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Business events – mark them on your calendar.



Thoughts from the region’s business community.



Kenny Atkinson, House of Tides.



Nick Holmes, Rockliffe Hall.



New executive appointments.




Ollie Bennett and Antony Michaelides, Bonbar.



Andy Hook, Blackfriars Restaurant.



The Brasserie, Sage Gateshead.





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 Additional photography: Penny Edwards

Office: Quayside - i4, Albion Row, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 1LL. | t: (0191) 265 7050 | @NETimesmagazine Front cover: Ollie Bennett and Antony Michaelides, by Chris Owens.

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BUSINESS NEWS Left to right: Danny Parker, Alex Kinloch, Kenny Atkinson and Robert Green.

Supporting local talent Top chef Kenny Atkinson has appointed three former Darlington College students to join his team at House of Tides.


hree Darlington College trained chefs have joined the staff of House of Tides, Kenny Atkinson’s new restaurant, located on Newcastle Quayside. Kenny has long associations with Darlington College and has judged many catering competitions there. His sous chef Danny Parker, pastry commis Alex Kinloch and restaurant manager Robert Green all learnt their trade in the college’s catering department. Robert, 28, of Ingleton, trained at

Darlington College’s old site in Cleveland Avenue, securing an NVQ L2 in food service, preparation and management. He later returned to study a foundation degree. He worked on luxury liners QE2 and Queen Victoria before working with Kenny as restaurant manager at Rockliffe Hall. Danny, 24, of Bishopton, Stockton, trained at Darlington College from 2006-09 and worked previously at Wynyard Hall. He came to Kenny’s attention when he won the North East Menu competition, staged

at the college. It was Alex’s mum who contacted Kenny on Twitter and he agreed to meet up with the 17-year-old from Catterick Garrison. Kenny said: “They all share a passion for the job which is priceless. As a boss I can only push people so far and it makes life so much easier when you have people with natural drive and talent who you can trust to do the job. “The fact I have three from Darlington College is testament to the great job the tutors are doing.”

Eshott Hall awarded second AA rosette


ead chef Chris Wood and his team at Eshott Hall are celebrating after being awarded a coveted second AA rosette. Chris is a champion of local produce and where possible fruit and vegetables are sourced from Eshott Hall’s kitchen garden while lamb, beef and game is used from local estates and fish from local shores.

Mark Alderson, general manager, at the Northumberland hotel said: “We are naturally delighted that Chris and his team’s hard work have been acknowledged with this award. “We hope that with the addition of the second rosette people from and visiting Northumberland will come and enjoy dining at Eshott Hall.”

Chris Wood (centre) and his team.


Top sustainability rating


lackfrairs Restaurant, Newcastle, has been awarded a three-star rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) for demonstrating exceptional, all-round sustainability. It is the only venue in the city to receive such an accolade for the second year running. The SRA star rating system is recognised as the industry standard and, to be a champion, restaurants must provide answers and evidence across 14 areas of sustainability, including how they treat their staff, customers and community and whether they are serving local, seasonal and high-welfare food.

Footfall figures fly at Manor Walks


peedflex Europe has announced it will be opening its first Speedflex Centre in Dubai, thanks to a deal signed by ambassador and NUFC legend, Alan Shearer, and businessman Tariq Bacha.The new training centre will be located in the Ocean View Hotel, Jumeirah Beach, in partnership with JA Resorts.The company plans to further expand into between 50 and 100 locations across Europe in the next three years.

Gott gets shortlisted


orth East garage equipment supplier, Gott Technical Services, has been shortlisted for the Northern Family Business of the Year accolade at this year’s Family Business United’s national awards ceremony. The annual awards, which are to be held in London in June, were launched by the UK’s leading magazine and resource centre for the family business sector to promote the achievements of family-run firms.


ecember footfall figures have revealed a prosperous festive period for Northumberland’s largest shopping and leisure centre, Manor Walks. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Cramlington-based centre saw footfall figures in December 2013 increase by five per cent compared to the previous Christmas, Boxing Day figures rise by 23 per cent and December 23 become the busiest Monday on record, with over 54,000 shoppers visiting. Bosses at Manor Walks attribute its success to new leisure brands, such as Prezzo and Frankie & Benny’s.

lectric power specialist, Hyperdrive Innovation, has recorded 300 per cent year-on-year growth as a result of new product developments and securing national R&D contracts.The company, which has headquarters in Northumberland and has benefited from Newcastle Science City’s business support services to help it develop its market strategy and rebranding, has participated in R&D programmes worth over £750,000 and has launched six new products to date. Its electronics can be integrated into vehicle designs or retrofitted to vehicles to deliver enhanced performance.

Celebrating 30 years in business

Northern rail launches fare-dodging campaign

North East business expands into Dubai


300 per cent growth


orth East office fit-out specialist, AMH Workspace, is celebrating 30 years in business. Established in 1984 by Ian and Clarice Moir, the company, which has customised thousands of workspaces over the last three decades, has grown to a 15-strong team and boasts extremely high staff retention levels, with a number of staff having worked there for over 20 years.


orthern Rail has launched a new campaign to crack down on a fare dodgers across the North East. In an attempt to reduce the number of people receiving fines for not buying a ticket, the company has launched two online videos and a series of station and train posters showing two scenarios where someone takes something for free.

North East employment estimates


abour market figures have revealed that employment in the North East stands at 67.4 per cent, while unemployment stands at 10 per cent – a decrease of 3000 over the year. NECC policy and research manager, Mark Stephenson, said: “The NECC will challenge the government ahead of the forthcoming budget to develop policy in a way that enables businesses to play a part in addressing unemployment.”


Top safety accreditation for Biochemica


illingham-based water treatment specialist, Biochemica UK Ltd, has been awarded accreditation from safecontractor – a third party accreditation scheme, which recognised very high standards in health and safety management among UK contractors – for its commitment to achieving excellence in health and safety. The company is the North East’s largest privately owned water treatment firm.





Rockliffe Hall, County Durham Tel: 01325 729999 Web: Email: Price: £24.50 per person Set in the hotel’s Rockliffe Suite, this ladies luncheon, hosted by founder of Simply Bows and Chair Covers and nationally acclaimed businesswomen, Sarah Pittendrigh, includes a sparkling wine reception, followed by a twocourse lunch and a talk from Sarah, who will be offering an insight into what it’s like to go from bankruptcy to becoming one of Britain’s brightest business stars.


Save the date Charity balls, business dinners and seminars. SHAMROCK BALL Mar


Hilton Hotel, Gateshead Tel: (0191) 293 1660 Web: Email: Price: £85 per person, £800 for a table for 10


Newcastle Marriott Hotel Gosforth Park Tel: 0300 303 6322 Web: Price: Free The NECC invites members to this topical lunch event, featuring a panel of some of the region’s most prominent campaigners – including Catherine Mckinnell MP (Labour, Newcastle North) and Guy Opperman MP (Conservative, Hexham) – who will be offering their views on the 2014 Budget. Includes a networking buffet and a welcome talk from NECC chief executive, James Ramsbotham.

Mushroom Works, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle Tel: (0191) 224 4011 Web: Email: Price: Free Creative types are invited to this one-day showcase exhibition, which will present the very best in groundbreaking art and design from the North East. Guests will have the opportunity to meet local artists and designers in their studios and pick up affordable paintings, furniture, jewellery, pottery, textiles and illustrations from them - just in time for Mother’s Day.


Blackfrairs restaurant, Newcastle Tel: (0191) 500 7780 Web: Email: Price: £45 + VAT (members)

Café 21, Newcastle Quayside Tel: (0191) 500 7780 Web: Email: Price: £75 + VAT (members)









Join the man who brought the first Michelin star to the North East, Terry Laybourne, for a focus dinner about his life in hospitality. Guests will learn about the renowned restaurateur’s impressive 25-year career, which has seen him go from running his own restaurant to owning 21 Hospitality Group and receiving an MBE, among many other achievements.


Following the hugely successful 2013 event, British Irish Business Network, Lionra, is delighted to announce this year’s Shamrock Ball. Sponsored by the likes of Lloyd BMW, Aer Lingus and Lagan Construction, the ball promises a night of dinner, drinks and ‘great craic’, kicking off with a Guinness Black Velvet Reception. Celtic Spirit, a world-class Irish troupe of traditional dancers and musicians, will be providing guests with live entertainment, alongside high-energy Newcastle brass band, the Baghdaddies, and Irish comedian Gene Fitzpatrick. Benefitting charities include PSPA and Percy Hedley Foundation. Partners in Kind include Blackswan, Guinness, Accent and North East Times.

Email with your events


Businesses with an appetite for investment are urged to attend this informative supper club dinner with co-founder of Newcastle-based Rivers Capital Partners, Jonathan Gold. Jonathan – who has a background in business development, raising finance, establishing venture capital funds and investing – will discuss how to identify the right businesses to invest in and demystify everything from the processes to the fees involved.



Jesmond Dene House, Jesmond Tel: (0191) 212 3000 Web: Email: Price: £30 Served in the hotel’s stunning Great Hall, treat the special lady in your life to a spot of gourmet afternoon tea, including assorted finger sandwiches, scones and a selection of teas and pastries, such as lemon sponge and vanilla frosting and mulled pear macaroon. Live piano music, a glass of bubbly and surprise gifts are also included.


North East view points PAUL SZOMORU

Local business men and women share their thoughts …


CHAIRMAN ROCKLIFFE HALL The operators in all tourism sectors need to put pressure on the local authorities and development organisations to recognise the value of the industry to the area, and assist VisitEngland in the development of the tourism story. Representation should be made at every national and international business exhibition, conference, and trade delegation, alongside the other sectors of influence.

We need to build on the success of the Convention Bureau’s work in the last 11 years, securing large-scale global conferences worth £72 million and welcoming 43,500 international delegates. To do this we’ll be concentrating on three primary sectors where, as a place, we’re building a growing reputation as a centre for excellence; offshore and marine, science and healthcare, and creative and digital. The North East is iconic; in attracting these conferences we’re showcasing our very best to potential leisure visitors too.

GARY HUTCHINSON COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR SUNDERLAND AFC We need to ensure that we convey the positives about the region in the right way. There needs to be a joined up strategy between all attractions and venues to promote the region as a great place to do business. With a cohesive marketing plan of the region we can promote ourselves as a place with excellent hotel stock, venues and facilities for international businesses.


How can the North East improve its international reputation for business tourism?

GRANT MCKENZIE GENERAL MANAGER SLALEY HALL HOTEL The North East already works with great ambassadors for the region who promote the area from its beautiful coastline to its vibrant cities. Each individual organisation should be working in partnership with the region’s key companies to support business tourism alongside promoting the region to inbound DMC’s and UK agents to showcase our accessibility. We can all actively take a part by providing visitors with an excellent standard of service and ensuring they are made to feel most welcome.



The North East has a strong international reputation but the key is in how we maintain and grow this. Marketing has been limited since the demise of the regional development agency. Some of the biggest challenges relate to the region’s connectivity and infrastructure. We need more direct flights to other key business destinations and better road links. The ongoing investment into Central Station should serve us well, especially if high-speed rail arrives.

I think any destination needs the right facilities for the market that it wants to attract. These can of course vary significantly; there is a huge difference in the needs of a conference for several hundred delegates and a small workshop. It is important that the destination supplies the services in an attractive environment and supports what meetings buyers are looking for.



Lionra Shamrock Ball Pre Launch Party Sponsors and partners gather to celebrate the forthcoming ball by the British and Irish business network.


ionra’s main sponsors, Lloyd BMW, hosted a cracking Lionra Shamrock Ball Pre Launch Party at its Barrack Road showroom on February 18. Over 100 sponsors and partners in kind were present including Bang & Olufsen, Vattenfall, Courage Creative, The Crab & Lobster and Lagan Construction. A prize donated by Aer Lingus Regional for two flights on its new Cork route was presented, and food by Epicurus was enjoyed by all. Lionra is holding the not-to-be-missed Shamrock Ball @ The Hilton, Gateshead on Saturday March 15. Contact for tickets or visit for more information.




I DO FEEL THE PRESSURE BECAUSE OF MY PROFILE. There is a certain expectation on House of Tides to be a success and I don’t want to disappoint.

I LEFT NEWCASTLE WHEN I WAS 17-YEARS-OLD AND IT’S BEEN ONE BIG CIRCLE FOR ME. Taking on a restaurant of my own, in my home town, feels very special.

FINE DINING HAS A BAD NAME AT THE MOMENT. People think of fine dining, they think posh, expensive, stuffy waiters. But for me, fine dining is good cooking, the quality of ingredients, attention to detail, execution and finesse.

BEING AWARDED A MICHELIN STAR IS LIKE WINNING AN OSCAR. It’s the biggest accolade you can get and it puts you on global scale.

AT HOUSE OF TIDES WE’VE STRIPPED THE FORMALITY BACK. We want to serve serious food but we want to have fun. People are our guests when they come to the restaurant. We want them to feel relaxed. We don’t have a dress code. Places I’ve worked before, if you don’t turn up in a jacket, you get turned away. But who are we to judge? We wouldn’t turn Richard Branson away because he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

DO WE WANT THE ACCOLADES? OF COURSE WE DO. It’s great for us and great for the city. But for us, the goal is to survive as a business. WORKING WITH [WIFE AND BUSINESS PARTNER] ABBIE HAS ALLOWED HER TO SEE MORE OF WHAT I DO AND WHY WE’VE MADE THE SACRIFICES WE HAVE AS A COUPLE TO GET TO WHERE WE ARE. We have a very good relationship and I am enjoying seeing her more. My wife has a fantastic attention to detail and is great with the guests. House of Tides is our venture and our destiny is in our hands.

WE WANTED TO OPEN IN A BUILDING THAT WAS DIFFERENT AND QUIRKY. We’ve definitely found that. There’s nothing else like it in Newcastle.

NEWCASTLE, AS A CITY, IS CHANGING AND BECOMING MORE VIBRANT IN TERMS OF FOOD. There are a lot of very good places to eat such as Peace & Loaf, Café 21, The Broad Chare and Caffé Vivo. The city has more choice now. People here are interested in food, produce and suppliers. I think it’s only a matter of time before Newcastle starts getting more national recognition.

IT WAS MY FATHER-IN-LAW WHO CAME UP WITH THE NAME, HOUSE OF TIDES. IT WAS ALWAYS AN AMBITION TO OPEN MY OWN RESTAURANT and off the back of winning The Great British Menu, twice in a row, with North East produce, I felt Newcastle was the place to do that.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE COLLEGES, GETTING CHEFS FROM A YOUNG AGE AND TRAINING THEM UP. If we want to make Newcastle a foodie city, we have to keep the talent in the city.

WE’VE GOT SOME FANTASTIC GUYS PRODUCING GREAT STUFF IN THE NORTH EAST. People like Ken Holland with his organic veg, Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes which is doing something like 24 different varieties. And then you’ve got Craster kippers.

HOUSE OF TIDES HAS ONLY BEEN OPEN A FEW WEEKS BUT THE FEEDBACK HAS BEEN FANTASTIC. As we start to develop, we’ll start to extend our opening hours. We’ve kept things tight at the beginning – Tuesdays to Saturdays, dinner only – but we don’t want to run before we can walk. We want to develop the team and our product and look after those who come through the door.

WITH OUR TASTER MENU WE TAKE PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY OF THE PRODUCE THAT WE HAVE IN THIS AREA; using different techniques of cooking to emphasis flavour and texture. When you eat a big plate of food, for the first five or six mouthfuls, your brain is getting all these new tastes and sensations, but after about the eighth spoonful, your palette and your brain gets used to it. With the taster menu, you have eight Tapas-style dishes. The way it’s designed, you are constantly getting the taste sensation, the texture sensation and the gastronomic

For more information on House of Tides visit




The High Street Group products launch The Group showcases its offerings to the financial services industry.


he High Street Group of companies welcomed guests from the financial services industry to tis recent launch of product offerings. The event primarily focused on pension investments with presentations from four knowledgeable product providers. The event was attended by over 150 guests from around the UK at the newly refurbished Vermont Hotel. During the event the guests were given up-to-date information regarding tax efficiency, pension planning and contemporary products for pension funds, with emphasis on how and why the Small Self Administered Scheme market place in the UK has become a busy sector again. To find out more information on pension investments call (0191) 211 4120.




10 questions for ...

Nick Holmes Nick is the managing director of Rockliffe Hall, a position he has held since the luxury five-star hotel, golf and spa resort opened in 2009. He has over 30 years’ experience in the hospitality sector, working in management for a number of high-end hotel and golf resorts including Branston Golf and Country Club in Bristol and Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire.

What was your first break in business?

What attracted you to your current role?

What has been your career highlight?

And your career lowlight?

What do you enjoy most about your role?

My family was always in the hospitality sector so I worked across it during school holidays. My big break came when I went to work at Gleaneagles in Perthshire as duty manager in the 80s. It was incredibly inspiring – home to this year’s Ryder Cup, of course.

The diversity of the business. Rockliffe Hall offers everything – dining, spa, golf, weddings, events and more. Resorts are a specialist area for me and I am passionate about making Rockliffe Hall the best. We’re only relatively young, having opened in 2009, so we’re doing well. I was also really excited to come to work in the North East as it is a region I have always loved, thanks to the contrasting coast, countryside, town and cities – and the people!

Establishing and opening Rockliffe Hall with such a fantastic team was amazing but highlights to date certainly include being named as VisitEngland’s Hotel of the Year in 2012 and achieving our five red stars in 2013 – the only hotel in the North to hold such an accolade. This really singled us out alongside big names such as Gleneagles, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Claridge’s.

I ran my own restaurant just outside of Edinburgh early in my career. It was offthe-scale hard as anyone watching the series The Restaurant Man on BBC 2 will realise! I have the utmost respect for proprietors and the work they have to put in.

The variety and working with such a range of great people. We have over 300 staff across the resort so no two days are ever the same.


What's your biggest challenge?

Who are your heroes, in and out of business?

Rockliffe Hall is a flagship hotel in the region and it is a constant challenge to bring people to our wonderful area and make it a real tourism hub. We’re getting there, though, as we’ve seen a real increase in guests visiting us from outside of the North East and also abroad. I do fear that we’re in an era where we have a lack of regional support though so we all have to work extra hard to do our bit.

In business, Peter Lederer, the chairman of Gleneagles in Perthshire. He has always been a role model for me – right back to when I worked for him at the start of my career. Out of business, people like Clive Woodward and Jonny Wilkinson – the type of people who never cease to pursue perfection.

What is the best piece of business advice anyone has ever given you? Look after your people because they look after your customers.

What does the future hold for Rockliffe Hall?

What do you do to relax?

Lots of exciting things are in the pipeline and we have some major developments later this year as we constantly upgrade our offering. We’re working hard to bring international travellers to the North East and put our region on the map. And, of course, the European Tour English Senior Open returns for the second year in August, promising some big names from the world of golf.

I enjoy cycling and have done the Coast to Coast a few times. I also play the guitar – largely to accompany my daughter’s singing. Live music is a real passion. I’m a bit of a hippy at heart which people are often surprised to hear!



On the Move Your monthly guide to appointments and promotions.




Newcastle law firm, Sintons, has promoted two of its lawyers, Laura Peace and Adrian Dye, to partners. Laura, a real estate lawyer, is part of Sintons’ nationally regarded healthcare team, specialising in the sale and purchase of dental practices. Adrian, meanwhile, is part of the firm’s esteemed specialist pharmacy team and specialises in corporate finance, mergers and acquisition and private equity transactions.

Gosforth-based creative studio, Wonder Stuff Studio, has stepped up its growth plans with the appointment of Mark Pattinson as senior creative. In his new role, Mark, who has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, such as British Airways, Hugo Boss and Levi, will be overseeing the creation of new promotional literature for the studio and has already been involved in creating a new brand for one of its new clients.

Newcastle advertising agency, Keltie Cochrane, based at the Toffee Factory, Ouseburn, has appointed Michelle Ord as business manager. Michelle joins the award-winning agency from Trinity Mirror, where she worked as category advertising manager, followed by a period of running her own business consultancy. In her new role, Michelle will help the Keltie Cochrane team spread the word about the agency’s work and help strengthen its UK client base.




Harrogate and Darlington-based planning consultancy, Steve Hesmondhalgh & Associates, has appointed chartered town planner, Jonathan Saddington, as an associate. Johnathan, (pictured right with managing director, Steve Hesmondhalgh), joins the firm with 15 years’ experience in local government. Working as both Stockton Council and as principal planner at Hambleton District Councils where he has dealt with several high profile projects.

Newcastle-based law firm, Sintons, has appointed leading commercial property lawyer, Alan Harkness, as a consultant. Formally a partner at Ward Hadaway, Alan has overseen a host of high-profile projects for regionally and nationally known developers and brings over 30 years’ experience to his new role. He brings with him real estate conveyancing specialist, Rukhsanah Haroon [right], who will join the firm in the coming weeks.


Newcastle-based PR and marketing agency, Karol Marketing, has appointed Jade English as PR executive. A public relations graduate from the University of Sunderland, Jade brings a wide range of agency and in-house expertise to the agency, as well as extensive experience in event management. In her new role, Jade will be supporting Karol’s team working with both new and existing clients.


Let’s take on the world The Entreprepreneurs’ Forum is encouraging North East business owners to think on an international scale. ogether we can take on the world’ was a call the Entrepreneurs’ Forum first made two years ago. It began as a way to encourage North East entrepreneurs to come together and share their experience and to think beyond these shores in finding new markets and customers. It was a message that was both aspirational and motivational. There has always been a strong international presence within the North East business community from Nissan to Nifco, Cummins to Port of Tyne. Now there is also clear evidence that the region’s entrepreneurs really are playing their part on the world stage. According to UKTI, the national average for companies that export is 20 per cent, but the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s quarterly tracker survey reveals that among those members taking part, as many as 37 per cent are exporting. Of those who responded, 39 per cent reported strengthening export sales from the North East. While exports from the region took a slight dip in percentage terms between the second and third quarters of 2013 according to regional trade statistics, the overall value of exports from the North East in the 12 months to the end of Q3 2013 was £12.346bn, which is in excess of £1bn higher than the period immediately following the recession through to 2010. Among the survey sample of forum members, the growth in exports appears to be focused on technology and manufacturing, while those providing business services, marketing and design also saw a rise.


Some of the region’s success stories in manufacturing include: • Clic Time, a Blaydon-based business that is licensed to design, manufacture and distribute

LEGO timepieces around the globe. • Crafter’s Companion, led by founder Sara Davies, a past winner of the Forum’s Emerging Talent Award, which is on target for £7.2m turnover after retail sales rocketed by 260 per cent. The company has operations in County Durham, California and Holland. • Gate 7 Ltd, based in Gateshead, specialises in safety and instructional signs for construction, agricultural and industrial markets. It is poised for significant growth in North America after opening a purpose-built factory in Pennsylvania. • Hart Door Systems, a family business based in Westerhope whose customers include Nissan and major international airports. Hart supplied the main doors to the London 2012 Olympic stadium and is one of the few companies to meet European, US and Russian manufacturing standards. In business services: • The Leighton Group has been at the forefront of North East innovation in technology for more than 20 years. Its digital web agency, Leighton, supplies systems to British Airways and Tourism Australia while one of its newest enterprises, SaleCycle, helps global retail businesses track and recover abandoned carts by automatically retargeting customers who drop out during the checkout process. • Trend Bible is the only forecasting company operating out of the North East in a global market worth an estimated £36bn. Entrepreneur Joanna Feeley and her team


predict profitable approaches for retailers and brand strategists, design teams, buyers and marketers to develop product ranges and messages that are likely to appeal to their future customers. • Acritas, founded by Forum board member Lisa Hart Shepherd, is a leading provider of specialist research programmes to the legal industry across the world. The North East even tastes success in the luxury consumables market: • John Harvey McDonough has blended a time honoured tradition of whisky distilling with modern production and marketing to introduce Spey whisky to a wider audience in Russia, Spain and the Middle East. According to regional trade statistics, the Netherlands remains the largest single market for North East goods with a 12 month export value of £1.531bn (Q4 2012-Q3 2013). The fastest growing markets for regional exporters are said to be Thailand, South Korea, Turkey and Sweden. The Entrepreneurs’ Forum was established to provide a mechanism for the knowledge and experience that exists within the region’s business community to be shared and connections to be made. The next major event at which the success of North East entrepreneurs will be celebrated is the annual Together We Can Take on the World conference with a host of high profile speakers on Thursday, May 15 at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. For more information, visit


Entrepreneurs’ Forum Chairman’s Dinner The region’s business owners gather for a special event.


he Entrepreneurs' Forum got 2014 off to a flying start at its Chairman's Dinner when Graeme Lowdon (Marussia F1 team president) took time out of his hectic schedule to share the story of creating an F1 team from a standing start.



Are you listening? The importance of getting feedback from existing and potential customers, by Rod Findlay, consultant at Your Sport Consulting.

had an experience the other day that made me think about how businesses might prioritise listening to either current customers or potential customers. Of course it is important to recognise the demands of clients that you might have held for a long time. But, on the other hand, if that is the only feedback you have then your company will limit its chances of growth. I was thinking of joining a new gym and I asked about a benefit that was important to me. Unfortunately that particular gym did not include it as part of its offer. They went on to explain that some months back they had surveyed existing members to ask them what their priorities were from a number of choices. The benefit I was seeking was included on that list but appeared low down following the survey. Instead the gym had instituted some other changes. Now it is perfectly reasonable for any business to seek feedback from existing customers and this is a good way of maximising retention. However, the acquisition of new members might have been sacrificed in order to please gym users who were perhaps not tempted to leave in any case. But should you pursue a retention or acquisition strategy?


Pursuing a customert retention strategy The benefits of a customer retention strategy are best summed up with the data from Harvard Business School that increasing customer retention rates by 5 per cent increases profits from between 25 to 95 per cent. Any senior manager would be foolish to ignore such potential returns but what might the components of such a strategy be.

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

The first step is probably establishing communication with customers. So the email survey the gym adopted is a good idea. Most companies have some form of dialogue with customers such as weekly emails, social media interaction or regular events. But the type of interaction is important and messages using positive social proof – that others also value the company – or appealing to people’s desires are most effective. Giving people a positive label, such as VIP Member, also works wonders. Going above and beyond is also a good way of retaining customers, particularly when it is unexpected. Getting sent a bar of Green & Black’s by O2 several years ago made my day! Research shows that waiters returning to a table with a second set of mints increases tips by 23 per cent. Supporting customers when something goes wrong is also important. Customers will remember those incidents and will reciprocate good service with loyalty.

Pursuing a customer acquisition strategy Attracting new customers can be a challenge in difficult economic times but some key steps can assist. First, gathering intelligence about


customers is vital. Working for a business that demands insight before decisions are made ensures that investment has the best chance of success. That will include data about existing customers, their motivations, the size of the market place and what new expectations might exist. The most developed companies will build a profile of different types of customers and their requirements and then use Customer Relation Management systems to ensure those needs are met. Internal planning is then important to ensure that the entire sales process meets customer intelligence. For example, there is no point only having new gym equipment if insight suggests customers also require high quality changing facilities. Sharing the knowledge throughout the business is also important. Equally staff training is vital to ensure the entire customer experience meets the client’s expectations.

What is a business to do? Your businesses approach to customers might depend on its evolution. If it is a start up then you will not have the benefit of existing customers and your entire focus will be on retaining customers. However, at some point, you will need to change tack slightly to deal with the different challenge of keeping happy the customers you have worked so hard to attract. There may come a point where capacity means that you decide not to seek new customers but just to ensure you do not lose any. It is time well spent to consider whether you should be seeking retention and or acquisition and whether your customer strategy meets those objectives.


Gary Gleeson (Polar Krush) and Gill Hall (Oxford Innovation)

Coaching adds juice to Polar Krush Oxford Innovation has helped a Northumbrian drinks company develop an ambitious growth strategy. fter receiving specialist business coaching, Ashington-based Polar Krush Group is targeting an almost 50 per cent increase in turnover this year. The company, which manufactures Polar Krush frozen soft drinks and the Green Juice Company range of pure fruit juices, has become one of the fastest growing crushed-ice drink brands in the world. Customers include the NHS, leisure centres, ice rinks, food courts, holiday and theme parks, shopping centres, schools and independent retailers. The company has also gone on to develop new products including Refresh, a range of premium frozen fruit juice drinks, Polar Shakes and Devils Ice, an exciting range of frozen 100 per cent fresh fruit-based cocktails. Despite being the leading brand in most sectors of the UK market, and supplying products to thousands of customers internationally, the company recognised it wasn’t making the most of its unique position in the market, competition was encroaching and the seasonality of some its products was hampering sales. In response, Gary Gleeson, sales director at Polar Krush approached the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme, which is being delivered by the UK’s leading provider of specialist business coaching, Oxford Innovation. The £1.35m programme is jointly funded by ARCH, The Northumberland Development


Company; Northumberland County Council and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It is a fully funded service that provides support to anyone thinking about starting a business and also offers coaching to existing businesses with growth ambitions. Gary said: “Although we are the UK’s premium supplier of slush machines and pure fruit juices, we recognised that we are not as effective as we could be at increasing brand awareness, maximising the sales potential of our products and capitalising on new opportunities. “As a company we’re very passionate about innovation and new product development but we are also guilty of taking a scattergun approach to marketing and business development. “We’ve spent the last 18 months moving from a consolidation phase to growth and investment but we still lacked direction and focus.” Business coach Gill Hall had an initial meeting with Gary and Polar Krush managing director Paul Goldfinch to understand the background to the company and its barriers to growth. She said: “It was clear to me from the outset that Polar Krush was entering a new period of growth into new markets and distribution channels to gain a larger market share and find new revenue and profit channels. “The company has a fantastic entrepreneurial spirit and a strong commercial insight. My task was to work closely with the


senior team, helping them to align the business more closely with its target markets, categorise what sets them apart from the competition in order to raise brand awareness and increase their market share.” Gill spent two-days with teams operating in three core areas of the business: sales and marketing, engineering and servicing and finance, to identify the challenges. “The coaching provided by Oxford Innovation reaffirmed the need for clarity on business direction,” said Paul. “With Gill’s input, we’ve removed the barriers impacting core functions and focused on two key objectives, maximise current customer sales and attract new ones which fit a specific profile, to ensure the maximum return on our investment. “It sounds simple but Gill has given us the confidence as a supplier to be more discerning when it comes to chasing the right profile of client. She also helped us to plan and prioritise more effectively so that we don’t spend time on things that won’t directly benefit the business.” Polar Krush employs 18 full time staff, two apprentices and recruits up to 30 additional seasonal staff locally to meet production demands between April and September. To find out more about the Business Northumberland High Growth Programme and Oxford Innovation call (01670) 528403, email or visit


Catering to your recruitment needs How Solutions Recruitment’s Hospitality and Catering Division can find the perfect employee for your leisure business. he Newcastle city centre-based independent recruitment agency, Solutions Recruitment, relaunched its Hospitality and Catering Division in 2013. Headed by Paul Lawson, an experienced hospitality operator and industry recruiter, the division has gone from strength to strength over the last six months. Paul and his team now cover roles from commis to executive chefs, alongside a comprehensive range of front-of-house and senior management roles. Paul’s many years in industry have enabled him to utilise his networks to find the right individuals for his clients, via a fully consultative process. When approaching any vacancy, Solutions Recruitment’s consultants take the time to understand not only the job requirements but also the aims and objectives of the business as a whole. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of the organisation’s needs, potential candidates are then pre-screened and interviewed professionally. Paul says: “It is a truly unique recruitment service we offer here at Solutions. “By taking the time to understand businesses at an operational level, you can successfully match candidates to vacancies ahead of your competitors. “I have come to know my clients well. For me it is not simply about making a placement, I offer inductions when required and keep a keen eye on the candidate and the client’s progress from there on in.


Paul Lawson

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing an appointment enhance the success of a business.” The Solutions Hospitality & Catering Division services hotels, restaurants, public houses, sports and leisure centres, industrial and stadia catering. Its flexible approach to recruiting and extensive in-house resources allows the team to accommodate any client needs. Whether it’s temporary or permanent, a day’s cover or a year’s interim there is no requirement the team will not work tirelessly to find. Having established excellent working relationships with major leisure and hospitality clients across the North East, Paul also gives his time to work with the North East Culinary & Trade Association (NECTA). NECTA works with talented individuals to support their skills and career prospects by


investing in learning and development within the catering and hospitality industry. Douglas Jordan, chairman of NECTA, commented: “I am passionate about helping young people to develop within the industry and NECTA exists to implement real skills into budding young chefs. “We start with the basics and really nurture participants along the way with the ultimate goal being to make the North East a better place to dine. “I’ve worked with Paul Lawson for several years now and he always demonstrates exceptional people skills with our young chefs. “He’s been instrumental in our success, always inspiring true enthusiasm towards culinary art; ensuring people come back to our shows year after year” Solutions Hospitality and Catering offers realistic rates, free consultation, working trials and rebate periods as standard. And with Paul leading the way, you are guaranteed complete peace of mind when it comes to your recruitment needs at Solutions. To speak with Paul Lawson, contact him on (0191) 2210402/07715 069 504 or email Solutions covers a range of disciplines alongside Hospitality and Catering including Executive, Engineering, Finance, Accountancy, Legal, Sales & Marketing, Commercial, HR, Administration, Industrial, Logistics and Construction. For more information visit


Tax specialist joins national tax body


he UK’s leading body for taxation professionals, Chartered Institute of Tax (CIOT), has appointed tax specialist, Stephen Relf (pictured right), to head of its tax technical team. Stephen, who works alongside Newcastle-based BW Medical Accountants, brings with him 15 years’ experience in the taxation of large and small businesses for the UK and region’s premier accountancy firms. In his new role, Stephen will lead the tax technical team in presenting its view on tax legislation and administration to the Government and other bodies, including the European Commission. Commenting on his appointment, Stephen, who is also a tax writer for a number of tax journals and magazines and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, said: “I am looking forward to leading the technical tax team, coordinating responses to Government consultations and meeting regularly with the Government and HMRC officials.”

BHP Law appoints five new members


ewcastle-based law firm, BHP Law, is continuing to build its growing conveyancing team with the arrival of five new appointments. Solicitor, Jo Anderson, chartered legal executive, Brian Tully, and paralegal, Lucy Fenwick, are all based at the firm’s Teeside office in Stockton and supported by new administrators, Caroline Evans and Amanda McCabe. Jo and Brian both join from another Teeside law firm, although for Brian, the move marks his return to BHP after a three-year gap. Lucy, meanwhile, joins from a firm in York.

Double win for Ward Hadaway


ndustry magazine, Corporate International, has rated Newcastle law firm, Ward Hadaway, as the country’s top law firm for dealing with Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects, for the second year in a row. Voted for by an independent panel of experts, including the chief executive of a multi-national business and the president of a global legal network, the law firm wins the award for continuing its impressive track record advising on a series of pioneering PFI and PPP projects across the country.


Tait Walker helps in revamp of The Assembly Rooms


ewcastle-based chartered accountancy practice, Tait Walker, is assisting in a deal that will see the Newcastle Assembly Rooms be transformed this month. The firm’s award-winning corporate finance team has assisted the venue owner to secure bank funding towards the £1 million project. The refurbishment, which will create scores of new jobs, includes a new bar and night club, a new restaurant and alfresco dining area and will reveal parts of the building that, previously, have only ever been used for private functions.


New appointments Two experts join the team at UNW.

NW has made two expert appointments as it continues to attract top people from the North East and beyond. The Newcastle-based business advisers and chartered accountants has taken on a senior manager from global consumer goods giant P&G to head up its cloud accounting outsourced service and a deals expert to further bolster its corporate finance team. Alison Gould, who spent 12 years in accounting and finance roles at Procter & Gamble, will lead a major move into cloud accounting, which will allow business owners and managers to view their business' current financial position and performance at any time. Gould will lead this initiative in outsourced accounting for the St. James' Boulevard-based firm, providing clients with a cost effective alternative to in-house financial management, enabling real time access to key performance indicators and an experienced, objective and constructive analysis.


John Healey and Alison Gould.

Clients will also have access to the breadth of UNW expertise in areas like VAT, PAYE & NI, corporate and personal tax and advisory services.


Meanwhile John Healey, who ran, restructured and sold an £11m turnover London-based learning, training and education company while under the age of 30, has joined UNW as a corporate finance senior manager. Healey previously spent 12 years with the big four in London advising on a range of transactions for companies ranging from FTSE100s to smaller owner-managed businesses. He will now work with UNW's corporate finance team as part of its M&A advisory service. The team at UNW provides advice on mergers, acquisitions, disposals, management buyouts, fund raisings, institutional bid support and strategic reviews across the North East and nationally. UNW managing partner Andrew Wilson said: “Our excellent client portfolio and track record for growth is helping us to attract some of the very best people. We are delighted to welcome people of Alison and John's calibre, personality and outlook and provide them with an exciting career opportunity.”


Left to right: Paul Hughes, Ryan Bannon, John Nicholson, Matt Foster, photographed at zio bar, jesmond.


Law and the leisure industry Meet Mincoffs’ legal experts who are working together to support the hospitality industry. Newcastle based law firm Mincoffs handles all types of legal matters for business in the hospitality industry . It is proud of its pedigree in this sector and its team of specialists. The Corporate team at Mincoffs continues to maintain its position as one of the leading practices in the region. Led by partners Paul Hughes and John Nicholson, the team has an impressive track record in handing high value transactions regionally, nationally and internationally. Paul Hughes trained at Mincoffs and has been a partner since 1994, having established the Corporate Team at the firm. Paul’s experience in the leisure sector comes from having worked with the likes of Ultimate Leisure, Absolute Leisure, Lugano Group and many more. Paul has advised on some of the largest transactions that have occurred in the region and has led on numerous AIM flotations including that of Ultimate Leisure. In his spare time Paul enjoys spending time with his family, playing golf and watching sport. He is always looking to improve his golf handicap. Paul is highly rated in the Legal 500 2013 and is described as “extremely bright, always available and easy to understand”. John Nicholson trained with Mincoffs and became a partner at the age of 28. He has considerable expertise and experience in advising across a broad range of industry sectors including the hospitality industry, on commercial issues ranging from business start-ups to flotations and substantial acquisitions and disposals. John’s opinion is highly valued by his clients, banks, administrators and fellow lawyers, and he is recognised in the Legal 500 2013 as, “a realist: very pragmatic, commercial and straight-talking”. John balances his work life with his enthusiasm for cycling, Sunderland Football Club and music so when he is not at work, he might be found at regional gigs, trying to keep up with the family on his bike or watching re-runs of SpongeBob Squarepants! Mincoffs has always been well renowned for its expertise in licensing. Its Licensing Department, headed by partner Matt Foster, has a national reputation and is ranked as a top tier law firm in the licensing field by the Legal 500 2013. Matt represents leisure and gaming clients both regionally and nationally. In addition to preparing and negotiating applications, he acts in relation to contentious applications, prosecutions, reviews and reporting prior to deals in relation to due diligence. Matt’s clients often comment upon his determined but friendly style of negotiation, his knowledge of the licensing and gaming industry and his practical approach to his clients requirements. In his spare time, Matt likes to reminisce about playing


rugby, having been the first player from Medicals Rugby Club to leave the pitch in a helicopter! He now tries to keep fit where time allows and enjoys spending time with his family, going to the cinema and having the occasional beer. Recent successes include obtaining a variation of a premises license for a multiple hotel operator in a highly contested application, obtaining a new nightclub licence which was opposed by the police and residents and successfully negotiating an operating license with the Gambling Commission for an online gaming business. The firm recruited Ryan Bannon as a new partner early last year to head up its Commercial Property Department. Ryan was previously a partner at a leading regional firm and has a vast amount of experience within the hospitality and retail sector. His addition marks a significant leap in the firm’s market profile and capability as he has an enviable reputation in the marketplace. Both he and his team have expertise in the full range of commercial property issues. Ryan has a dry sense of humour and also demonstrated his sensational dance skills recently at Mincoff’s Christmas party! Strangely for a solicitor, Ryan is a keen mathematician, having taught in the region as well as running a course for those going to Cambridge University. He takes this logical approach in his work. The four partners work together on many transactions to offer a complete service to their corporate clients in the hospitality and leisure sector. They recently advised Ailantus Hotels on a multi-million pound deal which saw a North East based hotel and leisure entrepreneur acquire the Holiday Inn Seaton Burn. John Nicholson said: “This was a very important transaction for Ailantus Hotels and for the hotel sector as a whole. “Ailantus has grown very quickly in recent years and Mincoffs has worked with them for over a decade to help them increase their portfolio. We were very pleased to be able to act in yet another significant deal”. Other recent transactions involving members of the team include: Holiday Inn, Jesmond; Double Tree, Newcastle Airport; Holiday Inn Darlington (Scotch Corner); St George Hotel, Regent Street, Hotel Indigo, Kensington, Mercure, Darlington, Quality Hotel, Boldon and the George Washington, Washington. In addition to these recent hospitality projects the team has also worked upon a number of pub and club purchases including Fat Budha Newcastle, Peace & Loaf and City Tavern. Come and have a chat with Mincoffs and see how the firm can assist you and your leisure business. For more information on Mincoffs Solicotors visit, call (0191) 281 6151 or email


Ten years at The Cube Law firm Sintons is celebrating the tenth anniversary since moving into its iconic Newcastle home.

n February 2004, Sintons moved to The Cube after outgrowing its previous home in Osborne Terrace in Jesmond. In the ten years since, the firm has more than doubled in size, with 250 people now working in its four-storey building. Sintons moved to The Cube on its completion in early 2004, when it was the only new development in the vicinity. Since that time, the area has seen extensive development, with Newcastle University Business School and the Sandman Hotel being built, as well as the ongoing work on Newcastle Science City. The law firm, which has operated across the North East for more than 100 years, prides itself on offering a personal service and a welcoming environment for staff and clients alike. The Cube, with its modern design and open plan format, was


Left to right: Alan Dawson (chairman) and Phil Ridley (practice director).


chosen to reflect the ethos of the firm. Alan Dawson, chairman of Sintons, said: “At the time we committed to moving into The Cube, it was a big decision – ten years ago, this was not the usual type of premises a law firm would have. We were one of the first businesses of our type to move into modern, open plan premises, and many probably raised their eyebrows, but most law firms now operate out of premises of a similar layout. “In the ten years since, we have grown significantly, and have more than doubled the number of people who work here – from having a lot of room to expand when we first moved in, we are now almost at capacity! “This was a fantastic move for us, to what is now a really vibrant part of the city. We look forward to many more successful years here.”




Counties is the method of analysis, research and evaluation to get an optimised portfolio. “We take it incredibly seriously, not only in terms of the quantitative ‘number crunching’, but also our ability to communicate closely with every investment manager that we use. In this ‘new normal’ global macro-economic environment that we find ourselves in, volatility can spike rapidly; you can’t identify this unless you’re monitoring it on a daily basis.” Nicola adds: “We are incredibly proud of our ‘independence’ and can completely justify this title by the level of research and depth of analysis that Andrew and his team go through whether this is on fund or product basis. “This gives us complete confidence in our capabilities as a company when seeing clients or professional connections!”

e all know the trials and tribulations the financial industry has gone through in recent years. At times demonised by the media, it has often felt as though the sector is full of short-term opportunists ready to squander clients’ cash with little regulation or consequence. But this has never been the case for the long-established company, Three Counties, which has been providing private and corporate clients with financial planning and wealth management services for the past 25 years. Three Counties was established back in 1989, a fact that proudly adorns the company’s new branding. The brainchild of Peter West, a well-respected and experienced financial advisor, his aim when setting up Three Counties was to provide truly independent, high quality whole-of-market financial services that suited a client’s lifestyle. It is an ethos that has helped Three Counties to thrive despite the global economic turbulence of recent times. Last year, the company moved from its Newcastle city centre location to the tranquility of the Lambton Park Estate in County Durham. It is a move that has gone down well with clients – many who have been with Three Counties for years. Peter’s experience, reputation and approach have also attracted a number of experienced, quality professionals to his company. Director John Baxter joined Three Counties ten years ago. With more than 35 years’ experience, John has a number of private clients as well as focusing on corporate services, which includes Auto Enrolment – something at the forefront of many business owners’ minds due to imminent legislation. Nicola Wrightson, a specialist in investments with more than 24 years in financial services joined the company as director in 2012 and became managing director a year later, after being enticed from her role with a major asset management firm in Edinburgh. She explains: “I have known Peter for many years as one of the most respected financial advisers in the North East. My knowledge of how other companies select their investments and build their investment portfolios, through my previous role, was vital to ensure that what we do at Three Counties is the best.“ Finally, Andrew Alexander was appointed head of Investments and Product Strategy in 2013, having been head hunted from a leading IFA business in Glasgow. Speaking on why he joined Three Counties, Andrew explains: “Experience counts for everything in investments. When markets change you need to draw upon those past experiences and Peter has seen a number of financial crises. This ability to draw upon those experiences in invaluable”

FLAT FEE STRUCTURE Another crucial aspect of Three Counties is its fee structure. While the company has implemented a new flat fee strategy, with capped fees for new investments, its transition has been long in the planning, with Peter initially rooting the system into the company as early at 2001. Nicola explains: “Clients don’t want open-ended fees. We have a minimum and a maximum charge on all our services. Everything is agreed in advance with the clients. We discuss with the clients exactly what they need, even down to the level of service the client is looking for. This is then costed out and approved by the client. “Clients can opt for complete lifestyle financial planning or pick and choose individual services to meet their needs. Three Counties also offers an exclusive bespoke package for high net worth clients. “It means that Three Counties is more interested in building long term relationships with clients, with this relationship then passed down through generations.” MANAGING RISK While there is always some degree of risk when investing, the aim of Three Counties is to identify and manage clients’ expectations. So, if a client is a cautious investor, his or her experience and investments must reflect that. Andrew explains: “We never take undue risk because it would be detrimental to our clients and therefore to the business. “We ensure that our clients fully understand the nature of risk and then the relationship between risk and reward” When Peter first sowed the seeds of a reoccurring fee structure back in 2001 (seven years before the economic crash of 2008) such an approach was practically unheard of. But the financial specialist correctly predicted the future of the industry with a focus now towards more transparency and risk management. The team at Three Counties are looking to build on their success and are currently looking for experienced advisers to join the team. And while Three Counties are busy with a steady stream of new, high net worth clients, one thing is certain: it will remain dedicated to ensuring a cost effective, transparent and quality financial planning service.

RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS While the IFA marketplace is a crowded one, the directors at Three Counties have developed a unique and considered financial process to wealth management. A major part of this has been the attention given to research and analysis of the markets. Using the latest technology – including bespoke software sourced from Chicago – financial markets are analysed on a daily basis to identify the best investments. Andrew, who manages the process, explains: “We’re not looking at unique information; its data that is widely available. But what is totally unique to Three

For more information on Three Counties visit or call (0191) 230 3034.





Legal Aid: rare but not extinct Family law specialist Simon Dakers of Gordon Brown’s Law Firm explains who still qualifies.

EXPERT VIEW Simon Dakers Partner Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP Web:

s part of the Government’s efforts to cut the Legal Aid bill by £270 million, April 2013 saw the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) come into force, limiting the availability of Legal Aid funding and affecting as many as 600,000 people. This brought with it a dramatic change in relation to the rules surrounding those who would and wouldn’t qualify for Legal Aid in family and matrimonial cases. The funding structure means that Legal Aid is generally no longer available for divorce cases, disputes over assets following the breakdown of relationships or private children law proceedings, leaving many in need of help to cover legal fees with nowhere to turn. This means that anyone seeking a residence or contact order for their children or grandchildren, a divorce or to resolve financial affairs, may no longer be able to benefit from Legal Aid to instruct a solicitor. The public is still very unclear on the implications of the changes to Legal Aid and this is a huge concern for us, as indeed it should be across the legal sector on a whole. The changes are not black and white and the perceived ‘blanket approach’ to Legal Aid no longer being available across the board is far removed from the actual reality – there is


still financial assistance available for some. We work closely with a number of organisations spanning the region – from community groups and children’s centres, to domestic violence organisations, refuges and Citizens Advice Bureaus. What has become increasingly obvious over the past ten months is that people are unaware of the implications of these changes, which is very concerning. The implications are that vulnerable members of society are being denied access to justice and are being left to try and resolve matters themselves. Worryingly, in some cases we have seen people representing themselves in court, trying to negotiate their way around the often complex family law system, with little or no legal knowledge, as they believe that there are no other options available to them. It’s becoming increasingly apparent through our work in the community that the Legal Aid reforms are having a devastating effect on some of the most vulnerable members of society. Proving domestic abuse remains a key barrier to the availability to Legal Aid and we work with a number of organisations that are finding the Legal Aid regulations are restricting access to legal advice. Anyone seeking Legal Aid, other than in


cases involving social services or injunctions, must demonstrate that they have been a victim of domestic abuse in the preceding two years or any child involved has been or is at risk or abuse. The Legal Aid Agency’s requirements are quite strict and only certain documentary evidence is acceptable otherwise people must either pay privately – something which, for most people is often out of the question – or represent themselves. Evidence to show domestic abuse has taken place must be provided before Legal Aid can be granted which can, for example, include a letter from a health professional, local authority, Refuge or evidence from the police that the perpetrator has an unspent conviction for domestic violence, received a caution or that there are pending criminal proceedings. It is sometimes difficult to obtain the requisite evidence, as the wording of any letter must meet the requirements of the regulations. Resolution, which is a group of over 6500 family lawyers and professionals in England and Wales and promotes a nonconfrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes, has recently had a meeting with the Legal Aid Agency and Ministry of Justice staff to raise members concerns about the difficulty of obtaining evidence for Legal Aid.


It’s good to talk Why talking is good for your finances, by Ian Lowes, managing director of Lowes Financial Management.

ecent research by Prudential of close to 2000 UK adults found that less than 46 per cent of couples have made arrangements to ensure that one partner will continue to receive a retirement income after the other dies. The research, conducted with adults over 40 years of age currently living with their spouse or partner, further showed that more than a quarter (28 per cent) of couples have yet to discuss the impact on pension arrangements of one partner’s death, while 19 per cent have at least made a will but no other financial plans. The retirement risks faced by many couples are further highlighted by the fact that 41 per cent admit they have never discussed how they will turn their pension savings into an income in retirement – perhaps one of the most important decisions of a person’s life. There is also significant confusion among couples about the sources of their retirement income. One in seven don’t know what their main source of income will be when they stop working – however, the survey showed that men are more certain as only 9 per cent said ‘don’t know’ compared with 18 per cent of women. Clearly, communication between couples, whether married, in a civil relationship or not, is essential to ensure both feel their income is secure should either one pass away. To start, both partners need to know how to manage money. Couples rarely pass away on the same day and so both partners need to be on top of their finances. That includes knowing the basics – the location of bank/building society accounts and the most up-to-date balances, investment portfolios, insurance policies and


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

wills – and for each to be familiar with the processes and requirements needed to manage a bank account or investment portfolio, or to encash an insurance policy. For those looking to buy a retirement income product, typically an annuity, choosing the right product can make all the difference to the income of a surviving spouse/partner. Single Life annuities pay an income for the life of the individual. Once the person dies the income stops. Couples who have been unaware of this have found that the surviving partner has been left with a large income gap and significantly, in some cases, no income at all. This can be even more marked given that single life annuities tend to pay a higher level of income. Alternatives such as Joint Life annuities pay the income to the named holder and, should they pass away, the surviving spouse receives the income or a proportion of it instead. The Prudential survey found that, while a third of couples had reached a decision on the best retirement income option, only 10 per cent


of them planned to purchase a ‘joint life’ annuity. Clearly, this is an area that needs careful consideration, not least because once an annuity is bought it cannot be changed. Also, it is essential when you come to buy an annuity that you look at what is available in the market. The rates on annuities have been low for some time and just which company is offering the best rate can change from month to month. Often it can seem simpler to buy from the provider with which you have been saving your pension but this can result in a lower income for the rest of your lives. Shopping around to maximise your future income is key. Retirement planning can be more complex where a portfolio of investments is the source of income or where pension income drawdown is used, i.e. where investments are maintained in a pensions wrapper allowing income to be ‘drawn down’ on a regular basis. To ensure the proper management of the portfolio, whether pre or post retirement, each spouse/partner should be aware that investments need to be researched and a balanced portfolio is important. That portfolio should include a range of investments, including cash, diversified across various sectors and asset classes. There can be a lot to learn if one partner has taken sole responsibility for the finances. So the sooner couples start talking about these issues and working together the better. Where your needs are complex or you may need to consider areas such as non-pension income, inheritance tax, setting up powers of attorney and writing a will, then consider consulting a chartered independent financial adviser.


Do not delay Rebecca Tarn of Major Family Law reveals why it is important to act promptly when it comes to family law.

EXPERT VIEW Rebecca Tarn Assistant solicitor Major Family Law Tel: (01661) 824582 Web:

e’re all guilty of procrastination, especially when it involves dealing with something we’d rather avoid. Whether it’s wilful avoidance, an overly vague intention, or because we’re too easily distracted, we let things slide all the time. In an extreme case, a woman made a claim for financial provision against her former husband 19 years after they divorced. It seems the couple were habitual procrastinators, having been separated for more than twice the length of their marriage before even commencing divorce proceedings. The parties were described as having lived a ‘traveller’ lifestyle during their three-year marriage, which probably explains the lack of any financial assets within the marriage. Presumably, at the time the couple were divorcing, they saw no need to obtain a legal order dealing with financial matters between them on the basis they had nothing of note financially – a common misconception. A few years after the couple divorced, the husband set up a wind power business, which subsequently became very successful and was alleged to be worth millions. Although both parties went on to new long term relationships with other partners, and the husband even remarried, the wife still


brought a financial claim against her former husband 19 years after they had divorced. Not only was she seeking financial provision for herself, but she also sought a payment from the husband of £125,000 to fund her legal fees to bring the application. The husband, unsurprisingly, asked the court to strike out the wife’s claim. The judge at this first level refused his application however and he was ordered to pay the wife’s legal costs. The husband appealed the decision and the case went to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal has now overturned the original judge’s ruling, but the wife in turn has appealed that decision and at the end of this year, her appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court. The wife’s application was originally made in 2011, meaning ultimately it will have taken over three and a half years for the matter to be decided one way or another. Many will see this as a classic example of ‘grasping ex-wives’. Even the Court of Appeal ruled that, “the wife had lived an impecunious lifestyle throughout her life with both of the men with whom she had entered into family life. Under those circumstances she could not look to the husband to be her insurer against life's eventualities”. One would hope that, ultimately,


commonsense should dictate that such a claim should not succeed, and that the Supreme Court will not allow the wife’s appeal, but whatever the outcome, the costs incurred by both parties to finalise this matter will be significant. Even if the husband’s position is ultimately upheld, he will be unable to recover his legal costs from his ex-wife, who remains impecunious. The Court of Appeal said that although there was no limitation period in respect of applications for financial remedies following divorce, the court should not allow either party to a former marriage to be harassed by claims for financial relief which are both issued many years after the divorce and have no real prospect of success. This may well be of poor consolation to the husband at this time, still faced with one final appeal hearing. The irony is that if one simple document dismissing all financial claims and effecting a clean break between the parties had been drawn up and approved by the court at the time of the divorce, none of this would ever have come about. The moral of the story? Perhaps that is best left to Abraham Lincoln: “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”


Growing pains and the global economy By Barclay’s Richard Clark.

he new year plunged the Bank of England into something of a dilemma as domestic data took centre stage. Robust employment figures caused the UK tenyear government bond (gilt) yield to break above 2.9 per cent in January. In conjunction with a 0.2 per cent decline in unemployment in the previous month, the UK jobless rate is now a hair’s breadth away from the 7 per cent threshold, which the Bank of England (BoE) previously indicated to be the level at which it would begin to rethink its monetary policy stance (i.e. potential interest rate hikes). Not so long ago (in its August Inflation Report), the BoE expected the unemployment rate to reach 7 per cent by mid-2016, which was then revised to mid-2015 in the November Inflation Report. Now, on signs the magical 7 per cent might be reached in the next release (reflecting December 2013 data), the BoE in February reiterated its guidance that interest rates are likely to stay at a record low for an extended period. As the market cycle turns, we think that investors may start paying more attention to inflation. One option for the BoE is to emphasise the importance of the inflation outlook in future forward guidance (although present as a ‘knock out’ factor, the unemployment rate effectively assumed more importance), arguing that as long as inflation remains close to target, a recovering labour market may not translate into higher interest rates. In the US, the Federal Reserve (Fed) is also gradually moving away from its unemployment rate thresholds and has started emphasising inflation as one of its key variables (indeed, the Fed’s 7 per cent threshold for ending asset purchases was reached in


EXPERT VIEW Richard Clark Private banker Barclays Wealth and Investment Management

November last year, yet it was December when the Fed announced a very gradual start to QE tapering). As we’ve mentioned before, the UK has a history of relatively high inflation. Should price pressures pick up again, from current low levels, it would translate into further pressure on gilts, particularly when coupled with the recovering labour market. This is in line with our view that among major developed sovereign bond markets, UK gilts have a relatively high probability of underperforming in the quarters ahead. From a global perspective, the start of the year has been marked by a setback in risk assets, concentrated in the emerging markets (EM) but with clear spill-over effects on the developed world. The likely catalyst for this appeared to be renewed concern over the EM growth outlook, fuelled by idiosyncratic problems in a number of EM countries. These ranged from political risk in Turkey, weaker economic data in China, and a 12-13 per cent fall in the Argentine peso. EM currencies, bonds and stocks continue to underperform developed markets, driven partly by continuing outflows as institutional investors

reallocate portfolios to benefit from the eventual rebound in developed-world interest rates (and the higher bond yields already on offer). Poor EM returns have also been driven by a number of local disappointments, including large current account deficits, slowing growth and inflationary hangovers, and political unrest and policy uncertainty. Some EM policymakers’ responses to further pressure on their currencies at the start of the year have not been helpful. Meanwhile, the calendar – and cycle – is reminding many investors of the period of emerging market underperformance sparked by the monetary normalisation and Tequila crisis of 1994, which eventually segued into the Asian crisis and lasted for roughly five years (and cumulative stock underperformance in common currency of roughly 75 per cent). Currently, EM stocks have underperformed for three years, and by a cumulative 54 per cent, since their October 2010 relative peak. As an asset class, EM equities look inexpensive, and could remain so for a while. As yet, the poor sentiment and outflows that have are dodging emerging markets are associated with economic performance that is not actually that bad: most developed economies still envy the growth rates of Asia in particular, and the EM bloc overall seems poised to grow a little more quickly than in 2013. But the growing pains are there, and amplified by the strength we are seeing across markets in the developed world. 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.

Barclays offers wealth and investment management products and services to its clients through Barclays Bank PLC and its subsidiary companies. Barclays Bank PLC is registered in England and authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered No. 1026167. Registered Office: 1 Churchill Place, London E14 5HP.



Turning around financial constraints Muckle’s Andrew Cawkwell on the alternative to insolvency.

hen owner managers of businesses experience persistent financial difficulties they often believe that insolvency may be the unavoidable outcome. The reality is that this is not the case. It’s a familiar story – cash flow has dried up or liabilities exceed assets. The bank manager calls to discuss viability. It’s naturally assumed that funders have a business’ best interests at heart. However, in reality, funders protect their own interests when presented with a risky situation that they are being asked to consider. In a recent technology business I was involved with, financial difficulties led to the funder calling in an administrator, but this was premature. The business could have marketed its intangible assets, which included its patents, instead of insolvency. A better outcome for creditors and the incumbent management


EXPERT VIEW Andrew Cawkwell Partner and certified turnaround professional Muckle LLP Email: Twitter: @CompanyRescue


team could have been achieved. Engaging a specialist adviser to advise management during the process and not relying on the funder or their own advisers exclusively can unlock innovative solutions that are more holistic and wide-ranging. A turnaround specialist will conduct a full assessment of the business and provide definitive and clear advice. It’s never too late to engage the services of a turnaround specialist, the earlier they are contacted, the better. Recently, I was engaged by a business on the day before they were to be entered into administration. I was able to liaise with the administrator and engineer a deal for the management to make an offer to purchase the assets from the administrator. I know that if I was contacted much earlier, when the initial problems became apparent, then I could have secured a better outcome overall.


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

ast month’s column covered the early stages of the process of selling a company and I hope it identified some important planning issues to consider: how much money do you need to crystallise from the sale? Is the company well positioned? Is there sufficient evidence available that credible acquirers are active in your market? Do you feel confident that you can achieve the exit valuation you desire? This month I will go on to cover the next steps of the process, namely, going to market. Before doing so, it is worthwhile briefly considering what steps you might take if the conclusion drawn from the planning process is that the company is not currently worth the amount that you need to deliver from the sale. How will you fund the organic growth required to increase the company’s earnings to deliver the incremental value you require? Might it be appropriate to consider making an acquisition? Returning to the sale process, having established who you are going to approach to buy your company, consideration then needs to be given as to how you will approach them as well as what information you will provide and


when. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, the approach you take needs to address the specifics of the situation. However, it is often the case that you may choose to provide limited, high level information which is sufficient to whet the appetite of potential acquirers but does not immediately reveal your identity. This, as will not surprise you, is a difficult and delicate balance to strike.


Having drawn potential acquirers to the process, it would then be appropriate to satisfy confidentiality considerations as a precursor to providing interested parties with more detailed information, most likely in the form of an Information Memorandum. This document should provide a sufficient depth of information to enable you to narrow down the list of potential acquirers. It may be that the next step is to meet with the remaining participants to answer specific queries and ensure they are now in a position to make an offer for your company. At all times we strongly believe it is best to have an adviser leading the sale process. The degree of separation created by placing your adviser between the acquirers and you has proven to be invaluable time and again. We are now at the heart of the sale process and I will pick up the next critical steps in April’s column. In the meantime, if you are thinking about selling your company and would like to discuss your specific situation email or call Mark on 07730 437 617.


Stephen Harmison Benefit closing reception Muckle LLP helps Stephen Harmison bowl out a year of fundraising.


tephen spoke about his year of fundraising while also sharing his views on the current state of English cricket at his Benefit closing reception. The celebration was joined by supporters and other business leaders, as well as family representatives from The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, one of the charities that the benefit supported in 2013.



Taxing times for farmers Emma Glover, a partner at Rowlands Accountants, identifies some of the key tax-related issues facing the agricultural sector today. With the agricultural sector having been hard hit in recent years, many farmers have either already diversified or are now looking to diversify to increase revenue. How does this affect tax planning? From flooding and disease through to regulatory changes and the availability of arable land, there have been a wide variety of challenges facing the agricultural community over the last decade. A natural response to this has been for farmers to consider how else to drive revenue and many will have looked for ways to make alternative use of their land. With the right business concept, this can be a profitable course of action, however being aware of some of the basic tax implications of any planned activities before you set off down this path is absolutely key. The tax rules can be very different from farming tax, and this is often something that catches people out. A strong example of this relates to Inheritance Tax relief. Many farmers find themselves ineligible to claim on the diversified activities in certain situations. This tends to happen where the balance of their rental income (such as from a lease for a wind turbine or solar panels, or let properties) outweighs their farming income, or if they have not brought the diversified activities into the business.

Becoming an accommodation provider has become a popular way to make money from land. What are the potential pitfalls here? Bed and breakfasts and holiday cottages have certainly been a growth area and offer lots of potential. However, anyone looking at either as a course of action should be careful of going over the VAT threshold for these types of business. You will have to charge VAT if you are registered, giving you a significant disadvantage over Mr Bloggs down the road who has just one holiday cottage and is not VAT registered.

With the big push on sustainable energy, a lot of farmers are turning to wind turbines and solar PV farms for income. Are there any reasons why this might be problematic? As mentioned above, farmers can get caught unawares by an Inheritance Tax charge if the turbine is operated by a power company and the farmer simply rents a field to that company. High tax charges are often in operation because the leases are so valuable. It is much better from a tax point of view to receive Feed In Tariffs.

Although many farmers have tried to introduce caravan parks, these


have proved to be a problem for their descendants. Why might this be the case? Unfortunately there have been many instances in which the owners of static caravan parks have not been able to prove that they provide significant services to holiday makers. Where this happens, the owners lose out to HM Revenue & Customs and are obliged to pay Inheritance Tax. Be aware there is a potential issue and get advice if you run a caravan park. Understanding what these ‘significant services’ are and what kind of evidence is required from the outset can make a big difference.

What final words of advice would you give to those looking to diversify? It’s fair to say that diversification provides fantastic opportunities, but is it vital to always take professional advice before starting out on any course of action. The tax implications may not be as favourable as with straight forward farming and there is nothing worse than being caught out at the end and experiencing more pain than gain. For further information on Rowlands Accountants visit


Parent in an unhappy relationship? You are not alone, says Support 4 Separated Parents.

any couples that are separating are faced with the difficult issue of children’s feelings and welfare: How do we explain it to them? How do they have a relationship with both parents? How do they not get caught in the middle? How do we split childcare and costs? Many parents going through this feel totally alone – but that is not the case. Support 4 Separated Parents (S4SP) Helpline (0333 2000722) has launched this month as a pilot in the UK to help parents facing a split with exactly those questions. Available to those who live in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear, the helpline gives guidance to those who want to avoid costly and bitter court battles. Hazel Hedley, who heads up the helpline, explains: “There have been cuts in legal aid and not everyone can afford the court route.


Even if you can afford it, the legal battle in court is possibly not the way to go nowadays. “We support parents and try to encourage people who live as families who split to think first of the children. It is hard and you may not love each other any more, but you can guarantee they love both of you and need you both in their lives. “The S4SP helpline is operated by fully trained personnel, who understand your situation and on hearing your situation will have dispute resolution suggestions.


“They will even introduce you to the right providers, in your area, that have the right expertise to help your family unit sort out issues and move on with your lives. “Don’t forget, it is the hardest of times, but you are not alone. There are a number of options readily available that are a much better route for sorting out the entire families needs without costly and lengthy legal proceedings.” The S4SP Helpline is staffed by experienced professionals, Monday to Friday. Anyone needing to talk outside of usual opening hours due to personal time restraints or sensitivities, then the someone will call you back at a designated time. Contact the S4SP headline on 0333 2000722. You can also follow Twitter @S4SPNTW S4SP on Facebook.


St. James’s Place Foundation Ball The wealth management company’s charitable arm raises thousands at annual event.


he Newcastle office of St. James's Place Wealth Management recently hosted a Foundation Ball at the Gosforth Park Hotel, Newcastle. The St. James's Place Foundation, the charitable arm of the FTSE 250 company, has raised over £30 million for charities both in the UK and overseas. £2500 was raised on the night, which equated to £5000 with company matching. Phil Pringle, Head of Business/Regional Director, is delighted to help with the work for incredibly worthy causes.




Left to right: Sarah Hall (Hay & Kilner), Paul Turbitt (Faltec), Sarah Furness (Hay & Kilner), Neil Dwyer (Hay & Kilner) and Chris Pennison (Faltec).

Manage your workforce Hay & Kilner launches a new training service for employers. orth East law firm Hay & Kilner has launched a new human resources (HR) management development service to help businesses effectively manage their workforce. HR Showcase has been designed by the employment team at Hay & Kilner, based on the needs of their clients. It provides practical guidance for making stronger decisions and helps to minimise the risks inherent in managing a workforce. One of the first companies to take advantage of Hay & Kilner’s HR Showcase service is Faltec Europe Ltd, one of the largest employers in South Tyneside and a global supplier to automotive manufacturers such as Nissan and Honda. Chris Pennison, managing director of Faltec Europe Ltd commented: “The bespoke training we received was designed and delivered beyond our expectations. The training was absolutely value for money anything that keeps me out of an employment tribunal is more than value for money.” The HR Showcase team comprises


experienced lawyers who are knowledgeable, down-to-earth and skilled presenters. They offer a range of different training styles including seminars with interactive scenario based role plays, covering all HR related topics for groups of managers and for personal individual development. Some of their popular sessions include dealing with investigation and reporting; conducting disciplinary and grievance hearings; addressing the challenges of social media and effective performance and absence management. Neil Dwyer, partner and head of Employment at Hay & Kilner commented: “Prevention is better than cure. We train managers to handle all aspects of any HR process better so their decisions stand the test, which usually means less claims or appeals are made. In the long run that saves management time and legal costs. We empathise with the managers as we all have years of legal experience dealing with these matters. Each HR Showcase programme is developed to meet the goals, budgets and time


constraints of each business. We tailor sessions to meet requirements.” HR Showcase is one of two new additional services Hay & Kilner has to offer their Employer clients. The firm also recently launched their HR Key service. HR Key is a fixed price employment law service, backed by insurance protection. It provides a solution to the headaches faced by employers of all sizes when dealing with the complexities of employment law and the ever increasing burden of compliance. Alongside telephone support, and access to scores of useful documents related to employment issues, HR key comes with the added benefits of an annual audit to review contracts and staff handbooks, regular email updates and invitations to HR events. For further information on HR Showcase or HR Key, contact Mike O’Beirne, business development manager at Hay & Kilner on (0191) 232 8345, email: Alternatively visit:


Entrepreneur launches next generation IT tools


orth East businessman, Peter Joynson, has established ‘the next generation of IT business technology tools’ with the help of a team of experienced technology specialists. Synergi Software Solutions, a full range of specially designed business apps and Microsoft technologies, such as Office 365, will soon be introduced to North East and national businesses. By promoting Microsoft business technologies, Synergi will also tap into the growing opportunity for small and medium businesses to access cloud-based software solutions, which are now used in the home and on the go. Synergi is actively recruiting skilled technical and sales people and aims to be reaching a £2 million turnover within less than three years. Peter is joined at Synergi by director, David Kaye (left), and senior consultant, David Charlton (right).

TSG to work with Labour


echnology services company, TSG, has agreed to a five-year deal to provide a new telecoms system for The Labour Party, as it gears up for next year’s General Election. The North East-based business is installing the new system across all the party’s offices, from Westminster to Scotland, after winning the contract following a competitive process. The system will link up Labour’s two offices in Newcastle and London, providing seamless communication with its ten additional regional and national sites across the UK.

Calibre’s new crop of talent


ewcastle-based ICT services firm, Calibre Secured Networks Ltd, has made several key appointments to support its expansion and help drive growth in 2014. They include John Burnikell, who joins the company to provide server platform expertise, and Karly Appleby who will work in administration and accounts as she undergoes full auditor training. The firm also expects to recruit two more people for its technical team within the next three months.


Digital leaders North East salon


he region’s first Digital Leaders North East salon saw 30 influential regional decision-makers from the public, private and academic sectors come together last month to address the issues of digital inclusion and skills. Attendees, including David Sharpe from Binary Asylum, Gillian Miller from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Bob Paton from Accenture, discussed why the sectors must work closely together to help tackle the digital skills challenges in the region.


Clear about the

cloud? ITPS’ Garry Sheriff on how cloud services can benefit all types of businesses.

he cloud services sector is tipped to be the fastest growing area of the ICT market and an estimated two thirds of businesses are using cloud services for at least one application or service. But that leaves a third of businesses missing out on the benefits cloud can bring. ITPS works with blue chip organisations, the public sector and SMEs, and sees a high proportion that are reluctant to move, often due to assumptions over what they see as cloud issues, and a belief that all clouds are the same and so are the issues. The fact is that every cloud is different, can be tailored to individual needs and budgets, and will deliver different benefits to each business. Cloud computing does not necessarily mean your data sits somewhere outside your control, it describes a way that businesses can use internet-based services, delivered via data centres and public and private communications, to access their data and other IT services. It is difficult for some to appreciate that cloud is not a tangible entity, which is why it means many things to many people. Its main benefit lies in potentially slashing capital and operating expenditure by removing the need to buy and maintain a large physical infrastructure of servers, storage and software. Another myth is that cloud is an ‘all or nothing’ decision, when in reality the flexibility to design a rented, purchased or hybrid cloud model to match business needs is a key advantage. It offers a huge range of choices based on public, community or hybrid cloud, and options to build in delivery of software, platform or infrastructure as a service.


EXPERT VIEW Garry Sheriff Managing director ITPS

For instance, Business A could create a public and private cloud hybrid incorporating an element of server and desktop virtualisation, host the solution at a data centre, and use cloud services to deliver access to systems and data. Business B might opt for a risk-spreading infrastructure putting mail, archiving and CRM systems in the cloud, but with client-site hosting of resource-heavy functions such as ERP and data the client prefers to keep on their premises. Identifying the risk and creating a balance that suits the organisation is the goal. One of our clients manages the public sector Appraisal Toolkit, with 35,000 users accessing the application via a rented cloud model. The back end system that operates the application is held in a secure data centre on hardware owned by the client, with the disaster recovery model and user secure access facilitated virtually via the cloud. This model was constructed around the client’s wish to recoup its investment in hardware, and keep its data in a dedicated, non-multi-tenanted space. The success of cloud adoption depends on two elements – the strength of your existing communications network, and an intelligent approach to the design of your infrastructure.


If these are poor, it will be reflected in your cloud experience. Cost reduction can be a big benefit, but businesses need to understand how solutions are delivered, and how the infrastructure’s underlying components will influence the cost. The cheapest option is not always the best. Quality, availability and security should be the primary considerations. When you opt for a cloud model you are trusting a third party to make sure your ICT and your data is highly available and secure, so choose a partner with a track record in creating complex cloud solutions for a wide variety of organisations. Ask potential partners how they see cloud benefiting your business in terms of streamlining delivery, reducing cost and complexity, and leveraging your existing investment. The first question they should ask you is how much memory, processing, storage and bandwidth you need. These are the essential building blocks and what you buy now should be scaleable to your future needs. You should also check where they plan to store your data. Ideally it should be held in data centres – preferably across more than one – that are Tier 3 and ISO27001-certified. Cloud’s relatively low cost models, fast delivery and easy accessibility support predictions that the global market will be worth $3.1b in 2015, but the plethora of options it offers make it difficult for businesses to make the right choices. Not all cloud solutions are the same, but organisations that work with experts to help them apply its benefits to competitive advantage and make the cloud a safe place to conduct their business will be the ones that stay ahead.


Shaun Phillips.

The future of public sector IT Shaun Phillips, technical director for Newcastle-based Calibre Secured Networks Ltd, looks at the imminent changes to IT for government agencies, bodies and local authorities. t seemed to be that IT is a dirty acronym in some government circles at the moment. Indeed, the civil servant in charge of central procurement has even accused some IT suppliers’ behaviour as ‘appalling’ and ‘monopolistic’ amid the clamour to limit the size and, in some cases, the duration of IT contracts. In what’s been seen as a welcome and long overdue move, government contracts will no longer be automatically extended and new ones for web hosting will not last for more than two years, while there will no more contracts over £100m, unless there is an exceptional reason. All this follows some certainly unsavoury examples of greedy practices: one government department was charged £30,000 for changing the text on a web page while one supplier wanted £65 for a laptop power cable only worth around £20. And undoubtedly there are thousands of similar stories from around the country which, when added to reports of ‘monopolising’ internet services by global leviathans, paints a picture of a sector in crisis, paralysed by inertia and indecision. The whole situation with local government IT and the drive to do more with less leaves local government organisations between a rock and a hard place in that the handful of large IT suppliers who are being accused of these shady practices, are the only ones with the financial muscle to quickly build the common platforms required, and they know this. In practice, some of their behaviours have only served to erode trust between customer and supplier.


However, it shouldn’t necessarily be all doom and gloom. While stopping large suppliers monopolising contracts and stamping down on bad practices is undoubtedly a good start, the current climate, where some local authorities are facing 30 per cent cuts in IT budgets, there’s a golden opportunity for hard-pressed government to link up with more nimble footed, flexible suppliers like Calibre who can act as catalysts for change. And this change can come through increasing embracement of the public multitenanted, non-proprietary cloud services now available over the internet for some services, such as email for example – and the emerging G-Cloud which is a collection of many existing public sector data centres for platform services which require a security compliance such as CESG – rather than some giant behemoth’s data centre which just happens to have a cloud label stuck on it. Suppliers like Calibre are encouraging increased migration away from IT organised around typical local authority silos such as housing, environment and transport to more and more versatile and ‘free’ infrastructures, where there’s no need for on-site IT and certainly no legacy systems. We will see more and more common services such as case management or payments becoming standardised as cloudbased components become available as a service, replacing the many disparate systems that currently inhabit the local government IT landscape. This brave new world will see functions that are unique to a particular


public service made freely available to other councils as open source. It’s an appealing vision – which everyone should greet with a great deal of enthusiasm, – that will ultimately see the government as a platform model which would lend itself to increased customisation of services based around the needs of the communities and individuals local authorities’ serve, packaged up within an overall more enterprising, flexible and enlightened IT architecture. And what about these abusive practices? Having Technical Assurance services from an organisation such as Calibre on your side can mitigate these risks going forward. Local government shouldn’t be fearful of taking the next step and needs now to actively engage in meaningful dialogue with smaller, smarter suppliers like Calibre which has the reach, knowledge and flexibility to meet their existing and future needs. It’s certainly a brave new world but also an exciting one in which we can all share and prosper. Calibre provides ICT solutions for public and private sector organisations, working across the UK and Europe with clients building long-term strategic relationships to deliver added value solutions, which provide lasting user benefits. This includes services and solutions, which enable schools, local government organisations and companies to maximise their return on investment through the deployment of technology to meet their business challenges. For more information visit or call 0845 5576355.


Man versus machine? Brewin’s Nick Williams on why technology shouldn’t replace the personal service of investment managers.

EXPERT VIEW Nick Williams Assistant director Brewin Dolphin Email:

think it is safe to say that most people know, if not like, that our internet patterns and preferences are logged, stored and used to suggest items of interest, places we might like to go, things we might like to eat. But how would you feel about Facebook, for instance, providing you with investment advice? Perhaps Google telling you what funds you should be investing in? The thought may never have occurred to you; it hadn’t to me until last week. But the concept of technology-based financial advice is a real one, and no doubt some say a credible one. I’m not referring to signing up to an existing online broking service, but to the potential for investment advice services to be operated by social networking sites, perhaps dating sites and the like. Large organisations whose operations rely on collecting user data. It is quite easy to see how it might work. Our internet activity is a window on our personality. Our personality shapes our preferences, and our preferences are reflected in our consumption. Plenty will be hidden within our internet behaviour that might just help a large collector of data like a social networking site or a search engine itself make a


reasonable guess at where we might like to put our wealth. One of the web’s greatest assets is its ability to quickly and efficiently reach an enormous marketplace. Another is its ability to gather data on billions of people. These two factors could co-operate to deliver investment advice to a mass market which will demand more and more in the years ahead. But there are so many potential pitfalls. The principal one is that advising someone based on such data is basically a guess. I hesitate even to say ‘best’ guess. Investment advice is not, and should never be, a nebulous process. It is precise, tailored, personal and detailed. That’s because it has to be. Technological change moves on apace but nothing will ever change the individuality of your financial situation, and it is this that shapes your investment goals. I realise that the process will be a little more sophisticated than providing investment recommendations based on what strimmer you bought recently! But a sound investment strategy must reflect your specific financial situation, and so far as I know (suppressing my cynical side) details of my income, assets and financial aspirations aren’t sat in Google’s virtual broom cupboard.


And what of diversification, of risk management? I’m sure it might work for some, but to my mind there is no way such a system could guarantee risk was managed efficiently and in tandem with the investor’s own attitude to it. We would potentially be looking at a situation where the decision to invest is made after a few clicks. With human involvement this process is more measured, taking time to get things right, identifying the nuances that I don’t believe a computer could. With human advisers there is interaction, rapport and accountability. I wrote recently in a newspaper column about behavioural psychology in investment. One concept I didn’t touch on was domain dependence. This covers the tendency to assume that your skills in one area transfer into another, when often they don’t. As much as I stand to be corrected, I do wonder whether or not large non-financial corporations would make a successful transition into the advice field, conceptual though this idea is at this stage. Crucially, I just don’t think the relationship between client and investment manager will ever be adequately or safely replaced by technology where the person’s needs are anything more than basic.


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

TOMTOM 6000 ith stiff competition from smartphone apps, TomTom is attempting to reinvent how drivers use navigation with its new GO range. The range-topping 6000 boasts TomTom


Traffic, the most advanced interface yet which uses crowd-sourced data every two minutes to detect the most up-to-date traffic jams, road closures and road works. Other features include QuickGPSfix speeding up the time it takes to fix your GPS, Lifetime Maps that allows you to


download four or more full map updates every year, and the option to see buildings and landmarks in stunning 3D on the 15cm touchscreen. RRP ÂŁ299.99

OLYMPUS TG-850 lympus’s new action camera combines tough performance with beautiful styling. The TG-850 features an ultra wide lens with a 5x optical zoom while the monitor can be tilted through 180 degrees enabling you to get your shot at any angle. It’s also shockproof to 2.1m, waterproof to 10m, crushproof to 100kg and can operate in temperatures as low as -10 degrees. RRP £269.99


SONY HD-SG5 he new lightweight, pocket-sized HD-SG5 hard drive from Sony will keep your data safe while you’re on the go. Measuring 79x8.7x117mm and just weighing 130g, the portable device offers a generous 500GB of storage space for videos, photos, documents, digital music, etc, while smart utility software, such as Data Transfer Accelerator and Backup Manager, makes transferring files quicker and safer.


SKULLCANDY CRUSHER kullcandy has re-engineered its Crusher headphones, which now offers a unique bass sensory experience derived from dual driver technology. Powered Sensation55 drivers in each earcup deliver ‘attacking’ bass while ‘supreme’ sound is supplied via separate REX40 drivers. A slider on the left earcup also allows you to easily control the level. RRP £89.99.




Creating content that counts N

ewcastle communications agency, OPR, is urging businesses in the North East’s hospitality sector to expand their horizons when it comes to their use of social media and think beyond ‘sending stuff out’ (SOS) marketing techniques, to ensure they truly engage with and inspire customers. “Nearly half of travellers use social media to share travel-related experiences,” said OPR’s digital account director, Emma Campbell (pictured). “Social media is, essentially, word-of-mouth marketing. Hotels using social media experience significantly more website visitors than those not optimised for it and web visitors lead to more direct, commissionfree reservations. Hotels should be innovative in their approach to social media and not afraid to try something new.”

Duo appointed to top national roles N

ational body for public relations professionals, Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), has appointed two North East professionals to senior

roles. Stephen Waddington, Ketchum Europe’s digital and social media director and a leading expert in digital communications, joins as president for

2014, while Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting, has been reappointed to the CIPR board and as chair of the professional practices committee.

Creating jobs in the North East


ewcastle-based marketing firm, Meridian Delta, plans to expand its workforce to 70, creating 25 new jobs in the North East.

The direct marketing business, which predicts a £2.7 million turnover in 2014, is set to grow, despite the tough economic climate.


The majority of the new jobs on offer will be for sales staff and the firm will also be taking on apprentices.


Breathe some fire into your business Horizonworks’ Samantha Davidson on why public relations activity should not be neglected – whatever the size of your company.

or eight years, Deborah Meaden has been a fixture on the Dragons’ Den panel. During that time, the entrepreneur, who made her millions building up a family holiday business, has invested in businesses as diverse as The Running Mat, a portable outdoor fitness product and, a so-called ‘Facebook for foodies’. It’s fair to say, that Deborah knows what she’s talking about. And when she opined in the Den’s current series that it wasn’t worth businesses spending anything less than £3000 a month on public relations activity, she demonstrated just how much value she places in PR – and the benefits it can bring to a company. Deborah was referring, in this instance, to national PR campaigns, but later suggested that it was, of course, possible to spend lesser sums on targeted public relations. The message, though, remained the same: that PR is necessary and whether you are a start-up or a multi-national, it has a vital role to play. Simply put, for organisations looking to forge ahead, PR shouldn’t be an either/or decision. In this digitally-connected world, the arguments for incorporating PR as part of the wider marketing mix are now more powerful than ever. Today’s consumers are exposed to hundreds of messages, across all media, every day. Brands need to inhabit many spheres, just as consumers do, so we regularly talk to our clients about integrating PR with other activity to maximise the effectiveness of a campaign


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

and ensure consistency. PR provides a lens through which audiences view all your other marketing tactics and if you’re not managing your reputation effectively then other communications have to work harder to get consumers’ attention. Consumers want reliable information from a credible source – PR enables that to happen. If advertising is about frequency and volume, PR is about being proactive in engaging creatively with your audiences and about achieving impact via the messenger, whether that’s a renowned commentator, industry sector ‘bible’ or popular drivetime radio show. PR is what others say about you, not necessarily what you say about yourself, and when a message is seen to be delivered by an objective third party, such as journalist or credible stakeholder, it can be much more persuasive. Here’s a word of warning though: mediasavvy consumers – especially in this age of


user-created content – are increasingly able to spot a PR story a mile off. Any PR activity needs to be engaging, honest and, crucially, relevant. A skilled, experienced PR practitioner will identify the most effective story to tell about your business and manage relationships with key influencers (for instance journalists, stakeholders or other partners). PR isn’t about running a press office or simply churning out an endless stream of press releases. It’s no different to any other part of the marketing mix in that you need to define and understand your audience, be clear on your objectives, have the right message and be creative. It’s still about communicating the right message, in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience. And PR activity shouldn’t be limited to securing coverage in traditional media outlets: depending on the nature of your products and services, social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can be used to promote your business, establish its tone of voice and engage in a highly valuable, twoway relationship with your existing and potential customers. It can even give you an opportunity to run a campaign based around your customers’ content; reinforcing their engagement with your brand. Deborah Meaden certainly didn’t bag her place on the Dragons’ Den panel by ignoring the value of a well executed communications strategy … so if your business isn’t engaged in PR activity, maybe it’s time to heed her wise words – and make it your priority.


How to manage

digital Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting Ltd, the PR and marketing consultancy, looks at the best ways to manage digital within an organisation.

’m a big believer in continuing professional development and have signed up to a digital marketing course developed by Google and certified by the IPA. The programme content is superb and I recently had the privilege of watching Neil Perkin of Only Dead Fish speak. Neil talked briefly about how organisations approach digital projects and as part of this described an interesting method in which team players from across the business come together for a project and then disperse once it’s complete, just like on a film set. It inspired me to do a bit of research and find out more. Looking online I found an article by Jason Mogus that was published in 2011 in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Describing four typical models for managing digital, it was obvious that three years on, although many businesses recognise the importance of digital, they are still finding it difficult to fully integrate it across the company, at least in my experience here in the North East. The first model that Mogus describes is ‘Informal’, which is represented by random digital work across various functions and departments. It’s fair to say there are still businesses in the region with this type of rudderless strategy. Unfortunately, as Jason says himself, “it’s not pretty and the results are rather limited”. Mogus calls the second model ‘Centralised’ and this is the one I see the most frequently and can actually lead to some very positive results. This is where the digital department runs all activity as a silo and the benefits include, “consistent messaging and


branding, common tools, and, importantly, clear ownership and reporting lines.” Mogus’s issues however, are that the team may have strong technical and publishing skills, but they may equally be slow to respond and possibly lack the ability to engage with key stakeholders and provide content leadership. His view is that the model, “makes for a cleanly run, professional system, but it tends to make innovation difficult, especially around adding capacity for increasingly mission-critical functions such as storytelling and engagement” – something I have certainly seen play out. I am regularly called upon to help strategise and innovate, as well as to devise and deliver the content creation element in these situations. Third up is the ‘Independent’ model, which is where digital leadership roles are assigned to different departments across the organisation. Although a model that is growing in popularity, Mogus counsels against this. Introducing multiple digital players across the business that each feed into a central marketing point may seem beneficial, but often highly competitive rather than collaborative silos appear and departments with less clout may struggle to get the attention of, “an over-taxed and underresourced central digital team.” What’s more, duplication of resources commonly occurs and can contribute to confusing user experiences – an own goal, by any marketer’s terms. Which brings us on to the final ‘Hybrid’ model advocated by Mogus and which is the hardest to achieve, despite being, “the most progressive and the most conducive to producing continuous innovation at the pace


of digital change” because it requires looser, more adaptive structures overall. Here, the central digital team practices open leadership, driving any high-risk projects while supporting digital players within each department to ensure activity is in line with the overall organisational objectives. The central team are, “service oriented, highly collaborative, hyper-connected listeners, who also have the technical and content expertise to be high-value strategists.” To be sustainable, Mogus states support for this has to come via a larger change initiative that enables the flexibility needed for today’s networked world. Writing this, I am able to identify many of the companies I work with and no doubt you can identify which model your business belongs to, too. If you want to evolve, do what Mogus recommends and start by asking whether your organisation has a sense of purpose and direction with regards to where digital is going, how your digital channels perform against those of your competitors, whether you can innovate fast enough and whether your internal departments feel well served. Aside from all else, it will certainly make for some interesting discussions at the next team meeting! Contact Sarah on 07702 162704, email:, Twitter@hallmeister or visit For more PR and marketing related news and articles, please visit



Ask Silver Bullet … Kerry Tudor of Silver Bullet Marketing answers your marketing queries. ilver Bullet Marketing has built a solid reputation for a no-nonsense approach to a profession shrouded in mystery and rapidly changing technology. We’ve teamed up with North East Times to bust the myths surrounding marketing, to rid our sector of ‘gobbledegook’ and answer the questions you have about the services we provide and the techniques we employ to deliver them effectively. ‘Ask Silver Bullet’ is your marketing resource, designed to answer the questions that perhaps you’ve never yet dared to ask. We’ll answer all submissions with honesty and in plain English. We’re here to give you advice and support, without an agenda.


How can I use Social Media to grow my business? I imagine marketing agencies hear this question a lot, and the number of dedicated experts and companies that have launched in recent years certainly suggests that social media can grow your business. The answer as to how it does so however, isn’t exactly a

straightforward one ... In recent years the introduction of new communications technologies has revolutionised the world of marketing. While traditional methods of raising awareness of a brand, product or service such as PR and print remain effective, the introduction of newer communications technologies, enables us to significantly increase the reach of the message we send out to our customers. With internet-enabled mobile technology – such as smartphones, tablets and laptops – becoming increasingly affordable and accessible to consumers, the likelihood of your customer hearing your message via a digital platform is high, especially when you engage with them using more than one medium at once. Social networks are exceptional platforms on which to keep interested parties up to date with what’s happening with your business in real time and in an informal setting. Whether you prefer Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram or even Google+, they enable you to build an informal relationship with your customers. Generally speaking, the better this relationship is, the


more likely a customer will do business with you again and recommend you to a friend. I think the single most important rule of effectively using social media to grow your business, is to keep it social. It’s important to keep content fresh, make sure you update your profiles regularly and in an authentic voice, and make sure you engage with people. A lot of people make the mistake of using social media solely for sending information one way rather than starting a dialogue, this is effectively talking at people and not waiting for their responses – it’s not very useful to anyone. While technically a free resource, using social media to grow a business takes time and dedication. The rewards for doing so however are limitless with significant return on investment, so if you’re going to do it – make sure you do it properly, there’s nothing sadder than an empty profile page. Do you have a marketing, PR or design question? Email or Tweet @SilverBulletPR and use the hash tag #AskSB

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

Sales director scoops national award


ynn Waterman, sales director at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, has been named Best Sales Person of the Year at a recent Hilton awards ceremony. Held at Hilton East Midlands, the annual conference was attended by 200 representatives from across the Hilton UK and Ireland provinces divisions, including sales directors and coordinators. Although a number of honours are given out on the night, Sales Person of the Year is recognised as the most sought-after award and is voted for by members of the sales team. Lynn, who beat off competition from across the UK and Ireland, commented: “Having worked for Hilton for more than ten years, I am overwhelmed to receive such a recognition – especially as the competition was so fierce.” Martin Robinson, general manager at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, added: “Lynn has been integral to the success of the hotel since it opened and we are delighted to see her skills nationally recognised.”

A slot of money


ew rules to increase the maximum jackpot on slot machines have come into fruition at Aspers Casino, situated at The Gate, Newcastle. The new legislation allows progressive jackpot payouts of up to £20,000 and sees the maximum amount that can be won from a single slot machine rise from £4000 to £10,000. An anonymous gambler has already won £12,548 under the new legislation at the casino, which boasts the largest poker room in Newcastle and hosts more than 60,000 guests.

local lad toasts pub venture


oss Serino, who’s family have run popular Italian restaurant, Santoro’s, in Yarm, since the 1970s, has opened his very own pub with his mother and partner – The Tuns at Sadberge. Ross, who has years of experience in catering and hospitality, and Rebecca have invested over £250,000 in the new pub, which was formally the Three Tuns. The new venture has created five new jobs for people living in the village, including a head chef and bar and waiting staff.


Growing stronger


leeperz Hotel Newcastle has reported excellent year-on-year growth since its opening in January 2012. The 98-bedroom premium budget hotel, situated on Westgate Road, has seen a 13 per cent increase in occupancy, a 12 per cent increase in revenue and a 13 per cent growth in profit compared to 2012 - a year in which it won a hat-trick of industry awards, including a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) award for architectural excellence.




he reinvention of The Assembly Rooms as Newcastle’s newest and exclusive entertainment and dining establishment will be unveiled later this month with the official opening of Bonbar. The £1 million investment into the iconic, Grade II listed building will see the ground floor and courtyard transformed into an exclusive members lounge, champagne bar and outdoor terrace for dining al fresco. The new venture will create more than 70 new employment opportunities in its initial phase with further investment to the upstairs ballroom planned to begin this summer. Throughout its 238-year tenure, the building in the heart of Newcastle has evolved with the city. From ballroom, to casino, to banqueting suite, the historic venue has come full circle and once again opens its doors for the sole purpose for which it was intended, as inscribed on its foundation stone: Rooms dedicated to the most elegant recreation. The Assembly Rooms is owned by Antony Michaelides who took over the business from his father in 2000. The Michaelides family have successfully operated the premises for the last 40 years after rescuing the almost derelict building from demolition in 1974 and sympathetically restoring it to its former glory and grandeur. Antony reveals: “Hospitality is in my blood, and one of the most important things to my family has and always will be the meticulous attention to the maintenance of the building; ensuring that guests attending functions at The Assembly Rooms find everything in perfect order. “That coupled with unrivalled customer care and a personal service has ensured The Assembly Rooms continued success despite the economic downturn in recent years. I have great confidence in the product and services we offer to our customer and believe this next chapter for The Assembly Rooms will be the most successful yet.” Newcastle is a city renowned for its nightlife; it sees thousands flocking from across the North East and beyond to experience its thriving and vibrant social scene. Bonbar will be offering something different from the average bar and will largely focus on what it can offer to the existing business community. Antony explained: “This has been a carefully researched project that has been a dream of mine for a long time. I truly believe we will be offering our customers something like nowhere else in the North East. “Trends in the leisure and hospitality market are constantly changing, but by keeping our finger on the pulse we hope to stay ahead of the game and that our unique offering will set the standard for other venues to aspire to.” Ollie Bennett, operations manager at Bonbar, has supported the

expansion by bringing a wealth of experience with him from over 15 years in the hospitality sector. His combination of skills and insight into the industry is enabling The Assembly Rooms to seamlessly transition from banqueting and function suite to an exclusive entertainment venue. Ollie said: “Bonbar and the 467 Club will serve as a multi-purpose venue that will take customers from day to night with a changing mood and appearance. “Daytime meetings, after work drinks, live entertainment and dancing, it will all be available under one roof in a prime location in the centre of Newcastle. “Bonbar will also offer corporate membership for local and national businesses. From meetings to business lunches, Bonbar and the adjacent 467 Club will be an elite watering hole for both networking events and private functions. The membership package will include exclusive offers, discounts and a loyalty scheme. “We will be serving cocktail and food menu that will cater for everyone while still offering something special. Ollie continues: “Our cocktail list has been developed by national award-winning bar manager Johny Hume, previously of Seaham Hall, who has taken inspiration from our historical building and current contemporary trends in the drinks trade. “Food has always been an area that The Assembly Rooms has excelled in, and the new menu will build on this with a premium offering catering to all tastes. “Dishes will include sumptuous sharing boards, miso cod served with wilted greens and aged Northumbrian fillet steak. “The most important factor that will differentiate us from our competitors is our unwavering dedication to the customer experience. We have handpicked a team of experts to ensure the upmost of standards are surpassed, just as The Assembly Rooms always have.” The 467 club will be an intimate and exclusive lounge, for the most discerning of customers. Offering a unique atmosphere in opulent surroundings, from illuminated champagne tables to restoring the original oak floors, no expense has been spared to create the most lavish and sophisticated destination. The name ‘467 Club’ originates from a fancy dress ball held in 1823, attended by 467 of Newcastle’s upper class and elite members of society. The ladies and gentlemen were described at the time as, ‘attired in all the splendour, brilliancy, and variety that taste could devise or money purchase’ the ball was the talk of the nation and it was stated,’so splendid an entertainment was never before seen in Newcastle.’ Almost 200 years later, Bonbar hopes to replicate this sentiment.





Rockliffe Hall means business Why the luxury five-star hotel, golf and spa resort is perfect for corporate events, meetings and conferences. ocation, location, location – we all know it matters, especially in business. Road, rail and air links are vital when choosing a venue for your meetings, conferences or corporate events and what could be better than a five-star resort easy to reach yet privately ensconced in its own 365acre grounds? Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth near Darlington, has an exceptional reputation for attracting business tourism to the North East, thanks to a combination of outstanding facilities and service and its convenient location close to the A1, Darlington Railway Station and Durham Tees Valley Airport. The resort attracts a varied range of corporate clients from not only all over the North East and around the UK, but as far afield as the Middle East and the USA. Clients include Sabic, one of the world’s biggest chemical giants based in Saudi Arabia, Samsung, EE, the Premiership, the FA, Coutts and Team GB and the US Ladies football teams who stayed at Rockliffe Hall ahead of their Olympic campaigns in London, to name just a few. Not only are more companies than ever choosing to bring their meetings and events to the North East, they’re increasing what they spend and how they spend. Teambuilding activities, corporate golf days, wine tastings and spa treats are all on the up. Managing director of Rockliffe Hall, Nick Holmes, explains: “Business tourism is the area in which we’ve seen a rapid growth in


the last 12 months. More companies are opting to take their events out of London and they demand outstanding facilities and good transport links in a region that has a lot to offer – all of which the North East has. Of course this boost is good for our business and their business but, most importantly, it’s great for North East business as these companies are interested in different activities, from rally driving and clay-pigeon shooting to Nordic walking and wine tasting.”

Our Northern star Corporate hospitality attracts a discerning crowd who want the very best to suit their budgets, whether they’re entertaining clients or rewarding employees. Rockliffe Hall continually strives to surpass exacting industry standards and has picked up a variety of high profile accreditations in recognition of its facilities and services for corporate clients. As well as being the current holder of the VisitEngland silver award for business tourism, having already clinched the title of best in the region at the North East England Tourism Awards, Rockliffe Hall is the only resort in the North of England to be awarded the AA’s coveted five red stars, confirming its status as one of the best hotels in the UK, alongside well-known places such as Claridge’s in London, Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Gleneagles in Perthshire. The red stars are considered to be


the highest award in the hospitality industry with only several properties each year receiving the accolade. And to kick-start 2014, the resort received BDRC Continental Venue Verdict's Highly Commended Accreditation for delivering consistently outstanding customer experiences. BDRC Continental is a market leader in providing insight into hotels, meetings and hospitality sectors to improve guest experiences, carrying out independent research to provide detailed feedback. This client satisfaction measurement system is used widely in the UK conference venue and hotel industry, enabling venues to collate and manage feedback from clients and benchmark their own performance against other providers. Nick Holmes adds: “As we grow as a business and attract more people from a variety of locations, it’s vital that we introduce various systems to measure customer satisfaction so that we know what we’re doing right but, more importantly, what we need to improve. The last year has been a period of impressive growth with occupancy rates continually increasing and regularly 100 per cent at weekends so to pick up these recent accreditation is testament to the investment we make not just in our facilities but our superb team too.” For more information visit



A serving of success In the competitive world of catering and hospitality, 1879 Event Management is proving that versatility and experience are the keys to success. rom business dinners and conferences to football matches and major music concerts, 1879 Events Management has a proven ability to cater for all manner of audiences on a large or intimate scale. This versatility and commitment to tailoring its product has earned the organisation a number of high profile contracts, including a recent three-year deal to provide full catering facilities at the Newcastle Pride festival. The annual event, which celebrates the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, is expected to attract around 65,000 visitors in 2014, with activities taking place at Newcastle’s Town Moor and Times Square. 1879 Events Management will be providing event management, bars, catering units and staff for the three-day event, which also offers opportunities to showcase the brand and its values. Gary Hutchinson, director of 1879 Events Management, says: “Our involvement in Newcastle Pride is as much about showing support for an event that celebrates inclusivity and boosts the local economy as it is about delivering a commercial service.” Newcastle Pride, which takes place in July, is just one of many events 1879 Events


Management will be involved in this summer. The organisation, which manages catering and hospitality at the Stadium of Light, will also be catering for thousands of concertgoers at North East Live 2014, headlined by Jessie J, as well as the first night of the UK leg of One Direction’s Where We Are World Tour. This will build on its success in catering for music fans at high profile concerts featuring Rihanna, Take That and Coldplay, who have all performed at the Stadium of Light in recent years, as well as its experience in satisfying more than 49,000 football fans who visit the stadium regularly. Gary continues: “1879 Event Management was built on experience in catering for a wide range of events at the Stadium of Light and continues to utilise this expertise both at the stadium and further afield.” 1879 Event Management has now expanded beyond the stadium and is lending its skills to a wide range of events at outside locations. To date, this has included the Sound Waves concert, organised by South Tyneside Council, which saw chart-topping band McFly performing at Bents Park, South Shields, the North East Business Teesside Awards on Teesside University’s campus and the Sunderland 2012 Retail Awards in the


city’s Bridges Shopping Centre. The organisation, which is able to deliver everything from stewarding to ticketing, also provides catering and events management services at the recently re-launched National Glass Centre, Sunderland, where it manages private events, as well as the centre’s public Brasserie. Gary says: “The Brasserie offers us the opportunity to showcase the fine dining capabilities of 1879, which have been developed in the years of catering for corporate and formal events at the Stadium of Light, and to make that accessible for food lovers on a daily basis. “This, combined with event management at the Stadium of Light, National Glass Centre and a wide range of public and private events at outside locations, has helped strengthen the 1879 Events Management brand and diversify its offering to support long-term success. “We’re now looking forward to building on our portfolio even further and to utilising our versatility and expertise for the benefit of clients across the North East and further afield.” For further information about 1879 Events Management call 08719 111 555, email or visit


Making Aspers a good bet Aspers Casino’s assistant general manager Alan Barnes gives an overview of how the business has evolved and what the Newcastlebased casino has planned for the future. Aspers Casino first launched in Newcastle almost ten years ago. How has the business developed? Our arrival caused a huge ripple on the North East leisure scene because people really enjoyed the different type of night out. Since that time we have continually updated the offer to maintain interest and are often at the forefront of the big changes within the industry. For example, we were the first to change our membership policy to an open door policy. Ensuring we met strict criteria meant we could open to the general public (anyone who looks under 21 is asked for photo ID) and we have never looked back since. Following a legislation change at the start of this year we have been able to introduce larger jackpots on the slot machines. Where before you could only win up to £4000, now people stand to win a progressive jackpot of up to £20,000. We have already had someone scoop over £12,000.

What challenges and opportunities do the casino industry face and how is Aspers responding? What Aspers is keen to do with all its sites is to change the perception of what a casino is. It is neither a smoky gambling den, nor full of James Bond types – although that’s not to say we don’t get some rather nicely dressed guests! We regularly work with the local community

through a group called Community Action for Responsible Gaming, which involves meetings with the general public and local bodies such as the police. We address any issues, discuss what we are doing as a responsible operator to solve these and use the forum to communicate what it is we do. Ultimately casinos are part of the leisure industry and appeal to those looking for something more than drinks and a meal, the cinema or a bowling alley, for example. We have an a la carte restaurant, three different bar areas and one of the largest TV sports screens in the city – the diversity appeals to a wide range of people who want a fun night out. We take our responsibilities very seriously and try to always lead the way for our sector. For example, we have just been awarded the title of European Casino Operator of the Year at the International Gaming Awards, where we were commended for our vision, customer service and innovative use of new technologies. The year before we won the award for Socially Responsible Casino Operator of The Year (Land Based) for the safeguards we put in place for our customers.

that appeal to the different groups, many of which include introductory sessions for those who are nervous about not knowing how to play. We secure a lot of corporate custom from companies who like our tailored offering and also have strong links with the Chinese community due to our location near to Stowell Street. As such we organise a lot of Chinesethemed activities and recently celebrated the Chinese New Year with the local community. Finally we never rest on our laurels and we have introduced more gaming products such as the dice table and big wheel, which is very easy for new players to understand.

What is your vision for Aspers Newcastle and what do you think the future holds?

How have you developed the offering at Aspers to appeal to different groups of people?

Newcastle is where the Aspers Casino concept started and we intend to keep innovating and strengthening the offer to awaken new interest while looking after our loyal customer base. We have traditionally always introduced new table games or electronic products so there will be more of those. Our aim is to consolidate our reputation as a fun night out where it is easy to learn the ropes and you get amazing customer service. It’s as simple as that.

We spent a lot of time analysing our customers and have developed a variety of party packages

For more information on Aspers Casino in Newcastle visit




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?

Andy Hook Managing director of Blackfriars Restaurant, Banquet Hall and Workshop

PAST resigned from my position as production manager for a circuit board manufacturer in South Shields in the spring of 1999. I had spent five years in a testosterone-charged, high-growth environment, but I didn’t like it. Less than a month later, I was a restaurateur. I had no experience of the industry having never had a job in hospitality. All I knew was my passion for food, cooking, entertaining and being servile. To be successful in catering you have to want to serve people and do whatever it takes to ensure your guests enjoy an amazing meal experience. That I did know. It was all very exciting but I also had my head down working 24/7, learning from my endless mistakes and desperately trying to make a go of my bijoux 40-seater Tynemouth bistro. I soon realised the secret to success lay in finding great staff, training and development and installing proper systems – something I learnt from my manufacturing days.



PRESENT hile the 1990s was defined by fine dining, the naughties gave way to a more casual style of dining with Michelin chefs opening large and far more lucrative brasseries. With rampant food inflation and hikes in utility costs, it’s survival of the fittest and, as such, today’s restaurants fall into two camps. First of all, if you want to roll-out a successful chain - think Wagamama, Las Iguanas and recent Newcastle opening, Jamie’s Italian (and there’s a plethora of other fledgling chains bursting to spread their wings beyond London) – you have to manage an über-cool brand-image while maintaining a robust high-tech operation in the background. And of course you need a backer with deep pockets. Otherwise, you need to stick to being a great independent neighbourhood gaff with low overheads and a better understanding of the local market.


think tomorrow’s restaurants will all be staffed by smart interactive robots, allowing you to chose everything via projected touch screens and cooking and serving you food with consistent precision. They’ll instinctively know what you want, serve you in seconds and allow you to pay without you going near your wallet. Not really! I suspect things won’t be that different. The need for a strong brand image with smart use of social media and clearly articulated messages will be as important as ever. But it’s behind the scenes systems that are likely to ring the changes. Integrated systems with EPOS, electronic bookings, recipe, food and beverage software, human resource systems, smart seamless payment systems with integrated brand loyalty systems will all be common place, and essential. But at the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves people chose to dine out because they want someone else to prepare and serve them some delicious food in nice surroundings by pleasant staff at a price they can afford. And that will never change.


TIMELINE 1999: Opened Sidney’s Restaurant, Tynemouth (sold 2006) 2001: Opened Blackfriars Restaurant, Newcastle 2005: Founding board member of EAT! Newcastle Gateshead Food Festival 2005: Opened Café Peel @ Dance City, Newcastle (sold 2006) 2007: Bought 36 Lime Street in Ouseburn 2010: Launched Blackfriars ornate Banquet Hall for corporate and private events 2011: Launched Blackfriars Workshop 2013: Launched Fatfriars



Business lunch

The Brasserie, Sage Gateshead Alison Cowie visits The Brasserie at the music venue, now open for lunch. age Gateshead has sat majestically on the banks of the River Tyne for the past 10 years. Its voluptuous glass façade, designed by the Norman Foster’s renowned architecture and design practice, may still raise a few eyebrows, but the way it has transforming the Gateshead quayside is undeniable. It is probably the most recognisable buildings in the region and I, personally, love it. While its programme of world-class music and performance attracts the crowds at night, it has been the building’s local landmark status and stunning views of the river with Newcastle’s sprawling city scape beyond, that has drawn the visitors during the day. Until recently, it has been the coffees, cakes and informal meals of the Sir Michael Straker Café that has provided refreshment


for day-time visitors.Last month, though, the venue began opening The Brasserie at lunchtimes, offering a more formal dining experience. Situated around the corner of the café, you may not get the benefit of a river views while in the Brasserie but its secluded feel is perfect for a business lunch. My two dining companions and I visited the brasserie last month, and after a warm welcome – the attentive service continued throughout – we were presented with the menu. With just three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from, my two companions and I did find the menu rather limiting. Although consolation was that, for the first time ever, I was able to order ‘everything on the menu’ for my dining party.


And at £15 for three courses (£10 for two), we did agree that it represented excellent value for money. The dishes arrived promptly and were satisfactory, if not mind blowing. The smoked mackerel mousse was full of flavour and the char-grilled minute steak was well cooked and came with some delightfully crisp fries. However, there was a lack of seasoning and general refinement with other dishes. The real draw of The Brasserie during the day is the Sage Gateshead itself. As an impressive location for a business lunch, you can’t go wrong. However I do feel there needs to be some added finesse to The Brasserie so that the cuisine is as memorable as the iconic surroundings. For bookings call (0191) 443 4654.

Soup of the day.

Smoked mackerel mousse, soft egg and watercress salad.

Pork, apricot and pistachio terrine, apple and fig salad.

Chargrilled minute steak, peppercorn butter, salad and fries.

Chicken Caeser salad.

Potato gnocchi, parsley root, mushroom cream and truffle oil.

Milk chocolate parfait, pear and sable biscuit.

Sticky toffee pudding, caramel sauce and vanilla pod ice cream.

Selection of Beckleberry’s ice cream.

Price: Three courses for ÂŁ15.



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

New Look, £22.99, £40

Wallis, £35

HaveToLove, £65

here’s no better time to brighten up your work wear than in springtime and, this year, it’s all about soft, ice-cream hues to wake up your wardrobe. Forecast to be one of the season’s most prominent trends, pastels are a winner for just about everyone – including the fashion-savvy working woman. Stuck on colours? Ditch winter greys and navies for sorbet shades of mint, orange and powder blue; all of which are incredibly flattering and office appropriate. Colour-blocking your pastels is a great way to mix things up, so for fairskinned women in fear of looking washed out, why not partner a bold shirt with flared, baby pink trousers (as pictured)? Dark-haired gals with warmer skin tones, meanwhile, are urged to add a pop of pastel green to their look: whether a blazer or blouse, the minty hues will make your features stand out.


H&M, £19.99

MODEL ATTIRE Check Burnout Shirt, £24 High-waisted Trousers, £32 All from Dorothy Perkins SS14 Lookbook

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News from Dame Allan’s Schools Recent achievements at the independent school. Students get in gear for careers Students at Dame Allan’s were encouraged to get in gear for their careers with help from Gateshead-based global engineering firm Sevcon. Sevcon’s president and chief executive Matt Boyle brought along an electric bike and car, the Renault Twizy, to Dame Allan’s Schools’ Higher Education and Careers Convention last month. Matt was passionate about inspiring the students to follow a career in engineering, using the electric vehicles to illustrate the importance of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects. He was joined at the Higher Education and Careers Convention by Danielle Walsh, a software engineering student at Northumbria University, who is on a placement at Sevcon. The packed programme for the evening gave over 600 pupils at Dame Allan’s the opportunity to hear 42 presentations from speakers from industry and universities. Students were able to quiz representatives from international higher education institutions as well as UK universities from Aberdeen and Cambridge to Oxford and York, where they gleaned tips on writing personal statements and what to expect from their degree. Representatives of 49 organisations from the BBC to Procter and Gamble were on hand to answer questions about routes into career paths and encourage the students to think about surprising alternatives.

Principal Dr John Hind said: “’The Higher Education and Careers Convention” is a remarkable event which gives our students an unrivalled opportunity to meet staff from the universities they are considering. They are also able to talk to graduates and employers from national and regional organisations to explore the potential of their chosen undergraduate courses and the various career paths open to them. “This is the climax of an inspiring careers programme which the careers team, led by Mrs Whitehouse, work tremendously hard to put together, using their experience and impressive contacts. It provides the students with a truly inspiring vision of life beyond the sixth form.”

is taking Biology, Chemistry, Economics and English Literature at A level. The origins of the Dame Allan’s Employability Award for Year 11 students lie in the work and support given by Esh Group when they built the new Junior School and Nursery, which opened in 2012. For the award, the students have to build a portfolio of evidence such as writing a letter of application for work experience, completing their CV, attending a mock interview and also gaining insight to health and safety, rights and responsibilities at work. Students gather their evidence over a sixmonth period with students presenting their best Employability Award folders for an interview before a panel of employers.

Careers cook off Creative Solutions Two students from Dame Allan's took part in a unique cooking challenge. The Sixth Formers were among the five winners in the Schools’ Employability Award for Year 11 and faced Adrian Watson, Sir John Fitzgerald’s own Paul Hollywood in their own cooking challenge. Fiona Mansfield and Rafchana Khanam took part in the company’s Chef School for leading chefs in the group, learning how to use Tyneside's first Josper charcoal grill and prepare tantalising desserts. Both girls are now in the Sixth Form and love cooking, especially baking, as a contrast to their studies. Fiona is taking A levels in Biology, Chemistry, French and Spanish while Rafchana


Congratulations to the Young Enterprise team, Creative Solutions Publishing who won the best company award at the YE North East Trade Fair at the Metro Centre. The team, led by managing director Adam Coombs, had produced a cookery book for students heading off to university Over 35 companies took part in this year’s Trade Fair, where the teams were judged by a panel of five, chaired by Victoria Thompson from the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC). For further information on Dame Allan’s Schools visit


Team work Principle Dr John Hind, reflects on a winning team ethic at Dame Allan’s Schools.

eing head of a school is a privilege. Of course, there are times when it is demanding. Recent years have been challenging ones for the independent school sector as a whole, though I am pleased to say that Dame Allan’s remains strong, stable and confident of its future as we enter our fourth century. But, whatever the difficulties one faces, they are minor in comparison with the rewards. Heading an institution whose purpose is to allow young people to flourish and be the best they can be is immensely fulfilling, especially as achieving that goal relies on teamwork and cooperation. This takes many forms. The staff (teaching and support) work together to achieve what is best for our charges, our governors give hugely of their time on a voluntary basis to ensure the Schools run properly and the parents of all of our pupils contribute to their wider education. Our former pupils too contribute to the wider family of the Schools, both through informal support and careers guidance to current students and formally through the work of the Allanian Society. Above all, the pupils themselves support each other in achieving their objectives. Most obviously and properly, these are in the classroom. The Schools’ regular place in the top


echelons of the local league tables and the marked success of individual students confirms this. But if we are genuinely to have a team, we must – and do – celebrate the achievements of those whose hard work has secured for them the best grades of which they are capable – even if they are not, in absolute terms, the highest. Our sense of team can be seen in other areas too; most obviously on the games field, but also in the excellence of our performing arts departments. As sport is a great personal passion for me, it is, perhaps, unsurprising that I regard watching our boys and girls playing any sport as a key element of the privilege I enjoy as principal. But that privilege is every bit as apparent in listening to our hugely talented musicians, watching our actors or in witnessing the continuing standards of breath taking excellence displayed by our nationally famous school dancers. Watching pupils develop their skills through the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, or through the John Muir Award, recently introduced to the Schools by our outdoor and leadership education department, is a further privilege. Similarly the Schools’ membership of the Relais de La Memoire movement, founded


by former resistance heroes Abel Farnoux and Stephane Hessel, has forged links with schools from across Europe looking to uphold the rights of minorities and the dignity of man. We have all been privileged to meet inspiring men and women who are continuing the work of the movement’s founders. The opportunity for creative thinking and development – exemplified in our first rate new Junior School at Hunter’s Moor – is a yet further privilege I enjoy as Principal of Dame Allan’s and one which, again, relies hugely on teamwork to be realised. That sense of team commitment, of a shared vision for the development of young people which both recognises excellence but also supports and nurtures all pupils in pursuit of that excellence, lies behind all we do at Dame Allan’s. We want our students to work hard to be the best they can be, to think of others as well as themselves and, above all else, to be happy and well-rounded individuals. We usually succeed in those objectives; working with such young people and such committed colleagues is what makes my job such a privilege. For further information on Dame Allan’s Schools visit


In the boss’s chair

Joel Dickinson Director at Karpet Mills

Briefly, what has been your career to date?

What skills and attributes do you need to do your job?

I was brought up in an entrepreneurial environment and it was fate that I would end up in the family business, of which I am the sixth generation. Having graduated from Leeds University with a chemistry degree (not sure how much relevance it has to the flooring trade), I cut my teeth with Carpetright in its flagship store in Leeds. This short stint gave me a solid footing in the flooring game and I learnt a lot about the systems and procedures of the national market leader. After two years with Carpetright the urge to be master of my own destiny took hold and I decided to set up an online retail business selling gadgets, boys toys and gifts for three years until I sold it in the summer of 2010. I gleaned a huge amount of experience in all aspects of running a business and I think that was the keystone to my career to date providing a solid, broad platform from which to build my retail experience.

Running the flooring retail side of the business requires me to switch my focus on a daily basis and keep plenty of plates spinning. On a Monday I will be sourcing products, Tuesday will be looking at marketing, Wednesday might be looking at strategy and so on. Anyone in retail knows it is pretty relentless but I thrive on the pressure.

What attracted you to the flooring sector?

In August 2013 we opened the doors of our new branch in Gateshead. Opening up the 8000 sq ft branch from scratch and establishing a loyal customer base has required an awful lot of hard work by everyone in the business. It has been a huge challenge to drive the existing business forwards while throwing resources at the new venture, but we are already reaping the rewards.

The family business was firmly established in the flooring sector and I grew up working summers in the warehouses and shops. It was a natural and easy choice to join the family business in 2010 after relocating to the North East following the sale of my online business.

What's been your career highlight? I’ve taken a huge amount of pride in being able to join the family business that has been trading since 1878. Being the current custodian keeps me focused on ensuring that I leave the business in a better position the generation before, which has been the mantra that has proved successful for decades.

What has been your biggest challenge?


How has customers' tastes and flooring preferences changed since you began in the industry? The biggest change I have seen in the industry is the movement towards flooring as a fashion product. In years gone by, the bulk of customers wanted to invest in expensive, top quality products that would last them a lifetime. More recently, we see customers changing carpets every five or six years to follow the trends in colours and style. The pendulum has swung away from woven patterned carpets and 80/20 wool twist towards thicker piles and manmade yarns. The improvements in the production and quality of manmade yarns has followed this demand and we now stock a huge range of fabulous, bleach cleanable products.

What are your plans for Karpet Mills? As a company, we tend not to make knee jerk reaction and change direction too often. Our long-term plan is to uphold our focus on quality products, competitive pricing and the highest levels of customers service. We hope to be able to grow our customer base in new areas and push forwards with both retail and softcontract markets and to grow the business ready for the next generation. For further information on Karpet Mills, visit or call (0191) 271 6576.


Keeping it clean … with Newlife Cleaning Systems. 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 their 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 guarantee the safety and peace of mind of its clients by providing full CRB checking wherever necessary. Offering a wide selection of specialist cleaning services including office cleaning, industrial parts


cleaning and high level cleaning as well as medical and clinical cleaning and floor treatments, Newlife Cleaning Systems can ensure that your cleaning requirements are understood and organised efficiently to enhance the running of your business, in an eco-friendly way. Recognising that the appearance of a business’ premises can determine how well received it is by potential customers, Newlife has vowed to assist all commercial properties to remain in the best possible standard of cleanliness. A brand new promotion for 2014 offers five hours of office cleaning over the course of a week for just £70. These hours can be distributed over any schedule agreed between yourself and your


Newlife Cleaning account manager. All materials and cleaning equipment are included in the low cost rate. 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 offer high quality and sustainable solutions to fit your requirements. Regardless of size or value, each contract is treated with the same attention. To find out more about Newlife Cleaning Systems, visit or call 0800 018 90 99. Alternatively follow @NewlifeClean on Twitter or find Newlife Cleaning Systems on Facebook.


Your one-stop motoring shop How Fenham Garage Services keeps its corporate and domestic clientele on the road or over three decades Fenham Garage Services has stood as one of the region’s finest, independent car garages. Boasting a first-class level of customer service to their ever-expanding list of corporate and domestic clientele, the garage is proud to be known as the North East’s one-stop shop for all car servicing. From their spacious, clean and purpose built workshop, the team at Fenham Garage Services is able to quickly and efficiently assess and repair any vehicle damage. The Fenham Garage Services Bodyshop has recently been approved by The Volkswagen Group, which allows all body and paint work repairs to be carried out to all vehicles from the VW Group; allowing them to carry out body and paint work repairs to all VW, Audi, Seat, Skoda and VW Commercial vehicles to the highest level of standards that you’d expect from an authorised garage. With facilities capable of coping with up to eight vehicles simultaneously, the fully trained and experienced team comprised 12 mechanics are able to provide their skills and

The state-of-the-art workshop encompasses a recent investment of over £500,000, which has extended the service catalogue that we can supply. The equipment that has been installed is among some of the most hi-tech machinery currently in use in the industry. The additional installation of a semicommercial spray booth into the garage enables Fenham Garage Services to accommodate vehicles with a weight of up to 3.5 tonnes; the size of a large van or small lorry. Whatever the body work or paint job, why go anywhere else? Open six days a week from 8.30am-5.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am-1.30pm on Saturday, Fenham Garage Services can be found at 37 Hadrian Road, Fenham.


expertise to the entire region. As a current special offer, Fenham Garage Services is offering its clients, both old and new, a discount on its MOT service. For just £29.99 customers will receive the full test and certification.


For any enquiries or to book in an MOT service please call (0191) 272 2322. For regular posts and updates Fenham Garage Services can be found on Facebook or follow @FenhamGarages on Twitter.


Behind the wheel by Jessica Laing.

F.Y.I. Max power: 455hp Max Torque: 700 nm Max Speed: 155mph Acceleration: 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds




ercedes introduces the brand new S-class Coupe: a large coupe with refined sportiness, packed with state-of-the-art technology and luxurious interior fittings. The sleek, two-door model – available with a 4.7litre bi-turbo V8 engine that compliments a roaring exhaust system – features new and impressive assistance systems, including Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which can brake in response to stationary vehicles at a speed of up to 31mph and prevent rear-end collisions at up to 25mph. Technical highlights include a Magic Body Control suspension system which, thanks to a unique curve tilting function and front-mounted cameras, allows the vehicle to detect upcoming corners and lean into bends – much like motorcyclists and skiers. Inside, you’ll discover a sumptuous leather cabin, a full LED lighting system, air suspension and a futuristic head-up display that presents information in needle-sharp definition, directly on to the windscreen to ensure less distraction for the driver. External attractions, meanwhile, include optional headlamps, each featuring 47 Swarovski crystals, and a panorama sunroof that can change from transparent to opaque at the push of a button.



Jennings in transit Customers preview the new Transit Courier at Jennings Ford ustomers visiting Jennings Ford, part of the Jennings Motor Group, are not only taking advantage of the award-winning commercial vehicle range available, but they are being given the opportunity to preview new models ahead of official launch dates. The commercial sales centres at the group’s Cargo Fleet Lane dealership in Middlesbrough and the Eslington Park branch in Gateshead are responsible for selling the entire new Ford commercial vehicle range to retail and business customers on a local and national level, in addition to stocking a wide variety of quality approved used commercial vehicles. Customers visiting the group’s commercial sales centres are frequently given the opportunity to preview new models from the Ford commercial vehicle range, ahead of official launch dates. The most recent took place at the group’s Cargo Fleet Lane dealership in Middlesbrough when the new Transit Courier – which isn’t scheduled to be launched until May – was previewed for a week. Alan Bailes, general commercial manager at the Middlesbrough site, said: “The Ford commercial vehicle range offers customers the best of both worlds with extremely high quality yet affordable and competitively-priced, fuelefficient products. “The preview events are an excellent opportunity to invite existing and prospective customers to the dealership to see new models


in the Ford range before they are officially available. “Past events have always been successful and generated positive feedback from customers and the recent preview of the Transit Courier model, which offers a modern design, outstanding efficiency and car-like comfort, was no exception.” Designed to deliver outstanding fuel economy with its award-winning 1.0L EcoBoost petrol engine, in addition to advanced 1.5L and 1.6L Duratorq diesel engines, the new Transit Courier is perfect for busy town and city streets. Customers are being warned not to be deceived by the latest model’s compact appearance because the ingenious design maximises every square millimetre, providing 2.3 cubic metres of load space and giving 10 per cent more load volume than other vehicles in the same class. Fitted with a standard full bulkhead and side tie-down points, the Transit Courier enables customers to make the safest and most efficient use of the load space. Load items up to 2.59m long can be comfortably accommodated by taking the folding bulkhead option and a fold-and-dive passenger seat. A range of advanced technologies includes Ford SYNC with Voice Control which not only allows you to control music in the vehicle, but it also lets you make and receive calls on your mobile using simple, direct voice commands. In the event of an accident, for peace of


mind motoring Ford’s SYNC with Emergency Assistance allows you to make a direct call to the Emergency Services if the airbag is deployed or the fuel-pump is deactivated. The system is designed to supply vital information, such as GPS co-ordinates, even if you are unconscious. Ford’s recent award-winning record year, after collecting more than 25 top awards in the last 12 months, has also been generating additional showroom traffic at Jennings Ford’s commercial sales centres. The all-new Ford Transit Custom topped the chart with a total of 13 awards including Van of the Year 2013, in addition to Van of the Year accolades from VansA2Z, Auto Express and What Van? Winning three Best Pick-Up awards and overall International Pick-Up of the Year in 2013 was the Ford Ranger, while the latest Ford Fiesta Van was awarded two Best Small Van accolades. Two top awards were also claimed for the overall Van Manufacturer of the Year from Fleet Van and Van Fleet World publications. For more information about the range of products and services available at Jennings Ford’s commercial sales centre, contact the Cargo Fleet Lane, Middlesbrough sales centre on (01642) 209100 or the Eslington Park, Gateshead sales centre on (0191) 4607464 or visit



Benfield celebrates the all-new Qashqai The motor group takes centre stage at the new generation launch.

enfield Nissan was delighted to have taken a pivotal role at the launch of the award-winning next generation Qashqai, which is being built in Sunderland. The exhibition celebrating the new design was held at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and Benfield was exclusively invited by Nissan to showcase the latest exciting range of Nissan cars available for sale to customers. The striking design behind the new generation Nissan Qashqai has already received What Car? Magazines Car of the Year for 2014, and visitors to the launch exhibition were wowed by the outstanding all-new Qashqai. Featuring rare concept images, a Qashqai showreel cinema and the new Qashqai itself, the event previewed a ceremony at the Sunderland plant to mark the vehicle’s national launch. Staff from Benfield’s prestigious Newcastle and Gateshead Nissan dealerships were on hand to provide information on the new design and the exciting range of Nissan vehicles and the world-famous Gateshead Millennium Bridge was illuminated in the Nissan brand’s signature red throughout the event. Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in


the UK, Kevin Fitzpatrick, said: “Nissan has created the next generation Crossover by redesigning Qashqai from the ground-up. We think it’s fitting to celebrate that design in one of Europe’s leading modern art galleries. “The event showcased the role of our design and technical centres in developing this innovative new model, as we move into full production at our Sunderland plant.” Benfield Motor Group’s regional operations director, Colin Pybus, said: “We were truly honoured to be invited by Nissan to be part of


the launch on the all-new Qashqai and display our range of vehicles at the entrance to the Baltic. The event attracted many thousands of people throughout the exhibition and demand and interest in the vehicle has been quite unbelievable. “We are all very excited about the new design and it was fitting the launch was held here in the North East at such a prestigious and apt venue to mark the occasion.” On display around the vehicles at Baltic was a range of concept images which have led to the new Qashqai’s bold design, highlighting the development of the vehicle at Nissan’s Design Centre in London and Technical Centre in Cranfield, Bedfordshire. Production of the new vehicle at Nissan Sunderland Plant was announced in 2011 following the soar away success of the first generation Qashqai, which is the highest volume car made in Britain and has helped Nissan to become to biggest UK carmaker of all time, with plant production recently passing one million vehicles in two years. The all-new Qashqai is priced from £17,995 RRP. For further information or to book a test drive visit


Bluebird Care flies into Northumberland Clients and staff of the care operator celebrate the opening of its latest office.

an Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, officially opened the office for Bluebird Care (Northumberland South) on Friday February 7. In attendance were customers, the whole team of carers and representatives from Ingeus and ID training. Bluebird Care (Northumberland South) is owned by Wah Akram and is supported in the running of the business by care manager Susan Fender. Wah has lived and worked in the area all his life, gaining almost 20 years experience at all levels of customer care. He decided to move into the care sector as he wanted to make a real difference to the lives of the people living in the community. Wah said: “Bluebird Care was the obvious choice for my business as I believe passionately in our mantra: a good old fashioned service. “When considering a care provider for my own loved ones, I would expect nothing short of the level of care which I would provide myself. At Bluebird Care, we aim to


deliver exactly that. Wah is supported in the running of the business by care manager Susan Fender. Susan has over 25 years experience in the care sector. She has the passion for delivering high quality care, with a person-centered approach. Bluebird Care network has over 180 offices throughout the UK, providing excellent quality care at home for those with physical disabilities, short term respite and postoperative support as well as older people. The service normally involving one or more visits a day for relatively short periods, possibly up to an hour, to help with the everyday tasks of life. Longer duration visits are available as well, including overnight help or even live-in care is also availalbe Bluebird Care offers everything from personal care to shopping, domestic or social visits. In fact everything you need you need to stay in the comfort of your own home. Bluebird Care (Northumberland South) offers a realistic cost effective alternative to residential care, with familiar friends,


relatives and possessions around. A care plan will be created that’s bespoke to you, reflecting what you want and respecting your wishes thoughout. Wah adds: “By only recruiting carers and office staff who share the same ethos as Bluebird Care, and then providing excellent training and support, I believe we are building a team that will soon develop a reputation as the provider of choice in the area. “All of our carers undergo a rigorous induction programme and are police checked before they are allowed to provide care in the community.” Bluebird Care (Northumberland South) is regulated by the Care Quality Commission and are members of United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA). For more information on getting additional help at home please contact Bluebird Care (Northumberland South) on (0191) 250 2244 or email


A weighty issue Consultant Peter Small explains the comprehensive weight loss surgery procedures on offer at Spire Washington Hospital and the difference they can make to patients’ lives. Weight loss surgery is on the increase – what is causing this trend? Around 10,000 people a year have weight loss surgery either privately or through the NHS. We know the general population is getting fatter. It’s predicted 50 per cent or more will be obese by 2050. The basic reason for this has never changed – people eat more than they’re burning; it’s easy to get food and we snack. Bariatric surgery didn’t really exist until about the year 2000 when we saw the introduction of laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery, which made operations much more accessible to all, particularly those who were overweight. There was a 2 per cent chance of dying during bariatric surgery but that is now just 0.1 per cent. It is one of the safest operations in the UK and there are very few complications. Take up reflects this and the fact the number of consultant surgeons has also grown.

What are the most popular procedures and who are they appropriate for? At Spire Washington Hospital, we carry out gastric bypasses, gastric sleeves or put in gastric balloons. Gastric bands are also on offer but are a much less popular option today. An initial assessment is required to identify which one is best for a particular individual. Some people eat large meals and need to reduce the volume, others are grazers who eat a lots of sweets. Medical history plays a key part in the decision, but age is not normally a factor. I sit down with the individual and ask what

they want to get out of it. If they are 30 or 40, we can try to extend their life expectancy. If they are 70, it may be that the person needs to lose weight in order to access surgery for other issues, such as arthritis in their hips and knees. Excess weight can exempt people from a lot of procedures.

You recently appeared on Weight Loss Ward, what key issues was the programme able to address? Weight Loss Ward illustrates some of the issues we have as a nation with obesity. It follows patients in Sunderland and looks at the surgical options available. This second series revisits patients who have already been filmed to see how they have been progressing. It’s very useful because weight loss doesn’t start and end with surgery; behavioural change is a pre-requisite to success and it is critical anyone thinking about a procedure understands this. For example, the mental desire of people to snack can quickly reverse the effects of surgery – an individual has to be totally committed to their new eating plan. The programme is very good at showing the pros and cons. Potential complications are always part of the discussions, as are the many health benefits. For example issues with blood pressure, diabetes and joint pain can often be significantly reduced, if not resolved.

What should people always consider when thinking about weight loss surgery?


The key thing is to speak to your GP and keep them involved throughout, wherever treatment takes place. People go for ‘bariatric tourism’ – they have a band put in abroad and go back to their GP and say, ‘I’ve had a band put in. It is critical the GP is fully informed so the best follow-on care can take place to reduce risk. There are different types of bands with different fill volumes and a doctor or nurse needs to know what the maximum is and how to adjust each different type. Surgery really is a last resort. It should only be considered an option when someone has been unsuccessfully trying to lose weight through exercise classes, speaking to dieticians through their GP or using weight loss tablets. People must be ruthlessly honest with themselves about why they are big. If someone is comfort eating they need to understand why so they can stop.

What can people do to achieve a healthier lifestyle and what are the benefits? After surgery, you will have a healthier life. Your weight should come down, enabling you to be more active. Other medical issues often reduce or are cancelled out altogether. The key to a healthy lifestyle is everything in moderation. A varied diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables is the ideal, as is regular exercise. Start small and build it up if you have to – the results will be well worth it in the end. For more information, please visit or call (0191) 418 8687.


An exciting year ahead Vee Wilkinson, a volunteer executive committee member at Abbeyfield, reveals what residents have in store for 2014. "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be." Robert Browning (1812-1889) ld age most certainly can be great given the right support and 2014 is to be another exciting year for residents across Abbeyfield’s four

could enhance their lives, with some residents now learning to Skype friends and family or using devices to access news and entertainment. Our residents, whether they are more or less housebound or still get out and about, are very much part of the local community and we recognise the importance of maintaining contact with the outside world. While some family members visit regularly, other residents look forward to the company of our team of visiting volunteers or the excitement that activities such as the arts project and meeting people from a very different generation or the introduction of technology in to our homes can bring.


homes. Some of our residents will be spending time with a group of teenagers from a local school as part of an art project we are developing – aptly named by one of our residents: Memories Live Longer than Dreams. The project will see our residents at The Grove in Gosforth sharing their memories and their stories with the young art students who in turn will use their stories and memories to create semi-permanent artwork for our garden, to be unveiled in late spring, just in time for our residents to be able to enjoy when the fine weather arrives. We are also looking to help residents to engage with mobile technology. Our residents will be given the opportunity to

explore iPads and access a number of apps that have been purposefully designed to the needs of the elderly. A growing number of our residents and their families are showing a keen interest in mobile technology and understanding how it


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


Healthy business entertaining Be-fit’s Antonia Pellegrino gives tips when eating out with clients. any clients are concerned about what to eat when entertaining clients. Business lunches or dinners can drastically affect your training and health goals. Here are my tips for staying on track …


salad or green vegetables. Try to opt out of chips or potatoes and you may see that you do not miss them. Unless, of course, you have trained very hard that day and are enjoying a refuel day (see us at be-fit, if you are unsure if your training has earned you carbs!)

Leave the bread

Do not be scared of fat

When dining out, send back the bread before it reaches the table. If bread is there, many of us eat it out of habit but eating bread can give you a real energy slump as well as making you bloat. Ask if the waiter can bring you some olives instead. Or I often order a soup with a side plate of beef, chicken or omelet as an alternative

body produces less insulin when you eat them. This is better for your pancreas, your energy levels and your waistline!

Many studies have been published to prove that sugar is worse for our bodies than fat such as cheese, eggs, mackerel and avocados. Cholesterol is also under scrutiny in the press. Remember, not all fats are the same. If you are concerned about your cholesterol look out for Dr. Jonny Bowden’s brilliant book, The Great Cholesterol Myth.

Drink water

Don’t overindulge

Order a bottle or jug of water for the table, Sparkling or still with fresh lime. Often the body can be thirsty when we feel hungry. Try to have a glass before you eat.

Buffet lunch? Go for the chicken skewers or take the sandwich filling out of the bread. You may need an extra ‘curly sandwich’ filling to satisfy you, but you will feel much better in the afternoon.

Swap your main with a starter Low carbs, high protein If you fancy a lighter lunch but everyone is eating two courses; order two starters.

Don’t ignore healthy options If you are having a meeting in a cafe/sandwich bar, they will often offer salads. But order dressings on the side as many are packed with hidden sugars. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil are a fabulous dressing. Balsamic has also been shown to reduce the insulin and glycemic load of foods. This means that your

Aim for a meal with high protein content such as meat or fish. Eating meals such as pasta, sandwiches or pizza at lunch are not good for the waistline. Your afternoon energy levels will rocket too! In an Italian restaurant, if everyone is having pizza etc, I order a bowl of Bolognese with a side salad and Parmesan.

Sensible sides If you have to order sides separately, go for a


Dessert Are you really hungry enough for a third course? Ok, maybe you are. Opt for the cheese board (without the crackers). Or again, if you have trained hard this week and earned a treat meal, try vanilla ice cream. Something stodgy such as cake, pie with cream etc is a whopping blast of carbs, sugar, fat, gluten etc. Although it may taste amazing at the time, you will probably crash at your desk an hour later.

Know when to stop Try to stop eating when you are full. Many of us continue to eat simply because we have food on our plates. Please consult your doctor, if you are unsure if these tips are right for you. For a more specific plan call Be-fit on (0191) 213 5300.





Simply stunning Fine dining, luxurious surroundings, a herd of fallow deer and first class conferencing facilities all set in 73 acres of stunning grounds; it’s all on offer at Best Western Whitworth Hall Hotel. A warm welcome from a team of highly skilled staff For those who have never visited the Best Western Whitworth Hall Hotel, it’s well worth a trip. The impressive venue offers 73 acres of stunning countryside with rolling fields, a herd of fallow deer, a well-stocked fishing lake and a warm welcome from a team of highly-skilled staff. But for new owner Adrian Parnaby – the owner and managing director of engineering firm Derek Parnaby Cyclones International – it’s home from home. The Parnaby family have long ties with this beautiful country park – the hall was the family home of Adrian’s father Derek until 1997, and Adrian and his wife, Karen, were married there in 1982. Adrian and his family resumed ownership of the hall at the end of 2013 after it fell into administration and was put up for sale. It was a move that safeguarded the future of the hotel and its team of dedicated staff. Adrian and his sons, Ian and Ben now have big plans for Whitworth Hall Hotel and are already planning to invest in its future. Situated just eight miles from Durham City the Best Western Whitworth Hall Hotel – the ancestral home of Bobby Shafto – provides the ideal venue for any occasion. Guests will find 29 luxury bedrooms, conference and banqueting suites and those planning a wedding will find the facilities and rates hard to beat.

Steeped in history Whitworth Hall Hotel is steeped in history. The Shafto family – who served as Aldermen, Mayors and Sheriffs of Newcastle in the 16th and 187th centuries – bought the manor of Whitworth in 1652. Robert Shafto – better known as Bobby Shafto – became MP for County Durham in 1760. His name is now synonymous with the nursery rhyme of the same name. Robert Shafto increased the family fortune considerably when he married Anne Duncombe of Duncombe Park and the two families joined forces.

First rate facilities for every occasion It remains very much a family affair with Adrian’s family and the wider team at Whitworth Hall Hotel priding themselves on the first rate facilities they offer. From breakfast meetings to birthday banquets, wedding feasts to weekend conferences, Best Western Whitworth Hall Hotel is the perfect venue. The hall’s recently refurbished conference rooms along with contemporary conservatories and breath-taking grounds are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on those attending. Extensive menus, lavish surroundings and outstanding service are the norm at this venue. And those looking for something a little different have only to ask and the team will do their best to fulfil any request. Whatever theme you choose for your event why not round it off with a flame-grilled feast on


the barbecue or opt for dining decadence in the a la carte menu.

Indulge your appetite for fine dining Those who like to tempt their palates will be feel totally indulged in the Library Restaurant where highly talented chefs create dishes including locally-reared beef steaks, slow roast lamb shanks or cod loins in whiskey cream sauce. Alternatively the Bobby Shafto Brasserie is perfectly suited to those wanting to drop in for an equally delicious but less formal business lunch choose from dishes including Moules Mariniere, succulent steak and ale pie or homemade burgers made with locally reared beef. Afternoon tea is also served all day until 6pm in the beautifully bright Garden Room overlooking the deer park.

Great location Whitworth Hall Hotel has excellent road links. It’s just off the A689 with the A1 and A19 close by, making Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Middlesbrough all within easy reach along with the North East’s golf courses, beautiful walks, coastal towns and historic sites. If you’ve never visited Best Western Whitworth Hall Hotel, it’s well worth a visit. Those planning a wedding are invited to attend a Wedding Fair on Sunday, March 23 featuring a range of exhibitors. For more information on Whitworth Hall call (01388) 811772 or visit


Get to know me ...

Keith Donkin Director of Derwent Manor Limited and Lime Leisure Limited.

When I was growing up I wanted to be a funeral director. My first part time job was a bar man at a local social club and first full time job was food and beverage manager at Post House hotels, Lincoln.

I’d tell my 18-year-old self to work hard and play hard.

never give up. This is something I believe in as a person. Always striving for what you want.

My greatest achievement is being instrumental in helping shape one of the North East’s leading leisure companies, Tavistock Leisure. When I need a helping hand I listen to my management team and staff. Their opinion is crucial to some of my decision making and empowers them.

I’m inspired by Nelson Mandela. Fighting for his belief and vision and his goal to

My favourite band is Coldplay. Chris


Martin is a great artist and a fantastic song writer.

In my spare time I love to watch my beloved Sunderland AFC and spend quality time with my family, eating out, and enjoying our family holidays.

In five years’ time I will be part of a company that has numerous hotels, bars and restaurant sites throughout the North East and potentially the UK. For further information visit

North East Times Magazine - March 2014