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North East Entrepreneurial Awards finalists revealed

Cyber Security how to keep safe from hackers

What’s On

autumn dates for your diary

Scale-up advice

from our spring conference

Inspiring entrepreneurs interview with Brian Palmer

ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM Together we can take on the world.

Together we can take on the world. THE NORTHERN POWERHOUSE




What it means for entrepreneurs.

By James Robson, Alexander Jewitt & Co.

A round table discussion.

04 06



Scale-up advice from our annual entrepreneurs’ conference.

How our partners are helping business owners grow faster.

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus.




2017 AWARDS SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED Celebrating the North East’s most successful entrepreneurs.



STRONGER TOGETHER Welcome to our new Corporate Partners.




DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Inspirational events not to miss this autumn.




The story so far.

How to keep your business safe in a digital world.

Recommended by Ian Kinnery, Team Massive Results.



Driving growth with our Exchange Programme.

News and views from our entrepreneurial community.





LIFE AFTER EXIT A guide for serial entrepreneurs.



Welcome to EF News The summer edition of our member magazine. As the Forum approaches its 15th year and prepares to host its 500th inspirational event, we can look back with pride at what has been achieved and look forward to helping many more entrepreneurs in the years to come. Since launching with 40 founding members, like any not-for-profit organisation, the Forum has seen challenges as well as opportunities, but today we are stronger than ever thanks to the support of more than 300 of the region’s most ambitious entrepreneurs and our unique network of ambassadors, corporate and business support partners and national like-minded institutions. Despite change and uncertainty being the defining characteristics of the last twelve months, we’ve continued to follow the lead of our members and go quietly on with business; moving forward regardless. Since the previous issue of our magazine, Deloitte and TOC Property Backed Lending Trust PLC have joined as corporate partners, and we’ve had more than 40 new entrepreneurial members join our network. We’ve also launched the Scale-up Leader’s Academy - which you can read more about on page 10. More recently, we’ve been supporting the judges of the North East Entrepreneurial Awards. Our 2017 awards have seen a record number of entries and you can find out who’s been shortlisted on page 8. What this won’t tell you however is the number of amazing businesses and founders the judges have had to review in order to decide on the final list of nominees. An enormously difficult task, but it’s clear from the process that the region’s entrepreneurial community is in great health; so much so that we’ve added a new award to Emerging Talent, Mentor of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Achievement. The brand new Scale-up Award was the idea of one of our members, and will celebrate those who are leading the region’s fastest growing businesses;

founders who have achieved more than 20% annualised growth over the last three years. The importance of helping business owners to scale-up cannot be underestimated, given that if only 1% of the companies with the potential to scale-up nationally did so, 150,000 net new jobs could be created and an additional £225 billion contributed towards UK GDP. It’s been our focus since the beginning to support aspirational entrepreneurs and help them drive faster growth within their businesses. By bringing North East entrepreneurs together to share ideas, knowledge, connections and opportunity, we hope to keep them inspired and offer a helping hand when they need it most. This unique transfer of wisdom in a welcoming, entrepreneurial environment supports growing businesses, nurtures emerging talent and helps to make a major contribution to the sustainable transformation of our regional economy. I hope you have a great summer, and look forward to seeing you at one of our events very soon.


Gillian Marshall, Chief Executive.

The Northern Powerhouse An interview with Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. With the third Northern Powerhouse Minister taking up the post in less than 12 months, the Government need to reinvigorate the initiative they believe will be able to narrow the North-South divide. The new Minister’s job is to make the case for more jobs, and more investment in things like infrastructure for the North, but what does it really mean to North East entrepreneurs…


What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you? To me the Northern Powerhouse is about rebalancing the country’s economy, to give the Northern regions parity with London and the South East. The Government is going about this in three ways; devolution, improved transport links and investment. All of these are relevant to business and while it is obvious what the benefits of investment and better transport would be, devolution covers a number of areas vital for growing companies, including skills and business support.

Three years have passed since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined. Has enough happened since then?

Historically when the Department for International Trade, UKTI as it was known at the time, pushed UK investments abroad, individual regional cities could not compete with London’s offering, but together the Northern Powerhouse can.

We live in a wold of constant connectedness, 24-hour news and instant gratification, which can make economic policies seem ineffective if they do not yield immediate results.

People looking to make inward investments are now presented with the Northern Powerhouse as an alternative to London.

While northern towns and cities will undoubtedly ask for more, the creation of Transport for the North, the first ‘Metro Mayor’ elections, and the first tranches of investment to areas with devolution deals have all happened. In the North East, excluding Tees Valley, which got on with the job of devolution and signed a deal, it could be argued that not enough has happened. Political infighting amongst our local authorities resulted in the Government taking that deal off the table, though there is hope that the three local councils north of the River Tyne will get their own agreement sooner rather than later.

What is the Government doing right? And what more could be done? Perhaps the most successful element of the Northern Powerhouse policy to date has been the branding, in terms of how the North is promoted to overseas investors.

What is the single main issue you would like to see dominate the Northern Powerhouse agenda? The Northern Powerhouse has to be a holistic focus on economic growth, encompassing everything that needs to be done rather than prioritising particular issues. For example there would be no point improving transport infrastructure if we didn’t also have devolved powers to develop skilled people and high-growth businesses to take advantage of it.

Is there enough collaboration between towns and cities across the North? Collaboration between our towns and cities comes in two forms, that between the local council and that between businesses. Businesses will trade and collaborate with other businesses when it is in their

interests, wherever in the country or indeed the world they are, as long as the infrastructure is in place to do so. The benefit that the Northern Powerhouse can have for collaboration is giving the public sector a strategic view on transport and business support across the entire North, rather than making it as a competition for resources between our towns and cities.

How would the success of the Northern Powerhouse agenda benefit your business? The members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum run businesses with serious potential for growth and job creation; between us we already employ more than 23,000 people and have a combined turnover in excess of £2.3 billion. The Northern Powerhouse would be a success if it paved the way for existing businesses to scale-up and created the conditions for more businesses with high growth capability to emerge.

In the North East, excluding Tees Valley, which got on with the job of devolution and signed a deal, it could be argued that not enough has happened.

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD Scale-up advice from our spring entrepreneurs’ conference.

On 11th May, more than 300 leading North East entrepreneurs met at the Crowne Plaza Newcastle for our ‘Together We Can Take on the World’ conference. An annual event, the conference sees inspirational speakers from across the UK and beyond come together to share their experience and offer advice to the region’s most aspirational business people, to help them grow their companies faster. Addressing the conference, Sherry Coutu CBE, founder and chair of the ScaleUp Institute and Founders4Schools, told attendees that a small change in their business could unlock huge growth. Sherry, originally from Canada, said: “We’ve seen that the UK has become the best in the world at starting businesses, even better than the USA; the problem is that we aren’t good at scaling them up. The good news is that some minor adjustments to the pieces of the puzzle will allow tremendous growth. “Every single one of us has a role to play and they’re all very important, it’s not just down to the entrepreneurs, the Government, or the media. We all need to make changes and embed ourselves in the right networks, and if you do, they will care deeply about whatever problem you’re trying to solve and support you.” While in the North East to attend the conference, the ScaleUp Institute’s board members participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Scale-up Leaders’ Academy, a programme designed to realise the growth ambitions of some of the region’s fastest growing businesses.


YO! Sushi creator and original Dragons’ Den investor Simon Woodroffe OBE shared his story with the audience. He said: “When I was a kid at school I thought if you told people your ideas they would nick them. I’ve never found this to actually be the case. What I have found is if you stand up and tell people about your ideas it makes them real. To me the magic words are - this is so obvious, why hasn’t someone done it before?” In a captivating talk, Norwegian entrepreneur and LOVEFiLM co-founder Thomas Höegh complimented the UK’s business environment, saying: “I’ve lived here for 20 years and I prefer to grow businesses here. I see the balance between being a country made up of lots of different people, and being one where people look after each other. It’s clear that it’s possible to do this and have a successful business culture. I spent many years in the United States and it was unbalanced, where a vast underbelly of society was ignored.” Olympic Swimmer and World Championship gold medallist Karen Pickering OBE shared her inspirational story and drew a comparison between the determination of professional athletes and entrepreneurs, saying: “If you work hard at something you will overcome the people that have had the head start, who are naturally good at something.” Sarah Wood OBE, the CEO and co-founder of viral video tech company Unruly, who grew up in Seaton Sluice, was interviewed by BBC Newcastle presenter Alfie Joey, who also hosted the conference. Answering Alfie’s questions about leading the growth of her now global business, Sarah said: “Communication is one of the most important things to master as you are scaling-up. We practice extreme communications; we’d rather overshare than under-share. Repetition is really important as although it seems like you’re repeating yourself, on the other side that’s rarely the case. You never want your team to feel they’re being left behind, keep them in the loop.” The Entrepreneurs’ Forum conference is part of our calendar of over 40 events that bring the most ambitious North East entrepreneurs together to share knowledge, make valuable new connections and inspire business owners to grow their businesses faster.


Think of your business like a child; it will grow and change along with your relationship with it.


Mentoring is critical to business success. You don’t know what you don’t know, so be prepared to take on good advice.


Identify problems fast if you want to make today’s bad news tomorrow’s good news.


Cashflow forecasts are vital; if you can see the shit coming, you have time to duck!


You can only compete to win when you understand your strengths, market and opposition.


You can’t do it all on your own. If you don’t delegate as you grow, you’re dead.


Communication is key. Never leave staff behind. Repeat the plan over and over again.


Nothing is more important than hiring the right people. Without that you will never scale.


The harder you work, the luckier you become.


Don’t give up. Ever.

Don’t miss our next entrepreneur’s conference… FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE Thursday 16th November, Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham.

Book your place at

Competition is stronger than ever Nominations are in, shortlists have been drawn up and site visits concluded in our quest to find the most aspirational and successful entrepreneurs in the North East. In partnership with the North East LEP, our 14th annual North East Entrepreneurial Awards ceremony will celebrate the achievement of the region’s very best entrepreneurs; and we have been inundated with entries proving beyond any doubt that our entrepreneurial community is thriving. Introducing a new Scale-up Award alongside Emerging Talent, Mentor of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, which in the past have been won by some of the region’s most successful business people, we recognise all the different aspects of entrepreneurial success. Nominees for Emerging Talent, won last year by John Savage of Flame Heating Spares and sponsored by O’Brien’s Waste Management, include Andy Stephenson (Weekend Box), Steven Rawlingson (Samuel Knight), Michaela Reaney (Gradvert) and Stephen Black and Ian McElroy (Tier One Capital).


The Scale-up Award, sponsored by NBS, is new for 2017 and recognises business owners who have led their company to achieve 20%+ annualised growth in either turnover, profit or employee numbers for the past three years. The shortlist includes Ben Ridgway and Jamie Cooke (Intelligent Services Group), Nigel Begg (Aspire Technology Solutions) and Sara Davies (Crafter’s Companion). Sponsored by Ward Hadaway, 2016 saw John Waterworth crowned Entrepreneur of the Year, but this year the honour will go to John Hays (Hays Travel), Roger Peart (Oil NRG), David Harrison (True Potential) or Julie Drummond (Drummond Central). Mentor of the Year, sponsored by Malhotra Group, is announced on the night and recognises the important role altruistic peer-to-peer mentoring plays in business growth. Lifetime Achievement is also kept a closely guarded secret until the dinner. Sponsored by Corporate Traveller, previous award winners include Sir Peter Vardy, Sir John Hall and John Fenwick.

The North East Entrepreneurial Awards celebrate the very best in North East enterprise, and rightly so. Entrepreneurs work tirelessly to build the businesses that people rely on for jobs and economic growth, and our winners can be held up as examples of how to grow businesses, and the wider good this does. We present these accolades not only to recognise success, but to thank the entrepreneurs who take risks and help others to build their businesses. By working together and sharing the benefits of our collective experience, we continue to make business a force for social good in the North East.

Hosted in 2017 by Penny Mallory OBE, our annual black-tie awards dinner will be held in the Crowne Plaza Newcastle’s Boiler Shop on Friday 29th September, with over 400 people set to attend. To book your place, visit

Scale-up Leaders’ Academy The story so far… Helping entrepreneurs who lead fast-growing businesses prepare for the challenges of scaling up is the aim of our Scale-up Leaders’ Academy. By working alongside our peer-to-peer mentoring programme and year-round calendar of events, the Academy offers an extra level of dedicated scale-up support that we hope will help business owners to speed up their growth. At the half-way stage in the inaugural programme, we’ve explored leadership, people, cash, sales, strategy and execution, and we’re already seeing the value in bringing together a group of like-minded people at the same stage of their entrepreneurial journeys.

Our promise:


We’ll help you to raise your growth aspiration and get prepared to scale-up your company by understanding what your scale-up journey will involve, the challenges ahead and some of the tools that can help you on your way.


We will explore the biggest barriers to business growth, looking at the impact in each area of your business once you are successful in achieving your growth ambitions.


We will work with you to examine what your organisation needs to grow quickly, what must change and how you can do this by developing an actionable plan that helps you to cope with the changes scaling-up will bring to you and your company.


We won’t show you what to do, but we will get you ready to scale-up and be at the ‘starting-line’ with peer support around you and a clear idea of what you need to do, so that you can succeed in achieving your business goals and vision.


Participants commitment:

1 2

You must attend all events and sessions.

You must be open and honest with yourself, the coaches and mentors and within the group.


During each workshop you must commit to an action you will complete before the next session.


You must be willing to provide data on your company’s performance and complete research and feedback forms throughout the programme.

We have high hopes for the rest of the programme, so if you are interested in joining our 2018 Scale-up Leaders’ Academy, please get in touch with Steven on (0191) 500 7780 or at to find out more.

A scale-up story: Multi-million pound turnover plans for Animmersion Middlesbrough-based Animmersion plans to more than triple its turnover in the next five years, as part of its scale-up strategy. By implementing a new focused growth plan and acquiring a multi-million pound turnover, the company aims to be a leading competitor in virtual reality training and sales, bringing new ways of viewing digital media through holograms and augmented reality. With plans to expand from a team of 18 to 30+ over the next three years, the company is one of twelve businesses taking part in the inaugural Entrepreneurs’ Forum Scale-up Leaders’ Academy, which is a 50-hour programme. Spread over 10 months, the Academy has been designed for business owners who are running high-growth companies and want to scale-up at a faster rate through the programme’s workshops, coaching, mentoring and learning sessions. Animmersion has been using the Academy’s support to identify a cost-effective framework that allows the business to grow,

without having to re-evaluate plans at every stage. Of the Scale-up Academy, Dominic Lusardi, managing director, said: “We have always had ambitions to scale-up so we jumped at the opportunity to sign up to the Academy, and it’s definitely been working so far.

Taking ideas from the programme as well as other business leaders, and practically applying them to the business, has definitely influenced growth in my opinion.

It’s encouraging to be around like-minded individuals and I’ve learnt to separate what Animmersion does, with how it actually operates. More often than not a successful business strategy can be applied to any company, regardless of which field it operates in.

Entrepreneurial Exchange An innovative way for business leaders to exchange ideas, experience and knowledge.

We know you’re busy. We know you get caught up in the day-to-day. We also know that effective leaders benefit from taking time out, interacting with and learning from others. It’s what we’ve been doing with entrepreneurs since 2002; and now we’re doing it for your team.


Improved Networks

Raise Company Profile

Professional Development

Shared Knowledge Meet 300+ Entrepreneurs

Mentoring Inspirational Events


The Entrepreneurs’ Forum Exchange programme is our way of helping business owners to immerse their senior managers in a programme of entrepreneurial learning and new connections. Whether you’re thinking about future succession plans, or looking to offer a fantastic journey of personal development to the key people in your leadership team, our Exchange programme will inspire and broaden the horizons and networks of those who are driving growth and change in your business.

Who are Exchange members?

We see incredible value in sharing knowledge and experience to help businesses grow and prosper and we will bring your team together with like-minded people to create opportunity, provide inspiration and help make your business stronger.

The cost? It costs £4,000 (+VAT) annually for your company to have four members of your key leadership team join the programme and have the opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial mind-set.

They’re the chief executives and senior managers of North East businesses who would not traditionally meet the owner-manager joining criteria of the Forum, but who drive growth and change within their organisation.

What is included? As a two-way partnership, you get out what you put in, as Exchange provides you and your team with a platform from which you can attend all of our Exchange sessions (6 per year) and 20+ of our wider entrepreneurial events programme (contributing toward CPD).

Our promise: Our Exchange programme will help with the development of your senior staff, by opening them up to new ideas, introducing them to business owners and their organisations and exposing them to inspirational stories of entrepreneurial endeavour.

We joined Exchange so that staff could broaden their horizons and network across different industries. They come back inspired by what they’ve learned, with lots of ideas and, just as importantly, get to share their own experiences and best practice with the rest of the group. In terms of personal development it has been invaluable.

Gentoo Group

Join our network: • Meet 300+ of the region’s most ambitious entrepreneurs • Access experts, mentors and coaches to help develop your team • Attend >25 inspirational Forum events (contributing to CPD) • Come to exclusive dinners with the EF board • Be associated with North East job creation and prosperity • Raise your company profile throughout the region

So, what’s stopping you? If you want to know more, simply get in touch on 0191 500 7780 or

Exchange members:

The Art of Mentoring Entrepreneurs’ Forum Mentor of the Year for 2016, James Robson shares his experiences of mentoring and gives his top tips for business people seeking advice, and those looking to give it.

Mentoring is a two-way process and there are no guarantees but, whether it’s a long-term relationship or a specific answer to a specific question from an entrepreneur who’s been through the same experience, the impact of having a brain to pick, an ear to listen and a push in the right direction can be business changing.


I have been mentoring for other business people for almost five years now, since I stopped working full-time at Exwold, the chemical company I founded in 1993 and remain on the board of. Mentoring is an immensely rewarding thing to do, it allows you to build a wealth of knowledge about different companies and sectors, while gaining the trust and respect of the mentees you work with.

When you get under the bonnet, so to speak, you start to understand different companies and the environments they operate in, and you gain a better appreciation of a wide range of industries and, on a broader scale, the complexities of the local and national economies. When a mentoring relationship works and your mentee takes on board your advice, you get the satisfaction of seeing the positive contribution you are making in their business. I know that if I had been able to access a mentor in my early years in business I would have done some things differently. One mentoring relationship which has definitely worked for me is with Micropore Technologies, a university spinout company which provides specialist particles and emulsion manufacturing services. As a mentor, and now a non-executive director, I have been able to advise the company’s capable management team to make a number of changes that have helped it to prosper and grow. When I first got involved, Micropore Technologies was based in the Midlands, which as a Loughborough University spin-out is hardly surprising. I knew that if the company was to succeed, it needed to relocate to an area with a cluster of chemical and pharma companies, with

adequate lab space, and a business environment where it could raise capital. This prompted a move to the Tees Valley, specifically the Wilton Centre, where the company has flourished. Another company I have mentored is Dyer Engineering, precision machined, high integrity fabrications manufacturers based in Annfield Plain. The business had been in the same family for 40 years and mainly served the oil & gas industries, but after a management buyout it was looking to diversify by finding clients in new sectors. What the company needed was an external person, to whom the board could make itself accountable, committing to certain actions. This had to be someone outside of the business, who could take a holistic view, seeing the wood and not the trees. I had initially been hesitant to take on a mentee business outside of my own sector, as I did not know how helpful I could be, but soon found that much of what a mentor does is universal across different industries. When a mentor starts to support a new mentee, the first stage is working out whether they can work together. There must be a professional chemistry, and for me and presumably most other mentors, we want to see that our advice is being put to good use. In some cases, but not all, mentoring itself can be an informal

trial period of a prospective non-exec, with both parties working together and building trust. Entrepreneurs seeking a mentor will get the most from the experience if they start by defining the kind of mentor they need. Are they looking for help raising money? Do they need advice on HR and personnel issues during an intense period of growth? With this in mind, they can go to organisations like the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, the LEPs and Business Compass, confident they are looking for the right person. What should someone seeking to become a mentor, perhaps after exiting a business or stepping back from the coal face, and looking to share their experiences, do to get involved? Again, organisations like the Entrepreneurs’ Forum are happy to connect them to potential mentees, and training is available from a variety of sources for those who feel they need it.

James Robson MBE, Alexander Jewitt & Co.

Access to peer-to-peer mentoring support is part of Entrepreneurs’ Forum membership and includes confidential one-to-one connections, round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries. To find out more, visit

Supporting MEs SMEs How our partners are helping entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum is proud to be partnered with a host of corporate and business support organisations who are experts in their own field and keen to help SMEs and entrepreneurial businesses. We work with our partners closely to raise their profile among the North East’s entrepreneurial community and ensure they experience the enormous advantages of joining forces with the Forum.

£15 MILLION FREE TRAINING PROGRAMME LAUNCHED IN THE NORTH EAST. Gateshead College is delivering a range of fully-funded workforce development schemes that help North East entrepreneurs, start-ups and established SMEs build and widen their skills base. The Go>Grow programme was launched after the College was awarded £15 million from the European Social Fund through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). As the lead organisation on the project, the College teamed up with 25 top training providers to deliver courses designed to help entrepreneurs meet their business growth plans. Business needs are identified through a face-to-face meeting with a College expert and an online analysis via The training programme is then developed around these needs and can be delivered at any of the Go>Grow training provider sites, or within the premises of the individual businesses, and is available up until July 2018. Melanie Thompson-Glen, business development manager at Gateshead College, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs and companies to create new skills within their business through fully-funded bespoke training programmes such as Go>Grow.”

For further information, contact




Communications technology business, TeleWare Group PLC, is collaborating with leading researchers at Teesside University in artificial intelligence, machine learning and customer analytics.

Brewin Dolphin has been helping business owners for many years now, taking away the strains of managing the family finances and helping entrepreneurs focus on what they do best; growing their business.

TeleWare is focusing on the multiple channels customers use to interact with businesses, and the partnership is examining the best way to collect data from customer interactions and analyse it to enhance their client’s customer experience. Dr Geoff Archer, head of knowledge exchange at Teesside University said: “To maintain a technological advantage, businesses today must gain insight from a range of different sources including the latest academic research. This allows them to more fully understand the needs of their customers and their industry.” Paul Millar, chief innovation officer at TeleWare said: “Having this academic support to constantly improve our knowledge is paying real dividends in terms of how we develop our solutions.”

The pace of life seems only to get quicker and it is easy to forget about your own situation when working flat out on the business. By helping to structure personal finances in the right way, Brewin support business owners to deliver long-term financial security for their family and generations to come. Last year they also launched a new service aimed at helping entrepreneurs when selling a business. Their cash flow modelling service helps people to make a more informed decision, giving you confidence that the funds you may receive from a potential sale are sufficient to meet your goals, or possibly not!

GROWTH FUND HELPS TO CREATE NEW JOBS IN TEES VALLEY. A Middlesbrough-based aerial video production and film equipment hire company has received help with its high-tech growth plans thanks to a grant arranged through Tees Valley Business Compass.

WARD HADAWAY AND SUNSHINE.CO.UK. Law firm Ward Hadaway has provided a range of legal services to fast-growing online holiday company since 2012. Based in Cramlington, specialises in low cost holidays to destinations around the world, as well as associated services including car hire and airport transfers.

Xcyte was awarded £2,805 towards business consultancy, which has gone towards the development of two new websites to advertise the company’s services.

The company has enjoyed significant growth and in 2016 was named as one of the 50 fastest growing privately-owned companies in the North East in the Ward Hadaway Fastest 50.

The grant was made from the Tees Valley Growth Fund, which supports business growth to create jobs, which can include consultancy and specialist advice, and support for companies to take part in overseas trade fairs. The fund, which is part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), can contribute up to 33% towards a project and the average grant is £11,000.

Ward Hadaway provided commercial and employment advice to as it grew, helping the company with issues including copyright and intellectual property, acquisitions of travel-focused websites and management of its expanding workforce.

Paul Everett said: “When I met with Tees Valley Business Compass I found they immediately understood the needs of my business and what we are trying to achieve. The use of drones in commercial photography and videography is a growth industry, and one where professional and qualified practitioners spend a lot of time staying ahead of the technological curve. The support we have received has allowed us to create new avenues for sales, while concentrating on our core business activities.”

When the opportunity arose to sell the business earlier this year, the company’s shareholders turned to Ward Hadaway. The firm’s corporate team, supported by members of Ward Hadaway’s specialist employment, tax, property, IT and data protection teams, provided legal advice on the successful sale of sunshine. to Stock Exchange-listed On The Beach plc for £12 million. Zoe Stewart, finance director at, said: “The team at Ward Hadaway did an excellent job advising on the sale of the company. Their advice was prompt, professional and helped to ensure the deal reached a successful conclusion.”



The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is helping businesses at all stages – whether they’re looking to start up, scale-up, or shake up their operations.

If you’re already selling a product or service in the UK, there will almost certainly be demand for them overseas and as well as the obvious financial benefits, there are a host of other reasons that companies choose to work with the Department of International Trade (DIT) to make international trade an integral part of their growth strategy.

Their Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) has worked with numerous North East manufacturers over the last year, offering fully-funded support from a highly experienced manufacturing consultant. Businesses participating have achieved impressive results, reporting a forecasted increase in turnover of over £12.7 million, achieving over 20% growth per annum on average. AIM Athleisure has benefited, using the MGP to plan reshoring their activities in the UK. Roundel Manufacturing is predicting a 17% increase in sales since participating. And Funky Chunky Furniture is looking forward to implementing a material requirement planning system to help them better manage their sales and production pipeline, following working with the MGP’s consultant. Manufacturing businesses can apply to participate in the MGP until the end of July by visiting The LEP also operates the North East Growth Hub, which aims to simplify access to business support and finance. It also features a wealth of insights, designed to help companies at all stages, and a comprehensive business events calendar.

Whether it’s spreading risk, driving innovation, attracting and retaining more talent, or just because it’s great fun meeting some new and really interesting people, whatever size you are, don’t rule out future growth coming from overseas markets. One local company that didn’t think exporting was for them is Double Concentrate, a brand-centric digital design and marketing agency based in Newcastle. Founder Andy Kilburn remembers “To be honest, developing sales with overseas customers for what we do seemed a bit of a long-shot but, as we have ambitious growth plans, we always knew that we needed to look outside of the UK. Last year, an opportunity to join a trade mission to the USA came up, so we just went for it. It was a great trip – good networking opportunities and some appointments laid-on to add to those that we had made. We found it much easier to reach decision-makers in Boston with far less ‘gate-keepers’ standing guard to give you a knock-back. We can’t believe how well it’s gone since then and now we actually have more business coming in from clients in the USA than those based in the UK.”



Activ Technology is working with SMEs across the North East to migrate their businesses across to Office 365, at no cost to the company.

Newcastle United Foundation offers FREE NHS Health Checks, which can be conducted at your organisation, to individuals aged between 40-74.

Office 365 is a cloud-based monthly subscription service which gives organisations full access to the Microsoft Suite, both downloadable to your device and online applications, meaning you can access your documents and files from wherever you are.

NHS Health Checks are designed to spot early signs of strokes, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia. The check takes 20-30 minutes and the results will give Foundation staff the opportunity to help individuals find ways to lower any risks that become apparent.

Office 365 regularly releases automatic security updates, meaning you can rest assured that your business is protected by the latest software at all times; and given the increase of cyber security attacks, this also provides businesses with a robust solution to emerging threats. If you’re interested in moving your business to the cloud with Office 365, get in touch with Activ on 0191 270 6010 or at

You will be asked some simple questions about lifestyle and family history, have your height and weight measured, take your blood pressure and do a blood test by using a small finger prick test. Results are not held by the Foundation but sent to the individual’s local GP. For more information, or to arrange free NHS Health Checks for your staff, please email hello technology

If you’re looking to raise the profile of your organisation amongst the region’s most aspirational entrepreneurs and want a partnership that aligns you with success, then simply call Gillian Marshall on (0191) 500 7780 or contact our team at 18

Strength in numbers Don’t keep it to yourself, we’re stronger together.

REFER A FRIEND and you’ll both receive a free place

at our next entrepreneurs’ conference STEP 1

Share the benefits of the Forum with your peers When you bring a friend into our network, you not only help them, but you help to ensure the Forum continues to grow stronger and our region prospers.

You share the benefits of being a Forum member with your entrepreneurial friends.

STEP 2 Your friends give us a call -0191 500 7780 and sign up, benefiting from being part of our unique network.

STEP 3 You and your friend will both get a FREE place at our next entrepreneurs’ conference, saving £99 (+VAT) each and guaranteeing a day of inspiration, shared knowledge and valuable connections!

Thank you for your support. Terms & Conditions: • To join, your friend must lead a North East based business which turns over at least £250,000 annually. • Your free conference places are offered once your friend has joined.

Welcome to our new corporate partners Our corporate partners form a major part of the support our members receive through the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, as between them they offer a massive wealth of experience and expertise. That’s why we’re delighted to welcome two new partners to our network…

For more than 100 years, Deloitte has been helping entrepreneurs and owner-managed businesses in the North East to be more successful. 20

Around three quarters of the firm’s clients in the region sit within Deloitte Private, the specialist team that provides a broad range of services to start-ups and entrepreneurs, as well as established private companies and family-owned businesses. Many entrepreneurs also take advantage of Propel, Deloitte’s technology offering that provides accounting, tax and business analytics support - including a dashboard-style app - to fast-growing, ambitious businesses. Stephen Hall, office senior partner for Deloitte in the North East, said: “Privately-owned companies can face numerous challenges, from managing rapid expansion or realising value through exit strategies.

Our dedicated teams in the region combine technical expertise with an in-depth understanding of local, national and international business. It means we are uniquely placed to help support the growth challenges fast-growing businesses can face at every stage of their lifecycle.

For example, Deloitte has worked closely with a Wearside-based entrepreneurial business. From initial involvement after an MBO, it has supported the business and its shareholders across acquisitions, management tax incentives and strategic planning. Following private equity investment the Deloitte team is working with the founders on new ventures.

Giving entrepreneurs access to the fast growing market of direct lending, the PBLT is a UK onshore, closed-ended investment trust with a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange. Without chasing excessive risk, the Trust aims to deliver it’s investors an 8-9% annual return, distributed on a quarterly basis, whilst achieving a modest capital appreciation over the medium to long-term. Based on common sense not common practice, the Trust offers investment management that is straightforward, transparent and adheres to the highest standard of corporate governance and due diligence available.

By securing a first or second legal charge over land, property and business assets, usually by acquiring (at nil cost) a minority equity interest in the developments, the investment portfolio is expected to be split between:

• • •

Regional residential development with a primary focus on non-London based property (40%).

Small serviced office space, hotel developments and wedding and conference venues (40%).

Direct sale and leaseback vehicles primarily operating in professional sectors (20%).

While the credit market continues to be constrained, with many borrowers finding difficulty obtaining finance from traditional sources, the PBLT has identified a growing market, allowing investors to achieve a significantly greater level of return through direct lending.

Cyber Security Insight from:


How to keep your business safe in a digital world In light of recent events which have drastically affected large corporate enterprises and the public sector, it is vital that all businesses understand the best ways to keep themselves protected against emerging cyber security threats. As our working environment becomes more and more entwined with the digital world, businesses need to ensure they are taking the necessary steps to protect their data and prevent a potential attack. Falling victim to a cyber fraud attack can result in major financial losses and can severely damage customers’ trust in a company. Fraud is not only difficult to investigate, but also very hard to attempt to recover funds from following an attack. For this reason, it is vital that businesses look to prevent fraud, rather than hope to cure its consequences.


Whilst no list could ever be exhaustive, there are three main areas where businesses are most frequently attacked: social engineering, malware and network attacks.


Social Engineering

Social engineering is the method by which fraudsters aim to trick people into breaking normal security procedures - to give up sensitive information, such as bank login details, or for them to enable malicious software to be installed onto their device. They may also trick the victim into carrying out a fraudulent payment themselves. Most cyber fraud attacks depend heavily on human interactions – fraudsters have long identified that the

easiest way to breach an organisation’s defences is to target its people, not its systems. The most common forms of social engineering are invoice fraud, vishing (vocal interaction with a staff member with the aim of forcing the staff member to reveal sensitive information), phishing (email or written interaction with the same goal) and smishing (text).

How to protect yourself: Everyone within an organisation has a duty of care to adhere to IT policies, meaning the content of your IT policy can be the difference between experiencing the effects of a social engineering attack, or having the knowledge to avoid one.


It is therefore crucial that your organisation has a robust IT policy and training plan in place for all employees so everyone is equipped with the tools they need to best avoid an attack.


Short for ‘malicious software’, malware is used by criminals to disrupt computer operations and access confidential information. Malware can be installed into

your computer through clicking a link in an email, opening an attachment to an email, or by unwittingly downloading software from a malicious source.

How to protect yourself: The best protection you can provide your business is in the form of anti-virus software. This type of software works proactively when installed on your network to detect any potential threats and warn


users of malicious activity. Whilst there is no guarantee that such software can fully prevent any threat entering your network, it provides the highest level of protection available.

Network attacks

As workforces have become more mobile, employees no longer always work on a single trusted network, making security more difficult.

Fraudsters can exploit this, by intercepting emails as they move across unsecured public servers, or even bombarding organisations with millions of spam emails forcing servers to crash, crippling online business operations.

How to protect yourself: Hackers are taking advantage of lapses in security to infiltrate networks, and there is no better time to attack than when a system is no longer running the latest software. Running a system on legacy software leaves your business susceptible to bugs and gaps in security, meaning potential viruses can enter your network more easily.

Programmes will regularly release updates for you to deploy on your systems, they often take just a few minutes to install and require a re-start of your device. After that you know you are being protected by the latest software your supplier has to offer.

The cost related to these preventive measures is minimal and, when compared to the potential cost to your business of a cyber-attack, is negligible. As a technology company, Activ Technology highly recommends that all of these practices are put in place within all businesses to best protect their data and livelihood. Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to attack so businesses need to regularly review their processes.

For more information on how to protect your business, go to or the Barclays business fraud hub:



News and views from the North East entrepreneurial community durhamlane durhamlane receives ÂŁ125k investment to launch new venture The team behind sales consultancy durhamlane has received ÂŁ125,000 investment to help them grow a software development spin-out company. The funding comes from the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures.

Powerhouse Software Limited was set up to develop new products focussing on the accounting marketplace. Richard Lane and Lee Durham, alongside experienced accountant Will Tombs, established the company at the end of 2015, to capitalise on their knowledge and experience of the accountancy sector and of selling software products to it. Since then, the company has recruited Nick Longden, former executive with Xero and Sage as non-exec chairman, three developers and has launched its first product. Mile Eyes is an app that helps individuals and businesses manage their expenses more efficiently. By allowing users to simply and accurately track their mileage via GPS, it helps businesses save time away from core activities. In addition to Mile Eyes, Powerhouse Software has a number of other apps in development, all based on insights Richard, Lee and Will have gained through their consultancy work.

Entrepreneurs: Richard Lane & Lee Durham


r//evolution Award-winning creative agency expands team An award-winning North East creative marketing agency has appointed two new talented members of the team following growth.

Design Direction Multi-million pound castle project wins global recognition Leading North East interior designer Melanie Brown has been shortlisted in a range of international awards for her landmark restoration of one of the UK’s finest historic castles. Melanie, the founder of Sunderland-based Design Direction, is shortlisted for two of the world’s most prestigious international design prizes - the International Hotel and Property Awards, and the Andrew Martin Interior Designer of the Year Award - for her work on Borthwick Castle, which won the Interior Design category in the Northern Design Awards 2016.

r//evolution has welcomed Alec Pritchard as lead backend developer and Oliver Cook as account executive to their office at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead, increasing their overall headcount to 13 across digital, communications, online marketing and design. With a wealth of experience in web development, across both in-house and agency roles, Alec has worked on many diverse development projects. r//evolution’s other new addition Oliver Cook, has joined the team following an internship with the business. In addition to recently graduating from Newcastle University with an MA in Media & Public Relations, Oliver has experience working in customer service and social media and as PR and marketing assistant at a venture capital firm. Established in 2003, r//evolution has continued to go from strength-to-strength, working across the UK with a range of businesses, driving growth through increased brand awareness and enhanced customer engagement. The company delivers a number of corporate, consumer and destination marketing campaigns across varied sectors.

Entrepreneur: Gill Burgess

Her multi-million pound revamp of 15th Century Borthwick Castle to create a luxury retreat also appears in the Andrew Martin Interior Design Review 2017 – considered to be the bible of the interior design world. Melanie dedicated 18 months to the restoration of the castle, one of the finest and best-preserved 15th Century keeps in Scotland, creating a 10-bedroom luxury retreat available for private hire. She managed the interior design, project management and all procurement during the project and worked alongside Historic Scotland to create an exclusive luxury destination which combines the castle’s newly revealed historic grandeur with the finest in contemporary luxury. Melanie relocated to the nearby Arniston Estate for the duration of the project, calling on her worldwide network of craftspeople to complete the furnishings and finishes which have won international acclaim. Melanie is now working on further refurbishment at the castle, including its outer buildings, riverbanks and listed walled garden.

Entrepreneur: Melanie Brown

Hyperdrive Innovation Hyperdrive set to triple turnover North East electric battery company Hyperdrive Innovation is on track to triple its turnover this year after winning a host of major clients. The firm which makes batteries for electric vehicles has gained a number of clients working on their own clean energy products. Hyperdrive, which is based on Nissan Way in Sunderland, builds battery systems that can be used in electric vehicles (EV), energy storage systems and driverless cars. The firm launched in 2012 and has already made a name for itself as an up-and-coming player in the clean energy sector. As most of Hyperdrive’s work is still being developed for use in commercially secret projects, the firm is unable to name its key clients but directors say the firm has moved on from having one major international client to having four or five. The increase in large customers has led to a huge increase in sales, and the firm is expecting to see its turnover soar this year as a result.

Entrepreneur: Stephen Irish

Blue Kangaroo Blue Kangaroo invests in future growth Brand creative agency Blue Kangaroo has designs on growth after a major investment and reorganisation deal. The Gateshead-based design agency, whose impressive list of global clients includes The Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures and Mattel, is planning a bright future thanks to the injection of funds. The agency helps to create and transfer some of the most recognisable characters in TV and film on to licensed products, including packaging and retail materials. The Blue Kangaroo team worked on the upcoming Luc Besson film Valerian, which stars Cara Delevingne and is released this summer. In 2015 the team won the New Exporter Award at the North East Exporter’s Awards, sponsored by the Department of International Trade (DIT). The Barclays funding will now enable the business to increase its headcount and further expand operations at its headquarters in the Northern Design Centre, Gateshead. Jason Knights, managing director of Blue Kangaroo, said: “We now have a strong platform on which we can build and expand our business further. This will make the business healthier and better balanced for future growth.”

Entrepreneur: Jason Knights


Diamond Group / Pink Boutique Diamond is a girl’s best friend Recently, the famous Pink Star diamond sold for $71.2 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, however, another pink / diamond relationship was sealed on Tyneside as one of the region’s fastest growing IT businesses gave flawless service and perfect clarity to one of Europe’s rising entrepreneurial stars. Diamond Group based on Gateshead’s Team Valley have completed a major upgrade of telecoms, IT and office equipment for Newcastle based multi-million-pound fashion business, Pink Boutique. The work typifies Diamond Group’s work ethos to provide top quality service to the best businesses in the region which ultimately reflects the quality of their work and that of their clients. Pink Boutique was founded by Alice Hall who started the online fashion business in 2012 with a £90 investment and now achieves annual sales of around £9 million. The company posts 2,000 garments a day from their 60,000-square foot warehouse and has had an annual sales growth of 141% over the last three years. Recently Forbes Magazine recognised the business talents of Pink Boutique’s entrepreneur owner by featuring her in the “30 Under 30 Europe Class of 2017” awards.

Entrepreneurs: John Burns & Alice Hall

Shout Digital Shout Digital unveils in-house R&D tech hub Shout Digital has created what it is labelling as its own in-house innovation hub, to allow its team members to take full advantage of the necessary research and development time needed to help clients make a commercial success of the vast array of emerging technologies. Shout founder and CEO, Gary Boon said he wants to put the organisation at the front of the progression in fields such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and iBeacons. Shout has recently developed a range of advanced software applications for clients in both the UK and US including having developed a solution involving iBeacons for a Fortune 100 company. Last month, the organisation announced it had opened an office in Philadelphia on the United States’ East Coast. They say the development of the in-house technology hub will be free of client billing time and, Boon claims, will free up his team to think more expansively about the range of solutions at their fingertips.

Entrepreneur: Gary Boon

Gospelware Trend Bible New starters join growing trend agency One of the country’s leading home and lifestyle trend agencies has recruited two new graduate trainees as part of its commitment to developing young talent. Trend Bible, based in Newcastle, advises some of the biggest brands in the world and has seen its sales rise in the US since launching consultancy services there in 2016. The company has always been committed to bringing on young talent. Its latest recruits, Rebekah Hutchinson and Owen Wright join the company as a creative studio assistant and trend research assistant respectively. The agency sells its trend forecasting reports to major retailers and brands such as Target, Marks & Spencer and Lego, which informs their strategic, design and marketing decisions. The company also carries out bespoke project work using unique methodologies to predict how consumers’ shopper and lifestyle behaviours will evolve up to ten years in the future. Both of the new recruits completed internships at Trend Bible, made possible with funding from Northumbria and Sunderland universities, in partnership with ERDF.

Entrepreneur: Joanna Feeley


North East technology company triumph over international giants Beating Dollar Shave Club and the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Gospelware are official winners of a 2017 Webby Award for Best User Interface on mobile app project REALRIDER®. As one of only a handful of UK companies across the awards on a whole, Gospelware have succeeded out of 13,000 entries including all 50 US states and 70+ countries around the world. In what Webby describe as ‘truly setting the standard of internet excellence’, this award considers Gospelware as the best in the world in this category. Webby awards can be won in one of two ways, the official Webby Award, chosen by The Webby advisory panel of experts, or the People’s Voice which is voted for by the public. Gospelware received the winner’s title of the prestigious main gong at the awards dubbed ‘The Oscars of the Internet’, with Dollar Shave Club coming away with the People’s Voice Award. The Webby Awards is the leading international awards organisation honouring internet excellence since 1996, awarding the best of the internet for over 20 years.

Entrepreneur: Ryan Davies

ramarketing ramarketing secures US life science business Two significant US-based contract wins have further positioned ramarketing as a leading expert in the field of life science and pharmaceutical marketing. The Newcastle-based creative, digital and PR agency fought off competition from across Europe to add global-scale organisations the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), based in Washington DC and Tracelink, based in Massachusetts, to its books.

Hedgehog Lab Hedgehog Lab launches VR Academy to boost region’s skills Digital consultancy Hedgehog Lab is to launch a pioneering initiative aimed at boosting the region’s skills in virtual reality development.

Matthew Clark, vice president of brand management at RAPS said “We were referred to ramarketing from a colleague in our editorial team and were so impressed by the team’s track record, approach and knowledge of the life science space. We felt ramarketing was the stand-out agency of the several we approached. “We are expanding our brand into Europe and ramarketing will play a pivotal role in building our media profile in this key territory and supporting several events we are hosting across Europe in 2017.”

The app developer, which is headquartered in Newcastle and has offices around the world, set up its own Immersive Technologies division earlier this year.

Building upon its solid foundation of clients across Europe and North America, these account-wins firmly cement ramarketing as a specialist global agency, which now exports its creative services to several countries worldwide.

After seeing interest from many sectors, it is now planning to establish a VR Academy through which those looking to enter the industry can pick up the necessary skills.

Entrepreneur: Raman Seghal

The site of the new venture is yet to be confirmed. But with Gateshead Council’s backing, one option being explored is the proposed new R&D facility for emerging technologies in the Baltic Digital Quarter, providing access to top level kit. An initial intake of around 20 to 30 students is expected, with the course itself lasting roughly six months.

Entrepreneur: Sarat Pediredla

To read these stories in full, and many more, visit To promote your business and share your latest news, simply forward your press releases and any accompanying photographs to

Life after exit A guide for serial entrepreneurs.

Insight from:

How common are serial entrepreneurs? While to the casual observer it might seem natural that someone who started one business will go on to start another, in reality many successful founders prefer cashing in, retiring from the fray, and heading into the sunset. In comparison, 73% enjoy “contributing to society”, 79% like “interacting with the people they work with”, and over 90% enjoy “being involved with business growth”.

businesses, yet this research shows that although many serial entrepreneurs have experienced business closure, they are less worried about failing than one-time founders.

In research conducted by the Centre for Entrepreneurs, when it comes to motivations, it seems there is little to separate one-time founders from multiple founders.

When asked about the secrets of their success, the answers both matched and belied expectations; with the most cited factors being perseverance, their own skills and knowledge and the capabilities of their team.

One-time entrepreneurs often worry that they only have one good business in them, or that the passion that sustained the first business will not hold up for their second. But such worries tend to vanish when entrepreneurs go serial.

The one thing the different groups did not share was their enjoyment of day-to-day business involvement. While almost 80% of one-time founders enjoy being immersed in running a business, this is the case for only 55% of serial entrepreneurs.

These are all traits and assets we already associate with being a successful entrepreneur, yet factors that would also appear important – formal education, access to finance and business location – were not deemed so by serial entrepreneurs.

In fact, it seems serial entrepreneurship is just as beneficial to the health of our economy as it is to the individual entrepreneur.

Serial entrepreneurs often prefer taking a portfolio approach, investing and taking advisory roles in multiple businesses, instead of ploughing all of their energies into one venture.

While exits are associated with cashing in on years of hard work and moving on to better things, the closure of a business should not be seen as a wholly negative experience.

A common perception of entrepreneurs is that they are driven solely by the pursuit of wealth, but the research uncovered a rather different perspective. Alongside “unpredictability of the business environment” and “day-to-day involvement”, “generating wealth” was one of the less important motivating factors (for only 69%).

As might be expected, closure was found to be more common among serial entrepreneurs, but these closures tend to be concentrated among their first few businesses; experiences often absorbed, learnt from and used to help build future businesses that are less likely to fail.

But although initially entrepreneurs may enjoy a quieter pace of life, in time many begin to feel restless and seek new challenges. They crave a return to the responsibility and excitement of business, but question their ability to do it again.


Fear of failure is something that can hold back entrepreneurs from starting new

Serial entrepreneurs bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge, contacts and capital, which are key ingredients in any successful business. By encouraging more first-time founders to do it a second-time, we should see more start-ups and a higher level of survival rates, along with improved economic growth, job creation, living standards and innovation. But being a serial entrepreneur need not involve founding every business yourself. Those who keep themselves busy through mentoring, investing and sitting on the boards of young companies are just as deserving of the epithet ‘serial entrepreneur’.

Who are the UK’s entrepreneurs?

*Published in 2016, ‘Beyond the First Business: the myths, risks and rewards of being a serial entrepreneur’ was reported by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and surveyed 135 entrepreneurs, including one-time founders and serial entrepreneurs.

The Centre for Entrepreneurs promotes the role of entrepreneurs in creating economic growth and social well-being. It is also home to national enterprise campaign, StartUp Britain.

To find out more and read the full report, visit

Sales & business development Round table discussion. The ability to generate business and close sales is fundamental to all businesses, being the difference between success and failure, and a significant factor in determining a company’s growth rate. A dark art to those that disparage it and data-driven science to its top practitioners, the debate about how to sell has a profound effect on every business’s commercial strategy.


This was the topic of our most recent round table debate, which was hosted by Barclays in its boardroom on Newcastle’s Quayside. Some Forum members have entire departments or teams dedicated to sales, others, especially those with smaller businesses often take a more hands on approach.

David Bennett, sales and marketing director of O’Brien Waste Recycling felt that sales people with knowledge of their clients were often perceived more favourably. He said: “Sales people come across best when they don’t seek to sell their product first, but get know about a customer’s business and where they are able to add value; it’s not rocket science.”

Executive coach David Cliff of Gedanken agreed with David’s analysis, but cited pressures within organisations as a likely cause of ineffective business development practice, saying: “To understand the behaviour of some salespeople you need to take into account the forces acting on them that you can’t see. Everything a company does has some underlying cause or motivation, and inevitably this comes through in its interactions with the outside world. You can tell a huge amount about a company’s culture from how and why it interacts with you.” Entrepreneurs’ Forum chief executive Gillian Marshall noted that all employees were involved in sales to some extent, saying: “In business today everybody sells, often without knowing it. Whatever someone’s position in an organisation they need to know its message and embody its brand. When you recruit someone new it is important that they get to know exactly what you do as soon as possible, as every time they are asked what they do it is a potential sales opportunity.”

Gill Burgess of creative agency r//evolution continued the theme of organisational ethos, stating the importance of a ‘culture of sales’ to some companies. She said: “Most purchasers are well informed now, they have access to the facts, so the differentiating factor is the soft information around them. Culture is relevant here, even people in the hot seat of sales absorb your culture and use it as a selling tool, some people try to isolate this and define it as marketing, but it is most effective when not considered alone.”

To understand the behaviour of some salespeople you need to take into account the forces acting on them that you can’t see. David Cliff, Gedanken

“People invest in marketing as a way of driving sales and business growth, which makes marketing an integral part of the sales process. If you understand who your customers are and what their customer journey is, then you can unpack that and start to gain a more holistic approach to sales. Marketing and sales should be a funnel, where information from sales is fed back into marketing.” John Burns of Diamond Group commented on the need for entrepreneurs to be salespeople, especially when they start their own business: “It wasn’t until I worked for myself, having been an engineer, that I got a full understanding of sales. Everyone who sets up in business for themselves has to sell and it gives you an appreciation of what salespeople do.” Ean Parsons of Parsons Container Group explained that his company had now grown to a point where it had dedicated business development staff. Ean said: “We’re growing quite quickly, and I realised that the business needs to be resourced correctly in order to cope with it. We created a marketing strategy to ensure we had the sales coming in to sustain our planned rate of growth. A container sales manager and I have traditionally handled sales. We doubled our number of inquiries from January to January, which meant that we needed more people to get out on-site and visit customers, especially some of the larger ones. To manage this process we have brought in a business development manager, who will be expanding our presence and consolidating our existing areas of strength.”

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for business development or sales, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum members who took part in this debate agreed that a number of principles are common to most good sales strategies. Firstly, businesses wishing to sell more should take the time to understand who their clients are and how their needs can be met, and that this practice should be ingrained into a company’s culture to maximise the positive impact of every contact. Secondly, business development should go hand in hand with marketing, allowing data to be captured and used to inform future strategy. Finally, all entrepreneurs must be able to sell, if they cannot make the case for their brands, nobody else can be expected to.

Join the conversation We host regular round table discussions on a wide range of business topics, stimulating debate and shared learning between members. For a full list of events simply visit

Entrepreneur interview Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus.

Tell me a little about your background I grew up in Chapel House, Newcastle, and went to the Walbottle Campus School. For as long as I can remember I’d always wanted to be an engineer. Our work at Tharsus encompasses a number of engineering disciplines; mechanical, electrical, electronic and systems, but it was mechanical engineering that sparked my interest. To me, forces and materials make sense. There was a time when I thought about Naval Architecture as a career, but my parents dissuaded me against it. After leaving school, I won a place at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, which has now merged with the University of Manchester. Its mechanical engineering course was one of the top five in the country. I graduated with a 2:1 in mechanical engineering and an unconditional offer to join Nissan. Industry is in a constant state of change and this was more the case than ever in the UK’s automotive sector in the 1980s. When I joined Nissan in 1988 the site was a giant, Greenfield car plant. While British car manufacturers were struggling to enter the modern age Nissan brought with it Japanese quality and manufacturing that were years ahead of most UK manufacturers. At this time the site was being used to assemble Nissan Bluebirds, which were imported as kits.


In 1993 I’d been at Nissan for five years when I decided to go skiing. I had been thinking about it for a while. The time seemed right for a break and a complete change in direction, so I spent two winters at Meribel in the French Alps. It was while skiing I met my wife Trish, who later moved to the UK from America to work at the Northern Counties School for the Deaf in Newcastle. When the time came to get a proper job once more, I wanted to return to mechanical engineering but in a different sector. I had enjoyed the work at Nissan and appreciated the value of the knowledge I gained, but working in such a large organisation wasn’t for me. I had no difficulty finding work in the automotive industry but it wasn’t so easy elsewhere. Making the change would have to wait. I got a job as an Engine Program Manager working for Ford, managing the Puma diesel engine design in Essex before eventually moving back to Newcastle.

The tech crash of 2001-02 had a devastating impact on us, a lot of our customers got into trouble and the knock on effect meant our staff level was reduced from 37 to 22; it was a case of fighting for survival.

What were your first business premises? The story of Tharsus started a long time before I arrived, the company was formed by three sheet metal workers who had won the football pools and decided to set up on their own. When my then business partner and I bought the company in 1997 it was a small back street factory in Hebburn, and could not have been more different to Tharsus today. Back then it was a very traditional metal bashing business, with only one computer. In 2007 the company expanded and moved to Blyth when we acquired a firm called Direct Message, which became Tharsus Vision. By the time we needed to move into larger premises we knew staying in Blyth would give us access to many of the skills we needed and so we bought a property just along the road. We’re expanding again; expect to hear a lot more about our new factory in the coming months.

How has the business grown? When I first acquired Tharsus its turnover was less than £1 million. Turning over more than £20 million in 2016 came after a few bumps in the road. In 1997 we had some really impressive clients, including Marconi, but the tech crash of 2001-02 had a devastating impact on us, a lot of our customers got into trouble and the knock on effect meant our staff level was reduced from 37 to 22; it was a case of fighting for survival.

Our company is growing rapidly so it’s important that everyone knows the direction we are heading in and the role they play in getting us there. We’re on a journey together – it’s an exciting time!

How did the recession impact on your approach to business? The last financial crisis and the tech sector crash that preceded it in 2001 were difficult times for our company, as they were for many engineering concerns. After the first tech crunch my business partner left and I took sole ownership of the business. By the time of the recession we were mainly working for clients in telecoms, defence and outdoor advertising. All of these sectors were badly hit and it became evident that we needed a new outlet for our people and their skills. This led to us becoming specialists in Original Equipment Design and Manufacture (OEDM), which led to us producing some highly-specialised, usually electromechanical, products for companies including 3M, SafetyKleen and Rapiscan.

How are you adapting to changing markets? Increasingly robotics will change the way we work and live. We wanted Tharsus to be at the forefront of developing and manufacturing robotics for commercial use. Robots built at our factory in Northumberland are now in use in Ocado’s robotic warehouse. We’re exploring the possibility of working with companies on robotics projects in a number of sectors, perhaps one of the most exciting of these is agri-tech, where advances in technology and economic factors such as proposed limits on immigration and rising wages are making automation a much more viable option. We still have an active fabrication business; they too have evolved over time to focus increasingly more on complex metal fabrications.

What would you say is your unique selling point?

How do you handle motivation within the company?

I would say the combination of our design expertise, production capability and trusted supply chain partnerships make us unique. It allows us to guide our customers along the whole product development journey, from initial concept to volume manufacture. For example, when Ocado – the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer approached us to help them co-design and manufacture the robotic vehicle that now forms the foundation of the Ocado Smart Platform, we worked with them to fully understand the commercial and technical needs and constraints of the project. We explored a wide range of solution options for them – what should work and what would work. We tested in pre-production and then we started manufacture. We made the entire journey as simple as we could for them and we’re now repeating the process with the next generation of robot.

I’m a firm believer that you should always play to your strengths; my strength when it comes to motivating people is creating teams that work. Finding people who fit together well is the foundation of good team work and productivity. I’m also very open with employees about what’s happening with the business. Our company is growing rapidly so it’s important that everyone knows the direction we are heading in and the role they play in getting us there. We’re on a journey together – it’s an exciting time!

Robots built at our factory in Northumberland are now in use in Ocado’s robotic warehouse.

Dates for your diary... Upcoming events and key dates We host an inspirational programme of events, bringing together the most aspirational North East entrepreneurs with those that have been there and done it before, to create opportunity, make new connections and help businesses in the region grow stronger. Our events come in all shapes and sizes, including in the coming months:

FOCUS DINNER NAS KHAN, JENNINGS MOTOR GROUP Tuesday 12th September, 6.30–10pm Truffle, Darlington

EXCHANGE EVENT RECRUITMENT & RETENTION Thursday 14th September, 8-11am Marriott Hotel, Sunderland

ON-SITE VISIT ANDREW JAMES (WITH ANDREW TOMLINSON) Tuesday 26th September, 1.30-4.30pm Foxcover Industrial Estate, Seaham


Friday 29th September, 6pm until late. The Boiler Shop, Crowne Plaza Newcastle

Wednesday 8th November, 12-3pm Unruly HQ, Whitechapel, London



RECRUITING SKILLED STAFF Tuesday 10th October, 2-4.30pm Solutions Recruitment, Newcastle

FOCUS DINNER VALDA GOODFELLOW, G&G GOODFELLOWS Thursday 12th October, 6.30-10pm Middleton Lodge, Middleton Tyas

BRAND & MARKETING Thursday 9th November, 8am-11pm Venue TBC, Newcastle

ENTREPRENEURS’ CONFERENCE FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE Thursday 16th November, 8am–5pm Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham

FOCUS DINNER FRED STORY, STORY HOMES Thursday 23rd November, 6.30-10pm Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle

MEMBER EVENT MADE IN BRITAIN Thursday 30th November, 6-8.30pm The Centre for Professional & Executive Development, Teesside University’s Darlington Campus.

ROUND TABLE MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS Tuesday 5th December, 2-4.30pm Diamond Group, Team Valley, Gateshead


Thursday 7th December, 4.30-7.30pm Venue TBC, Newcastle

Why not take some time out of your business to work on it with us. Listen to insights from your peers. Meet with people you didn’t know you needed to meet. Who knows where it might lead. Events are continuously being added to our calendar. For the most up-to-date information, to book your place or to find out about round table discussions and mentoring drop-in surgeries, visit

Together we’re stronger. 36

“I always come away from EF events very inspired.” “The event was just fantastic and did everything I had hoped it would ... after the event I was enthused and buzzing more than an electric pylon.” “Well done to the EF team. A fantastic event … if I had seen the full speaker list in advance I would have brought more team members with me.” “The best ran business event I’ve ever been to. The quality and production of the event is world-class. Bravo!!!!” “Excellent, inspirational content. Lots of food for thought!”

“Completely blown away … by far the best event I’ve been to with the Forum.” “It was a fantastic insight into a completely different business model to the one I am used to! Couldn’t stop talking about it when I got back.” “Took away some really tangible ideas for our business as we take over the world in our own little way!” “Flawless. Well done to everyone involved.” “I can’t thank you enough … it was a money can’t buy experience and has caused some extremely interesting discussions into my own way of working. BIG THANKS!”

To download our event app for iOS and Android search for Entrepreneurs’ Forum

My favourite business books Ian Kinnery, Team Massive Results. Anyone who has been in Ian Kinnery’s office can’t fail to notice his passion - bordering on obsession - for business books. An entrepreneur in his own right, when Ian isn’t reading he spends his time sharing his experience to help others as a Gazelle Scale-up Coach. Even being awarded European Coach of the Year didn’t stop his unquenchable thirst to learn new things by reading book after book after book; which is exactly why we asked him to pick his favourite six just for you:

The One Minute Manager

The 8th Habit

Great for people who don’t like reading. It will take 90 minutes cover to cover so great to take to the Boro match, but it is a lifetime thick in wisdom. Every manager should read this.

I am fortunate to have a signed copy of this book and listen to the audio version regularly. Covey is one of the great practical philosophers of our time.

The Speed of Trust

Crucial Conversations

by Ken Blanchard

by Stephen M R Covey

Definitely a life changing book for me personally. The subtitle ‘The One Thing That Changes Everything’ tells you all you need to know.

The Fifth Discipline by Peter M Senge

Ostensibly about creating a learning organisation but its wisdom goes much further than that particularly regarding simple and complex systems.

by Stephen R Covey

by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler Conversations are crucial when stakes are high and opinion differs, which describes many business conversations. It would be beneficial to understand how to have these conversations and get them right.

Scaling Up

by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles Without doubt the best ‘how to’ book on the practicalities of scaling up a growth firm covering the four disciplines, people, strategy, execution and cash.


The Entrepreneurs’ Forum in your hands • Stay informed. Anytime. Anywhere. • Save your seat. • Get venue directions. • Watch highlights. • Listen to exclusive podcasts.

Stay up-to-date with our free event app for iOS or Android, simply search for Entrepreneurs’ Forum



Together we can take on the world.


Phil Groom, SwimNE

Ben Quaintrell, My Property Box

Jim Mawdsley, Generator

Jennifer Bernard, Bernard Interiors

Bethany Ainsley, Nouveau

David Gowans, Drilcorp

Richard Carter, Peacock Carter

Neil Sleeman, Platinum Physiotherapy & Personal Training

Nicholas Gianfreda, Wriggle Marketing

Anthony O’Neill, The TV Agency

Neil Addyman, Restaurant Design Associates

Marc Atkinson, National Safety Passport

Matt McGough, Ithica Films

Christine Taylor, Contact Field Marketing

Dave Hudson, Applification

Eddie McKay, Big Purple Productions

Michaela Reaney, Gradvert

Graham Purvis, Robson Laidler

Warren Johnson, W Communications

Shane McDonald, Calibrate Inc

John MacWhirter, Leda Transport

Eve Whitaker, Master Debonair

Dr Nicholas Hutchings, Absolute Antibody

Andy Ramsey, AR Controls

Paul Harrison, Lignum Bespoke

Penny Davison, Penny Print

Simon Dronfield, Fuse Telecom

Neil McGregor, N McGregor Property Services Jamie Paterson, PTM Group Paul Alexander, Elite: Together Sarah Thackray, Beaconhouse Events David Park, Park Commercial

CORPORATE PARTNERS: Deloitte TOC Property Backed Lending Trust PLC

Colin Hewitt, Q-Laser

We’d love to hear from you...

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creative communication

40 Issue 7, July 2017

Helping brands fly creative communication

EF News - July 2017  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum.

EF News - July 2017  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum.