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Me and my tech

Time is money

World athletics champion

Diane Modahl | Page 14

The must-see figures that will change your business forever | Pages 8-9 NOVEMBER 2013

In association with UKFast, working with you at the speed of life

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Sir Chris Hoy on his lifelong love affair with cycling and the business of building bikes | Pages 4-5

Delivering the goods A ÂŁ1 bet pays off for boss John Roberts Page 6

Changing Gear

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November 2013

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UKFast By Erin Heywood

HOPES for the controversial HS2 rail line to come to fruition were recently given an extra boost as MPs approved funding to prepare for the project. The news comes despite strong public speculation and predictions of massive financial losses for cities across the UK that won’t sit on the network – which is estimated to cost up to £50billion. On October 31, MPs in Parliament backed the scheme by 350 votes to just 34. Among those voting against the bill at its third reading stage were 11 Labour MPs, adding fuel to speculation that the opposition party may later withdraw its support for the project. The high-speed rail network – which would see lines built between Birmingham and London, followed by a V-shaped second phase building separate tracks from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds – needs cross-

“Britain is in a global race for jobs and wealth. Our infrastructure is decades out of date” – David Cameron party approval to be built. It’s hoped all the lines will be completed by 2032-33. The recent legislation releases funds to pay for surveys, buy property and compensate evicted residents, but will first undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords. Next spring, a second bill will come before Parliament, asking MPs to grant the government power to seize land to build the line. A government report published in October slightly lowered the predicted benefits of HS2 compared with the costs. The expected “benefit-cost ratio”

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HS2: Hold tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride...

was reduced from £2.50 to £2.30 in benefits for every pound spent. A recently published government document reported the benefits HS2 would bring for some of the country’s cities. The figures revealed in a KPMG audit estimate big improvements in business connectivity. Nottingham and Derby are predicted to see the biggest benefits, as business connectivity is expected to soar by 23.3 per cent. Sheffield follows at a 22.5 per cent increase, while Birmingham (21.1 per cent), Leeds (19.7 per cent) and Manchester (18.8 per cent) would also see huge increases. When the East Midlands HS2 station – between Derby and Nottingham – is built at Toton Sidings, London will be 51 minutes away; it will be 19 minutes to Birmingham, and one hour 42 minutes to Newcastle. However, the outlook for cities not sitting on the line looks much bleaker. A Freedom of Information request

submitted by the BBC’s Newsnight revealed the network would cost some cities millions of pounds every year. The worst-hit local economy will be Aberdeenshire, which could see losses of £220million. Norfolk East will suffer to the tune of £164million; Essex South will lose £151million; while Kent West (-£133million) and Cambridge (-£127million) will also be badly hit. Bristol (-£101million), Dundee and Angus (-£96million), Stoke and North Staffs (-£78million) and Glasgow (-£77million) will also pay dearly. The worst-affected regions could see as much as 1.6 per cent of business done by local companies fall away each year. These figures were omitted from the government-commissioned report published in September which aimed to outline the huge cost benefits the rail network would bring. The report also showed that the Greater London economy would benefit

to the tune of £2.8billion, while the West Midlands’ would improve by £1.5billion. The chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Alison Munro, said of the figures: “What this is showing is that the places that are on the high-speed network… those are the places that will benefit most from High-Speed Two. “But High-Speed Two isn’t the only investment that the government is making. Over the next five years it is planning to spend £73billion on transport infrastructure.” Following the vote to approve initial funding, Prime Minister David Cameron told the CBI Annual Conference: “Britain is in a global race

for jobs and wealth. Our infrastructure is decades out of date and we urgently need to invest and build. “Those who want to delay or obstruct HS2 show a lack of vision. They are playing politics with Britain’s prosperity. They are betraying everyone north of Watford. And they want to condemn Britain to the slow lane. “ We c a n e i t h e r t e l l o u r grandchildren we made big, long-term decisions to build a better country… Or we can tell them we dithered for decades while the world raced ahead. That kind of no-can-do spirit will get us nowhere. Fortune favours the bold – not the weak and indecisive.”








Word on the street We get the lowdown on the biggest business trends of 2014 Martyn Cuthbert – Managing Director, On-Trac Big Data The combination of Software-as-a-Service for business use, social networking as a way of life and the ever-growing number of devices on which people and business interact, has led to a new pool of untapped data known as Big Data. It presents a significant opportunity for businesses to become more efficient and compete more effectively. The challenge lies in finding the right solution to help you take advantage of it. Look for a vendor-neutral partner who can join up the dots and collect, manage and analyse business-critical data that leads to real, quantifiable business improvements.

Tim Stephenson – Head of IT, Sustainability The UK’s sharing economy is growing exponentially as businesses recognise benefits beyond ticking a CSR box and look for sustainable cost-savings. Car-pooling services are going global with priority parking, improved access for people on lower wages or with a physical impairment and sustainable, personal travel plans allowing businesses to become more competitive. With over a million car seats going spare every day businesses of all sizes are turning to car-sharing to build a more sustainable future.

James Cannings – Chief Technical Officer, MMT Digital Responsive Web Design Responsive web design is a hot topic at the moment with any web development company worth its….erm….html, recognising its importance. This does not mean that every web development company implements it correctly. Why would you base a website around specific devices? Surely in 2-3 years’ time there are going to be so many screen sizes on the market! That’s why we champion content-centric responsive web design. This approach follows the philosophy of ‘content is king’.

Sanjay Parekh – Co-founder, Webexpenses Martyn Cuthbert Managing Director, On-Trac Budgeting Big Data -Learning from our past helps us accurately predict the future. The Festive Season is nearly upon us and, as usual, it’s likely to lead to much merriment in theThe form of client parties and lunches. without a robust policy in place, combination of Software as a However Service for business use, expenses social networking as a January turnthe intoever-growing an expenses number hangover finance across thebusiness country. way ofmay life and offor devices ondirectors which people and interact, has led to a new of untapped known as ‘Big Data’.expenses The challenge Why not make an early Newpool Year’s resolutiondata by developing a formal policy liesRemember: in finding the right helpemployees you take advantage of follow the newit paradigm and now. the ideasolution is to gettoyour to actually before getting and productive. tooremain carriedcompetitive away by the Christmas spirit.

340 votes made as of November 5 2013


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The way I see it Lawrence Jones I was congratulated this month on UKFast winning Employer Of The Year at the National Business Awards – a true honour to be recognised at such a high level by so many people. It was during a show-round of our new company crèche and offices. Actually, I think they got the name of the award wrong – it should have been for Best Employees, not Employer. With only hours to spare before a VIP visit from Minister for Equalities Jo Swinson, every member of the team got stuck in as they arrived, seeing that we needed help with the finishing touches. Within 20 minutes we had an army of eager window cleaners, hooverers and furniture movers. It truly was inspiring to see the care and pride that people felt for their surroundings. In today’s rapidly changing business world, getting the right people on the bus and

An entrepreneur is nothing without a strong and dynamic team behind them

“Picking a team and managing them well is the difference between success and failure” – Lawrence Jones holding onto them rank as the top challenges entrepreneurs and managers face. It’s easy to forget how important the team around you is, but I know I am only successful because of my great team of like-minded people, who enjoy making a difference. You can’t be everywhere at all times and as your business grows, you inevitably have to rely on the common sense, honesty and integrity of the team around you. Are their energy levels and passion at your level? You might hear people say, “Employ people who are better than you”. This is a start, but it’s not enough. The dynamic that most businesses miss while trying desperately to fill the skills gap is that of culture. It is an overused word and most business owners think they are on top of it, but I think as few as 5 per cent of businesses in the UK are getting this right. Skills all too often take precedent over a great attitude. I don’t look at CVs these days. Since the universities and polytechnics merged and O-levels became GCSEs, it has been getting harder to separate people on paper through qualifications. Nowadays, employers have a much harder job sorting the wheat from the

chaff, but if you don’t do it, you slow your business down and, potentially worse, risk absolute failure. The wrong people disrupt workflow and rub against the grain of a business. It’s no surprise that, a firm that’s raising the bar in customer service online, is shunning traditional recruitment techniques to grow a team of incredible people. You can read an interview with CEO John Roberts on page six. Picking a team and managing them well is the difference between success and failure. You ca n use t he usua l tec h n iques – psychometric tests, interviews with multiple

people, and so on. Brands such as Soneva Fushi in the Maldives interview each candidate with 41 different people before letting someone onto their island. How seriously are they taking their culture? Are you taking your recruitment this seriously? Someone who doesn’t believe in your brand can upset customers and teammates very easily. This has to be something we avoid at all costs. Gartner analyst Ed Thompson writes about Pret A Manger’s approach to team building on page seven. Some of you might think it’s off the wall. I think it’s on the money.

We are creating an environment especially for our incredible team on the edge of Manchester’s Science Park; it’s set to be something that no one has ever seen the likes of before – not Google, nor Facebook. When you have such a great team, it becomes very easy to want to build them the most extraordinary environment. But which one comes first – the chicken or the egg? Lawrence Jones is chief executive of cloud and colocation firm UKFast. Follow him on Twitter @Lawrence_Jones and read his blog at


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A new adventure By Erin Heywood

Six-time Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy might not have been where he is today if he was just three inches taller. Always interested in sport, he shone in rugby, rowing and the one he’s most famous for today, cycling. But while playing rugby fell by the wayside, it was a difficult toss-up between the water sport or high-speed hobby. “I’m only 6ft1in. Most rowers are at least 6ft4in; some are even 6ft8in, so I was always going to be limited by my height. I decided cycling was the sport for me,” says Sir Chris. A good decision, he opines. “It’s much more fun – you can go faster.” The rest, as we know, is history. He’s been cycling’s golden boy since his first Olympic appearance in Sydney in 2000, and made us all proud to be British when he took first place on the podium not once, but twice, at the London Olympics last summer. After he announced his retirement from competitive cycling in April this year, a new venture took over Sir Chris’ life that has seen

Olympic cycling gold medallist – and now entrepreneur – Sir Chris Hoy

“ To know that my bikes are playing a small role in getting people healthy is humbling” – Chris Hoy him take a step into a new world of creativity and manufacturing – and that world is HOY Bikes. “At the start of 2011, I was training at an Australian camp and I started to think beyond my competitive career. It was only then that I started to think seriously about creating my own range of bikes,” he says. “When I was a kid I worked in a bike shop during the weekends and summer holidays. Every year I’d save up my wages and use it all to put together a bike. I’d create the best bike possible with the money I’d budgeted – and that’s essentially what I’m doing now. I just had no idea how to put the idea in motion. “I knew I was going to retire before next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and I wanted a plan in place so that I wasn’t lost; a lot of athletes struggle when they retire. “It’s been two years in the making, but now when I see one of my bikes on the street I think to myself, ‘I’ve been involved in every process of that,’ from inception of the idea through to designing, creating and testing. It’s great to be able to create bikes for other people, and hopefully people will enjoy them.” With the help of Evans Cycles, Sir Chris has so far designed two different ranges of bikes – Road and City. Each model is different, and Sir Chris was keen to ensure that he designed bikes that were not only accessible to the public, but looked like they were made for champions. “I didn’t want to make bikes that were too

top-end, because it wou ld h ave instantly limited the number of people interested in them. I want to make cycling accessible, interesting and fun and to convey the passion I have for cycling in the design of the bikes,” Sir Chris says. Every bike is named after a different place in the world; each location represents a significant and fond memory from Sir Chris’s lengthy career. They’re designed to be distinctive, yet understated, with matt blacks and greys used for the frames and only a flash of colour included – blue, black and red, the colours of track markings found in every velodrome across the globe. The Road bikes are aerodynamic, designed for racing and to move as quickly as possible. A “serious piece of kit”, according to Sir Chris. Meanwhile, the City range is designed with the commuter in mind; it can weave easily throughout traffic and is easy to mount – no need for Lycra here. But there is more to come.

“We’ve initially started with a middle range, and we’re going to expand both ways. We’ve created starter bikes, kids’ bikes and balance bikes; soon we’ll move into track bikes – even carbon-fibre ranges. “As an Olympic champion, I wanted to look at every possible detail and make it personal to me. I wanted to bring in my experiences and have a reason for picking each component that makes up the bikes.” Though the range has only been available for a few months, Sir Chris has received glowing feedback. He says: “The nicest things I hear are on Twitter. It’s a great place to get first-hand feedback from people; you don’t have to wait until it’s been collected by retailers. Luckily, it’s been 99 per cent positive – people seem to be raving about them. “What really makes me proud is hearing stories from people who’ve not ridden a bike in years, saying they’ve bought one of mine to get themselves fit again. I recently heard from a guy who told me his mum, who is in her mid-sixties, had started to learn how to

ride a bike because I had inspired her. To know that my bikes are playing a small role in getting people healthy, and enjoying the sport that I love, is humbling. “People don’t realise how amazing it feels to get on a bike. It’s fun, it’s exciting and you see

“As an Olympic champion, I wanted to look at every detail and make the bikes personal to me” – Chris Hoy the world differently. When you’re in a car you don’t see as much, and when you’re on foot you don’t get as far. You see more of the country, in much greater detail.” Sir Chris was first exposed to the world of cycling as a youngster, when he took a shine to the local BMX park in his home city of Edinburgh. He took on the challenge, and loved it. It was this, and parents who supported his passion, that gave him the belief that he could reach the

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Sir Chris Hoy talks about his exciting new project, HOY Bikes dizzying heights of Olympic gold. “You don’t have to instantly be brilliant at something in order to succeed,” he explains. “Regardless of what it is, if you work hard at it and dedicate yourself to it, you’ll surprise yourself at what you can achieve.” Life these days is very different for the man who’s lived and breathed competitive bike racing for the majority of his life. But being able to focus on the HOY Bikes project means he’s never far away from his first love. He says: “Since retiring my life has changed a lot. I used to have such a regimented and predictable routine, week on week, month on month. Now, every day is different and it’s hard to establish some order. “But the great thing about working with the bikes is that helping to create them, testing them and riding them means cycling is still in my life every single day. “It would be lovely to look back in years to come and see the brand having grown and become established all over the world. If people hear the word ‘Hoy’ and my bikes come to mind, that will be an amazing achievement.

“Your competitive career as a cyclist is so short; it’s nice to have something that will keep me linked with the sport.” He may have retired from competitive cycling, but Sir Chris shows absolutely no signs of slowing. He’s an ambassador for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, works with Unicef and is a member of the Scottish Rugby Union Advisory Board. He’s also taken up motor racing as a hobby – “an adrenalin fix”, as he puts it. But will he ever hang up his helmet? It’s not likely. “I’m never going to give it up; it was the first thing that ever caught my attention, and the first thing I was ever passionate about. “It’s such a nice sport because you can do it all your life, until you’re really old, because it’s not weight-bearing. I know people in their seventies and eighties who are still riding bikes. “Hopefully that will be me; I want to still be on a bike when I’m a very old man.” The new range of HOY Track bikes hits stores in December. You can find the full range at www.

November 2013




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absolutely obsessive John Roberts talks about the screw-up moments, blind faith and proud mums that have made a household name

By Elizabeth Donevan

John Roberts of

’Twas the night before Christmas (Eve) 2012. The fridge was well stocked and the country was winding down for the public holidays – bad timing for the oven to pack up as a family of 14 headed north for a festive feast. As Dad made the calls to rearrange Christmas dinner, I searched the internet to find an affordable oven, accepting that a replacement before the new year was unlikely – even the 24/7/365 nature of online retailing couldn’t compete with Britain’s traditional Christmas shutdown. But within 24 hours the turkey was roasting in a new oven, arrangements were made to collect the old one and Dad celebrated the ‘miracle’ with an extra inch of single malt. It’s one of many to-the-rescue style stories bandied around the office ahead of BusinessCloud’s interview with John Roberts, the unassuming entrepreneur behind one of the country’s most impressive businesses, And he visibly beams at the account of his firm saving Christmas Day for a family in Manchester. Thirteen years earlier, to the day, Roberts made a £1 bet over a Christmas Eve pint that he could simplify the supply chain and deliver white goods using the internet.

“I don’t read the papers and I don’t watch TV. I prefer to obsess over customers” – John Roberts “The internet was a cottage industry at the time,” he says. “I didn’t even know what it was but I knew we could improve the process of appliances going from the manufacturer, through national and regional channels, to the retailer and then to the customer, with everyone making 25 per cent in the chain.” Roberts spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day 1999 creating a database on a 3.5 inch floppy disk and delivered it to good friend Alan Latchford, who began to build a website for Roberts’ fledgling business to launch online. Roberts used his credit card to buy the domain for £300 but chose not to buy the .com address – his employer had just gone bust and money was tight – and admits today that it was one of his first mistakes in business. Roberts raised £100,000 from family and friends – an investment that has paid off well. DRL, the parent company of, recorded turnover of £275million in 2012 and the firm processes 2,500 orders every day, boasting a client base of nearly five million. “It was a tough time but I learned early on that when you’re up against it, you get off your backside, you put the miles in and you make it work,” Roberts says. “I supported Bolton at the time and I even missed their Christmas game to get the database

done. If I won the bet, I got the website built for free.” These days he has little time for football or any other unnecessary distractions. “I don’t read the papers and I don’t watch TV,” he says. “I prefer to obsess over customers. We’re not big self promoters. Running a business of this size and scale at the speed we are growing, there’s no time for that stuff. And I want to have a pint without being mithered.” Most of the public speaking gigs Roberts does are charitable affairs, and he’s unabashed about his opinions of reality TV show entrepreneurs. “Those programmes that claim to offer an insight into real business… it’s rubbish! “Alan Sugar gives a harmful impression of what real business is like. His programme suggests that you wander around firing people, treating people badly and not respecting them. It may be like that in some businesses but not ours.” Roberts encourages all of his staff to have fun with customers and he gives them the autonomy to make financial decisions. “We don’t recruit on qualifications, we recruit on DNA. It’s a positivity test – if you’re not positive, you’re not for us,” he says. “We’re not looking at academic qualifications, we look for people who have been challenged and how they’ve overcome it. We ask them, ‘What’s the most spectacular screw-up you’ve made and how have you dealt with it?’ “There are super-intelligent kids who are the

best according to academia but they come into the real world and crumble. They don’t have resilience and aren’t streetwise.” The company has developed its own test to gauge if the personalities that apply are right for the business and, Roberts says, “you just know”. Employees are involved in an intense mentoring and training programme from day

“People realise quickly that it’s an amazing place to work but we can be brutal and ruthless if you don’t care” – John Roberts one, giving them the best chance of maintaining the company’s record of outstanding customer service. But pulls no punches with employees who don’t care enough. “People realise quite quickly that this is an amazing place to work, but we can be brutal and ruthless if you don’t care. “If you do anything to hurt our customer we will fire you. If you do it with the very best intentions, that’s fine but if it went wrong because you couldn’t be bothered, we will remove you with brutal efficiency. “Our team is empowered to do anything they feel is right to make that customer’s life easier.

If we have done something wrong, they can do whatever they want to deal with that customer. We tell the team to handle every customer in the way they would deal with their grandma. It’s not about age, it’s just about care. They are making an investment in that customer.” Roberts’ leadership style was recognised on a national scale earlier this year when he came second in the Sunday Times Best Companies 2013 award for Inspirational Leader, while took the number four spot in the Best Companies to Work For list. A significant proportion of’s business is from repeat custom and recommendations – a figure that Roberts values highly. “Customers want it to be good, quick and cheap. Most people think you can only have two of the three. I don’t believe in hot air. I believe in upfront. I believe in transparency. All of our charges are made clear. “We put all of our investment at the front end, in our phone systems for example, so a customer can ring up and find out in real time where their delivery is up to. I didn’t think you could spend that much money on a phone system, but with the impact it has on making our customers’ lives easier, it’s worth double. “If you can explain to your mum how you dealt with a situation and feel proud, that’s what we want. Don’t worry if you will make any money out of it. The best service or the most outstanding service is no service. It just works.”

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The great customer service debate Gartner analyst and customer satisfaction guru Ed Thompson explains how trust, touching and team spirit are at the heart of every genuine service-led company

Every company claims that customer satisfaction is top of its agenda yet, according to the experts, half of them couldn’t care less. So how can you spot a business that really puts its customers first? BusinessCloud explains… Can you sum up customer service and what it means? There are two distinct attitudes to the customer experience: one is a senior executive-level belief that they want to differentiate themselves on the basis of customer experience. It’s seriously strategic and high-level, but usually there’s nothing beneath that. The second is where lots and lots of people across the entire organisation do things to improve the customer experience. It includes the customer service team, who look at satisfaction and complaints, there’s a loyalty

“The top service businesses view customer experience as a measure of future profit” Ed Thompson team, looking at churn analysis, and there’s another group who are focusing on advocacy – and there’s a fourth group, the quality gang, which is more operational. A good example is cars. If you go back to the automotive industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Japanese car manufacturers nailed it by focusing on the quality of the car. They made cars that didn’t rust and fall to bits on you, didn’t break down and were reliable. They were very focused on the quality of manufacturing. Then you got later into the 1980s, and the Japanese again focused less on the driving experience and the quality of the car – they went for the service experience and said, “how do we improve service in the dealerships?” More recently, they’re looking at things like the on-boarding experience; the pick-up experience, going to collect your car – you actually go to the factory to pick up your car and get entertained there. Or they will take you out on drive days, or racing days, and entertain you in all sorts of other ways. Or they produce software games. Or you can configure your car when it’s being made; the configuration

step in the customer journey. So when you look across that, you realise that basically, the whole company has some impact on the customer experience. How do most companies measure it? The majority of people appreciate that their customer experience is something to do with interaction with the customer and the feelings that are generated. But ‘feelings’ are a bit fluffy for a lot of businesses and they get nervous about talking about that sort of thing in business terms so they start with more analytical stuff. They will ask questions like: Are we measuring customer satisfaction? Are we going to do the Net Promoter Score (NPS)? How often do we collect feedback? Some 95 per cent of companies collect satisfaction surveys but it’s more than doing it once a year, it’s starting to do it on every interaction – so you’ve got the pulse of the customer. The second side of it, then, is how you act on that feedback. The companies that are good at this will then say, OK, the customer score is one or two out of five, we’ll call them back in less than an hour, or maybe we’ll call them back in half a day. The account manager will call, and if they don’t call, their boss will call, and if their boss doesn’t call within a time frame we’ll take it to a director who will call and apologise and take it forward. The following-up is the main bit, not collecting it. How has the importance of customer service changed over time? It’s changed a lot in the last five years. Customers are more willing to complain; they’re more willing to leave after single bad interactions; they’re more willing to switch suppliers than ever before – this is pretty consistent over most geographies and most industries, which is quite interesting. They’re willing to pay more for a better customer experience, because they now compare between industries much more; they look at one industry and cross-reference, and they expect high standards in one industry to be achieved in every other industry. Another change is in the attitude of senior execs, particularly over the last decade. They are always asking the question, “how do I differentiate my business?” Ten years ago

they would have done it by having lower-cost suppliers, they would have competed on price or on innovative products. But increasingly, you get copied very, very rapidly and you end up with the same kind of technologies being used. You hire from the same pool of people who have been to the same universities. Your means of differentiation are more limited but customer experience is a sustainable, differential advantage. There’s only one company that’s number one in customer experience in any given industry. And it’s clearly hard to achieve, because there are so many examples of bad customer experience, and so few examples of companies that are great at it. So every company is pushing a service message. How does a customer identify the real quality over the tick-box service providers? Using my maturity measures, I’d say about half of companies are on the bottom rung, doing very little really. They might say they’re doing something but they don’t really give a damn about it. If you go to the top end, how does the customer tell? In the top 5 per cent (which is made up of 1 per cent being the very, very top and 4 per cent being slightly below them), you can spot if their executives take customer experience metrics to be as important as profit in the private sector. Normally the private sector will freak out at this idea that anything matters more than profit

“95 per cent of companies collect satisfaction surveys, but it’s more than doing it once a year, it’s starting to do it on every interaction – so you’ve got the pulse of the customer” – Ed Thompson and share price. But the top service businesses view customer experience as a measure of future profit. NPS is as important as profitability. At the end of the year, when you have your sales meeting, directors will report back on revenue growth and

satisfaction score or NPS. If those directors have to report back on both figures then you know they’re taking it that seriously. The top 1 per cent comes down to culture – when an employee can do things without having to ask the boss’s permission. Customers want two things: for the core service or product quality to be good enough – the car works, the server works, the parcel arrives on time. But just as important, they want to know that employees are empowered to step outside the process. Who is setting a great example in this area at the moment? The chief executive of Pret A Manger. One of his techniques is to buy a sandwich and sit in a store and watch the staff from across the room. He measures how much they touch each other. They’re standing shoulder to shoulder, serving people when it’s a fast turnover at lunchtime, and the result of that is they’re going to bump into each other and they’re going to touch each other between elbow and shoulder. He says, the more they touch each other, the more they trust each other. And the more that team spirit comes across to the customers, the more they buy, and the more profitable it is, and the higher satisfaction scores are. If it’s been a couple of weeks and they’re not touching or joining in, then they’re not part of that team and they’re not gelling; they upset the team and they’re not creating that buzz. So he moves them, and if that doesn’t work, then he gets rid of them because they’re disrupting the mood, the atmosphere, the customer experience.

Customer service top tips Max Fack

David Gelb

Bill Rider

Jonathan Boon

Chris Tipping

Head of Customer Service at SoleTraderWebsites.Com

Co-founder of JBi Web Design

Managing director of Ayerst

Managing director of Amber Green

Marketing director at McTip IT

“Customer service always boils down to the same two basic principles: going the extra mile in reaching out to customers and listening – thus pre-empting problems – and quick decisive action. Amalgamating these two principles produces a positive experience for the customer because they end up with the product they want and deserve, with the minimum of effort and time on their part.”

“We work hard to truly hear what our clients have to say about who they are and where they want to go. This gives us the chance to be so much more than yes-men, and really helps us to offer genuine, well-considered counsel – and, most importantly, empowers us to say no when it is in clients’ best interests.”

“We place immense importance on customer service and quality of product. We use state-of-the-art, in-house software to ensure the highest possible standards; attend regular progress meetings with our clients to ensure their needs are being met and surpassed; and, being legislation-led, we are only interested in breaking ground, not following the herd.”

“Communicate with your customers. Ask for feedback and take it on board whether it is good or bad. Never assume anything, and don’t presume that if they are unhappy they will speak up. Regular contact with customers makes them feel valued and provides vital information to help improve service.”

“Being an SME it is fundamental that customer service is followed through with the greatest care. We have to value each and every one of our clients. Managing expectations as well as good communication is vital, but we also find that by listening we learn a lot; we’re not perfect but we are forever improving through good client feedback.”


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Proof: Time is definitely money Nearly 50 per cent of users will abandon your site if it takes more than three seconds to load ONLINE spend for Christmas 2013 is estimated at £200 per person – a figure to whet the appetite of any online retailer – yet a surprising few are geared up to take advantage of shoppers’ seasonal splurge. Research suggests e-tailers lose thousands of customers each year to savvy competitors with faster-loading sites because time-poor shoppers are becoming an ever more impatient bunch – never more so than in the run-up to Christmas, when more than 84 per cent will take to the internet for gifts and gift ideas. As the golden quarter of October to December gets into full swing, UK retailers will see a swift increase in traffic to their websites, many of which will buckle under the increased demand by slowing down or not loading altogether. Several recent studies suggest that one in two internet users expect a website to load within two seconds, and say they will leave a site if it is unavailable within three. Those who have a bad experience are unlikely to return and would seek out a competitor instead – presenting a potentially significant loss to businesses

vying for a share of the £6.85billion-plus Christmas pud. Combine the stats on the impact of speed with others that show how the average online shop is performing and it’s scary reading for many e-tail bosses banking on a bumper Christmas. The average page load speed is 7.72 seconds and a sorry 8 per cent of the top 100 sites have a TTI (time to interact) of two seconds. A sorrier 9 per cent have TTI of 8+ seconds. The financial implications of an underperforming website are clear, but there is also a correlation between website delay and decreased customer satisfaction to bear in mind, not to mention the possibility of negative publicity across social platforms. Brad Bagherian, multichannel e-commerce manager at Aftershock London, said: “Speed is very important for us; if the site isn’t up customers won’t be able to buy which will result in lost sales. “We deploy our site with acceleration technology to load pages faster. Now we are seeing page load speeds of less than one second which has had a direct result in our sales increasing.”

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50% 2/3 Almost

of UK shoppers said that site slowness is the top reason they would abandon a purchase.

00:02 87 of internet users expect a website to load within two seconds and are likely to abandon a website if it isn’t loaded within three seconds.

AVERAGE E 0 seconds



who had a bad experience with website performance aren’t likely to return.

The total online spend for the 2011 festive period was



Online traffic increases threefold during Christmas.

November 2013

a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph


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8 OUT OF 10 (84%)

CHRISTMAS-SEASON SHOPPERS will look for gifts and gift ideas online before making a purchase, creating a significant opportunity for internet retailers.

E-COMMERCE PAGE LOAD SPEED 57% of visitors will abandon now 3 seconds 2 seconds: ideal load time

Visits to UK e-tail websites through mobile devices reached 21.1 per cent in Q2 2012.


1 SECOND decreases customer satisfaction by about 16%.



Time to interact 4.9 seconds 6 seconds load time

On Christmas Day 2012, as much as

46% of all search traffic for some retailers came from mobile devices. But, according to Adobe, 45% of retailers still don’t have a mobileoptimised website.


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DEC …is when UK retailers make the bulk of their profits.

The average predicted online spend for Christmas 2013 is



a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

November 2013

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Why there’s no such thing as nine-to-five S R U O on social media H L AL By Alice Gibson


DESPITE the fact that you ‘close the doors’ to your Twitter or Facebook account at 5pm, your customers are still able to talk about you 24/7 – effectively plastering your shop window with posters full of whatever they want to say. Should your account ‘reopen’ at 9am, that’s a whopping 16 hours of the day in which the world is able to post about your business without you being involved in the conversation. Viral posts are spreading across the globe at a rate of knots. For example, when United Airlines damaged a passenger’s guitar, the instrument’s owner uploaded a video complaint, “United Breaks Guitars”, which received more than a million views in just four days – an average of about 10,400 views an hour. The guitar would have cost £1,000 to fix, but as a result of being blamed for the damages on social media, UA lost 10 per cent of its share value – a massive $180million. People are almost twice as likely to post negative comments about a brand – 75 per cent as opposed to 43 per cent sharing positive experiences, according to research by COLLOQUY – and should that complaint be funny or shocking enough, there is no limit to how far that negative message could reach while you’re offline. Shockingly, according to research by Convince and Convert, 70 per cent of companies completely ignore complaints








THIS year’s Digital Entrepreneur Awards (DEA), the only national awards dedicated to digital entrepreneurialism, were dominated by northern companies, with 10 out of the 16 winners coming from the top half of the country, highlighting the region’s continuing drive to steal London’s digital crown. With lower rents and collaborative hotspots springing up all over the city, Manchester is fast becoming the place for seedling digital agencies and




% of customers expect a reply on social media within 1 hour.

made through social media, despite results also showing that 83 per cent of customers who received a response were converted into brand promoters. With more than two billion user accounts across the big four platforms, social media is like a global noticeboard for your brand messages. But, if you’re limiting yourself to just eight ‘open’ hours, how do you know the best time to be sharing your messages online? Brands can’t choose to be online solely between 9am and 5pm, out of sheer convenience, and expect to make the most of social media. Think of it this way: if you had a huge announcement to make in the office, you wouldn’t do it when everyone was out to

creative companies. Performance marketing agency R.O.EYE, winner of the DEA’s Digital Pioneer Award, has been based in Manchester for almost a decade. Gavin Male, managing director of the firm said: “Whilst R.O.EYE has an office in London, the talent and opportunity that keeps expanding in the north means that we are in no hurry to change our head office location.” Entrepreneur Lawrence Jones has grown his internet hosting and cloud firm UKFast – main sponsors of the Digital Entrepreneur Awards


% of B2B firms ignore customer feedback on social media.

lunch or when the CEO was in the bathroom – you’d wait until the perfect moment. You don’t need a whole social media team actively monitoring and posting at all hours of the day, either – unless, of course, you’re a huge multinational firm with the budget and need to do so. Just one or two dedicated, enthusiastic social media bods, PR pros or customer service execs with a smile on their face and an eye open for any red flag posts is all that’s needed. And there are plenty of simple tools available that can help you find the perfect moment to tweet or post, to ensure you’re not wasting your news or, more importantly, missing your customers’ calls for help. Tweriod ( is




– from a two-man startup to a £20m-plus turnover business with the help of the Manchester business and digital communities. Jones said: “The great thing about Manchester, and most cities outside of the capital is that property is more affordable. It is so easy to ‘plug and play’ in a city like this. “You don’t have to be in London any more – the internet has changed that. It’s almost negative to be down there now, here is where the fresh ideas are.” Hyde-based AsOne Design, Leeds-based Pitchero and

the screwdriver equivalent of any social networker’s toolbox, highlighting the busiest and best times to reach your followers on Twitter. Combined with other free social engagement and reach tools like Klout or Facebook Insights, businesses can gain an idea of how successful posts are at key times. Making the most of when and where you post doesn’t have to cost the earth, in time or money. Social media never sleeps. So, if you’re not going to be social all of the time, make sure you pick the right time to post and make the most of your messages. Join the conversation. Nip negativity in the bud; turn those frowns upside down and ultimately into money in the bank instead of a hole in your pocket.

Liverpool-based Apposing all scooped awards on the night. But it is not just in the big cities where digital commerce is thriving ‘up north’. E-commerce firm Better Bathrooms has scooped so many awards in the past 12 months it will no doubt need a bigger mantelpiece installed. Based in Leigh, the retailer is combining its traditional bricksand-mortar bathroom stores in Wigan, Warrington and Manchester with a booming e-commerce website and social media presence. Asked why he chooses to stay away from the capital, Colin Stevens, Better Bathrooms CEO, said: “Apart from lower wages and cheaper office space the north has a lot of fast-growing e-commerce businesses housing internal digital marketing teams who also run alongside some

very young and very hungry agencies.” EncryptionBox, creator of the file storage and sharing app of the same name, is based just outside Burnley and scooped the DEA for Security Innovation. Lee Mansfield, managing director of the firm said: “Manchester is catching up with London, and catching up fast. We love the north for business because of the simple logistic links.” With more and more firms setting up shop outside of the capital and with the potential for the (highly controversial) HS2 project there may soon be no need to be London-based to be a successful digital firm, especially when all the cool kids are taking advantage of the space, cost savings and communities by building their own empires ‘up north’.

a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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November 2013

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Determination, rejection and superstar DJ-ing: the secret life of the ‘intrapreneur’… A businessman for 21 years, Phil Jones, MD of successful printer and ICT company Brother, is seen by many as an expert in the industry. In this candid interview with Erin Heywood, he reveals his tricks of the trade, some life-defining moments and his secret skills as a DJ. YOU’VE been in business for the majority of your career – was it what you always wanted to do? Yes and no! I studied business at college but in the summer after I left, I started working at a pub in East London and ended up staying in the trade for about three years. I became the assistant manager, but I realised eventually that it wasn’t for me; you’re working from the moment you wake up, to the minute you go to bed seven days a week. The pub I worked in was a notorious gangster pub, too, so I’d witnessed shootings, drug dealing and despicable violence. It wasn’t worth the pay cheque, so I left in 1992. In a moment of sheer serendipity, I walked into a recruitment agency where a career in sales was suggested. I thought I’d give it a go and it turned out to be my big break. I had no idea I would be in business for so long when I first walked through that door, so there was certainly no grand plan. WHAT were those early days in sales like? It was eye-opening; I’d have to walk the streets of London every morning canvassing for compliment slips, not being able to return to the office until I had at least 100 slips of good quality information, carefully coaxed out of a receptionist. Then the afternoon was spent calling all the businesses up, trying to make appointments with buyers. It was tough, but it gave me the lessons I needed in determination, handling rejection and understanding how the sales funnel worked. It was also a fantastic time; the industry was flying, there were a lot of guys driving round in very fast cars, earning lots of money. I was a starry-eyed 22-year-old thinking, this is for me.

Phil Jones, Brother MD

“People who will stand out in the future will be those who drive value and show they can apply that insight to an organisation” – Phil Jones ONE word that many people use to describe you is “entrepreneur”, when in reality you’ve always worked for a business. Is that something you set out to do? I think a better word to describe myself would be an “intrapreneur”, which means that your attributes, skills and behaviour are very similar to that of an entrepreneur but you work for a large company. Life in a corporate business still has plenty of risk, but you take that risk with someone else’s money, with the same considerations of success and failure. But it works both ways; I have the experience of what running a massive company feels like so I can still deliver insight to a fast-growth entrepreneur experiencing growing pains or strategic direction headaches. YOU’RE a massive advocate of social media on a personal level. Does it have a place in business? If you’re not using social media,

you are missing one hell of an opportunity as a businessperson. When I joined Twitter five years ago I had no idea what it was, but I realised it was going to be a huge game changer – alongside blogging and other social media – to drive thought leadership and relationships. You simply must be in the social community in order for people to understand you and your business. People live their lives on devices nowadays and expect transparency from large brands and leaders of business. It is an immensely powerful platform. HOW has Brother become such a renowned brand? The big challenge businesses face is keeping a brand relevant for the time. We started as a sewing machine company, but later moved into typewriters, fax machines and printers and now web conferencing. If we’d decided in the 1980s that we were just going to carry on selling typewriters, we’d have been bankrupt because technology moved on. The Japanese are experts at analysing markets, so they are always envisioning what’s next. This is what Brother has been hugely successful at – reinventing itself – and it’s why we’ve been in business for 105 years. WHAT’S the best thing about your job? Working with an amazing community of people and a business

that has relentless ambition. I’m very thankful that I’m in a position where I can make decisions quickly and run the company based upon local knowledge and expertise. It means the business can remain agile and responsive to the market.

“The early days were very tough, but they gave me the lessons that I needed in determination, rejection and understanding sales” – Phil Jones WHAT’S the worst thing about your job? When you’re part of a large international group, a lot of the time is spent around compliance, reporting and audit, all for the right reasons. As an instinctive salesman, this is the part of the role that I have to work hard at, but I’d rather be in front of customers! WHO was your early inspiration? When I joined Brother in 1994, a man worked here called Hiroshi Suzuki. He had the biggest, most disarming smile and personality I’d ever met, combined with killer business acumen. I realised then,

the power of human leadership and the importance of passionate activity in the workplace. Times have changed a lot but people haven’t, so I’m a big advocate of emotionally-driven leadership to drive cultural and financial results. WHAT are your passions away from work? I’m a firm believer that you have to have passions in life. I’m a very keen cyclist; I cycle at least 100 miles every weekend; I write one of the country’s leading road cycling blogs as well as a business blog, alongside some public speaking. I’m also a huge fan of music. I started DJing at college when I was 17, and it’s never left me. I can be found on the Northern Soul dancefloors most weekends. So, I’m a busy man, as well as being a dad of two. IF you were going to give one piece of advice to a youngster looking to start a career in business, what would it be? People who will stand out in the future will be those who drive value and show they can apply that insight to an organisation. You must build your networks early and develop your ability to communicate. Have a network of people you can call on at any point in your career; you might find yourself at a stage where you need several jobs to pay the bills, so it’s vital to know as many people as possible.


November 2013

a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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The changing role of the apprentice As apprentices become an evermore present piece of the workplace, are businesses who shun the idea missing a valuable trick?

WHATEVER your impression of an apprentice, there’s no denying that they’re on the up. In the 2011/2012 academic year, 520,600 people across the UK started an apprenticeship. That’s 63,000 more than the previous year, and when you compare this to the mere 70,000 that were started in 1996/1997, it’s easy to see apprenticeships are now perceived as a valid educational direction for those looking to further their skillset. And these days it isn’t just the school-leaver taking up the opportunity. Last year, 44 per cent of all apprenticeship starters were aged over 25, demonstrating a shift in attitude from those for whom school is a distant memory.

“Businesses must commit to young people coming in, bringing a new lease of life, because they will be the future of the company” – Richard Hingley

Integration, communication and production specialist DRPGroup is one of those companies. 30 per cent of the firm’s entire workforce has been employed following work experience, placements or apprenticeships, and directors firmly believe the opportunity of developing skills on-site brings about fantastic changes to the business. Richard Hingley began his career as an apprentice at DRP Group, and is now the creative director on the board. “When I started working at DRPGroup in 1990, I did two days at college and three days on site. I was getting work experience but also qualifications and training at the same time,” he said.

“They are a great way for people to start on the road to success in their chosen career” – Karen Woodward “From our perspective, bringing on people at an early age is really important and plays a significant part in our success. We always need that next generation of people coming through. “Apprenticeships are a great way of finding really talented people. Businesses have got to commit to young people coming in, bringing a new lease of life, because they will be the future of the company.” Lawrence Jones, CEO of hosting and colocation firm UKFast, recently invested £4.5million into training within his business – including an apprenticeship scheme. He said: “We want to change the face of apprenticeships to provide quality education in a thriving business, with guaranteed qualifications

at the end of the course, while paying a full salary. We launched the scheme in September and already have four apprentices on board who are gaining essential technology and business skills, and we are nurturing them to bring out their creativity and ideas. “We were all young once, and it’s imperative that we develop our young people to ensure they are the drivers of business in the future.” The government announced in recent budget plans that it will invest a further £180million into the creation of up to 50,000 new apprenticeship places across the UK over the next four years. Apprenticeship starters are sure to carry on increasing, and a new generation of qualified individuals will begin to emerge into British industries. Karen Woodward, interim national director of apprenticeships at the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), explained the huge changes that have taken place with apprenticeships. She said: “Although there were approximately a quarter of a million apprentices by the mid1960s, there were growing concerns about the scheme; apprenticeships were criticised for being male-dominated and for a failure to embrace new and expanding occupations. “Since the NAS was launched in April 2009, we have worked tirelessly to ensure all apprenticeships are high-quality and that opportunities are available for everyone. “Apprenticeships help businesses grow their own talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce, as well as leading to life-changing career opportunities with real progression. “They are a great way for individuals to start on the road to success in their chosen career, and for many employers, apprenticeships are the best way of attracting new talent and developing a motivated, skilled and diverse workforce.”

* Real name has been changed to protect identity

But are businesses that take on apprentices keeping to their side of the bargain? How many apprentices are actually being given the opportunity of development, success and a skill for life? And are unwilling business owners missing a golden opportunity to improve their company by ignoring potential talent? Jenny Thompson*, 23, spent two years as an apprentice at a well-known hairdressing chain in Bristol. She was underpaid, mistreated and ended up severely depressed.

“I loved it at first; everyone was really nice and they were so helpful with my training,” she said. “But everything became pressurised; I hadn’t been trained to do many of the jobs, and I was just told to go faster and faster. “I was being paid the minimum wage, so would receive £80 for 40 hours’ work – not enough to live on. “Whenever anything went wrong, I’d get the blame. My boss threatened to let me go if I didn’t get better. “She told me that no matter where I worked, I wouldn’t get the right qualifications because I wasn’t good enough. In the end I had no choice but to leave, it was making me ill.” To add further insult to injury, Jenny had only been trained to NVQ Level Two – a grade below the industry standard for qualified hairdressers. If Jenny’s experience wasn’t shocking enough, the amount that apprentices are paid also raises important questions over how seriously the training is taken by businesses. At just £2.68 an hour, the national minimum apprentice wage for under-19s is shockingly low. While businesses can opt to pay much more than that, there is worrying evidence that has revealed a significant number of employers are not even willing to meet the standard rate, despite research proving apprentices to be a vital tool in dramatically improving a business’ bottom line. After all, 96 per cent of apprentice employers report benefits to their business, citing 72 per cent improved productivity, better staff retention and recruitment cost savings. Many businesses across the country have experienced the epiphany, and are offering limitless opportunities for apprentices of any age to kick-start their career, learning a skill while being paid.

a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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November 2013


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Government figures released in February 2013 revealed that

arts, media and publishing have increased by

175 5

% %

But those in construction,

planning and built environments have decreased by

ublic services and care +21% Apprentices training in health, p

Apprentices training in business, administration and law +32%

Apprentices training

in engineering and manufacturing +11%





AGE 19-24




AGE 25+

1 2





4 5


520,600 2011/12

6 7



550 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 2009/10 279,700




of all apprenticeships are in the retail sector

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9





of apprenticeship starters are female


a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

November 2013

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Diane with some of the young athletes working with the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation

Engineering Construction Industry Game, by Wirebox Free Android

Me and my tech Diane Modahl FORMER international athlete Diane Modahl now spends her days combining technology, sport and education to light the spark in the country’s future champions, inspiring and nurturing young people’s talent through the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation (DMSF). The charity, set up by the Manchester-born Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2010, is committed to inspiring potential in people of all skill levels, as well as the champions of tomorrow, particularly those from some of the North West’s most deprived areas. From the running track to the sofa at home, technology is never far from Diane’s hand. What are your must-have technologies? My phone’s essential, simply because

it is a one-stop shop. With it, I can speak with my friends and find out what’s happening in the world of sport. Obviously, it is useful for work, but I love that I can use it to take some gorgeous pictures of my children and upload them straight away. My PC is so important for work. We’ve just held our inaugural City Of Champions event and without my computer, my team and I wouldn’t have been able to make the event such a success. The event saw us induct our founding champion, Sir Chris Hoy, into the City Of Champions Hall Of Fame. It also gave us an opportunity to ensure that Manchester is set up to continue its sporting heritage, supporting the next generation of champions across the North West and enabling them to make the most of themselves in sport, school and life. Finally, I couldn’t live without my stopwatch. It’s been my best buddy since the age of 15, when I got my first stopwatch to time my runs. Any athlete knows that it’s a crucial part of their preparation. I still need my stopwatch now, even though I am retired. What sort of things do you use technology for most?

I use technology mainly to talk to people on the phone and for work, but I also use technology to chill out and relax. My guilty pleasure at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed, is to pick up my phone or iPad to browse fashion websites and look at all of the outfits and trends. What’s the biggest benefit of having technology at your fingertips? It is brilliant having so much technology on hand. It’s crucial because it has played such an important part in my life. But recently I spent some time on holiday with no access to the internet or phone signal and it was fantastic! Having said that, although it was refreshing to have that space without my technology, I eventually really needed to get on my phone and check everything. If you could have only one piece of tech, what would it be? I’d have to have two, sorry – one that keeps me sane and one that keeps me happy. My stopwatch because it’s my best friend and I need to know how fast or slow I am; and my phone to keep me connected both personally and professionally.

A game for apprentices working in the engineering and construction industry. To assist learning, the user plays through different challenges to help them become accustomed to the wide range of industry skills. A wonderful education tool, created as an aid to on-site skills training and to promote the engineering sector.

Mothercare, by NN4M Free Android, iOS The award-winning Mothercare app provides users with a range of useful parenting tools such as the Baby Timer, which records the number of kicks, contractions, feeds and sleeps of a baby. Well received by parents around the world.

Executive tech TaxiTastic, by Blueflake

Your new best friend

FREE Android, iOS

NAO is a humanoid robot and is a versatile platform used to explore a wide variety of research topics. NAO boasts face, object and speech recognition, talks in 19 different languages and can dance and sing. NAO is the most widely used humanoid robot in the world!

Music to your ears

From £10,000


The Soulra Sound System is entirely solar powered, which means you can take this nifty gadget to festivals or garden parties and play your favourite tunes without the need for wires and extension leads. An environmentally-friendly piece of technology that will keep your party going well into the night.

This thrifty app will help you to discover the cheapest taxi firm around – and works in every town and city in the UK. Using pricing matrices for more than 10,500 privatehire taxi companies and nearly 400 council rates for Hackney cabs, TaxiTastic calculates the cheapest rate for your route in less than two seconds. You’re on your way!

a special report on lifestyle and business, distributed with the sunday telegraph

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the debate

Which UK city is the home of digital? Manchester

Chris Marsh


Andy Budd


Paul Appleby


Danny Meaney

Director of Partner Development at UKFast

Co-founder of Clearleft, Fontdeck, dConstruct and The Brighton Digital Festival

Director of VID communications, chair of Bristol Media and Creative Sector

Managing director of New Media Partners

Manchester is the best place for digital businesses because of our history. As a city, we learned how to create big and important things that the world relies upon before anyone else – like cotton and computers. Now we’re showing our entrepreneurialism with technology such as Graphene. Legends like Alan Turing and Sir Tim Berners-Lee both took residence in the city – and for good reason. Manchester also bred 25 Nobel Prize winners. Manchester had the first data centres in the country and pioneered the way for digital businesses and universities to have something to strive for, capitalising on strong internet links and intelligent minds who knew how things worked. Having Media City built here is a hugely positive move for the area, as the city will deliver even more focus on creative and digital businesses, all providing support to the next generation. Geographically we’ve excellent transport connectivity for commuters to Scotland, Birmingham and London, plus an international airport with easy links to the USA, Russia, the Far East and all major European cities – the city is accessible to people with incredible skills. MIDAS recently reported that the creative, digital and media industry in Manchester employs 63,000 people, generates £2.7billion of GVA annually, and is the largest creative and digital cluster outside of London. The ICT industry here employs around 30,000 digital workers and generates £1.9billion of GVA annually. I’ve been working in this industry for almost 14 years providing services to help digital businesses grow and I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else.

Thanks to its active community and laid-back quality of life, Brighton is a haven for technologists. Whether you’re interested in user experience design, mobile gaming, hardware hacking or Javascript programming, there’s a group for you. This community activity builds to a crescendo in September every year when more than 130 talks, exhibits and networking events take over the city as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. Everything from large international conferences such as Reasons to be Creative and dConstruct, through to Games Jams, Hack Nights and the excellent Mini Maker Faire come to the city. However, this activity isn’t just limited to the festival, with conferences such as UX Brighton, Meaning, Ampersand, Full Frontal, Develop and TEDx Brighton happening all year round. As a result, Brighton has one of the highest concentrations of digital talent in the country, with 1,495 creative, design and IT (CDIT) companies feeding £713million into the local economy. This puts the CDIT sector third after our universities and tourist industry. Brighton is a hotbed of creativity. Our proximity to both London and Gatwick Airport makes it easy to do business nationally and internationally – just one of the reasons we also have a thriving games and start-up industry. Brighton hasn’t managed to reach this position because of regional development funds, the halo effect of the BBC moving to Salford, or the benefits of being a capital city. Instead, it’s the passion and experience of the people who inhabit the city that have made Brighton what it is – one of the bestknown technology hubs in the UK.

The Bristol area is building on its established reputation for quality – exemplified in the TV sector through Aardman and the BBC, and a thriving digital, mobile and marketing and advertising community. For the likes of the BBC, Creative Skillset and Creative England, there’s a developing golden triangle along with London and Manchester. The centre of the city has everything you could want, from IBM to Old Vic, Watershed and Bristol University – all lie within an area under one square mile. Recognised by NESTA as one of the UK’s Top 10 creative centres, and by McKinsey as an innovation hotspring, there’s a great sense of common purpose linking powerful creative and technology communities, ready for a future of creative technologists. The industry in Bristol is growing fast – by 11 per cent between 2010 and 2011 – with a virtuous circle of SME growth creating opportunities at entry-level, well served by graduates from University of West England and University of Bristol, and talent magnets in search of a better quality of life than they can get in London. There’s great experience in international co-production, and as a centre for factual content, an opportunity to move into the developing digital health and education sectors. Public sector support is strong, too. Creative and hi-tech are two of the key sectors within the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, which includes the technology and publishing strengths of Bath. The Bristol and Bath combination gives us a city region with 1.1 million people, that’s both dynamically urban and beautifully rural. It’s THE place to live.

Edinburgh is one of the UK’s fastest growing technology hotspots – with very good reason. It’s unrivalled for its great business environment, driving genuine innovation and for sustaining creativity and inventiveness – which has lasted for centuries. The Scottish Enlightenment resulted in many of the world’s key inventions, such as the telephone, penicillin and public healthcare systems. All these elements go deep into the history and DNA of modern-day Edinburgh. That desire is clearly still alive and well today. This year’s EIE conference showcased 60 companies and was attended by more than 500 delegates, including 140 investors. TechCube – a world-class space for technology startups that would bring 35 businesses together into one incubator – could happen, and soon. Edinburgh Council has backed the newly-opened Creative Exchange workspace, which will house an accelerator programme called ‘Up’, and is rapidly opening datasets and new APIs, triggering a real boost in smart city solutions. The recent $800million valuation of Skyscanner has shown that Edinburgh is now one of the best locations in Europe to build a technology company. This beautiful and iconic city has also been voted the UK’s best place to live for 14 years running. Digital technology sits at the heart of all sectors in Edinburgh, from medicine and marketing services, to games, government, biotech and renewable energy. There has never been a better time, or a better city, to launch a technology company. It really is an astonishing place to work, and things are only going to get better.

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November 2013

Purple Cow by Seth Godin When it comes to business books, Purple Cow gets my vote. Not just for focusing on why and how to be remarkable and to stand out from the crowd, but also helping you realise what you are doing right already. Even if you may not consciously be doing something right, it helps you realise why that works and how to ensure that you keep to those values while pushing forwards. Paul Oz, Paul Oz Ltd

Mental Boxing by Billy Schwer I was introduced to Billy Schwer in the early 1990s – he was a pretty quiet guy out of the ring but transformed into something else once he stepped over the ropes! I was bought his book, Mental Boxing, which made far more sense to me, with his no-nonsense approach to developing the skills required to succeed, with its emphasis on desire, dedication and discipline far more meaningful than having long lists of life goals or being told how to speak to people you don’t know! Jonathan Spence, MSL Interiors