M O N T H LY R E G I O N A L B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E
Liverpool in the global spotlight Entrepreneurship week is a major hit
w w w . l d p b u s i n e s s . c o . u k April 2012
Kings of the reel deals
How Plexus Cotton became a major player on the world stage
● That’s entertainment: Corporate hospitality survives the slump ● Top class: Daresbury on the up ● Cash dash: SME funding1
Doug the Dragon urges Liverpool firms to get online
How corporate hospitality is faring in the economic downturn
BUSINESS WRITERS Bill Gleeson 0151 472 2319
Tony McDonough 0151 330 4918
How businesses can benefit from mezzanine funding packages
Alistair Houghton 0151 472 2449
Nick Earlam, chairman and founder of cotton trader, Plexus Cotton
Neil Hodgson 0151 472 2451 neil.hodgson @liverpool.com
HEAD OF IMAGES Barrie Mills
Liverpool’s world-class effort at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress
MARKETING EXECUTIVE Cath Reeves 0151 285 8428
HOW GREEN IS YOUR BUSINESS?
Energy and environmental fund seeking new investments
ADVERTISEMENT DIRECTOR Debbie McGraw
ADVERTISEMENT SALES Neil Johnson 0151 472 2705 Trudie Arlett 0151 472 2476 Julie Cowley 0151 472 2311 Diana Griffiths 0151 472 2311
City’s historic Cunard Building gets a facelift as it looks for new tenants
KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY Small firms thrive at Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus
LIVERPOOL POST EDITOR Mark Thomas 0151 227 2000
Swimming aid company makes an overseas splash
35 BUSINESS LUNCH
The Living Room, in Liverpool
PHOTOGRAPHY Trinity Mirror PUBLISHED BY Trinity Mirror NW2, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L69 3EB.
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Key events for your diary
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Alistair Houghton is playing games
38 SOCIAL DIARY
Carolyn Hughes out on the town
DID you hear the throw-away line in the Chancellor’s Budget speech last month? After talking about the billionpound plan for Manchester and listing a dozen British cities that didn’t include Liverpool that would receive ultra-high speed broadband, he decided he had better mention this corner of the country. “Chinese money is pouring into Liverpool,” he chirped. Erm . . . well . . . erm . . . what Chinese money is he alluding to? Well, there is Peel’s plan for an international trade centre to encourage trade between British and Chinese firms. The problem with mentioning it is that this particular deal is not
BILL GLEESON yet clinched. It may or may not happen. Nor, strictly speaking, is it in Liverpool. If it happens, it will be in Birkenhead. More importantly, while very welcome, the international trade centre hardly amounts to money “pouring” in. Dribbling in, perhaps, but definitely not pouring. So what else is happening that could have sparked such effusive
comments from George Osborne? Try as I did last week, I couldn’t find any. There was a plan for something called Shanghai Towers, on the Liverpool side of the river, but that is definitely put on hold. The proposed 55-storey tower won’t be going up unless or until the property market picks up markedly. The last thing Liverpool needs is any further urban apartments. So, if Chinese cash isn’t, in fact, pouring in to Liverpool, why did the Chancellor say it is? Either he was badly briefed by an overly optimistic civil servant, or he was
trying to cover his tracks having dished out the money to pretty much every other town in Britain, but given Liverpool nothing. Of course, the Budget did have some good aspects, including the raising of personal allowances to £9,205. More importantly, the tone of it wasn’t quite as bleak as previous Budgets and Autumn Statements. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, we can stop the process of revising down forecasts for growth. While nobody is yet prepared to revise forecasts
upwards, at least we can agree it’s time to stop the downward trend in revisions. That, in its own right, amounts to a significant change in the outlook for the economy. My hunch is, by the time we come to the Autumn Statement, things will be looking much better and at that point we will start to see upward revisions in growth forecasts for the current year and next year. And, by the time of the Budget in 2013, we may even have forgotten all about the credit crunch and the great recession. Fingers crossed, eh?
BILL GLEESON 3
Teenager joins Liverpool’s development agency LEGAL
Tariq Raja, at Liverpool Vision
A TEENAGE “humanitarian” from Liverpool has secured an apprenticeship with the organisation responsible for the economic development of the city. Tariq Raja, from Aigburth, is working across several departments within Liverpool Vision, helping with a range of activities. Mr Raja, 18, joins Vision after completing an eight-month leadership course with the Air Training Corps in September, 2010, which presented him with the
opportunity to work as a humanitarian in the slums of Kenya. He said: “After completing my Air Training Corps Junior Leaders course, I was awarded the title of ‘most improved cadet’ and I became one of six to gain a scholarship through the Young Achievers Foundation, enabling me to work in Kenya . “The six of us raised £5,000 prior to the trip. This money was used to purchase school supplies, food and much-needed health equipment for a clinic.”
Former Dragon joins online business push NTREPRENEUR and former judge on BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den, Doug Richard, has come to Liverpool to encourage small firms to do more business online. The Web Fuelled Business programme is being run across the UK by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and business directory provider Yell. Mr Richard held a day-long online business “boot-camp” at the Liverpool Lighthouse, a community centre in Anfield. Alongside selling online, the workshop included aspects such as driving marketing through social media, increasing website exposure through search engine optimisation and procuring and enhancing supply chains through business-to-business websites. More effective web use can help boost productivity and growth potential and assist in creating and safeguarding jobs. Mr Richard said: “2012 is set to be one of the toughest economic environments in recent history – and my goal was to persuade Liverpool’s small businesses that their country really needs them, as our economy depends on the survival and prosperity of our small businesses. “So this is my Lord Kitchener moment. “Young businesses are the wealth and job creators that will drive us out of this recession, but, in order for them to survive, they must use the internet as their lifeline. “It gives businesses the potential to become global in just a few clicks.” Web Fuelled Business is part of the Government-backed School for Start-ups programme to encourage more new businesses.
Stella Kuit, Head of Private Immigration, QualitySolicitors Jackson and Canter OVERHAUL of work and study routes for migrants THE third phase of the Government’s changes to work and study routes for migrants will come into force on Good Friday, April 6, 2012. As requirements for visas become stricter than ever before, these changes will undoubtedly create a significant impact on not only high-value migrants, skilled workers, and students intending to remain in the UK but also for those employing migrants. Frequent changes to the immigration rules made by the Government are commonplace, but those due to come into force next week are almost certain to create a noticeable sea change within the immigration landscape. Life is bad enough for hard-pressed HR managers. Companies and employers already face hefty sanctions if they make a mistake, but constant changes in the law make it very difficult for the uninitiated to keep up, even those who are used to dealing with students and migrant workers. For migrants themselves, the rules get tougher all the time. Whether this is beneficial for UK PLC is a matter of political judgment and debate. The rules are likely to discourage overseas students who will in future find it much more difficult to transfer to the UK job market following graduation.
Students Students will now find themselves given a strict limit on the length of time that can be spent studying at degree level. There will also be more stringent restrictions on work placements attended during the course of their studies. The implementation of these changes has been introduced by the Government over the course of the last 12 months, so as to allow the business and educational sectors a period of time to adjust. In practice, this is unfortunately not the case and there is always a crossover in guidance and policy which does not always allow for a smooth transition between rule changes. The impact of the changes set to take place on April 6, 2012, remains to be seen. However, there can be no doubt that further review by the Government will be needed to ensure that the implementation of these far stricter routes is not jeopardising the position of talented migrants who wish to invest and study in the United Kingdom from overseas.
‘New visa regulations will have a significant impact on employers’
High-value migrants For prospective high-value migrants, an incentive is to be offered to overseas graduates capable of meeting the requirements of the new “graduate entrepreneur” category. Graduates are now automatically able to apply for a two-year post-study visa extension which allows immediate access to the UK job market upon successful completion of their studies. This will no longer be the case from April 6, 2012.
Doug Richard addresses the audience of Liverpool SMEs at the Liverpool Lighthouse, in Anfield Picture: GARETH JONES
Work permit holders Work permit holders will now be set a minimum pay requirement of £35,000 and the length of time that they will be allowed to remain in the UK will be restricted to six years. For students unable to meet the requirements of the proposed graduate entrepreneur category, some provisions will also be introduced to enable certain skilled applicants to switch into the work permit route following graduation.
■ FOR MORE information, email: stellakuit@ qualitysolicitors.com ■ IN ASSOCIATION with QualitySolicitors Jackson and Canter
THE POST LIVERPOOL
If the eurozone crisis intensifies, then the situation for the UK looks a lot worse – IoD chief economist, Graeme Leach
With Paul McGuckin, Managing Director at CS Financial Solutions SIGNIFICANT reforms aimed at getting more people to save for their retirement become law in October of this year. Under the new law, employees will be automatically enrolled into a qualifying pension scheme with employer contributions, if they are aged between 22 and the state pension age, earn at least £8,105 a year, and are not already in a scheme that meets minimum standards. Auto-enrolment is aimed at rejuvenating pensions saving, especially for the low paid, but its rules are complex and far-reaching. Compliance will be testing, not just at launch but ongoing, and there will be substantial fines for non-compliance. At first sight, auto-enrolment is about pensions. On closer examination, it is also about payroll, insured benefits, flexible benefits, salary sacrifice, risk, data, HR systems, processes and more. Preparation requires excellent project management and coordination across the benefits field and beyond. Its impending arrival is prompting many organisations to review their whole benefits programme. Automatic enrolment will bring up to 10m people into pension saving, many for the first time ever. The new legislation affects all employers and many of their processes, although large employers with 250 or more employees will be the first to face this change. The next group will be those with between 50 and 249 members who will have from April 1, 2014, until April 1, 2015, to implement the changes. Then a test tranche for those with 30 staff or less will take place throughout June, 2015, before becoming compulsory from January 1, 2016. Businesses with between 30 and 49 employees will be expected to comply with the rules from August 1, 2015.
There is a clear schedule to allow employers and employees to plan for the future and a firm commitment not to exempt small businesses. But what does it all cost? Eventually, the automatic level of contributions must be at least 8% of the individual’s “qualifying earnings”. This includes 3% that must come from the employer. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), around half of workers are currently not paying into a pension or not saving enough, so autoenrolment will give many people that much needed “prompt” to save for retirement. Auto-enrolment demands expertise and capacity across the employee benefits field from a team of professionals who understand both the autoenrolment rules and the commercial and operational implications for entire benefits programmes. If employers aren’t already, then they should be working closely with employee benefits consultants to prepare for auto-enrolment. It is about bringing together experts from all the affected areas to ensure a coordinated approach to achieving not just compliance but also business solutions that meet their specific needs. This is a complex area, and a technology-backed process is the easiest way to achieve compliance with the new rules.
‘Automatic enrolment is aimed at rejuvenating pensions saving’
■ THE material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. ■ YOU should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation. ■ IN ASSOCIATION with CS Financial Solutions
Eurozone is still critical – Leach
The IoD’s chief economist talks to Tony McDonough
BRITAIN’S hopes of stronger growth this year still depend heavily on what happens in the eurozone – that’s according to the chief economist of the Institute of Directors (IoD). In an interview with Post Business, Graeme Leach said that, although the eurozone crisis had fallen down the UK news agenda in recent weeks, it remained the critical issue for businesses in this country. “The situation as it stands is very polarised,” said Mr Leach. “If the eurozone situation stabilises in the second half of the year, then the outlook could become a lot better. “There are firms in the UK that have been sitting on cash and have put their investment plans on hold. “If the situation does improve, then they could bring those plans back down from the shelf.
“However, if the eurozone crisis intensifies, then the situation for the UK looks a lot worse – the downward risk of that is pretty obvious to see.” Mr Leach spoke last week at the IoD’s North West conference in Manchester – the day after Chancellor George Osborne delivered his latest Budget in the House of Commons. He didn’t believe the Budget would make any short-term difference to the UK economy, and added that, although he welcomed the cutting of the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, he felt the Government could have gone further. “We need to get the top rate of tax back down to 40% if we are to become competitive,” he added. He also talked about how most IoD members actually fell below the top rate threshold of £150,000
and said the organisation was concerned about changes for those earning between £100,000 and £116,000. He said: “The phasing out of personal allowances for those in that bracket means they would effectively be paying a 62% tax rate. “The tax situation is up and down and all over the place – this is absolutely nuts.” Mr Leach said the IoD welcomed the 1% cut in Corporation Tax, but again said the Government needed to go further it really wanted to help the nation’s army of small firms to grow. He added: “Cutting the top rate of tax and cutting Corporation Tax at the same time is definitely a step in the right direction. “However, the IoD believes that Corporation Tax needs to come down to 15% by 2020.”
THE BIG FEATURE
Small talk comes at a price
Business leaders mingle at a Champagne reception prior to last year’s Regional Business Awards dinner, at Liverpool Cathedral
BY BILL GLEESON
Now that summer is fast approaching, it’s the time of year when the corporate hospitality invitations begin to arrive.
THE BIG FEATURE CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7 N A recent film version of the children’s story, Peter Pan, the father of the children,George Darling, is ordered by his wife to win advancement in business by making contact with people who might be useful to him. Mrs Darling says: “George, the daughter of a clerk cannot hope to marry as well as that of a manager. “You must attend more parties, make small talk with your superiors at the bank. “Wit is very fashionable at the moment. “Mr Darling had been practising small talk all afternoon. ‘I say, it's nice weather we're having’. “And now his opportunity had arrived. “Sir Edward Quiller Couch, the president of the bank, was a man who enjoyed small talk almost as much as a good balance sheet.” Mrs Darling is, of course, right. Attending corporate hospitality events like parties is essential in many lines of business. The region is, of course, rich in opportunities to attend such events. Sports and the arts often provide an attractive backdrop in which to engage in the allimportant small talk. That’s all the more true at this time of year, as the weather begins to warm up. The Grand National is only a couple of weeks away and Chester’s racing season kicks in at the start of May. In addition, Lancashire Cricket Club’s new hospitality facilities at its revamped Old Trafford home will be open for business this summer. There is also the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament at Calderstones Park. For those of a more artistic disposition, Tate Liverpool will be staging a fabulous sounding retrospective of Turner and Monet this summer. Nor is it just the summer months that provide prime hospitality opportunities. Topflight football at Everton and Liverpool, and Rugby League at places like St Helens, Warrington and Widnes, and much else besides, mean there is an all-yearround calendar of events. Events can range from the lavish to the relatively cheap and cheerful. Guests could be invited to spend a weekend on a yacht in Monaco watching the Grand Prix, to paint balling in a muddy field just outside Warrington. One local entrepreneur, Formby-based Lee McPartland, the managing director of Opus Events, provides a range of the more lavish type of corporate hospitality. Opus events range from the Monaco weekend, to up-market accommodation at Glastonbury Festival, to lavish parties at the Open Golf. His latest venture is an event to be known as “the cut party” to take place at this summer’s British Open, at Lytham St Anne, Lancashire. Mr McPartland said: “It will bring a bit of glamour to golf and give all the people from all over the world a big event on the Friday evening. “There will be 700 people fundraising for charity while keeping their clients entertained. “Every 20 minutes, there will be
On the fast track . . . the Monaco Grand Prix offers a chance for top-class corporate hospitality
a different form of entertainment from music and dance troupes.” The plan is to start the evening with a five-course dinner to be held in a marquee on the Open course. It will then adjourn at midnight to Lytham’s YMCA, where the fun will continue into the small hours. Despite the fact this is a new event being launched during slow economic conditions, there seems to be no shortage of interest from customers. Mr McPartland said: “There has been massive interest already. “We are not going to have a problem selling it out.” But the opportunity to engage in small talk into the small hours
doesn’t come at a small price. A table of ten starts at £3,500 and the cost rises to £5,000 for VIP tables closer to the stage. Guests will be fed a five-course dinner. Another chance for opulent hospitality comes with the Monaco Grand Prix. Known as the Ice Lounge, this event takes place on a beach during the Saturday evening of the race weekend. Over 700 guests will attend with prices starting at 600 euros. They can rise to 1,500 euros. If that’s not enough, you can spend the whole weekend aboard a superyacht moored at Monaco that offers views of the Formula 1 racing.
“We have the best positioned yachts in Monaco,” he says. Guests can watch the qualifying day on the Saturday and the Grand Prix race itself on the Sunday. Opus will entertain up to 150 guests on two yachts. While the food and drink can flow all day, it is very expensive. Prices for the two race days, plus the Friday, are 2,850 euros per person. If Formula 1 isn’t your thing, what about music? Opus uses a field at Winding Lake Farm, located about 100 metres from the main gate to the festival. Mr McPartland says: “It’s a business partner’s home. There is
24-hour food and chauffeured cars in and out of the festival site.” To use a caravan package costs £2,000 for two people. The package comes with back stage passes. A hospitality package for six in a motor home costs £5,000. Helicopter transport from Liverpool can be arranged for £10,000. For those who want something closer to home, Opus hires out the use of a corporate box at Anfield for up to £4,000 a game. Alternatively, you could hire one for the full season at a cost of about £70,000. The fact is corporate hospitality remains expensive and budgets will have come under pressure in
THE BIG FEATURE
Lee McPartland, of Opus Events, at his Anfield box
Tennis at Calderstones Park has become a popular summer fixture for city businesses
the past few years. Mr McPartland said: “I found general hospitality, the traditional stuff, firms are not spending money as much as they used to. “It used to be based around banks and property firms and a lot of them are not spending any more. “With more specialist events such as Glastonbury, Lytham and Monaco, people are generally more supportive. This year, Monaco sales are up on last year. “The majority of them are British, but there is increasing interest from Abu Dhabi.” One local provider of lavish corporate hospitality is jewellery firm Boodles. The firm stages an
annual tennis tournament in the week before Wimbledon at Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire. It attracts some of the world’s top names as they get used to grass courts. Owner Nicholas Wainwright said: “We are entertained in a pretty lavish way.“ other tan sponsoring the event.” For a cool £250,000, the firm takes 100 customers a day to event. Mr Wainwright added: “The reason we like tennis is that couples can come together. We can get to know our customers better. For us, its a soft sell. Its a nice day out and we hope they think of us when buying jewellery.”
A great day out – unless the heavens open I CAN be something of an oddity when I am invited to the corporate hospitality tent at a sporting event – for two reasons: One, I’m teetotal and, two, I like to actually watch the sport on offer. I’ve attended race meetings with people who managed to go the
whole day without actually setting eyes on a horse. I’ve been to the Liverpool International Tennis tournament four times. It’s a pretty well-organised event, although on a couple of occasions they seemed to have crammed too many tables into the tent.
I enjoy chatting and networking over lunch, but I usually can’t wait to get to the grandstand afterwards and watch some tennis. However, some of my fellow guests seemed content to remain in the tent for as long as possible and avail themselves of the
“refreshments”. One year I was there, it poured with rain, and we were forced to spend most of the day in the tent. Six hours stone cold sober trying to make small talk. It was a tortuous experience – enough to drive a man to drink. TONY McDONOUGH
THE BIG FEATURE
Smartly-dressed crowds gather to be entertained at last year’s Ladies Day, at Aintree racecourse
Picture: COLIN LANE
Getting to know your clients
Bribery Act forced managers to look again at corporate hospitality – but entertaining has to THE reason why arts and sports organisations sell corporate hospitality services is easy to understand. They want to use the proceeds they earn to fund their principal aims and objectives. Why, though, do companies use corporate hospitality services? What's in it for them and is it anything more than just a jolly day out of the office, nothing more than a trivial distraction from the everyday grind? Medicash is a penny in the pound health insurance mutual based in Liverpool city centre. In recent years, it has taken corporate hospitality services at the Grand National, Widnes Vikings Rugby League and Liverpool Football Club. Medicash's chief executive, Sue Weir, is clear about why the mutual entertains.
She said: "We do it to get to know our clients better. “Anfield is really good for us as a local company pushing for national business. Liverpool has a really wide appeal.” The move to football is relatively new. Until two years ago, Medicash frequented Aintree. Ms Weir said: “Aintree was always a great venue. Every one we took always had a really good day. I’m sure we will go back to it, but we wanted to have some variety in our corporate hospitality. “We are also going to the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament. It has a different appeal. “The racing and tennis are a chance to take ladies, whereas football is more suited to gents.” The introduction of the Bribery Act caused Medicash to look at the entertainment it offers. Ms Weir explained: “The
Bribery Act was never intended to stop entertaining contacts, but there was some nervousness when it was first introduced. But there has been some further clarity over the last few months. “Your corporate entertaining has to be proportionate.” However, there is no hard and fast rule about what is proportionate. Ms Weir said: “It means different things to different businesses. “We wouldn’t go beyond a few hundred pounds per head for an event. Aintree is probably at the top end of what we would look to use. It has made us look very closely at what we think would work for Medicash.” She warns that people don’t automatically accept an invite. Some are quite fussy about the events they will attend. She said: “People’s time is
incredibly valuable. When you invite people to an event, they will think twice about what they will accept.” At Anfield, Medicash takes seats in the Centenary Stand and a meal in one of the restaurants. Ms Weir explains: “We book a season at a time. “You hope the team is very successful because the package covers all home games. If they progress through the cups, you get more games for your money.” At the slightly less glamorous end of the spectrum, Medicash also supports Widnes Vikings Rugby League Club. She said: “It’s a different experience. There’s a lot of people that support the local clubs and like rugby league. It’s a very exciting, physical game. “Rugby League ties in with our market quite neatly.”
Fund management firm Investec prefers to sponsor the arts, the local concert orchestra in particular. Its sponsorship of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra runs to 2015. It’s the latest chapter in a relationship between Investec and its local predecessor company, Rensburg, that stretches back to the mid-19th century, when company founder Henry Rensburg was chairman of the orchestra society. Investec senior marketing manager Dawn Cowderoy said: "It’s very expensive for us, but we get a lot out of it. Our clients really enjoy it." Investec sponsor a series of ten Thursday night performances in the orchestral season. The firm takes about 20 guests to each event. As well as listening to the concert, the arrangement
THE BIG FEATURE
Tate of the art . . . DLA Piper’s Philip Rooney unveils a Jacob Epstein sculpture at Tate Liverpool, accompanied by Peter Gorschluter, head of exhibitions Picture: JAMES MALONEY
In harmony: RLPO principal conductor Vasily Petrenko, with Jon Seal, of fund management firm Investec
be proportionate includes the use of the Rodewald Suite in the concert hall for preconcert drinks and a buffet afterwards. Oftentimes, the soloists and members of the orchestra mingle with Investec's guests. At law firm DLA Piper, the partners prefer to sponsor modern art at Tate Liverpool. Liverpool office managing partner Philip Rooney says the deal was first struck in 2005, in the run-up to Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. He said the firm was attracted to the Tate’s strong brand that boosts the city’s cultural assets: “The permanent collection is free and accessible to ordinary people. It’s also a great venue to take guests. “People always come away talking about what they have seen.”
National provides unique opportunity to treat guests ONE of the biggest sporting events in the national, never mind local, calendar is the Grand National meeting, due to be staged at Aintree later this month. There are plenty of opportunities for entertaining clients at a variety of price points over the course of the three-day meeting. A basic package at Aintree starts at £104 per head on Liverpool Day. For this price, guests would be housed in temporary accommodation erected alongside the track. They would be served a hot
buffet lunch with a cash bar and a badge to gain access to a good viewing perch. A seat in the Princess Royal restaurant costs £499. For this, guests get waiter service with a drinks package included. The catering continues throughout the day, with pastries in the morning, and lunch and afternoon tea included. Aintree managing director Julian Thick said: “We have been pleased in terms of levels of demand for the Grand National since tickets have been on sale since August. “We are not immune to
the economic downturn, but we are delighted by the support we have received over the last three years and we are up 10% year-onyear, but still a little below the height of 2008. “We don’t use the phrase corporate hospitality, because a lot of our hospitality packages are sold to private individuals, friends who club together to take a table or high net worth individuals who want to do things in style. “At the National meeting, we have been able to maintain margins. It has always been competitively priced for such a premium event.”
Aintree stages eight race days across five meetings. Racing offers something different from many other types of corporate hospitality. Mr Thick added: “I never found anybody who has not thought it was a great day out. “Racing is a very social sport, perfect for hospitality. There is plenty of time to be with guests. “If you go to football matches or a concert, you have to settle down and watch the action. “Small stakes betting gives a natural interaction through the day.”
THE BIG FEATURE
Hospitality boosts cricket club income Investment in new corporate entertainment venue secures Lancashire’s financial future
CORPORATE hospitality is an important source of revenue for sports clubs. One regional sports club that is now better placed than ever before to fund its on-field activities, using money earned from hospitality and catering, is Lancashire County Cricket Club. Indeed, as a result of significant fresh investment, it is probably better placed than many of its rivals. The club’s Old Trafford ground is part of a £43m property development scheme that will see two new grandstands built. The scheme involves the construction of a new school and Tesco supermarket. The vision is to create a state-of-the-art venue that can help the cricket club generate new sources of income to sustain its future. It will be open during this summer’s cricket season. The redevelopment includes an events venue called The Point, a players’ and media centre, two grandstands, new pitches, four permanent floodlights and a major upgrade and facelift of the historic Pavilion. The redevelopment is funded by £21m from Tesco plus grants, including from the former NWDA. Lancashire took on debt to build The Point, but no other part of the development. The Point is now complete and is already being used for corporate hospitality events, while the rest of the ground will open next season. One local business professional who has already visited the venue as a corporate hospitality guest is Warrington-based sports finance specialist James Dow, managing director of Dow Schofield Watts. He said: “The Point is fabulous. It’s one of the best conference facilities in Greater Manchester. “This was a fantastic deal for the members. “It means the club will have Test-class facilities that will underpin the club’s ability to generate income for a generation. “It means the club shouldn’t have to call on the members for finance.” The strength of Lancashire’s position contrasts with most other county sides. Mr Dow added: “You only have to look at the accounts of the county clubs to see the business model doesn’t work. County cricket is very dependent on central finance from the English County Cricket Board. That, in turn, depends on money from Sky. “Cricket is still essentially an amateur sport that has a large benefactor.” However, Mr Dow predicts cricket will weather the current economic slowdown well. “It’s not heavily dependent on corporate sponsorships, so it’s unlikely to be affected
Lancashire’s new corporate hospitality venue, The Point, is ‘one of the best facilities in Greater Manchester’ by any contraction in corporate marketing spend,” he said. Lancashire’s new corporate hospitality facility is also hired out on non-match days. The Point venue is popular for black tie and other corporate events. The facilities are also used as overspill corporate entertainment for Manchester United, a 15-minute walk away. As for other sports, horse racing held up last year, with a record 6.2m attending British race meetings last year. However, there have been some signs that football clubs, even the biggest ones, have been struggling to sell all of their corporate entertainment, with local radio stations advertising discounted corporate packages at Manchester United. Adverts flogging tickets for any game involving the club would have been unimaginable in the days before the credit crunch, recession and eurozone crisis. Professor Tom Cannon, head of strategic development at the University of Liverpool Management School, agrees that the bigger clubs or events are holding their own. Pointing to Standard Chartered’s
sponsorship of Liverpool FC’s shirts, Prof Cannon said: “The English Premier League is seen as a very strong brand, particularly because it gives access to the Asian market. “In tennis, Wimbledon is another strong brand, but secondary tennis tournaments have been hit hard. This year’s ATP was nothing like as full as it was the year before. “Henley has been hit hard but Formula 1, the Grand National and Goodwood don’t seem to be affected. It’s the classic flight to quality.” Alan Switzer, a director in accountancy firm Deloitte’s Manchester office-based sports business group, believes the effects of the recent recession on the upper echelons of football were relatively mild. He said: “We are not back in recession territory yet. “When the first recession happened, people asked if football and the Premier League would fall off a cliff. We expected it to be resilient, but not recession-proof. “Broadcasting rights are negotiated on a three-year contract. One thing people didn’t give up was their Sky subscription, so that
was protected to some extent. The season ticket is also one of the last things people give up. They make other savings first. The fact that sport means so much to people means it is more resilient than other industries. “It helped that most clubs have either held their prices or even reduced them. “Corporate hospitality is more vulnerable. Even bigger clubs could no longer assume they would sell out..” Evidence that top-flight football revenues are remaining strong comes from Deloitte’s annual Football Money League tables showing that, across Europe, the biggest clubs saw revenues rise 4% to euros16bn. In Britain, revenues rose from £2.3bn to £2.5bn, despite economic conditions. Mr Switzer points out that the next three-year TV rights deal is due to go out to tender later this year, but he does not anticipate any significant fall in payments. One thing he does warn about is the potentially adverse impact of the London 2012 Olympics. The extent to which the Games divert corporate sponsorship and advertising budgets has yet to be seen.
A day at the races offers a chance for the office tipster to make a mark
A prestige sporting day – Chester races
ABOUT this time last year, I received an invitation to one of the region’s most prestigious race days. It was for Ladies Day at Chester racecourse’s May meeting, and the invitation came from Cooperative Financial Services. I had been invited by Patrick Tooher, a former journalist who is
now head of public relations at Co-operative Financial Services, and who turned out be a champion office tipster. Chester races has become an established part of the social scene locally, and thousands of punters flocked to watch some excellent racing, including two Epsom Derby trials and the Chester Vase. This
race was famously once won by Shergar, who then went on to win the Derby. The Co-operative had taken a table in one of the marquees that formed part of a tented village. Their marquee was filled with a mix of other corporate types and general racegoers out to enjoy themselves for the day. One nearby table was
full of Dubliners whose wit and horseracing wisdom was audible for everybody to hear. All the women looked splendidly summery, even though the weather was proving a little changeable. As for the betting, suffice to say you would be better off taking Patrick’s advice, rather than mine. BILL GLEESON
“SOME OF MY BEST LEADING MEN HAVE BEEN HORSES.” Elizabeth Taylor
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With Peter Mooney, head of employment law at ELAS
ONE OF my team has asked for time off to go to the Olympics, but someone else has already booked the same time off and I can’t afford for them both to be on holiday at the same time. What can I do?
IN SHORT, you should refuse the latest holiday request. Just because Olympics tickets were so hard to come by doesn’t mean bosses should treat this summer any differently to any other. That means, if two people want to take time off simultaneously, you need to decide who gets their request granted in a fair, open and consistent way. That means not only having a clear and robust policy on how you’re going to deal with requests for annual leave, but reminding staff about it well in advance and implementing it rigidly. The simplest system is to grant annual leave on a first come, first served, basis. But, in order to give everybody a chance, managers should write to their teams now explaining that that is the case. If you can afford to have more than one person off at a time, then you need to decide how many will be allowed time off at once – and whether any rules are needed around which people cannot take holiday at the same time. You should also have a rule about how you will decide on requests made simultaneously. You are allowed to give yourself the discretion to prioritise someone volunteering at the Olympics over a colleague wanting time off to watch on TV, but
you need to be consistent at all times. Furthermore, with other sporting favourites such as Wimbledon, the European Football Championships and the Paralympics all being held this summer, any policy put in place for the Olympics must apply equally to other sporting events as well. Once these policies are in place, stick to them. As soon as you start turning a blind eye to one person but being firm with another, you run the risk of a claim for discrimination. Finally, once those policies are in place, staff will need reminding that any unauthorised absences during these times will be frowned upon. That way, if anybody is refused holiday, then rings in sick on the day they wanted off, managers can treat it as a potential disciplinary offence. With the European Football Championships coming up this summer as well, there is a fair chance that staff will be feeling fairly patriotic at times this summer. As a result, now would also be a good time to set rules on whether company drivers will be allowed to attach flags to their vehicles, and some employers may want to consider buying TV licences to cover anybody watching sports coverage online at their desks.
‘It’s simple to grant leave on a first come, first served, basis’
■ CONTACT the team at ELAS on 0161 785 2000 or visit www.elas.uk.com. For daily news, advice and employer information, please follow us on Twitter at: twitter.com/ELAS or visit the ELAS Facebook page. ■ IN ASSOCIATION with ELAS
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Small firms eye
Mezzanine loans offer businesses a different option SINCE the 2008 credit crunch, investment has been put on the back burner for many companies, after bank lending seemingly dried up. So dire is the borrowing market at reasonable rates that, for many firms, the notion of a bank loan has dropped completely off the radar. Neil Dutton, Merseyside spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, says the issue of access to funding has slipped down the list of concerns for small firms’ owners because they know the answer from their banks will almost certainly be “No”. However, some companies are exploring alternative funding sources, such as credit unions, and mezzanine finance, which is a form of loan that bridges the gap between bank debt and equity. Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF) provides a range of loans for small companies traditionally deemed “too risky” by banks, including mezzanine. MSIF investment director, Malcolm Jones, who oversees the mezzanine element of MSIF’s M, says: “Businesses may have a funding requirement of £1m, but a bank may only be prepared to invest, say, £500,000. This could be because the company cannot provide adequate security to take on a further bank loan, or simply because the appetite isn’t there, and this is where mezzanine investments can be used. “At the moment, businesses are finding it harder to get full support from the banks, as they are unable to lend in the same capacity as they used to, so there is a real need for gap funding. “Mezzanine funding will support a business where there is no asset security to underwrite the loan. However, the higher risk is reflected in the price. “While interest rates don’t
differ much from a bank loan, we will look to take a premium payment or equity stake at the end of the term.” He added: “This type of finance can be used as part of a package, say, with an equity investor or a bank. “It can also be used as a stand-alone product if the cash-flows are strong enough. “In these situations, mezzanine enables the existing shareholders to retain a higher proportion of the shares than would be possible if they raised equity finance – in some cases, they can retain 100% if a premium payment is used.” He said MSIF generally looks for businesses with a good, positive, forecast cash-flow, which tend to be established companies. “However, there are exceptions and we have invested in earlier stage businesses,” said Mr Jones. “Our main criteria are that the business is based in Merseyside and either incorporated or an LLP.” He said the commitment of the management team was just as important as the financials: “When we invest, we are mostly investing in the people, so we want to see their track record and look at their own financial commitment, either the stake they have built up or if they are investing any of their own money. “This is important, as we want them to demonstrate their strategic ambitions and be able to show us that, once we have invested, they are serious about driving the company forward.” The Merseyside Loan & Equity Fund provides mezzanine finance between £150,000 and £500,000. Mr Jones added: “When we invest, our principal target, after repayment of the loan, is to have created a business which is stronger than when we first entered it.”
FUNDING SOLUTIONS PROVIDE SUPPORT AS WIRRAL-BASED PRENTON conveyor belt manufacturer Sovex Systems has achieved strong growth since its 2002 formation, supported by MSIF. Headed by directors David Lindfield and Malcolm Dooley, the firm specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of vehicle loading and parcel handling
systems. Its blue-chip client base includes UK Mail, DHL, Yodel and Toys R Us. MSIF initially invested in Sovex through a five-year deal by its Small Loan Fund. The company grew rapidly and later returned to MSIF for a further £400,000 through its Mezzanine Fund to support its significant expansion plans targeting
new customers. At the time of investment, the company employed 35 staff and had a turnover of £4m. Sovex is now expanding into Europe with a new joint venture in Holland which it predicts will boost its current turnover by 50% to £12m this year. Sovex BV was set up to sell products across Europe from a
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in constrained conditions among traditional markets
COMMERCIAL DISTRICT BID UPDATE With Julie Johnson, Commercial District BUG ambassador and practice manager at Morecrofts LLP Solicitors
THERE IS a new obsession sweeping through the Commercial District. Hundreds of people have taken to cycling as their preferred method of commuting, with many more making the most of the accessibility of the area to enjoy a leisurely bike ride. Cycling is the perfect form of urban transport. It is healthy, environmentally friendly and – relative to current average urban traffic speeds – fast – so its increase in popularity is perhaps not surprising. Last week saw the launch of a new Bicycle User Group called the Commercial District BUG, which is designed to encourage and support people cycling to work and to provide workers in the Commercial District with information, support and a voice on cycling. This will help promote cycling in and around The Commercial District and improve facilities and accessibility for cyclists. The Commercial District BID joined forces with Merseytravel and Bike Right! to promote the scheme through a Cycling Works event held on Exchange Flags. Rising costs of fuel, a drive to become more healthy and the imminent closure of Central Station for several months are just some of the reasons so many people
flocked to the square to discover more about the advantages of cycling. But, for employers, too, there are clear advantages. Research has found that cycling staff equates to better business – increased productivity, improved health and fitness, reduced stress levels and better punctuality. The adoption of a cyclecentric approach to staff travel can also provide a number of key benefits, such as a healthier workforce – resulting in fewer days lost through illness, a more productive workforce – reduced stress levels, better wellbeing and improved timekeeping. Reduced usage of company cars, environmental compliance and CSR are also factors which boost the appeal for employers. The Commercial District BID will be working closely with BUG members to promote cycling and campaign for cleaner, safer routes as well as improved facilities and accessibility for cyclists in the area. And, with spring on its way, there’s never been a better time to get on your bike! ■ JULIE JOHNSON is the Commercial District BUG ambassador and practice manager at Morecrofts LLP Solicitors.
‘Research has found that cycling staff equates to better business’
Merseyside Special Investment Fund investment director, Malcolm Jones, oversees the Mezzanine Fund
■ IN ASSOCIATION with Commercial District BID
CONVEYOR BELT MANUFACTURER EXPANDS INTO EUROPE distribution showroom in the Netherlands. Locally, the company now employs 80 staff from their factory and offices in Prenton. Managing director David Lindfield said: “The mezzanine investment from MSIF allowed us to develop quickly and successfully, filling a gap where our
bankers were unable to support us. “MSIF really took the time to understand our business and are so much more than a finance provider. Malcolm Jones provided invaluable advice and support along the way and is a fantastic sounding board – he has Malcolm Jones, left, and Sovex become an extension of our team.” co-founder David Lindfield
A BUG event with Julie Johnson, the Commercial District BUG ambassador, and practice manager at Morecrofts LLP Solicitors
THE BIG INTERVIEW
Nick Earlam, founder of Plexus Cotton, in his Liverpool office Picture: COLIN LANE
BY ALISTAIR HOUGHTON
Nick Earlam and Plexus Cotton are flying the flag for Liverpool in markets from Africa to China.
THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK EARLAM CONTINUED FROM PAGE 17 HERE may no longer be cotton bales traded on the cobbles of Exchange Flags. But not too far away, in Chapel Street, Nick Earlam has weaved together a global business that is helping to keep Liverpool at the centre of the world cotton trade. Mr Earlam founded Plexus Cotton in 1990 and has seen the company blossom into one of the leading cotton producers and marketers in the world. Its branches spread all over the globe, with planting operations in Africa and marketing operations in China and Australia. but its roots are firmly in Liverpool. Liverpool is the historic home of the world cotton industry, and this great city grew off the back of trade in commodities such as cotton and wool. The River Mersey is no longer teeming with cotton ships, and most cotton trading firms have long disappeared, but the International Cotton Association (ICA) is still based here and still sets the rules for most of the global cotton trade. And Plexus, led by two-time ICA president Mr Earlam, is proudly flying the flag for Liverpool worldwide. Today, the group employs 40 in Liverpool. But, globally, Plexus employs some 2,000 people directly, rising to around 6,000 full and part-time workers during the picking season in Africa. Mr Earlam estimates that today Plexus is the sixth-largest cotton company in the world. In 2010, the last year for which full accounts are available, it turned over more than $400m (£252m), with a profit of $6.6m (£4.2m). Plexus has grown strongly, but cautiously. Mr Earlam is equally cautious in conversation, speaking slowly and measuring the words in the same way Plexus employees might grade cotton. But the picture he weaves is an optimistic one, of a company that is proud to have made its home in the historic home of cotton, and that has weathered the global downturn to prepare for a new phase of growth. “We have in our industry and our company a huge amount of expertise,” he said. “You can almost say that we are a consolidation of the Liverpool cotton industry and some of the continental cotton industry – we have people from Germany, France and Switzerland working for us. “We are well-positioned to understand the dynamics at play in the industry and put ourselves in a place where we can grow and help others to grow at the same time. “I like to paint a positive picture of a business that’s trying hard to contribute to the region in which it is operating. It is international, but has a positive effect locally.” R EARLAM was a pupil at Calday Grammar, Wirral, before heading to the Cotton Exchange in Liverpool. “My father was looking for somewhere to place his wayward son,” he said, with a smile. “The industry has always, from the beginning, held a massive fascination. “I’m not saying everything is Utopia. It’s most definitely not.
Global reach – Nick Earlam has travelled extensively, in his role as founder of Plexus Cotton But you have to take the good bits and the bad bits and move forward.” He spent most of his career with Liverpool cotton trader Meredith Jones, with whom he spent a year in India and two in the US. But, in 1990, he decided that he wanted to go it alone. “I’d already been in the cotton industry since 1977,” he remembers now. “I had wide experience of it working for another company, living overseas in the US and then India, and travelling globally. “I was 31 and felt that it was the right time to start my own company.” As with all new businesses, funding was a key issue. Luckily, Mr Earlam was able to find cash close to home. “I’d sold my house,” he said. “I
made a substantial profit on it. I took that profit. I took that life insurance policy. I borrowed a small amount of money from my mother. I capitalised the business with those funds. “My mother had a very good rate of return for a long period of time,” he added with a wry smile. “She’s been fully paid back.” Plexus started with just two people, but soon began taking on more staff as Mr Earlam began using his cotton industry connections to win business around the world. “We’ve grown steadily over the years,” he said. “I remember very clearly the first year we turned over something like £9m and made £75,000. I paid myself £10,000 a year. “It’s grown progressively over a long period of time, on a cautious
upward curve as we’ve absorbed businesses, and we’ve built our name globally. “But it’s a business from a top-line level that fluctuates according to what the cotton price is.” Plexus operates through a number of subsidiaries, joint ventures and partnerships around the world, rather than owning all its operations itself. That model came about through necessity, but has proved a successful way of operating. “When we started, we had limited capital,” said Mr Earlam. “We had to offer partners around the world incentives to work with us. We formed joint ventures and partnerships to share the ups and downs with. “I’m very well connected to some of the major players globally
in the international cotton trade. They’ve been more than happy to work with us. “It saves you the enormous heartache of building companies in-country with all the local regulations and everything you have to follow, and the fairly sizeable capital costs that such organisations would entail. “We do have quite a number of our own organisations, but in buying we’ve built the business on the basis of partnerships and joint ventures.” Plexus produces and processes cotton in Africa through its subsidiary, Great Lakes Cotton Company. It also has trading operations in Australia and China, and other agents around the world. “It’s a business that breaks up into two divisions,” said Mr
THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK EARLAM “It’s clear from the public and press attention on the major retailers that they will all gradually move towards incorporating sustainable and traceable cotton in their products over coming years. “It’s not something that happens overnight, but it’s something we’re very conscious of. It forms a significant part of our business strategy going forward. “For us, it’s something that we decided a long time ago that we simply cannot ignore.” Plexus’s global reach means Mr Earlam has to spend much of his time away from Liverpool, checking on his firm’s operations. He said: “I’m probably not in the country for at least four months of the year. We don’t have a single supplier or single customer in the UK – our operations are all overseas. “We are effectively managing our global business from Liverpool, which is a great place from which to manage a global business. But overseas interests are responsible for delivering the top line and the bottom line. “Without the managers here travelling and knowing exactly what’s going on, we wouldn’t be able to prosper.” The travel may be arduous, but Mr Earlam wouldn’t miss it for the world. “I love meeting different people,” he said. “I love the wider perspective you get from being in so many diverse places – places to which the majority of people wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel. “I’ve probably been to most of the countries in Africa, most of South America, and to India, Central Asia, the Middle East, China and Australia. “It’s given me an understanding of different cultures and nationalities. People, anywhere in the world, aren’t much different from us. It’s all about the respect that you afford, which tends to get reciprocated. “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had a very interesting life. I’ve seen so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if I’d followed a different profession.” LEXUS grew steadily for much of its history. But the global downturn hit Plexus and all cotton firms worldwide. That led to a spate of mergers and restructuring for some firms, while Plexus fell into the red. But now, says Mr Earlam, his firm is growing again. “We had profit growth from 1990 to 2006,” he said. “The industry had a metamorphosis in 2006-2008. We suffered during that period. But we came out of it. “In 2009, 2010 and 2011, we performed admirably. We expect that to continue going forward.” Plexus’s future plans could include acquisitions, though Mr Earlam says any deals will be done with typical caution. “We are quite desirous to be in charge of our own destiny,” said Mr Earlam. “We’re not looking to take on significant debt with acquisitions. “As we build, we will acquire, but on a conservative basis, always making sure that our balance sheet reflects a strong company.” As the cotton industry recovers
Earlam. “We produce cotton. We are the largest producer of cotton in Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda, and we are a significant player through joint ventures in Ghana and Zimbabwe. “We then trade cotton in all the other areas in which we operate. We have a significant presence in China.” Plexus founded Chinese cotton and warehousing company Eastern Linkage in 1998, and has seen it grow as the Chinese economy has opened up. Mr Earlam has played a key role in building Liverpool’s links with China. “Our operations in China were established in the late 90s as we felt that China as a country would grow significantly in its fibre requirements,” he said. “That has proven to be the case.
“I was quite involved in Liverpool’s initiatives with China. “We put in £100,000 to fund the Liverpool-Shanghai Partnership. Along with the University of Liverpool, we started the ball rolling that ended up with Expo and ended up with Liverpool looking to build the relationship with China, which has been a very positive development for Liverpool. “It [the Chinese business] has been a successful venture over the years.” Plexus handles and processes raw cotton, leaving clothing manufacturing to firms downstream. But the company has still had to adapt to a changing market in which consumers are taking more of an interest in where their clothing comes from and how it is
produced. Retailers and clothing manufacturers have faced backlashes from consumers after reports of problems in their supply chains. In cotton, the Central Asian state of Uzbekistan – a country in which Plexus no longer has operations – has been targeted by campaigners amid reports of forced labour in its cotton fields. Last year, companies including H&M and Burberry pledged to stop using Uzbek cotton. Clothing companies now want to be able to trace all the cotton they use to ensure that those who produce it are not being exploited. Mr Earlam says Plexus is committed to improving conditions for the farmers from whom it buys. He said: “We are focused on being a sustainable and traceable
supplier. That’s our main focus of attention going forward. “The cotton chain has a supply chain we take from fibre, to yarn, to fabric, to finished goods, to retail. “Prior to about 10 years ago, the sustainability and tracing stopped at the fabric. But now, it goes back all the way to the origin, and how cotton is planted. “We are part of a group called COMPACI – the Competitive African Cotton Initiative. We’ve worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the German aid agencies DEG and GIZ, to ensure our operations are audited from the ground upwards and are fully in line with International Labour Organization standards, so we are offering our end customers a fully traceable product.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 20
THE BIG INTERVIEW . . . NICK EARLAM CONTINUED FROM PAGE 19 from the downturn it will, says Mr Earlam, have to start adapting to longer-term structural changes. “We have a clear thought process on what the recession and the debt bubble globally is likely to create,” he said. “We believe that the money printing that has taken place globally will ultimately lead to inflation – and much higher inflation than anyone can imagine. “We believe that money printing devalues a currency enormously and that tangible goods such as commodities will hold their value. “Longer term, we see the nominal price of those commodities moving higher. “It’s necessary sometimes to put into context the transference of wealth that is taking place from the west to the east. It’s necessary to put into context the burgeoning middle class increasing throughout South East Asia, and recognise that, by 2050, that middle class is likely to exceed the middle class of the rest of the world. “The requirement for material things, whether it’s textiles, homes, computers or whatever, will be hugely impacting globally. “We believe that there will be a race for resources that hasn’t been fully recognised by the West at the moment.” As the world’s population keeps rising, demand for agricultural land will remain high. That means the amount of land dedicated to cotton growing could decrease, as farmers switch to food crops. “Food comes before fibre,” said Mr Earlam. “There is a very significant part of the global population living on between $1 and $2 a day. “It’s all very well for some of us who are better off that hardly notice a 10p rise in our breakfast cereal, but, for those people, the food cost represents 90% of their disposable income. “We are literally, through ethanol producing, using, consuming and burning up close to 50m acres around the world for the production of fuel. “We are also, with the changing diets of the middle class, using food to feed our cattle that were previously fed on grass. “From our perspective, there’s a very significant possibility of food shortages occurring in certain parts of the world – in some of the poorest parts of the world, especially Africa. “So we think that cotton will gradually over time become more and more of a luxury fibre.” Last year, Plexus moved from Birkenhead into 20 Chapel Street, in Liverpool’s commercial district. Announcing the move in February, Mr Earlam said: “We are delighted to return to the home of cotton.” His office boasts floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking Liverpool’s world heritage waterfront. “These offices are superb,” he said. “We chose this building because of its functionality. If you run a global business, you can’t afford to be tripping over pillars and things. “It’s a lovely view, with the Liver Building, St Nicholas’s Church and the Mersey. It’s something I treasure every time I come in here.”
The cotton trade has long been crucial to Liverpool’s economic development. Here, in May, 1954, Lord Woolton addresses grandees and staff at the reopening of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange and Futures Market, in Old Hall Street As well as Plexus, Cargill Cotton has an office in Liverpool, employing some 40 people in trading, logistics and finance. And Cotton Outlook, in Rock Ferry, is a world-leading newswire service for the cotton industry. But it is the ICA, now based in Exchange Flags, that keeps Liverpool at the centre of the global cotton trade. The ICA was founded in 1840 at a time when most of the cotton imported for the UK’s booming cotton industry came through Liverpool and was traded in the open air at Exchange Flags. And, despite the transformation of the world cotton trade since then, the ICA remains the world’s leading cotton trade association and arbitral body. The ICA was known as the Liverpool Cotton Association until 2004, and the rules under which most of the global trade operates are still widely known as “Liverpool rules”. “I’ve been president of the LCA twice,” said Mr Earlam. “I was the first that propounded the name ICA. “The majority of all international trade in cotton is based on ICA rules of arbitration – probably 80%. The majority of arbitrators are based in the UK, though there is a significant number internationally. The hub is in Liverpool.” Liverpool is still a respected name in the cotton world, and proud Merseysider Mr Earlam is happy to play his part promoting the city around the globe. “Liverpool has always been a
fantastic trade hub,” he said. “I think as a city we have always had the ability to look outwardly. “I sometimes think we don’t realise the esteem that we are held in internationally. “At some point, we made the mistake of getting caught up too much with the North-South divide, and what our peers in London might think of us. “When you travel the world as much as I do, you hear nothing but positive comments about Liverpool the city. “When people visit here and see the magnificent changes that have taken place, they’re hugely impressed. We need to sell that to the world.” Liverpool, says Earlam, has to play the long game when it comes to winning investment from China. The city’s investment in the World Expo, in Shanghai, was criticised by some for failing to deliver an immediate return – but the Plexus boss pointedly insisted that, when it comes to China, patience is a virtue. “We live in a world where people look only at short-term benefits,” he said, an air of slight exasperation in his voice. “China is not a society which looks out for short-term benefits. It’s a society that can plan 20 or 30 years ahead. “The goodwill and relationships that have been fostered as a result of this strategy will be ongoing beyond our lifetimes. “The thought process of Liverpool looking outside its boundaries and looking towards international business is massively positive and needs to be
Nick Earlam says Plexus Cotton has a bright future continued, not just in China but in other countries as well. “We have put in place a longterm objective of engaging our city globally far more than it has been in the recent past. The more we continue to do that, the more benefits will accrue.” Earlam is a member of the 48 Group Club, which aims to build business links between the UK and China. “I met (Chinese president) Hu Jintao as a result,” he said. “This is a group that fosters knowledge about China. There are some players up here in the North West who are, quite quietly, heavily involved. It can probably significantly help the region in its relations with China going forward.” Securing business success in China is a marathon, rather than a sprint.
And, if there’s one thing Mr Earlam knows about, it’s marathons. In 1998, he ran the Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile “ultramarathon” between the South African cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. The medals and pictures from that day still have pride of place above his desk. He said: “I learn from running those races that when the going gets tough, if you’ve accomplished something like that, then mentally you have the strength to pull yourself through whatever business situation you’re facing.” And the active Earlam, who also enjoys golfing, skiing and sailing, isn’t ready to hang up his running shoes just yet. Allowing himself another rare smile, he said: “I’m hoping to run the San Diego Marathon on June 3 – very slowly.”
World-class performance Around 3,500 people attended the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, at Liverpool’s Echo Arena & BT Convention Centre
Picture: JASON ROBERTS
Liverpool took the Global Entrepreneurship Congress to a new level, as Tony McDonough reports
LIKE Capital of Culture before it, Liverpool took the already wellestablished Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) and made it its own. “Liverpool has raised the bar,” said Jonathan Ortmans, from the US-based Kauffman Foundation, which organised the event with Liverpool Vision. “Next time, the GEC goes to Rio and I think people who came to Liverpool, from Rio, are now realising how high the bar has been set.” The GEC was held from March 9-16 at the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre. It was the centrepiece of a wider Festival of Entrepreneurship which saw
more than 80 events, many of them free, taking place across the city centre. On the biggest day – Tuesday – around 3,500 delegates from Merseyside, the UK and more than 120 countries packed into the arena to hear speakers including Sir Richard Branson, Lord Heseltine and Martha Lane Fox. Tickets sales far exceeded expectations, with Liverpool Vision setting an initial target of around 3,000. The city’s estival of Entrepreneurship began with Start Up Liverpool which ran from March 9-11 and will become one the key legacy outcomes of the GEC.
Of the business ideas that were pitched, two are likely to become businesses and organisers report that there is a real appetite for further Start Up Liverpool events. The winning pitchers will receive further mentoring and free legal advice from Brabners Chaffe Street who were one of the event’s sponsors alongside Why Not Change, PH Creative and Stage Tex. The week concluded on the Thursday evening with a gala dinner, sponsored by Arup, in the magnificent surroundings of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, which organisers claim was a carbon-neutral event. One of the central themes of the GEC was to promote the idea to young people that
entrepreneurship needn’t be restricted to its traditional narrow definitions – people in suits just looking to make as much money as possible. In his opening address, Mr Ortmans talked about how young entrepreneurs could make a good living and keep to their ideals and bring about genuine societal change. He cited The Beatles as examples of genuine entrepreneurs who would not fit into the traditional mould. Accordingly, the link between business and education was a major feature of both the main arena show and the fringe events. The Enterprise Challenge saw schools from across the city
compete to win a trip to Washington DC. And there were also major contributions from the city’s universities – Liverpool John Moores and the University of Liverpool – and from Liverpool Community College (LCC). Inspired by the GEC, LCC launched a new scheme – Liverpool Enterprise Club – aimed at bringing students’ business ideas to life. The new concept is an extra-curricular activity available to all students at the college, and is being run with the help of business leaders. There are currently 30 students
CONTINUED ON PAGE 22
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONGRESS Sir Richard Branson on stage at the GEC, explaining his business philosophy; and, inset, left, Martha Lane Fox gives her perspective Pictures: JASON ROBERTS
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 involved, who are receiving support and practical advice. Liverpool Enterprise Club has already met with success. Aaron Booth, an A-Level student at the college and member of the club, convinced Sir Richard Branson during a meeting at the GEC to part with £200 to help set up his business. Aaron is drawing up his business plan for the Cake Booth, a mobile cake shop which will sell produce at local markets and online. Melanie Williams, of LCC, said: “We are thrilled with the success of the entrepreneurs club, even at this very early stage, and delighted so many well-known business people in the city have come on board to help. “We have devised the club as a
unique and dynamic pathway for students to develop a way into employment, empowering them to take control and create business opportunities for themselves.” Major GEC sponsors were Lloyds TSB, Scottish Power and business software firm Intuit. And all three went much further than just putting their names to proceedings. Lloyds moved its annual national enterprise awards from London to Liverpool and Scottish Power has been inspired by its participation to organise a green energy event in the city. Intuit organised free financial fitness workshops for small business and entrpreneurs. They were devised in response to figures from the Office for National Statistics that revealed that one in three businesses do not make it past their third
birthday. The sessions offered practical advice and training on the key aspects of financial fitness. These included invoicing and being paid, tracking income and expenses, managing cashflow and handling VAT and other taxes. In his address to the GEC, Liverpool city council leader, Cllr Joe Anderson, had talked about how Liverpool was founded on the spirit of entrepreneurship more than 800 years ago. Mr Ortmans said that that sense of history was important, and that now was the time to look forward. He said the “extraordinary” event could be the beginning of an “entrepreneurial renaissance” in Liverpool. He added: “We felt that Liverpool really exceeded our expectations and I know that was
the view of all the international delegations – not just the Kauffman Foundation. “The big question was how Liverpool looked at enterprise culture and whether it understood what was needed. We were bowled over by how much people did understand about entrepreneurship. In terms of the speakers, Richard Branson was clearly an inspiration and we were pleasantly surprised by Lord Heseltine. Sometimes, business people and entrepreneurs will question what role politicians can play in events like this. “But Lord Heseltine demonstrated with great oratory a real sense of understanding of what entrepreneurship is all about. “The conclusion to the week on Thursday was a gala dinner at the Anglican Cathedral, and I think
many people found the venue inspiring. I think it helped get the message across that entrepreneurship is about much more than making money – it is about improving the quality of peoples’ lives. “During the week, we were enamoured by the grit and resolve of all the people we met from the local community. Everyone we met had a smile on their faces – a definite glass half-full attitude. It was clear that Liverpool is a city that is building on its past and its history, but that is also looking beyond that to the future. “One of the key messages about the GEC was that it is not just about appealing to those people who are already inspired by entrepreneurship, but to those people we need to inspire. “I think that is something we will carry forward to Rio.”
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONGRESS
With Nicola Parr, training manager at Holt Green Training THE role of customer services representatives – particularly within SMEs – is evolving. A growing number of businesses are moving away from traditional scriptbased conversations, instead training their staff to essentially become brand ambassadors. Many businesses will accept the notion that good customer service is an essential ingredient to repeat business and customer loyalty. It’s easy to claim we offer good customer service, but how many of us can really keep that promise? In times of economic downturn, the importance of using your staff – particularly your customer-facing teams – to reinforce your brand and ultimately increase your competitive advantage should be high on your training agenda. So how do you instil this brand ambassador approach among staff ? Firstly, go back to basics where possible, encouraging a more personal, less scripted approach to dealing with customer enquiries and complaints. Train your frontline staff to have the skill sets to recognise customer needs, while empowering up-skilled employees to “own” problems, taking appropriate, proactive action to achieve positive results. Customers don’t call because they want to make contact, but because they have to. Employees trained to establish a positive relationship with the caller, while understanding the reason for the call and the emotions of the customer, will ensure the enquiry is dealt with effectively and efficiently, while providing an opportunity to reinforce your brand and even exploit a potential sales opportunity. Adopting a “top-down” approach, beginning with senior management viewing the customer services team as an opportunity to build and retain customer
relationships, rather than as another cost to the business, should then filter down to lower levels of the organisation. Even in-house call centres can often be perceived as a separate part of the business, being physically located in a different building. By investing in staff to ensure they feel part of the organisation, and most importantly understand and believe in your brand values, offers the opportunity to capture vital data and feedback that can be used for marketing strategies. This approach should not just focus on call-centre staff. Digital channels, including social media, must also be encompassed, for example, by monitoring your company’s social media activity and having staff with the right technical skills and the responsibility to nip issues, which may turn into customer complaints, in the bud. This will not only minimise customer frustrations, it may also reduce call-centre volumes and, given that call-centres are one of the most expensive parts of an organisation, this approach will reduce operating costs as well. Reinforcing your brand values should be at the centre of your customer service training programmes. As well as competency and technical skills, the focus should also be on behaviour and attitudes – encouraging staff to explore what they think great customer service is. A business is only as good as its people – invest in them and they will invest in you. To talk to us about how we can help enhance your customer services, you can call 01695 424 262 or visit: www.holtgreentraining.co.uk You can also follow us on Twitter at: @Holt_Green or visit our Facebook page Holt Green Training.
‘How do you instil the brand ambassador approach in your staff?’
jonathan Ortmans, from the Kauffman Foundation, said Liverpool had ‘raised the bar’ for future GECs Picture: JASON ROBERTS
Praise from around the world THOUSANDS of people flocked to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress – some from just down the road and others from across the world. Here are some of the things they said: “I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have been included in this week’s Congress. It was truly a pleasure to be in Liverpool and to witness what has just happened. Well done Liverpool Vision and well done Liverpool.” Jimmy Burns, managing director, JWB Communications Services (Atlanta) “I wanted to say congratulations for organising and hosting a fabulous event. Liverpool was a VERY pleasant
surprise. It truly is a great city, we were made to feel very welcome and certainly had some meaningful meetings. “So, well done to everyone, you have something to be proud of.” Jonathan Clues, chief executive, Realview TV (Atlanta) “May I thank you [Liverpool Vision for allowing us to experience the GEC event, which was tremendous.” Jon Patterson, managing director, Patterson Lift Consultancy (Leeds) “I thought the event was really, really good in terms of profiling Liverpool to the world. The atmosphere was excellent and The Beatles group really gave it a good feel. Where else could you go
in the world to a conference where people danced in the aisle and on the stage.” Ruth Little, community development manager, ABCC Community Corner, (Anfield) “The trip to Liverpool was incredible. We had a great week in Liverpool. We see multiple partnerships and customer relationships developing already. Thanks to our wonderful hosts.” Art Recesso, chief executive, Evirx, (Athens, Georgia) “Liverpool was a lovely city. Everyone was shocked and this event will go a long way in people from all corners of the world saying good things about your city.” Vivian Prokop, chief executive, Canadian Youth Business Foundation (Canada)
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONGRESS
GEC: The legacy by Max Steinberg, chief executive of Liverpool Vision
Liverpool Vision CEO Max Steinberg – Liverpool means business
WHEN, in January last year, we submitted a bid for the right to bring the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) to Liverpool in 2012, it was both a step into the unknown and a clearly targeted venture to demonstrate our confidence that this city is no longer an economic pariah but one brimming with talent and invention that can and will take a lead for the UK. We asked the hosts, the Kauffman Foundation, to consider our history of entrepreneurial achievement, Liverpool’s recent renaissance and re-emergence on a world stage and the measures we were already taking in returning to our entrepreneurial traditions. We argued that, by choosing Liverpool, Kauffman would be bringing entrepreneurship home to a new beginning.
They agreed. A couple of weeks on since more than 3,000 delegates packed their bags and went home, there is no doubt in my mind that not only have we invigorated the entrepreneurial debate in the UK and across the world, but we have, I feel, made people here in Liverpool think about how they might unleash their ideas. The chair of GEC, Jonathan Ortmans, has written about his experience in Liverpool at www.entrepreneurship.org/en/ Blogs/Policy-Forum-Blog/2012/ March/Liverpools-Legacy.aspx and quoted some of the staggering amount of press coverage we generated, saying that “GEC was really for Liverpool about returning to its roots”. We tried to excite the city, and not just the Congress attendees and participants, about how to start a business and what it’s like
to win in business with inspirational speeches and debates. We also tried to make sure there was something for everyone with an 80-event Festival of Entrepreneurship programme that included our schools, our universities and our diverse range of communities, as well as our businesses and organisations. And, most importantly, we wanted to show to the visitors from more than 125 countries that Liverpool is a vibrant, dynamic, cultural and wonderful city open for business and ready for dialogue. Judging by the scores of messages from across the world, we succeeded in that. Further, already we are picking up enquiries about businesses from overseas relocating to the city or starting up here.
The dust will not settle on Liverpool’s GEC, though. We will continue to be ambitious and I believe the city can host an annual festival of entrepreneurship. We will continue to develop the schools enterprise programme and continue to encourage our young people to believe that their ideas can make a difference as we did with the GEC’s schools challenge. We will be launching our Start To Grow programme, which has been developed in partnership with real entrepreneurs based on global best practice and designed to stimulate more business starts and encourage high-level business growth. We intend to build on our relationship with the Kauffman Foundation and our membership of the global entrepreneurship
community which it has created. We are to establish an Entrepreneurship Working Group which will help to take the legacy forward and influence the European Commission agenda and policies for entrepreneurship. And, later this year, Liverpool will be the only UK city to be exhibiting our excellence at the World Urban Forum, which presents a further opportunity to develop our international reputation as an entrepreneurial and forward-thinking metropolis. Liverpool Vision’s raison d’etre is to develop the economy and support business from start-up to inward investors, but it is also about promoting the city’s opportunity and offer across the world – to let everyone know that, while football and music are in our genetic make-up, Liverpool also means business.
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Deal for Ecopod inventor
Carillion to push heating system that cuts CO²
AN INVENTOR of a heating system that reduces carbon emissions and energy costs has struck a deal with Carillion Energy Services. Ecopod was the brainchild of Keith Rimmer, managing director of Warrington-based building and maintenance company, the Belfry Group. The roof-based system uses a combination of renewable technologies in a self contained system retro-fitted to existing and new buildings. Clients already using Ecopod include local authorities, housing associations, trusts, commercial and industrial property owners and schools. Under the deal, Carillion Energy Services, part of construction giant Carillion, will have the exclusive right to market, sell and, in conjunction with Belfry Group, install the Ecopod. The newly-formed company will trade under the name EcoPod Heating Systems. The deal sees Brian Kerr, director and shareholder of Belfry Group, retire from the business. Mr Rimmer said: “Following discussions with various third parties, we determined that Carillion Energy Services shared our vision for the future of Ecopod and are excited at the prospect of driving it to the forefront of the renewable energy market.” Lawyers Ruth Jones and Simon Lewis, from Liverpool law firm, Brabners Chaffe Street, were advisors to Belfry on the deal. Ms Jones said: “The innovative Ecopod has been causing quite a stir in the renewables sector. “This deal recognises Keith Rimmer’s commitment to creating an ingenious green technology product affording him a distinct advantage in a competitive marketplace. “This investment will allow the business to expand upon its sound business model and continue the growth of its market share within the UK and internationally.” Accountant John Beaumont, of Beaumont Associates, also advised Belfry Group on the licence agreement.
Ecopod inventor Keith Rimmer, front, at a housing development in Manchester where it has been installed
Wirral Council urges businesses to get on their bikes BUSINESSES in east Wirral are being urged to take advantage of a workplace improvement grant that can help towards the cost of installing cycle parking, clothes lockers and showers for staff. The grant is designed to make it easier for people to cycle to work so that they can improve their quality of
life and their bank balance, as well as providing business with the benefits of a healthier workforce. The grant, which can be up to £2,500 for each business, is part of a successful bid by Wirral Council as part of the Merseyside Transport Partnership for funding from The Department of
Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund to promote sustainable transport and stimulate economic growth in Wirral. The fund is available to businesses within east Wirral to help them improve how their employees travel to work and travel during the working day on business.
Cllr Dave Mitchell, cabinet member for streetscene and transport services at Wirral Council, said: “Providing sustainable travel options for employees and customers makes good business sense. “This grant can also be used to remove barriers to growth.”
Cllr Dave Mitchell – says providing travel options makes sense for firms
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A cash aid lifeline for growing firms EU-funded NWF targets environmental and energy companies We will look at anything that cuts down energy usage or reduces carbon impact – Adam Workman, CT Partners fund manager
Frankie Deary, of Total Energy Installations REDUCE your carbon footprint without footing the bill THE Government is set to launch an initiative this October that will help homes across the region improve their carbon footprint. Called the Green Deal, property owners can claim up to £10,000-worth of energy efficiency work to their property without any upfront costs, loans or advanced finance. Frankie Deary, managing director of Total Energy Installations, explains: “The Green Deal will help revolutionise the energy efficiency of properties in the UK that fall below set Carbon emission levels. The Department of Energy and Climate Control (DECC) is establishing a framework to enable private firms like ourselves to offer consumers energy-saving improvements to their homes, community spaces and businesses, without the individual having to foot the bill! “The Government will fund the work and recoup payments through a charge paid in installments through the owners’ energy bill.” First proposed to Parliament in December, 2010, as the centre-piece of the coalition Government’s Energy Bill, the Green Deal will allow private energy firms to provide domestic and commercial customers with superior double glazing and loft and wall insulation, together with many other structural improvements, designed to boost the energy efficiency of their buildings, thus substantially reducing heating bills and carbon emissions as a result. The scheme is set to be the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War. Frankie continues: “This initiative is very much a win, win. The homeowner can have major improvements made to their property, all designed to make the home more thermally dynamic without the need to fund the development up-front. “Therefore, the individual recipient benefits from a warmer home with reduced energy bills and, as a consequence, the Government helps to fulfil its objective of
reducing the nation’s collective carbon footprint. The monthly energy savings, in effect, are paid back to the Government as repayment on their investment.” Chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, recently announced the approval of £200m to be used as an incentive for the public to pick up the eagerly awaited flagship Green Deal scheme when it becomes available for homeowners from October 1, 2012. A £150 cash rebate will be made to any property owner who takes up the scheme early. And experts predict there will be even more advantages to the initiative. The Government estimates that, in the long term, the scheme, if successful, will create 65,000 new jobs and lead to £13bn in new investment from the private sector. Additionally, energy companies are mandated to assist with energy improvements for low-income households. Frankie concluded: “We at Total Energy Installations are very conscious about energy saving and have structured our portfolio of products to meet the demand for greater energy regeneration. “We see this as the future. Consumers are now so much more aware of environmental issues and the consumer’s decision to purchase a particular product is now more regularly influenced by its environmental performance and efficiency level as by quality and price. “It’s a trend we applaud and continue to move our business towards. So much so that we now have our full management team currently undergoing rigorous Green Deal assessment accreditations! “Helping consumers take full advantage of government incentives like Green Deal is what we are all about, and we will continue to offer products that are at the technological forefront of environmental and energy efficiency.” ■ FOR more details about the benefits of Green Deal, talk directly with Frankie Deary on Freephone 0800 9777 111 or visit: www.totalenergy installations.com
‘Green Deal will improve the energy efficiency of properties in the UK’
MERSEYSIDE may have missed out on the Green Investment Bank, but there is still activity in the region when it comes to funding for environmental projects. Leading the charge is the North West Fund (NWF) for energy and environmental. The EU-funded NWF comprises six funds, set up to provide equity and loan funding for small firms across the North West. Of the £185m available, 40% has been ring-fenced for firms based in Merseyside or those looking to relocate here. The £20m energy and environmental fund offers equity packages of between £200,000 and £1.2m and is run by CT Partners – an offshoot of the Carbon Trust. It has been up and running for little over a year. One of its key investments in the first year was £400,000 to ACAL Energy, in Runcorn, which has the potential to become a £1bn business. CT fund manager Adam
Workman said: “This fund is an important source because companies in the energy and environmental sectors usually have to invest more in technology to get into growth and profits than other types of businesses. “There are three types of investment that we would look at. The first is technology that is very IP-driven. For example, ACAL is developing fuel cell technology that was spun out of the University of Liverpool. “They have raised millions and they will have to raise more to push on into profitability. “Second, we can offer funding to service-style business – companies involved in consultancy or installation of energy or systems. “Thirdly, we will consider funding for specific projects – on-site power generation or energy efficiency for social housing.” Mr Workman said the ongoing confusion over the Government’s feed-in tariffs scheme for solar
power was causing difficulty for some companies in the environmental sector. “The uncertainty over what the level of the tariffs is going to be is making it difficult to make investment decisions,” he added. He said that its investment strategy was not just focused on renewable energy. “We will look at anything that cuts down energy usage or reduces carbon impact,” he said. Mr Workman said there was a strong north-west divide in terms of investment in these sectors with a heavy bias towards the south-east of England. He said he hoped the CT fund would go some way to redressing the balance: “We have an opportunity now to make a real difference here. “We are about much more than offering funding. We want to educate the energy and environmental sectors about what sources of funding are out there.”
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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY We think we have done something a little different here – Neil Rogers admires the opulence of the Cunard Building Picture: JAMES MALONEY
Back to the future for iconic
Liverpool’s Grade II-listed Cunard Building has undergone a refurbishment that makes the
In the past, prestige alone has sometimes been enough to attract occupiers to the Cunard Building – but times have changed Picture: PAUL HEAPS
LIVERPOOL city centre’s market for secondary office space has become much more competitive over the past couple of years. Mainly thanks to high-quality refurbishments at Bruntwood’s The Plaza, Downing’s The Capital and UK Land’s Exchange Flags scheme, occupiers who do not want to pay Grade A rents now have much more choice. This has presented a challenge for the city’s traditional office core and, in particular, the world-famous Three Graces on the waterfront. In the past, prestige alone has sometimes been enough to attract occupiers to the Royal Liver Building, the Port of Liverpool Building and Cunard Building. However, times have changed and a famous name alone is no longer sufficient to attract rent-paying tenants. Merseyside Pension Fund (MPF), the owner of the Grade II-listed Cunard Building, has carried out extensive internal refurbishment of the office space and communal areas, as well as a
clean-up of the elegant exterior which had become blackened due to exposure to traffic fumes. In recent times, the building has seen the departure of a number of tenants. One of the most recent was Merseyside Special Investment Fund, which last year relocated its staff elsewhere in the city centre. There is currently around 80,000 sq ft of office space vacant in the building. MPF is currently reviewing how that space may be utilised in the future. One suggestion was to turn one of the floors into a hotel. Neil Rogers, from the building’s agents, CBRE, believes that, following the refurbishment, Cunard now has the quality of space to compete. He said: “We think we have done something a little different here. “Rather than just refurbishing to standard Grade A-equivalent specification, we have restored and incorporated many of the original features in the building. “That is a major selling point,
we believe. Most refurbishments are pretty standardised, but we have utilised the original architecture. “We are also, for the first time here, offering serviced office space on the second floor. “Around 10,000 sq ft on the third floor is just about to be refurbished, too, and that will be the best space on offer in the building.”
most of its architectural heritage Cunard Building was the last of the Three Graces to be developed, with construction of the building starting in 1914 and completed by 1917. The Cunard Steamship Company had outgrown its existing premises at the junction of Water Street and Rumford Street and commissioned Willink & Thicknesse, in Liverpool, to design a new central head-
quarters which suited its developing requirements. The sub-basement of the building was utilised throughout tWorld War II as an air raid shelter for not only the occupiers of the building, but also the staff of the adjacent office buildings. Cunard itself moved out of the site and Liverpool itself in the 1960s. MPF acquired it in 2001.
The exterior of the Cunard Building, left; and, right, Neil Rogers, from CBRE, who has overseen the refurbishment, explores the plush interior of the historic Liverpool landmark Pictures: JASON ROBERTS, left, and JAMES MALONEY
Buzz builds at ‘Switzerland
Alistair Houghton visits Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, in Halton, ahead of IT’S no surprise that the team at Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (SIC) chose serial entrepreneur Clive Marshall as its ambassador when I visited the site last month. Because, for Mr Marshall, the SIC is more than just a science park – it’s a home and a support network all rolled into one. Daresbury SIC is a private-public sector joint venture between Langtree, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Halton Borough Council. Daresbury Innovation Centre (DIC) houses more than 100 hi-tech companies, working in fields from IT and engineering to biomedical research. The ITAC labs opposite offer lab space and lab equipment to more small firms. The Cockcroft Institute, a joint venture between the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster, is the national centre for research into particle accelerator science. And at the heart of the site, stretching below its landmark tower, sits the reason the site exists – STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory. The lab was thrown into crisis in 2000 when the Government decided that the next generation synchrotron – an ultra-powerful light source – would be built in Oxfordshire, not at Daresbury. But a team led by Professor Colin Whitehouse pushed to transform the site into an innovation centre where scientists could mingle with entrepreneurs to create the hi-tech businesses the region needs to drive its economic growth. John Leake, the site’s business development manager, says the campus is a “neutral ground for collaboration” and is, therefore, “the Switzerland of the North”. The SIC project has proved a great success – and now more could be on the way. As of April 1, the campus enters a new era when it becomes an Enterprise Zone. That status will give a further boost to exciting expansion plans already drawn up by Daresbury SIC, which will see the site expand massively to house up to 15,000 science and technology workers. Mr Marshall, who founded Link Information Technology in 1997, first visited Daresbury five years ago – and loved it so much he moved his company there. He also became a director at Daresbury biotech firm BioEden, started database specialist Wildfire at the campus, and even moved beauty products firm Goddess International to the site. Mr Marshall said: “One tenant said to me that at Daresbury you can think big, look big and be big. I think that’s brilliant. “I’ve brought big utilities companies here, and they’re very impressed with the offices and rooms I’ve showed them. “I use the term Daresbury plc.
Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, with Vanguard House, bottom right; John Leake, inset, top right, says the site is far more than a science park
We are a big organisation that can provide a massive wealth of knowledge, products and services to fairly large businesses if they’re interested in talking to us.” Mr Marshall regularly uses the word “buzz” when talking about Daresbury, referring to the collaborative atmosphere at the Innovation Centre. “We’ve worked with about a dozen companies at Daresbury,” he said. “I do believe that, if you’ve got something that could help businesses here, you should talk about it. “We’ve got three or four businesses on each floor who use our services and our databases. Those that don’t use them just don’t know us. “We’re helping them, rather than selling to them. The object is collaboration. “As a group of tenants, we don’t really believe that competing between ourselves is worthwhile.” Mr Leake talks about the campus as a “co-location of
business and science”, and not simply as a science park or an incubator. “There are about 900 people here, with a 50-50 split between business and science,” he said. “In a university, there would probably be a 90-10 split. In a science park, it would probably be the other way round. “And this is not an incubator. Probably 30% of our companies are pre-revenue or early revenue. “One of our companies is celebrating its 25th anniversary here. It has operations in the US and France. “And we have companies who use this as a UK base. IBM, for example, has a strategic base here. “These people aren’t university spin-outs. They’ve landed here at Daresbury probably five or 10 years in. The manager is not a university professor. It’s somebody from industry. “And the majority of entrepreneurs are not young entrepreneurs.
“They’re typically 40-plus. The majority of people have spent about 20 years in industry, often in a corporate environment, very focused around the technology area.” Last year, Daresbury opened Vanguard House, a striking multi-coloured building that offers space to firms who have outgrown the DIC. Three companies, including Byotrol, have moved there from elsewhere on campus. Mr Leake said: “Byotrol came here two or three years ago to take a small lab. Then they took space in the innovation centre. As the business grew, they moved the whole business here.” Dawn Williams, marketing and licensee manager at cleaning products manufacturer Byotrol, said the SIC was such a success because it was about more than just science. She said: “You may have this ‘science image’ of lots of guys squirrelled away in labs. “But this feels like you’re
working in a commercial environment. That’s really important, because you’re bringing big partners here to demonstrate not just the strength of the science, but also the commercial premises as well.” Vanguard House is, unlike Daresbury’s other buildings, part of the SCI-Tech Enterprise Zone – meaning companies will be able to move in quickly to take advantage of tax breaks that will be on offer. But now Daresbury SIC is bidding to attract investment from hi-tech firms from the UK and abroad, keen to tap into the expertise available in this part of Cheshire. Mr Leake said: “What makes this Enterprise Zone unique is that it was established and supported by multiple Local Enterprise Partnerships – originally Liverpool and Manchester, and now Cheshire and Warrington. Most others are single LEPs. “That’s important because Daresbury is not just about its
of the North’ the launch of its Enterprise Zone
From train to plane
The easy way to travel from Anywhere in Merseyside to Liverpool John Lennon Airport impact on the local area. It’s about its impact regionally, nationally and internationally.” But, locally, the expanding campus will create much-needed hi-tech jobs in the area. As I toured the complex, I bumped into Michael Sheehan, principal at Riverside College in Widnes and Runcorn. Mr Sheehan said he was excited about what Daresbury could do for the local economy. He said: “This facility is very important. “The expansion is very exciting. There could be 15,000 jobs over the next 10 years. “For that to be successful, it’s about ensuring local people have the education and skills they need, so they’re in a position to take these jobs. “So we want to see how the college can work with Daresbury to ensure local people can benefit. “We want to develop these links. That could be through work experience here, or apprenticeships.”
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Former swimming instructor and inventor of SwimFin, Kevin Moseley – aiming to strike into uncharted waters and extend international sales after his UKTI success
Buoyancy aid firm makes big splash with NW overseas trading triumph
Home-grown swimming product proves the best export idea throughout the region A BURSCOUGH firm is a small fish in a big pool, after winning a competition for the best export idea in the North West. SwimFin makes shark-fin shaped swimming supports, the only vertical buoyancy aid on the market, and has claimed the UK Trade & Investment’s (UTKI’s) North West Export for Growth prize. It will now benefit from £5,000worth of support and advice from UKTI, accountants PwC and banking group HSBC to help further boost worldwide sales of
its distinctive product. SwimFin triumphed from a shortlist of 10 companies in the final at Daresbury Science and Innovation Park, as part of a Dragons’ Den-style pitch to a panel of experts. The business is still run from home by director Kevin Moseley, a former swimming instructor who invented the SwimFin 20 years ago and sank every penny he had into the idea. Today, SwimFin exports to more than 70 countries, but Mr Moseley believes there are still
plenty of opportunities to be explored. He said: “SwimFin is affordable and beneficial. “Every pool around the world has some form of buoyancy equipment, and there is no reason why SwimFin cannot reach the same global market.” Accepting the award from Neil McTiffin, head of PwC's Northern consulting practice, he said: “I am delighted to win this award. “The standard of the competition was so high today – all the finalists were impressive
and this is a great honour.” He added: “ I am looking forward to using the support from the prize to work with overseas embassies and launch the SwimFin in new markets.” UKTI international trade director Clive Drinkwater congratulated SwimFin and the other finalists and said: “The North West’s prosperity over the coming years will not stem from domestic markets alone. “Across the world, there are markets that are showing strong, long-term growth. I hope that this
event will encourage others to spread their wings and benefit from international trade.” David Beaty, HSBC’s regional commercial director, said: “The prize package of dedicated support, knowledge and insight will give the winning company the boost and support needed to succeed in new export markets.” And Neil McTiffin, head of PwC’s Northern consulting practice, said: “These businesses prove that there is no shortage of talent and innovation in the North West.”
Enter now Now in its 18th year, the Liverpool Post Regional Business Awards celebrates dynamic, engaging, inspirational businesses from across our region.
REGIONAL BUSINESS AWARDS 2012 In association with
The awards are free to enter and culminate in a gala dinner and awards ceremony at the Anglican Cathedral. To receive an entry form Call 0151 472 2826 Email email@example.com Visit www.regionalbusinessawards.co.uk Closing date: April 12, 2012 Small Business of The Year Medium Business of The Year Corporate Social Responsibility Award Investment of The Year Exporter of The Year Knowledge Business of The Year Green Award Business of The Year Business Person of The Year
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BUSINESS LUNCH Tony McDonough dines with Fletchrose managing director, Paul Durose, at the Living Room HEN it first opened its doors in 2000, Liverpool’s Living Room bar/ restaurant was something of a pioneer. At that time, up-market bars and eateries were thin on the ground in the city, which was just at the beginning of an economic renaissance. The Victoria Street venue, opened by Australian entrepreneur Tim Bacon, was just what the newly-confident Liverpool needed. Twelve years on and the city centre now teems with venues for the well-heeled and the aspirational. Despite this, I think the Living Room remains one of the best venues for what was once called “inclusive exclusivity”. It’s still a place where the ordinary folk of Merseyside can mix with the local glitterati without feeling too self-conscious. There are venues elsewhere in the city that have struggled to achieve that balance. Joining me for lunch was Paul Durose, managing director and sole director of building firm Fletchrose. The Aintree business employs around 100 people and takes on medium to large-scale projects in sectors including social housing, schools and health. And Paul himself has experienced his own economic renaissance in recent times. Aged just 28, he has built up his five-year-old business to the point where it now has a seven-figure turnover. However, just a couple of years ago, the father-of-one nearly saw his enterprise go to the wall. Fletchrose was a sub-contractor to social housing building giant Connaught, which collapsed in September, 2010. “They owed us £470,000 when they collapsed – we really got stung by that and it came very close to pushing us under as well,” said Paul. “When I first heard they were in administration, I just thought it was a technical thing and wasn’t worried – but then the truth dawned. “I licked my wounds for a couple of days and then I just picked myself up and got on with it. “I met up with my accountant and he just
said straight away ‘whatever they owe you, you’ll just have to write it all off and then just forget about it’. “He then told me not to dwell on it, otherwise it would just eat me up for years. “It was a great piece of advice.” Paul did, indeed, respond positively to the setback. He realised that, if he wanted to save the business, he was going to have to take a bit of a risk. He added: “Rather than cutting back, I actually took on two more people because I there was some work I was trying to win and I knew that with those people I would be able to do it.” It was a gamble that paid off. Fletchrose did, indeed, win new work, and since then has gone from strength to strength. Now Paul is ready to take the business to a new level. One of the key factors that can hold back a small firm, particularly in the building and construction sector, is getting onto framework agreements. Once on a framework list, a firm then has a preferred contractor status which puts it at the front of the queue for major public sector contracts. One such framework agreement that Fletchrose has managed to get on is a project called Fusion 21. This is an umbrella group covering maintenance and procurement for social housing providers. Paul said: “Preferred lists for local authority or social housing providers tend to be dominated by the bigger players. “I think it should be easier for smaller firms to get on them. “It is fantastic for us now to have made that breakthrough and it gives us the potential to win a lot more work. “I have a great team at the company. “Every single person who works
The Living Room, which has attracted diners to Victoria Street, in Liverpool, since 2000 here has been head-hunted. I saw their talent and ability and I went and hired them.” In the next couple of weeks, Fletchrose will move into 5,000 sq ft premises near Aintree Racecourse. Paul added: “In the past five years, we have moved several times – we have had to, we just keep on growing.” And he is proud that growth has been achieved without any debt funding. “Three years ago, we were turning over around £600,000, and we went Yorkshire Bank to ask for a small overdraft,” he said. “They told us no and that we should go somewhere else. I am pleased now that we don’t owe any bank a single penny.” OR his lunch, Paul ordered a rack of lamb with a honey, mustard and herb crust served with gratin potatoes and a red wine jus. I opted for the smoked haddock with sat on wholegrain mustard mash, served with wilted spinach and topped with a poached
egg and Hollandaise sauce. Paul had asked for his meat to be pink and says it was cooked to perfection – very tasty and filling. I was extremely impressed with my fish dish. The haddock, mash and poached egg all combined to provide a rich assortment of flavours. I have to say, this was one of the best meals I had eaten in Liverpool city centre for quite some time. If this is the quality the Living Room is offering, then it is more than holding its own, despite the tough competition in neighbouring streets. Neither Paul nor I had been here for some time – one of Paul’s current favourites is nearby San Carlo – but, on this offering, it may not be long before I return again. Service was excellent and my only surprise was how few diners there were in the restaurant on this particular day. T THE Global Entrepreneurship Congress, that took place in Liverpool in March, business leaders including Sir Richard Branson talked about the wider
definitions of entrepreneurship – about how people can run a successful business and make a genuine contribution to society beyond bigger profits. It’s a philosophy wholly embraced by Paul, who is happy to display his passion for the city in which he grew up. He is enthusiastic about Peel’s plans for Liverpool and Wirral Waters, and he hopes Fletchrose can grab a slice of the action. “I think the transformation of Liverpool over the past few years has been amazing,” he said. “But I think the city could be even better. “I love the hustle and bustle of cities like New York and London, and I believe that is how Liverpool should be.”
DETAILS The Living Room, 15, Victoria Street, Liverpool L2 5QS Tel: 0151 236 1999 www.thelivingroom.co.uk/ location/liverpool
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THE BUSINESS LIST Friday, March 30
LIVERPOOL Chamber of Commerce is presenting a Business Briefing with Luciana Berger, Labour MP for Wavertree. The Chamber says the event provides an excellent opportunity for companies to meet their local Member of Parliament and to convey their day-to-day business concerns to Mrs Berger, who is Shadow Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. Organisers say that, by communicating everyday issues, opportunities and developments in Liverpool to Ms Berger, firms can bring their views to the attention of key decision makers in both the Government, in the House of Commons and the Lords, and, thereby, shape the progress of current policy and legislation. The event also provides a networking opportunity for delegates to meet Ms Berger and other businesses over lunch in an informal setting. The briefing takes place in the Chamber’s Old Hall Street offices, between 12.30pm and 2pm. Tickets cost £15 for Chamber members and £20 for non-members. To book, please go online to Liverpoolchamber. org.uk
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10/ BRITISH COUNCIL OF SHOPPING CENTRES CONFERENCE 2012
Friday, March 30 DIGITAL marketing methods will come under scrutiny as part of the latest “60 Really Useful The Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre, which will host this year’s BCSC conference and exhibition, in September Minutes” series run by Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, this time THE British Council of European Capital of and Grosvenor, which gathering, again at the conditions on the high in conjunction with global search Shopping Centres Culture, and brought had just opened its ACC on the city’s street and in retail had engine specialist Google and (BCSC) returns to about 3,300 delegates £1bn Liverpool One waterfront. changed somewhat Liverpool firm Ph Creative. Liverpool later this to the Echo Arena and development. With less than six since 2008, but they A short presentation offering year for its annual BT Convention Centre. Organisers declared months to go before still hoped to attract digital marketing advice and conference and Attendees included the venue, and the city, their return, the BCSC about 3,000 delegates exhibition. major shopping centre ideal for their events. said that more than to this year’s guidance for businesses will be It first came to owners such as St So they return to 60% of stand space conference. followed by discussion on Liverpool in 2008, John’s shopping centre Liverpool for their has already been sold. For enquiries, please various digital marketing when the city was owner Land Securities, September 10-12 A spokeswoman said call 0845 270 0775. methods and the free tools available online for businesses, as well as one-to-one non-members. Book online at UK final in September, which will opportunities for those who want premises, between 9am and Liverpoolchamber.org.uk take place at Preston College. specific digital marketing advice. 10am. The competition will cover a Entrance is free for Chamber Bacon butties, tea and coffee wide range of construction will be provided during the event members, and £10 for Thursday, May 3 trades, which include: at the Chamber’s Old Hall Street A NORTH West regional heat of bricklaying, plastering, carpentry, this year’s SkillBuild, the UK’s joinery, plastering and dry wall biggest construction skills systems, cabinet making, wall competition, is to be hosted by and floor tiling, painting and Hugh Baird College, in Bootle. decorating and reinforced SkillBuild, a competition bituminous membranes. managed by CITB-Construction Last year’s SkillBuild Skills, the sector skills council comprised more than 1,300 and industry training board for competitors and used 8,000 the construction industry, is the bricks, nine tonnes of mortar, largest multi-trade competition in Chamber of Commerce one articulated lorry full of the country for construction materials, and 15 gallons of business briefing trainees and apprentices and paint. – Luciana Berger showcases the best talent the The main sponsors include industry has to offer. region’s top trainees battle it out Crown Paints and British Hugh Baird College will play Gypsum. For information and to in a wide range of construction host to one of two North West access an online entry form, go trades. The highest scoring regional heats that will see the Hosting construction contest – Bootle’s Hugh Baird College to www.cskills.org/skillbuild students will win a place at the
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ALISTAIR HOUGHTON . . . in which we find that the best way to predict the future is to create it HIS month, I’ve seen the future. And it doesn’t look too bad. Unless you’ve been living in a cave run by a Trotskyite collective in Parbold for the past few weeks, you’ll have been aware that Liverpool has just hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. And not just that – there’s been an entire festival of entrepreneurship. A Glastonbury for the briefcase crowd, if you will. The headline event was, of course, the Congress itself, complete with speeches from Sir Richard Branson et al. But there was plenty of interesting stuff happening on the fringes of the GEC, too, from mentoring sessions on the ECHO Wheel of Liverpool to a carbon-neutral business dinner. I dipped into some events, at the Albert Dock and at Bold Street’s agreeably hip Leaf Tea Shop and Bar, to discover what the future could have in store for this city and its entrepreneurs. The first vision of the future came at Pan Am, in the Albert Dock, which hosted Indie Showcase Liverpool. It served partly as the after-show party for Liverpool Software City, the hi-tech pitching event held across Dukes Dock at the BT Convention Centre. But it was mainly a networking event for the many video games firms that have been
founded in this region in the past couple of years by enterprising former employees of Sony, Bizarre Creations and other gaming giants. I caught up with the team at Liverpool digital firm Citrus Suite, and introduced myself to the teams from Paw Print Games, and Cheshire start-up Alien Apple Studios – who, as well as business cards, were handing out postcards showcasing their graphics. Finally, I made my way through the crowd to meet organiser Clemens Wangerin, of Setgo. And he offered to show me his pings, which was an offer that couldn’t be refused. “These are my pings,” he said proudly, gesturing with a doughnut-filled hand to a world map on a screen, on which yellow dots flashed. Each dot – or “ping” – represented someone playing a Setgo game in that location. Setgo, founded by three senior managers from Sony in Liverpool, started off as a gaming company. But it’s the software they developed to analyse sales of their game that has really caught the world’s attention. Spreadsheets can only hold your attention for so long, particularly when there are mini burgers and fish and chips passing by. Hence the pings – “a way”, said Clemens, “of making online games physical”. Pan Am was buzzing with innovation, and enthusiastic people. Yes, the games firms featured are
Hitting the heights – one of Sir Richard Branson’s visions for the future is taking people into space aboard SpaceShipTwo, above
small. Many will stay small through choice. But, together, those small firms are making a big noise in gaming. EXT came a morning and a night at Leaf. First, on the Thursday night, was Ignite Liverpool 9. Ignite events, in which people get five minutes to talk about their passions, are mini “festivals of thought” in themselves. And so, in the modishly faded grandeur of Leaf ’s first-floor function room, with its ceiling dripping glitterballs of all shapes and sizes, I enjoyed talks on subjects from The Planet That Wasn’t There to the tale of hi-tech workspace DoES Liverpool. Next morning, beneath the glitterballs, there was an altogether more studious atmosphere as creative and digital types gathered to discuss the Betapreneurial Future. The what? Well, as Martin Raymond and Chris Sanderson, from London thinktank the Future Laboratory, explained, entrepreneurs shouldn’t wait until products or services are perfect before releasing them to the market. Instead, they should learn from the software world, and release their products in “beta” or test mode. Then, customers will help them to refine their products.
HIS was such a forwardthinking event that it even had its own energising tea, flavoured with chilli and goji berries and with a deliciously warming aftertaste. I felt energised. But, having said that, the Danish pastry I had with it probably gave me a sugar rush enough to cancel out all the tea’s goodness. Speaking of drinks, one product the Future Lab duo showcased was Gilpin Family Whisky – which, Mr Raymond said, is made from “sugar-heavy urine excreted by diabetic patients”. It is “a really good sipping whisky”, he insisted, to some bemused head shaking in the crowd. Sanderson grinned: “Do you fancy a wee drop?” he grinned. And Martin gamely replied: “I’d love a wee drop.” Clearly, they’re used to taking the pee out of each other. In 2001, the Future Lab said Liverpool was one of the world’s top 10 creative and culture hubs to watch for the 21st century. Liverpool, said Mr Raymond, remained “optimistic, buoyant, smart, clever, fun and entertaining”. So, I didn’t meet Sir Richard Branson during our festival of entrepreneurship. But I did meet enthusiastic digital entrepreneurs, passionate enthusiasts, and betapreneurial thinkers. The economic stormclouds still hover overhead, but the innovation and passion showcased at the GEC mean the city can still have a bright future. I read it in the tea leaves.
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SOCIAL DIARY THE NETWORKER
Alex and Nicholas Wainwright enjoy the tennis tournament launch event evening with guests at Boodles
Rugby player Jon Wilkin, with Paul McGuckin and Derek Gawne, of tournament partners Charles Stanley, with tennis ace Richard Krajicek, at the Boodles Classique launch in Liverpool
CAROLYN HUGHES 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek addresses the guests at Boodles
Vicky Collins, Tournament Director of The Boodles Classique, with St Helens Rugby League player Jon Wilkin, and Richard Krajicek
Injured Anfield player Charlie Adam, with gymnast Beth Tweddle and Rugby League player Jon Wilkin, at the Spire Liverpool event launch
THE Boodles Classique, the North West’s most exclusive grass court tennis tournament, held its Liverpool launch at the Boodles store on Lord Street. It was announced there that leading Liverpool stockbroker and investment management company Charles Stanley is behind a sponsorship deal for 2012. The Boodles Classique will take place from June 14-16, at De Vere Mottram Hall, in Cheshire, featuring world-class tennis legends. Around 80 guests joined Boodles and Charles Stanley at the store, along with 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, who flew in from Amsterdam for the celebrations. ■ GUSTO Heswall hosted a Ladies Celebrity Lunch with Sue Johnston OBE, in support of the Park Suites Foundation, at Arrowe Park Hospital. Over 120 ladies enjoyed a drink on arrival, followed
by a sumptuous threecourse lunch. The event was hosted by Radio City presenter Peter Price, who conducted a Q&A with Sue Johnston. ■ SPIRE Liverpool launched three new services at their Mossley Hill hospital: Perform, SportScan and the new MRI. Professional gymnast Beth Tweddle, professional rugby league footballer Jon Wilkin, and Charlie Adam, from Liverpool FC, came along to the hospital to open the launch event. ■ CORONATION Street stars were among the celebrities who attended Disney on Ice presents Princesses and Heroes VIP opening night, at the Echo Arena. Other wellknown faces included Coleen Rooney, and son Kai, Hollyoaks actress Alex Fletcher and her daughter, Yasmin, and Dancing on Ice star Jennifer Ellison, with her son, Bobby.
Coleen Rooney and son, Kai, meet a special Princess at the Disney on Ice show, at the Echo Arena
Terry Smith, of the Park Suites Foundation, with Sue Johnston and Peter Price, of Radio City, at the GUSTO Heswall lunch
Laura Jane Hall, of GUSTO Heswall, with general manager Alan Garner, at the Ladies Celebrity Lunch
Elizabeth Nelson, of Bridesworld, Wallasey, with Kim Joyce, of Hairline, Allerton Road, and Barbara Joyce, of Hairline, Waterloo, at the GUSTO Heswall lunch
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