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February 2014 BUSINESS NEWS –




Business events – mark them on your calendar.



Thoughts from the region’s business community.



Vinay Bedi, UBS.



Katharine Paterson, Kare Kot.



New executive appointments.



Mincoffs’ perfect partnership.



Steve Nelson, Calibre.








Jason Donovan.





Directors: Mike Grahamslaw, Mick O’Hare Commercial director: Martin Stout Editor: Alison Cowie Sales: Luccia Graham Editorial: Jessica Laing, Elise Rana Hopper Senior designer: John Haxon Feature photography: Chris Owens

Office: 11 Causey Street, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 4DJ. | t: (0191) 284 9994 | f: (0191) 284 9995 | @NETimesmagazine Front cover: Emily Frankish and Lyn Rutherford, by Chris Owens.

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Newcastle reaches the top 20 Research identifies towns and cities outside London set to drive the regional recovery.


ewcastle upon Tyne has been named 14th fastest growing city in the UK, according to research by national commercial property consultancy, Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH). The research identified towns and cities best placed to drive the regional recovery, ranked 65 of the largest towns and cities outside London. Cambridge topped the table with Guildford and Brighton in second and third place.

Tom Leahy, associate director of Research at LSH, said: “We set out to create an annual guide that will track the vitality and performance of the major UK towns and cities, across a range of socioeconomic measures. It can be used as a resource for occupiers and investors when choosing where to locate or invest. Commenting on the Newcastle result, Darron Barker, head of LSH’s Newcastle office, said: “It is pleasing to see that Newcastle is sitting comfortably within the top 20 UK cities at 14th position because

the region offers a great platform for economic growth with its five universities, its increasing number of successful business start-ups and the general ‘can do’ attitude of the average north easterner. “We are also fortunate in having a large amount of developable land in the wider North East region, backed by the will to bring it forward, so if the indicators are correct, I feel we should soon be seeing a positive uplift in the commercial property sector.”

SMEs reluctant to become international


MEs are reluctant to expand overseas, with only a quarter planning to increase their international sales over the next year, according to the latest survey by Baker Tilly. In Yorkshire and the North East the figure was just one in five. The survey of 750 UK SMEs found that the main reason holding businesses back is perceived cost, with 90 per cent of respondents indicating that international expansion would be too

expensive, while 70 per cent said they feared a loss of control. Neil Sevitt, Baker Tilly’s Head of SME Services said: “Coming out of a tough recession, it’s understandable that some SMEs in Yorkshire and the North East are hesitant about expanding internationally. But companies would do well to find out more about export opportunities through the UKTI, and consider other options such as cross border M&A, which can provide a low risk route into new markets.”


Moving Times

Awarding UK’s Asian women

Accapi Group is top dog


ccent Magazines Ltd, incorporating North East Times, Accent and L’Mamita magazines, has moved offices. The long-standing independent publishing company has relocated from Gosforth to the i4 Quayside building on Albion Row in the Ouseburn area. One of the city council’s Newcastle Enterprise Centres, the high quality office and workshop accommodation of the i4 is set in a striking converted Victorian school that overlooks the River Tyne. Director Mike Grahamslaw said: “The Ouseburn is very much the creative hub of the city and the team and I are very excited to now be part of this thriving community.”


s the Asian Women of Achievement Awards mark their 15th anniversary, the nationwide search to find 2014’s breakthrough Asian females has begun. Held in association with the Royal Bank of Scotland, the awards were founded by entrepreneur and women’s champion Pinky Lilani OBE, with the aim of celebrating Asian women who are pushing the boundaries across a range of industries and sectors – from the arts, media and culture to business, sports and public service. Nominations are open at until Monday, March 17, 2014.

he Accapi Group has become the exclusive distributor of premium American dogwear firm, Ruffwear – across 21 countries in Europe. The deal, worth £5million to the Durhambased SME, sees the expansion of Accapi’s current position as the exclusive distributor of Ruffwear to the UK, France and Lithuania. Used by outdoor enthusiasts wanting to take their dogs on activities like trekking, trail running, sailing or skiing, Ruffwear products include a range of technical harnesses, jackets, collars, leads, boots and backpacks.

Recycling company hired by colleges

Business backs airport development

Boost for Mumpreneurs



& B Recycling has been appointed to handle all waste produced at both Hartlepool College of Further Education and Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD). The Hartlepool-based business already manages waste for Middlesbrough College and a number of schools and is keen to expand its influence within the education sector.

orth East Chamber of Commerce has backed plans to revamp Durham Tees Valley Airport. Members in the south of the region briefed on the DTVA Masterplan, supported proposals to maintain international air links from the airport and see services to Schiphol and Aberdeen as vital for the local economy.

New creative course

Door-to-door service


arlington College has launched a unique diploma in production arts for people interested in working behind the scenes on everything from TV to theatre. Aimed at those wanting to work in theatre, television, or events, concerts and festivals, it gives students a formal qualification in sound and lighting, staging and stage maintenance.


ward-winning Newcastle and Teessidebased Parkers Executive Chauffeurs, has announced a national network of partners to meet the growing demand of the corporate sector for high quality, doorto-door transport in the UK. No matter where a client is travelling, everything can be co-ordinated, managed and organised by the Parkers team, using affiliate companies.




erwentside’s Enterprising Women (DEW), a project to help women in business, is celebrating after the mentorship of enterprise agency business coaches helped several women from Consett back from unemployment to establish their own sustainable businesses.

Launch of youth trainee programme


North East charity is expanding its range of programmes for young people with a new traineeship scheme. The Foundation of Light’s new six month workforce development course, running in partnership with Newcastle College, will give 16-24 year olds the opportunity to receive nationally recognised qualifications, as well as handson experience working in one of the UK’s premier sporting environments.





Rockliffe Hall, County Durham Tel: (01325) 729 999 Web: Email: Price: £22.50 per person Guests are invited to this motivating ladies lunch, where Cheryl Harding, Rockliffe Hall’s exercise coordinator, will be sharing her weight loss secrets and fitness tips on maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. Attendees will enjoy a sparkling wine reception, followed by a twocourse lunch in the hotel’s Orangery restaurant.

MANUFEX 2014 Feb



Save the date Charity balls, business dinners and seminars.


10-16 Tel: (01242) 515 157 Web: Email: Price: Free



Algernon Road, Newcastle Web: Email: Price: Free (members) £15+VAT (non-members) Hosted by Nigel Smith, great-grandson of Ringtons founder, Samuel Smith, this on-site visit to Ringtons HQ will take members on a historical journey through the iconic North East company, learning how it has adapted and expanded over more than a century. Guests will visit the company’s custom-built factory in North Tyneside and enjoy a lesson in tea making.


Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle Tel: (0191) 212 3000 Web: Email: Price: £55 per person Those looking for a lively way to celebrate Valentine’s evening are invited to Jesmond Dene House for a night of food and music in the hotel’s Great Hall. Guests will receive a drinks and canapés on arrival, followed by a three-course dinner and live music from North East band, Laughing Jacks.



BIPC, Level 3, Newcastle City Library Tel: (0191) 277 4100 Web: Email: Price: Free

Quorum Business Park, Newcastle Tel: 07960 113 456 Web: Price: Free Businesses which supply to, buy from or work in the manufacturing, engineering or construction sectors, are urged to exhibit, meet buyers and promote their services at Manufex 2014 – an exciting tradeshow and conference, during which over 80 of the region’s finest businesses will gather under one roof to showcase their skills and talents, as well as network, learn and develop.


Leading childhood bereavement charity Winston’s Wish is asking schools, households and businesses to join them in raising £30,000 for bereaved families in the UK by hosting a Great British Brekkie breakfast. The free, week-long event will involve participants putting on charity breakfasts big and small - from muesli and muffins to champagne breakfasts – and donating what they can. All money raised will go towards a number of the charity’s services, including its helpline, which allows it to answer around 13,000 calls from parents, teachers and health care professionals. Celebrities supporting the event include Richard and Judy [pictured], Ruby Wax and The Fabulous Baker Brothers.

Those looking for marketing and branding support are invited to a one-on-one consultation session with Andy Ditchburn from Perro, a Newcastle-based marketing and branding company which has helped many businesses in various sectors to build brands and increase sales. Andy will be offering advice on everything from naming and brand development to digital marketing and online strategy.



Village Hotel, Newcastle Tel: 0845 269 9862 Web: Price: Free This relaxed networking event will provide NECC members with the opportunity to build new contacts, exchange ideas and share successes in a round table setting, led by NECC staff and partners. Alongside opportunities to mix and mingle before and after the event, delegates will also have the chance to take part in a trading board, making offers and posting ‘wanted’ ads.

Email with your events




Local business people share their thoughts.

MANAGING DIRECTOR NATURAL TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENTS (NTD) Good product design requires that some form of future proofing is built in to avoid products becoming obsolete within a very short timescale. These products can then be upgraded as improvements in new technology and materials become available. We have achieved this with Solar Angel as the fundamental design concept allows for new improved materials, such as new semi-conductors and Graphene, to be incorporated into products as they become commercially viable.

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR ITPS The growth in fingerprint readers on laptops and phones, combined with increasingly complex password construction, could see passwords disappearing altogether and being replaced with biometric devices such as fingerprints, facial recognition software or even DNA recognition. While most people would probably rejoice at the password’s demise, this brave new world could come with surprises such as increased costs, locked out accounts and the feeling of descending into an Orwellian world where everything you do is monitored and recorded.

The digitisation of information and media is the biggest change affecting the conference and events market. DVDs and CDs are being replaced by online distribution, delegate information is being sent electronically and online conferencing is replacing actual attendance. Smartphones are a diary, music player, contact list and camera (and more) in one. The challenge is for the conference industry to harness this opportunity to improve and enhance the delegate experience, for example through new generation app’s.



What technology do you think will become obsolete in the next five years?


PHIL CAMBERS COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR SITS GROUP It’s actually very rare for technology to become obsolete – instead, it tends to evolve and refine over time. Take the telephone, for instance. Modern mobile phones bear no resemblance to the instrument invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, but the concept remains the same. That said, I do think the growing rise of tablets will have a direct impact on laptop computers. I don’t think laptops will become obsolete but I do think their market share will fall.

ROB CHARLTON CEO _SPACE GROUP Space group has invested in technology for the construction industry for the last 15 years. This industry has traditionally been very slow to react to change, however now in conjunction with the UK Government there is a push to change. Traditionally the design of buildings has been achieved via computers using 2D software, in effect an electronic version of the drawing board. This approach is now very dated with buildings being designed in 3D, using an approach called Building Information Modelling or ‘BIM’. This allows the designer to build a virtual representation of the building and test its performance in advance. With this in mind, 2D software platforms will be gradually phased out across the construction industry.

Much more than previous generations, younger people use technology and expect the most from it. Soon, books and newspapers will die. TV stations will splinter. I expect antiquated banking systems to disappear and for us to go cashless – eBay, Google, Apple and Amazon can do transaction processing better and probably will! Email will evolve to become less congested and flakey. There is no end to human ingenuity and, with the internet opening up global markets, innovations will sweep through. The challenge is to ensure the region leads these technological advancements.



Alan Shearer Foundation Ball Shearer event raises over £200,000 for Foundation.


lan Shearer OBE and chart-topping pop star Olly Murs teamed up for the second annual Alan Shearer Foundation Ball, held at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead Hotel. Olly performed some of his latest chart topping hits to a delighted audience helping to raise thousands of pounds for The Alan Shearer Centre for disabled people and their families. The dinner was attended by leading North East businesses, celebrities and supporters of the Foundation, who helped raise over £200,000 for the specialist facility for profoundly disabled people from across the region. Alan Shearer OBE said “To raise over £200,000 on the night is quite staggering and I just can’t thank enough everyone who attended the dinner and who all dug deep into their pockets to raise such a fantastic amount of money.



10 questions for ...

Vinay Bedi Vinay is well known in the investment world having enjoyed, in particular, a close involvement with many of our region's leading PLCs over the last 25 years. He recently made the move to UBS Wealth Management where he plans to remain heavily involved in the business community as well as continuing to provide top class financial advice for his clients.

What was your first break in business?

What attracted you to your current role?

What has been your career highlight?

And your career lowlight?

The only thing I ever had any thought of doing was being involved in business, but had no idea how. So I would have to say that my first break was actually getting a job! I did this by befriending a major recruitment agent in Manchester who eventually, after many nights buying him beers, found me a great job with a major US company.

Quite simple really, UBS ‘get’s it’. UBS has seen how the financial sector and the regulation of our industry has changed. The company has adapted and changed to meet modern standards of regulation and investment and provides its clients with the sort of top class service that serious investors expect and require.

I ought to say being involved in the flotation of Manchester United, but that was early on and doesn’t sound quite so good at the moment! Sitting next to Elle Macpherson at an Entrepreneurs Forum event was a day I won't forget either!

Discovering how quickly loyalty can be quickly brushed aside to get ahead.


What do you enjoy most about your role? Providing results. This can range from great investment performance to creating a solution that puts a client's goals first.

What's your biggest challenge?

Who are your heroes, in and out of business?

What is the best piece of business advice anyone has ever given you?

What does the future hold for UBS Wealth Management?

What do you do to relax?

I look after a lot of pension funds and charities and the trustees really do need to understand how the last five years have changed both our industry and how their money is invested so dramatically. Helping with this process is now a major challenge.

Anyone who starts a business builds it up and develops it into a major success. There are lots of such examples in the North East (Sage being the biggest and best ‌ so far) and entrepreneurs are the number one factor in ensuring our society grows and thrives.

None that I can actually remember, maybe if I did I might have been more successful! One general rule that I do follow – never be afraid of original thinking and change.

The recently strengthened team here in the Newcastle office is probably the strongest, highest quality group of individuals I've ever had the privilege to work with. The level of experience, knowledge and understanding these guys possess is beyond parallel outside of the City of London. How can I be anything other than extremely positive?

Ideally go on holiday but if there is no time for that then I am very happy watching the Champions, Durham, play cricket or spending a day at the races. The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Vinay Bedi and not the views or opinions of UBS AG.



One to watch

Katharine Paterson In a series of interviews with talented people set for major things, Alison Cowie talks to a Northumberland-based mum on a mission to protect sleeping little ones with her innovative bed system.

ired of her baby daughter bumping herself and getting her arms and legs stuck in her cot bars, Katharine Paterson from Capheaton in Northumberland, set about creating Kare Kot, an innovative three-stage bed system for babies to toddlers. She has since been developing her invention for the market and was recently shortlisted for a national Rattles to Riches award, organised by The Baby Show. “I’m the most unlikely entrepreneur that you’ll ever come across,” says Katharine. “I had no experience of business when I started, never mind of designing or manufacturing something.” Originally from Oldham, Katharine moved to the North East in 1988 to complete her postgraduate studies in Town and Country Planning at Newcastle University. She has remained in the region ever since, working mainly in higher education. She met her husband and had daughter Evie when she was 42 years old. As a new mother, Katherine faced a problem common among parents – that of preventing a restless sleeping baby from injury in their cot. Katharine tried everything to prevent Evie from bumping herself on her cot’s hard surfaces or getting her limbs stuck in the bars. She bought cot bumpers but then realised they were unsuitable because of the possible suffocation hazard to Evie, who was under six months old at the time. “I was amazed and even rang the manufacturer of the cot bumper to check I had got it right,” reveals Katharine. “When they said yes I thought, ‘blimey, I’m solving one hazard and creating another’.” That night Katharine sat down and made a model of her perfect cot; the Kare Kot was born.


Inspired by travel cots, which Katharine had felt more comfortabe using for Evie at night, the Kare Kot has washable fabric mesh sides with all solid surfaces external to the fabric and padded. The cot has an elevated position for children under six months, then once a child can sit unaided, an extra piece of fabric is added to create a deeper space. Katherine adds: “The opportunities for an adventurous child to climb out are severely reduced as the cot is deeper than most traditional wooden barred cots and it is harder to get any purchase for little feet on the mesh and fabric sides.” Another interesting feature when the cot is at this stage is its drop side mechanism. “Rather than being based on a vertical drop which has been banned in the USA because of safety concerns, it’s based on a rotational hinge at the back of the A-frame which is external to the bag and cannot be accessed by the child,” explains Katharine. When the child is ready to go into a bed (around two to two-and-a-half years), the cot then converts into a stylishly designed toddler bed by removing the A-frame and adding two extra legs. Once Katharine had conceived her idea, she knew she needed help to get it to market. This eventually came from Newcastle Science City. “They helped fund some initial market research on the cot,” explains Katharine. “And they put me on a series of six workshops about how to develop an innovative business. “I managed to get another bit of money from North East Access to Finance, and along with some financial help from my mum, I was able to get my prototype made. “I was then able to apply for capital funding


which enabled me to resign from my part-time consultancy job.” That was in the autumn of 2011 and the intervening months and years have been a massive learning curve for Katherine who has, at times, become frustrated by the slow progress – a situation exacerbated by her inexperience. “Each stage has taken so long but I know everything has to be right,” she reflects. “I’ve often had people giving me contradictory advice and having no experience of business, I haven’t been in a position to know which advice was right. “You learn to rely on your intuition which so far hasn’t let me down.” Endless delays have had financial implications and Katharine has now returned to work – but she remains committed to her dream. Katharine is currently in talks with one prominent high street department store which could see the Kare Kot available in its stores this year. She is also seeking private investment. Katharine has the full support of her friends and family, including Evie who is now four years old. “My family thinks it’s amazing that I’m still doing it and I haven’t given up,” she says. “But I’m on a mission to save children from injury. When you put your children to sleep you want to know that they’re safe. “I chat to other mums and they always seems to say, ‘oh yes, my child has bumped themselves or got their arms and legs stuck in the bars.’ “I find it incredible that, until now, parents have had to put up with that.” To contact Katharine email or call 07733308519.



On the Move Your monthly guide to appointments and promotions.




Newcastle ICT services firm, Calibre Secured Networks Ltd, has appointed Shaun Phillips as technical director. In his new role, Shaun, who has more than 15 years’ IT experience in the private and public sector, will be responsible for providing network and technical design expertise to the company’s growing portfolio of clients and will focus on designing and delivering flexible Cisco, NetApp and Meraki systems with built-in security.

PwC, a network of firms that deliver assurance, tax and advisory services worldwide, has appointed Ian Morrison as Yorkshire and North East regional leader. In his new role, Ian, who has been with PwC since 1992 and has been a partner for the last eight years, now leads the firm’s Yorkshire and North East business, which includes more than 1000 partners and staff across its Newcastle, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield offices.

Newcastle-based property investment and development group, The Hanro Group, has appointed Erin Forrest as property asset manager. Erin is an experienced chartered surveyor in the world of property and joins the privately owned company – which has an investment portfolio in excess of £150 million from Virgin Money, where she worked as estates surveyor and managed a wide portfolio of its property assets.




Leading provider of tax, accounting and business services across the UK, Baker Tilly, has appointed Paul Johnson as head of corporate finance for the Yorkshire and North East. Paul, who joined Baker Tilly in 2002, specialises in financial due diligence for private equity investors, banks and corporates and has experience in cross border transactions. The move comes as part of a restructure of Baker Tilly’s corporate finance service line.

Planning and development specialists, Rural Solutions, has appointed Will Browne-Swinburne as associate director. Will, a highly experienced marketer, brings 18 years’ experience to the job – most of which he gained through his directorlevel roles at two of the country’s leading advertising agencies. Will’s role at Rural Solutions is to support its continued expansion across the UK and in the North of England, working closely with the company’s managing director.

GrowthAccelerator, a government and private enterprise-led service that provides businesses with bespoke training and support from growth experts, has appointed Julie Skevington as business development manager. In her new role, Julie – who previously worked as a business banking manager – plans to demystify what GrowthAccelerator is and how it can help businesses in the North East get to where they want to be, faster.



Nigel Nills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

The entrepreneurs behind the Forum ... Meet the inspiring people who make up the the Entrepreneurs’ Fourm Board.

guiding light and the voice of reason, a mine of information and the font of knowledge - the Board of any business has quite a responsibility in steering a successful path for their organisation. Giving their time altruistically, the Board of the Entrepreneurs' Forum has collectively set the vision and strategy for this unique membership organisation to make the North East the number one region in the UK for entrepreneurship. Over the last 12 years its members have also been the voice of business owners, championing the North East across the region and beyond and, critically, been the inspiration for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Led by chairman Nigel Mills, chairman of The Lakes Distillery Company, hotel owner and founder of Mills Group, the Forum was established by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and having entrepreneurs at its heart - setting the vision, monitoring its relevance and sharing their first hand experience - makes it unique among business organisations.


The Board embodies the core purpose of the Forum. They are entrepreneurs who have been there and done it, weathered the storms and enjoyed the successes, and are now in a position to share what they've learned with both established entrepreneurs and emerging talent whose road to success can be shortened through access to others’ contacts and knowledge. Each has a lifetime of experience running successful businesses that have been integral to the North East and, in some cases, national business landscape.

Alastair Waite: a director and former CEO of business continuity and disaster recovery specialists Onyx Group.

The cross-sector Board includes:

candidate and founder of Recognition Marketing and Public Relations.

Brian Jobling: executive chairman of Eutechnyx Group, one of the world’s leading independent video game developers.

John Waterworth: chief executive of Parkdean Holidays.

Graham Robb: a former Parliamentary

Lorna Moran: chief executive and founder of Northern Recruitment Group who was recently bestowed with an OBE to add to her previous MBE.

Paul Walker: the former chief executive of software giant Sage Group plc;


More recently they have been joined by representatives of the newer generation of entrepreneurs who have built on a foundation of their own skills and talent to grow a team and become world-class leaders in their particular sector:

Julie Drummond: founder of strategic marketing, creative and digital agency Drummond Central; Lisa Hart Shepherd: the CEO of Newcastlebased Acritas, a leading provider of specialist research programmes to the legal industry across the world. And now the Forum's board is growing as four more of the region's most innovative entrepreneurs have accepted an invitation to join. Representing property development, energy, manufacturing and the digital sectors, the new members will each bring a different perspective to ensure a range of ideas and voices on the board.

Ian Baggett: the Forum’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. From an inheritance of just £2000, which he invested in a house in Bowburn to refurbish and rent to fellow students, the Adderstone Group has grown into one of the biggest property businesses in the North East. Ian served in the Royal Navy and did a Phd in political geography, before joining North East agent Sanderson Townend & Gilbert reignited his love of property. With a £30 million development portfolio and more than £100 million assets under management, the Adderstone Group comprises investment, development, residential and commercial property management, block management, construction and trading divisions. Rob Mathieson: leader of one of the region's fastest growing digital agencies, Gateshead-based AYO Digital, and is the Entrepreneurs' Forum's Emerging Talent of the Year 2013. Established

just five years ago, investment worth £400,000 from FW Capital will see the business develop two new innovative business software products this year with plans to double the workforce to at least 60 by 2016. Rob, who worked for Fusebox Design and TH_NK before joining with two partners to establish AYO, is aiming for it to be the biggest manufacture of digital systems in the UK. Rob said: "The digital, software and technology sector is seeing an influx of new businesses and there are a lot of programmes out there to support them, but the sector needs leadership. I want to be involved in driving digital in the North East and, as a Forum board member, can do a lot to advise and share my experience with new businesses entering the sector. “Even though we are in the exciting, early stages of our business, we have learned a lot in five years about building a business which we can use to help others and hopefully inspire them that it can be done successfully."

Pamela Petty: the daughter of John Elliott MBE, the founder of Ebac, a market leader in European production of water coolers. Pamela has worked her way up at Ebac after joining in 1986. She went on to head the company’s IT projects and was appointed manufacturing director in 1997. As group managing director of the £15m turnover business since 2003, Pamela is overseeing its expansion to a new £7m manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe and diversification into air source heat pumps, freezers and a revival for the UK of washing machine production, a move that is expected to see the workforce double to 400.

Geoff Thompson: a former management consultant who held a number of management


positions in industry before launching Utilitywise in 2006 with two colleagues and his eldest son. The business acted as intermediary between energy suppliers and their commercial customers, helping the latter to get more value from their energy contracts, and turned over £100,000 in the first year. Rapid growth led to a successful listing on AIM in the 2012 with the business valued at the time at £37m. It now services nearly 20,000 customers and employs over 700 people across the Group with turnover approaching £50m and a market cap approaching £200m. Geoff said: "Statistics show that the North East is some way behind the rest of the country for start ups per capita. Clearly while no single individual can change that, I think that those of us already in business, who have learned a lot and have experience to share, can support, help and mentor others to get started and build their organisation. "I'm not saying I've got all the answers. I'm a working class, North East lad whose had some luck and, together with a great team, worked extremely hard to build a business that's seeing some success, albeit the job has only just started. "Like many people in business I've faced difficulties and had setbacks but now I'd like to use that experience and give something back by putting in time and effort to help others. I believe this can be best achieved through my involvement with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. “When I think back to when I started in business, having someone who could have helped me, been a confidante or reference point would have been of huge benefit." For more information and to find out how you can get involved with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, call (0191) 500 7780, or visit

BUSINESS Gill Hall (Oxford Innovation) and Niels Sandahl (Aartoft).

Tapping into growth Aartoft seeks guidance from Oxford Innovation with its new pre-fabricated bathroom pod. re-fabricated bathroom manufacturer Aartoft is targeting an emerging UK market after becoming the latest Northumberland firm to receive specialist business coaching. The Business Northumberland High Growth Programme is being delivered by Oxford Innovation and it is available to support the expansion plans of eligible firms across the county. Aartoft managing director, Niels Sandah, says: “l turned to Oxford Innovation to provide a route to the UK market for our range of lightweight concrete bathroom pods. “Our concept has been a feature of the Scandinavian construction industry for many years but we have recently seen an increase in UK demand due to the flexibility and durability of our pre-fabricated bathroom pods.” Niels continues: “For Aartoft to become the supplier of choice in this country, I knew we needed a permanent manufacturing facility here and a very specific UK marketing strategy. In 2013 we started production at our site in Ashington and having worked with Oxford Innovation I am confident we are now well-placed to achieve growth in the UK.” Niels estimates demand for around 2000 lightweight concrete pods per year in the UK with the majority coming from developers of social housing, hotels and other multipleoccupancy buildings. To date, this demand has been met by imports from manufacturers


based in mainland Europe. Aartoft's end product is a bathroom custommade to British Standards featuring tiled walls, flooring, sound reduction technology, ventilation, electrical and water connectivity. Oxford Innovation business coach Gill Hall, who has supported Niels in the development of a route to market strategy, says: “This was a fascinating assignment as Niels was looking to make the transition from well-established exporter to the leading supplier in an emerging UK market. “The strategy we have produced takes advantage of Niels’ vast experience and combines it with the creation of a corporate identity, message and set of core values that will resonate in the UK construction sector. “The outcome not only establishes Aartoft in this country but it also takes the company fullcircle as it looks to retain its customer base in Europe but in future as a UK exporter.” From its base on the site of the former Rio Tinto Alcan Lynemouth aluminium smelter, Aartoft currently provides employment for 25 people but Niels believes he can double the workforce if the business reaches its full growth potential. “I consider North East England my home from home now and I am incredibly excited by what we can achieve in a region where the work ethic and manufacturing culture are so strong,” said Niels. “This has been a very challenging period for Aartoft and I am extremely grateful for the support I have


received from the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme, especially the expert advice from Gill and the team at Oxford Innovation.” The High Growth Programme forms part of Business Northumberland which offers established and start-up businesses in the county free support in reaching their full growth potential. It is a free service that provides advice and support to anyone thinking about starting a business and also offers coaching to existing businesses with growth ambitions. Business Northumberland is jointly funded by Arch, The Northumberland Development Company, Northumberland County Council and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Oxford Innovation’s methods have proved successful elsewhere in the UK, where the organisation has worked with over 2500 high growth businesses. And despite the challenging economic circumstances of the last three years, Oxford Innovation has helped its clients across the UK access over £100 million of funding, creating or safeguarding more than 1600 jobs. To find out more about the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme and how Oxford Innovation can help your business call (01670) 528403, email or visit



Accelerating confidence in the North East Area director of GrowthAccelerator, Colum Smith, welcomes business development manager, Julie Skevington, to the GrowthAccelerator team ... rowthAccelerator is an exclusive and bespoke service, aimed at businesses with the potential to achieve high and sustained growth. GrowthAccelerator will get to the heart of the barriers that are holding businesses back and help them identify the critical steps they need to take to achieve their next phase of growth. By investing in GrowthAccelerator, businesses will have access to a specialist business growth coach, as well as funding, to help develop its leadership and management teams.


Briefly, how goes GrowthAccelerator work? Colum - Once a business customer comes on board, they will work with one of our growth managers, who will discuss the business’ aspirations, capacity and opportunities to achieve high growth. They will also identify the main barriers holding the business back and start to build a tailored growth plan. The next stage is selecting the best growth coach; someone who is matched to the business’ aspirations and who has the right experience and skills to support the implementing of the growth plan.

Why should a company seek external support and what are the benefits of doing so? Colum - GrowthAccelerator gives access to experienced, professional coaches, who can be invaluable to any type of business. According to research by the government body Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), businesses that seek and use external advice and information are 50 per cent more successful than those who don’t.

What kind of companies does GrowthAccelerator work with? Colum - We will support any small and medium size enterprises (businesses with less than 250 employees and £40 million turnover). Currently, we have a varied mix of industry sectors using the service, from manufacturing, business services and IT to retail and the food industry.

What does a typical growth package include? Colum - There is nothing typical, as each and every customer receives a bespoke service. It varies, as no customer needs the same thing. The key, though, is matching the business with the best coach to support the business’ growth ambitions. The majority of our customers also invest in high level leadership and management training programs for their senior teams. GrowthAccelerator gives up to £2000 per person matched funding for Leadership and Management training.

What makes GrowthAccelerator different to other business coaching services? Colum - The fact that we are not a coaching service: we are a partnership between government and private sector businesses, set up to assist small and medium size companies achieve their high growth plans. We work with over 30 business coaches in the North East to deliver the GrowthAccelerator service.

What do you think is the biggest


challenge, at present, for companies looking to grow and how does GrowthAccelerator help with this? Colum - According to our client research, strategy and management, sales and marketing and access to finance are their barriers to growth. GrowthAccelerator can assist with all above areas of concern, from business development to innovation and access to finance, with workshops and training available.

What do other business leaders, who have worked with Growth Accelerator, say about the service? “GrowthAccelerator really got under the skin of our business. Their enthusiasm was so reassuring and having that third party there to mediate and provide external perspective was crucial. The whole service – in particular the Orbit Diagram process, which was pivotal – has been really good for us.” - Ian Chapman, director, Traveller

What are your ambitions for Growth Accelerator in 2014? Julie: My mission is to demystify what GrowthAccelerator is; I want to explain to businesses that want to achieve rapid growth in the North East, how amazing the support and expertise available is. Colum: I want North East-based businesses to utilize the GrowthAccelerator service to drive growth, wealth and create jobs for the region.


Are you a

customer focused business? Asks Rod Findlay, consultant at Your Sport Consulting.

had an experience the other day that made me think about the different approaches businesses take towards customers and how much value in them they actually place. I think most people understand the Henry Ford quote that, "it is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages." However, how many businesses put that principle into practice and adopt a customer focused strategy. The business I dealt with recently certainly didn’t. I will save their blushes but essentially I entered an open shop with two assistants behind the counter to buy two mugs as presents. As I opened the unlocked door to step inside one assistant barked, “Oh no, no, no, I’m terribly sorry we are shut.” She had an unfortunate manner but it struck me that everything was present for a trade to take place: a customer with cash, goods, staff and a till point. But I got the impression the paperwork in front of the assistants was more of a priority.


What is a customer-focused strategy?

EXPERT VIEW Rod Findlay Consultant Your Sport Consulting Email: Twitter on @rodfindlay

customer-focused strategy but what does that entail? Essentially it means a business that puts customers at the centre of business decisions. Customer-focus is quite literally and quite obviously, focusing on the customer. That is not just at the point of sale but when decisions are made, policies are implemented, and employees are trained. It is cultural and must encompass the entire business. Customerfocused businesses think about what they can do to make customers feel valued and their experience better. This is very easy to talk about but the best companies put the strategy into practice.

How do you put it into practice? The assistant did explain that she could sell me the mugs if it was an emergency – when would buying a mug ever be an emergency? This suggested that it wasn’t an inability to sell but a lack of desire – or a lack of a customer focus. I was so shocked that the whole exchange took place without me uttering a word and I left certainly feeling undervalued despite being a regular customer. Many businesses would do well to adopt a

There are various steps to take to put a customer focus into practice. The first is to evaluate the goods or services you provide to your customer base. Is it what they want and in a manner with which they want to engage? I heard one sport club owner bemoaning the lack of fan response to his investment. It made me wonder when he had asked the fans if that is what they had wanted.


Part of that process is the second stop, which is getting customer feedback, but this should be ongoing. I also think it is important to talk to non-customers or those that have rejected the product. If you only talk to existing customers then you will hear mainly positive stories and will miss the opportunities. The third step is probably where the business I experienced went wrong, and that is staff training. The entire workforce, and not just the senior team, should buy into the ethos. They should understand their roles in approaching the business with a customer focus and the need to pay attention to customers, anticipating their needs and valuing their input. That might include offering incentives or seeking negative feedback with the intention of acting on it and not just justifying your actions. Finally, it is important to review the entire customer journey and product journey to ensure that the culture is embedded throughout. This might be your marketing material, the product packaging or how your receptionist engages with clients.

An outsiders’ viewpoint? Most businesses naturally find it difficult to be objective and honestly appraise whether or not they are customer focused. Also, humans tend to self justify and when incidents happen it is against our natural inclinations to accept that our approach was wrong. That is why many businesses employ mystery shoppers or consultants to provide an independent view. If you have attempted to adopt a customer focused strategy is it worth checking out whether or not it works in practice?


Acquisition for Rowlands The North East accountancy firm acquires Tax Assist in Hexham.


owlands Accountants has consolidated its business in Hexham with the acquisition of a second practice in the town. The firm has taken over Tax Assist in Hexham. The office in Battle Hill has been rebranded as Rowlands and the two staff who are joining the firm as part of the deal will be moved to the Rowlands branch in Gilesgate once the lease on their current building expires. The acquisition expands the team in Northumberland from 12 to 14 specialists. The company, which was established in 1924, also has branches in Ponteland, Sunderland, Yarm, Crook and Birtley in addition to Hexham. Rowlands’ partner Alan Hynd was the driving force behind the deal to acquire Tax Assist from Anna Beadle, who decided to

Alan Hynd (right) with the new recruits from Tax Assist.

sell up in advance of a move to Scotland. Anna said: “I was looking for somewhere with a similar client base to me. While

Rowlands are a bigger firm, they deal with a lot of small to medium sized businesses so have been a perfect fit.”

Bond Dickinson advises on £44m sale

Accountants prescribe the right advice

BHP sees double


orth East-based BHP Law is celebrating after its residential conveyancing has doubled in the past 12 months. The firm has secured panel work from national lenders that has led to significant growth in the number of cases it is receiving both locally and nationwide. The law firm's conveyancing teams in Stockton, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle have all seen growth through their links with local estate agents as well as panel referrals from banking groups and brokers, Partner and head of conveyancing at BHP Law Sally Hare said: “It’s very positive news for BHP Law and the region as we are putting the North East on the map for professional conveyancing services.”


eal Estate lawyers at Bond Dickinson, which has offices in Newcastle and Stockton on Tees, has advised longstanding client Rockspring UK Value Fund on the sale of Gateway House in Richmond, London for £44.1 million to a private client of Cushman & Wakefield. Gateway House was the final asset owned by Rockspring of the five office properties in the former St Martin's South East office portfolio. Bond Dickinson advised Rockspring on the acquisition of Gateway House as part of the portfolio in February 2011 for £22 million and also worked on the subsequent asset management exercise to increase the value of the property.



yneside accountancy practice Robson Laidler has expanded into the healthcare sector, attracting a number of dental and medical clients. Andrew Robson said: "We have a dedicated team here that really knows the medical profession inside out. We have recently been awarded membership of AISMA, the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants. “This is a small national network of around 75 accountancy firms who provide expert advice to medical practices, locum GPs and hospital consultants and we are delighted to be members."


PERFECT PARTNERSHIP Distinguished family lawyer Lyn Rutherford and promising solicitor Emily Frankish only met in 2010 but they have become a formidable team, joining Mincoffs Solicitors 17 months ago to develop its family department. Here, they talk to Alison Cowie about their working relationship and how they have played their part in the Jesmond-based firm’s recent growth.


hen Lyn Rutherford, the eminent family lawyer, returned to work three years after retiring, he was soon to form a prolific partnership with young aspiring solicitor Emily Frankish. Lyn and Emily joined Jesmond-based Mincoffs Solicitors 17 months ago, attracted to the firm’s potential and its personal approach. They were tasked with developing Mincoffs’ family department. Lyn and Emily have since attracted a number of high net worth clients to the firm. While Lyn brings his knowledge and tactical strategy gathered from a successful career – in which Chambers and Partners described him as “the divorce lawyer of choice for business people”, and The Legal 500 as, “acclaimed by his peers as a highly accomplished and fearsome opponent” – Emily brings a strong work ethic, fresh approach and a first class law degree from Northumbria University. Mincoffs’ chief executive, Andy Woodhouse, reflects: “Lyn and Emily complement each other perfectly in terms of skills and experience and are a formidable team and an integral part of the firm. “They have played their part in the firm’s increase in turnover of 30 per cent in the last two years.” Their special working relationship is something that Lyn and Emily do not take lightly: “I literally wouldn’t be working if it wasn’t for Emily,” says Lyn. “It sounds extreme but it’s true. “Emily is brilliant when it comes to detail, doing the research, finding the cases and putting the documents together. It’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas off.” Emily in turn benefits from Lyn’s vast experience: “If there’s anything I’m unsure of I know I can speak to Lyn and get the answer,” she says. The talented solicitor has also been given the opportunity to work on many high profile cases. “I’ve had the exposure to the calibre of work that I would never have been given for ten to 15 years on my own,” Emily reflects. “I’m getting the chance to deal with some really high end, complex matters.” Lyn adds: “Emily has been fast tracked in many ways and has had a steep learning curve. I’ve put her under pressure at times but she has handled everything superbly.” Another reason why the partnership has flourished is a shared ethos toward family law, as Lyn explains:

“You have to be determined and be willing to fight for your client. Many are embittered and disaffected by their situation. They have to feel as though you’re doing your best for them within the legal system. “Emily has the same philosophy as I have. Unless you’re deeply concerned and committed to getting clients the best deals, it doesn’t work. If she didn’t have that attitude then I wouldn’t want to work with her.” Lyn and Emily aim to see potential clients as quickly as possible, arranging an initial meeting free of charge. “We understand how people with family law issues are feeling and we try and see them as early as we can to provide some comfort,” Emily says. The pair is also keen to stress that family law is not just about divorce but incorporates a number of matters, including co-habitation agreements, child care and adoption proceedings and pre and post-nuptial agreements. Both Lyn and Emily advocate the importance of planning when it comes to family law. “Anyone entering a relationship who has assets should really talk to a lawyer so that they can make informed decisions,” says Lyn. “If you decide to live with someone, there are consequences; if you have children together or you have children from previous relationships, there are all sorts of implications.” Emily adds: “It doesn’t have to been seen as a flaw in the relationship. It’s just about planning. If there are children involved, it’s about protecting them.” Mincoffs Solicitors has enjoyed a successful 2013 with most areas of the business growing significantly, thanks to investment in the right people and an expanding client base. Lyn and Emily agree that they are delighted to be at the firm and are committed to its future. “It has huge potential,” Lyn says of Mincoffs. “There have been a lot of talented people joining the firm over the last year or so and Emily and I have found everyone to be hugely informed.” Andy Woodhouse concludes: “2014 should be an exciting year with further growth expected across the firm. “Recent successful appointments in litigation, commercial property and commercial services, aligned with substantial investment in infrastructure, underpin the plans which have already been developed.” For more information on Mincoffs Solicitors call (0191) 281 6151 or visit


Emily Frankish and Lyn Rutherford



Know your

pension funding limits ... warns Ian Lowes, managing director of Lowes Financial Management.

n important deadline is rapidly approaching in respect of lifetime pensions allowances. Over the past few years the Government has been gradually reducing the maximum amount anyone can invest into their pension over their lifetime and benefit from tax relief. In the March 2013 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed that from April 6, 2014 the amount anyone will be able to save into a pension each year will fall from £50,000 to £40,000 and the most they can save over their lifetime without incurring tax penalties is being reduced from £1.5m to £1.25m. This lifetime allowance is a considerable amount for many savers, but it will not be a case of having actually invested £1.25m but whether your entire pension pot, including its growth over the years, is valued in excess of that amount on retirement. For example, if a wealthy saver has a self invested personal pension (SIPP) of £900,000 five years before retirement and it grows at seven per cent a year, the limit may be breached. Someone ten years from retirement with pension pots worth a total of £700,000 will exceed their allowance if their money grows at seven per cent a year, even if they make no further contributions. Final salary schemes promise income in future rather than having a capital value, so HMRC assess these very differently. On retirement HMRC calculate the ‘value’ by multiplying the annual income payment by 20, and adding the value of any tax free lump sum. As an example, a pension of £50,000 per


EXPERT VIEW Ian Lowes Managing director Lowes Financial Management Tel: (0191) 281 8811 Email: Web:

year, plus a £150,000 lump sum on retirement would be valued as £1.15m, and so would be under the threshold. But, if an AVC (additional voluntary contribution) pot of £100,000 had also been built up, then the total would be valued on the threshold of £1.25m. This restriction can creep up on some savers without knowing – especially where someone may have accrued more than one pension in their career. If your pension savings are worth more than the limit, then when you take your benefits you will have to pay the lifetime allowance tax charge on the excess. You could face a 55 per cent tax charge on any lump sum taken from your pension scheme, or a 25 per cent charge from any fund used for income. Fortunately, HMRC is allowing a transitional period for people who may breach the allowance to protect their retirement plans. HMRC is allowing for two types of protection: Fixed Protection 2014 (available until April 5 2104) and Individual Protection


2014 (available from April 6 2014). Fixed Protection enables any pension saver to take pension savings worth up to £1.5m without paying the lifetime allowance charge if they apply for Fixed Protection by April 5 2014. But no further pensions contributions can be made; if they are the allowance will be lost. Individual Protection will give a lifetime allowance equal to the value of your pension rights on April 5 2014 over £1.25m and up to an overall maximum of £1.5 million, and, importantly, further pension contributions are allowed. There is the possibility for people to sign up to both forms of protection and utilise the one that best suits their circumstances at retirement. There are two further considerations here as well. First, automatic enrolment into a workplace pension scheme will mean that Fixed Protection is lost, because no further contributions are allowed after April 2014, so it may be worthwhile opting out of the scheme. Secondly, there is the possibility that this may not be the final restriction applied by the Government. Over the past three years the lifetime limit has reduced from £1.8m to £1.25m – if in the future the limit is reduced further – it has been suggested down to £1m – then many more people could be caught in the trap. If you are considering the best way to plan your pension contributions, or you believe your pension savings may breach these allowances then you should contact a firm of chartered financial planners as soon as possible to discuss your options.



Is there another way? ... when it comes to divorce? Asks Joanne Major of Major Family Law.

EXPERT VIEW Joanne Major Principal and Collaborative Lawyer Major Family Law Tel: (01661) 824582 Web: Twitter: @majorfamilylaw

anuary’s media has been full of the usual post Christmas divorce talk, claiming an increase in the habitual January spike in the divorce rate following the strains of the festive period. Many of those who have been through a family break-up may agree that there is no such thing as a ‘good separation’. And there has been much attention paid recently to the effect on children, with some turning to drink, drugs and self-harm as a result. To some, these findings will come as no surprise. After all, our world is bombarded with data, media, and preconceptions of the acrimonious nature of divorce and separation. Courts and lawyers did not create the situation; rather, the system developed as a response to the need to deal with such situations arising. Somewhere between hostility and lawyers, however, there is a route that can lead to a more empowered, reasoned, and fair end to a marriage end. This route is called Lawyer Supported Mediation, and combines negotiated agreement with technical and legal support from a senior family lawyer. The key to the concept lies in both parties to the marriage actively opting to negotiate with each other, without resorting to court proceedings, and supported in those


negotiations by an independent professional mediator. The whole process is backed by individual expert legal advice for each party from locally selected family solicitors. Family mediation is a proven space to reach an agreement that each party will be prepared to abide by. It beats the uncertainty of going to court, not least because over twothirds of people who began mediation in 2012/13 went on to reach agreement. People are often unsure of what mediation actually is, confusing it with marriage guidance and attempts at reconciliation. On the contrary, what family mediation actually does is to help couples come to an agreement for the arrangements of their children and/or finances in a constructive and structured way. It is a voluntary and confidential process which gives the parties a chance to explain their issues, hopes, concerns and needs to each other in the presence of the mediator, providing a safe environment, which can help to reduce hostility and improve the chances of long term positive communication. With Lawyer Supported Mediation, the process is enhanced by each party having the support of their own solicitor. Initially, the solicitor can explore the issues and possible options with their client and


advise on appropriate courses of action. When the mediation process has concluded, the parties’ solicitors can work together to draw up the necessary documentation to give legally binding effect to the agreement, and of course, the solicitors can also process those aspects of the separation not covered by mediation, such as the divorce itself. What the process does is combine the advantages of both existing options to offer a non-acrimonious and cost-effective route through divorce. The whole process is subject to prescribed fixed fees, paid in instalments by the client, offering certainty and value for money. And even if the mediation process should break down, the parties are in the fortunate position of not having to start from scratch, leaving them free to explore a full range of options with their existing lawyer, including, if necessary, court action. Major Family Law we are so confident in the Lawyer Supported Mediation model that we became the first solicitors in the North East to champion the process and we are now proudly the lead suppliers in this area for LSM. To find out more, visit or contact Major Family Law.


Bibby Financial Services drinks reception North East professionals celebrate a record year for the financial specialist.


nvoice finance specialist Bibby Financial Services hosted its annual Christmas drinks reception at Tokyo Bar in Newcastle on December 19. It was the second year in succession the event was held and had more than 100 North East based professionals in attendance. Last year saw Bibby Financial Services increase lending to businesses in the region by more than a quarter (27 per cent) year on year from ÂŁ11.6m in 2012 to ÂŁ14.7m in 2013, and the company is looking to build on this in 2014. If you would like to discuss funding requirements please contact Peter Cromarty on (0191) 516 5925.



What investment resolutions should you make? Richard Clark, private banker at Barclays Wealth and Investment Management, offers seven tips for investing in 2014.

he New Year is always a time for making resolutions in pursuit of improved behaviour. However in investing, it can often appear that there is widespread disagreement on what constitutes ‘good’ behaviour. Should one invest more or less? Invest now, or wait for more certain times? To help with constructing sensible investing resolutions to follow, we at Barclays have gone back to fundamentals to extract what we believe are seven core truths that all investors can subscribe to. Of course these are broad principles, and there may be odd exceptions, but build your resolutions around these, and you can be confident your investing behaviour will be better as a result.


EXPERT VIEW Richard Clark Private banker Barclays Wealth and Investment Management Web:

Diversify to reduce unnecessary risk

Put it to work Getting fully invested as early as possible, at the level of risk appropriate to your risk profile, rather than leaving available capital unutilised delivers the best financial outcomes over time.

Focus on the long term Short term investment outcomes involve considerable luck and it is almost impossible to differentiate luck from skill in the short-term*; in the long term, however, good investment process is likely to pay off.

Reduce your anxiety

Work out what you can afford to invest Successful investing requires a safe environment – above all it requires sufficient financial liquidity and/or insurance to ensure the investor gets to choose when to sell (is not forced to sell).

than frequent buying/selling – investment returns are about time in the market, not timing the market. Stock picking, currency speculation and market timing are usually costly over time and best left to professionals (if at all).

Over time diversification delivers the best returns to all investors for the amount of risk taken regardless of investment amount.

Reduce costs wherever possible The most certain drags on investment performance are costs, fees and taxes. Make sure you know what you’re paying for and why.

Long-term investment success requires being sufficiently emotionally comfortable with your portfolio through the investment journey to stick with your plans and follow a good investment process. Of course, you should bear in mind that, no matter what principles you follow, investment requires taking risk, and risk means investments that can fall in value. You may get back less than you invest.

Do less than you’re inclined to Inaction delivers better financial outcomes

*This is not to say that skill doesn’t exist, just that it can only be genuinely discerned over relatively long time periods.

Barclays Wealth Management is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is a member of the London Stock Exchange. Share prices and the income from them can go down as well as up. Readers are advised to seek professional investment opinion before entering into dealings in securities mentioned in this article, which may be unsuitable in their personal financial circumstances.



Why restructure a healthy company? Asks Andrew Cawkwell of Muckle LLP. he economy in the North East is showing positive signs of recovery but business owners still need to minimise uncontrolled business risks and protect themselves for the future. There are specific ways that risks can be managed for a legal entity company that has two or more businesses operating within it. It is not unusual to have a number of businesses operating within one limited company, as a result of previous acquisitions. However, continuing to trade as one limited company might not be the best way forward. If one business within a company has issues that pose a threat, this could be a good reason to restructure. Potential issues could include the threat of commercial litigation if a company owner fears a breach of contract claim could be made against them. There could also be product liability issues looming or a work force in one part of the company that has the potential to bring more employment claims, creating risk to the company as a whole. Whatever the circumstances, the ‘risky’ business has the potential to impact on the


EXPERT VIEW Andrew Cawkwell Partner Muckle LLP Email: Twitter: @CompanyRescue


‘good’ one – threatening the company as a whole. We can help healthy companies to separate their ‘good businesses’ from the risky element using a Section 110 Reorganisation, which is part of the Insolvency Act 1986. The Act’s name suggests the legislation is only relevant to businesses whose short term trading is no longer viable, but that is not the case. Section 110 allows healthy companies to split their businesses to protect themselves. The legislation can also be used to split a company where business owners want to go their separate ways – rather like a commercial divorce, splitting the company assets. At Muckle LLP we take a holistic approach to supporting businesses and will always collaborate with accountancy practices to ensure our clients receive the most applicable tax advice and support for HMRC clearance. Any company owners or intermediaries working with SMEs who are aware of issues that have the potential to create unacceptable risks, should explore this option as a means of removing the risk and enabling companies to thrive.

LAW & FINANCE Ian Smith and Stephen Slater.

RMT helps company move into Europe The accountants and business advisors works with Surreal as they open an office in Portugal. urreal, a successful North East branding consultancy, has established its first overseas base after opening a new office in Portugal’s industrial heartland. More than half of the work undertaken by Surreal over recent years has been focused on continental Europe, with international businesses including Sonae, Nike and Stryker among its client base. Surreal’s new premises in northern Portugal’s largest city, Porto, on the Iberian Peninsula, is located close to the headquarters of many of the country’s leading manufacturing businesses, and the agency is aiming to use its new position within the local marketplace to expand the


range of work it undertakes both nearby and further afield in Europe. Long-term advisor Stephen Slater of RMT accountants and business advisors, with whom Surreal have chosen to work since the business was set up in 2007, worked on the project with the Surreal management team, while assistance was also provided by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the Government body which supports British businesses’ exporting efforts. Surreal managing director Ian Smith says: “We chose to work with RMT from the off as we wanted to be able to grow into the range of services they provide as the business evolved, and their support on this project is just the latest example of how they’ve facilitated our

development at every turn.” Stephen Slater adds: “Ian is realising his long-term vision for Surreal by executing a strategic development plan that is both expanding the company’s capabilities and significantly widening its focus from the North East onto new markets. “The commercial success that the firm is enjoying comes down to a willingness to keep searching for and acting on the next opportunity, and we’re very pleased to be continuing to play our part in Surreal’s evolution.” For more information on Surreal, please visit

Tinsley buys Tanfield ozens of North East jobs have been saved after a buyer was found for one of the Tanfield Group plc’s divisions. Tanfield Engineering Systems Ltd was placed into administration in November last year by its directors after posting substantial losses in the previous financial year. The Recovery & Insolvency team at RMT Accountants & Business Advisors was appointed as administrators for the Tanfield-based business with a view to trading the business to protect its substantial debtor book, marketing it and attempt to sell it as a going concern. Interest was shown by a number of potential buyers, and after the suitability of each interested party was assessed, a deal was agreed with specialist heavy transport industry manufacturer Tinsley Special Projects Ltd, which has premises in Eaglescliffe and Peterlee in County Durham.

Linda Farish, head of Recovery & Insolvency at RMT, added: “Continuing to trade Tanfield Engineering Systems and fulfilling existing orders while we looked for potential buyers was absolutely essential in order to protect the company’s debtor book and increase returns to creditors, and the staff have made a crucial contribution to ensuring we could achieve this goal. “We had a lot of interest in taking on the business from a number of different parties, and conducted visits to Tanfield’s premises with several of them to help identify the most appropriate buyer. “Tinsley Special Projects offered the best option for the transaction, and we’re very pleased that an agreement has been reached with them.”


For more information, please visit



The end to pension ‘rip-off’? George Slack, head of Financial Planning at Brewin Dolphin talks about how discrepancies between the best and worst annuity deals on offer could cost you as much as £100k.

ollowing Pensions Minister Steve Webb’s recent suggestion that pensioners should be given the power to switch annuities and the campaigns launched recently by the Financial Services Consumer Panel and The Sunday Times – to name only two, wealth manager Brewin Dolphin hugely welcomes all initiatives to find a better deal for savers. Brewin has underlined the importance of shopping around and seeking professional advice when choosing your annuity. Having spoken to four of the major pension providers, Brewin Dolphin has found considerable disparities between the best and worst annuities quoted for the same typical 65-year-old single male. Brewin surveyed Canada Life; Legal & General; Standard Life and Prudential, for this study and they all quoted for the same client* Life companies rates do change almost daily – hence the need to get good professional advice with deep industry knowledge.


George Slack, head of Financial Planning at Brewin Dolphin in Newcastle, says: "Anything and everything should be considered in the quest to improve the returns from Annuities or to find an alternative. Since the banking crisis and the advent of Quantitative Easing – Annuity rates have dropped to pitiful levels – and we have advised very few clients to purchase annuities in the last few years, instead recommending drawdown. “So Steve Webb's idea of a secondary market should not be dismissed out of hand. We must all think hard about improving returns from pensions for an ageing population, and his innovative idea is full of good intentions. “Deciding whether to buy an annuity is one of the biggest financial decisions most of us will ever make, and in the meantime it is essential to get professional advice and to shop around, since your annual income from your annuity could vary hugely depending on which provider you choose. The real tragedy in the

example below is that you could be over £100k worse off just by accepting the first offer and not seeking advice, which of course is something we can all do something about”. “With regard to the Annuity Directory concept as a way to avoid the cost advice; looking at the differential quotes below from three major annuity providers for the same client – we can’t stress enough the false economy this would be and the need for professional guidance – even if it is the only time you ever pay for it. “You wouldn’t perform open heart surgery yourself, and this could be a life and death decision – or certainly the difference between a comfortable or a miserable retirement.” For more information about the Fiancial Planning Services Brewin Dolphin offers, contact George Slack on or (0191) 279 7370.

* The difference between the best and worst annuities available for the same 65 year old single male with 18.3 years life expectancy Pension Pot



Difference per annum

Total difference over 18. years




£3391 p.a.





£5652 p.a.




UNW advises TDX The accountancy firm helps a Gateshead manufacturer complete a shareholder buyout. ateshead manufacturer Thermodynamix Thermoforming Specialist Services Limited (TDX) has completed the buyout of retiring shareholder Harry Reed. The company, which employs 90 members of staff and a turnover of £20 million, was advised on the deal by UNW managing partner Andrew Wilson, UNW tax partner David Ward and Sintons' commercial and company department partner Matt Collen. The company has also signed a new funding deal with Barclays which will provide working capital facilities and term funding through the Government-backed ‘Enterprise Finance Guarantee’ scheme, enabling TDX to move forward with confidence under its new ownership. TDX, based at Team Valley trading estate, Gateshead, specialise in assisting businesses operating in the Thermoformed packaging industry and offer products and services both domestically in the UK and overseas into mainland Europe, India, the Middle East and America.


Left to right: Matthew Elliott (Barclays), Matt Collen (Sintons), Andrew Wilson (UNW) and Mark Prinn (TDX).

UNW’s Andrew Wilson said: "UNW has been working with Mark and the management team at TDX for a period of time now, ensuring that they found the right funding partners for this transaction and to secure


future growth of the business. TDX is a long standing UNW client so the deal was considered from all angles, including tax, and it's great to see a smooth transition of ownership from one management team to another and the creation of an exciting future business opportunity.” The company was originally established as a supplier of Thermoforming packaging design services, prototype samples and tool manufacture, however, in 2006 they diversified into Extrusion and created a new division manufacturing recycled plastic film for conversion into packaging items. Mark Prinn, chief executive at TDX said: “The management buyout will enable us to grow the business to the next level – building on our existing relationships and targeting new markets and new clients. “While negotiating on the buyout we felt that the time was right to find a new financial partner to support us in the next phase of our growth strategy and Barclays has provided a suite of banking products which will provide the flexibility for us to grow with confidence.”


Is your property safe as houses? Hay & Kilner’s Paul Illes reveals the steps you should take to avoid becoming an innocent victim of property fraud.

EXPERT VIEW Paul Illes Solicitor Hay & Kilner Tel: (0191) 227 6798 Email: Web:

our property is probably the most valuable asset you own. It can be sold and mortgaged to raise money and is therefore an attractive target for fraudsters. Property fraud happens in many ways. Most commonly fraudsters impersonate the registered owner and either sell or mortgage their home without their knowledge, disappearing with the proceeds. For over 20 years the title of all registered properties has been open to the public for inspection, providing a great aide for fraudsters. For £3 anybody can establish the name of the owner of a registered property and if they have a mortgage. Solicitors, professional conveyancers, the Land Registry and mortgage lenders all have safeguards to minimise the risk of a fraud being successful. However, it is important that property owners do what they can to help prevent fraud and protect their home in the same way that they protect other assets they own. Between September 2009 and April 2013 the Land Registry stopped 136 fraudulent applications on properties worth an estimated £60 million. Anyone owning an interest in property can be the victim of property fraud, however there is an increased risk of fraud occurring when:


• The property is empty or has been bought-to-let

• The property owner spends time abroad or away from the property • The property has no mortgage • The owner is infirm or in a nursing home • The property owners’ relationship breaks down Four simple acts can help protect you against property fraud: • Ensure your property is registered • Ensure your contact details are up to date • Register a restriction • Subscribe to Property Alert About 20 per cent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered. Registration provides an up-to-date official record of who owns the land, gives you greater security and you may be compensated by the Land Registry if you are an innocent victim of fraud. When ownership of your property is registered, an ‘address for service’ is provided to the Land Registry. This is the address to which the Land Registry and other parties will send letters and notices if they need to contact you, so this must be kept up to date. If your contact details are not correct it is unlikely that any party will be able to contact you, which could be instrumental in preventing fraud. Up to three different addresses, including an email address and/or an address abroad can be


provided to the Land Registry for any property. Restrictions are an important additional security measure introduced by the Land Registry reducing the risk of property fraud occurring by fraudsters impersonating a property owner or submitting a fraudulent personal application to the Land Registry. Registering a Form LL restriction with the Land Registry ensures there will be no dealings with your property unless a solicitor or other professional conveyancer certifies they have checked the identity of the person who has executed the documents submitted for registration and that they are the registered owner. The Land Registry has also just announced a new free service to help protect against property fraud called Property Alert. This is a free property monitoring service aimed at anyone who might be concerned that their property could be at risk of property fraud. Once registered with Property Alert, property owners will receive email notifications when official search requests and applications against monitored properties are received, allowing the owner to take necessary action against suspicious activity. If you are concerned about property fraud and would like to register your property or register a restriction against your property’s title, contact Paul Illes.


Growing healthy business David Nairn, partner at Rowlands Accountants, looks at how the healthcare sector is faring in the current economic climate. How buoyant is the healthcare sector and what are its greatest strengths? While parts of the healthcare sector have experienced a difficult time throughout the recession, demand for healthcare services has remained constant or grown. With an ageing population this will only continue, creating opportunities for those who supply products and services to the industry. A big strength is the sector’s highly committed and trained workforce, some of whom have seen their wages diminish whilst the demand for their services has increased. Despite this the operators of GP practices, nursing homes, dentists and pharmacists have continued to work tirelessly to provide the caring services that their patients require.

What challenges do the healthcare sector face? The Government has introduced major cost cutting measures to the NHS. Wage freezes have impacted workforce moral and managers have seen a stream of Government initiatives to reduce demand on the public purse whilst being directed to deliver better and more complex healthcare solutions. One example is GPs being made responsible for the purchase of healthcare solutions and complex financial decisions to which they may not be ideally suited. The need for efficiencies has been compounded by the introduction of increasing accountability and compliance procedures

across the sector. Professionals are aware of the increasing public scrutiny of their activities and the impact of litigation where patient and client care is involved. A big concern to NHS professionals is the reducing levels of pension that they may receive when the Pension Lifetime Allowance reduces to ÂŁ1.25 million this April. This is worrying for those who have accumulated good pension relief and funding which may now be subject to clawback by HMRC.

What should healthcare companies be doing in order to expand and grow? With all expanding markets there are opportunities for growth. Clinical and operational activities have been put out to tender to improve efficiencies and ease the administration burden on the NHS, giving private providers a chance to capitalise. Pharmacies face significant opportunities as schemes previously provided by GPs move across and this revenue stream should help compensate for decreasing revenue from drug dispensing despite the increases in dispensing numbers. Many dentists’ practices have taken the opportunity to provide their services privately and could benefit from expansion via mergers or acquisitions. Whilst the number of NHSonly practices diminish, the requirement for their services remain strong and despite the need to reapply for contracts and the increasing compliance issues, many students are still looking to enter the profession.


The nursing home industry has seen a reduction in acquisition activity due to lack of finance but a fragmented market offers opportunities for smaller local operators to grow. Ultimately any opportunities need to be carefully considered and planned. Thankfully banks are now more prepared to fund viable healthcare proposals than in recent years, which is very positive.

Rowlands works a lot within the healthcare industry. How has this sector specialism developed with the practice? Rowlands has, for years, worked with large numbers of organisations and individuals right across the healthcare industry, from nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies to doctors, dentists, pharmacists and those in the supply chain. We have strong links with Local Pharmacy Committees and our work has led to clients being able to increase their market shares and expand even during this period of recession. As well as commercial expertise we provide tax planning assistance to ensure every organization and individual is best placed in terms of their financial position. Many in the caring professions are not ideally suited to financial management and we aim to provide that interface to the business, positioning them to achieve the greatest success. For more information, please visit


Corporate finance briefing ... with Mark Irving, director at Irving Ramsay Limited.

uring the course of January Irving Ramsay Ltd has had several meetings with business owners who are considering selling their company so I thought I would use this month’s column to document some thoughts on the subject. The sale of your business is a major event in your life so it must be planned for, closely managed and effectively executed. The starting point, inevitably, is identifying your objectives; what do you intend to do post sale? If you are looking to retire from business life and your business is the largest asset on your personal balance sheet, it is critical that you crystallise enough money from the sale (post tax) to maintain the standard of living you require and to do all the things that you want to in retirement. We will come back to this figure later. Moving on to the planning process itself, it is difficult to generalise about how an owner should go about preparing a business for sale but it is important to identify areas of your company where a buyer may perceive there to be risk and take what action you can to negate or minimise such risk. Resolving potential


issues before the sale process begins can enhance the price achieved. Timing is another key factor to consider. From an internal perspective, are there factors (whether financial, commercial or otherwise) that impact on when it would be most advantageous to take your business to market? Externally, you should identify, analyse and interpret the nature and extent of mergers and


acquisitions occurring in your sector. Reviewing the market takes us neatly onto potential acquirers. This is such an important part of the process and it is imperative that you and your adviser undertake research of a sufficient breadth and depth to ensure that you identify all credible potential acquirers. You may well then prioritise those that you feel are more likely to buy than others (using evidence of previous acquisition activity) and deliver a premium price (where there is the greatest strategic fit). Having identified how best to position your business for sale and having appraised the market place you should now reconsider your initial objectives. Does the work you have done and data you have collected lead you to believe that you will be able to crystallise the amount you need from the process? The answer to this question is critical and I will pick up this point in next month’s column. If you are thinking about selling your business in 2014 contact Mark on or call 07730 437 617.



Left to right: Helen Warren (Sintons), Ross Clark (ClicTime) and Donna Hunwick (Sintons)

Building on its success A LEGO and Star Wars merchandise company expands its creative space, with the help of Sintons. licTimes, which licenses and distributes LEGO and Star Wars merchandise globally from its base in the North East, has expanded into premises more than three times the size of its previous home. The company is the exclusive global licensee for LEGO watches and clocks, and also has a dual Lego license with Warner Bros and Lucas Film, which allows the manufacture and distribution of LEGO Star Wars and LEGO DC Superhero clocks and watches worldwide. The business has now expanded into 3369sq ft premises in Blaydon, South Tyneside – more than treble the floor space of its previous base in Ponteland – to give its 11-strong design team three storeys of modern open-plan office and design space, plus a large stockroom and marketing department. ClicTime, which distributes its Lego merchandise throughout the UK, as well as in 8000 retail outlets across North America and in more than 20 countries on four continents, has also taken on two new people at its new North East office. The company has made significant investment into its new base, converting it into a three-floor creative space for its design teams to devise future ranges of iconic products for global sale. Along with ClicTime, owner and managing


director Jim Richardson also owns several other brands, which are designed and managed from the premises, including Skewjack. And with the impending launch of a new LEGO movie and range of watches for adults among the many developments planned for 2014, the year ahead holds significant potential for the business. The new Blaydon site is the UK headquarters of ClicTime, a global company, which also has offices in New Jersey in the United States, and Hong Kong. It was established in the North East in 1999 by Jim Richardson, and has been a LEGO licensee for over 12 years. Robert Palmer, group finance manager at ClicTime, said: “We have always held a strong relationship with LEGO and in recent years we have seen a rapid increase in turnover globally. The new space in Blaydon is perfect for our business and we envisage being here for many years. We are excited for our new product launches for 2014 and expect the business to continue to grow into the future.” ClicTime has been supported in its office move by Newcastle law firm Sintons, with Helen Warren, an Associate in the firm’s Commercial Property team, carrying out all of the property work. Donna Hunwick, a solicitor in Sintons’ employment team, also works with ClicTime, supporting the business with its employment work.


ClicTime also donated hundreds of its watches and clocks to Sintons’ charity of the year for 2013, Down’s Syndrome North East, as well as for the law firm to give to local children in a local hospital. Donna Hunwick, employment solicitor at Sintons, said: “While a relatively small and locally-based operation, ClicTime works with huge brands on a global scale, establishing a strong reputation in the process. From their very discreet new premises, they design iconic products that are sold and loved around the world. “The team at ClicTime is hugely creative and so passionate about their designs, and their enthusiasm is infectious. We are very pleased to work with them and to help support them as they continue to grow and develop in the region and beyond. “Furthermore, we are sincerely grateful to Jim and the team for their generous donations to our charity of the year. These watches and clocks have been raffled to raise money, others gifted to children who are helped by Down’s Syndrome North East, and have also made lots of children smile at the Great North Children’s Hospital at Newcastle’s RVI.” For more information about ClicTime, visit or Sintons visit


Left to right: Charles Penn, Sophie Brocklebank, Anne Webster (DSNE), Danielle Dale, Garry Jennings and Julie Fawcett

Thousands for DSNE Sintons donates over £12,000 to Down’s Syndrome North East. aw firm Sintons has raised over £12,000 for a charity that supports people with Down’s Syndrome, following a year of fundraising activities. The Newcastle law firm chose Down’s Syndrome North East (DSNE) to be its charity of 2013, and raised a record total through a series of staff events over the course of the year. DSNE – which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year -– works across the whole of the North East region to offer support, networking opportunities, events and subsidised leisure activities to people with Down’s Syndrome and their families and friends. It is run entirely by parent volunteers. It was chosen as Sintons’ annual charity after being nominated by one of its employees, whose young son has Down’s Syndrome and


whose family has benefitted greatly from the support of DSNE. The final total of £12,384 was raised through events including a Halloween Ball, quizzes, taking part in the Great North Run, bake sales and dress down days. Amanda Maskery, partner at Sintons and chair of its CSR Committee, said: “DSNE does such brilliant work and helps so many families across our region, and we are delighted to have raised so much money to support them in the vital role they play. We have been impressed and inspired by the work DSNE and its team of volunteers does to help so many people. “This is the largest sum we have ever raised for an annual charity, and are so pleased it is going to help such a fantastic cause.” Anne Webster, chair of DSNE, added:


"DSNE was delighted to be nominated and chosen by the staff from Sintons as their charity of the year for 2013 and what a year it has been! As well as raising such a magnificent sum for DSNE, Sintons has also supported us in other ways to raise the profile of the charity. “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have worked alongside them over the year and we would like to say a huge thank you to all the staff at Sintons from all the families that DSNE support. We intend to make good use of the money raised by subsidising the trip to ‘Disney on Ice’ for more than 40 of our families and helping to fund activity and leisure breaks for our members." For more information on Sintons visit or on DSNE visit

LAW & FINANCE Back row, left to right: Deborah Percy, Wendy Peffers and Amy Whyte. Front row, left to right: James Godden, Habeeba Haque and Deb Tweedy

The value of

internships A North East law firm is backing the region’s youngsters with the development of a unique work placement to build their professional skills. ordon Brown Law Firm, which has offices in Newcastle and Chester-leStreet, has worked closely with local school Excelsior Academy to shape an internship, which will add value to its courses and help students understand how businesses operate. The tailor-made internship provides a strong grounding in all areas of Gordon Brown within the law, marketing and HR departments, across two half days per week. This allows the intern to experience a real business environment while continuing studies at the academy. Habeeba Haque from the West End of Newcastle has recently taken up the first internship at the law firm alongside studying for her AS Levels at Excelsior Academy, for which the 17-year-old also receives a wage. Habeeba reveals: “I began my role at the end of November and I feel I’ve already learnt a great deal. It’s exciting being able to establish


myself independently in both a professional and academic sense. “I’ve enjoyed working across different departments and in particular, so far, specialising in family law. For example, by carrying out research into changing a birth certificate, I was able to support on a family case which I found really interesting – it’s certainly something I can see myself pursuing a career in further.” Martin Farrar, specialism lead at Excelsior Academy, says: “Gordon Brown has provided a wonderful opportunity for Habeeba to develop her workplace attitude and knowledge to support her ambitions to work in the legal profession. “Excelsior is always working with businesses to help our students gain the skills they need for successful careers and we are grateful to Gordon Brown and the Asian Business Connexions who laid the foundations for us to make the initial contact for Habeeba’s internship.”


Deb Tweedy, HR manager at Gordon Brown Law Firm, adds: “We are very proud to have developed a unique internship programme with such a forward-thinking organisation as Excelsior Academy, who are right on our doorstep in Scotswood. “The result is a rewarding, self-sufficient initiative that will provide young people like Habeeba with an invaluable insight into the commercial workplace and the wider legal industry – ultimately improving their future employability. “We’re committed to addressing unemployment figures in the North East and will continue to forge strong links with local schools and colleges to upskill young people from an early stage so that they are able to fulfill real industry roles – ultimately, achieving their full potential.” For further information on Gordon Brown, visit


Nompumelelo Dlamini.

Fair for all As Fairtrade Fortnight (Feb 24-Mar 9) gets underway, head of Shared Interest Foundation Chris Pay reflects on the role played by the North East in pioneering fair trade.

he Fairtrade mark is now the most widelyrecognised ethical label globally. It has 78 per cent brand recognition amongst the UK public, with sales of £1.5bn in 2012, growing at 18 per cent per year. These would have been staggering figures to some of the pioneers of the fair trade movement who planted a small seed 40 years ago, and have watched it blossom. The impact of sales of Fairtrade products is significant. Last year, purchases in the UK raised over £23 million in premiums which have been spent on projects which benefit the communities from which those products originate. More important still are the fair prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world that the Fairtrade mark signifies. The North East can be proud of its role in pioneering development of fair trade in the UK. Back in 1979, before the Fairtrade mark had been established, Traidcraft began trading from Newcastle city centre, importing goods from developing countries and ensuring producers were paid a fair wage, using the strapline People before Profit. With offices now in Africa, Asia and London, Traidcraft continues to manage its operations from its headquarters in the North East, and has helped establish other well-known Fairtrade brands such as CaféDirect. In 2003, Newcastle was announced as the world’s first Fairtrade Metropolitan Borough. The Newcastle Fairtrade Partnership now co-ordinates a range of fair trade related activity, along with Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, both of


Chris Pay

which have Fairtrade status. And in 2010, the region scooped another first, with Hadrian’s Wall designated as the first Fairtrade World Heritage Site. It is perhaps not surprising then that the North East should be home to Shared Interest Society – the world’s only 100 per cent fair trade lender. With almost 9000 members across the UK, Shared Interest Society uses investments of around £30 million to enable fair trade businesses to grow in some of the world’s poorest communities. It’s a model that has improved the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and handcraft producers over its 24-year history. Shared Interest Foundation was established by Shared Interest Society 10 years ago to assist businesses in developing countries to grow, providing increased incomes and more jobs – enabling people to work their way out of poverty. In those 10 years, we have improved the livelihoods of over 10,000 individuals. Individuals like Nonpumelelo Dlamini who lives in Swaziland with her school age daughter and her orphaned granddaughter. She also


supports an orphaned boy. Nonpumelelo is an active businesswoman selling bags and purses, along with baby products for the local market. However, when she started her business almost two years ago, she didn’t know how to sell, or price her goods, or generally where to begin. Initially, Nonpumelelo was making school uniforms, which meant the majority of her income was restricted to the beginning of a new school year. As a result, she was struggling to survive. Since starting training with a Share Interest Foundation-supported initiative, she has made great progress. She was inspired to create products for the tourist market, which tell of her country’s heritage. Nonpumelelo is positive about the future and is passing on skills she has learnt to others in her family. Profits have improved and she plans to expand her bag business, and employ a new member of staff. She is even considering a side-line venture, raising pigs. This Fairtrade Fortnight we can all do our bit by putting more Fairtrade products in our shopping basket. But if you’d like to make your support for disadvantaged communities more than a fortnightly affair, then why not support the entrepreneurs of today to become the fair trade employers of tomorrow. Find out more or donate at To get involved in Fairtrade Fortnight visit


Is the grass always greener? Bryony Gibson, managing director of Bryony Gibson Consulting, shares her thoughts on what you should consider before changing jobs.

EXPERT VIEW Bryony Gibson Managing director Bryony Gibson Consulting Tel: (0191) 375 9983 Web: Twitter: @bryonygibson

ew Year, new job. It’s often a resolution that sees employers spend valuable time and money on recruitment, only to see it falter at the offer stage. While no one should be blamed for changing their mind, with a little more time spent thinking things through at the beginning, I’m sure a lot more people would find what they’re really looking for a great deal quicker and easier.


Should I stay or go? There are lots of reasons that trigger the search for a new job. It could be to gain more experience or broaden knowledge; to find a new challenge; perhaps personal circumstances have changed; or it may simply be for greater financial reward. Whatever the catalyst, when working out what’s best, the first thing to do is understand what truly motivates you. We spend half our waking life at work, so getting satisfaction should be the priority. If you aren’t happy then maybe it really is time to weigh up your options. It’s important to be honest. Start by asking yourself a few questions along the line of: What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What do you like about your current

job? What is important to you? You need to work out what matters to you most in the longer-term; and if you’re lucky enough to match this with your strengths, then it should become a lot easier to figure out which direction leads to your goals.

Things to consider People can grow out of even the best jobs over time. Sometimes you need a change or a new challenge to reinvigorate yourself, but before you begin searching make sure you take time to think about your current role, your employer and your future prospects. Does your company’s ambition match your own? Do you get on with your colleagues? What does your boss think of you? What do you think of your boss? There’s a lot to be said for being appreciated and trusted in the work place. If you feel empowered and have autonomy you need to make sure that will remain if you decide to move. Your work-life balance is a key ingredient. Do you have flexibility at work? Are you supported when you need it? How long is your commute? What is your work-life balance like? These are all things that affect your level of job satisfaction. While it isn’t all about money, it pays to be aware of how competitive your total package is


in respect to your peers. Think about holiday entitlement, pension payments, bonuses and important HR policies like maternity cover and sickness. If you’re thinking long-term, consider the experience you’re gaining, the networks you’re exposed to and the kudos you get from working where you do. This should all help you understand what to do next.

Is the grass always greener? The short answer is no, but if you’re not happy you do need to make a change of some kind life’s too short to live with regret. The decision to stick or twist comes down to knowing what you want and understanding what your employer can offer; so don’t forget to speak to them and give them a chance to change things. It could simply be that you’re stuck in a rut and it’s not as bad as it seems once you adopt a more positive approach, but whatever you decide be confident and don't be put off by fear of change. Once you’ve considered all the pros and cons you'll probably know in your heart what to do next. If you do go for it, make sure you’re moving for the right reasons and commit wholeheartedly, because the rewards from finding a job you love can be life changing.


_space secures funding for BIM Company prepares to launch its second phase of 3D modelling software.


orth East based _space Group has secured funding from Investment for Growth to develop the high-tech, webbased platform to host Building Information Modelling (BIM) – a process that enables building designers to create virtual buildings in 3D. BIM brings together electronic construction information into a single database, encouraging a more integrated approach to design and construction processes. The second phase of, developed by _space Group, follows the initial site that was developed internally, to test the market. Projections are that turnover will exceed £1million in 2014. As a result, the group has generated new job opportunities, and has set up a specialist intensive training programme for graduates, to retain skills in the North East region.

New merger

Onyx’s new offering


ata Centre & IT Infrastructure provider Onyx Group has revealed the details of its re-launched Business Partner Programme. The specialists in data centres, cloud backup, cloud hosting and connectivity solutions is offering a new business partner programme for resellers, referral partners and companies wishing to create their own white-labelled product. John Toal, the sales and marketing director at Onyx, said: “With our secure ISO 27001 accredited facilities, accredited and experienced engineers, 24/7 Support and continuously investment in our infrastructure, businesses can feel safe in the knowledge that the service we are offering is the very best.”


wo North East technology companies have merged to form Adept Communications and Technology. The new enterprise is the brainchild of Way 2 Communicate, providers of telecommunications services and Nomis Systems, an IT support company. Adept Communications and Technology offers synchronised communications and IT to small and medium sized businesses from Manchester to Scotland, streamlining companies’ technical connectivity to a single platform where previously IT and telecommunications would exist in separate systems.


SITS Group on cloud nine


ramlington-based SITS Group, which provides cloud computing solutions to private and public sector clients, has been been awarded UK Small Business Partner of the Year at the fifth annual VMware Partner Recognition Dinner, held at The Mayfair Hotel, London last month. SITS Group was also shortlisted in the End User Computing Partner of the Year category. SITS commercial director Phil Cambers, said: “We are delighted to win this prestigious award for the second time and will now concentrate our efforts on ensuring we achieve a hat trick.”


The long game North East Times asks successful men and women with more than 25 years’ experience in their field, what their industry was like when they started, how it has changed and where they see their sector going?

Steve Nelson Technical operations director, Calibre Secured Networks Ltd


PAST n the beginning there was no internet or email, no mobile phones or mobile devices (it makes you wonder how we coped back then). As for networks, they were a rare thing – and those that did exist were difficult to manage, clunky and certainly had none of the useful features we have in today’s systems that business and commerce so desperately relies on. There was no such thing as server engineers or the breadth of IT roles and specialities that exist today. Most businesses, if they had any kind of IT infrastructure, had basic technology in the shape of a terminal with some access to a mainframe.


oday, the IT landscape has changed beyond all recognition and things continue to change rapidly month to month – it’s difficult to encompass as so much has changed, even in the last five years. Businesses rely so much on IT, to be more productive, increase ROI, safeguard assets and information while networks, which are accessible from almost anywhere, at any time, have become the norm everywhere. And the security of these networks is now a priority for businesses to protect data, information and assets along with corporate reputation following the advent of cyber criminals. Dedicated IT budgets have emerged from general financial budgets and even the smallest firms and organisation have dedicated funds to pay for new technology as they try to stay ahead of their competitors. We have seen a massive change through the rise of mobile devices while work is no longer a 'place' – it can be wherever you are in the world thanks to secure access to work platforms – and IT is less about 'what can I do with IT?' and more 'what can IT do for me?'


FUTURE he future is very exciting. We will see the consolidation of devices used in the home to access systems, data and information – the use of smart TVs to enable the family to access online and email services. Landlines within the home will disappear and clever interfaces that are controlled by human movement and gestures, even eye movement, will begin to find their way into people’s lives. Businesses will become more trusting of technology and the much heralded paperless office will have truly arrived. However, one thing will remain a constant: IT security of business assets will become an increasing priority as cybercrime is covered more and more in the world’s media and criminals evolve ever more clever ways to attack the technology that drives business and personal life.


TIMELINE 1987: Systems programmer, West Midlands Travel 1991: IT manager, Hedley Purvis 1996: Network manager, Knowledge IT 2002: Independent consultant 2008: Technical operations director, Calibre Secured Networks Ltd




Big data needn’t mean

big headaches Says Garry Sheriff, Managing director of ITPS.

ig data is changing the way we do business. It’s not a new phenomenon, we have been supporting our clients’ big data strategies for a decade, but it has gradually become a buzzword as organisations have tapped into its revenue-generating potential. Experts say that more than 2.5 quintillion bytes (a quintillion is one followed by 18 zeros) of data are generated daily, but it’s worth nothing if it cannot be used. As big data drives storage, hardware and network infrastructure developments, it is the underpinning technology solution that holds the key to success. And it follows that choosing an expert partner is essential if the IT infrastructure is to be fit for purpose. Our team at ITPS manages many petabytes (that’s quadrillions, to you and me) of data on behalf of our clients, and we have years of experience in developing infrastructures capable of evolving alongside the business. For example, our client Clarity Informatics is an internationally renowned centre of excellence in creating worldwide healthcare networks based on real life data and analytics that improve patient care and outcomes. To give Clarity a high capacity communications hub we created a 10G ring network sitting across three secure data centres. This is the fastest connection in the North East and gives Clarity rapid and large bandwidth connectivity to transmit large volumes of information to and from its global clients. When you choose your big data IT partner there are several key factors to consider:


Communications: Speed is key, which is why we invested £750,000 in our communications network. Companies using big data need dedicated rather than shared

EXPERT VIEW Garry Sheriff Managing director ITPS Web:

bandwidth, a structure with no single point of failure, and no latency so they are always dealing in real time data. Check the upload and download speeds you are offered. Your promised upload might be fast, but download speed is equally important. If you have downtime or a disaster and your systems and data take several days to restore, you could be out of business by then.

Security: The safest place to hold your data is in a Tier 3, ISO27001-certified data centre. The rise in remote working and ‘bring your own device’ means organisations have never been more at risk from accident, attack and simple human error. Make sure you choose a partner who can balance security with opportunity, and safely accommodate ’anywhere, anytime and from any device’ access by your staff.

Storage: This is the most crucial element of big data strategy planning. Your storage environment should be scalable and flexible enough to cope with large volumes and everincreasing data loads. Leading vendors such as IBM and NetApp have developed enterprise class big data platforms that address pain points, giving


clients the ability to start with one capability and easily add others, reducing implementation times and costs. A high capacity solution that is all or partially cloud-based will drive down costs and give you a platform that can simultaneously handle large amounts of data from a range of sources.

Backup: Make sure your partner can offer a range of options, from on-site traditional tape, direct or disk backup to a cloud-based solution. Even if you never suffer a major crisis, you could still fall prey to the consequences of unplanned outages. Several of our clients are in the freight, shipping and blue light emergency services sectors, where data unavailability would be disastrous. Business continuity and disaster recovery: You should expect to be offered business continuity planning and design workshops, supported by disaster recovery architecture planning. Having proactive and reactive plans in place will help you avoid a crisis, and ensure you can access your data in the event of disaster.You also need full workspace recovery facilities in place, so that in the event of interruption, your people can continue working in an environment that offers them access to all their usual systems and data. This prevents long outages and means you can have your business up and running within hours. Big data strategies need not mean big headaches. But choosing the right partner to implement the planning and design of your IT infrastructure could be the difference between success and failure.


State of the Art What’s new in the world of technology and gadgets ...

MAC PRO pple’s latest Mac Pro has been designed around an unified thermal core and packs impressive performance into an aluminium enclosure an eighth of the volume of the previous generation. The all-new Mac Pro features four, six, eight or 12-core processors running at Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz


and two workstation class AMD FirePro GPUs that deliver up to eight times the graphics performance of the previous Mac Pro. PCIe-based flash storage delivers sequential read speeds up to 10 times faster than conventional desktop hard drives, and ECC DDR3 gives the new Mac Pro up to 60GBps of memory bandwidth for seamlessly editing full-


resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background. And with six Thunderbolt 2 ports, each with up to 20Gbps of bandwidth per device, the new Mac Pro remains the must-have tool for the creative community. Prices start from £2499.

QOD OD is the world’s smallest electric golf trolley, measuring just 27cmx30cmx42cm. Its lightweight construction and telescopic design makes it easy to use and transport, and the quiet 180-watt motor features a 25-to-1 gear reducer to ensure constant speed up hills and a three-option distance control function. RRP £595.


MODEL M WIRELESS cclaimed Swiss designer Geneva’s latest model is the Model M Wireless. Boasting a refined acoustic design and a discreet system of tweeter/woofer pairs and four class A/B amplifiers, the compact sound system also includes dock-free wireless capabilities, Bluetooth and a DAB/DAB+ radio. RRP £499 (gloss red, white or black); £549 (walnut).


GALAXY NOTEPRO & TABPRO amsung unveiled its range of 12.2-inch tablets at the recent Consumer Electronics Show 2014, held in Las Vegas last month. The Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO tablets boast the world’s first 12.2-inch WQXGA widescreen HD displays with four million pixels and Multi Window function that enables users to split the screens into four. Release date TBC.




Shaun Phillips

Avoid costly ICT mistakes Shaun Phillips, technical director for Calibre, on the importance of getting an ICT supplier that’s right for you. enewing or simply upgrading an ICT system can be one of the biggest investments an organisation makes. Get it right and the benefits can last for years but get it wrong and you can find yourself haemorrhaging a lot of money on a system that’s not working and, worse still, locked into a contract with a ‘solutions’ provider which is driven more by profit than working as a trusted advisor. Shaun Phillips, technical director for Newcastle-based Calibre Secured Networks Ltd, offers advice on choosing and working with the right supplier. “We regularly get called in to review designs from customers about to invest huge sums of money who have been given a network design from their incumbent supplier that does not even follow industry best practice - or a kit list that will leverage maximum profit for the supplier without really looking at whether it will meet the customer’s existing and future needs.” So how do you avoid getting into this position in the first place and ensure you are able to move forward with a contract, and ICT system, that works for you. It should be a straight forward process and starts by working with a trustworthy partner like Calibre to help you make the big strategic decisions about technology, budget and the financial commitment you wish to make. A reputable ICT provider will discuss the many options available to you and ensure that your investment is future-proof – so that you will not need to re-invest heavily every couple of years. Any good contract should start by outlining


the scope of the ICT services framework: what’s included and importantly what’s not. The benefits of a framework agreement are unequivocal and will clarify and define for you clear service level agreements (SLA), contract terms and how performance will be monitored. It also enables you to assess before getting locked into any potential costly agreements, the financial stability of the supplier, the quality of their work, project management capability and processes and mechanisms for dealing with complaints and remedies – and even necessary penalties and financial reparations. When it comes to awarding the contract, value for money will of course be an important consideration but also uppermost in your mind should be considerations such as ‘”…is this a quality supplier who understands my needs?” and “…can I work with these people long term - and will they be proactive”? Even if you are locked in to a contract with an incumbent supplier it will pay dividends to get their proposals, designs and kit lists independently reviewed to ensure you are getting value for money and the right ICT Solution. A good ICT supplier can work closely with you to help prepare the framework agreement, which should define costs everything should be transparent - the duration of the contract with options to terminate after a certain period of time or if service level agreements are consistently missed. Contract management should also be considered and made clear, so that both parties understand what’s involved from the outset regarding the formalities of performance monitoring, when and how reviews will take


place and preparing for contract renewal. Customers undertaking performance monitoring should base it on an agreed set of key performance indicators while regular reviews with a service supplier will identify concerns early or acknowledge satisfactory progress. And what defines whether or not your contract is pricey or good value-for-money. Ask yourself is the supplier doing what’s expected and responsive to your needs? Are costs such as labour, equipment, repairs and updates reduced when compared with the previous level of output or service provider? Are you reducing the volume of resource in the shape of people, property and material s needed to support ICT? And perhaps most pertinent of all is whether or not output has increased and quality improved e.g. extra service or productivity for the same cost as previously? Shaun adds: “Never be afraid to talk to your supplier’ and ensure you understand what they are doing and which critical factors like SLAs and costs are totally transparent and understood. After all, getting locked into a pricey contract is the easiest thing in the world but get out of one can prove very difficult, almost impossible, and may cost you for years to come.” Calibre provides ICT solutions for public and private sector organisations, working across the UK and Europe. For more information call Calibre on 0845 5576355 or email Alternatively visit


The future of PR Ocademy event looks at the emerging trends in communication.


ewcastle communications agency OPR held its latest Ocademy event recently at the Digital Lounge at Tyneside Cinema. The event looked at the changing face of the media landscape and the future of PR in a digital world. Ocademy is OPR’s quarterly event series for its clients and partners to share knowledge on all aspects of emerging trends in communications. At the event, specialist experts covered the growth of mobile media consumption, emerging social media trends, transparency and trust in business, and the power of Google. Managing director Kari Owers said, “We are lucky to work in one of the world’s most exciting and fast paced industries, yet the changes in the way we all communicate in the modern world can be confusing, challenging and even frightening for

businesses if they don’t understand what it means to them. “The Ocademy brings some of the insights we learn and the ‘think tank’

attitude we have at OPR to a wider audience. The events hopefully inspire, challenge and motivate them to embrace what’s coming in communications.”

Awards on the horizon


orizonworks has once again been appointed by Bionow to organise and deliver its annual Biomedical Awards. The awards, which are taking place on April 24 2014 at the Baltic Centre for

Contemporary Art, will celebrate the strength and depth of the cluster and the diversity of the companies within the biomedical sector across the North of England. Horizonworks will be fully managing the

event on behalf of Bionow including the PR and promotion of the awards evening, attracting sponsors and companies to attend, managing the nomination and judging process and organising the logistics of the full event.

The search for local life


wo North East actors are facing a race against time to source a significant real-life story and create a short film in just 28 days. Philip Mathews, of Gateshead, and Gemma Nichols, of Gosforth, are the co-

creators of the aptly named venture The 28 Day Project, which will premiere in London. Members of the local community are urged to get in touch if they have a life experience which bears significance to February 28. If their idea is chosen they will


attend the premiere in London on that day. With filming due to start February 1, anyone interested in helping out with the project should contact Phil or Gemma on 020 3371 0995 or email


Marketing music to your ears How a well tuned integrated marketing strategy can help your business, by Horizonwork’s Samantha Davidson.

ust as an orchestra is made up of different sections all following the same piece of music, each element of your marketing should work together in harmony and follow a clear strategy. Integrated marketing is a way of developing and implementing marketing activity across a range of channels in a way that is co-ordinated and consistent. It’s a term that was coined in the late eighties, and essentially means making sure that all the different elements of your marketing activity are working together to create greater impact. We have never had so many marketing tools at our disposal. The number of places where your marketing messages can reach your target audiences is greater than ever and as a result, audiences – and, arguably, their attention spans - are becoming increasingly fragmented. The challenge is to understand what role different marketing channels can play in your marketing strategy and to ensure that they are all integrated to provide a consistent, holistic marketing drive. Integration has become an increasingly important concept in marketing because technological advances have changed how customers and businesses interact. For example, if someone reads about you as a result of your PR activity or sees your brochure, they could then go to your website to find out more or start following you on Twitter. All of these need to be seamless in terms of what they’re saying about your brand. And this should continue right through to when the sale is made and beyond – providing your customers with a positive and helpful experience, and making sure your product is conveniently


EXPERT VIEW Samantha Davidson Managing director Horizonworks Tel: 08450 759955 Email: Web:

accessible (and nowadays that is likely to mean online accessibility via smartphones and tablets) all play their part in ensuring there’s a consistent brand promise running through your entire marketing effort. This consistency is key in making sure that consumers understand your product, your company and how you can help them. It ensures the most effective use of your marketing budget too, since all your investment is going on communicating the same message, not in creating confusion in the minds of your audience with different, and potentially conflicting, messages. Successful integrated marketing relies on having a clear strategy and a compelling brand identity. It also requires time and effort to roll it into every aspect of your business – not just the obvious ones like your marketing and sales activity, but right through to customer service and the way you train your staff. Regardless of which marketing tools you use, your brand touches everything you do and say as an organisation. It is the impression that you, your products, your adverts, your website, your tweets, even your staff, leave on others. Your marketing activity should deliver a consistent


message as a result of every element working together to create a positive perception of your company and build a powerful and credible brand. In this day and age more people are connecting with brands in many different ways. So one thing that can help to ensure your marketing is integrated is to map the range of channels and locations where your customers could potentially come into contact with your brand. A communications audit can help with this – as well as helping to understand how effective your communications are and what the current perceptions are of your business among a sample of your customers, suppliers, employees and partners. Businesses (and audiences) are not static, and neither should your brand be. You should regularly review your marketing strategy to assess what’s working well and what needs to be refined. The feedback from a communications audit can help you spot if all elements of your marketing activity are singing from the same hymn sheet and is essential in the ongoing development of your marketing strategy. To get your marketing hitting the right note in 2014, we’re offering a free Marketing Healthcheck. This includes a review of your marketing strategy and feedback on what improvements to consider in order to improve the effectiveness of your marketing and help you achieve your business objectives. Whether you want to increase your profile, improve communication with your customers or gain a better understanding of your competitors, combining a strategic approach with creative thinking we will provide recommendations and ideas that will make your business stand out.



Turn your attention to

digital engagement Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd, the PR and marketing consultancy, looks at why digital engagement is key for businesses and where to begin.

hose of you who saw it may have noted I had a lazy start to the year, placing an advert in January’s North East Times rather than my usual column. The content was important though, being a reminder of the ever-increasing role digital plays in the marketing mix. As the copy stated, savvy businesses are using the appropriate online platforms to communicate directly with customers, employing cross-channel planning techniques to ensure this activity is supported by traditional media relations and paid for advertising to achieve the greatest brand reach. If you’re one of the businesses still to take a leap into digital, it may feel frightening but it needn’t be -– there are methods that can be used to break the process down into bite-sized chunks. Taking things step by step ensures you can be confident the approach is right and minimises the risk that always comes with trying something new. As with anything, the starting point is to define what the long-term goals are. You need to be clear what you want from your digital engagement, how the planned activity will support your wider organisational objectives and what the company needs to do to make your efforts a success. With the latter, for example, you’ll need a process in place that sees any data and feedback from online activity cascaded back into the business, you may need a dedicated customer care team handling online enquiries during the day, evenings and at weekends (not


forgetting there should always be a crisis provision), and there is a definite necessity for social media guidelines to be put in place for staff from the outset too. Working on the assumption that as a business you can easily define and communicate your unique selling points, the next job is to be clear on who your audiences are. These should of course include your loyal customers but also those you’d like to convert into clients and key influencers. Understanding the specifics of these groups and how they behave means you should quickly be able to work out which channels you will use to share content. To illustrate, if you want to target teenagers, there is no point developing a page on Facebook – Twitter, Instagram and messenger app’s such as Snapchat are currently much more popular with this bunch of early adopters. Just setting up a brand presence on the relevant channels is not enough. Having decided which technologies, media and tools you will use, significant time should be spent on agreeing what the content will actually be – just pushing out a sales message will get you nowhere. Engaging with people means delivering relevant information in visually appealing and shareable formats, including images, infographics and video, not to mention ensuring you are giving them ways to get involved with your brand. This could be by asking them to share their own images or stories, vote for their favourite product or by


entering a competition. Co-creating content will help to build your own community and should also result in customers becoming an active advocate of your company. Third party endorsement and word of mouth are two of the most powerful ways to generate new business, after all. Finally, there is one other key area that mustn’t be forgotten – the metrics that will allow you to monitor and report progress. Before activity starts you will need to decide on what your key performance indicators are and what success looks like. How else will you know that what you are doing is working, be in a position to swiftly change direction if the need arises and convince the management team to allocate more to the marketing budget? If you’re working with people who think digital activity is madness, you need to be able to show the method in it! Hopefully this has helped as a starting point and there is plenty more information out there if you look. For a great visual reference, it is worth visiting - pin it by your desk, you’ll be glad you did. Contact Sarah on 07702 162704, email:, Twitter: @hallmeister or visit For more PR and marketing related news and articles, please visit



Get the look Fashion and accessories for men. By Jessica Laing.

Primark, £10

Dr Martens, £110

John Lewis, £45

H&M, £39.95

t may only be February, but spring has well and truly sprung on the catwalks – and according to the likes of Prada, Gucci and Dries Van Noten, it’s going to be blooming for not only women, but the manliest of men, too. Described as ‘the print of the season’, floral motifs are set to take the world of menswear by storm this spring, adorning everything from the classic suit to casual wear [as pictured]. If pretty petals aren’t to your liking, don’t fear, as many of this year’s hit prints – including micro flowers and the infamous Hawaiian hibiscus – have been given a dark, masculine makeover. Ideal for businessmen who want to bring personality to their work attire, not only are SS14’s dark florals (think navy blue, earthy browns and shades of grey) subtle enough for the office, they’re also incredibly easy to wear on an evening. No time to change before drinks after work? A brown floral shirt underneath a black, tuxedo-style blazer is smart and effortlessly stylish.


River Island, £18

MODEL ATTIRE Floral printed t-shirt, £18 Skinny bleach printed wash jeans, £32 Retro sports trainers, £28 All from Burton

Next, £28



Left to right: Bill Naylor, Sam Elliot and Simon Taylor of Naylors.

Getting results Naylors office agency team secures 150,000 sq ft of new instructions.


aylors Chartered Surveyors has acquired over 150,000sqft of new office instructions since appointing new office agency head, Simon Taylor. Since Simon joined Naylors in October 2012, the office agency team has experienced a significant increase in the number of instructions and are marketing

new properties including; The Quadrant at Newburn Riverside, Maingate and Digital House at Team Valley, Gainsborough House and 2 Collingwood Street in Newcastle city centre, Kingfisher Court in Stockton and Teleport House at Doxford Business Park, Sunderland. Simon commented: “Despite the difficult market conditions of the past few

years it is clear that we are now seeing a real improvement in office occupier demand. We are currently experiencing a notable increase in enquiries and viewings. “Naylors has the capacity to offer clients an excellent level of service and we are actively working to expand our offering of quality office instructions.”

UNITE acquires Newcastle site


he UNITE Group plc, the developer and manager of student accommodation, has exchanged contracts to acquire a student accommodation development

project in Newcastle city centre, subject to achieving planning consent. The 200,000 sq ft scheme will have a total development cost of £31 million.


The site will be transformed into a home for approximately 600 students, close to the city’s two universities and is targeted to open in 2016.


Keeping the UK clean South shields-based Newlife Cleaning Systems celebrates its national clientbase. ith over 30 years in operation, Newlife Cleaning Systems has built up a wealth of experience and an impressive portfolio of well over 200 commercial contracts, nationwide. Boasting an extensive range of cleaning solutions and specialist services, Newlife aims to ensure its clients receive seamless, cost effective, quality cleaning services at all times. As a privately owned company, Newlife aims to work for its clients. Never forgetting that as part of the service industry, the quality of service determines future success, Newlife guarantees the safety and peace of mind of their clients by providing full CRB checking wherever necessary. Specialising in office, extraction unit and kitchen deep cleaning, Newlife cleaning systems ensure that each of its 312 staff fleet are fully


NVQ trained and regularly assessed, so that each of its clients are provided with an unrivalled level of professionalism and customer satisfaction. With extensive knowledge, experience and a first rate reputation, Newlife is proud to work in partnership with high profile organisations within both the public and private sectors. Providing a perfectly tailored cleaning schedule, Newlife offers high quality and sustainable solutions to fit your requirements. Regardless of size or value, each contract is treated with the same attention. Never outsourcing any of their cleaning options, Newlife offers both internal and external services; from the supply of toilet rolls to window cleaning, and the sourcing of their own products and equipment, Newlife’s operatives


fully integrate as part of your company’s maintenance team. Newlife is pleased to offer a complimentary, no obligation cleaning services quote to assess your needs, address your requirements and provide an entirely tailored package. Simply email or call 08000 189 099. As a market leader, Newlife regularly tests cutting edge technology in conjunction with a number of national clients, working in partnership to reduce pollution and energy demands on our planet and to ensure that an optimum level of services is maintained. To find out more about Newlife visit, alternatively, follow @NewlifeClean on Twitter.

L E I S U R E & H O S P I TA L I T Y N E W S

Microbrewery toasts to success


ounty Durham-based microbrewery, Sonnet 43 Brew House, has announced plans to expand, following its first successful year in business. The microbrewery, situated in Coxhoe, has produced 1500 barrels of craft beers and sold thousands of bottles online and in venues since opening its doors in late 2012. Its core beers – including Steam Beer, American Pale Ale and Bourbon Milk Stout – have already been sold in more than 200 pubs across the North East, with regular deliveries now being made in York, Harrogate and Leeds. Work to expand brewing capacity will begin later this year, allowing for more deliveries outside the North, the introduction of craft kegging and a visitors’ centre, offering workshops and tours. Sonnet 43’s founder, North East restauranter, Mark Hird, hopes to launch more venues serving Sonnet 43 beers during 2014, as well as a range of complimentary food and drink. He said: “It has been a landmark first year for us and we’re delighted that our beers have been wellreceived by people across the North East and Yorkshire.”

A revolutionary refurbishment


ewcastle cocktail bar, Revolution, received a six-figure renovation last month, in the hope of enhancing its offer as one of the city’s premium drinking and dining venues. Following its makeover, the bar, which is located on Collingwood Street, now boasts hostess table service, plush furnishings and elegant finishings. A relaunch party, including live music and entertainment, canapés and cocktails, marked the opening on January 18. General manager, Timmy Jessop, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming back existing customers and hope the new look will also encourage new custom.”

Leading the way in business


ockliffe Hall, County Durham, has received BDRC Continental VenueVerdict’s Highly Commended Accreditation for its outstanding facilities and services. BDRC, a client satisfaction measurement system that carries out a year of independent, in-depth research, is used widely in the UK conference venue and hotel industry, enabling venues to collate and manage feedback from clients. VenueVerdict’s Highly Commended Accreditation, meanwhile, is awarded to a venue to highlight its ability to deliver consistently outstanding customer experiences.


£43 million investment programme


amily-run leisure, property and care company, The Malhotra Group, has invested in a £500,000 cosmetic overhaul of its two Scalinis restaurants, as part of a £43 million investment programme. Designed by brand specialists, Dakota International, the restaurants – one located on Osborne Road, Jesmond, and the other at The Three Mile Inn in Gosforth – feature intimate booth areas, wider areas for families and a Milan-inspired theme throughout. The venture follows the recent announcement that all of the Malhotra holdings have been consolidated into one formal group.


Treat your loved ones From top dining to spa and golf days and breaks, Rockliffe Hall has a host of new events coming up in 2014 - and where better to start than with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

it the ideal place to enjoy everything from a light lunch or afternoon tea, to cocktails, dinner and wine tastings. Whatever you choose, the Old Hall’s ambience will offer you a day to remember however relaxed or formal your mood chooses. This year, Rockliffe Hall is offering a special Old Hall Valentine’s break- with a host of romantic treats throughout your stay including chocolates, flowers and Champagne on arrival, dinner in the multi-award winning Orangery restaurant and breakfast in bed the next day. It’s the ultimate treat for lovers of luxury.

ith January neatly tucked away, now is the ideal time to etch a few plans into the diary for the special people in your life – and perhaps even for yourself, whether it’s a day, a night or even a little longer.


Romance at Rockliffe - for the one you love Whether you need time to catch up, time away from the hustle and bustle of life or maybe you just want to show that special person that you care, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to plan some quality time together. And where better than the North of England’s only five star resort with its choice of restaurants, world-class golf course and blissful spa? Rockliffe Hall’s 50,000 sq ft spa includes a 20-metre leisure pool, a thermal bathing suite with a tepidarium, caldarium, Roman and heat saunas, tropicarium, hydropool and ice fountain, sound wave therapy beds and an extensive range of signature treatments using some of the most luxurious products available from names such as Murad, Comfort Zone and Orly.

Just for Mum - special treats on her special day

Spa and away For a longer visit, Rockliffe Hall’s Valentine’s breaks have been specially designed to let you enjoy all of the resort’s five star facilities. A highlight for 2014 is the Couple’s Massage Tuition where, as well as enjoying a massage each, you can also learn how to soothe one another’s aches, pains, stresses and strains. So as well as enjoying a weekend break together, you’ll take a little piece of heaven away with you to enjoy again and again.

Food of love Spa for the day If you only have a day to spare, what could be better than a dedicated Couple’s Catch-up? As well as indulging in the award-winning spa facilities, you’ll be treated to a bespoke warm oil massage and a Rasul steam and mud ritual. Then it’s time to enjoy a glass of wine by the pool followed by lunch in The Brasserie before you leave feeling relaxed and revived.

Rockliffe Hall is offering a plethora of breaks for food-lovers whether you want to bask in the Gothic glory of the Old Hall and The Orangery or sit back and enjoy The Brasserie or The Clubhouse. The Old Hall celebrated its 150th anniversary at the end of 2013 and is the beating heart of Rockliffe Hall. Its quintessentially English charms make


It’s coming up to that time of year to really spoil another special person in your life: Mum. The Simply the Best spa day includes full use of the blissful spa facilities, an exclusive Orly manicure, a special gift for Mum and Champagne afternoon tea. Alternatively, the Head Over Heels spa day beautifies Mum from top to toe. Arrive in the morning for teas, coffees and treats, put your feet up in the spa and then enjoy an Orly Gel FX manicure or pedicure. And of course there’s also afternoon tea, served in the Old Hall, a host of sumptuous dining options and gift vouchers to let Mum choose her own special day. Make this the year you treat your loved ones with memorable moments at Rockliffe Hall. For more details, reservations or to buy gift vouchers, visit or call (01325) 729999



Spice and bubbles Mike Grahamslaw visits Hexham-based Indian restaurant and Champagne bar, ZYKA, co-owned by the former head chef of Vujon. any readers will remember Khalid Miah from his days at Vujon where he won the prestigious Curry Chef of the Year award. His expertise was gained from his formative school years when after class, he would sneak into the kitchen of his local restaurant where his father worked. He was, and remains, fascinated, intrigued and inspired by the ingredients, colours and aromas of all the herbs and spices. From that day, he knew exactly what he wanted to be, a top chef, and worked tirelessly to achieve recognition for his culinary expertise. This accolade was bestowed upon him in 2011 and buoyed by the success, he left to open ZYKA, his own restaurant in Hexham. I was a huge fan of his cooking and style in Newcastle but inexplicably lost track of him in the last couple of years so thought it was high time I dropped by to see how he was getting on. ZYKA is a very impressive modern boutique Indian restaurant complete with its own Champagne Bar. The dining areas are on two floors in three different areas so whether you are looking for a business venue to impress, a quiet romantic


dinner for two, a family meal or just some really good food to share between friends, there is a suitable ambiance for all occasions. Along with his brothers, Rachid and Mushuk, who run the front of house with great style, Khalid offers a comprehensive menu influenced by many of India’s top chefs in every region of the country. As with every great chef, he adds his own twists and refinements with amazing results. My wife, Lisa, chose Royal Hansch to start which consisted of pieces of duck breast, spiced into a terrine, mustard potatoes and a crispy salad with a twist, followed by Shahee Murgh Turka, Khalid’s signature dish. This superb dish consisted of a grilled marinated chicken breast with a natural honey glaze cooked in a Kashmiri spiced mild to medium sauce. After much deliberation for a starter, I opted for Mahi Salmon, pieces of specially spiced salmon served on a grilled pepper. It was a simple but outstanding dish. I followed this with Naga Jhol Murgh, a flavoursome Bangladeshi dish of marinated boneless barbecued chicken cooked in a fairly hot garam masala sauce using naga chillies. This too really hit the spot. With so many other unique traditional curry


dishes on the menu from Goa, Hydrabad and the Punjab, this is a restaurant that you could return to every week for a year and still not exhaust all the choices. ZYKA is no ordinary curry house. Khalid and his brothers know exactly what it takes to deliver a fine dining experience and they exceeded my expectations. It provides authentic Indian cuisine with delicately balanced flavours. You don’t get the searing heat that some other Indian restaurants provide – with food this good, it would be sacrilege to mask its true flavours with unnecessary heat. In addition, Kahlid will also willingly create any customers favourite dish not on the menu as long as he has the ingredients in stock. The venue is well worth the taxi fare or the drive to Hexham. Everything is cooked fresh so don’t expect instant service as good food is always worth waiting for. Those looking for instant pre-cooked food should look elsewhere. This is a true Indian dining experience and one to savour rather than hurry. For bookings or to check out ZYKA’s extensive menu visit



Business lunch

Sabatini Alison Cowie visits the Quayside ristoranté, bar and pizzeria hile Newcastle Quayside’s popularity has fluctuated over the past decade or so, one family-run Italian restaurant has continued to thrive. Sabatini, located in a strikingly ornate building overlooking the river, has been serving authentic Sardinian cuisine for the over 20 years. It has remained popular with diners looking for a genuine taste of the Mediterranean in a sophisticated – yet informal – environment. It has also proved to be a favourite with businessmen and women during the day, thanks also to convenient central location. I visited the restaurant last month with two colleagues and received a warm welcome on arrival.


During the day there is a choice of the lunch menu (two courses for £11.95 or three courses for £14.95) or the main restaurant menu that offers an abundant choice of hot and cold starters, pizzas, pastas and specialist meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. I opted for the two-course lunch menu and found both my starter and main course to be plentiful and well executed. My sea bass, in particular, was full of flavour and comprised two good-sized fillets of fish. Both of my dining companions picked from the main restaurant menu. The selection of meats, cheeses, picked vegetables, olives and bread of the Antipasta Sardo proved a little too much and most was returned to the kitchen. The


other dishes, however, were more manageable and much enjoyed – especially the lovely baked calzone packed with a mouth-watering combination of mozzarella, tomato, and salami, flavoured with fresh oregano. Two of us chose a third choice and while the lemon sorbet was lovely and refreshing, it was the heavenly tiramisu that was to be the highlight of the meal. Providing the right combination of elegant surroundings and authentic, yet good value, food, I’m sure Sabatini will continue to be a popular haunt – day and night – for years to come. For bookings call (0191) 261 4415 or visit

Marinated baby squid with garlic, chilli and olive oil

Antipasto Sardo

Gamberoni All’aglio

The abundant platter of Sardinian meats, vegetables, cheeses and bread proved too much for one.

Succulent butterflied prawns: no complaints here.

Fresh and zingy salad with beautifully cooked squid.

Part of £11.95 (two course) lunch menu


Pan-seared sea bass with cucumber and mushroom sauté

Calzone Rustico

Pollo Allo Zafferano

Packed with mozzarella, tomato, ham, salami and oregano, this baked classic hit the mark.

Succulent corn-fed chicken, wild mushrooms and pancetta with velvety saffron and cream sauce.





Lemon sorbet

A delightful version of this ubiquitous dish, it was a highlight of the meal.

Special blended coffee, served the Italian way.

Well presented and refreshing.



Flavoursome dish with delightful sea bass, served with saffron potatoes.

Part of £11.95 (two course) lunch menu





Left to right: Philip Scrope (Smith Gore), Bruce Howorth (Hay & Kilner), Richard Marshall (Hay & Kilner) and Lucy Gray (Hay & Kilner)

Left to right: John Luke (Hay & Kilner), Bruce Murray (PFK Land Agency) and Neil Dwyer (Hay & Kilner)

Hay & Kilner’s rural seminar The North East solicitors hosts its first seminar for the rural industry.

Left to right: Adam Barrass (Vickers & Barrass) and David Jackson

Left to right: Kirstin Cook (Hay & Kilner), David Johnson (Johnson Tuker) and Martin Soloman (Hay & Kilner)


ay & Kilner Solicitors hosted its inaugural rural seminar recently. The rural team has extensive experience of working with landowning clients and their professional advisers. Five topical areas of advice were covered with some resulting New Year’s resolutions on how to keep agricultural or rural businesses healthy in 2014. Following the presentation, guests enjoyed some lively chat with refreshments.

Left to right: Sarah O’Hare (Hay & Kilner) and Theresa Kendall (Baker Tilley)

Left to right: Charlotte Rogerson (George F White) and James Reynolds (Smith Gore)



A cruise for the traditionalist Ken Spearen takes a ten-day trip aboard the MV Queen Victoria.

he MV Queen Victoria is a Grand ship with a capital G. It embodies Cunard’s traditional English style of elegance and graceful splendour, which is very evocative of the great liners of yesteryear. At 90,000 tons and 294 meters long, it is not one of the biggest cruise ships in service but what it lacks in size is made up for with its style and grace of a bygone era. This unique quality is totally overlooked by some of today’s ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ floating leviathans. It features 12 decks that comfortably accommodate more than 2000 passengers on a two-to-one guest to crew ratio, ensuring that service is always of the highest order. At a cost of £300 million, it was built in 2006 and entered service in 2007 after a naming ceremony by HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The Queen Victoria retains the same classiness of its predecessors (QE2) but for obvious reasons, it has a very atmospheric Victorian, almost Dickensian, feel. Try to think traditional luxury as in the blockbuster film Titanic but with every modern day facility (including iceberg detecting satnav, of course!) required by today’s increasingly sophisticated cruise passengers. Relaxation, dining and sophisticated entertainment are its forte. West-end style shows in the Royal Court Theatre even offer individual private boxes to view performances. If you are a foodie, the five-course menus in its two-floor Britannia Restaurant are really something to behold. No wonder the Queen Victoria passengers get through a mind-boggling 350,000 bottles of wine/Champagne, 1.5 million eggs, 13,000lbs of smoked salmon, 59,000lbs of coffee and a million tea bags a year. Exclusivity also has its place on board and for those requiring more private surroundings, suites and cabins that include dining in the magnificent Queen’s and Princess Grills are also available. These come with access to


separate guest lounges. As with everything in life, you only get what you pay for and your cabin grade decides which dining room and guest lounges you can use during your cruise. This is no hardship though as all public areas are simply quite superb. It’s all about choice and your budget. I paid a bargain price (£599pp, which guaranteed an outside cabin as a minimum and was extremely pleased with the spacious balcony cabin allocated to us on checking in at Southampton. Non-smokers should be aware that smoking is allowed on starboard decks and starboard stateroom balconies and cigarette smoke does drift down all starboard balconies so when booking, try to get a cabin on the portside if you wish to avoid this. We sailed out of Southampton in early December for a ten-night cruise on an Iberian and Moroccan Highlights cruise visiting La Coruna, Casablanca, Cadiz and Lisbon before returning just before Christmas following 2800 miles at sea. There were four themed formal nights ranging from a Masquerade Ball, a Black and White Ball, a Victoriana Ball and a Royal Ascot Ball. I was so taken with my gold half-face masquerade mask that I didn’t take it off until the following morning! Practically everyone observes the dress code on these formal nights and I can fully understand why. This is an elegant ship and ‘looking the part’ is all part of the Queen Victoria experience. On casual nights, a jacket with optional tie is expected and again, this was mostly adhered to. Even those choosing to dine in the informal Lido Buffet Restaurant on an evening still wore a jacket. Our fellow passengers appeared to be welltravelled, reasonably affluent British people but some Americans and Japanese were also in evidence. The age group on board was


mostly 55+ and I don’t think that anyone under the age of 40 would find much to occupy them on the QV unless they are into ballroom dancing, string quartets, harpists, flautists and classically trained pianists. The shows in the Royal Court Theatre are mostly aimed at a senior audience and although there is a disco on board, much dad-dancing was in evidence which wouldn’t go down well with most of today’s younger generation. This is a ship for seasoned cruisers that embrace tradition, style and grace. If you want something racier, I suggest you look elsewhere. The only exception to this was Synergy, an international Caribbean fun-loving band dying to play reggae but mainly stuck with sing-along classics. The highlight of the cruise was undoubtedly guest speaker Malcolm Nelson, a customs officer for 40 years who gave a truly amazing insight into what customs officers look for in smugglers and why they only select certain people to search going through the green channel. He was signing his book, Forty Years Catching Smugglers, but such was the demand, it sold out after the first of his five lectures. As you would expect from such a prestigious cruise ship, both food and service on board were exemplary. The huge international service crew ensure it is a connoisseur’s experience. All the crew delivered a very attentive and professional service that could not be faulted. The white-gloved waiters serving traditional afternoon tea in the Queen’s room were also a nice gentile touch. Tip: Pre-order a wine package on-line before you sail. These range from three to twelve bottles and can save you up to 15 per cent on on-board prices. I saved around £40 on my Captain’s package. Check out the Queen Victoria for yourself at



The Richard Holmes Memorial Trophy Rugby match.

Dame Allan’s Cross Country squad.

Elliot Ward.

Honours at Dame Allan’s Schools Principle Dr John Hind reflects on recent achievements. am proud to record that three Allanians were honoured at the turn of the year. Two of the Schools’ governors were awarded MBEs in the New Year’s Honours List. The chair of Governors, Elliott Ward, received the award for his outstanding services to education and the Newcastle community. The Schools have undoubtedly benefitted from Elliott’s vast professional experience in property, most notably in the Queen’s Building and the new Junior School. His vision and drive have helped us to create an excellent building, which is matched only by an excellent staff to produce a Junior School and Nursery that is admired across this region. Elliott Ward said: “I am deeply honoured and feel very humbled to receive this award. This is a great honour for the Schools as well as for me.” At the same time Canon Margaret Nicholson received an MBE for her services to education in the North East. Margaret was a head teacher before becoming director of education for the Diocese of Newcastle. She retired in 2010 and has been a valuable member of the Schools’ governing body since then, playing a key role on the education committee and adding her particular expertise to the development of the new Junior School. Both governors in their own way have helped to shape the continuing commitment


to excellence here at Dame Allan’s, where, more than 300 years later, we continue to carry out our founder’s vision of a ‘proper education’ for boys and girls, preparing them for today’s rapidly changing and challenging world. Dame Allan’s can be characterised by our current advertisement: Excellence, Stability, Happiness - and the third person to be honoured was renowned for his happiness and exuberance. At the end of last year around 300 former pupils, staff and friends of the Schools returned to the Dame Allan’s to celebrate the inaugural Richard Holmes Memorial Trophy Rugby match. Allanian Richard Holmes sadly died following a brain tumour last July, aged just 24. Richard played rugby for Dame Allan’s, his university, and for Northumberland and had planned to use his experience to help young players achieve their own ambitions by studying for a Masters in Sport Science after he graduated with a degree in Sport Science and Coaching from Northumbria University. It was a spirited match played between an Under 25 team captained by Matthew Cannon, who played with Richard at school and for Northumberland, and the Over 25s team led by Philip Ludford, a former Newcastle Falcons A team player. Both teams played with great spirit but the Over 25s lost out on the day to the physically more imposing Under 25 team.


Players and spectators joined Richard’s family for an entertaining lunch and charity auction. Auctioneer John Bentley, the former British and Irish Lions player, encouraged guests to raise over £3000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care, who looked after Richard in his final days, and the Pecanwood Educational Trust in South Africa, which Dame Allan’s has supported for the last eight years. It was indeed a memorable day, which reminded us all of Richard’s exuberance and enthusiasm and the special place he has in the Dame Allan’s family. Meanwhile our current students have been winning their own honours in recent sporting events. The Boys’ School Cross Country squad is having an outstanding season. In a remarkable feat, Dame Allan’s Boys’ teams are city champions at three levels: Year 7 boys, Junior boys (Years 8 and 9) and Intermediate boys (Years 10 and 11). An astonishing 18 boys from Dame Allan’s have now qualified to represent the City in the forthcoming County Championships. The Girls’ School squash squad has also made an excellent start to their season, with the Under 15 and Under 19 teams both winning through to the second stage of the National Schools’ Competition. They have a high standard to maintain, having won silver and bronze medals at last year’s national championships. This year they are joined by an Under 15 team from the Boys’ School.


Activities for everyone Julie Robinson, manager at Eothen Homes in Gosforth. talks about the reminising activities on offer for residents. At Eothen Homes you recognise the importance of reminiscing for residents – what does this mean and what type of thing do you do? Reminiscing activities are extremely important for engaging with residents – they always evoke an extremely positive response and people love to discuss their shared memories. This year we created a 1950s sweet shop and café within a small lounge that isn’t used very often. We have a small shop counter with scales and a phone and we built and decorated the units ourselves. I went and did research about old fashioned sweets and stocked up the shop with the most appropriate treats. Residents can go in with visitors or their family and it’s really well used. We’ve even built in reminiscing games in the room, using old products they can handle and talk about. It’s lovely to see them so happy and to go back in time. We hope to get the shop up and running full time with volunteers. Students from local schools help out and we also have trainees with the NHS coming in regularly. In addition to the technical skills they need, this helps them develop the interpersonal, softer skills that are required for a patient-facing, healthcare role.

How important are things like the shop to residents?

This type of activity is very important. It’s about lifting people’s spirits and telling and showing people that care can be great, and that living in a residential care home can be as good as living in your own home – if not better.

How do you plan to develop this part of your offer further? Long terms plans are to potentially open a corner for different types of reminiscences and change the scenery every month. Our current projects involve looking at foods of the world, during which we ask residents to think about different countries, such as places they’ve been to, and we have a day eating food from that country.

How important is work with the wider community for the home? We like to do things out in the community. We are involved with the local cat and dog shelter and we fundraise for them, as well as share animal re-homing posters on their behalf. In return, they come in with animals to do therapeutic work with the residents. Some residents have pets and it’s at our discretion whether they can bring them in – the decision is usually based on whether they are able to


look after them. We have a budgie called Bobby and the residents have taught him to speak. One gentleman takes charge of cleaning out his cage. There are a lot of dog lovers among the ladies and gentlemen here, and the cat and dog shelter recently brought in a puppy. Residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia react in a totally different way when they come into contact with an animal. The other week, they brought a rabbit in and we’ve also had a tortoise. They have a pig at the cat and dog shelter at the moment, but we’ll have to see if that can come in!

It must give you a real feel good factor too? For me, the priority is the residents and fulfilling as many of their ambitions and dreams as we can. Just seeing them smile and be happy makes me happy. I hope if I have to go into a care home, people will look after me in the same way. Eothen Homes is a charity established in 1950 to provide Christian care for the elderly. As well as the Gosforth residential care home, Eothen Homes has sites in Whitley Bay and Surrey. For further information visit



As Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical comes to Newcastle s Theatre Royal, soap star and pop pin-up turned stage stalwart, Jason Scott and Charlene’s wedding on Neighbours was a moment I was proud of because it was part of a very influential time in my life, but I don’t tend to look back – it’s the press that do that. Musical theatre embodies all the things I like to do – sing, act, entertain and perform. Luckily I’ve been at the top end of this and I’ve built up a following in musicals – if my name’s attached to it, people know they’re going to get quality, and that’s important. I think Priscilla is a great Australian story – we’re not all a bunch of drag queens, but Australia is a quirky, young society and this is a very modern story about misfits and adversity. The music adds the colour but the reason the show works is because it is a good story. I never set out to be a musical star and I never set out to be a pop star either, but I certainly wanted to be an actor. That’s always been the backbone of what I do, and it’s where I feel the most comfortable. But in all the work I’ve done over the years I’ve committed 100 per cent. When I get involved in a project I have to feel good about what I’m doing. I had a good head start in life, but I don’t believe in luck – you create your own luck. Certainly you can get lucky but you have to have the tools to rise to that when it happens, and that means investing in your talents. Two shows a day, that’s when it becomes tough. You need to approach it a bit like an athlete. I walk, I swim, I try and eat well, I don’t drink during the week – you know, I take it seriously. There’s been a lot of times in my life when I didn’t take it seriously – but I sort of burnt myself out on a number of levels but I’m now a lot more mature when I approach things on a professional level.


Keeping fresh can be difficult, I’m not going to lie. On a Saturday matinee or the second show on a Friday night when you really might not feel like doing it. But that’s part of the art as well. There’s something about a live audience where you just have to pick up your game. You can’t bluff it. I don’t know what it’s like for the pop stars coming up today but what I would say about the current climate is that it’s not about the sprint, it’s about the long distance run. Let’s see where some of these people are in twenty years’ time - that’s when you’re judged. I sometimes think there’s a lot of currency in not tweeting about getting up in the morning, having a cup of coffee or whatever, but information is power and the great thing about Twitter is that it puts the user in control. From a celebrity perspective it’s killed journalism. You never hear of a press release any more. I just tell the world directly what I want to say. All that ambiguity has gone. I’d like to do more television; more straight dramatic roles. I love great films but I think I might have left my run a little bit too late for that. I’ve carved out a different career and some people might want to be a star in musicals! It’s swings and roundabouts. I like to work, I like to keep busy, and I’m certainly ambitious but I do have a lot of responsibilities and I feel that. I’ve seen people be very successful but lose their families because they’re so obsessed about themselves. There’s a price for everything, but the key is balance, integrity, having some fun – and enjoying your work, that’s important. Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is at Newcastle Theatre Royal Feb 3-15. For tickets call 08448 112 121.


A home from home Joan Baker reveals why she is so happy at Abbeyfield Linden Road, a supported sheltered house for six elderly residents.

have always been a keen gardener and had a big old house in Gosforth with a big old garden that I had always tended. Losing my garden was one of the biggest concerns about leaving my home. So when I walked in to Linden Road and saw the beautiful garden, I was taken by it. The house manager June said I could take on an area of the garden as my own. Whilst I’m unable to do what I used to in the garden, I still have my own little rose garden where I grow flowers that we cut for vases in the house and I have been able to share my knowledge with gardener Jim.

shows at Sage Gateshead, which I can get to quite easily in the car, taxi or by public transport. I love the fact I have my own front door key and my own door bell, yet have the reassurance that June and the others are there should I need them. I needn’t worry about making meals and house maintenance; I can simply get on and enjoy my latter years.


The central location of the house is just perfect for me, as I still like to get out and about, visiting friends and the garden centres. I love classical music so regularly attend


To find out more about Abbeyfield Newcastle upon Tyne, its two care homes and two supported sheltered houses, visit or call (0191) 285 7174


MOTORS Left to right: Keith Watson (dealer principal, Lloyd BMW), Maurice Duffy (CEO Blackswan and founder of LIONRA), Sheila Coltman (Percy Hedley) and Richard Skinner (Lloyd BMW).

New driving force of LIONRA Lloyd BMW joins forces with British Irish networking organisation LIONRA. orth East dealership Lloyd BMW is to be the support partner of LIONRA – the British Irish Business Network based in the North East – for 2014. As part of this, it will be the main sponsor of the LIONRA Shamrock Ball which takes place on March 15. LIONRA and Lloyd BMW announced the sponsorship deal last month with Maurice Duffy, CEO of Blackswan and founder of LIONRA. Also in attendance was Stuart Long, Lloyd Ltd of Throckley with Honda Miimo, a Robotic Lawn Mower for greenconscious homeowners, and BMW’s new BMW i3 an eco-friendly all electric car. The Shamrock Ball will be supporting two great charities: The Percy Hedley Foundation & PSPA. Sheila Coltman from The Percy Hedley Foundation joined LIONRA to celebrate the Lloyd BMW sponsorship announcement. LIONRA is sensitive to environmental issues, and welcomes green energy sponsors and partners. Along with Lloyd BMW, other sponsors include Aer Lingus, Diageo, Crab and Lobster, Vattenfall, Sanderson Young, Bang and Olufsen and the Hilton Hotel. This year’s LIONRA Shamrock Ball will


have its own green – not red – carpet using a unique Easigrass green lawn. The British Irish Business Network has grown rapidly since it launched in March 2013, raising over £10,000 for charity to date. Its aim this year is to build relationships between Ireland, London and the North East by creating local networking opportunities for like-minded people, bringing together individuals and companies. Keith Watson, dealer principle of Lloyd


BMW said: “With its visionary design, the BMW i3 defines the car of tomorrow. It is perfect for urban mobility and provides environment friendly driving. “The green theme is the perfect platform to highlight how sustainable energy is not just about the future; it’s been delivered right here, right now. We are very proud to be a support partner and will be working very hard to highlight the good work of LIONRA.” LIONRA staged its first New Mindsets For New Times workshop in November, which is now being made into a book. Maurice Duffy conducts these interactive workshops and uses his extensive international contacts, to attract innovative and transformational speakers adding much value to these well attended evenings. The next major LIONRA event will be the Shamrock Ball at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead which will feature top Irish dancers and musicians Celtic Sprit, flying in directly from Dublin, courtesy of Aer Lingus. It’s set to be an evening not to be missed! To book a table for the Shamrock Ball email or call (0191) 293 1660.


Behind the wheel by Jessica Laing.

F.Y.I. Max power: 431hp starting from 1850rpm Max Torque: 550Nm Max Speed: 250mph Acceleration: 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds


BMW M4 COUPE ringing the experience of the racetrack to the open road, BMW sets new standards for performance road cars with the new BMW M4 Coupe. Described by BMW as ‘the one with the machine’, at the heart of the model is a redeveloped and roaring six-cylinder M TwinTurbo petrol engine, which boasts excellent fuel economy (with CO2 emissions as low as 194g/km) and delivers instant throttle response across the entire rev range. The model is also infused with adapted motorsport technologies – such as Active M Differential – to ensure maximum safety and controllability, and its low centre of gravity, partnered with the use of lightweight materials (including a carbon-fibre plastic roof) means that it is surprisingly nimble, too. Externally, striking features include front air inlets and an extended bonnet, while inside you will discover newly-developed shell-shaped seats and a motorsport-inspired instrument display.




Sales controller/business manager, Adam Price with the Mazda6.

Hit for six Customers are taking advantage of the economical Mazda6 model at Jennings ennings Mazda, part of the Jennings Motor Group, has reported an increase in the number of retail and business customers taking advantage of the award-winning Mazda6 model, thanks to improved fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and advanced car safety performance. Customers looking to purchase Mazda’s second sixth-generation model, from the group’s Cargo Fleet Lane dealership in Middlesbrough, are offered a choice of 36 saloon and tourer models with three equipment levels including SE, SE-L and Sport (with or without Satellite Navigation) and four high-efficiency SKYACTIV diesel and petrol powertrains. Prices range from £19,595 to £28,295 (on-the-road). Emission levels on the SKYACTIV-D 2.2litre diesel saloon models, with its powerful 150ps four-cylinder engine and manual gearbox, have been lowered by four per cent, from 108g/km to 104g/km. The improvement in fuel economy takes the combined cycle figure from 67.3mpg to a remarkable 72.4mpg. James Chorlton, franchise manager at Jennings Mazda’s Middlesbrough dealership, says: “The Mazda6 has always been a popular car for both private and business users, but following the improvements made to fuel economy and CO2 emissions which were introduced last year, in addition to its five-star safety rating, the model has undoubtedly become even more appealing to customers seeking economy, coupled with good performance and safety.”


As a result of emissions on the new Mazda6 tourer with the same powertrain having also been reduced by five per cent to 110g/km from 116g/km and economy improving from 64.2mpg to 67.3mpg, customers now benefit from a lower road tax band, from C to the lower band B. In addition to this, customers can relax in the knowledge that the Mazda6 is one of the safest cars in the world having received the highest possible five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, endorsing the effectiveness of the SKYACTIV body and Mazda’s comprehensive safety concept. Business users are currently taking advantage of the 2.2D 150ps Mazda6 SE model available with payments of only £199 per month plus VAT on Mazda Contract Hire. Subject to terms and conditions set out by Mazda. According to staff at the dealership, it’s not just the fuel economy, lowered CO2 emission and advanced safety features making the Mazda6 model an attractive proposition for retail and business users. Since its launch in January 2013, the allnew Mazda6 has also been crowned ‘Best Large Family Car’ (saloon) and ‘Best Estate Car’ (tourer) – from the Carbuyer website, linked to the weekly Auto Express Magazine. It was also named Eco Car Award at the Scottish Car of the Year awards. In addition to the Mazda6 proving to be successful, the start of the New Year also saw an influx in car sales following the launch of the all-new Mazda3 model at the dealership.


Unveiled at the beginning of 2014, the 36strong all-new Mazda3 range features 21 hatchbacks (including eight diesel models) and 15 saloons, five of which offer a diesel option. Customers can take their pick from five high specification levels, including SE, SE Nav, SE-L, SE-L Nav and the range topping Sport Nav. Jennings Mazda, which achieved outstanding performance for 2013, sells the entire new Mazda model line-up including the Mazda2, all-new Mazda3, Mazda5 MPV, Mazda6, CX-5 and MX-5 models, which are on display and available to test drive at the Middlesbrough dealership. The dealership also caters for customers who are eligible to lease a car through the Motability programme, with a dedicated Motability expert at the dealership who can see to individual needs and requirements. James adds; “The Mazda range offers a variety of models to suit everyone’s needs and circumstances, whether it’s for private or business use.” Customers can also choose from a variety of quality used cars at the dealership, which also caters for customers after sales needs with a service, accident repair centre and parts department on site. Retail or business customers wanting more information about the Mazda6 or the range of products and services available at Jennings Mazda, can call in to the Cargo Fleet Lane dealership, call (01642) 256655 or visit


New Audi showroom takes shape Work continues on Benfield Audi’s new 16,500 square metre, state-of-the-art showroom, set to open this summer. enfield’s new multi-million pound Audi dealership on Scotswood Road, Newcastle, is beginning to take shape and is already gearing up for its opening in the summer. The £6.8 million two-story development is being built on the former Mary Trevelyan School site on Scotswood Road and will double the size of the present Newcastle Audi dealership. Construction is due for completion by early summer 2014 and the state of the art Audi development will include an impressive two-storey, glass fronted, 17-car showroom


and also feature a 17-bay workshop, 79 used car display area, valeting bays and 163 car parking spaces. Set over a massive 16,500 square meters, the new dealership will help transform Benfield’s North East Audi business, dwarfing the current dealership on Scotswood Road. In keeping with Audi’s retail requirements, the impressive design of the building will have sloped glazing and internal walls and will provide a great view point for passing trade and traffic travelling up and down the busy Scotswood Road. Benfield chief executive, Mark Squires,


says: “This is great news for Benfield and our North East Audi business. “The new Audi site will not only provide a huge increase in retail and sales opportunities, but also create local employment opportunities in the process. “We have been working with designers and planners over the past year and the new Audi dealership will be an amazing example of the Benfield and Audi brands working together to provide a world-class retail experience with unrivalled customer service. Find out more at


Get back in shape If you’re struggling to get back in shape after the indulgences of Christmas then Bodyguards, a private one-to-one personal training facility, can help, as owner and personal trainer Tony Douglass explains.

fter the excess of the Christmas holidays, it’s ‘back to school’ again and time to shed a few of those unwanted pounds. Bodyguards offer a ‘complete’ fitness service from a state-of-the-art facility on Clayton Road in Newcastle. Our high quality personal trainers will create a bespoke exercise routine for you so that you adopt a healthier lifestyle and improve your dietary habits.

At Bodyguards we work with clients to improve body composition, strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility as well as helping clients with physical dysfunction, back, neck, knee, hip and shoulder issues, and medical conditions such as IBS, diabetes and angina.


To find out how Bodyguards can help you call (0191) 239 9000.



Stay healthy when travelling Be-fit’s Antonia Clifford on why you should ditch the sugary snacks when you’re on the move. am always surprised when travelling how hard it can be to get good nutrition. Unless you want a sub standard piece of fruit or a ‘low calorie’ snack that tastes like cardboard, it’s always best to be prepared. Airports and train stations are stocked mainly with gluten and sugary snacks. These days when travelling, I take my own stuff. I make little snack packs of raw vegetables, nuts and chicken, etc. People may think that I am mad, as I eat my pack of mange tout or a chicken leg. However, I would rather arrive at my destination alert and full of nutrients. Good food doesn’t have to be rabbit food! At Be-fit, we train a lot of executives. Many have early morning meetings, train before work or need to be on top form all day. Nutrition is the first thing to address to keep alert. Many bio-signature clients tell us that they ‘need’ a sugar fix at 11am and feel that they could fall asleep around 2pm. This is normally down to the foods that we choose for breakfast and what we snack on. As simple as it sounds, what we put into our bodies affects our moods and how we function. Your gut is like a second brain. Scientific research has shown that the many


‘happy chemicals’ such as serotonin and dopamine are influenced by gut health. Therefore, if you feel lethargic or down, your diet is the first place to start. Carbohydrate-rich foods (breads, pasta, rice, potatoes and also sugar) make us feel good when we eat them. The body uses carbs for energy however the energy spike is followed by an energy crash. Carbs increase the release of the hormone insulin and reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, hence the term, comfort food’. Peaks and troughs of these hormones result in a stressed body and increased body fat around our middles. The last time I travelled to London, I sat opposite the inspiration for this article. The gentleman ordered a coffee with semiskimmed milk, a muffin, a sandwich and a pack of crisps. Within 20 minutes he was writing at the speed of sonic the hedgehog. He tapped away vigorously on his laptop, read the paper like a tornado and then fell asleep and snored! Hour later he woke up, went to get another coffee and a piece of cake to counteract his sugar coma. Vegetables, proteins and fats are also broken down by the body and used as fuel. Choosing


these foods over snacks makes a huge difference to productivity. The interesting thing about eating good lean protein (fish, meat, eggs etc) and vegetables is that they actually keep us fuller for longer. When that body feels nutritionally satisfied, we are less tempted to snack. Snacking on raw vegetables is a wonderful way to keep focused, alert and healthy. At Be-fit we like to focus on getting lean as a side effect of being healthy. The body stores fat if it is stressed, cut down the sugar, cut down the stress on your system! Many people eat the majority of their lean protein and vegetables in the evening, perhaps a salad at lunch. In effect, you are eating the majority of good nutrients to go to sleep. I prefer to use my food as fuel throughout the day, so that I can be on top form for my clients. If you are interested in your nutritional intake and want to find out easy ways to make changes, Be-fit can help. We offer biosignature consultations, individual nutritional assessments and group seminars. We can even come to your offices and run seminars for you and your employees. Good food can be the answer to less sick days and increased productivity.


Diamonds and Ice Ball Nursery has a ball for Tiny Lives


onteland Private Nursery has hosted a Diamonds and Ice spectacular at the Marriott Gosforth, with more than 430 guests supporting the Tiny Lives charity. The evening featured a range of entertainment, from fundraising games through to a gigantic ice sculpture and fun photo booths. Over ÂŁ30,000 was raised which will go towards supporting the work of the Special Care Baby Unit at the RVI. Organisers would like to thank the many supporters and donors involved in the event. Anyone wanting to find out more about the work of Tiny Lives can visit its website at:


North East Times Magazine - February 2014