Page 1







Andrew Tomlinson Learning from others and sharing knowledge is crucial to the future success of a business, but when people think about ‘sharing’ today, they are more likely to mean on social media than in person. While social media is fantastic, especially at arming businesses with their own channels of communication to reach their marketplace, I really think there is no better way to unlock and overcome the complexities of business growth than speaking first-hand with someone who has been there and done it all before.



Sharing is a term that needs to be reclaimed by the business community and, in this issue of our magazine we’re sharing some of our latest news along with insights and advice from entrepreneurs and business leaders that will inspire you to drive your business forward. Whether it’s through entrepreneurs sharing their journey at our inspirational events, our award-winning mentoring match-making service or our dedicated scale-up program, we’re here to help you learn from the experience of others and connect you to the right people who can help you to make a positive difference in your business and achieve your dreams. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Gillian Marshall, Chief Executive


Caroline Moody





Stephen Hall pg.


Angus Thirlwell
































46 Andy Rubin 3


A Word from the Chairman


The access the Entrepreneurs’ Forum gives business owners to a strong and diverse network is vital to the success of so many North East firms. Being an entrepreneur should never be a lonely existence and the opportunity to engage with fellow business owners who have experience and expertise to share is without doubt one of the most valuable resources available to our members.


Succeeding Nigel Mills is a somewhat daunting prospect, as he has not only led the Forum from the front for the last six years but, in that time, transformed it into an independently financially sustainable organisation with a clear vision to build the UK’s most dynamic entrepreneurial eco-system right here in the North East. I’m very pleased to say that Nigel is remaining on the board to continue his good work and I look forward to building on his achievements in driving the scale-up agenda and as a champion of North East business.


“Establishing and scaling-up a business is a wonderful achievement for any entrepreneur and it is the role of the Forum to support those who have the potential and those who are already on the journey towards delivering fast-growth in their companies.” Scale-ups are vital to the success of the North East and wider UK economies and the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is working exceptionally hard to help businesses achieve their growth ambitions. In particular the Scale-up Leader’s Academy we have established, which was launched last year, has proven to be a successful initiative and something we will definitely be developing moving forward.


James Robson MBE

t u o b a l l A

Our spring conference brought inspiration to the region from far and wide but it was the member events with Simon Herring and Hugh Facey that stood out the most for me. Simon Herring’s (Pipers Crisps) patient and well-planned growth was a lesson to all scale-up businesses and Hugh Facey’s (Gripple) transformation from global company to one owed by it’s staff has been nothing short of amazing. Whilst renowned for our inspirational events, the value and strength of the Forum’s mentoring programme cannot be underestimated; in fact, it should be actively encouraged. The biggest strength of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is its members, and their experiences are invaluable for their fellow business owners. This is a great area to live, work, and bring up a family, and so it is important that we continue to showcase the region’s entrepreneurial endeavours and the wide and varied economic and social benefits businesses bring to the North East. The Forum is an established part of the business community and if we can continue to grow the network by increasing our membership, we will have the opportunity to help more businesses be part of this continuing success story.

s e Jam

James established Exwold Technology in Billingham in 1992, which is a contract chemical processing company operating in the agrichemical and speciality markets. The company currently operates from four sites in Tees Valley employing in the region of 120 people, with a turnover in excess of £10m.

James has a small portfolio of nonexecutive directorships, including Micropore Technologies where he has helped the company raise over £350k to fuel international expansion, following being instrumental in bringing the Loughborough University spin-out from the Midlands to it’s new home in Teesside in January 2016.

Now a Non-Executive Director of Exwold, James is able to focus more of his time on sharing the lessons he has learnt during his own entrepreneurial journey with other businesses. His consultancy company Alexander Jewitt & Co. provides mentoring and hands-on resources to North East Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

More recently, James has joined the board of Dyer Engineering who are based in Annfield Plain near Consett. This £12m turnover business employs nearly 200 people and has set it’s target to reach a turnover of £22m by 2022. The business is currently in the process of raising £2m of new investment to drive growth plans and James’ experience in this was one of the reasons that Dyer’s owners were keen to work alongside him.

James has been enjoying mentoring for over seven years now and has worked with Digital City, NEPIC and the Forum, providing support to a wide range of companies across the North East. He was extremely honoured to be presented with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Mentor of the Year Award in 2016.

James Robson MBE, Chairman



The Big Question


RICHARD LANE, DURHAMLANE. “Rapid technological innovation has meant the sales profession has undergone more change in the last five years than the previous 130. Buyers no longer have to engage sales people as much (if at all, in some cases). The CEB claim 57% of a purchasing decision is now completed by the buyer online before speaking to a vendor. In fact, it’s thought that by 2020, more than 20% of sales people will be displaced by self-serve and e-commerce. Having said that, over the next 10 years, I foresee AI / machine learning technologies helping professional B2B sales people to spend more time where they can be most effective – in front of the right prospects and customers building relationships. The more choices that exist, the more we need help to settle on the right answer. As a business we are focused on the human side of sales and selling. Technological innovation is already helping us to improve the skills, knowledge and activities of our people. AI can quickly inform us about what is working well and what needs to be changed. The analysis of data drives decisions and provides insight into where we can be most successful – for ourselves and for our clients.

LISA EATON, UNWRITTEN CREATIVE. “As technology becomes more innovative and faster at connecting everything we do, it should enable our business to scale-up quicker as everything becomes more efficient, creating space for different workloads and business development. From a client perspective, visualising brands, collateral and creative content will no doubt become influenced by the rise of VR and we look forward to having this additional tool at our disposal, helping our clients to deliver more targeted communications to their customer base.”



The Big Question

JOHN SAVAGE, FLAME HEATING SPARES. “I’d like to think that Flame is an ambitious and forward-thinking company, which is always looking at embracing new technology to enhance our customer experience by diversifying our product range and services. We are already reaping the benefits from VR technology at our bathroom showroom in Durham, and I can see this trend continuing across our branch network. Renewable energy systems are also on the up, given their vast economical and financial benefits, and I think we will see more and more homeowners and businesses utilising these kinds of technology over the next decade and beyond.”

ROYA IRVING & ROSA TALAI, SORELLA SORELLA. “Traditional models of serving customers and taking payment will change due to mobile ordering and payment systems. Consumers are increasingly wanting to purchase in the most convenient way and having access to ordering and paying or splitting the bill through an app will enhance the dining experience. Technology platforms are likely to be integrated into one system such as booking, payment, loyalty and ordering, driving greater efficiency. It will allow us to have access to real time data and the ability to analyse the entire customer journey from booking and ordering to payment of the bill.”

BRENDON HAYWARD, OSBIT. “We solve problems through technology development and make the whole process as easy as possible for the client. The two pillars in our business are amazing people and technology. Our business is about managing change and chaos in an ever-changing world for the benefit of our clients. The emergent technologies of IOT, blockchain, analytics, big data and AI all present an exciting climate which complements our own development of core offshore technologies. It will also change the direction of traditional business models significantly.”



Entrepreneur Conference

TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD THE NORTH EAST’S MOST ASPIRATIONAL AND INFLUENTIAL BUSINESS LEADERS GATHERED IN NEWCASTLE, ON THE 10TH MAY, AS THE ENTREPRENEURS’ FORUM HOSTED ONE OF THE REGION’S LARGEST CONFERENCES, ‘TOGETHER WE CAN TAKE ON THE WORLD’. Angus Thirlwell, co-founder of British premium chocolate brand, Hotel Chocolat, spoke of his early origins and entrepreneurial journey, while stressing the value of establishing a strong brand identity: “With any innovative business, you have to protect your brand otherwise people will chip away at what you’ve created. IP protection is incredibly important, we’ve had infractions right from the start and while it isn’t as bad as with the fashion business, it is getting that way.”

Sponsored by Fairstone Group and hosted by broadcaster, artist and comedian, Alfie Joey, the North East welcomed entrepreneurs and athletes from across the UK to share their experience and inspire guests with stories and advice on a host of business topics and principles. Sir John Timpson, owner of shoe repair chain Timpson, which has more than 1,900 branches nationwide, addressed the audience with a simple, yet effective, piece of advice:


“Common sense is so often ignored in business and it is actually one of the secrets to success. Stripping out complicated processes and giving people the autonomy to make decisions that allow the business to succeed from the front-line has served us well. “We trust that our colleagues will serve our customers in the best way possible. They have the freedom to do this and that allows us to apply our successful ‘upside-down management’ structure, where those on the shop floor are at the top and the rest of us serve them.”

Angus’ first business idea was the creation of the ‘successor to the corporate pen’, the Mint Marketing Company, which bore companies’ logos on mints. It soon expanded to include chocolate, but it wasn’t until 2004 that he founded Hotel Chocolat with business partner Peter Harris. Mica McNeill, part of the duo that achieved Team GB’s best ever women’s bobsleigh result, spoke of her disappointment that funding had been pulled just months before the 2018 Winter Olympics. It was through a successful crowdfunding campaign, #PoweredByThePeople, that she was able to compete at the Pyeongchang Games – after smashing her funding target of £30,000 in only six days:


Together We Can Take On The World

“Focus on the process and the outcome will take care of itself. This is something that was in my head leading up to the Olympics and I think will stick with me for the rest of my career.” Adventurer, athlete, broadcaster and World Record holder Mark Beaumont, drew on his own experiences of taking on epic challenges, emphasising the importance of setting ambitious but achievable goals with the right team around you:





“One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting their goals to repeat history. Success needs to be defined and to have a clear blueprint, as you almost never do better than you aim to. “Over the last 10 years, I have failed on many projects, but on balance, I have been successful in the team’s I’ve been involved in. Understanding your weaknesses is important; I know what I’m not good at, which is why I need the right people to fill the voids.” Drawing the conference to a close was North East entrepreneur Julian Leighton, co-founder of pioneering interaction design agency Orange Bus. Counting major brands like O’Neill and Force India among its clientele, Orange Bus employs over 140 staff and has offices across the UK. Recently sold to Capita - an ambition Julian always held, to build something and leave behind a legacy - it is a multi-million pound acquisition success: “When you’re growing you need credibility and the opportunity to attract key clients can come from anywhere. The key is to take and maximise each opportunity when it appears. It’s not about luck, it’s about being open to new ideas, trying new things and not letting opportunities pass you by.”



Together We Can Take On The World

Join us on Thursday 8th November in the Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall for our next entrepreneurs’ conference: Fortune Favours the Brave. entrepreneursforum.net/conference









Round Table Discussion


The topic of ‘getting staff to step up’ was discussed at a recent Entrepreneurs’ Forum round table event, hosted by leading wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin, at its central Newcastle offices. Simon Hartley, founder of Be World-Class and renowned sports psychology and performance coach, chaired the discussion, drawing on his vast experience of working with professional athletes as well as multinational companies. One of the questions he is most commonly asked by clients is how they can get their team to step up:

“Leaders understand it has a massive impact on performance, but also, with CEOs, their sanity. If you’re feeling like you’re dragging a team along it’s hard work, but if you feel like your team are really engaged and empowered it transforms the experience for business leaders.”



Getting Staff To Step Up

Business coach Karl Beckett, managing director of Care 2 Inspire, sees ‘stepping up’ as taking accountability:

“If the wheels come off and a business goes away from its current strategy, you need people who are able to take accountability and really react quickly to deal with the change.” John Jones, of Diamond Group, agreed and added that it is also about entrepreneurs changing their behaviour and inspiring others to follow suit: “If you can understand each other’s priorities and challenges and work together collectively to come up with a number of ideas to move forward, then there’s a significant amount of engagement taking place. It’s not just about you stepping up, but others around you as well.” Joel Marks, co-founder of Cheviot Insured, however, believes there are dangers in focusing too much on strategy and it can be best to leave the leaders out of this aspect of the business. Alex Ingham, managing director of M.I. Supplies, weighed in on the debate, saying that he is keen to see his team take the lead themselves, instead of management stepping in:

“Sometimes it isn’t the manager who is leading and inspiring, maybe a junior member of the team and regardless of their job title; I am all for this and keen to see this instead of me having to step in.” It can be an individual or a few, who are impacting on a business, as Laura Weaving, managing director of DUO Global Consulting, has found: “There are so many clients that we deal with where they have issues in their business that are down to one rotten apple in the barrel, which spreads like wildfire. So we’ve adopted a hire slow, fire fast approach. It’s not a personal decision, but a business one.” Following on from Laura’s assessment, Caroline Moody, managing director of Moody Logistics, has changed her recruitment model to reflect her evolving business and to ensure she employs the right people at the right stage of growth: “It can be refreshing to bring new people in, whose levels align with where the business is at. Sometimes you make a mistake with recruitment by employing the wrong fit, or holding on to an employee who may have already reached their peak. The climate is different to what it was 10 years ago.” Simon Hartley drew the round table to a close with a useful leadership exercise to help promote teamwork and collective problem solving:

“I’ve noticed that the best teams are brilliant at collectively solving a problem and it is often down to one thing acting as a catalyst. It usually starts by asking a good, clear question for the team to answer such as: ‘how could we do something better’ or anything along those lines, and getting them to start chewing on it. “You’ll find that they won’t come up with a fully-fledged strategy to begin with, but ideas will come from the discussion that you can challenge your team to work through. After a while, you will see that these teams become good, collective problem solvers.

“Great leaders often don’t provide many solutions; great leaders ask great questions.”

Round tables are open to all Entrepreneurs’ Forum members, for more information, visit: entrepreneursforum.net/events



Entrepreneur Interview

y e n jou The



Andrew Tomlinson



“I didn’t do particularly well in school and as a result doubted myself academically, so I was glad to complete the degree and see it all the way through. This really proved something to myself and showed me I had nothing to be afraid of in the business world.”

ANDREW TOMLINSON LEFT HOME AT 17, WITH NO REAL QUALIFICATIONS AND DID A NUMBER OF JOBS, MOSTLY WORKING IN FACTORIES. It was three years later when he set up his first business in the food manufacturing industry, with support from The Prince’s Trust: “It was quite the four year journey for me as I employed 14 staff, and secured big contracts, but, unfortunately, I was forced to sell the business at the age of 24.” It was at this point that Andrew decided that he needed to gain more knowledge about how to run a business and understand finance, so he enrolled at the University of Sunderland to study a Business and Finance degree, which he later completed at Northumbria University. Andrew freely admits that he has had his fair share of ups and downs, and that it is the low points that have allowed him to take stock, learn from his mistakes and make positive progress. It was prior to setting up his own business that he experienced his lowest point: “I really didn’t have much money – eating cold spaghetti and raw onions! I thought to myself, there is nothing lower than this! From there, I took on a number of sales and logistics positions, which were great learning experiences that stay with me to this day, leading to the creation of Andrew James.”



Entrepreneur Interview

“We spoke to (blagged it!) a supplier in China and ordered 3,000 raclette grills, and that was the moment Andrew James was born.”

At the time more people were choosing to shop at farm shops, as opposed to supermarkets, and our niche raclette grills were proving to be very popular. Surprisingly, it was during the recession when business really started booming. With money tighter, people were starting to think more about their purchases and buying more efficient and smart products. We worked out of a small unit in Ferryhill for two years and, as turnover began to grow rapidly, we had no choice but to expand into larger premises – a 10,000 sq.ft facility in Bowburn, before moving to an even larger, 80,000 sq.ft premises in the village. When the ‘Black Friday’ phenomenon hit the UK, business really took off as we received more than 40,000 orders, which was absolutely fantastic, but proved to be an equally testing period. Our infrastructure at the time couldn’t handle the demand and volume, and the company didn’t properly recover until April! We actually had to cut our entire marketing spend and strategy to avoid further interest and orders, as well as put on hold some of our exporting activity.

How was Andrew James formed? It was in 2005 at a dinner party with my cousin, James Buckle, at his home, which was the inspiration behind our business venture. We cooked our own meals using a raclette grill from Germany, which fascinated me, and was very much the topic of conversation on the night. The grills were popular in Europe, but virtually impossible to source in the UK, and that was our “Eureka” moment! In your own words, describe what it is that Andrew James does? Andrew James is a fast-growing e-commerce business that specialises in and sells a range of useful and pioneering products for the home, and much more. While our focus has always been on the promotion and development of our product range,


our recent move into our own distribution centre has enabled us to begin offering storage and distribution services to other businesses too. Tell us about your Andrew James journey. It was a bit of a struggle initially with 3,000 grills littered all over the place – literally everywhere around the house, from the loft to the garage and everywhere in between! We funded the order on credit cards, and immediately splashed out £6,000 on magazine advertising, which didn’t really work out as expected. It was when we shifted our focus to trade shows, particularly agricultural and food ones, when our investment began to pay off. We went to the customer, rather than waiting for them to come to us!

It was around this time we knew we needed to invest heavily in the future of the company, to be able to confidently meet demand and gear up for continued growth. In 2016, we invested £10m in a state-of-theart, 125,000 sq.ft distribution centre in Seaham. The first 10 years of the company were spent solidifying the business model and getting the right systems in place, and now I am in a position where I want to extend the Andrew James brand. We now support businesses by offering supply chain management to firms and helping them to grow from B2B to B2C as well. With cutting edge technology throughout, this centre really is “one of a kind” in the North East, and we have had interest from across the world looking to take advantage of what it can offer.


Andrew Tomlinson

I am passionate about aiding North East companies, so our head office and distribution centre, with high-end executive facilities, is now a hub for businesses from across the region. I love the North East and want to do my bit in helping to champion it as a legitimate place for doing business. Future challenges, not only for Andrew James, will be the implications of Brexit. It hit us hard – at one point we were losing £120,000 a month, in the aftermath of the referendum result. But, as with any change, we realised we needed to negotiate more effectively with our suppliers, as a result of the fluctuations of the currency exchange. It has actually made us stronger and we are overcoming the hurdles, so in the short-term we were hurt, but we will benefit in the long run because of the changes we have implemented and the streamlining we have done. Only time will tell, though, on the true impact of Brexit. What is your proudest moment with Andrew James? We have enjoyed a number of proud moments, such as winning prestigious awards and being recognised for our strong growth in the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track table – being recognised for Effective Use of Capital by Sir Richard Branson (which was specifically down to the investment in our distribution centre) was an incredible moment for us.

Is there a particular mistake you have made while in business? And how did you overcome/learn from it? During our periods of strong growth, I wish I had put systems in place earlier that would have managed it more efficiently. But, with these things, you can’t foresee the level of growth that we achieved, which, in many respects was a double-edged sword. We have now put a lot of money into taking on more staff and training them, while also investing in our compliance systems, to prepare for the future growth of the company. What is Andrew James’ USP? Our values. We are a down to earth, family-owned company, built on delivering excellent customer service. It’s a bit cliché, but I know what it is like to have nothing, without a proper education. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I take nothing for granted, which runs throughout Andrew James and our three corporate values: 1. Respect 2. Honesty 3. Commitment These are the three values that we follow when dealing with all customers and suppliers, and are at the core of our business model.

“Being named North East Business of the Year in 2015 was a massive moment, as it really marked us out as one of the strongest businesses in the region. But what makes me feel the most pride, is the fact that our first employee still remains with the company. Barry Robertson has been with me and the company throughout its 13-plus year journey, and he remains an integral part of the business. That for me is greater than any award win.”

How has the firm grown and what do you attribute this to? Aside from our corporate values, the growth of the business has been down to passion, hard work and diversification. The growth of the company is testament to everyone who has been involved with Andrew James. Do you live by/do business by a certain motto? With all business decisions, we follow our three values religiously. I am also a firm believer in supporting the local community and local supply chain, so we utilise the support of local firms as much as possible. I am also keen to mentor school children and other businesses because when I was at school, work experience was a waste of time, and kids weren’t given any advice, the work experience kid was only there to do the menial jobs the current workforce didn’t want to do. So I get a real buzz having young people in our offices for real work experience, and the opportunity to talk to them and offer guidance where possible. What are the future plans of the business? To develop and grow the Andrew James brand further and globally. We are hoping to break into the US market and grow our presence in Europe too, which will be vital post-Brexit. I am also committed to helping firms go from B2B to B2C, so growing the advisory element of the business is a huge ambition of mine. Our new distribution centre will transform our business and really transform the business landscape of the North East. There isn’t another facility like this between Leeds and Edinburgh, so for businesses looking to expand in the North of England, the facilities and opportunities we offer really are second to none. It is a £10m operation, and fully compliant with Amazon and DPD distribution requirements, so we know it is as good as it gets, and we want to allow other businesses to really take advantage of it, and help them be as ambitious as we are.



Supporting SMEs





Established initially as a photocopy repair business, Diamond Group has expanded to deliver a range of services, including IT and telecoms. Based in Team Valley, the company was founded by owner and managing director John Burns, who started his career as a photocopy engineer before progressing through the ranks to become a branch manager. It was in 1992 when John realised his entrepreneurial ambitions and took the plunge into business, growing Diamond Group to support companies operating throughout the region with the tools necessary to run their businesses successfully.

An award-winning strategic brand and digital agency, Unwritten helps businesses to maximise sales and marketing results. Led by directors Amy Mooney and Lisa Eaton, they develop brand strategies for a range of clients, which include Northumbrian Water, VisitEngland, Newcastle Racecourse and fellow, newly announced corporate partner, Sage.

Last, but not least, we are proud to welcome software multinational company Sage to complete the trio of new corporate partners. The FTSE 100 firm is the biggest entrepreneurial success story of the North East and is the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll, and payment systems, all of which supports the ambitions of entrepreneurs across the globe. Employing over 13,000 staff, Sage operates across 23 countries, with its headquarters here in the region, in Newcastle.







We’re Stronger Together


THE UK ECONOMY IS IN RELATIVELY GOOD SHAPE COMPARED WITH MANY OTHERS, BUT IT IS ALSO FACED WITH SOME SERIOUS THREATS TO SUSTAINED GROWTH. TWO OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES ARE A WORSENING SKILLS CRISIS AND PERSISTENTLY LOW LEVELS OF PRODUCTIVITY. This is where universities and their graduates – and their relationship with UK business – come in, and why the Entrepreneurs’ Forum is delighted to announce that we have strengthened our relationship with North East universities through a partnership that will support entrepreneurialism and the region’s business community. In collaboration with NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY, THE UNIVERSITY OF SUNDERLAND and TEESSIDE UNIVERSITY, we are building better relationships between academia and North East entrepreneurial businesses. The North East contains a collection of high quality universities that produce talented and innovative graduates, and spin-out businesses. Working with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, the universities will be looking to further engage the entrepreneurial talents of their students, while encouraging them to remain in the region to be part of the North East’s vibrant and diverse economy.

The partnerships will also help businesses tap into the talent and capabilities offered by the universities, including research and development specialisms, to support their scale-up ambitions. It is vitally important to retain skills, businesses and promote jobs in the North East, while, crucially, keeping talented individuals and graduates in the region and supporting them into jobs that have been created in our towns and cities. This latest partnership will grant talented individuals access to industry and experience

of enterprise, as well as affording businesses the opportunity to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities across our university partners’ campuses. We are looking forward to working with our latest academic partners and equally supporting our members with the services available through the partnership. If you’re looking to work with any of these universities or would like to know more about how they can help your business, then get in touch with the Forum team at: info@entrepreneursforum.net



Supporting SMEs

2. Attracting and retaining skills is a key issue for business, especially where roles are or have been filled by foreign workers. Currently, it is unclear whether initiatives such as the talent visa scheme will be replaced but businesses should monitor the development of immigration policy. Some pre-emptive steps include auditing your workforce in terms of immigration status to identify those who may be affected. Businesses should consider advising employees who are EEA residents, and who have been residing in the UK for five years, that they are eligible to apply for permanent residence. Businesses may wish to consider offering financial assistance to applicants. In those situations where employees have resided in the UK for less than five years, businesses may wish to encourage them to register their residence to evidence their “acquired rights” on the basis that the UK permits permanent residents to remain.

WARD HADAWAY BREXIT: WHERE ARE WE? It seems that every day there is more news on Brexit: what HMG has said, what Brussels has said, what the Prime Minister has said, and so on.

The bad news however is that such a plan is only needed because a trade deal is yet to be reached. Furthermore, the EU is yet to confirm it’s agreement to the arrangement.

There is a lot of smoke but very little clarity for business. So what can a business do to prepare itself for Brexit?

In terms of global trade, although the prospect of a series of country by country trade deals has been held out as an achievable goal, this must be a long-term objective. Such deals will take time and some may be difficult to reach in the short-term.

First, the good news is that the two sides have agreed a transition period until December 2020 meaning trade will not fall off a cliff in March 2019. HMG has also proposed a “backstop” plan for trade with the EU after Brexit under which the UK will match EU trade tariffs until 2021 which is intended to avoid the imposition of a hard border in Northern Ireland and will at least keep trade simpler until 2021 – by which time it is hoped that a long-term solution will be in place.

With so much uncertainty what can businesses do to prepare for Brexit? Here are some ideas: 1. Many larger companies are already reviewing their import and export systems, trying to simplify and rationalise these to rationalise the document flow which would act as a non-tariff barrier to trade. It is important that businesses involved in import or export should do the same and be ready to adopt the most efficient approach to trade documentation possible.


3. Businesses should review their intellectual property registration, particularly EU trade marks and community design registrations, to ensure that these rights continue to offer protection within the UK. 4. Businesses which are involved in projects which receive funding from the EU should consider how this funding will be sustained in the long-term. The Government is encouraging business to continue to bid for funding from programmes such as Horizon 2020 which it says it will underwrite even where projects continue beyond departure from the EU. However, the precise arrangements are unclear and businesses should be sure to monitor related announcements. Colin Hewitt, Ward Hadaway


We’re Stronger Together

BARCLAYS £500M NORTHERN POWERHOUSE GROWTH FUND To show their commitment to economic and business growth for the Northern Powerhouse, Barclays are making £500m available to support the growth and development of the region. The bank has been helping and inspiring entrepreneurs and business owners that rely on local connections, insight and know-how to move forward and flourish for over 328 years. As part of their support for the Northern Powerhouse, Barclays are proud to offer a range of business lending services to support day-to-day cashflow, expansion and investment for growth of SMEs, including: • Up to £250,000 overdraft without the need for property security for transport and logistics, business services, wholesalers and manufacturing companies • Term lending fee-free up to £25,000 • Lending up to £100,000 without the need for tangible security • Cashflow funding to invest in acquisitions and organic business growth • Lending and debt support, which can be combined with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund As part of the Barclays Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund businesses will also be supported by a dedicated relationship manager. To find out more or to apply, visit: barclays.co.uk/business-banking

GATESHEAD COLLEGE GATESHEAD COLLEGE NAMED BEST PERFORMING IN THE REGION Gateshead College continues to be the top performing further education college in the North East and one of the best in the country, according to new national figures. The Education and Skills Funding Agency show that Gateshead College rank 2nd in England - out of 202 - attaining an overall student achievement rate of 93.9%. This is almost 10% higher than the national average and only 0.1% below the top-performing college. In addition, the college also achieved a particularly strong rating for the 1,900 apprenticeships it runs across a wide range of industry sectors, placing it in the top 10% in the country.

colleges. These progress measures placed Gateshead College 1st in the country for the development made by their 16-18 year old students completing tech level programmes and 4th for those completing applied general qualifications. Gateshead College invests great effort in strong partnerships with employers to ensure they can provide a dynamic curriculum that adapts to the changing needs of businesses and the regional economy. These statistics continue to demonstrate the strength of their teaching staff, the high quality of their vocational and technical training and an absolute focus on each individual student.

Back in January, data published by the Department for Education confirmed that Gateshead College students achieve much higher grades than at other local



The North East Fund


AN AGREEMENT TO RELEASE A £120M INVESTMENT FUND TO DRIVE LOCAL GROWTH AND JOB CREATION WAS SIGNED ON 23RD MARCH BY THE REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK (EIB) AND THE NORTH EAST FUND LIMITED (TNEFL). The North East Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will offer a range of investments including equity, debt and mezzanine funding in the North East LEP area, which covers County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland. It will provide financial support for over 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs over the life of the fund and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment over the next decade. Experienced Fund Managers have been appointed to manage five separate funds which will cater to the needs of businesses at different stages across different sectors.



Finance for Growth

Helen Golightly, executive director for the North East LEP, which led the project team negotiating for the region, said: “We have always believed that retaining investment funds exclusively for North East companies was the right decision and are grateful to the Treasury, EIB and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for their efforts and support to the team.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the North East and all the tireless work behind the scenes has now paid off.” Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, said: “This is an important step in ensuring that growth and opportunity are spread fairly across the country. The £120m investment will be a big boost to small businesses operating in the North East, driving productivity and bolstering the Northern Powerhouse’s economy. “By generating thousands of new jobs and upskilling people across the region, the positive impact of this fund will be felt for generations to come.”

Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, said: “With over £120m of investment flowing into the region, strengthening local businesses and creating thousands of new jobs, the North East Fund signals another major economic boost to the Northern Powerhouse.

Andrew Mitchell, chief executive of the North East Fund, said: “This new Fund is a feather in the cap for the North East and a vote of confidence in our economic potential. The North East LEP’s backing has been critical to getting this across the line and we can now focus on investing on the brightest and best businesses in the region.”

“It will provide welcome finance for smaller businesses across the North East to reach their full growth potential while bolstering the Northern Powerhouse’s reputation as a world-beating location to start and grow your business.” Jonathan Taylor, EIB vice president, said: “The North East Fund will help to unlock entrepreneurial drive and innovation across Northumbria, Tyneside, Wearside and County Durham. The EIB is pleased to provide £120m to support this unique initiative that will create thousands of new jobs and improve skills across the North East and replicates the proven success of similar investment across Europe.”

For more information, visit: northeastfund.org If you are based in the Tees Valley, investment funds are already available for your business through the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, at npif.co.uk



Caroline Moody

“Being a family business, you can sometimes make decisions with your heart and not your head, which isn’t always a good thing. But, on the flip side, it can sometimes be a good thing, so there are pros and cons to it, which we’ve learnt from.”


Hit thed! 0a


Entrepreneur Interview


AFTER LEAVING THE RAF AT THE END OF WORLD WAR II, DAVID MOODY (CAROLINE’S GRANDFATHER) BEGAN TRADING AS A COAL MERCHANT IN 1947 WITH A HORSE AND CART, COLLECTING AND SELLING SEA COAL. After the purchase of a Bedford truck, gradually the business grew to incorporate a fleet of wagons that delivered across the UK, predominately in the tipper industry moving coal and grain. In your own words, describe what Moody Logistics and Storage does. We specialise in overnight pallet distribution for customers, while also offering storage and warehousing solutions, and dedicated haulage services across the UK. With the demise of the mining industry in the North East in the early 90’s my father, who was MD of the business at that time, had to look into other avenues within the transport industry. At that point in time it was the start of the overnight distribution movement, so he decided to embrace this and incorporate it into the business. We did have a few failed starts, as we were highly involved in the British Rail setup and its overnight division named Track 29. It was an excellent concept, with the main trunking aspect of the transport being carried on the rail & local transport companies such as ourselves delivering into the local area from the rail head, but unfortunately commercially it couldn’t get the impetus to grow quick enough. So, after four years, British Rail became privatised and this aspect of the business was closed down.

Tell me about how you became involved in the company and your progression. As the company was starting in its new venture within the overnight Track 29 business was around the same time I left Marks and Spencer as a management trainee, so my dad asked me to come on board while I was thinking about what I wanted to do next in my career. As I had been determined not to stay and work long-term in the family business, Track 29 offered me a role direct with them in sales, covering the North East and Scotland, but this was short lived due to the privatisation of the enterprise. By this time, however, I was well ingrained into logistics so came back into work for the family business. I worked until 2000, mainly doing the sales in Moody’s until I left to have my first child. At this time we had moved to Bedfordshire following my husband’s career so maternity leave meant leaving the business again, as commuting was not an option and I had always wanted to stay at home and bring my children up. It worked out well, though, as my brother, Richard, had just finished his studies and came straight into the business to replace me. However, in 2005, my father, Alan, had the opportunity to buy our current 7.5 acre site

in Cramlington, which had the potential to add both warehousing and commercial units to let into the company portfolio. My brother didn’t want to take on the responsibility on his own so he and my father came down to visit me and asked if we would consider moving back to the North East. By this stage my two children were now starting school and nursery, and my husband was very supportive. One of the strengths of a family business is the flexibility in being able to work around family life, so we agreed and moved back! Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in the business alongside Richard, my brother-inlaw, Gavin, and father. I covered most areas of the business including sales, marketing, accounts, admin and HR, coming under the title of Business Development Director. As my children got older, I steadily increased my hours and workload, until three years ago when I took over from my father as managing director. My dad is still chairman of the business and quite frankly I don’t think he’ll retire! My brother and brother-in-law are also directors, who handle the operational aspect of the business and engineering side, while I focus on the sales, marketing and HR.



Caroline Moody

What is your proudest moment with the company? Oh, it’s difficult to think of just one! Last year was our 70th Anniversary since my grandfather started the business and we held a huge party at the Marriott Gosforth Park and raised £22,000 for the Great North Children’s Hospital. However, I still get a buzz each day whenever driving to work and I see several of our vehicles pass by simultaneously. Is there a particular mistake you have made while in business? And how did you overcome/learn from it? Lots! I think sometimes we’ve been too cautious in the past and sometimes it can feel like it’s a committee making decisions when it’s a family business, so it can be slow! Being a family business, you can sometimes make decisions with your heart and not your head, which isn’t always a good thing. But, on the flip side, it can sometimes be a good thing, so there are pros and cons to it, which we’ve learnt from. When the coal mining industry was drying up, business could be very tough at times I remember times when I was helping my mum chase money to be able to pay our VAT bills.

So, having been in that position, dad vowed that we would never be put in a scenario like that again. He looked after the finances and today we own our own premises and vehicles, and aren’t beholden to anyone. So, for example, during the recent financial crisis, we were able to make our own decisions and stood sound financially What is Moody Logistics and Storage’s USP? Our relationships with customers. Most of our customers have our mobile numbers, and it wouldn’t be unknown for us to assist them on a weekend, personally. For a lot of customers, the transport is an extension to their business and without good logistics and transport solutions, it doesn’t help their business, so we need to be able to provide what they require. Our trust and reliability too. We are fixated on these two principles and regularly ask ourselves whether we are delivering on these, which improves our customer service. How has the firm grown and what do you attribute this to? Looking after our current customers well – ultimately, the more they trade and do well, we receive more business. One feeds another and success tends to breed success. Our sales over the last 3-4 years have grown between 6-10% which we’re really pleased with.

You’ve also got to have the confidence to believe in yourself and have a go at things. I have focused much more on being a sales driven company and have built a sales team around us, which, in the logistics industry, is quite unusual. I also believe the future is in digital marketing, so we have invested in a new member of staff in this area – something we’ve never really done before. In fact, we had two excellent candidates applied for a digital marketing position, so I hired both with the second one joining our sales team! When you get the right people, you don’t want to miss out and I’m glad we were able to secure both ladies. Do you live by/do business by a certain motto? There are two quotes hung up on my wall, which I read every day. I have a passion for horses, so the first is something I can really connect with! 1. The speed of the leader determines the pace of the pack, which just goes to show that you can’t slow down! 2. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. What are the future plans of the business? More of the same, really! We need to continue to strengthen our position, support our loyal customer base and win new work. We recently invested £500,000 in the extension of our warehouse, so we need to be able to justify this spend. Thankfully, the space is already filled, so we want to build on this positivity. I’d also like to strengthen our two sister companies trading, Heathline Commercials and MCR Services, and their interactions with the strong, Moody brand.



Supporting SMEs


Often in the early stages of growth, SMEs don’t have an in-house HR function, which makes the hiring process all the more difficult. This is where the services of recruitment experts come in, who offer specialist support, tailored to help organisations that operate across niche sectors. In the North East, we are home to many fast-growing recruitment firms, which are supporting the region’s many small and medium sized businesses, not to mention large companies and multinationals. “As SME’s grow they don’t always have an understanding of the nuances between the various specialist recruitment markets, which means that when they are looking for the best people in an unfamiliar field, it can be very difficult to find and attract them,” says Bryony Gibson, Bryony Gibson Consulting. Andrew Mackay, Coleman James, highlights cost as the biggest barrier for SME’s looking to compete regionally, nationally or internationally: “Reluctance to invest can be detrimental as forming a partnership with a niche recruiter will save both time and money in the long run, and deliver candidates that give SMEs a competitive edge. In addition, the recruitment process should be thorough, consistent and timely. Procrastination and lack of ability to make quick decisions often means SMEs lose out because exceptional talent doesn’t hang around.”

Mark Ions, Ions Talent Partners, acknowledges the need for effective strategic planning when it comes to recruitment: “Talent Management is one of the biggest headaches for ambitious companies across the North East. Regardless of size, understanding where the talent is within your business is paramount to both current and future recruitment strategies.” David Blair, BMC Recruitment Group, places the company’s values at the heart of an effective recruitment model: “Stick rigidly to what you believe good looks like, as it will eventually lead to great. For every entrepreneur that tells you he trusts his gut, there will be 99 who tell you they trust process more.” However, Steven Rawlingson, Samuel Knight International, believes the challenges facing SMEs isn’t about the processes in place, it is the shift in industry, particularly across the energy and rail sectors: “The average age within this industry is around 50 years old, and most people tend to retire at around 50 to 55. We are now seeing the impact of this shift change across various STEM sectors.” Michaela Reaney, Gradvert, also stresses the importance of having a “strong skills pipeline” for businesses, while acknowledging that employers need to start off their recruitment strategies by analysing “what’s needed to attract, develop and retain talent.”

Maureen Brown, Sullivan Brown, suggests staying up-to-date with the correct interview techniques is vital to hiring the right person, and regular training with hiring managers is essential. Conducting exit interviews is also crucial as “the insight can be used to help you attract the right people.” Meanwhile, Duo Global Consulting’s Laura Weaving cites the importance of building relationships with potential candidates: “In order to recruit the highest quality people it is important to build relationships with prospective employees ahead of time, so when roles arise, you already have established relationships for quicker recruitment into the business.” Communication is key to effective recruitment, according to James Blackwell, Ronald James Group: “You must keep adding value to the customer. The only way this can be achieved is by listening to what they really want and finding a way to give it to them. Regardless of your industry, giving more value than you charge in terms of a fee is one of the most important lessons I have learnt.” It’s estimated that the cost of a bad hire is around 15x their base salary, so without the luxury of large budgets and precious time to repeat the process if the wrong hire is made, the importance of recruiting well for SMEs simply can’t be underestimated.





ALIGNING YOUR TEAM SO THAT EVERYONE PULLS TOGETHER IN THE SAME DIRECTION IS A KEY GOAL FOR EVERY ENTREPRENEUR AND WHEN YOU PULL IT OFF IT FEELS AMAZING. HERE ARE FIVE STEPS THAT WILL HELP YOU TO ALIGN THE TEAM IN YOUR BUSINESS TO ACHIEVE REMARKABLE RESULTS: 1.HAVE ‘CLEARLY DEFINED OUTCOMES’. Most people are not aligned because they don’t know what they should be working towards. Asking your team four simple questions can help to clarify what their clearly defined outcomes should be: i) What are you going to achieve? Here you want to get specific around what it is that must be achieved. Is it acquiring a certain number of Strategically Significant Customers (SSC’s)? Or is it about launching a new product to the market? You need to be clear about exactly what the outcome should be.


ii) How are you going to achieve it? The method of achieving the outcome is vital and where many people fall down. How exactly are your team going to achieve the thing they need to achieve? Don’t assume they know, work out the steps. iii) When are we going to achieve it? Every outcome should have a planned completion time. Avoid just allowing 12 months in case it slips and is always 12 months away. Pinning the date is best, at least to aim for.

iv) Why are we going to achieve it? This question is deeper than it looks at first. It’s not just about an extra 5% of revenue. Why specifically does your team member want to achieve this outcome? Here please remember that ‘WHY Power’ is far more powerful than ‘WILL Power.’ Getting your team to understand their ‘why’ can make miracles happen!


Peter Wilkinson

2. BUILD A SIMPLE PLAN. When we’re supporting business leaders, we like to help them build a one page plan we call the ‘1-3-5’. Here you define ‘1 Simple Concise Vision’ of what success looks like. Then create ‘3 Core Objectives’ (not 33 objectives!). Most people create their objectives around Strategy, Operations and Team. What is the overall strategy? What operation needs to be in place to achieve the strategy? And finally, what should the team look like to be able to run the operation to achieve the strategy? Once you’ve created your Vision and 3 Core Objectives, you then need to set five simple ‘Stepping Stone Goals’ for each Core Objective. We find people make more progress when they know the steps to take. 3. REFINE YOUR PLAN. Look at the plan you have created and ask yourself: “What rating in terms of intensity would I give my plan?”

5. GET THE WHOLE TEAM TO FOCUS ON PROGRESS. Ideally you want to develop the practice of focusing on how far you have all come, rather than how far there is still to go. It’s a great idea to allow a little time at the end of the week to reflect and then ‘Identify, Acknowledge and Reward’ yourself and the team for what you have achieved. One team I work with get everyone around a ‘Wow Wheel’ on a Friday and discuss how far they’ve come. The person with the most progress wins a prize. In conclusion, aligning your team is about knowing what you’re going to achieve, following a simple plan, having a simple weekly routine and then looking for the progress.

I’m sure there is still lots to be done in your business, but making sure each week counts and making sure you’re making progress each week is a simple way to keep the team aligned and engaged with The Mission.

“I’ve never been on a plane where the pilot decided to skip the ‘pre fight routine’ or a surgeon that overlooked the ‘pre op’, so it always makes me smile when I hear an entrepreneur starting or ending their week without any structure.”

If you score yourself less than seven, it needs work to be more intense. Ideally you want a nine as this is going to become ‘The Mission’ and you need to feel good about it. Your plan needs to become a real burning desire for the team. 4. SET UP A WEEKLY ROUTINE. If you want to align your team you need to design a simple ‘Start and End of Week Routine.’ Mine includes writing out my main goals every day, then reading my plan, then setting a weekly outcome, then setting three things to do every day so that I can make progress. Only then do I start my week. At the end of the week I always review how I have done and rate my performance. Whatever you do, don’t start your day or week with email. Get control!




ENTREPRENEWS THE LATEST NEWS FROM THE NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL COMMUNITY. RAMAN SEHGAL, RAMARKETING PLANS TO TREBLE THE SIZE OF NEWCASTLE HQ Pharmaceutical and life sciences marketing agency ramarketing has announced plans to treble the size of its Newcastle base to support its ambitious growth targets, with a move into the Carliol Square offices being vacated by Campus North later this year. The news follows the agency’s launch of a base in Manchester earlier this year, and new offices in Boston, USA, which will open in November.

Ramarketing’s founder Raman Sehgal said: “As a former Newcastle-based start-up ourselves, and now an international business, we are pleased to be moving into what is the perfect space for a creative agency team, and which has been a launch pad for so many successful digital businesses.” Ramarketing is currently recruiting for a number of digital, design, marketing and PR roles to join its 20-strong team in a bid to expand numbers by around 30pc.

“As one of the fastest growing PR and digital healthcare agencies in the UK, our new offices will give us a sizable space to grow into for many years to come. The creative, collaborative and cool nature of the space also provides an ideal platform to nurture our people and attract the finest talent the region has to offer.” MEENU MALHOTRA, MALHOTRA GROUP CELEBRATES PRESIGIOUS DOUBLE AWARD WIN A leading North East hospitality giant is celebrating two wins at a prestigious awards ceremony. Newcastle-based Malhotra Group plc triumphed at the annual North East Hoteliers Association ceremony held at Marriott Hotel Gosforth Park with staff impressing judges in two main categories. Andrea Holecyova, receptionist at The New Northumbria Hotel, Jesmond, won the Warm Welcome category, impressing judges with the effort she goes to, to ensure each and every guest’s stay is as enjoyable and memorable as possible. The Group’s second winner at the awards, held to recognise staff


within the region’s growing hospitality sector, was Accommodations and Commercial Manager, Lottie Haylock. Lottie, who won the Inspirational Leader category, has 23 years of experience within the sector which she has brought to bear following the multi-million-pound refurbishment of the hotel, completed in 2017. Last year, she became only the second person to secure a scholarship from the Masters Innholders to attend a management development course at the prestigious Cornell University, in the US.



NIGEL MILLS CBE, LAKES DISTILLERY WHISKY AUCTION EXPECTED TO MAKE HISTORY A bottle of three-year-old single malt whisky is set to break the record for the most expensive English whisky sold at auction, a historic moment which will confirm the country’s young industry as an authentic new world challenger to the established distilleries North of the border. The Lakes Distillery is to auction 99 of its first bottles of single malt whisky, with bottle number one expected to go for several thousand pounds. The Lakes Single Malt whisky, called Genesis, is being sold at cask strength in a bespoke rosewood presentation box, each individually numbered and hand signed by Dhavall Gandhi, the Whiskymaker.

Genesis comes from the Greek word meaning origin. The name pays homage to the distillery’s beginning, and gives a tantalising glimpse into its future. Nigel Mills CBE, chief executive officer of The Lakes Distillery, said:

“We have gathered an exceptional team of experts here at the distillery, all with their own specialities, who have all been working towards this important milestone in our history, where we can finally call our spirit whisky. Our whisky-maker has worked tirelessly to ensure that The Lakes Genesis single malt whisky is world-class.”

IF WE CAN, YOU CAN (IWCYC) CHALLENGE STARTUP COMPETITION RETURNS FOR THE 10TH YEAR RUNNING North East professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs and students have gathered to celebrate the official launch of this year’s IWCYC Challenge Taking place at The Dickens in Middlesbrough, the event marked the website launch and application opening for the 2018 IWCYC Challenge, which is open to businesses less than three years old. Participants enjoyed an insightful talk from guest speaker Bethany Ainsley, a successful wellbeing entrepreneur, who shared her story on growing her business as well as also hearing from students and their business ideas.

Now in its 10th year, the IWCYC Challenge aims to publicise and connect start-up businesses with the wider North East business community. From Northumberland to Teesside, the challenge is open to all sectors looking for regional opportunities and to connect with existing well-established businesses. Organised and delivered by FIRST Face to Face, this year’s challenge will feature four categories: highest growth potential; biggest social impact; ones to watch; and ideas prize. Interactive and exciting events will take place in the run up to the live final in November including a bus tour visiting local entrepreneurs to an accelerator weekend held at Sage HQ in Great Park.




ANNE BROMLEY, TRAVEL BUREAU AWARDED FEEFO GOLD TRUSTED SERVICE AWARD Gosforth-based Travel Bureau has won the Feefo Gold Service award, an independent seal of excellence that recognises businesses for delivering exceptional experiences, as rated by real customers. The Trusted Service award goes only to those businesses who meet the highest standard, based on the number of genuine reviews they have collected on Feefo, and their average rating. A badge of honour, this accreditation remains unique, as it is based purely on the interactions with verified customers. As all reviews are verified as genuine, the accreditation is a true reflection of a business’ commitment to outstanding service.

Travel Bureau met the criteria of collecting at least 50 reviews between 1st January and 31st December 2017, with a Feefo service rating of between 4.5 and 5.0. Travel Bureau’s joint managing director Jeanne Lally commented:

“We know the service we give is outstanding because our customers tell us and now to receive this award from Feefo recognising exceptional service and a first-class holiday experience is a great achievement. We work hard to deliver the best service and holidays.”

SARA DAVIES, CRAFTER’S COMPANION RISES IN SUNDAY TIMES SME EXPORT 100 LIST North-East-based craft retailer, Crafter’s Companion, has ranked at number 31 in this year’s Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100 list, after experiencing 72% year-on-year growth in export sales. One of just four North-East companies to make the list, the Durham-based business has grown significantly from a small start-up into a global enterprise, now exporting to 32 countries worldwide across Europe, Africa, Australia and North and South America. Having been listed at number 52 last year, the company jumped to spot 31 in the 2018 list, and expects export growth to continue, particularly in the US and Germany, over the coming years.


Company founder Sara Davies MBE said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be listed once again for Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100. To move up by such a substantial jump is a real achievement for us and is tribute to the hard work of our teams across the UK, Europe and US.

“We expect to see continued export growth driven by product innovation, greater brand visibility and increasing consumer demand. Hopefully we can act as a catalyst, along with the other companies listed, for greater export from the North East to the rest of the world.”



DOMINIC LUSARDI, ANIMMERSION CELEBRATES AFTER A SUCCESSFUL EUROPEAN LAUNCH One of the UK’s leading suppliers of digital visualisation tools is celebrating after a successful launch and several orders following its unveiling of the world’s largest mixed-reality display. Animmersion, located in Middlesbrough, revealed its revolutionary DeepFrame product which enables viewers to experience breath taking visuals and animations as a virtual layer on top of the real world. The product has been designed by Danish based mixed reality specialists RealFiction, of which Animmersion is their leading UK supplier. Unveiled to 135 VIPs at the Crowne Plaza in Central London only last month, DeepFrame has sparked a new level of interest in mixed

reality technologies and is seen as leading the way in an industry in its infancy. Speaking about DeepFrame and the huge level of interest generated by it, Dominic Lusardi, managing director at Animmersion said: “We always expected this product would generate a huge amount of interest across a number of industries, but the results have far exceeded even our expectations.

“Following a very successful launch event, we are experiencing a huge amount of interest and requests for information on DeepFrame and Diamond, which we really believe brings something completely unique to the digital visualisation market.”

KARI OWERS, O PR INVESTS SIX FIGURE SUM IN GROWTH AS IT MOVES TO NEW OFFICES O Communications is investing £650,000 in new space and hires as it gears for growth in creative and digital services. The creative communications agency, whose client list includes Flymo, Goldsmiths and British Masters, was previously located in Ouseburn and has bought a circa 4,000 sq.ft office space to provide room for growth with dedicated studio space. Richmond House in Old Brewery Court will feature a digital studio for creative content design, photography and videography as well as a large open-plan client services department for its growing team. The Sandyford historic stone and brick-built property dating from 1831 has three floors including a significant basement.

Refurbishment plans include a ground floor space for collaborative working and to host O’s regular Ocademy events on the latest trends in marketing. Investment in recruitment has included new roles in content marketing, social media and SEO along with account management and graduate talent in recent months. Kari Owers, founder and managing director at O, said:

“During 2017 we began our investment programme with a focus on digital and social media experts. However, in the background we have been looking for somewhere to expand the business for some time and are delighted to have completed the deal at Old Brewery Court.”




SARAT PEDIREDLA, HEDGEHOG LAB NAMED AS ONE OF EUROPE’S FASTEST GROWING COMPANIES Newcastle-based technology consultancy hedgehog lab has been confirmed as 984th in the Inc. 5,000 List of Europe’s FastestGrowing Companies. hedgehog lab specialise in the creation of mobile, immersive and connected solutions, and recently announced their intention to launch a new division that will concentrate on the development of solutions featuring artificial intelligence (AI). Inc. have compiled and released their renowned growth list for each of the past 37 years. Based on an organisation’s growth in revenue over a period of three years, rankings identify the top 5,000 of Europe’s millions of privately held companies.

Incredibly, the median company on the list increased sales by more than 254% since 2013, whilst the average growth of each company sat at an explosive 473%. hedgehog lab’s growth sat above average at 667%. Back in 2016, it was revealed that hedgehog lab were on-course for a third successive year of over 100% growth. Momentum remained with them throughout 2017, as the consultancy secured £1m of investment from Maven Capital Partners to help further accelerate their development. hedgehog lab also has offices in London, Denmark, Boston, USA and Hyderabad, India.

JOHN SAVAGE, FLAME HEATING SPARES SPREADS TO SCOTLAND Gateshead-based Flame Heating Group is expanding into Scotland with the opening of heating and plumbing outlets in Glasgow, Ayr and Edinburgh. The move into Scotland will lead to the creation of at least 10 jobs across the three locations, with scope for further expansion. Stuart McTurk will lead the Glasgow branch, with the support of Darren Kipling, commercial manager at Flame, while Kenny Ireland will direct the trade counter in Ayr. Established in 2011, Flame currently operates 10 branches, employing in excess of 50 staff. Turnover soared to £14.5m last year, building on its £6.4m revenues in 2016. The company specialises in heating spares for commercial and domestic applications, renewable energy


solutions and bathrooms, working with a number of leading, global manufacturers. John Savage, managing director of Flame Heating Group, said:

“This has been a long time coming and I am delighted that we are in a position to export our services to the Scottish market, which marks an exciting period in our short history. Launching outside of our traditional North East roots has always been an ambition of mine, which will support the strong growth we have enjoyed over the last seven years.”



IAN HUGHES, VIELO SPORTS LAUNCH BESPOKE NORTH EAST BIKE BRAND A North East father and son are setting out on their own road to commercial cycling success after launching a new range of high end bikes. Ian and Trevor Hughes are the team behind Vielo Sports, and have two decades’ experience of working with leading British and European cycling brands, including bringing the Swiss-based Scott brand to the UK and acting as UK distributor for German road and mountain bike brand Storck. The Gateshead-based firm has been approached by a number of bike manufacturers about acting as their UK distributor, but after examining the current market for ‘Indy boutique’ cycles, Ian and Trevor decided the time was right to

launch their own range of highly detailed, technology-led bikes which are aimed at the serious leisure rider. And while the focus in its first year will primarily be on the domestic market, enquiries for the new range have already been received from as far afield as New Zealand and Asia, as well as mainland Europe. The first Vielo model, the V+1, is a carbon-framed off-road gravel bike that is also suitable for on-road use, and it will be followed later in the year by a new range of three specialist road bikes.

BRENDON HAYWARD & DR TONY TRAPP, OSBIT ENTERS AUSTRALIA SUBSEA POWER MARKET WITH DELIVERY OF INNOVATIVE CABLE REPAIR SYSTEM Osbit has successfully completed an innovative new subsea cable repair system for a new customer in Australia. The standby Quadrant Handling System for SA Power Networks facilitates emergency repairs of subsea power cables. The novel containerised system will be mobilised and installed to a designated repair vessel in the event of a cable fault to ensure power can be restored quickly and efficiently. Working closely with SA Power Networks and its repair contractor, Subcom, Osbit developed a comprehensive mobilisation plan to ensure the system is primed for swift future mobilisations. Building on its expertise in producing field-proven Quadrant Handling Systems,

Osbit were able to deliver a bespoke engineering solution, which met its client’s requirements without compromising on functionality. Brendon Hayward, managing director of Osbit Ltd, said:

“This innovative system will help support prompt repair as well as mitigate cost pressures caused by a subsea power cable fault. As a containerised unit, it can be deployed through standard shipping lanes rather than costly bespoke delivery, which ensures rapid mobilisation so that offshore technicians can carry on the required repairs in as short a time frame possible.”



Stephen Hall

HOW TO PREPARE FOR SALE by Stephen Hall, Deloitte


In his 25 years with the firm he has advised many entrepreneurs on how best to exit their businesses. Here are his top tips on how to prepare for a sale: Just because you are good at running a business doesn’t mean you’ll be good at selling one. You need to consider the personal impact of selling a business that has been the main focus of your life for a very long time.

Understand what you are selling and if you should sell in the first place? The success and reputation of some owner-managed businesses can be linked to one very prominent person and you need to know what the business offers beyond that individual, especially in service industries. If you take that individual away there might not be an appetite for your business or you might not be attractive to certain types of investors. The best advice here is to start talking to people you trust early, and in a casual way, before you arrange a beauty parade of corporate finance advisers.


Understand yourself. If you are passionate about your business, you need to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Take your mental health management seriously. You are about to have people picking over your business in fine detail and questioning you on every decision you ever made. This is not business as usual and can be extremely taxing.



How To Prepare For Sale

Establishing a value. You should be asking yourself not, ’What is it worth?’ But, ‘What am I prepared to let it go for?’. Many advisers are paid on a success basis, which means they will try to maximise gross proceeds, which might not be best for you. Why sell for £10m and pay £4m in tax when you could sell for £7.5m and pay £750,000? Plan for the future. One area that many entrepreneurs tend to neglect is what they are going do when their business is sold. It’s important to be prepared for the next step and not be left with a void. If you have decided that a sale is the best route for you then there are also some simple actions you can take to make sure that you are in the best shape possible.

Do your own due diligence. Those shortcuts that you have developed over the years that work for you and your team will soon unravel as a potential buyer goes through due diligence. So sort out any skeletons you know about ahead of time. Getting on the front foot and squaring everything off will avoid the price chips that can begin to take the shine and positivity off any deal. Plan the timeframe well in advance. If you want your numbers to be as attractive as possible you should be planning between two to five years in advance. This should be done to ensure, where possible, that you are in tune with your customer cycle or the economic cycle.

Get the right team around you. This applies in two areas. Firstly, plan for you not being there anymore. This means making sure you’ve got the right people in the right places to ensure the business can continue without you. If you have weaknesses address them now. Secondly, make sure you have the right team around you so line up your corporate finance adviser, your lawyer and personal financial adviser before you start the process. Get on top of your personal situation. Don’t neglect your own tax situation and what the impact of a sale might be. This can affect the nature of any deal, particularly if payments are conditional or will be paid in instalments. As they say on planes, always make sure your own oxygen mask is securely fixed in place before helping others. Lastly, I think it’s worth just thinking about the period before a sale completes. Again you need to be prepared for the final days as this can be quite a turbulent time. Know your key dates. Just because a deal is signed doesn’t mean it all ends there. For your peace of mind know how long any warranties and indemnities will be in place for, which means you will still be on the hook should the worst happen.

“Just because you are good at running a business doesn’t mean you’ll be good at selling one.”

And my last piece of advice is to beware of ‘Entrepreneurs grief’. If you have spent a significant amount of your career building a business, finding yourself no longer in control, no longer vital to its operations, or its future, can leave a huge hole in your life. Take some time to come to terms with this and acknowledge that it might lead to a period where you can feel quite unsettled.



Inspirational Events




Dates for your Diary





07/09/18 Deloitte, Newcastle.

SALES & MARKETING eCOMMERCE GROUP Round table discussion 11/09/18

Round table discussion 09/10/18 Durham.

Phusion IM, Billingham.

CURRY NIGHT LABMAN AUTOMATION With Andrew Whitwell On-site visit

Social event 19/10/18 Havali, Ponteland.

12/09/18 Stokesley, Middlesbrough.



With Andy Stephenson, Weekend Box Member event, children allowed

Social event 14/09/18 Newcastle.

30/10/18 Gateshead College, Baltic Campus.

MINDSET AND LEADERSHIP FOR A REINVENTED FUTURE With Steve Wells, Fast Future Exchange event 20/09/18 Durham.

NORTH EAST ENTREPRENEURIAL AWARDS Hosted by Benedict Allen Black-tie dinner 28/09/18 Hilton Newcastle Gateshead Hotel, Gateshead.




Inspirational Events



FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BRAVE Entrepreneurs’ conference 08/11/18 Wynyard Hall, Wynyard.

TOMBOLA With Phil Cronin On-site visit 13/11/18 Wylam Wharf, Sunderland.

eCOMMERCE GROUP Round table discussion


15/11/18 Baltimore House, Gateshead.

MENTORING SURGERY 16/11/18 Phusion IM, Billingham.

LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION With Catherine Reynolds Exchange event 20/11/18 Newcastle.

SUPPLY CHAIN Round table discussion 22/11/18 Northumberland.

DECEMBER More events will be announced soon. For the latest event details and to save your seat, visit:



13/12/18 Newcastle.



Could you or your business Whether you’re self-employed or a business looking to take things to the next level, you can update your own skills or those of your workforce for free.

This multi-million pound training fund is available until March 2019 to help businesses of all sizes in Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and Durham. leadership and management, health and safety, lean, business improvement techniques, customer service, sales, digital marketing, welding, mental health awareness and more. intensive sessions or accredited programmes available. Whatever your skills needs, this funding is here to help you strengthen your business. Find out more gogrow.org.uk


Hotel Chocolat

t e e Slw ike t a l o c o h c 42


Angus Thirlwell

“I’ve got the best job in the world – making people happy every day through the power of chocolate, I love it.”


ENTREPRENEURIALISM HAS BEEN INSTILLED IN ANGUS THIRLWELL FROM A YOUNG AGE. COMING FROM A SUCCESSFUL, INNOVATIVE FAMILY, HE HAS VERY MUCH COME INTO HIS OWN AS THE CO-FOUNDER OF THE UK’S PREMIER CHOCOLATE BRAND. He’s experienced it all in business, including a well-documented IP battle with a supermarket chain, enroute to an appearance, this year in the prestigious Sunday Times Rich List. Understandably, he has a massive passion for chocolate; developing Hotel Chocolat with business partner, Peter Harris, while in the midst of the ‘great renaissance of chocolate’, in 2004. “A lot of people think that it (chocolate) makes you fat, makes you spotty and is something only for special occasions, but what we want to do is make everybody realise that you can enjoy chocolate as part of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle every day. Sometimes three times a day, if necessary.” “I have a passion for chocolate; it is such a creative area to work in. You can change the shape of it, the flavour or make it into a gift. It has the ability to excite people and is a very seductive medium to work with.”



Hotel Chocolat

“This knitted the entire business together, and it was then when we rolled out our physical store format – having been an internet only brand.” Hotel Chocolat’s products are made up of the finest ingredients, with an emphasis on cocoa, as opposed to sugar, unlike much mass-produced “chocolate” on the market today. Thirlwell is passionate about chocolate, religiously eating at least 50g every single day: “Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins. But not all chocolate is created equal. Flip it over and check the ingredients. If cocoa is not the number one ingredient, it’s not chocolate, it’s confectionery.”

This lifelong passion has resulted in great success for Angus and business partner, Peter Harris, since 2004 when Hotel Chocolat was established. Posting sales of just over £100m, it floated for just shy of £200m and is now worth more than £400m, with 105 company-owned shops. Starting out in business was always going to happen for Angus. His entrepreneurial personality and tendencies – as well as an interest in the confectionery industry, for that matter – have always been there. His father, Edwin, was one of the early directors of Mr Whippy ice cream, and the man behind Prontaprint, which he built up to 500 locations. “He’s always been an inspiration, and it’s been great to have been around him.” Edwin’s roots can be linked to the North East, as the first Prontaprint store was on Collingwood Street, Newcastle.


Hotel Chocolat is equally committed to the region and wider North, with stores in Newcastle city centre, the Metrocentre, Teesside Retail Park, and recent openings in Sunderland and Carlisle. Angus has been in business for more than 20 years; first establishing a mint marketing company, the ‘successor to the corporate pen’, before entering the fast-delivered chocolate gifts market. The creation of a popular chocolate subscription club followed – today with more than 70,000 members – and the ‘Hotel Chocolat’ brand was formed. The name came to Angus after living in France, as a result of the country’s pronunciation of the world ‘chocolate’. The ‘Hotel’ aspect embodies a promise of “escapism, which can be an emotional place and together with great chocolate, it can engage anyone.”

It is an international brand, and much more than just a manufacturer of chocolate. The bulk of its stores are in the UK, with three in Denmark, as well as a cocoa cuisine restaurant in London, and a major e-commerce presence. Perhaps, though, the jewel in the company’s crown is the boutique hotel located on the grounds of its Rabot Estate cocoa plantation, in Saint Lucia.

“We knew that in order to make the best chocolate, we had to get stuck in at the roots. So we bought a cocoa plantation and learnt the art of cocoa growing.” “Our mission is to balance the authenticity of being a cacao grower, with the urban luxury of hedonistic chocolate. This means our chocolate has more cocoa and less sugar, even our milk and white grades. We never go lower than 40% cocoa. It also means that we’ve been able to start our own ‘Engaged Ethics’ programmes in both


Angus Thirlwell

Saint Lucia and Ghana. Engaged Ethics is a direct initiative to create sustainable cocoa growing communities. It differs from most other ‘trading fairly’ programmes as it goes beyond simply writing out a cheque and standing back. It’s a roll-up-the-sleeves, take risks, long-term approach, which has led to a remarkable set of results so far. It’s also changed the lives of cocoa growers and wraps into environmental matters, surrounding energy and packaging. It is a force for good.” Little by little, Angus built the company up over the years into a multi-channel operation, with the key to the success deriving from the creation of a strong brand and protecting it. “Any success we’ve had is down to creating a strong brand, sticking to our core principles of originality, authenticity and ethics and never wavering. It’s about the integrity of Hotel Chocolat, which filters down to the products, the team and our reputation...”

The supermarket swiftly ceased production of the imitation slabs and Hotel Chocolat offered a complimentary ‘upgrade’ from the “sugar-laden imposters” to its own cocoa-rich, indulgent originals. The only proviso was that there had to be at least half of the ‘totally coincidentally very similar’ bar left, after which it could be taken into any Hotel Chocolate store and exchanged for the real thing.

“My future plan is to grow Hotel Chocolat to be the world leader in premium chocolate. We’re the UK leader, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t get to that point.”

“With any business, you have to protect your brand; otherwise people little by little will chip away what you’ve created. We’ll defend it on the beaches and landing strips! “We’ve had infractions right from the start. It isn’t as bad as, but it’s getting like the fashion business. It just goes to show how incredibly important IP protection is.” Angus has big plans and aspirations for the company he co-founded and helped build to become the UK’s leading premium chocolate brand.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but only to a certain extent, in Angus’ eyes. His company was embroiled in a legal battle earlier this year with a well-known supermarket chain over the creation of chocolate slabs, very much similar to Hotel Chocolat’s design registered products.

“With any business, you have to protect your brand; otherwise people little by little will chip away what you’ve created. We’ll defend it on the beaches and landing strips!”



My Favourite Books

MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS BOOKS By Andy Rubin, Pentland Brands


THE SHED METHOD by Sara Milne Rowe

However good your strategic thinking or your planning are, success in business is all about being at your best and leading people to achieve amazing things. To do this you need to understand yourself, master your personal energy and enhance your communication skills if you want to be a successful and inspiring leader.

Andy Rubin is the third generation in his family to lead Pentland Brands, who are the family business behind some of the world’s best-known sports, outdoor and fashion brands. Founded in Liverpool in the early 1930’s, Pentland owns Speedo, Canterbury, Berghaus, Ellesse, Boxfresh, Red or Dead and Mitre and is the international footwear licensee for Lacoste and Ted Baker. The group also owns a majority shareholding in JD Sports, with annual sales of well over $4bn across 190 countries, proving their brands are loved by people the world over and the business is thriving thanks to its strong family values and a focus on staff driving the day-to-day.


This book is an easy to follow fusion of (some) theory and lots of practical advice on how to be the best version of yourself from an outstanding coach. You’ll want to give copies to all your team and your family once you have read it!



This book brings together in one place, decades of the world’s leading business minds on leadership and management in a very practical book that is the reference manual on how to lead and manage. It’s the “toolkit” you’ve been waiting for.


WINNING by Jack Welch

Simply the best “how to” for running complex businesses written by one of the most effective business leaders we have seen.


LEGACY by James Kerr

Kerr was given unprecedented access behind the scenes of the most successful team in sport ever, the NZ All Blacks. With a win % of almost 80% over 100 years, this book reveals the secrets to their unique, winning culture. Applicable (in part) to all organisations and teams as long as you borrow appropriately and ensure it fits your culture.


CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM by John Mackey & Raj Sisodia

This book combines the thinking of the founder of Whole Foods and a leading business academic. It helps us all think about the trade-offs that occur in business every day by trying to optimise returns to all stakeholders. It helps us understand that a new balanced scorecard should take into account all stakeholders if we are to build a sustainable world for future generations.

For more book recommendations from Forum event speakers, visit: entrepreneursforum.net/books



1 2 3

Tell your entrepreneurial friends why you’re a member of the Forum

You or your friend give us a call 0191 500 7780

Your friend becomes a member and, as a thank you, we give you both a place at our next conference, saving you £99 (+VAT) each


Terms & Conditions: To join, your friend must run a North East based business which turns over at least £250,000 annually. Your free conference places are offered once your friend has joined the Forum.

Proud to be partnered by:

We’re stronger together:

0191 500 7780 info@entrepreneursforum.net entrepreneursforum.net Design by


Profile for Entrepreneurs' Forum

EF Member Magazine  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum (published July 2018)

EF Member Magazine  

Find out the latest news and entrepreneurial updates from the Entrepreneur's Forum (published July 2018)