients, peers, agents and staff alike.

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New Members

Welcome to our new members Agar Bowles Ltd

DJ Civils Ltd

Aquarius Mental Health Solutions


Rochester 07525 818664 ISO, Procurement, Health & Safety, Training Crockenhill 07833 640800 Mental Health Advisor, Instructor & Assessor

Babrani Foods Ltd Canterbury 01227 452575 Hospitality

Blue Lemon Cleaning Services Ltd Rochester 01634 557961 Cleaning all types of Offices, Domestic and Commercial Premises


Bracknell 01344 630700 Professional Membership

Compare and Recycle

Maidstone 01622 824600 Tech Trade in Comparison Site

Consilium CXXI Ltd Herne Bay 01392 401250 Architects

Darenth Print and Design Ltd Crayford 01322 288627 Printers & Wide Format Specialists

48 Thinking Business

Sandwich 01304 802728 Civil Engineering

Northfleet 01474 320007 Charity: Hospice care for Children and Young People

Enhanced Employee Benefits Ltd London 07512 706007 Insurance Broker

Euro Energy Group Ltd Maidstone 01245 945768 Energy Efficiency/Construction

Fawkham Technical Services Ltd Gravesend 01322 386971 Engineering Management

Fulfilment Coaching

Rochester 07808 600895 Business Coach/NLP Practitioner

Glow Arts Limited

Gillingham 07930 278317 Events and Production Company

Hawkeye Aerial Cameras East Malling 07974 365912 Aerial Images & Surveys

Hubb Engineering Services Ltd Tonbridge 020 3206 1228 Mechanical and Electrical Contractors

Infinity Wellness

Ashford 07712 420441 Corporate Wellbeing

InterPro Solutions

Rainham 01634 378828 Database Management


Sidcup 020 8308 3300 IT Managed Services Provider

Kent Plastering Contractors Ltd Tenterden 01580 764715 Plastering, Dry Lining and Rendering

Key Zone Traders Ltd Brands Hatch 07804 291983 Online Education

KGen & Kench Consultants

Dartford 07808 233005 Project Management, M&E, and Estates Management

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Enhance Linked Elements Ltd

Rochester 01795 700244 Fire & Electrical Installation & Compliance

Mannys Sauces Ltd

Isle of Sheppey 01795 485399 Food Manufacturing and Catering

Montserrat Rubio Photography Ashford 01233 646616 Commercial Photography

Nest Property Ltd

Protect Otentic Customs UK Ltd Poole 07874 090435 Customs Imports and Exports

PAFA Consulting Ltd Ashford 07483 220812 IT Consultancy

Pro-Team BD Ltd Faversham 07885 911877 Consultancy

Restoring Health Ltd

Ramsgate 01843 598620 Property Development

Maidstone 01622 585796 Soft Tissue Therapy, Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field Therapy, Exercise Prescription

NLC Nova Lift Co Ltd

Roch PR Ltd

Maidstone 0845 888 8767 Installation, Servicing and Maintenance of Lift Equipment

Dover 01304 807744 Strategic Communications and Public Relations Agency

Ocean Capital Exchange Ltd

Simple Life Ltd

O'Keefe Construction (Kent) Ltd

SK-Security & Training Services Ltd

London 020 7183 2026 Sales, Financial Services, Foreign Exchange

Sevenoaks 01732 883494 Construction & Civil Engineering

Deal 07970 414784 Garden Design and Awakening Walks and Talks

London 07958 164209 Security Guard Services in Kent

Connect Swift First Aid Training Sittingbourne 01795 432605 First Aid Training

The 3D Printers

Ashford 01233 556055 3D Printing Services

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Headcorn 01622 890546 Marketing Agency

The Hive at Edenwood Aylesford 01622 960140 Coworking Space

The Pleasant Land Distillery Leicester 07747 487652 Distillery

University of Greenwich

London 020 8331 8000 Business Support, Education and Training

Whitecode Consulting Ltd Northfleet 01322 289977 Construction Consultancy

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Last Word

Movers and Shakers

Leah Poppy

ellenor hospice Supporter Engagement Officer What was your first job and what was the pay packet?

My first ever job was a Food and Beverage Assistant at Brandshatch Place Hotel and Spa.

What do you always carry with you to work?

My ellenor gift aid card for our retail shops just in case I happen to pass one while I am out and about.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business?

We are working hard on brining back our events after the pandemic and we were able to host our flagship event, our Sponsored Twilight Walk in September.

If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you change to help business?

Leeds Castle Appoints New Head Curator to Bring the Castle to Life

Leeds Castle has announced the appointment of Sue Prichard as Head Curator, a role that will see her champion the exciting changes to Bring the Castle to Life. Leeds Castle has a centuries-long reputation as ‘Playing Hostess to History’ and will be re-looking at how the Castle is presented in the light of this. caring for the Castle’s buildings and landscapes, as well as the unique and important collections and interiors created by famous interior designers such as Stéphane Boudin. The French designer catered to the rich and famous, and most notably created the iconic 1960s White House interiors for Jacqueline Kennedy.

As PM I would make being sustainable a lot easier on businesses to help our planet grow and prosper into the future.

What can you see from your office window?

Right now I am at home working so I get to sit in my kitchen/diner and look out into my lovely garden. I get lots of birds in the garden so my other half bought me a pocket guide to British birds for my birthday which I love!

If you could do another job what would it be?

I would really love to work for the CIA or MI5 but I am rubbish at keeping secrets so not sure I would get the job.

As a business person, what are your three main qualities?

As an organisation we put the patient, their families and the supporter first and I think that is a very important part of our roles within the organisation. Keeping this at the forefront of all that we do is so important. Being caring, compassionate and understanding are all imperative to our roles.

What was your biggest mistake in business?

I have made a few mistakes along the way but I have many years left of work in me so I am sure I will make some more but you learn from them and it means I won’t ever make the same mistake again and it is all part of being human.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and when you do, own it! People will respect you for being able to acknowledge your mistake and they will be able to help you fix it.

Who do you most admire in business?

My manager, Jemma Kemp. She has such an amazing work ethic and no matter what, she has my back. She is a true asset to our team and our organisation. I am thankful everyday that I get to be line managed by someone who has the same aspirations and passion for ellenor as me.

50 Thinking Business

Sue joins Leeds Castle following her role as Senior Curator at the Royal Museums Greenwich, where she was responsible for the Queen’s House. Prior to that, Sue worked as a Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department, where she developed her passion for mid-century design. She has written and lectured extensively on fashion and textiles from 1900-1960 and has curated a number of exhibitions including the internationally successful ‘Quilts 1700-2010: Hidden Histories, Untold Stories’. As Head Curator, Sue will guide Leeds Castle’s future curatorial plans, most notably

Helen Bonser-Wilton, Chief Executive at Leeds Castle, said: “Leeds Castle has a 900-year history of being a glamorous retreat, the place that important people came to relax while doing business, from medieval times to the present day. Sue’s appointment is crucial to help us bring these stories to life. Sue Prichard commented: “I am delighted to join the team at Leeds Castle at such an exciting time. Lady Baillie was a true arbiter of taste, a woman who loved collaborating with some of the finest continental designers. She created her own eclectic vision of an English country house, during one of the most fascinating, and turbulent periods of 20th century history. I look forward to revealing some of the extraordinary stories that make Leeds Castle so unique.”

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