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Business Matters: March 2008

Business Matters March 2008

The UK’s leading magazine for the SME business owner

£3.00

30

WOMEN AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME & HOW THEY DID IT...

Women in Business / Eric Baker / Whatʼs your businesses value?

FOR SALE TICKETS, TICKETS? We talk to Viagogo chief Eric Baker

www.bmmagazine.co.uk

PLAYING WITH THE BIG BOYS Competing in the international marketplace

HOW MUCH IS MY BUSINESS WORTH?


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Business Matters March 2008

The UK’s leading magazine for the SME business owner

£3.00

30

WOMEN AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME & HOW THEY DID IT...

This Month News

4 Women in Business

13 Opinion

FOR SALE

HOW MUCH IS MY

TICKETS, TICKETS?

BUSINESS WORTH?

We talk to Viagogo chief Eric Baker

PLAYING WITH THE BIG BOYS

Competing in the international marketplace

19 Taking on the titans

32 Getting to know you

66

• • • • regular features

A

s you can see from Deborah Meadon adorning our cover this month, we have spent a large amount of time recently speaking to female business leaders and entrepreneurs about how they have succeeded. Whilst they are all inspirations, the general concensus was that it didn’t really matter what sex you are, just as long as you have determination. This month we also look at subjects from how to make sure that you retain your best staff, to networking on the golf course, to how to get the best price for your business if you do decide to sell. Jo Russell spent sometime with Eric Baker about how a bad experience trying to buy Lion King tickets led him to set up Viagogo, one of the leading ticket agencies in the UK and Christine Baker joined us to explore the life of East London boy made good Jack Petchey, whose foundation hands out millions of pounds to help London’s kids, but who plays down the usual publicity that other similar benefacters crave. We are pleased to be launching our new interactive website on the 10th Marchwhich will provide subscribers the ability to join our new social network for business owners to share problems, and market yourselves to your fellow subscribers. Next month we are pacing our cases and heading off to the land of the free to explore how easy it is to set up and run an office in New York. Simon Clarke - Editor sclarke@clearsightmedia.co.uk

CLEARSIGHT PUBLISHING & MEDIA

8

IN Business

What has been happening in business in the last month.

19

Opinion

Jim Moore’s Inside Track: this month Jim helps you identify the best inestment plan for your money.

20

Interview

Jo Russell talks to Eric Baker about how and why he started viagogo.

• • • • business strategy 12

Women in Business

We talk to some of the leading women in business today.

23

HR for the non HR

How to make sure that you do not loose your best staff.

38

Working on the 19th hole

We give you some essential tips on winning friends and business when you mix business with pleasure.

Publisher & Managing Editor- Richard Alvin Editor - Simon Clarke - editorial.bm@clearsightmedia.co.uk Production and Design - James Conolly & Andrew Lawrence Head of Advertising - Anthony Carty - acarty@clearsightmedia.co.uk Contributors: Jim Moore, Felicity Cousins, Gavin Porritt, Donald Findley, Jo Russell, Mark Prigg Louise Shaw, Derek Bedlow, Richard Eaton, Christine Baker, Sarah Bethell Published by - Clearsight Publishing Ltd, Ensign House, Canary Wharf, London E14 9XQ Tel: 0870 116 2852 Email: info@bmmagazine.uk Web: www.bmmagazine.co.uk Subscriptions – subscriptions@bmmagazine.co.uk Business Matters is printed on recycled paper and the polybag wrapping is bio-degradeable Printed by – Wyndeham Heron ISSN 1754-3096 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior consent of the publishers. The views expressed in Business Matters are not necessarily the views of the publishers. Whilst Clearsight Publishing Ltd has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, neither they nor any contributing author can accept any legal responsibility for any consequences that may arise from errors or omissions contained in this publication or from acting on any opinions or advice given. In particular, this publication is general and not a substitute for professional advice and you should consult your own professional advisors where appropriate.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 3


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News Business debts: what are yours? New research from entrepreneur think tank, the Tenon Forum, reveals that seventeen per cent of UK owner-managers have no idea how much money their business owes. Close to half of UK owner-managers admit their business currently owes money with four in 10 took out loans to grow the business, 15 per cent say their business had not performed as expected and nine per cent blame poor decisions which have lost the firm money. However, it seems that many entrepreneurs are comfortable with a high level of debt – with 15 per cent prepared to accept a high level of borrowing if it enables long term business growth and a quarter stating they are very open-minded about borrowing funds. While some are maximising their debts to grow the business, other SMEs are more worried about their borrowing levels with a twenty per cent saying they feel their debts are having a negative impact on their business. Sixteen per cent of ownermanagers never let their business borrow money and 12 per cent consider being in debt their worst fear. Across the UK, businesses in the North are most concerned by business debt with almost a quarter claiming they never let their business borrow money and 15 per cent of Southern SMEs stating this is their worst fear for the business. Carl Jackson, Head of Tenon Recovery, commented: "In the current fragile economic climate, it’s especially important that entrepreneurs know their balance sheet inside out. Borrowing can bring considerable business benefits but debts must be kept under control and within the financial limits of the company. “No matter their level of debt, entrepreneurs should put contingency plans in place to ensure these debts remain manageable.

Social networking in the UK celebrates it’s tenth birthday Some of our readership might only just be coming face-to-face with the Facebook phenomina, but social networking in the UK celebrated it’s tenth birthday last month. Social networking may now be a buzz word, but the UK's longest running example was founded over a family lunch in February 1998 by mother of three, Penny Power. Penny and her husband are returning to the same restaurant for lunch, ten years after their idea of a business community on the net was conceived, long before the term social network existed or was properly defined. Ecademy was one of the few net-based companies to survive the dotcom crash of 2000. "Back then everyone was chasing dotcom lottery tickets thinking they would be overnight millionaires," says Power. "There was talk of B2B Marketplaces but nothing ever materialised because everyone was obsessed with instant transactions rather than building a community of people and relationships." "At Ecademy we focused on putting people first and grew organically through word of mouth, and by backing up the service with face-to-face local events across the country," says Power. "We avoided venture capital because we witnessed our friends and peers crash and burn after the dotcom crisis in 2000 begun in March 2000, and started making profit after five years." "Our next challenge," says Power "is globalising Ecademy to see a replica of Ecademy in the UK spreading to all parts of the worldwide business community." Social Networking is emerging as a powerful commodity as large numbers of social networks like Facebook, MySpace and

Linkedin expand. After years of profitable business Ecademy has advice for social netFounders: Thomas & Penny Power work companies. The key is to create a community, it says, not just a set of tools. Its own has been achieved because of the personal involvement and guidance that all members provide one another with, online and offline. Penny Power says: "The whole team led by Chief Executive Glenn Watkins worked hard to make sure Ecademy provided a platform of emotional support and wealth for members as well as a vehicle to generate financial wealth through commercial transactions. Networks driven only by money or transactions tend to fade away once the money dries up, we never set out to be a fad, and time has proved we were right". Ecademy believes in relationships first, commerce second and is the UK leader in B2B Social Networking, continuing to expand around the globe reaching all the 222 countries defined by Google Analytics.

Being seen to be green UK businesses are more interested in implementing CSR policies to impress employees than out of any desire to save the planet, according to new research issued by leading business and financial advisers Grant Thornton. The findings highlighted that 54% of UK businesses are influenced to move towards more ethically responsible practices by a desire to attract or retain staff, but only 30% are doing so because they are concerned about the planet. Cost management is also a key factor,

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with 52% citing this as an important motivator. And concern about public perception was mentioned by 48% of businesses, emphasising the extent to which CSR policies are now recognised as being an important element in creating brand profile. Alysoun Stewart, Head of Entrepreneurial Advisory at Grant Thornton comments: "Bottom line profitability will quite rightly stay critical. However, it is encouraging to see CSR policies coming to the fore as an important element in the achievement of these objectives.


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News A fine (office) romance Longer working hours, more project collaboration and increased socialising out of hours is leading to an increased number of office romances according to Reed. 54% of the 2000 workers polled this month by reed.co.uk owned up to having a secret crush on one of their work colleagues. One in three admitted they had exchanged suggestive emails and texts with someone at work, even though they were in a relationship with someone else and 38% of people have had an office romance. UK workers it seems have an ambivalent attitude to office affairs and the old adage, ‘don’t mix business and pleasure’ is out of date. 71% of all respondents stated that they wouldn’t mind if their colleagues were having an affair in the office, with an overwhelming consensus (89%) stating that it was none of their business. Just 8% of workers said they would confront their colleagues if they discovered they were having an affair. For many the office is a fantastic environment to meet a future partner. 45% of respon-

dents stated it is the best place to meet a life partner. 10% of those questioned had ended up living with someone they had met at work and 7% had even married a work colleague. Further evidence that office romances are no longer the taboo they once were is that 70% of respondents said that they would not feel any pressure for them or their partner to leave the company if they started dating.

Misplaced confidence levels The Chartered Management Institute suggests that UK organisations have a misplaced confidence about their ability to cope with uncertainty and change. The findings also identify the key challenge currently facing UK employers, but suggest that little is being done to address it. Demonstrating a worrying level of over-confidence, the survey shows that, of the top concerns raised, only 38 per cent of organisations believe that ‘managing risks’ is most important. Just 32 per cent suggest that ‘developing talent’ is a significant issue, despite nearly sixty 60 per cent admitting that skills and talent management is the key challenge currently facing UK employers. And although evidence exists to show that the proportion of failed IT projects at 74 per cent is as high as in 1980 these latest findings reveal that only 24 per cent think it is a priority to ‘keep abreast of technological change’. Worse still, just 10 per cent believe effective use of ‘IT and communications’ is one of the biggest challenges for the UK. Little over one-third also think that ‘prioritising the reputation’ of their organisation is important for long-term business success. Only

35 per cent view ‘managing the impact of regulation’ as a necessity – a surprising response given the importance of corporate governance. The survey, which took into account the views of 1,175 managers, also shows that innovation is a low priority amongst UK organisations. Less than 1 in 5 believe the creativity and inventiveness is a top challenge and just 22 per cent state it is important in today’s working environment. Although this figure increases when respondents look at business priorities in 2013, at 28 per cent it is still worryingly low. The research does, however, uncover some encouraging news. Asked how effective individuals felt their organisation is at ‘monitoring the competition’ 70 per cent responded positively. Reflecting the belief that UK organisations are in touch with their customer base, 65 per cent also claimed their employer is effective when it comes to ‘scanning changes in society for its impact on the business.’ There were also some positive signs for individuals, with 83 per cent saying they ‘can’t wait to get up in the morning’, 75 per cent claiming it is easy to ‘keep positive’ and 53 per cent suggesting that, despite heavy workloads, ‘taking time for lunch is no longer a challenge’.

Call for green windfall tax The TUC is calling on the Chancellor to introduce a green windfall profits tax on energy companies and to use the proceeds to increase spending on tackling fuel poverty, improving home insulation and other environmental and job creating initiatives. The call for a profits tax is based on the calculation by Ofgem, the energy regulator, that the electricity industry will benefit from a windfall profit of around £9 billion from the free allocation of tradeable emission permits over the four years of Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (to 2012). This is on top of a previous DTI estimate of £800 million a year in extra profits to 2007 from Phase I of the scheme. The TUC believes that this could make a major contribution to the Government’s target of eliminating fuel poverty by 2010, which has been made more difficult by energy price rises leading to more than four million households suffering fuel poverty. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “These excess profits do not flow from investment, innovation or hard work but simply result from the way that carbon trading has been implemented across Europe. While carbon trading has a crucial part to play in tackling climate change, these windfall profits will give it a bad name unless they are used to fund socially useful and green spending. “This should be the centrepiece of a green Budget which should show how the Government intends to implement the Stern Review’s call for one per cent of GDP to be used to tackle global warming.” The TUC also feel that the Government should identify new funding streams to boost the introduction of carbon capture and storage projects, and aim to host four of the 10-12 demonstration projects planned by the EU.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008

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News Business brains More than 10 million Brits dream of leaving their job and starting their own business, according to new research. Over a third of workers have recently thought about setting up on their own, with one in five of those planning to make the leap into self employment in the next year. The average worker even spends three days of each year day-dreaming about their future business from their desk. But while 15 per cent dream of becoming their own boss because they aren't happy in their current job, 37 per cent admits the main reason is simply to earn more money than they do at the moment. More than 40 per cent are thinking of starting up their own business because they crave more freedom in the way they work and a quarter want to turn a hobby into a paying business. Rosemary French, of Business Link, which carried out the poll, said: ''It's encouraging to see how many people dream of setting up their own business to enjoy the flexibility and benefits of working for themselves." "The research also showed that nearly as many women as men are keen to become their own boss." But the poll of 2,000 Brits revealed that a third of people dreaming of setting up their own business might not get round to doing it because they are unsure how to go about it. Money is another concern with 30 per cent of aspiring bosses saying they are worried about getting into debt or adding to existing money problems. Almost half would worry about getting the money together to fund the business in the first place. Surprisingly, 45 per cent of people said they would fund a new company with a bank loan, overdraft or even a credit card. But 41 per cent of people admitted the current economic climate may make them less likely to start up their own business in the near future.

Government urged to commit The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is calling on the Government to stick by its commitment to placing small firms at the heart of its enterprise policy. Following the departure of Competitiveness Minister Stephen Timms. Mr Timms represented the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) on the Small Business Forum, which meets every two months to discuss the issues and concerns shared by small firms. As part of a reshuffle following the resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, Mr Timms has been appointed Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform at the Department of Work and Pensions. At the last meeting of the Small Business Forum in January, the FPB’s Policy Representative, Matthew Goodman, was told that small businesses would play a significant role in implementing the Government’s Enterprise Framework. He urged Mr Timms’ replacement, Baroness Shriti Vadera, to keep that promise. "Stephen Timms’ departure has put the Government’s progress on the Enterprise Framework in jeopardy," said Mr Goodman. "The danger is that, with this shift in personnel, the small-business agenda may be pushed further toward the margins at a time when it desperately needs to be centre stage." Last year, entrepreneur Sean Taggart resigned from the Forum, citing its lack of real influence in Whitehall. In his resignation letter, Mr Taggart said it was ‘merely a tick box for an SME-engagement agenda’. In the past, the FPB has been critical of the

Baroness Shriti Vadera marginal role the Forum has played in developing business policy, compared to the Business Council for Britain. The latter, which includes representatives from big business, such as Sir Alan Sugar and Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, has the ear of the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP. However, Mr Goodman insisted that the FPB’s direct access to BERR, which has the remit of encouraging business growth and creating competition, is more likely to bring about positive change for smaller firms. Commenting on former investment banker Baroness Vadera’s appointment, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the Rt Hon John Hutton MP, welcomed her skills and experience. "Shriti Vadera’s background in the City and at the Treasury is good news for the Department’s engagement with business," he said. "She will be a valuable addition to the Ministerial team and a strong advocate within Government for the needs of enterprise."

Being fit for employment NATIONAL charity Shaw Trust has urged the government to power up its anti sick note culture drive by giving employers guidance and incentives to participate in employee retention programmes. As Health Secretary Alan Johnson called for employers to do more to promote their workers’ work health balance at the British Heart Foundation's Well at Work Conference recently, the charity said everyone would benefit from a clear support system to reduce the 175 million working days that are lost to ill health every year. Managing Director Tim Cooper said employers should be allowed to take the lead, not GPs, who will be at the forefront of the

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government’s summer ‘well note’ pilot of changes to the current sick certificate. “As a charity dedicated to help disabled, ill, and disadvantaged people enter into and maintain employment, we heartily agree that people’s capabilities rather than disabilities be focused on,” he said. “There is no doubt that work is a prescription to good health. But it should not be left to GPs to determine whether or not a patient is able to perform the job functions required by the employer, or to advise the employer on how to make work place adjustments to allow the employee to carry on working. Employers need to be provided assistance and support to understand.”


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Talking of Experts Business owners and directors from the UK’s fastest growing small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are set to reap the benefits from the series of regional Ideal Business Show events in 2008 Research has shown that both the Thames Valley and Wales regions have amongst the highest concentrations of SME’s in Europe and that this is expected to grow. Ideal Business Show Thames Valley at Newbury Racecourse, Berkshire 29-30 April and Ideal Business Show Wales at Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on 16-17 July offer both regions’ busy owners, directors and decision makers of SMEs the opportunity to gain expert advice and explore products, services and solutions from exhibitors under one roof over two days.

Speakers in the Spotlight Aside from unique networking opportunities both events showcase a plethora of inspiring business speakers. The line up in the Innovation Theatre at Ideal Business Show Thames Valley

already includes: Greg Dyke, Director General of the BBC (2000-2004); Retail tycoon, Gerald Ratner; Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham; and female inspiration and ex BBC Dragon, Rachel Elnaugh.

Business up close and personal Harold Phillips, Director of Diamond Discovery Software used Ideal Business Show to re-launch his company: “The contacts we made far exceeded our expectations. We are building on last year’s success by increasing our profile at the show by taking a space in the Expert Zone.� The organisers have created the Expert Zone in order to satisfy the hunger for information, expertise, and advice across 4 disciplines: IT, Finance, Sales and Marketing and HR. Will Allen, Sales and Marketing Director announced this week the British Computer Society (BCS), leading professional body for those working in IT, will be supporting the IT Expert Zone. He says: “The BCS are thought-leaders for IT, one of the critical areas of interest for our audience - time poor decision mak ers of SMEs.� Expert Zone exhibitors receive a

custom built stand, increased exposure and a seminar opportunity in the Expert Theatre. Will continues: “It enables market leaders and pioneers of each discipline an unparalleled platform from which to educate their key demographic.â€? Director, Craig Blackmore of accountancy firm, K T S Owens Thomas says: “We thought it would be a different marketing approach to engage with business and reach a wider audience‌we generated enough new business to pay for the stand 34 times over.â€? He adds: “It is important for us to be at the show in 2008 so we can continue to raise our profile and generate more business leads.â€? They join a broad spectrum of businesses exhibiting in 2008 including: O2, Northgate HR, Scottish and Southern Energy, Carbon Trust and Companies House. Delegates are able to register for both events free online at www.idealbusinessshow.co.uk If you are interested in exhibiting or the Expert Zone package for either 2008 event please contact the organisers on 0117 9154 546.

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IN B U S I N E S S The Mexican touchdown service extended With foreign Direct Investment from Mexico forecast to rise from $6.8 billion this year to $8.5 billion in 2011, Think London is rolling out its business incubator service, Touchdown London, to Mexican companies looking to invest in London. The bespoke joint initiative is a partnership with Avanta, the serviced office company, to help businesses establish themselves in London. Touchdown London is a dedicated startup service to help Mexican businesses with a ‘soft landing’ in the capital, including subsidised office space and support services. The announcement was made in Mexico today by Michael Charlton, Chief Executive of Think who is on a week long visit that will see him meet with Mexican companies in the financial and business services, food and drink, energy, technology and creative industries sectors. The meetings aim to promote investment in London and will highlight the benefits of globalising through London and what opportunities the 2012 Olympic Games can offer to these businesses. Michael Charlton Chief Executive, Think London said: “Mexican businesses have traditionally looked to the US to invest and grow, but an increasing number are now looking to Europe as part of their strategy. London’s economic growth together with the wealth of opportunities surrounding the 2012 Olympics offer huge potential for Mexican companies.

“We anticipate that Mexican businesses will see the value in our Touchdown London service and it follows on from the success that we have seen in offering a similar start-up service to Chinese and Indian companies.” Touchdown London will offer free desk space for up to three months, and thereafter a 25 per cent reduction in office rent. Services provided by Touchdown London include: assistance with company registration, access to professional service providers such as accountants and lawyers as well as dayto-day office facilities, including a fullystaffed reception, and meeting rooms. Chris Taylor, Director of Marketing & D evelopment, Avanta said: “Avanta are delighted to be in partnership with Think London on this project and we look forward in assisting Mexican companies with that all important first step in moving into London.” Michael Charlton’s visit to Mexico, the first by Think London, will look to further develop links between London and Mexican businesses. It follows a trip to Mexico by the Lord Mayor of London in 2007. Mexico was recently identified as a high growth market at UK Trade & Investment’s Emerging Markets Forum. Think London works in partnership with UKTI and its international network which is represented in Mexico via the Commercial Section of the British Embassy. For more information about how Think London can help your business – visit www.thinklondon.com

Going digital to attract more customers cScape, an award-winning digital agency, which has established itself as a key player in the field of customer engagement, has launched a 90-page booklet entitled: Winners and Losers in a Troubled Economy. The guide brings leading experts together, and includes guides and tips for businesses on moving towards an online customer engagement strategy. It also offers six core theses, addressing the issue of maintaining and attracting customers during times of a troubled economy. Following on from an analysis of the major impacts on the market and trends, cScape looked at the area of customer engagement in

the face of a possible economic downturn. The company identified that from every previous slowdown, clear winners and losers were identified. cScape realised the value that could be added through offering businesses a guide to effective digital customer engagement. As Richard Sedley, co-author of the report and director of cScape’s Customer Engagement Unit, commented: “The focus of this publication is on how digital media, if used correctly, can create engaging customer relationships. “It is our contention that by embracing customer engagement and adopting the use of digital media as the spine of your customer

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interactions, no matter what market you are in, you stand a far better chance of not just emerging from a downturn unscathed, but becoming a clear winner.” The winners will be those businesses that best use digital media and best engage their customers. cScape’s guide can be downloaded at http://www.winners-and-losers-in-a-troubled-economy.com/. The first 1000 to register will receive a free download copy, all registrations after that time will be charged at £13.95.


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IN B U S I N E S S Learning how to get more from referrals

You can’t take a course to learn how to get more referrals can you? Well recognising that very few colleges and business schools offer courses covering topics such as word of mouth marketing and networking, Referral Institute is teaching businesses just that. By investing the time to learn specific referral marketing strategies, tools and techniques, students can double, even triple their sales in months without spending additional marketing budget.

Many Business owners understand the value of referrals but often, they don't have control over their referral business. Stephen Harvard Davis of the Business Relationship Consultancy said: "Our business depends upon referrals and our clients will often provide them enthusiastically so I was initially sceptical that the Pipeline Seminar could do much for us. However I was wrong. The event was a huge success for us in that it delivered a new source of referrals that we had not considered before. Within a few days I had a string of qual-

ified appointments and it's doubled our prospecting activity" Another seminar, Referral Success 101, is all about getting referral marketing working for businesses: the most effective form of marketing for businesses with limited marketing budget. Students learn how to develop a strategic referral network; who should be in it; how to find them and how to motivate those people to refer business. In terms of the possibilities of generating more sales in less time by doing business by relationship, this seminar is a real eye opener. Asked what she liked least about the seminar Roseanne Partridge said: “Feeling very inadequate about my referral skills and realising how much more I could do” To learn some specific techniques that will enable you to really work smarter, not harder attend Referral Success 101 in London on either 6th March or 3rd April. Referral Institute London Central is a referral marketing training organisation. Typically they help business frustrated because they don’t see a quick enough or predictable return on their investment in networking activities; some are worried because they lack a clear understanding about what their referral marketing weaknesses are and have even less of an idea about how to fix them and a few are anxious because they give out leads and referrals but feel their efforts aren’t being reciprocated. For further information contact: Suzanne Cauchi 07768 924 558

Offer temp’s benefits at your peril The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning that extending the rights of full-time employees to temporary workers could make smaller businesses less competitive and lead to job losses. Parliamentarians voted 147-11 for Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Andrew Miller’s Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Private Members’ Bill. The FPB is concerned that, should it become law, the owners of smaller firms will be less inclined to employ temporary workers because of the added red tape and costs involved in handing them the same pay, holidays, training and pensions as full-time members of staff, provided they have

worked for six weeks with the firm. "For many small businesses and temporary staff members alike, agency work provides the flexibility they are seeking," said the FPB’s Policy Representative, Matthew Goodman. "Reducing the flexibility of the labour market in this way could damage small firms and, by extension, the UK’s economy. Enforcing the law to tackle agencies which abuse their positions is important, but introducing new legislation is a step too far." FPB member Christopher Hardman is the Managing Director of The Bacon Factory, in Bury. His bacon-slicing company relies on the flexible working arrangements that

temporary workers provide and he believes that he will have to rethink his use of agency staff should the Bill become law. "For us, less paperwork means more time spent running the business. The extra work and cost would make us rethink using temporary staff; we may as well employ people full time." The FPB is pointing out that the move could also harm independent employment agencies, and mean smaller firms would be forced to spend even more time and money on recruitment and complying with employment law. For more information log on to the FPB’s website: www.fpb.org

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 9


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IN B U S I N E S S Calling from the sky It's a sign of the times: the empty space where the smoking/no-smoking sign used to be on aircraft will soon have a new use as a mobile service/no mobile service indicator on flights around Europe. The ability to use your mobile device when flying is likely to soon become a reality on certain airlines, reports the specialist spectrum policy newsletter, PolicyTracker, with Air France now conducting the world’s first trial on international flights. Using a system developed by Airbus associate OnAir, passengers on an Air France Airbus A318 can use their mobiles at heights over 3,000 metres just as if they were roaming in a foreign country while paying much the same rate for the service. The only fly in the ointment at this point is that while most European telecoms operators have agreed to the mobile service being provided in their national airspace, some have not. When the trial flight overflies countries like Spain and Portugal which have not yet approved the service, the no mobile service sign lights up. Air France reports there has been a warm reception from travellers to the initially data-

only service, with business travellers in particular delighted to be able to stay in touch via email, SMS and MMS while airborne. The crunch part of the sixmonth trial, which kicked off on a flight between Paris and Warsaw, will come in a few weeks time when voice is also introduced allowing passengers to make and take ordinary calls on their handsets. Air France is expecting a lot of passengers to be against their fellow travellers holding phone conversations, and every passenger is being given a questionnaire to put their views about the service. Depending on what the majority of passengers have to say, Air France may launch a full service, a data-only service or no service on the rest of its fleet. Other airlines are watching the trial with in-

terest, and cut-price operator RyanAir has announced it plans to launch a commercial service on its 200 Boeing 737 aircraft in March.

The UK lags behind on social networking In the first study of its kind, senior marketing executives from global blue chips including Sony, Diageo, GlaxoSmithKline and Hewlett Packard have shared their views on the untapped power of social media – and their insights suggest that UK businesses are already missing the boat. The study reveals that nearly 50 per cent of those US businesses questioned recognise social media for the revolutionary new opportunity it is – and say it must be grasped with urgency if brands are to keep ahead of the market. By contrast, in the UK just 18 per cent of executives who participated in the study see blogging and social networking as valuable – less than any other country questioned. The study also indicates that UK companies fall far behind other markets in terms of evolving their understanding of social media. Thirty-two per cent of UK respondents say they are still at a ‘learning’ stage (compared to an average of 18 per cent) – having studied the

options presented by social media, but not yet implementing it into their marketing strategies. The US and Canada are predominantly at the next ‘experimentation’ stage, where most businesses are already engaging in pilot projects. In the UK, just 9 per cent of the businesses surveyed are at this progressive stage. Astonishingly, despite the growing power of social media which now boasts over 200 million subscribers worldwide, a quarter of the UK executives questioned still maintain that viral campaigns through social networks have very little brand impact. The UK is alone in this insulated view; 76 per cent of US executives who participated in the study say that creating word of mouth campaigns has a huge impact on a brand or business. Stark revelations of poor resourcing and lack of Board-level support suggest that it is senior UK management, rather than marketing executives, who are standing in the way of the UK jumping on the social media bandwagon.

10 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

The study revealed that 23 per cent of the UK executives questioned blame a lack of senior management commitment for them falling behind the social media trend, and a further 36 per cent cite lack of skills amongst marketing teams and marketing services partners as the greatest barrier to implementation. Perhaps the only ray of light for the UK is that budget is not seen as a problem: on average, 10 per cent of executives questioned see budget as the greatest barrier to implementation, but this is not a concern in the UK. Jim Nail, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, TNS Media Intelligence, says: "It is surprising to see that the UK is lagging so far behind other nations in terms of recognising the business potential for social media. We are already seeing the damage done to brands who ignore negative publicity on networking sights – and with hundreds of thousands new subscribers signing up each day, this influence is only going to increase.


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Women in Business

Work and Maternity Guy Guinan looks at the employment laws surrounding maternity

S

ir Alan Sugar’s recently and very widely published comments that current maternity laws entitle employees to “too much” and that ‘everything has gone too far” may strike a chord with a number of employers. In recent years there have been huge changes made to maternity rights and a number of new family friendly rights have been introduced. Ten years ago a new employee was entitled to a maximum of 14 weeks maternity leave, whereas now a new employee can take a whole year off work. Those employees who qualified for maternity pay could get 18-weeks paid leave, whilst now they will get 39 weeks and that is going to increase to 52 weeks from next year. Even the rates of maternity pay have doubled. The last 10 years has also seen the introduction of new rights to adoption leave and pay, parental leave, paternity leave, time off for dependants and the right to request flexible working. H o w e v e r, rather than making a comparison with ‘what things were like then’, it should be re c o g n i s e d that society today has changed.

There have been major advances in recognising the importance of equality issues, and the strengthening and creation of family friendly rights has helped those changes. In relation to recruitment Sir Alan correctly states that to ask how the applicant will cope with her child care commitments is opening the door to a claim for sex discrimination. There is a good reason for that in that it is likely to show that the interviewer is discriminating. The issue is would the interviewer have a different approach to a male applicant? A male applicant may well have young children and live some distance from the office. However it is extremely unlikely that he would be asked any questions about how he would cope with child care arrangements. Working parents do require some flexibility in their work arrangements. The right to ask for this flexibility has seen many employers agree to changes in office hours and home working has become much more common. When making these arrangements there has to be trust between the employer and employee. In the majority of cases where flexible work arrangements have been agreed both employer and employee have benefited as it helps the employer retain staff, frees up expensive office space, reduces or eliminates commuting time and in many cases, rather than skiving, the employee working at home is doing more hours than if they had been in the office.

Guy Guinan is an Employment partner in the London office of national law firm Halliwells LLP

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Women in Business

Women leading from the front Sir Alan Sugar recently made the headlines by stating what many business owners will stop hiring women for senior posts as they have the potential to cost a business more. Simon Clarke has spoken to some of the countries leading up and coming female business owners to prove that you are just as likely to find a woman taking the interview.

Karen Brady As managing director of Birmingham City Football Club, Karren Brady is probably the best known woman in the male dominated world of soccer. In the 15 years since she took over at the top of the West Midlands club, she’s overseen the team’s transformation both on and off the pitch. Birmingham now plays in the Premier League and what was a loss-making business on a modest £1.3m turnover is now one of the few top-flight clubs to return a profit on its £55m income. “I marketed the club better. I established community links and got a family feel. I got people through the gates and kept costs down,” said the 38-year-old mother of two. She also established a ratio linking the wage bill to income. After leaving Aldenham School in west London, Brady, then 18, joined Saatchi & Saatchi on its graduate training scheme, despite not having a degree. She moved to the radio station LBC, working in sales, before moving to Sport Newspapers, becoming a director at 22, where she met up with publisher – and future Birmingham City FC owner – David Sullivan. She puts her rapid rise through the ranks down to enthusiasm, urgency and respect. “I’m a doer. I like to step outside the comfort zone,” she said. “I’ve never been motivated by money or status.”

Her attitudes convinced Sullivan she was the women to head his new business venture and at 23 Brady found herself negotiating with hard-nosed football agents, discussing multimillion pound transfer deals and trying to resurrect the ailing club. “I told everyone I was 25,” she said. The extra two years gave her the credibility to compete. “I had to be tough,” she said and tough she is. Not only did she twice sell her footballer husband from Birmingham but on each occasion it was to a rival Midlands club, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City. Brady managed the club’s flotation on AIM in 1997, becoming the UK’s youngest MD of a plc. She also holds non-exec board posts at Channel 4 television and Mothercare, is chairman of Emap’s Kerrang digital radio station and is on the board of Sport England. Not bad for someone who underwent emergency brain surgery in 2006 for an aneurysm. “Because of that I don’t plan too far ahead,” she said. “Nor do I sleep that well and am awake half the night emailing my staff - but I don’t expect them to respond.” Talk of a takeover at the club at the end of last year failed to reach fruition but a sale is still on the cards. “I don’t think I’d stay,” says Brady. “I don’t think I’ll stay in football.”

Instead she’ll ply her trade elsewhere. “Persistence and determination should be the aim of any business,” said Brady, voted Vitalise Businesswoman of the year last year. “It’s important never to look back but to concentrate on the future. Do what you do best and don’t be sidetracked.”

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 13


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Women in Business

Kim Einhorn Aged 15 Kim said good bye to her school – and it is debatable who breathed the biggest sigh of relief at her early departure! – and went off to seek her fortune… and, what a fortune that turned out to be as she now runs a party and production company that turns over £2 million a year. But, it is not easy being a teenage rebel without qualifications so she opted, as a stop gap, to work in her father’s clothing shop, the fashionably trendy Laurence Corner army surplus store, beloved by the likes of Boy George. Many years later she was still there. During an argument with her father in which she was overruled, she made the momentous decision that she wanted to be her own boss. That was the day Kim decided to leave and she has never looked back. She had always loved amateur dramatics and knew she wanted to do something creative. As her brother David was also in a position to start a new career, she persuaded him to join her. Their bread and butter work then, was entertaining and helping to organise children’s parties – she as the Red Elephant and he as Spaceman Sam. Out of these roles grew more and more prestigious events as the adults liked what they saw and bookings for their private parties and corporate events - including the glamorous TVAM awards - began to roll in. Very soon they had several lock up garages full of props and party paraphernalia and when this became 30 garages their current business was born and it was time to get really serious… Theme Traders - the party, events and production company – began on a shoe string. Determined as ever, Kim borrowed £5,000 from her husband to purchase office equipment and props and then profit in the early days went back into buying costumes and equipment to help theme the parties the pair were organising. The company was also chosen to theme the children’s party held at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen’s 80th birthday and have been the subject of a fly-on-the-wall documentary ‘Now I’m the Boss’. Rachel is the co-founder of Moneypenny, the UK’s fastest growing Theme Traders employs 25 permanent staff, and over telephone answering and outsourced reception service. 70 during peak season, and is now a market leader proIn 2000, having already enjoyed a successful career in PR and marketing ducing events all over the world. Rachel and her brother Ed pooled their convictions about customer service and teamwork and Moneypenny began. Creating a company that now handles over 3 million calls a year on behalf of 20,000 business people throughout the UK required determination, ambition and an inherent understanding of the needs of a client. In the seven years since its launch, Rachel’s vision and commitment has After joining Ware Anthony driven Moneypenny to great success, opening up new markets, becoming a Rust as an account unique employer and developing award-winning technology. manager 18 years ago, Moneypenny currently has a turnover of £4m and employs 125 staff. Alison rose through the ranks to become managing director of the communications agency which now has an annual turnover apMaria is the CEO and founder of proaching £5 million. renowned brand, Rodial skincare. Last year was certainly significant for Ware Anthony Ex beauty journalist, Maria set up Rodial Rust, acquiring Chamberlain, specialists in food and in 1999 and the company now has prodfarming PR, before moving to new offices in Camucts stocked world wide in over 200 bridge to accommodate the whole business under one stockists, including Harvey Nichols, Harroof. rods and Space NK. Maria has created a As well as directing some of the agency’s biggest skincare range which gives results that accounts, Alison enjoyed successful spells running the are as effective as cosmetic surgery. client services, direct marketing and digital divisions The products are hugely popular and before taking over as MD in 2005. she has had numerous best sellers Alison is a truly integrated thinker and has proven including Glam Balm, and very recently experience in business and consumer advertising and Tummy Tuck which sold out in one hour at Harvey Nichols and on the marketing. After leading an MBO of the agency, she website one product was sold every 5 minutes!! has presided over the biggest period of growth in the Maria has created and built Rodial into a highly reputable and established company’s history. business, and Rodial has enjoyed a hugely successful growth curve.

Rachel Clacher

Alison Meadows

Maria Hatzistefanis

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Women in Business

Sháá Wasmund Working mum Sháá, juggles bringing up an 18-monthold baby with running a $100 million investment fund for Web 2.0, and was recently named as one of the top business women under the age of 35. And she has a business mantra that may surprise some of those hard-nosed Alpha Males she’s up against: “If you’re nice to people, if you support and encourage people,” says Sháá, “I have usually found that people will do the same for you. I believe in paying it forward.” “I have always worked in a so-called ‘Man’s World’, but as Marilyn Monroe said ‘I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it’. Sháá’s meteoric career since growing up in Silicon Valley, California, and returning destitute to England with her single mum at the age of 11, has been all about facing up to challenges as a woman in a man’s world. Until recently, Sháá was Britain’s only licensed female boxing manager, one of very few women in the geeky world of online technology – and the only one to run an internet investment fund. While still a student at the LSE, she was hired by Chris Eubank to promote Britain’s biggest fight – his rematch against Nigel Benn – and helped cultivate his ‘country gent’ image before later becoming a boxing manager herself. As a PR, Sháá’s first corporate client was vacuum cleaner guru James Dyson, whom she helped transform from an unknown inventor into a household name with a globally successful business. As a businesswoman, she surfed the first dot.com boom, running Sir Bob Geldof’s travel company Deckchair.com before launching her own internet business, www.mykindaplace.com, a site for teenage girls that foresaw the current explosion of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo. More recently, Sháá turned down the job of CEO at Bebo to form Bright Station Ventures with fellow internet entrepreneur Dan Wagner, charged with investing $100 million in a range of life-changing websites.

Shirin Dehghan Shirin Dehghan founded Arieso in 2002 with the vision of enabling self-optimizing networks. As Chief Executive Officer, she has lead the company through different stages of its growth from a mere idea to commercial product to sales and growth. Shirin has over 14 years experience in the mobile communication sector. Prior to Arieso, Shirin she was a senior member of technical staff at Vodafone R&D leading research into third generation networks and quickly became the Vodafone UK board’s technical advisor. Shirin was recognised for her achievements by becoming Blackberry’s 2006 Top Woman in Technology.

Sara Render Sara Render is Chief Executive of Kinross + Render Ltd., one of the UK’s top 100 PR consultancies. She is also Chairman of ECCO International, one of the world’s leading global PR partnerships. Since Sara co-founded K+R 21 years ago and ECCO in 2000 she has worked on international communications programmes for clients such as UPS, Bovis LendLease, Sony Computer Entertainment, Regus, BenQ and Xerox. Sara began her public relations career with international accountants Arthur Young McLelland Moore (now Ernst Young). She later joined Conran Associates, the design and marketing subsidiary of the former Habitat Mothercare group, where projects ranged from corporate profile raising to supporting the launch of retail formats such as the Next fashion stores. Sara has directed a number of award winning programmes, including a probono programme for The Alzheimer’s Society to fight the proposed withdrawal of dementia drugs, PR Week’s 2007 Best Business to Business Campaign for Hewden’s ‘Shout About Noise’ campaign and the Financial Services Forum’s Best Public Relations Programme 2007 for the launch of on-line savings brand Icesave. She is also ranked within PR Week’s current ‘Power 100’, which identifies the UK’s most influential PR professionals through original research amongst journalists and politicians. Sara’s pro bono work includes PR support for Help the Hospices and she chairs the group developing the communications recommendations for External Reference Group appointed by the Department of Health to support development of a national strategy on dementia.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 15


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Women in Business

Sonita Allyene Sonita is founding Director of Somethin’ Else and is responsible for the overall business strategy of the company. After securing a Masters in Philosophy from Fitzwilliam College, Sonita joined Jazz FM where she met Somethin’ Else co-founder Jez Nelson. She began her broadcasting career as a reporter and presenter for Radio 4 and GLR and over the years has become more and more involved with the industry. She currently sits on the DCMS’s Better Regulation Task Group and is a member of the DCMS Olympics 2008-2012 Culture and Creativity Advisory Group. Sonita served for five years as Non-executive Director at the DCMS, stepping down in December 2005. Sonita is non-executive Director of The Local Radio Company plc, she was Woman of the Year in 1996 and was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to broadcasting.

Annika Bosanquet

Denise Harrison Denise co-founded Liquidlogic, the UK's leading provider of collaborative software to the public sector. Denise set up Liquidlogic with Ted Brierley in 2000 after foreseeing the growing need for improved service delivery and communication between two key areas of the public sector health and social care. They recognised a desire within healthcare from both Central and Local Government to enable sharing of information between departments and organisations to deliver better care to the customer – in response they were quick to develop a viable software technology to fulfil this need. Prior to Liquidlogic, Denise established software company, Image Systems Europe in 1980, which she financed by re-mortgaging her house and via a small amount of VC funding. The company was sold for £4m and she used part of the proceeds to create Liquidlogic.

Annika founded Wrapology in 2001 and now employs more than 20 staff in the UK and China, producing in more than 7 countries and with a retailer concession in Harrods, Wrapology is a well known and established UK manufacturer of retailer packaging. Wrapology produces product and tillpoint packaging for luxury brands such as Armani, Chanel, Harrods, Adidas, Audi and Pout and is regularly used as source information from trend and research companies when forecasting fashion and environmental trends. Wrapology’s experience of developing and launching new products such as TerraSkin® tree free paper and the Inflatapac coupled with an ever expanding library of over 1000 decorative papers ensures that their approach to packaging remains relevant to an ever changing market. Annika studied Social Anthropology BSC at the London School of Economics, training at Price Waterhouse then 5 years at Nike looking after Print then new product launches. Tom, her brother joined Wrapology straight after completing his A-Levels. Annika is also an Ambassador for the Make Your Mark campaign after winning Young Business Entrepreneur in 2004. Annika also sits on the board of Enterprise Insight.

Caroline Rowland

Helen Westgate After cutting her teeth in PR at some of the best-known London agencies she became disillusioned with the ‘big agency’ approach. This led her to set up Westgate three years ago, with an emphasis on experienced, hands-on account management, delivering real and measurable commercial results to clients. Helen lives by the mantra 'work hard, shop hard' and regularly undertakes intensive retail research.

Caroline is the MD and founder of one of London's most successful production companies, New Moon. New Moon were instrumental in London winning the 2012 Olympics as they made the short film promoting London. Caroline was up against Steven Spielberg for NY and Luc Besson for Paris. They also make commercials, programmes for TV and corporate films. Caroline is in her late 30s and has since set up a successful broadcast and film division of New Moon. She is also an ex Olympic sportswoman with enormous on-screen presence having done lots of broadcast and is very well respected within the TV industry.

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Women in Business

Andrea Davis Andrea is President of Fellowes Europe. reporting directly into Fellowes CEO, to ensure a permanent global strategy for the business. Fellowes offers an impressive range of products to equip the workspace, including paper shredders, binders and laminators, desktop accessories and record storage solutions, employing more than 2,700 people worldwide and expects global sales in excess of $700 million this year. Ms Davis started her career at Fellowes in 2003 as Vice President European Finance and Administration responsible for Finance, IT, Human Resources, and Customer Service across Fellowes’ European subsidiaries. Andrea also has an MBA from the London Business School, was head of corporate strategy at BAA and CFO of Willett International and is a keen gardener and enjoys rearing chickens in her spare time.

Saima Butt Saima set up Enterprise Business Technologies, three and a half years ago and since then the company has expanded from six to 22 employees, and now boasts a customer base of 30,000 SME’s. Her business has won a number of prestigious business awards including the Local Business of the Year Award for 2006 and 2007 and the New Horizons Incentive Award 2007. Prior to starting out in business, Saima previously worked for BT Corporate for five years. When the opportunity to be her own boss and manage a BT Local Business came up, she seized it, and has never looked back. Running her own business has also given Saima time to focus on another area very close to her heart - giving back to her community. She works closely with BT to offer help and advice to other small business owners and those who are seeking to take the plunge and start-up a business, most recently lending her support to last years BT's National Small Business Week, She has also used her success to become involved in a number of charity projects, both in the UK and abroad, including work for the St Luke’s Hospice and the Motor Neurone Association.

Penny Ferguson CEO of Penny Ferguson Limited and beginning from nothing at her kitchen table 14 years ago, Penny built up PFL to become the business it is today with a turnover of £1.6million. Over 17,500 delegates worldwide have experienced the company’s Personal Leadership Programme. Clients include Centrica, NSPCC, NHS, HM Prison Service, Home Retail Group, Staples, Thorntons, STA Travel, TNT and EU Skills. Penny Ferguson is a highly experienced management leader and personal development coach with over 20 years' experience in business. She has helped board directors, senior managers and private individuals, from a wide range of industries and backgrounds, achieve and exceed their professional and personal goals. Her interest in personal development and transformation began while working as a conventional management consultant. She recognised how a changing business ethos and non-collaborative workplace culture has a detrimental effect upon both the lives of individuals and the organisation's productivity and success.

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Advertorial

The Business Channel L

aunched on November 20th 2006, at a glittering event at the Royal Exchange,

The Business Channel soon found itself in a very enviable position of having an audience of viewers passionate about the channel and its programmes. “Compulsive viewing” perhaps sums it up and what a pleasure it has been to receive many more comments in that vein. To pick out a few: “I love this channel, I watch everything”, “Fascinating and enlightening”, “Great programmes, great tips, great quality” and this from John McLaren-Stewart, Chief Executive, Alliance Insurance Management Ltd., “Great channel...very addictive...keep it all coming.” Responding to this, Martin Everard, the Founder and Director of Programmes takes enormous pride in reading these: “To launch a new free-to-air television

productions tend to view things from a different perspective to our own and provide

channel in the UK today is a daunting challenge for anyone and all the more so when following that Reithian principle of

a fresh and unique commentary for our viewers”

public service broadcasting - to inform educate and entertain – The point has been proven that everyone is touched by “business” in some way, to a greater or lesser degree. Could you name anything in your life that has not evolved from some business activity? OK, I’ll give you THAT one, but the rest?” Set the exacting task of scouring the world for high-production value, prestigious documentaries and series, the channel’s Head of Acquisitions, Chris Fletcher, has outdone his expectations. “At first, I thought it would be a hard task sourcing enough programming which combined high production values with entertaining and compelling story-telling. But when you think about it business-related issues are present in some way in a wide range of domestic and international issues and supply has not been a problem. We have secured rights to programmes on a wide variety of subjects, from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 to an expose of the private security industry in present day Iraq. This year at the bi-annual programme distributors’ bean feast in Cannes – well,

So, it’s looking bright for 2008! The Business Channel, described as a niche product in the UK’s multi-channel homes, as measured by British Audience Research Bureau – BARB – is amongst the highest percentage of ABC1 adults of any channel, digital or terrestrial not just once but month after month.

We have had much interest from other publishers and broadcasters to work with them and we look forward to continuing enhancement of our online presence. We are always open to receiving ideas for partnerships and ways of improving our broadcasting and online services.” For a niche channel, we have also achieved some notable successes with the press. On several occasions, The Business Channel programmes have been the

The target in 2008 is to widen this profile. For instance, we showed documentaries that

highlight in The Times 2 Saturday supplement The Knowledge, The Independent, TimesOnline, Time-Out and

complemented London Fashion Week in September, more women than men watched

featured in trade press publications Broadcast and C21 and Sky Magazine. We

– naturally, we hear you say. But, it goes to show that, with the right programming, The Business Channel can

were proud to find that we had been ahead of the nationals in reflecting the issues

touch all of the audience. Hence the scheduling of Biz Kids, the American series that really takes managing finance and understanding business terminology and principles to a very basic, even elementary level but so instructional and entertaining at one and the same time. Our principle has been to build up relationships with organisations, agencies and, not least, individual businesses. Looking after this side of the channel’s affairs, our Head of Marketing and Business

someone has to do it - we were able to secure some excellent productions, not just

Development, Babak Khakpour, has been inspirational. “We're looking forward to developing

from the UK but also from overseas where

some key partnerships over the coming year.

18 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854 16

surrounding security contractors in Iraq; ahead in providing background to counterfeiting luxury goods; able to back-up news coverage of the Murdoch v Virgin airtime battle – and already we expect to do more of the same in 2008. The argument over genetic engineering will be covered in DNA & Dollars in January; Coca-Cola’s invasion of China in Olympic’s year and further ahead in the new year, as the pull out from Iraq gathers pace, a fascinating documentary on how Germany and England came to blows over the building of the Baghdad Railway, one of the foremost engineering feats of the 20th century.

Sky Guide 547


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Opinion

The Inside Track with Jim Moore

hen you are putting your money where your mouth is, it’s imperative that you are dealing with a solid, reputable organisation that won’t lie and cheat their way to profit using your hard earned cash. Leaving you where? In the lurch. If you are considering investment of any kind, in particular property investment which is what I am completely passionate about, then you’ve got to do your research. We know it’s not always practical to look at every aspect of an investment proposition; the developer, location, infrastructure, property value and so on, and it’s even harder when you are looking at anything overseas, so I believe that you need to carry out due diligence on the people or organisation giving you investment advice and offering you a seemingly fantastic deal. And this doesn’t just apply to property. Carrying out your own research into an organisation will leave you more confident that the people advising you on how to invest your money are looking after your interests and not just their own. Historically, property investment has given excellent returns. After all, property value has doubled every 7/8 years for the last fifty years, and that’s why I am so passionate. But, in common with other investment sectors, it has attracted its own black sheep into the family, and the consumer needs to sort the wheat from the chaff. We believe that property is an essential part of any investment portfolio. And we let the figures speak for themselves. According to Halifax the annual increase during 2007 stood at 5.3%. So slower than most years, but prices are still rising.

W

Regulation But it’s time to get wise. And it’s time for the Government to get wise on your behalf. Simply put, the problem with the residential property investment sector is that it’s not regulated. The Instant Access Properties group – incorporating Inside Track – made recommendations to the Treasury as long ago as 2005 that this industry needs to be regulated to protect the interests of the consumer. Although Government officials have made it clear that they supported the aim of raising standards in

With recent negative press coverage and investigative television programmes such as Panorama looking at the British residential property investment market - Jim Moore looks at how you can sort the good guys from the bad.

the residential property investment sector it was made clear that these measures would not be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. So after months of forceful campaigning for regulation and policing of the industry by the FSA, we decided to take action. Our solution? We

‘...you need to carry out due diligence on the people or organisation giving you investment advice...’ have written to the British Property Federation (BPF) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to ask for their backing for a Voluntary Code. After talks with Treasury officials, we published our own draft proposals for a Code of Conduct to squeeze the sharks out of the industry, giving those of us who care about the consumer a fighting chance. As the

biggest operator in the sector, it’s our duty to take action. The Code recommends that practitioners will be committed to: ensuring investors understand the potential risks of investment and do not over extend themselves financially; maintaining high levels of due diligence and transparency of ownership of the properties being offered; using independent property valuations; and supporting investors right through to completion of the property, rather than abandoning them after the payment of fees. Crucially, customers are entitled to a reasonable cooling off period during which they can pull out of an investment without losing any money. Yes, there’s a slowdown – we aren’t pretending that there isn’t. But when it comes to property we are talking about medium to long term investment. So my advice to you? Do your homework, and reap the rewards of acting like a sensible investor.

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Interview

Eric Baker CEO Viagogo Jo Russell talks to Eric Baker, CEO of venue ticket specialist Viagogo

is credentials are impeccable – Harvard, McKinsey, Bain Capital, Stanford Business School. A career as a consultant or CXO of a blue chip company beckoned. But following a dodgy encounter with a ticket tout intent on fleecing him for tickets to a Lion King

H

concert, Eric Baker turned his back on the blue chips to enter the then murky world of secondary ticketing. “I come from a line of entrepreneurs, and I always knew that was what I’d like to do,” says Baker. “But you can’t just wake up on Saturday and say, “hey, today

20 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

I’m going to start being an entrepreneur.” I really had the moment of inspiration when I got the Lion King tickets. I thought this system isn’t working, there has to be a solution. I already had the drive, and this was the spark.” Baker and a fellow Stanford student set


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Interview up StubHub, the concept for which was an online ticket exchange for people to buy and sell tickets for live events. The concept was clearly proven when, in March 2007, the company was sold to eBay for $310m, and was at that time trading tickets worth $400m a year. Baker left Stubhub in 2004 (while retaining a 10 per cent share, allowing him to cash in on the eBay deal), and several months later came to the UK, with a view to setting up a similar company for the European market.

Local markets “The fundamental concept of ticket resales has been around since the days of the gladiators. But the important thing was to align myself with people who understood the local markets,” continues Baker. “You can’t just come over and say this is how it works in the US, so this is how it’s going to be here. I could come over and say, “the Chicago Bears did this with us.” To people over here, the Chicago Bears might as well be an animal act.”

‘The fundamental concept of ticket resales has been around since the days of the gladiators’ Baker’s business plan proved persuasive, and with the backing of some heavyweight partners including Brent Hoberman, founder of lastminute.com, Ian Todd, president of IMG, and German media mogul Dr. Herbert Kloiber, Viagogo was launched in August 2006. Again, it is an online secondary ticketing exchange, where every transaction is guaranteed. In return for providing a “safe and secure environment” in which to buy tickets, Viagogo takes 15 per cent of the ticket price from the seller and 10 per cent from the buyer. Although not the first into the market in the UK, Baker has differentiated himself by the size and scale of the operation, and the partnerships he has brokered. He has exclusive deals with Manchester United and Chelsea, which overcome anti-hooligan laws preventing the resale of tickets, and mean that Viagogo is the only means by which season ticket holders can legitimately resell their tickets. Other topflight football and rugby

clubs have since followed suit. Viagogo was also the first reseller to do a deal with a record label – Warner Music Group, and the first in with a concert promoter – Live Nation. With a keen eye on his target market, Baker has also tapped into the Facebook phenomenon, with an application that allows users to align their Facebook and Viagogo accounts. “Anyone can put up a web site, and obviously there were people who were reselling in online broker sites,” says Baker. “But when you have the experience to be able to cut the right partnerships, which increases size, it makes it very difficult for people to copy you and overtake.” As the mantra goes, the bigger you get, the faster you grow…the faster you grow, the bigger you get. Since its launch under two years ago, Viagogo has traded around £50m worth of tickets, and doubled its revenue every quarter in 2007. This year should bring more of the same, according to Baker. “We are continuing to see absolutely blistering growth. It’s off the chart and we don’t see any reason for it to slow down. We have built this leadership position and it’s very hard for smaller outfits to compete.”

Driving factor Baker ’s leap into the world of secondary ticketing was driven by his own poor experience, and he is keen to sell himself as “fan-friendly” or “working for the fan.” But ask about the inflated prices at which some tickets are sold, and there is a quick reality check. “We are not about communism, we are about an efficient market,” says Baker. “Efficient markets drive prices down, give people transparency and the ability to buy safely and securely. I don’t mean that we work for the fan in that we are looking to give away all our money to them. I mean they are our customers and we have to do a good job for them or we will go out of business.” With only one month into 2008, prospects are looking very good for Viagogo and the secondary ticketing market.

Having secured significant funding, the company is launching in the US, where it will cross swords with StubHub. Back in the UK, Baker is celebrating the findings of the Culture Media and Sport select committee report into ticket touting. Despite lobbying from the music industry, the committee found that up to 40 per cent of tickets were being sold on the internet and that it was “neither practical nor in the interests of consumers” to ban ticket sales through the secondary market.

‘...doubled its revenue every quarter in 2007.’ The response from the ticketing industry was immediate. Having previously stated that the unauthorised resale of tickets at more than face value should be a criminal offence, US giant Ticketmaster has hurriedly acquired UK secondary ticket sellers, Get Me In. It’s a clear case of if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…. Baker is delighted. “It’s amazing to see. In 2006, no-one knew what secondary ticketing was. Now it’s been adopted by our major partners, and big companies like Ticketmaster are fighting to find anyway to get into this space.” And “this space” looks like a very good place to be right now.

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Advice

Planning a HR policy

If you’ve ever been given responsibility for hiring, managing or developing people, you’ll know that human resources and talent management are fraught with potential problems. Alyson Pellowe of People Vision looks at the key areas that every business manager should know about.

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iddle managers and unit heads are not responsible for implementing an organisation’s IT strategy. When there’s a problem with the computer network, they are not expected to fix it. Very sensibly it’s all left to IT experts. Which is why some human resources managers look at their IT counterparts with something approaching envy. HR policies and processes need to be aligned with organisational goals, and the HR team should work as a partner with the business departments – but unfortunately this is rarely the case. Responsibility for human resources is frequently filtered down through the organisation

to land on the desk of departmental bosses and team leaders. In fact the day-to-day implementation of human resources policies, talent management and personnel practices is, in many organisations, in the hands of people who have had little if any training in the matter at all.

Specialists In large companies, responsibility for good human resources practice devolves to non-specialists throughout the company. In smaller organisations, without a dedicated human resources function, responsibility for all personnel matters can fall to a wide variety of

people from a PA to the MD or indeed anyone willing to pick up the baton. All of which can constitute a serious operational risk. On the one hand, employment law is changing rapidly at national and, more frequently, at European level. Then there are the difficulties attached to managing human relationships. It can be an incredibly sensitive task and grievances can occur which need careful handling. Even the best intentioned of managers can make the situation worse. And not all managers have the best of intentions, particularly in times of acute stress. So what does this multitude of managers need

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Advice to know about human resources? The first step is to become acquainted with the legislation that applies. For example, employees are entitled to receive the minimum wage plus four weeks’ paid holiday a year and must receive itemised pay statements – all of which should be safeguarded against the employer’s insolvency. The notice period of any employee is also laid down in law, as are the requirements for redundancy pay and the right to time off to look for another job in a redundancy situation.

Legislation Equal opportunities legislation is also farreaching. In addition to the recent ruling on age, employees cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability or pregnancy. And pregnancy itself attracts certain other rules and regulations: maternity leave and pay, paternity leave and pay, and parental leave. Parents of under-fives must have their requests for flexible working seriously considered, and those adopting children are entitled to statutory leave and pay. Employees also have a right to dependant care leave – though this is not paid.

Fortunately managers do not need to know the intricacies of the law Employees are also entitled to leave in certain other circumstances, including jury service or other public obligations. Officially recognised union representatives must be given time off for their duties, as must safety representatives. Individuals cannot be dismissed for being a member of the union, for bringing a health and safety complaint or for asserting any other statutory right. They cannot be dismissed unfairly, and anyone who is asked to leave must be given written reasons. It’s a fairly exhaustive list. Fortunately managers do not need to know the intricacies of the law – that can safely be left to legal teams and the human resources department, if there is one. However they must be aware of areas in which the law applies to prevent them getting into potentially difficult or even expensive situations. But managing human resources is not just governed by the statute book. There are best practices to aim for that are designed to help organisations get the most out of their employees and the investment they have made in them. These start with recruitment and workforce

planning. Recruitment is often a hand-tomouth occupation. When a vacancy arises it is filled as soon as possible. But, ideally, managers should take a more strategic approach and align recruitment with the overall business goals, to make sure they have the right people in place to deliver their long-term plans. Recruitment can be an expensive process: a recent CIPD survey put the average direct cost of replacing a member of staff at £2,500. The indirect costs, including the time spent recruiting, inducting and training add considerably to the bill. So it’s essential that the selection decision is the right one.

managers should take a more strategic approach and align recruitment with the overall business goals When it comes to interviews it’s not just the candidates who need to prepare. Interviewers need to work out what they need to know and how they will get to that information. A set of standard questions to be asked of all

24 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

candidates should help differentiate between them, and it can be helpful to prepare a form to record responses. But interviewers shouldn’t stick rigidly to their script. An interview should look, feel and sound more like a conversation than an interrogation, and good interviewers will explore interesting ideas and pieces of information that come to light in the course of the discussion.

Gaining information The key is to ask questions that illicit detailed answers, rather than simple yes or no responses. After all, the purpose of the interview is to get as full a picture as possible about the candidate and their suitability, supported by evidence, rather than intimidating them. If particular skills are required it’s also worth devising specific tests to assess them. The interviewer should also bear in mind the anti-discrimination legislation. Potential pitfalls include asking about marital status, the number of children, or social activities. And, mindful of the Data Protection Act, which allows any candidate to see written comments, interviewers should be careful about what they note down during and after the interview.


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Advice challenge is to get the right mix of elements, and make sure the value of each one – such as mileage, gym membership, pension or company car - is visible to the employees. Managers also need to monitor the impact of the benefits package on performance, and ensure that it remains cost-effective. However, benefits do not remain static, and pay reviews should be a regular part of a manager’s job. Pay should be related to delivered results, and not to presenteeism, and will ideally be reviewed as part of the appraisal process. Managers should also be aware of the pay structures that exist within the organisation and the long-term consequences for the organisation of changing pay levels. The fourth and final area that companies need to consider is that of employee development and talent management. It is beneficial to the organisation to ensure that the skill-set of its employees are up to date and in line with business needs. A strong training and development plan will help form a workforce that is able to take on the new challenges inevitable in today’s business.

‘remember to be realistic’

Managers should therefore identify and then prioritise the organisation’s training requirements Having selected the right recruit, managers should ensure that a proper induction process is in place. This introduces new members of staff to the company, its policies and procedures, and the people they will be working with. After the induction the individual should truly understand what the company does and what his or her contribution will be. The next area that managers need to be aware of is maintaining good employee relations on an ongoing basis, and the vital role that effective communication plays. One of the most common reasons why employees feel demotivated and unengaged is that they don’t know what’s going on – and no-one is interested in their views.

Communication Good communication requires tailoring the message to the audience, choosing the right medium, and selecting the appropriate level of formality. Stories of employees being sacked by text are an acute lesson in getting commu-

nication wrong. Not only does it open the organisation up to a potential law suit it intimidates remaining employees. Newsletters, bulletins, notice boards – these can all keep staff informed. Managers should also consider how they communicate with individuals: certain information is better presented face to face, rather than in emails. Maintaining good staff relations lasts through the entire employment life-cycle – from induction, through appraisals and performance management through to the exit interview. The third broad area of best practice for the non-HR manager is employee rewards. Pay and benefits form a considerable proportion of most organisation’s costs and is one of the main attractions for job-seekers. It’s also a prime motivator for existing employees, so companies need to make sure that it doesn’t become a de-motivator. Managers must also ensure that the reward package is appropriate and will attract and help retain the right calibre of candidates. The

Offering in-depth training and development schemes can also be motivational to employees who appreciate the opportunity for self-improvement. It’s also highly attractive to potential employees. Managers should therefore identify and then prioritise the organisation’s training requirements, and decide the most appropriate method of delivery. The trainee should also be briefed to get their buy-in and early involvement. And, like all facets of human resources management, it should be measured and then refined accordingly. The so-called ‘war for talent’ means that talent management strategies are becoming increasing important for organisations. They need to be able to recruit high-flying individuals, identify potential stars within their organisation, and establish how best to nurture and encourage that potential – for example through coaching and mentoring schemes. All these elements are closely interlinked of course, and in reality most companies achieve a slightly watered down version of best practice, adapting it to fit their own circumstances. However, best fit human resources can significantly reduce an organisation’s risk and enhance its value. Attracting and retaining the right talent is both a measure of achievement and the means of realising business success.

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Tr a i n i n g

Small firms miss training

ormal training schemes and lengthy inductions are the norm in larger companies. When it comes to smaller businesses there simply isn’t the time, money or resources available for such programmes. Almost half of all small companies in the UK carry out no staff training, according to recent research carried out by the independent Small Business Research Trust (SBRT). Not surprisingly, the survey also found that the smaller the company, the less likely it is to offer any training at all, whether that be internal or external. Only 40 per cent of micro companies have formal training, while 69 per cent of small companies do. Topping the poll are medium-sized businesses, with a significant 87 per cent offering a structured programme that staff have to undergo.

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Rare commodities “Time and money are rare commodities in most small businesses, so the prospect of having to spend potentially thousands of pounds on training often makes companies

unwilling to consider it,” says Simon Wainwright, head of business banking at HSBC, which sponsored the research. “However, small businesses are an important part of the economy and increasing their capacity to learn and develop means they will be more resilient, able to grow quicker and create employment.”

Awareness Increasing awareness of the benefits of training is another factor to tackle. A lack of staff training in a firm can lead to a multitude of problems, including risks with employee safety, increased operating costs, reduced productivity, poor customer service and even reduced efficiency, all of which will eventually have a negative impact on the bottom line. The problem often cited with the ambivalent attitude toward training is that it’s perceived as having a lack of visible return on investment. But this view needs to be changed and businesses need to realise that there are long-term benefits of investing now for the future. There

26 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

is a growing recognition within the UK that on-the-job training is the most effective method of getting staff up-to-speed on tasks. But there is help available to the smaller businesses, if only they knew where to look for it – the research also proved that they didn’t. It found that 70 per cent of companies had no idea that there were government schemes such as Sector Skills Councils or Train2Gain, for which their staff could be eligible for participation. Again, the smaller the business the less awareness there was of help. Brian Wolfe, chairman of SBRT, points out why this is so damaging for business: “There must be serious concern that such a small proportion of small businesses seem to be aware of the opportunities for training provision now being backed by significant government funding through Train2Gain and other initiatives,” he says. “There is a real danger that larger businesses, with the infrastructure to access such provision, will reap most of the benefit, leaving small business requirements unrecognised.”


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NEWS • ADVICE • INTERVIEWS • KNOWLEDGE

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Marketing

Branding or bust Building a brand to aid your business identity is easier than you think

ook anywhere online or in the supermarket or even glance around any high street and it won’t take long for your eyes to fall upon a recognisable image or product brand. You know it’s not by pure chance that it’s in such an optimum position and that the clever marketers have painstakingly

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placed it there to grab your attention. Granted, if you’re looking at a billboard on a busy thoroughfare, the advertising glaring down at you is likely to have cost thousands of pounds to develop and become familiar to you. But this kind of strong branding is not just for the big players. Indeed, many experts would

28 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

argue that putting in place a brand strategy from the beginning is key to ensuring the success of a business. The problem is that small business owners are in the habit of relating a strong brand and marketing strategy to high cost, but this need not be the case at all. But it seems that this message just


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Marketing isn’t getting through to small and medium-sized businesses. A recent survey by computing giant Microsoft revealed that over a third of small businesses admitted to having no brand values at all. Smaller companies left branding completely on the backburner and enterprises with fewer than 10 employees were the least likely to have put any effort into branding. Alarmingly, 58 per cent of this group actually rejected the creation and communication of brand values at all.

Small businesses are not realising the importance of implementing brand values

Importance Karl Noakes, director of small business for Microsoft says: “Small businesses are not realising the importance of implementing brand values and how a lack of strategic marketing has a direct impact on business performance and profit margins. Many small firms are not acknowledging that branding – creating awareness of exactly what your business does and how it does it – is just as vital as recruiting employees, attracting investors and chasing sales. “This can be easily and cost effectively remedied using, for example, Microsoft Office 2007, which allows companies to design their own literature, create an email list, send out a mailing to potential customers and manage responses. This is a simple way to build brand awareness without a large cost outlay.” Microsoft’s small business portal, bCentral.co.uk, has put together a series of top tips to advise businesses on how to build a strong brand and make themselves readily identifiable to their target customers without spending thousands of pounds on advertising and associated costs. 1. Define the personality of your business To create your brand, you need to think about the personality of your business. Define what your company is like and how you want it to be perceived. To do this, think about who your customers and employees are, what it is you sell and how you sell your products. What is it that makes your service or your product desirable to the customer? Why should they choose to come to you instead of your competitors? 2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep Taking the time to figure out exactly

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what your business stands for, what your identity is and which customers you target will ensure that your marketing efforts become much more focused. It enables you to communicate to your customers a strong, consistent vision of what you do and the way you do it. Once you’ve decided on your brand and the image you’re going to portray in the public eye, you need to start thinking about brand power. To ensure your busi-

There's no point creating a message that only you believe in ness becomes an established brand, you must fulfil the message you are sending to your customers because they will not come back if you don’t keep your promises. For example, if you say that customers will get more for less but they don’t see too much evidence of this, they’ll lose faith in the brand and will be unlikely to remain loyal customers. 3. Police your brand There's no point creating a message that only you believe in, or in having a vision that only you share. You have to ensure the same values, messages and visions are communicated to all of your

employees, so everyone who plays a role within your business is using and communicating the same brand and not creating their own version, which will confuse customers. Ensure there’s a standard brand policy that is used in all customer-facing activity. You could assign brand responsibility to an employee to make sure the correct branding is followed at all times on whatever marketing materials are produced, from promotional billboards to the logo or image of the company that appears on the customer’s receipt. 4. Build Recognition You need to ensure your company personality is recognised at all points of interaction with your customers. 5. Make the most of what you got – branding doesn’t have to cost the earth Creating a brand presence tends to fall down the small business “to do” list as owners and managers relate a strong brand and marketing strategy to high cost and resources. However, implementing a brand strategy does not need to be costly. One of the most effective yet simple ways to have a strong brand presence is through your website.

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Finance

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Advice

A successful delivery being promoted in terms of its immediacy. A finite time limit may be placed on a financial services package being promoted, for example, due to a preset amount of funds being allocated to it, as with a fixed rate mortgage. However, success should not be measured only in terms of immediate sales, because one activity of a mailshot is to broadly generate enquiries. This in turn provides opportunities a company to find out more about its potential customers and to develop relationships with those who may already buy its products.

The objectives

here are many ways to develop the fortunes of a business, but few can have the range of results a mailshot generates. Known in marketing jargon as direct mail, consumers view such initiatives as meaning they have more junk mail to throw in the bin or, depending on their green credentials, to recycle. However this sort of scatter gun approach is viewed, two things are certain: it is a relatively cheap way to market a company’s services or product and it has the ability to reach a large and diverse audience comparatively quickly. Consumers in this scenario are to be seen as somewhat passive, with advertisers not relying on them to tune into a particular television channel or open a specific newspaper to view products and services on offer. Although there are upsides to using such a marketing tool, there are the inevitable downsides too. These include, but are not limited to, database information being out of date, running the risk of the wrong audience being targeted resulting in wasted efforts. Falling foul of the Data Protection Act is another consideration those using mailshots to promote their wares need to be acutely of.

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Legislation has helped consumers tremendously over recent years to ward off the attention of unwanted mail. Therefore it must remain a high priority for those managing direct mailing databases to check information held on a regular basis. The Chartered Institute of Marketing says it is essential that companies using direct mail as a marketing tool do so responsibly and ensure the data upon which their mailings are based is as up to date as possible.

The process So, what of the aftermath of the mailing, after the product or service information has been printed, envelopes stuffed and sealed and the precious cargo handed across to the mailing service. Whatever the time lapse between the mailing commencing and consumers calling in for more information and hopefully being turned into customers, it is vital that companies monitor the success of a mailing campaign on an ongoing basis. Success of a direct mail campaign means different things to different companies. It can depend, to a point, on the product or service

By focusing on the longer term rather than looking for short term objectives, businesses investing in mailing campaigns can use this technique to multiple affect in the future to grow sales and develop the business. Another way of measuring success is in respect of the response rate to a mailing campaign. According to Royal Mail, typically seven per cent of recipients respond to direct mailshots. While this number may appear on the low side, the advantage is that these people are interested, to some extent or another, in the products on offer. This means information gathered is highly specific and, when planning a future mailing campaign, will mean that customers being targeted are more likely to buy. The final piece of the jigsaw in the aftermath of any mailing campaign is ensuring the data collected is thoroughly analysed and properly recorded. Questions that need to be asked should include: is it new customers who have responded or old ones; what parts of the offer have they responded to; who has spent what? This increased customer knowledge will help on a number of fronts. Database segmentation involving building customer profiles and targeting specific groups of customers is much more likely to produce a higher response rate than not using information gleaned from previous campaigns. This in turn will mean that future direct mail initiatives will become even more cost-effective, ultimately contributing to that all-important bottom line.

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Advice

Taking on the titans With their cash reserves, political influence and economies of scale, it sometimes feels like big corporations have all the commercial advantages. What can SMEs do to even out the playing field?

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maller businesses obviously can’t afford the kind of in-house specialist staff that large companies enjoy, but it’s still possible to create a network of professional support that will free you up to grow your business. Above all, you want to avoid spending time on things you’re not good at: BT has just published research suggesting that 50% of SMEs waste more than 24 working days a year on fi-

nance, HR and IT. Instead of staring blankly at spreadsheets and legal documents, take full advantage of the services offered by organisations like the Forum of Private Business (including its well regarded legal helpline) and your bank. Think about using a factoring service to chase up unpaid invoices and accounts. And consider taking out a complete serviced package with an IT and telecoms

32 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

provider, so there’s always someone on call to deal with those annoying technical glitches – see www.telecomsadvice.org.uk for independent, unbiased information. This kind of support will obviously give you more time to work on your business. But you also need assistance in thinking about your business, argues David Montgomery of Montgomery Consulting. “Often businesses grow


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Advice

without stopping to take a strategic approach to issues like risk management or commercial expansion,” he says. “I always tell business owners to use the expertise of people who already know about the company – your lawyer, your accountant, your business coach – by bringing them together once or twice a year to help chart a course for the future. For a few hundred pounds, you’ve effectively got yourself a non-executive board of directors.” Montgomery also advises business owners to devolve more responsibility to their employees. “Many businesses develop without formal structures; typically there’s an owner-manager who doesn’t like to let go and thinks they can do everything, from the accounting to the marketing,” he says. “The problem comes when that person is out of action for a month and it’s impossible for anyone else to step in and move the business forward. That’s why it’s vital to create some standard operating procedures and accept that your business can only grow through other people.”

Project a bigger image SMEs obviously can’t match the amounts that large companies spend on branding and advertising. But there are more modest ways to give your business an aura of slick professionalism. For starters, think about your front of house:

if you currently struggle to man the phones, would it create a better impression if you outsourced your reception service to a telephone answering company? You could also consider setting up a nationwide local (0845) or national (0870) business number, to reflect the breadth of your business reach; customers often find it easier to remember these numbers and, when your business expands and moves to new premises, you can take the number with you.

use the expertise of people who already know about the company You might also consider establishing a formal, comprehensive policy on Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR generates vital social capital and suggests that your business is progressive and well managed. Organisations like Business in the Community (www.bitc.org.uk) offer advice and guidance, and there may be funding available from your regional enterprise agency to adopt better practices. The East Midlands Development Agency, for instance, is currently supporting ‘green’ businesses who commit to reducing waste. Any CSR policy should be viewed as part of

a wider Public Relations strategy. Whenever you or a member staff gives a professional speech or seminar, launches an industrial campaign, works on an unusual project or gives up time and money to help others, there should be a way to gain editorial coverage. While PR may not result in an immediate upturn in sales, it helps to build a reputation and credibility for your organisation – or as the Institute of Public Relations puts it, a sense of “mutual goodwill” between yourselves and the public. But of course, the chief method of enhancing your image in today’s Internet Age is through a sleek, efficient website. Finn Taylor, co-founder of award-winning web design firm Liquid Light (www.liquidlight.co.uk), believes that websites can be a great commercial ‘leveller’ – so long as they’re done right. “The online medium has a huge flattening effect, so smaller businesses can effectively present themselves as anything,” he says. “The only problem is that small players often think of themselves as small players, and end up paying £50 to a bloke down the pub to build a website which won’t bring any benefit back to the business. “A good site should be an extension of your business and almost a living entity in its own right. It should enhance your customer service, increasing the proximity of stakeholders and allowing them to interact with you, and it

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Advice should serve as a monitoring resource, enabling you to understand the questions that people have about your business. Because large corporations struggle to be nimble and respond to customer demand, innovative smaller businesses really can compete online – and win.”

Cut costs the multinational way Big businesses are not restricted by national boundaries, but nor should you be. If the Internet is a good place to create an image for your business, it’s an even better place to save money – whether through online telecoms like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or e-marketing via interactive sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

‘German to English produces around 10-15% more words in English’ SMEs are also finding it easier now to source cheaper goods and packaging overseas, from markets that were once the preserve of the big boys. Products Made in China (www.productsmadeinchina.co.uk) is one organisation helping smaller businesses to make

the transition abroad. The company’s British staff in Shanghai will find the most competitive prices for manufacturing or ready-made goods, oversee production and quality control and arrange delivery of the products right to your door. “Smaller companies have often been at a disadvantage when it comes to importing from countries like China,” says James Peterson, the company’s co-director. “The key to competitive sourcing in these places is to develop connections and relationships with the manufacturers, but smaller businesses usually don’t have the resources to keep a representative on the ground to liaise with factory owners.

Logistics The logistics are also a potential minefield – as well as transportation and insurance, you have to factor in costs like Incoterms, import duty, anti-dump duty and VAT, which often mask the true value of sourcing overseas. We use our contacts and technical expertise to ensure that SMEs get the very best deal and, being a UK-registered company with a London office, provide the level of customer service that British businesses expect.” Sometimes, of course, it pays to be the

underdog. People often choose to do business with a David rather than a Goliath because they assume they’ll receive a more personal, knowledgeable service. SMEs tend to be good at networking with each other, too, whether through enterprise agencies, Chambers of Commerce or organisations like the FPB and the Federation of Small Businesses. And, as Finn Taylor of Liquid Light puts it, the “lone sniper” approach taken by smaller businesses is a surefire way to outfox and outmanoeuvre your larger, more cumbersome competitors.

establish a proper timescale and be realistic about your costs All in all, there’s really no excuse for smaller businesses not to think big. Just don’t overextend yourself: “Whatever plans you have, make sure you have the cash flow and structure in place to back it up,” says David Montgomery. “Do your research, establish a proper timescale and be realistic about your costs and sales predictions. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

AT LAST… NO MORE PRINTING, FOLDING, LICKING AND STAMPING The Big Data Company will not only supply you with data of newly formed or relocated companies on a weekly basis, we will also process the entire Direct Mail piece for little more than the cost of a postage stamp. The Big Data Company has over 2.3 million listings available from one of the UK’s most comprehensive B2B databases… it doesn’t end there! Our sophisticated full colour print machines will mail-merge, print, fold and insert into a C5 envelope on high quality 90-120gsm paper – you don’t even have to supply the stationery! Our unique data 2 dormat solution will take away layers of cost, leaving you with more budget for additional mailings.

Here’s how in 4 easy steps: Step 1. Choose one of our many templates Step 2. Select one of our marketing lists Step 3. Choose a delivery date for your mailshot Step 4. Send the file to The Big Data Company and we will do the rest

It really is that easy! 34 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

Call The Big Data Company on 01622 618647 OR email Info@thebigdatacompany.com to find out more.


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Advice

How much is my business worth? Neil Ackroyd, principal partner at Precision Corporate Finance looks at how you can place a value on your business once you have decided to sell.

he bottom line on the price that a business may achieve is that it is essentially only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. If an adviser goes to the market with a business that is trading at the peak of its performance and turning in betterthan-ever figures in its trading history the best offer that comes in (and may be negotiated) is going to be the absolute best that will be achieved. It is an unbreakable rule which may appear to be common sense but it is not unusual for owner managers in this position to be under the misguided belief that their business is worth significantly more. They won’t sell even though they won’t get a better offer for the business…ever.

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All the hot air that is spouted by advisers, and I include myself in those, becomes irrelevant once the offers start coming in and negotiations begin. It is then that the worth of a business becomes apparent.

Realistic expectations It can sometimes become somewhat scary to sit down with a potential client who thinks he knows the value of his business (and those thoughts are so over the top). As a result of such initial discussion, processes are undertaken that will give a pretty firm indication of the price that is likely to be achieved and if the owner manager has totally over valued the business in his mind a corporate finance adviser must walk away.

36 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

It must be remembered that not all owner managers are merely being greedy. They may have calculated their future needs – they have a figure in their heads which, when invested, would provide a required income to perhaps pay off debts, provide a holiday home, boat and the like, or merely provide an ongoing retirement income. It is not unusual for such calculations to be more than matched by the value of their companies – a fine situation to be in. Sadly the converse can be the case –needs can be ridiculously higher than the value of the business. If that is the case the owner manager should sit down with an adviser and discuss how to grow the business over, say, a three year period to make the figures stack up.


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Advice

It may be that expectations come from the previous sale of another business in the sector that has achieved a greater price than is likely to be won by the owner seeking to emulate the success. Unfortunately price comparisons are not always straightforward. They depend on whether or not the businesses themselves are actually comparable; whether the purchaser of the previous business was seeking to make the one single acquisition come-what-may and is therefore out of the market; if that is the case it is necessary to find another purchaser with an equal appetite.

Trade purchaser That somebody is likely to be a trade purchaser – a trade sale for smaller businesses is always the first route to take; private equity involvement is less likely in this environment because a trade buyer will always pay more. This was not true for a brief period in 2007 but is certainly true enough again now. The pundits would have you believe that for most of last year venture capitalists were out-bidding trade purchasers, but that was a headline – it was actually for pretty large deals and was always going to be unsustainable. In the small deals market there is only a limited amount of venture capital funding available and angel funding is difficult. The other alternative is a Management Buy Out, which will be the subject of our focus later on in this series.

Neil Ackroyd may be contacted at: Precision Corporate Finance: Tel: 0845 201 0320 or neil.ackroyd@Precision-corpfin.com

The lowdown on: The trade sale The trade sale – which is to all intents and purposes a covert auction – will involve confidential research by a corporate finance adviser of scores of possible purchasers to identify genuine potential acquirers. Five or six of the most attractive will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement to receive an information memorandum containing all the details required to take the operation to its second stage – issuing the memorandum, to a wider audience will destroy the value of the business by undermining confidentiality. Once the world and his wife become aware of a “For Sale” notice above the door, competitors will take full advantage of the situation. As a result customers will start to walk away – and staff likewise. The handful of strong contenders are then invited to meet the management team, visit the premises, and receive additional information (particularly all the good news about the business – big orders won etc) with a view to making an offer. The diversity of offers can be amazing – it is not unusual for the highest to be more than 50% higher than the lowest. It then falls to the corporate adviser to negotiate offers to achieve the highest possible (taking into account any bad news about the business such as environmental issues, asbestos in buildings, product problems) and then select one

party to go to due diligence which will not throw up any negative surprises that could hijack the deal. Once a potential purchaser uncovers an undisclosed “nasty” the negotiating initiative is lost completely. It is extremely rare in any scenario for the offer to be increased as a result of due diligence anyway – to have hidden problems revealed will only push the offer down (and may scupper the deal entirely). Once head of terms have been agreed – effectively a handshake –it is imperative that somebody then actively manages the transaction and brings all the parties together or see the deal move sideways. That person is usually the corporate finance adviser as he or she is the only professional being paid on a success fee basis rather than by the hour. Such an adviser therefore has an absolute incentive to complete the deal as quickly as possible. Others involved don’t have this incentive and no matter how many telephone calls are made or how much shouting is done they will go at their own speed unless faced with somebody who is thoroughly acquainted with the process. Get it right. Remember this is likely to be the biggest transaction a person may make in their entire life – and the culmination, if the process is carried out correctly, is a lovely big cheque.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 37


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Marketing

Converting business - socially

any sales teams often do business ‘outside’ traditional business hours and business venues. Typically they may conduct business at lunch, over an evening meal, through corporate entertainment or even on the golf course! If this is you, and you need to sell in more of a ‘social environment’ there are various things you need to be aware of. I am usually asked questions like ‘when should I start to talk business?’, ‘what do I need to be aware of before I arrange a social/business meeting?’, ‘should I drink or not?’ and ‘what should I pay for?’ But first of all, we have to realise that doing

In the business environment, as soon as you arrange a meeting with somebody, there is an unspoken agreement that you are there to discuss business, and if you’re not currently supplying that company or that person, they know you are there to try and persuade them to take your product or service over their

existing solution. Therefore by agreeing to the meeting, the prospect has to have admitted some level of curiosity or interest in seeing you

meal, they may just be coming along because they’re interested in a free meal! They know they’re going to get a sales pitch at some point, but they tend to be a little more relaxed because it is a social environment than they would be in a traditional business environment, and therefore suddenly switching to a business conversation unexpectedly can catch them off guard. This is even more the case when it is a round of golf, or corporate hospitality at an event, where it is very much a social environment. Here there is a good chance that if you’re inviting prospects along (i.e. you aren’t doing any or much business with them yet)

business in a social environment is different to doing business in a more formal environment, and we have to treat the two differently in order to get the best results.

and listening to what you have to say. However, in a more social environment, the same rules don’t always hold true. If you’re meeting someone for lunch or an evening

that they may have accepted the invitation just because the wanted to attend the event? Especially if it’s something like Wimbledon, The Open Golf Championship or similar. As

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doing business in a social environment is different

38 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854


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Marketing We speak to leading sales expert Andy Preston about advancing your own sales and avoiding the pitfals when doing business outside of the traditional environment. There are 2 main areas that you need to be careful about. The first is the personal versus business part. In a typical business meeting, the ‘personal’ part, also referred to as ‘building rapport’ or ‘icebreaker’ tends to be fairly short, and you get down to business pretty quickly. The aim of a business meeting is usually to either persuade the person to buy, or to at least move them to the next stage in your sales process.

deals can be lost because the salesperson couldn’t control their temper on the golf course Once you move into a more ‘social’ environment, that changes things and the emphasis should be far more on the ‘personal’ side of things. The talk of doing business should be secondary to the personal stuff. First of all, it’s very difficult to look at any kind of brochures, paperwork, contracts or any kind of written documents over a meal. You end up in the awkward position of either trying to balance documents over plates and cups, or you end up spilling drink or food all over them - not exactly the professional image you were looking to portray is it?

On show someone who was originally a professional buyer, before I moved into sales and sales training, I know this to be the case! Many buyers would talk about what companies were offering what corporate hospitality, and then the buyers would deliberately contact those companies purely to try and get an invite to the event! They may have little or no intention of doing business with the company; they just wanted an invite to that particular event!

Professionism Now I’m not saying that goes on with your buyers, or still goes on in the industry today. What I am saying is that if you’re offering corporate hospitality to someone, or a meal or a game of golf, you’re not on the same footing as you would be for a formal, professional business meeting.

Secondly, one of the biggest things you have to realise is that YOU are on show far more in a social environment than you would be in a purely business environment. By this I mean your personality, your sense of humour, your conversation skills and many more of the social aspects to your personality rather than the business ones. By the way, if you’re on the golf course, add personal ethics, honesty, temperament and sense of fair play to that list! I’ve seen many deals lost because the salesperson couldn’t control their temper on the golf course, or had a few too many at a corporate event, and left the potential client in absolutely no doubt who they want to do business with, and who they don’t! No matter how relaxed you feel you can get with a potential client, don’t be unprofessional! Therefore you need to keep your business head on at all times, especially if the occasion

involves alcohol. I’m asked a lot by salespeople: is it okay to drink with clients? Ultimately it comes down to personal choice, but as a general rule I probably wouldn’t, until you know the client very well, and even then I’d still be careful?. Even when I knew the client very well, I’d still stick to one or two drinks maximum. In terms of answering the other question I’m normally asked ‘what should I pay for?’ Generally speaking, the client or prospective client will probably have expectations that you’re going to pay for everything. You should also make arrangements for picking them up and taking them home if necessary. You need to be aware of how much the event will cost (so you don’t get into trouble over your expense account) but don’t expect the client to pay for anything; you’re taking them out after all. In summary, doing business in a social environment is all about your rapport with the client or prospective client. They will be asking themselves a number of questions while you’re in the social environment, and while these may be similar to ones they would be thinking about in a business setting, they are highlighted more in a social setting. Questions like - Do they like you personally? Are you getting along with them? Do you have similar interests? Are they comfortable and relaxed with you as a person? Do they trust you? Can they develop a friendship with you as well as a business relationship? The more they can answer these questions in the positive, the better you’re doing and the more chance you have of either turning them into a client, or them becoming more loyal to you as a supplier. So remember that when you move to a social setting, the personal aspects of the interaction take on greater importance, your personality and personal qualities are more on show, stay sober (or at least fairly sober) as much as possible and make sure you have enough budget to pay for everything. Stick to these guidelines and you won’t go far wrong. I look forward to hearing about your future sales success! Andy Preston is director of acclaimed training company Outstanding Results (www.outstanding-results.co.uk)

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 39


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Letters

Your Letters Send your letters to the editor via email to letters@bmmagazine.co.uk or fax on 0845 638 0341 The editor reserves the right to edit letters before publication

Letter of the Month... Green Crimes I was very surprised to see Business Matters putting a positive spotlight on Stephen Williams of SLR Technology, (News, BM156) who commutes weekly between Frankfurt and Liverpool, presumably by air. This really is an example of bad practice, which all of us in the business community should be seeking to shun, not to emulate. I hope you will avoid highlighting such appalling business practice in future. Simon George, Director Wootton George Consulting Ltd ed: We have to admit that this element relating to environmental impact did not enter our minds when reporting on Stephen Williams activities, but it is a valid point that you raise and one that we should all bear in mind.

GOING GREEN I picked up a copy of Business Matters and thought this looks worth a read, so took it home. It sat on my desk for several days until I finally got around to opening it. At first I was fairly surprised at the articles in the publication, as they looked very interesting...but then I realised a fact that hadn’t crossed my mind before, I have never picked up a publication that had so many articles I wanted to read! Sounds bizarre, but generally I read one or two articles and then the magazine is done....the rest are either too basic or uninteresting. In issue Jan 2008, I read 19 of the articles....this is unheard of for me. In fact, it became a bit of an arduous task making the time to read the text! So praise where it is due, I think

you publication is of the highest quality...thank you for an excellent read.

Nigel Stone Chief Executive, Infinite ed: we are pleased that like many of our readers, you find the content of Business Matters both interesting and informative. We currently have the largest monthon-month increases in our readership of any UK business magazine and we thank all of our readers for their comments both positive and negative!

RETAIL REBELLION As an organisation that has the interests of over 4,000 small retailers at heart, I was interested to read your article ‘The end of the high street’ in the January edition of Business Matters. We should be quite clear there is

no quick fix for the high street and just wringing our hands will achieve nothing either. We need to make government understand that the small independent on the high street fulfils a vital social as well as economic function. It provides for many elderly an important welfare role, as well as providing choice, easy access and the recycling of revenue within the local economy, an often overlook attribute. The unrelenting power of the supermarkets is contributing to an epidemic of closures and these shops will not be resurrected. The key to success is twofold. Firstly to ensure small businesses are giving the necessary financial support in terms of rent and rate relief and secondly to amend planning guidelines to put a more effective break on out of town and edge of town development. As a member of the Conservative Enterprise Commission on small shops we are intent on delivering this remedy and soon.

John Dean Chief Executive British Shops & Stores Association

these services is not officially the usual 17.5% tarriff. I was aware of this when recently reviewing our travel spend over the last year and requesting staff find their missing VAT receipts only to be informed that Last Minute and virtually all of the other ticket and booking companies do not suuply VAT receipts. When we contacted the companies we were advised that they do not issue VAT receipts because the VAT element is not actually calculated as 17.5% of the booking total but in the margin that they are operating on between the purchase price that they buy the tickets for and what they sell them for.

Peter Laurence Halstead PLC ed: Thank you for bringing this to the attention of both us and our readers. We have contacted HMRC for further clarification and will cover this topic in more detail in our May edition which will be focusing on business travel and how best to maximise your budgets whilst also ensuring that your business is as environmental aware as possible.

A TWO-PIECE DEBATE I would like to draw yours and all of the readers of Business Matters attention to an oddity in the VAT rules relating to bookings using companies like Last Minute.com. Whilst i am in no way suggesting any wrong doing on the part of the companies it appears that the VAT element of bookings made on

Write to us! Every month our letter of the month will win one of the items reviewed on our technology pages. Every month we feature ways to harness technology to aid your business. Don’t miss out, we love your letters.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 41


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Financial Advice

ISA Season 2008 Flop or not? Gavin Porritt, Independant Financial advisor looks at how to maximise your annual savings plans t’s that time of year again around which many fund managers gear their performance and the media use as a bell weather of the British economy, yes it is ISA season once more. Newspapers will be full of their tips for this year’s best investment, while people will rush to see their Financial Adviser to benefit from the tax advantages available from an ISA. So what will be the outcome of the 2008 season? ISAs and before they were replaced in 1999, PEPs, have come to be seen as one of the prime indicators of the British economy’s health, in contravention of investment principles, the best seasons are to be found when the markets are high, while poor seasons feature when the markets are at lows.

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Easier to understand Individual Savings Accounts are much changed from the complex vehicles that initially replaced PEPs (Personal Equity Plans) and TESSAs (Tax Exempt Special Savings Accounts) at the beginning of the 1999-2000 financial year. ISAs with their Cash, Equity, the now defunct Insurance element and their CAT/non-CAT standards, have become much easier for the average lay-person to understand. Next year will see further simplification and the first rise in the allowance since they were first introduced, by £200 to £7,200. Though this will make life easier for regular savers (£600 per month maximum rather than £583.33) it means that the allowance has not kept pace with inflation. This when added to removal of the dividend tax credit in 2005-2006 means that the tax advantages are now diluted when compared to those available when they were first introduced, however it is still worth taking advantage. The important thing to remember about ISAs is that they are an allowance and as such in common with many investment vehicles they can be viewed as a wrapper that bestows some tax advantages on the investments held within them, those investments are highlighted

in the table below. The point is that there is always a suitable investment available to ISA investors no matter what the state of the markets because of their flexibility. So in order to an-

swer the question at the top of this piece we have to look at the typical investor and though it might be against their best interests the 2008 Season looks to be a quiet one.

ISA’s - What can you include? Equity Component • Shares listed on recognized exchanges excluding the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) • Most unit trusts and OEICS • Most UCITS - collective funds which can be sold across national borders within the EU in accordance with the 'Undertakings for Collective Investment in Tradable Securities' Directive • Most investment trusts and exchange traded funds • Private sector corporate bonds with at least 5 years to maturity • European Economic Area (EEA) government bonds with at least 5 years to maturity • Cash balances held on a temporary basis before being invested • Stakeholder medium-term products and life insurance

42 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

Cash Component Bank and building society deposits Money market funds Two dedicated National Savings ISA products Stakeholder deposit account

As always if you have any questions or comments e-mail them through to me on bm@forumwealth.com.


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Te c h n o l o g y

Technology led stress eeping up with new technology is frequently time consuming and often confusing. Time effective implementation can lead to major stress for the SME owner who may well not employ a full time person to deal with such issues, or doesn’t fully understand the buzz words and terminology. Indeed, it is all too easy to develop a well worn cynicism that masks the beneficial impact that cyberspace and software can have on business prosperity and growth. Here we look at how two diverse organisa-

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tions have overcome these issues and used the application of contemporary software technology, generally referred to as ‘new media’, to make a major and positive difference to their businesses.

Local lobbying The first is the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry which serves the local business community through lobbying, networking and business support services. The second is Berkshire-based Nirvana

44 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

Spa, the UK's largest health spa with its own spring. The common denominator is that they both employ the services of Surrey-based Dial Media Group (DMG), a rapidly expanding and dynamic new media company, to help with the development and implementation of modern business solutions which have had a positive impact on their operations. The Birmingham Chamber is by far and away the longest established chamber in the UK – some 225 years old! It is committed to


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Te c h n o l o g y being the UK’s leading chamber and offers in excess of 200 events each year to its 3,500 members. As with any organisation which relies on membership fees for its mainstream funding it is obviously important to offer a service which is contemporary, pro active and represents value for money. With this in mind, The Chamber took a decision to redevelop its website to incorporate a number of online ‘must-haves’ for the membership. These included access to e-products, events calendars, booking facilities and networking; all to benefit an expanding membership, and to help promote the Chamber’s image as the voice for local businesses.

Visual presence Functionality, easy navigation and a stimulating visual presence were considered essentials given the time pressures and distractions that most business managers suffer from in the hustle and bustle of modern day business. To quote Jerry Blackett, Chamber Chief Executive, who features on the website homepage video stream, the Chamber views itself as the natural membership choice for any business in the Birmingham area; and more particularly, the voice of local business in a global commercial world.

‘it would have been impossible to implement the upgrades we felt necessary’ This theme is picked up by Isaac Occhipinti, account manager at the Chamber with responsibility for existing and new members. “We really needed a website that would serve two key purposes. Firstly, when visited by potential members the website would be our silent sales person. In other words, visitors would be sufficiently inspired by our product offering to seriously consider joining us as members. In any membership driven organisation such as ours it is crucial to look after the existing membership by offering value for money and a pro active service with tangible benefits in exchange for a modest annual fee.

Making the difference We believe that the website DMG delivered, and continue to maintain, has made a real difference to our membership offering and is probably the best site of any chamber. Whilst we are experts in dealing with the business

‘...any organisation considering a new or updated website there are a number of key considerations to take into account’ that we run, it would have been impossible to implement the upgrades we felt necessary hence the appointment of an external resource to look after our interests.” As implied by its name, and in direct contrast to Birmingham Chamber, the award winning Nirvana Spa has a very different product offering. As the largest independent health spa in the country with 200 staff, the Spa offers its clients six pure, natural spring-fed pools, with water clean enough to drink, and a whole range of treatments such as facial, body and flotation treatments. “If it’s good enough for Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue, it’s good enough for me. Music hums softly, tiny lights twinkle like stars and I am floating effortlessly in the pool’s gentle current” so ran a recent report in the Daily Express. DMG has worked with Nirvana for just under ten years on programming, designing and maintaining the company’s website. Prior to this, the initial offering to Nirvana clients was a brochure. However, as the day of the internet dawned and took giant strides forward Nirvana was quick to realise the potential that even a simple site could have for them. This has now evolved into a highly interactive, easy to navigate and comprehensive offer which enables members and non members to learn more about what the Spa offers in the way of luxury treatments.

Expansion As the company expanded it also developed its own range of products which has now become a very successful online business in its own right. In fact Nirvana's online store which kicked off some five years ago has played a major part in the Spa’s expansion and profitability. Approximately 25% of the Spa’s business is processed through the site which is five times the average when compared to a typical spa in the States - the growth in revenue has been nothing short of phenomenal. A member’s secure log-in area allows such things as online booking and changes to contact details. The end result is that the website plays a big part in driving clients through the front door, and generating extra revenue with an attractive onsite offering. Paddy Halfhide, Nirvana’s marketing director, takes up the story: “As an essentially non technical person with responsibility for generating the marketing ideas, Dial and I work well

together. This has only come about through a mutual understanding of our respective capabilities which allows us to get ideas from the drawing board to the site very quickly. One of the most significant additions has been the development of an online purchasing system which allows clients to purchase vouchers online. With an automated back end system, we can process hundreds of vouchers with relatively few staff which is especially important in the run up for example to Christmas where sales peak.

Different interaction Another recent development has been the introduction of video which is an area Nirvana is keen to pursue by running product demonstration videos alongside the online store; this enables clients to get a real sense of what they are buying. In the future we will have even greater interactivity which will allow for example members to view their statements on line just like a bank.” So there we have it, two very different companies with two very different approaches to business. In summary, for any organisation considering a new or updated website there are a number of key considerations to take into account. Firstly, it essential to create and agree a brief with realistic budgets and timescales; a confused brief will lead to a confused website and there are plenty of casualties to support this! Undertake desk research to see what other people are doing and how they approach their web development. In this way you can make an informed opinion as to a good route forward which in the end will save time, money and frustration. A word of warning: unlike the printed word which once delivered requires a costly reprint to accommodate changes, the relative ease with which changes can be made to a website, even after it is up and running, make it essential to budget for the work entailed in keeping it really up to date. An out of date website will do you no favours and will probably only drive customers away. Dial Media Group www.dialmediagroup.com Birmingham Chamber of Commerce www.birmingham-chamber.com Nirvana Spa www.nirvanaspa.co.uk

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 45


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Finance

Data security - Are you compliant Chris Barling, CEO of Retail technology supplier Actinic looks at what businesses need to do to ensure customers data is secure

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ave you’ve ever wondered why whenever there is a major blunder – such as the loss of the personal data of 25 million people – that a series of similar screw-ups always seems to come to light? Well, the truth is that such incidents are rarely isolated. The current level of data loss is what’s been happening for years. It’s just that now there’s a press spotlight, every example is highlighted. Before we get too smug, there’s no doubt that the same focus on small UK companies would reveal stories of customer data in bins, lost memory sticks and so on.

Security is top of the agenda However, there’s an interesting side effect. All of a sudden, everyone’s focused on security, and the payment card industry is no exception. If your business accepts payment cards and you haven’t heard of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) and 3D Secure (also known as Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode), then you soon will. PCIDSS is the answer to security concerns in relation to the storage of payment card data. It is a single standard supported by all major players including Visa and Mastercard. This is itself a triumph of common sense. 3D Secure aims to cut online card fraud. Both standards have been notable for their lack of communication and

enforcement from the banks. Now it’s changing rapidly, because Chip and PIN has brought a significant reduction in high street fraud. Unfortunately, the reduction has been accompanied by an increase in fraud online.

PCIDSS – notable by its absence This in turn has prompted the card industry to start more rigorous enforcement of the rules. Now they are chomping at the bit to get to grips with the surge in online scams. It’s likely to mean a rapid rollout of the standards, which spells danger for small and medium sized online merchants. That’s because implementing PCIDSS and 3D Secure will be no walk in the park. However, there are ways through the morass and we need to look at some of the practical ways of dealing with these issues.

46 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

The interesting question to ask is why haven’t the banks pushed this before? Well there’s a truth in business that you shouldn’t upset your customers, and if it can’t be avoided, then try not to upset the big ones. This is the key to understanding how PCIDSS has, or rather has very slowly, been rolled out since it was officially made compulsory in 2005. Even banks are not omnipotent and can’t afford to upset their biggest customers (although the rest of us are relatively expendable). For instance, even a bank wouldn’t have the hubris to threaten a big player like Tesco. However, until they had implemented the standard within the big boys, there was relatively little to gain from the smaller guys. Now they are


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Finance applying pressure further down the food chain. When it comes to PCIDSS, merchants have a big problem because although the compliance checking regime varies based on size, the required standard is identical. This is bad news, because what makes sense for a big corporate with thousands of staff is crippling for a small business. There’s a seventy-page document to read, and hundreds of directives to obey. For large merchants with complex inter-related systems, it’s hard. For smaller merchants with no IT department, it’s probably impossible. To provide one small example, PCIDSS requires that there is no unsupervised access to buildings containing computers storing card information. So to be compliant, you not only need to accompany visitors at all times, you can’t even allow cleaners in for the evening.

3D Secure 3D Secure is completely different. The principle is that online buyers should be prompted to enter a password whenever they use their card. The password is sent directly to Visa (“Verified by Visa”) or to Mastercard (“Mastercard SecureCode”) and they provide the thumbs up or otherwise. This means that stolen card details would be useless without the password (just like a normal card can’t be used without a PIN). In fact, the banks are so confident in the system that they accept the risk if the cardholder claims not to have taken part in the transaction. The principle is great, but there is one snag; the general public haven’t heard of the scheme and sometimes think it’s a scam. It means that few people are enrolled with passwords, and those that are, often forget them due to lack of use. Forward thinking merchants that make 3D Secure compulsory usually lose orders. Commercially, that’s suicide. 3D Secure is also technically complex and must run under PCIDSS compliance.

Finding a cost effective way forward 3D Secure is needed, but the banks must take the leading role. It would be useful to have a deadline for compliance for online merchants, just like with Chip and PIN. There are some signs of this happening, as 3D Secure is becoming compulsory for International Maestro. We wait with bated breath to see what happens. The result of all the complexity means that only the blue chips will be able to follow the rules. For the rest of us, the only feasible answer is to outsource PCIDSS and 3D Secure

compliance. This can be achieved by not storing any payment card details on either paper or computers, instead letting a third party look after them; and using an ecommerce solution that has 3D Secure built in. Perhaps surprisingly, this approach is relatively easy to implement, and a number of helpful services already exist. If you want to avoid the full regulations and be 3D Secure ready, then whenever card details are captured, the relevant person (internal or external) has to be redirected to a web site run by a third party who is fully compliant. It can sound clunky, but it can work really well. It is important that application software is updated to work seamlessly in co-operation with the third party service. The essence is that a “token” referring to the payment is stored within the company’s own systems, and this can be used to instruct the third party to make charges against the card, refund payments and so on. Because this only allows the card to be used with the original merchant, there’s no potential benefit for hackers.

A secure future Although I hate to admit it, the principles of PCIDSS and 3D Secure are good. But, it’s just too expensive to implement in a small business. The end result may be that no one

but the biggest companies will record payment card details in their own systems. But perhaps that’s no bad thing? It will be one less headache for merchants and more of a comfort for customers.

Tips for compliance • Familiarise yourself with the PCIDSS and 3D Secure standards – see https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/ • Understand that you still have to comply with the full standard whatever your size • Look realistically at the cost of compliance. Don’t gamble – your whole business could be at risk • Establish an internal project to become fully compliant or outsource the problem to an external supplier • Stop storing payment card details on your computer system unless it is fully PCIDSS compliant • Consider only storing payment card details in an external system due to the high costs of internal compliance

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 47


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Federation of Small Business

Go green -Stay local John Wright, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses looks at how thinking green must mean keeping trade local id you know that most small businesses operate within a fifty-mile radius? This helps to build up strong local economies, which all do their bit to build up a strong national economy. To keep trade local is, therefore, of vital national importance. Understanding the fact that most small businesses operate in this way also goes some way to dispelling the myth that keeping trade local is associated only with little old ladies slowly walking to the local shops and pulling a basket on wheels, or harassed mothers picking up something for the children’s tea on the way back from collecting them from school. In these times in which it is imperative to always bear in mind our carbon footprint keeping trade local also cuts down on CO2 emissions created by jumping in the car and driving out-of-town. Simply stepping out of one’s door and taking a walk works wonders in more ways than one.

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Reciprocity It’s also, simply, about reciprocity – you, as a business, buy local and so you want them to buy local. You also get to know the person from whom you are buying the product which means building up a network from which you

can meet other business owners in and around your area. Seen in this light, then, it is about forging closer links with our communities. And when something is not right, or when something goes wrong, there is no need to spend hours on the telephone to a central call centre that purports to offer a ‘dedicated’ customer services team somewhere miles away in order to try and rectify the situation. Keeping trade local means that you can, if you want, go to see them directly – face-to-face and work things out.

The clone town syndrome There’s also another point to consider. Look at most towns in the UK and you would be forgiven for thinking they are all the same. Clone towns are spreading at an alarming rate, which produces only a bland homogenisation that comes at too high a price – for us all. And of course it does not stop there. We are now not far into a new year but are already faced with the fallout from the Northern Rock debacle, the credit crunch/squeeze, threats of a looming recession, increasing energy prices, the increased number of hoops small business owners have to jump through to finance their business and the reducing amount spent by

customers, this year it is more important than ever to keep our trade local and support the communities in which we, and the people that work for us, live and work. How can we make conditions more favourable in keeping trade local? The FSB are calling upon the Government to put in place an independent regulator to measure the influence and overview of local planning law and decisions because there have been a lot of local planning rulings against supermarkets which they have in turn successfully overturned on appeal, which in many cases can be detrimental to new small businesses not only starting up, but to their day-to-day existence. To also look into unfair pricing advantages of the bigger chains. Remember that countries such as France have a vibrant independent sector because the bigger businesses such as supermarkets are prohibited from belowcost pricing. There should be fairness and transparency in competition law. Car parking. This also relates to local planning law. Supermarkets are able to lure customers by offering free parking, which is an unfair advantage over high street shops faced with increased parking charges for their customers. So keep trade local and we’ll all be winners – not just on a regional level, but on a national level also.

Advertise today and admire the view Every month Business Matters gives more than 82,750 owners of SME businesses in the UK information on how to make their business better.

Business Matters Advertising your business or services is one way to get noticed

0870 116 2852 acarty@clearsightmedia.co.uk

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 49


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Finance

Do you really know the business? Cash flow expert Donald Findley explains that knowing your product is very different from knowing the business and that’s where the trouble starts he headline to this may sound like a strange question, but do you really understand your business? Looking at the profile of past and current clients I find a common theme: they know about the product, but not the business. The examples I come across most are in catering, leisure and property. Running a café or restaurant is for the most part a long hard road; ask anyone who is running one. However it is a common misconception that just because you know about food and are superb in the kitchen, that you can run a restaurant or café. Similarly, I have had clients who

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knew everything about fitness and exercise, but nothing about the leisure industry, and finally, property.

Location, location, location I’m starting to get an increasing number of clients who’s buy to let portfolios, rather than providing for a comfortable retirement, are now threatening to leave them bankrupt and homeless. Interestingly, there are three common strands linking my clients in these diverse sectors: location, pricing and access to funds. The location of a café, restaurant or gym is

50 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

as important as a buy to let property and the same maxim applies: if it’s cheap, there is generally a good reason. Very often the cheaper properties are the ones which are not going to generate a profit, which is why they are cheap! Of course, this sounds just too obvious, but I’m amazed at the number of people who think they have found the bargain that everyone else has missed. This risk, I suspect, is going to increase over the next year or two. For sure there are bargains out there, but if you’re buying a site with a poor history, are you really so sure you can do better? I meet a very large number of people who


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Finance What’s your contingency? Double it, double it again. Not got access to the cash? Then wait until you have. Don’t buy a cheap location and try to run the business with insufficient cash, it won’t work. have successful businesses in that they employ people, provide good services and turn over quite healthy figures, it’s just that they don’t make any money! Ask an industry insider in catering, and they will show you that the pricing formula is surprisingly sophisticated, that the financial planning and management is almost as important as the food. Similarly, complex pricing models apply for leisure businesses, especially when identifying potentially profitable sites, and charging models for members. Those with successful property portfolios have either been lucky or have done their homework properly; are you really really confident you can get a tenant which won’t just cover your costs but provide a profit? I’m amazed at how often pricing is almost an afterthought and based purely on what people think customers will pay, not linked through to profit and loss and cashflow.

Cash It is going to take you longer than you thought to be profitable. What’s your contingency? Double it, double it again. Not got access to the cash? Then wait until you have. Don’t buy a cheap location and try to run the business with insufficient cash, it won’t work and you’ll very likely lose what little you have.

Buy to let- Beware In buy-to-let tread carefully. Remember what goes up, can come down. In a business you can set up a separate limited company and thus insulate yourself from the downside. This is much harder in buy-to-let. Imagine you have a property which is not in the best of areas valued at £250,000. You have a £210.000 mortgage with a 4% early redemption penalty You lose your tenants, perhaps they take the kitchen with them; you can’t afford the repairs, so no new tenants, you can’t afford the mortgage. The property is repossessed. It gets sold at auction for £160,000 (it’s been empty for a while and trashed). With fees, costs, unpaid mortgage payments, lawyers, courts, auctioneers etc. you suddenly haven’t got an asset of £40,000, you have a liability of £110,000 and your creditors are taking action against your home. This isn’t fanciful: I have a number of clients

I used to work in the serviced office sector; we got into it almost by accident, and the first couple of properties were quite small, the risk low and whilst the pricing wasn’t quite “back of the fag packet”, it wasn’t exactly refined either. We then decided to do it properly. We built a team of consultants and industry professionals; a commercial property specialist to locate the right premises and negotiate the best terms; a specialist firm to kit out the premises to maximise utilisation; a proper market analysis to understand benchmark prices, demand etc; a specialist marketing firm and an experienced project manager. We also got someone to build a sophisticated, but understandable, business model so we could run a whole host of scenarios: lower pricing, higher occupancy, higher pricing, lower occupancy etc. We spent 18 months getting the business right before we launched. Our hard work paid off, the new venture housing some 40 organisations had 80% occupancy at launch, 100% with three

who are facing this scenario, for not one, but a dozen properties. The really sad part is that even a year ago the situation was quite rosy; but rather than take some profit and have access to some cash, the buy to let investors only looked at the upside and continued using profits to re-mortgage and invest in more properties.

So what did we do? So if you have a buy to let portfolio that is taking the strain, take a good hard look. Get in touch with us for a free review as it may well be worth taking less than expected profit now to prevent a much more serious scenario in the future - beware the disease of over-optimism. We have deplored a whole host of tactics to dig people out of the hole they found themselves in. Often the first step is getting the business owners to take long hard look, as we’ve discussed before: if the business isn’t working don’t let your position deteriorate any further. Following that, the need is to communicate with creditors to buy time, then make sure the

Case Study months: we expanded the space by 50% within 12 months and had doubled within 2 years. It was profitable in its first year and remains so. How to get it right? Well first you need to understand the industry you are operating within. If you are interested in running your own catering business start by getting a job in catering, preferably which includes the business end of things, not just the kitchens, the same for the leisure industry. Then, you can start small and low risk, but you’ll learn a great deal. Then, scale up. With buy-tolet, be cautious: research, research and research again. Make sure “advice” is genuinely impartial; choose an area where you can you can get a guaranteed 5 year rental deal with a Housing Association or local corporate. Avoid off plan, especially “all in” deals in cheaper areas; make sure you have a cash contingency in case things go wrong.

family home is secure, but if it isn’t make alternative arrangements. Finally, it is a case of the right approach for the right situation: for some it may involve formal insolvency proceedings, for others it is about negotiating settlements with creditors. Remember, the worse your situation the better your negotiating position. Quite often, we have helped clients effectively write off the costs of the learning curve; next time round they are older and much wiser, and who knows, they could be much more successful.

Donald Findley has been providing solution for business for 20 years. Cashflow Dr and its sister company Debt Dr can help you cut your losses, organise a smooth and cost-effective exit and get you started again, or we can rebuild the business. We protect your assets, and help you sleep at night. Tel 08456 449 220 email: df@debtdr.co.uk Website: www.cashflowdr.co.uk

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 51


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Focus: Jack Petchey

The man who took CSR seriously

Cristine Baker looks at the work of self-made millionaire Jack Petchey. A man who took Corporate Social Responsibility seriously before it was thought about by many, whilst staying out of the spotlight

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ack Petchey OBE is a remarkable self made successful business man and entrepreneur, giving away his millions to help young people because he believes passionately that we all have a duty to give something back to society. Jack, aged 82, was born in London’s East End into a loving but humble family. He left

school aged 14 without any qualifications and after a stint in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, Jack went back to his job as a clerk but soon found that he was not rated very highly by his bosses and was told he would never make a successful businessman. Undeterred Jack went on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Britain

52 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

and a prominent businessman and property developer. The Jack Petchey Foundation is the result of Jack’s vision to help young people to take advantage of opportunities and achieve their full potential. Jack says “I care about young people and believe they can be inspired to get the best out


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Focus: Jack Petchey of life whatever their situation or circumstances. Young people get so much bad press, I want people to know about the good things they are doing.” Since it was established in 1999 the Foundation has awarded over £35 million to support programmes through schools, youth clubs and youth initiatives that benefit young people aged 11-25 years in London and Essex. The Foundation gives grants through different programmes including the Achievement and Leader Award Scheme, which is now established in over 1600 schools and youth organisations. This represents the core programme of its work and the Foundation also gives awards through Projects Grants and Sponsorship.

Own academy The biggest amount awarded so far has been to build the Petchey Academy in Hackney in London which opened in September last year. When the school is full there will be 1200 students in the state of the art building. Still a workaholic Jack is at his desk every day at his office in East London where he deals

in share trading and has become one of the City’s most active and successful private dealers.

Jack feels life has been good to him and he wants to give back to the community in which he has worked and lived Jack’s working life has seen him through the car hire business, property, and time share and on the way he became a director of West Ham United football club, later resigning to buy Watford in1990 from Elton John. It was an experience he was glad to have left behind him “It’s completely over-glamorised” he said.

The 50/50 man Jack is amongst the top twelve givers to young people and education according to the Sunday Times Rich List. His giving goes back to his roots and in his book, aptly named 50/50 Man, he talks about giving his children 50% towards something they wanted to buy but they would have to make up the difference.

The same rules apply for project funding by the Foundation. The awards scheme celebrates achievement by young people and their mentors and the funding is put back into schools, clubs and local projects. In the early days Foundation support focused on the East End of London and West Essex. Over the years it has spread itself into the whole of London and now Essex too, currently awarding in the region of £1 million a month. Andrew Billington, Foundation Director says “Jack feels life has been good to him and he wants to give back to the community in which he has worked and lived”. There is a commitment of £150 million to schools and youth programmes over the next decade. Everything from scouts, guides and sea cadets to programmes for public speaking, dancing, entrepreneurial skills and study support have benefitted from his largesse. Jack leaves a stunning legacy which is giving youth opportunities that might not otherwise be there and then celebrates positive images of young people and their activities. It’s true what he says “If you think you can – you can”. Jack doesn’t believe in luck, he calls it pluck.

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 53


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Forum of Private Business

Sometimes being big isn’t so good f they were alive today, the entrepreneurs John Sainsbury and Jack Cohen, the latter being the founder of Tesco, would no doubt view the modern supermarket empires with a mixture of pride and dismay. Large chains have enjoyed unparalleled success by offering a wide selection of reasonably-priced goods, but many have done so by abusing their size and using their financial muscle to force out smaller competitors from the £123-billion-per-year retail market. January marked the 60th anniversary of the UK’s first ever supermarket, a Co-operative which opened its doors in Manor Park, East London, in 1948. At the time, the new superstores were welcomed as temples of convenience and value for money, but they have since mutated. Now, products are sold from vast, often out-of-town, stores, which draw trade away from high streets. Many town centres have become near identical ‘clone towns’ or, worse, ghost towns devoid of any substantial commercial activity. The UK’s big four Supermarket chains – Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – continue to grow. Tesco, the UK's biggest retailer, reported ‘solid' Christmas sales for the six weeks leading to 5 January. It saw UK sales rise by 3.1% and total international sales soaring by 26.9%. Last year, the FPB dubbed Tesco the ‘King Kong of the Retail jungle' after it posted a 13% rise in profits to £2.55 billion.

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Apropriate remedy Finally, after a 21-month investigation into the groceries market, the Competition Commission has produced a list of ‘remedies’ aimed at limiting the power that individual supermarket chains have in town and city centres. The FPB believes that, by focusing on boosting competition between large retailers – including recommending that a greater variety of supermarkets should be built – the Commission has missed the point entirely. Proposals such as introducing a new ‘competition test’ to be carried out by local planning authorities need to consider the difficulties faced by smaller firms as well as big competitors. An ombudsman, who would oversee the

sector, should be given the power to award significant compensation against the chains that abuse the new, revamped Supermarket Code of Practice (SCOP) that has been promised. Currently, the Commission is not clear whether these so-called solutions will have the real teeth that are required to make a difference.

No punishment The problem, as far as many of the FPB’s members are concerned, is that the supermarkets are just not being adequately punished when they are caught out. In addition to unfair and aggressive business practices, which leave many smaller shops struggling to survive, let alone compete, the supermarkets’ shoddy treatment of suppliers has also been widely criticised. Last year, for example, many farmers and small dairies felt let down by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). It imposed fines totalling £116 million on the supermarkets following its investigation into price-fixing in the dairy market. Compared to the retailers’ huge profits, that figure is a drop in the ocean, and amounts to little more than a slap on their collective wrists. In some areas, it has been left to local shoppers and smaller retailers to make a stand. In October 2007, Manchester City Council's planning committee unanimously re-

jected a bid to build a Tesco Express in Chorlton, a suburb of the city, after a campaign from a coalition of local independent retailers and residents. It is fair to say that supermarkets are not going to disappear. However, it is essential for the survival of many small shops and suppliers that they are truly held accountable for their actions. It is also important that other measures are taken to preserve the commercial viability of traditional high streets, and protect the future of countless communities. The Competition Commission publishes its final report in April. Barbara Swarbrick, of Croft Bakery, Preston, laments the impact that supermarkets have had on smaller businesses. "The supermarkets have such buying power and there is not much I can do about it, especially when they sell a loaf of bread for 30p," she said. "We just have to keep on going and going, and working more and more." Mrs Swarbrick added: "Where I live, there are shops closing down all the time. There is nothing here now; I can't even get a paper delivered." The FPB is a membership organisation that represents more than 25,000 private businesses in the UK. For more information go to: www.fpb.org.uk or call 0845 612 6266

Business Matters issue 158 • March 2008 55


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Marketing

Does your website catch goldfish? Lesley Morrissey, looks at how to make sure that your website catches surfers attention he goldfish is popularly believed to have a very short attention span – something approaching seven seconds. Strangely enough that’s about the same attention span of the average web surfer; if you don’t catch them fast, they will escape your net. Websites should be more of a Derby than a Grand National – in other words, no obstacles in the path of the visitor to your site. Don’t expect them to work hard to get your message – they won’t, they’ll just leave and find another website that is ‘easier’. You might be surprised to know that, mostly, visitors to your website don’t read it at all! Is this because you don’t write killer copy? Is it because they’re not interested in your products or services? Or is there some other mysterious reason? Of course, copy plays a part in attracting people to your website, but you can easily prevent people from reading perfectly good copy by presenting it in a way that is hard to read. Web-design and readability don’t always go hand-in-hand. Most web-designers have not been trained in how people read, only in making a page visually attractive. The problem is that the words are often seen as one of the visual elements rather than as a message that needs to be read in order to ensure people move through the site. So there a number of issues to consider: • The copy must hit the reader’s hot buttons • The words should be in the right place for people to read them easily • The font style and size must be easily readable • The words need to be in a colour and on a background that aids rather than hinders the reading process. It’s important that your message is written for the reader and engages with them quickly. This means you need to know what people are looking for when they come to your website – and make sure that you let them know they’re in the right place as quickly as possible. If you don’t make that connection in the first six or

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seven seconds, you may have lost them. We’re all really quick to click that ‘back’ button and go to somewhere that loads quicker and is easier to follow when we get there. If your headline connects with the reader you’ve got a better chance of keeping them. So, your headline needs to: • Engage with them (tells them you’re going to solve their problem, or that you understand the issue they’ve got) • Be the biggest thing on the page (at least 18 point in size) • Be in the right place (placed about one third of the way down the screen; that’s ‘prime real estate’ and where most people’s eyes fall when they look at the screen). That’s the first step. People read screens in an ‘F’ pattern – actually they scan rather than read. So what else will encourage them to read your copy? • On screen a serif font is harder to read – so Verdana, Arial or Tahoma are good; Times New

56 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

Roman, Palatino, and Garamond are not so good. • The font size needs to be at least 10 point – and darker than the background. White (or light) writing on a darker background dazzles the eye (unless it’s big and bold). • Paragraphs should be left aligned – justified text creates a nice neat block, but makes it easier for the reader to lose their place (and can create some interesting gaps between words as the lines are forced to a particular length). • To ensure your message gets across, a few key words in bold will help to attract attention, but don’t pepper your text with bold words; less is more. • If you have critical points that you really want people to read, turn them into a bullet point list – people read lists when they don’t read paragraphs! • Remember to write what they want to know – not everything you want to tell them! Too much information will stop them reading. Finally, don’t assume that your visitor will arrive on your home page; if they’ve searched on Google or any other search engine for a particular term or phrase, they won’t. Make sure that every page engages the reader for the subject matter of that page. This is a good start to creating web pages that keep people on your site. The longer they stay the higher the likelihood that they’ll buy.

Happy fishing!


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Recycle your magazine and seven days later it could come back as your newspaper. www.recyclenow.com


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technology

Real computing

Power

Office printing has really come on in leaps and bounds over the past year and with colour laser printers far more affordable Mark Prigg looks at the options available for both the office as well as the home office.

Dell Colour Laser 3110cn

Lexmark C530dn

£270 dell.com

£310 lexmark.com

The Dell CLP 3110cn won't win any design awards, but it's not bad looking -for a printer. It's approximately 400mm by 470mm by 485mm and resembles a fat, half-height dustbin, though its black and gunmetal colour scheme is a definite improvement on the plethora of beige printers we've seen over the years. It's not particularly heavy, but Dell recommends you lift it out of its box with the help of a friend. Toner can be loaded with ease by opening the front of the unit and installing separate black, cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges. There's a control panel within easy reach at the top of the unit, which includes a two-line LCD display that relays information such as the remaining toner level for each of the four cartridges. There's a 250-sheet tray at the very bottom of the unit, plus a 150-sheet tray multipurpose tray at the front giving a standard paper handling capacity of 400 sheets. We think this is more than ample for small to mid-sized businesses and solo users, but compulsive tree-murderers can add an extra 550-sheet tray, taking the paper capacity to 950 sheets. Running costs on the 3110cn are very good. At the time of writing, a standard capacity (5,000 pages) black toner cartridge costs 53, while the three colour cartridges cost 73 and last for 4,000 pages at 5 per cent paper coverage. That's just over 1p per page for black, and almost 2p per page for colour. Obviously your own mileage will vary, but the printer works with the Color Track 2 tool (included) which can help reduce the total cost of ownership. It gives you the ability to create up to 50 user or department accounts, each of which can be assigned usage limitations. Want to stop the notorious Sally from HR printing her holiday snaps? Just restrict her ability to print in colour. PROS: Speed; cheap running costs; print quality CONS: Noisy when in use

58 For further information on how to advertise Tel: 0870 116 2854

The Lexmark C530dn is a fast, high-quality colour laser printer that we recommend for any small office or home with high-volume printing needs. For £300, you get a network-ready printer with a built-in duplexer for automatic double-sided printing. If you need increased paper-handling options or more toner cartridge choices, check out the C532n (£340, no duplexer) or the slightly more expensive C532dn (£430). Lexmark also has taken laudable steps to improve the eco-friendliness of its laser printers -- by reducing power consumption and material waste -- which benefits both your bank balance and the environment, a move we applaud. We're curious to see whether other manufacturers follow suit. The Lexmark C530dn's print speeds and quality are on a par with the more expensive Oki C5500n, which lacks a duplexer, making the C530dn a better buy. The C530dn comes with a 250-sheet input tray that can expand from A4 to hold legal-size paper, as well as a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder that folds out from the front panel of the paper tray. You don't get any paper expansion options on this model, but it should be sufficient for home users. If you're in a small office environment and need expanded paper handling, the Lexmark C532n model offers the same 250-sheet tray plus an optional 550-sheet drawer, though you lose the multipurpose tray in favour of a single-sheet manual feed slot (for an 800-page max input). The next step up is the C532dn, which offers the 250-sheet tray, the 100-sheet multipurpose feeder, and the optional 550sheet tray, for a total input capacity of 900 pages. The C530 series machines lack straight pass-through printing, a potential problem if you're using paper that has a tendency to jam when curled.

PROS: Fast prints; excellent print quality; built-in duplexer CONS: Colour handling could use some minor improvements


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Te c h n o l o g y

Samsung ML-3051ND £250 samsung.com The Samsung ML-3051ND straddles the gap between an über-expensive office laser printer and a personal laser printer, both in terms of features and price. For around £250, you get a network-ready mono printer with versatile paperhandling options, expandable memory and high-quality prints. The ML-3051ND model includes a built-in duplexer, but if you don't need that, the ML-3051N is around £50 cheaper. The ML-3051ND is an excellent choice for a small office with high-volume printing needs that doesn't need colour prints. The Samsung ML-3051ND's boxy grey exterior epitomises the cubefarm aesthetic: it's nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. The printer sits 399mm wide, 432mm deep and nearly 284mm tall. Hand grips at the base of either side make it easy to move the printer around, though as a networked printer, you probably won't move it frequently. The ML-3051ND has an impressive array of paper-handling features for such a low price. A 250-sheet paper cassette pulls out from the bottom and can handle A4 and up to legal-size paper. (When using legal-size sheets, the paper cassette will stick out a little from the rear of the printer.) A second 250-sheet paper cassette is available as an option. Folding down a flap on the front of the printer reveals the multipurpose tray, which can hold up to 50 sheets of plain paper. Likewise, you have two options for output: a deep well in the top of the printer serves as the main output, while a door in the rear of the printer covers the straight pass-through output, handy for thicker media such as card stock. PROS: Expandable paper-handling options; network ready CONS: Autoduplexing is an optional extra

HP Colour Laserjet 3600n £450 hp.com The £480 price tag on HP's Color LaserJet 3600n (you can find it for less if you shop around online) seems steep for an individual buyer but modest for a small workgroup seeking a network colour laser printer. Unfortunately, its text quality leaves something to be desired and its expandability options are limited. Lexmark's similar C522 sells for around £100 less and provides better text quality, though Lexmark's cost per page is slightly higher than HP's and the difference may add up over time. The 27kg 3600n is small and has deep handholds, so one person can carry it easily. The printer's front wall folds out to expose the paper path, four integrated toner cartridge/imaging drum units in a vertical rack, and the image-transfer belt clipped inside the front wall itself. The design couldn't make jam-clearing and maintenance any easier. However, the wall and hinges could be sturdier. The 3600n prints black text at a reasonable 13 pages per minute (ppm) and colour graphics a bit faster, at 13.5ppm. For comparison's sake, the Lexmark C522n prints text at 14.2ppm and graphics at 12.3ppm. The HP's print quality disappointed us on the important tests. Text looked greyish instead of black, showed some roughness in large point sizes and lost fine strokes. Colour graphics didn't negotiate shading ramps smoothly and produced blocky transitions, though the printer acquitted itself on colour accuracy and detail. Plus it did a great job on greyscale photos, with fine detail and smooth shading. PROS: Well designed; handles paper well; low cost for consumables CONS: Limited expandability options; text quality is not up to par

Oki C3400n £320 Oki.com Small-office users generally need a printer that is fast, networkable, cost efficient and excellent with text prints. This usually means they are in the market for a laser printer. The Oki C3400n fits the bill, though it's not without its downsides. The £320 colour laser printer won't break the bank in terms of upfront cost and the cost of mono prints, but the cost of colour prints will eventually add up. Also, the C3400n doesn't include a duplexer and its paper capacity is not expandable -- both features that are common on laser printers. If you need those features, check out the Samsung CLP-510N, but keep in mind you'll get slower print speeds. In terms of speed and print quality, the Oki C3400n is a speed demon with colour prints. If you're a small-office user looking for a fast performer with good-quality prints, the Oki C3400n is a good choice.

Like most laser printers, the Oki C3400n is large. The grey-and-white unit stands 376mm by 290mm by 480mm, and it weighs a hefty 21kg. Hand wells on three sides make it easy to grip, but its bulky frame makes moving it a two-person job. The printer comes standard with a 200MHz PowerPC processor and 32MB of RAM, though you can upgrade to up to 288MB of RAM. Both Windows and Mac operating systems are supported, and the printer is Ethernet-ready, a boon for a multiuser environment. Duplexing (or double-sided printing), however, is a manual operation on this model, and Oki does not offer an optional duplexing unit for this printer. In terms of performance, the Oki C3400n impressed us with its fast print speeds. When printing black graphics and black text, it printed just slightly slower than the competition, including the Lexmark C500n and the Samsung CLP-510N -- 16.01ppm and 15.55ppm, respectively. It knocked the competition out of the ring, though, with its zippy colour graphics and colour text speeds PROS: Superspeedy colour prints; excellent quality with black text CONS: Paper capacity is not expandable; no duplexer

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Legal

Monitoring your workforce

monitoring, but monitoring must be consistent with the Act and its Codes of Practice. In addition to the DPA, the monitoring of any type of communication amounts to an “interception” so the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and its related Regulations also apply. The DPA notes that employees should be told about workplace monitoring and must freely consent to it. The latter is also a requirement of RIPA. However, if monitoring can be justified by way of a benefit to the employer that outweighs any disadvantage to employees as a consequence of monitoring, or if the intercepted communication relates to the employer’s business, the issue of consent becomes irrelevant.

Legal requirements

Karen Hostick, Employment law specialist at Kingsley Napley looks at how to keep an eye on your staff - legally! iven recent press speculation over the “Spyware” patent application filed by Microsoft in the US, what are the implications of Big Brother technology being used to monitor employees in the workplace, and how will it impact SMEs? It is a well known fact that monitoring already takes place, so the question is raised as to why Microsoft’s software is perceived as overly intrusive? The perception of this level of intrusion is based on an Orwellian dislike of machine controlling man. On one hand, the Microsoft level of monitoring smacks of Big Brother; relying on machines to collect and assess data relating to the quality and quantity of work produced, as well as checking an employee’s physical wellbeing by way of their heart rate, facial expressions and blood pressure. This remote monitoring of employees’ computer use and well-being is known as “activity-centric monitoring”. This is the constant scrutiny of, for example, the number of key strokes, productivity and competence, which is analysed and cross-referred by the computer to a “base line” (or average) performance related to the task in hand, compared to the user’s age, health and weight.

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It is likely that systematic monitoring will be used by employers with large groups or numbers of employees who perform similar tasks, such as call centre employees, and as such the immediate effect on SMEs is probably quite low, depending on the employer! Such monitoring will enable employers to identify those who require training, reassignment, performance management and, potentially, dismissal as a consequence of poor performance. Of course, this will also identify high performers and facilitate genuine reward.

Consistency On a more general level, monitoring must be consistent with the existing statutory framework. Monitoring has long been acceptable in the workplace provided that employees are aware of the nature, extent and reasons behind it. By way of justification, employers should be able to point to a business need that outweighs their employees’ right to privacy in the work place. Employers, whether large or small, must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) when processing personal data relating to employees. The Act does not prevent

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Are there any legal requirements for monitoring that employers should be aware of? Technological developments have led to increased workplace surveillance, particularly in relation to telephone, email and Internet use. It is therefore advisable to include a consent clause in the employment contract that permits employers to collect and process personal data. All employers, however small, should have an IT policy, which should specifically warn employees that their use of business equipment and systems will be monitored and the reasons why. The policy can also be used to identify standards of conduct, such as acceptable email and internet use, and to set out the disciplinary consequences of misuse of the employer’s systems. It is also useful to make employee compliance with the IT policy a term of the employment contract and to ask employees to sign the policy itself. However, employers must be proactive in ensuring that employees are aware of the policy by specifically drawing it to their attention and by periodically reminding them that their use of workplace systems will be monitored. In any event, it is employees who will decide whether the Microsoft system (or similar) proves successful – they will decide with their feet if this degree of intrusiveness is justified. Asking new employees to consent to micro-monitoring might not be as hard as it sounds. Big Brother is already watching – how much do you want the job? Karen can be reached on 020 7814 1200, or via her email address: khostick@kingsleynapley.co.uk


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Legal

Social Networking & Data protection ecent surveys have suggested that recruitment agencies and employers increasingly use social networking websites such as Facebook as part of their evaluation of potential employees. This illustrates the phenomenal growth of the use of social networking sites, which have created a new challenge for data protection lawyers for several reasons. Users often appear to be surprised by what can be done with the personal data they make available online, for example the implications of having a chat (potentially about the confidential information of their employer) using sentences exchanged via a Facebook ‘wall’. The privacy policies that are intended to provide full information on the use of personal data can be lengthy and legalistic, and as a result are infrequently read in full. Another issue is that it is common for the functionality of social networking sites not to require an ‘opt in’. Designers of social networking tools frequently do not trouble their users with having to worry about ticking boxes or reviewing privacy options, and the default settings of many sites allow full sharing of data that is uploaded. There is typically a lack of clarity around what privacy settings are available and how to change them. Facebook’s “networks” neatly illustrate the nature of the problem. Joining a network can result in a huge audience for personal photos, and this size of audience has potential implications for employers as the reputation of an employee and

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Kevin Calder looks at how businesses are using social networking as an evaluation tool for potential staff. potentially the employer could be affected by the content. Whilst the concepts in the Data Protection Act 1998 provide a good foundation for protecting a vulnerable public faced with a variety of new means to disseminate their data, there are calls for the Information Commissioner to be more proactive in publicising the risks arising from social networking sites. The Information Commissioner’s own research, published in November 2007, suggested that in the UK, over four million young people would not want a college, university or potential employer to carry out an online search about them owing to data on social networking sites.

Consider the impact Employers need to consider the potential impact of the dramatic increase in the use of social networking sites. A number of employers have taken steps to attempt to restrict access to such sites, and to update internet use policies to set out acceptable use of social networking sites, and to remind employees of the risks of making information about themselves, and their employer’s business, available online. For further information, Kevin can be contacted at: 0121 223 222203 and kevin.calder@mills-reeve.com

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Perks

Haozhan

Haozhan is a pleasant restaurant staffed by nice waiters, with an interesting menu of wellprepared dishes. At Haozhan, whose chef, Chee Loong Cheong, used to work at Hakkasan the menu doesn't just tour the predictable Cantonese staples but flirts with the occasional Japanese or Thai flavour. It even looks different: instead of going for decor reminiscent of your auntie's in Penge, like all the others on the strip, this one is modern with lots of clean lines, the walls fitted with mirrors and jade-green panels. And, whisper it, the waiters smile. The kitchen has a particular talent for deep frying, to produce items that are crisp but greaseless. A starter of crispy quail with chilli and salt, a dish familiar to me from Hakkasan's sister restaurant Yautatcha but available here at two-thirds of the price, brought two whole birds in a light, crisp batter sprinkled with aromatics which managed not to overwhelm the gaminess of the birds. Curry soft-shell crab sounded distinctly worrying (which was why we ordered it) but happily wasn't, the delicate creatures gently battered and sprinkled with shards of a fiery spice mix. My companion and I were divided over the spare ribs with a coffee sauce, which is to say he thought them odd in a bad way and I thought them odd in a good way. Yes, there was a bitterness to the sweet glaze on the thick meaty ribs, but also a certain fragrance which reminded me of rosemary. We agreed about the star dish, the silver cod with a dry XO sauce of minced prawns and chillies. The generous slabs of fish had first been sealed off, but so sensitively that as you cut through the outer skin, the huge flakes of pearly fish fell apart. The XO part of this plateful simply cut through the richness. I would come here for this dish alone. Some other things didn't startle, such as underpowered scallops with macadamia nuts and stir-fried vegetables including a surfeit of out-of-season asparagus. The latter also turned up in a dish of Szechuan vegetables, which was more notable for the strands of silky tofu. Haozhan makes its own tofu, and there's a whole list of dishes using it which we should have tried but didn't.

Maltese luxury

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The Corinthia brand started in Malta in the 1960s with the flagship Corinthia Palace Hotel, and now numbers over 20 mainly five-star properties throughout Europe and Africa. The Corinthia Lisboa is a high-rise hotel which opened in 2004 and still feels extremely fresh and modern three years on, due to a soft refurbishment earlier this year. WHERE IS IT? Around 7km from Lisbon International airport, and ten minutes’ drive to the north-west of the city’s historical area. The hotel is located in Lisbon’s financial district, along with several Accor properties including a Mercure, an Ibis and a Novotel, which are all situated in the same area. The nearest metro link is Jardim Zoologico, with links to the town centre. HOW MANY ROOMS? 518, including 360 Superior rooms, 82 Club Suites and one Junior Suite. The top floor also houses 75 executive rooms and suites.

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ROOM FACILITIES The rooms feel extremely fresh, with light décor, large mirrors and modern prints on the walls – indeed the only giveaway that they haven’t had a total makeover is the lack of flatscreen TVs. My executive room also included a sofa, table and chairs, and access to the Executive Club Sky Lounge on the 24th floor. The lounge has fantastic views of Lisbon, including the Aguas Livres aqueduct, and access includes free drinks throughout the day, evening canapés, and breakfast. RESTAURANTS AND BARS Sete Colinas (named after the seven hills on which Lisbon is built) is the hotel’s largest restaurant, offering international buffet and à la carte cuisine. Breakfast is served here in the morning and I would recommend sitting outside on the terrace as it’s a pleasant area to take in some sunshine. Next door to the restaurant is the Tempus Lounge Bar, which has a huge centrepiece clock behind the bar and is open until 1am. To the front of the hotel is Tipico which, as the name sug-


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Perks

Jaguar XF gests, serves typical Portuguese dishes in bright surroundings and is open daily for lunch and dinner. BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The Corinthia Lisboa has over 3,000sqm of meeting space, making it one of the largest conference venues in Portugal. There is a separate entrance and reception for the first-floor events area, with 15 meeting rooms available in a total of 22 combinations. The largest space, Floriana, can accommodate up to 1,000 delegates for a cocktail reception or 550 for a banquet, while the conference space as a whole can take up to 1,400 people for large events. Nearly all rooms have natural daylight, and there are several spaces for smaller meetings, as well as two further boardrooms within the executive lounge on the 24th floor. There is wifi internet access in the lobby, throughout the conference centre, and in the Executive Club Sky Lounge (charged at €3 per hour, €7 for two hours, or €25 for 24 hours). The business centre is open from 8am-10pm. LEISURE FACILITIES An original outdoor swimming pool with a new indoor pool, and a large range of facilities including a vitality pool, solarium, ice-sauna, steam bath and gym. There are also 13 sparooms, offering treatments including chromo and aromatherapy, a Vichy shower, and an Oriental Thai Cabin, with Body Bistro products “inspired by Oriental philosophies”. VERDICT: Ideal for corporate events, the meeting facilities at the Corinthia Lisboa will attract big players in the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) market. The addition of the new spa should also encourage leisure visitors, and the views of Lisbon from the executive floor are stunning. CONTACT: Corinthia Lisboa, Avenue Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro 105, Lisbon; tel +351 21 723 63 63; corinthiahotels.com.

Dean Woodward, Contract Services Manager, DaimlerChrysler Fleet Management gets his hands on the keys to the new Jag WHAT IS IT? The new Jaguar XF is a large Executive ‘’Sports’’ Saloon replacing its retro-styled S-Type predecessor. The XF purrs into a fiercely competitive status-driven sector that is ruled by the German giants. On-the-road prices range from £33,900 to £54,900 for the 4.2 V8 Supercharged model. SIGNIFICANT OTHERS ARE: • Mercedes Benz E-Class • BMW 5 Series • Audi A6 • Lexus GS MODELS AND ENGINES COMPRISE OF: • Luxury 2.7 Diesel and 3.0V6 • Premium Luxury 2.7D, 3.0V6 and 4.2V8 • SV8 4.2 Supercharged STYLING Jaguar states that the XF has a “fusion sports car styling and performance with the refinement, features and space of a luxury saloon”, most of which I agree with. Jaguar has obviously being paying close attention to the Mercedes CLS “coupe-esque” styling and realised that the retro look, although exciting at the time, is no longer appealing (don’t tell the VW Beatle!). Unlike some of its competitors, the XF looks great from behind and some may say that the rear has been transplanted from the XK sports car. However, travelling forward it starts to become more mundane and, by the time you reach the nose it’s, dare I say it, almost Hyundai-like. INTERIOR The interior is another story. Get in for a light-show rivalled only by a Jean-Michel Jarre concert. The backlit instruments change at night from white to blue; some of the more pertinent panels even have blue perimeter lighting. There is the expected quality feel with the Jaguar comforts, even the sloping roof lines aren’t too compromising to room in the rear. HANDLING Jaguar cars have been widely known for their luxurious ride but firm handling, and this is no exception. It feels uncharacteristically sprightly through corners and precise on tight bends. SUMMARY Jaguar’s best saloon car for a long time; a great alternative to the old war-horses dominating the sector; lacks character and charisma.

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Books

The business

book shelf A Friend in Every City

BlackBerry: A Cultural Icon The BlackBerry has emerged virtually overnight as one of the most popular and necessary pieces of extended technology in the world. The idea for the BlackBerry came to inventor Mike Lazaridis late one night when he realized how helpful it would be for people to be able to check their office e-mail whenever and wherever they happened to be: at home, travelling on business, or attending a hockey game. In 1997 his firm, Research in Motion (RIM), was just another small, high-tech hopeful with an annual revenue of $13.5 million and 180 employees making two-way pagers. The January 1999 launch of the BlackBerry has for ever changed the firm. Today, there are 3,500 employees - including 1,000 engineers - and an annual revenue of US$1.35 billion. Much more than a book about business, "The BlackBerry: From Cult Object to Cultural Revolution" is a biography of a unique cultural icon.

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A Friend in Every City is an inspirational and practical guide to the art and science of networking. Networking is the key skill for the 21st century worker. As birth rates go down, life expectancy goes up and the business world continues to downsize to a core of permanent workers, more of us will find the 21st century a tough place to make a living. More of us will find ourselves working as freelancers or as part of ‘fractional teams’ that come together for a project and then disband. Fewer of us will retire on a pension – choosing instead to work on a portfolio of projects. A Friend in Every City looks first at the forces shaping the new ways of working, then at how online networks, such as LinkedIn, Open BC, Ryze and Ecademy, are evolving to provide support for them. The authors look at how an individual worker can leverage these changes to their best effect. Networks can provide us with support in all aspects of our lives. A good network will sustain us through bad times as well as good, providing emotional support as well as referrals. Contacts become connections, connections become advocates and advocates become friends.


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Books

Business Wise

Doing the Business

If you are starting a business, or considering doing so, BusinessWise is the book for you. A collaboration amongst over 20 business experts, this book looks at the whole process of setting up a new business with success in mind. It covers a wide range of topics including business set up and vision, marketing (including using the internet), selling, finance, working in and managing teams, working from home and beating procrastination, networking internationally, getting the right message out in the right language, health and fitness and collaboration. The authors, all life members of the network Ecademy.com, are experts in their subject area and have shared many tips and ideas here that they would normally only reveal in training sessions or paid consultancy.

This book's author David L. Steward's ethical lessons are admirable. He divides his advice into weekly units, making it easy to apply. (This also reflects the book's roots in a weekly church-based study group). However, though Steward sees his lessons as straightforward, many readers might find his logic a little challenging. For example, he draws the lesson of niche marketing from Matthew 6:24, "No man can serve two masters." This makes interesting sense at first. However, while his later expansion into a second niche may offer a good business example. We recommend his warm, inspirational guidebook to spiritually inclined readers who are interested in using their beliefs to reinforce ethical business practices.

The Entrepreneur's Guide to a Good Night's Sleep Successful entrepreneur Michael Bell shows how to set up and run a successful business without losing sleep, in this new book. Michael Bell began his working life as a motor mechanic with the Kennings Motor Group, switching to sales before joining the Financial Services industry in 1977. He became a top sales producer and manager in record time. After one other move to a major insurer, he started his own company, Results Financial, in 1998 as CEO and sole owner. Since then the company has gone from success to success, and Bell launched a new enterprise "Chef Results", which is also trading profitably. The secrets of entrepreneurial success are not that difficult to grasp. The key, says Bell, is to plan and run the business from the start as though you are preparing it for sale - in much the same way that builders build a great new house. Plan it properly, get everything right FIRST TIME, and make sure everyone is motivated to deliver the results. Don't cut corners on quality, and make sure that passion and enthusiasm ooze from every pore of the business.

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Getting to know you...

Charlie Mullins We talk to Charlie Mullins, Managing Director of London based Pimlico Plumbers about how he has grown his business and the future ahead... What do you currently do? I’m the MD of Pimlico Plumbers - which I believe is the largest privately, and family owned plumbing and heating company within the M25. The business has been built on the quality of personal service and to maintain that reputation I’m still very much ‘hands on’. I’m very involved with the day to day running of the company - the ‘feel’ of a business is important and you can’t get that from a distance. I built it to a high level of over 60,000 jobs a year and I have the responsibility for its continuing success and making sure that all our staff are drinking out of the same teapot.

Who is your inspiration in business? Our local plumber Bill Ellis who let me work for him when I was bunking off school. He seemed to be the richest person in the area and the only one that I knew who had a nice car. He inspired me to get into the plumbing trade and when I left school I immediately got a job as an apprentice plumber, the best thing I have ever done.

Who do you admire? It has to be Max Clifford, undoubtedly the best PR in the world, highly respected by the media. He is a very ordinary, down-to-earth man who most certainly has his clients’ interests at heart. He makes things happen rather than talk about it and always conduct his business in a very professional manner plus his continued involvement in charity work – he should be knighted Sir Max Clifford.

Looking back are there things that you would have done differently? The business has grown dramatically over the last ten years and I certainly would have put a strategy of planned expansion in place to allow greater control. The incorporation of all the ancillary services to offer the complete

package should have happened earlier. I should have promoted ‘brand’ recognition through marketing and publicity from an early stage. If you’re that good you need to get the message to potential customers. Good marketing and corporate design is vital – get in front of the customer and make sure you stay there - the earlier the better. I should also not have wasted any time listening to people who thought they could run my plumbing business better than me.

Do you have any business regrets? Yes, not doing the things I should have done differently as above! Trying to do it all myself before realising that delegation is a necessary ingredient of a successful operation. I regret leaving school at 15. I should have left earlier and start to build my plumbing business sooner! On face value the perceptions of achieving success is through academic endeavour alone. Not everyone is going to be a brain surgeon but providing that one develops his or her trade to a high degree of quality and service than success is equally achievable.

How do you see your business/business in general going over the next 12 months? Continued and planned growth. We are expanding geographically in Central London which is ringed by the M25. With 142 plumbing

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and heating engineers with fully equipped vehicles already in service, I am planning to increase the work force by 30% and also recruit more women plumbers. The expansion of activities to cover our projected area of operation should give us an increase of 10% plus on our current turnover of 15 Million. The demand is there and we have to grow to meet it without a reduction in standards.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start up their own business today? Be a leader not a follower. Be different, don’t run your company like others do; and make the most of opportunities that come your way. Don’t try and run every aspect of the business but motivate your staff to perform to the best of their abilities. Be innovative. Don’t sit back and wait for the next bus, sometimes it doesn’t come. Always maintain standards and keep it simple. You may not always get it right but at least there’s always the opportunity to make it work before someone else tries it. You may not always be able to do it but try and put a strategy in place to let you control your business and your future. Make decisions promptly; make sure you employ the best staff available and set out to offer top quality service at all times. Be number 1! Be positive and believe in success. And above all don’t let the banks (crooks-in-suits) try to control your business.


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Recruitment Software

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