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ISSUE TWENTY FIVE: SPRING 2014

REACHING OUR POTENTIAL How the region’s economy could be £4bn better off PEOPLE POWER Refusing to micro-manage pays off for inspirational boss SCRUM ALL YE FAITHFUL Why fan loyalty is vital for the region’s biggest rugby club WORLD VIEW ‘Bucket list’ destinations boss driven by his own love of travel ISSUE TWENTY FIVE: SPRING 2014: NORTH EAST EDITION

BREW LOVE

The mircobrewery boss inspired by a romantic poet BUSINESS NEWS: COMMERCE: FASHION: INTERVIEWS: MOTORS: EVENTS

NORTH EAST EDITION

BQ Breakfast - daily insight, news and analysis to help grow your business. Register free at www.bq-magazine.co.uk Business Quarter Magazine

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WELCOME

BUSINESS QUARTER: SPRING 14: ISSUE TWENTY FIVE Quality performance, that solid stepping stone to progress in business, need not require huge investment. We’re taking that lesson in – and hoping it will be a helpful reminder to others – as BQ celebrates its 25th issue and looks forward to serving our readers for many more years. That’s why we’re highlighting between these covers examples set by three entrepreneurs. Alistair McLean’s adventure agency, in a converted Northumbrian farm cottage, employs only 14 staff yet has been acclaimed Britain’s best three times over in a year, beating big competition in the British Travel Awards. Mark Hird, whose 16 years’ solid experience enables him to defy trends and create flourishing homely pubs with good locally crafted beer and good locally produced food, now sees the beer from his tiny brewery at Coxhoe in County Durham stand comparison with some of the country’s best. And Sally Waterston, who 20 years ago laid foundations in Durham City for a remarkable husband and wife group of business and IT consultants, can reflect with pleasure on a growing national client base achieved without a sales force and without talking customers into throwing money at IT. McLean quit an earlier career he disliked and risked bankruptcy to succeed at doing something he loves. Hird resolved that nearing the age of 40 was a good time to gather and exploit new skills. Waterston proved that pitching for any kind of job to get onto the career ladder pays in the end. We also look at the business of rugby through Semore Kurdi and Dean Richards who, at Kingston Park, battle valiantly to improve the playing and financial fortunes of Newcastle Falcons. The loyalty of fans, drawn not only from the North East but also Cumbria and the Scottish borders, is a big motivator, and this region’s love for the game will not be denied. Proposals for raising the North East’s economic performance stand out on other pages. Lucy Armstrong, champion of middle sized enterprises (MSEs), raised eyebrows in her inaugural address as David Goldman visiting professor of innovation and enterprise at

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Newcastle Business School. Contrary to a popular theory that SMEs (small and medium enterprises) hold the key, she argued on behalf of MSEs which, by relying more on professional expertise than individual effort, should improve the economy by some £4bn a year. She tells BQ in subsequent interview how apparent it is to her (since coming to the region in 1989) that too many businesses with a family or entrepreneurial background, and capable of faster progress, seem reluctant, even scared, to build professionally trained executives into their managements. Our Business Lunch guest is Jeff Winn who, since founding the Newcastle based personal injury firm Winn Solicitors in 2002, now has a group turning over £40m and employing around 290 staff. Our live debates on manufacturing give food for thought. The first, though centred on Sunderland’s aspirations to bolster its manufacturing strengths, throws up pointers pertinent to other parts of our region whose industrial heritage we may spend too much time reminiscing over, and too little time comprehensively planning sequences to. In our second debate, notable representatives of industry, education and the service sector, discussed – and disputed! - opportunities for, and barriers to, progressing what’s loosely called “advanced manufacturing”. They’ve made more than a dozen proposals which promise ways if wills exist. No-one, though, highlighted how government agencies spend about £1m in the North East compared with £1bn in the South East and London. Is this a wilful imbalance? Or don’t North East firms capable of breaking new ground invest enough themselves to the idea, thus failing to attract more state investment? Which comes first? Discuss… Brian Nicholls, Editor

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CONTACTS ROOM501 LTD Christopher March Managing Director e: chris@room501.co.uk Bryan Hoare Director e: bryan@room501.co.uk EDITORIAL Brian Nicholls Editor e: b.g.nicholls@btinternet.com Andrew Mernin e: andrewm@room501.co.uk DESIGN & PRODUCTION room501 e: studio@room501.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY KG Photography e: info@kgphotography.co.uk Chris Auld e: chris@chrisauldphotography.com SALES Heather Spacey Business Development Manager e: heather@room501.co.uk Richard Binney Business Development Manager e: richard@room501.co.uk or call 0191 426 6300

room501 Publishing Ltd, Spectrum 6, Spectrum Business Park, Seaham, SR7 7TT www.room501.co.uk room501 was formed from a partnership of directors who, combined, have many years of experience in contract publishing, print, marketing, sales and advertising and distribution. We are a passionate, dedicated company that strives to help you to meet your overall business needs and requirements. All contents copyright © 2014 room501 Ltd. All rights reserved. While every effort is made to ensure accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies, howsoever caused. No liability can be accepted for illustrations, photographs, artwork or advertising materials while in transmission or with the publisher or their agents. All information is correct at time of going to print, May 2014. room501 Publishing Ltd is part of BE Group, the UK’s market leading business improvement specialists. www.be-group.co.uk

BQ Magazine is published quarterly by room501 Ltd.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


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CONTE BUSINESS QUARTER: SPRING 14

REALISING OUR POTENTIAL

48 PEOPLE POWER

Features

How refusing to micro-manage staff paid dividends for one North East boss

54 TRYING TIMES Why a loyal fanbase is vital to the survival of the North’s biggest rugby club

22 BREW LOVE The microbrewery boss who took inspiration from a celebrated poet

28 AIMING HIGH The business expert who believes the region could be £4bn a year better off

32 LIVE DEBATE What is the future for Sunderland, a city renowned for ‘making things’ ?

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

62 LIVE DEBATE There’s a will to tackle obstacles in manufacturing

68 BUSINESS LUNCH Meet the maverick of the legal profession, entrepreneurial Jeff Winn

92 WORLD VIEW The ‘bucket list’ destinations boss driven by his own desire to see the world

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28 INVESTING IN PEOPLE POWER

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TENTS NORTH EAST EDITION

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COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

Behind the biggest new deals and developments across the region

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WINE Reviewer Andrew Mitchell puts his faith in Godello, a little-known grape variety

Regulars

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NEWS Who’s doing what, when, where and why here in the North East

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EQUIPMENT

AS I SEE IT Paul Johnstone on why holiday pay could prove costly for some firms

THE INTREPID HOLIDAY FINDER

Attention to detail ensures devotion for fans of audio company Naim

104 BIT OF A CHAT With BQ’s backroom boy Frank Tock

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FASHION The much maligned trouser suit back in vogue... but with added femininity

ON THE RECORD High-flyers join digital bank and SMEs stay upbeat despite growth concerns

MOTORING Gentoo’s John Craggs takes the spaceaged Infiniti Q50 for a spin

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SURVIVING THESE TRYING TIMES

106 EVENTS Key business events for your diary

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92 BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ON THE RECORD

SPRING 14

High-flyers join newly-formed digital bank, Entrepreneurs’ Forum welcomes new board members, SMEs have cause for optimism but barriers to growth remain a concern for some >> A firm of his own IT executive specialist Peter Joynson has left TSG North East to head once more his own company – Synergi Software Solutions in Gateshead. The firm scooped a hat-trick of wins in its first month’s trading, promising around £50,000 worth of revenue and confirming the business is well on target towards half a million pounds of sales in year one. It is introducing new business applications (apps) and Microsoft technologies, such as SharePoint and Office 365. Synergi will also help SMEs access cloud based software solutions. Joynson was earlier managing director of TSG North East. Before that, with brother Mark, he ran the Gateshead financial software firm Joynson Ltd. That was acquired by TSG more than 10 years ago. He is joined at Synergi by two other ex-TSG directors, David Kaye and David Charlton, the latter as senior consultant. Synergi aims for £2m turnover within three years.

>> Four join Forum board The Entrepreneurs’ Forum has four new board members. The addition of Ian Baggett, Pamela Petty, Rob Mathieson and Geoff Thompson takes board membership to 13. Baggett’s Adderstone Group in seven years has become one of the region’s biggest property firms. Mathieson heads one of the region’s fastest growing digital agencies, Gateshead based AYO Digital. Petty is group managing director of Ebac, the Newton Aycliffe manufacturer of water coolers, which with a new £7m facility is diversifying into air source heat pumps, freezers and a revival for the UK of washing machine production. Thompson’s energy efficiency consultancy Utilitywise at South Shields, started in 2006, successfully listed on the Aim in 2012 and now has turnover nearing £50m.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Moving on: Sophie Haagensen and Edward Twiddy are leaving the North East LEP to join the new Atom Bank

>> LEP two leap to new bank Two top administrators are leaving the North East LEP to join the new Atom Bank being set up in the region. Edward Twiddy, seconded to the LEP as director from HM Treasury, will leave at the end of his two year secondment in May to become Atom’s chief innovation officer. And Sophie Haagensen, whose appointment as Twiddy’s deputy at the LEP was announced only weeks ago, will also join the bank’s core team. Atom, the UK’s first fully digital bank, is being co-founded by former Evening Chronicle space salesman Anthony Thomson and Mark Mullen. Thomson set up Metro Bank in 2007, rivalling the established high street banks. Mullen is chief executive of First Direct. The Atom Bank is creating 120 jobs initially, rising perhaps to 300. Haagensen was previously with government offices in London and the North East, and briefly joined the LEP from the Department for Work and Pensions, where she led strategy management. With the Cabinet Office in London she had led the setting up of Big Society Capital, the world’s first social investment bank, and oversaw the £150m loan book of the Futurebuilders fund. She holds an MBA from Newcastle Business School, where she received awards for best postgraduate student and for a dissertation on business clusters and Newcastle Science City development. Her idea for a social enterprise won Northumbria University’s business competition. Paul Woolston, chairman of the LEP which has just submitted a £760m masterplan to Whitehall, to create an 11% leap in North East jobs by 2024, says Twiddy’s role will be filled as soon as possible. “We’ll also ensure resources are there to provide a strong negotiating team and the executive functions,” he added. At Tees Valley Unlimited, the Teesside LEP, Nigel Perry now serves on the leadership board, bringing his experience as chief executive of the Centre for Process Innovation and earlier, careers with ICI and PwC.

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SPRING 14

COMPANY PROFILE ADVERTISING FEATURE

Life after a business sale: why you need to start planning now Investing time in planning, building a strong network and talking to those who have sold up are key to a happy and fulfilled life after selling a business For every entrepreneur who embarks on the journey of building a business of their own, a successful business exit represents a high point in their career. While this is rightly a cause for celebration, it also represents a step into the unknown. Although there is plenty written about the growth stories of entrepreneurs who build up new businesses and great fanfare for those who successfully sell up and exit, very little is written about life after they leave their businesses. So just what do entrepreneurs do when they have sold a business? Is it easy to build a new career? And is life after exit as satisfying as many would imagine? To throw light on this important matter, these are the questions we asked over 180 entrepreneurs for our report “Life After Exit – What Happens Next?”. What we learned is that although many entrepreneurs find the transition into this new phase in their lives a straightforward one, others find the combination of wealth and long-awaited freedom far harder than they imagined. Most tellingly of all, both groups find it harder and that it takes substantially longer than they expect to find activities which put their time and wealth into play in a way which keeps them fulfilled. Looking at our research, three important lessons emerge for any entrepreneur contemplating life after a business sale. The first of these is the importance of planning. Many argue that in the quest for growth, success and ultimately a business sale, there is little time to think about life after the business is sold. But the experience of those who have sold up is the opposite. Their advice is to plan for exit before you sell so you have the right options open to you when the time comes. This includes financial planning. It will have the biggest bearing on your ability to achieve the lifestyle you want yet many

The last lesson is to accept the need to experiment. The majority of entrepreneurs build up portfolio careers after exit but part of that is understanding that experimentation will not always lead to success or satisfaction. It takes time and patience to find the right opportunities which will work for you and your new lifestyle David Simpson, Executive Director for Coutts Newcastle

choose to ignore this until after the sale. The second lesson is to invest in your network. The unanimous view of entrepreneurs we spoke to was that once out of their business, the quality of people you know are as important as the time and money you have available. Your network is the place you will find opportunities to advise, invest and get involved with new ventures – the common interests for entrepreneurs who have sold a business. The last lesson is to accept the need to experiment. The majority of entrepreneurs build up portfolio careers after exit but part of that is understanding that experimentation will not always lead to success or satisfaction. It takes time and patience to find the right opportunities which will work for you and your new lifestyle. Entrepreneurs may even experience more failure

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in their new career than when they were running their first business. There is no doubt that those who see a business exit as the opportunity to exercise choice and freedom are right. But even with money and time on your hands, successfully carving out a new career requires planning and no small amount of hard work.

For more information about becoming a Coutts client, contact David Simpson, Executive Director for Newcastle, on 0191 269 1396 or david. simpson@coutts.com. Calls may be recorded.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ON THE RECORD

>> Bethan breaks the news An 18-year-old student from Blyth, Bethan Sproat (above) is the business booster’s poster girl, publicising the fourth annual event showcasing the fashion industry in Newcastle and the North East. This ranges from best retail to award-winning fashion and design at Northumbria University and Newcastle College. The event takes place across the city from 9 – 17 May.

>> Finance and skills the region’s challenge Findings of the Adonis Growth Report for the North East, some of which mirror the barriers to business highlighted by entrepreneurs of the region, have been welcomed by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Chairman Nigel Mills says: “While our members have reported that confidence, sales, profits and jobs were all on the increase, there were concerns about barriers to growth – including recruiting quality staff and access to finance.” Almost half of SMEs in the North East and Cumbria are more confident about investing in growth this year than last. But ambitions are being thwarted by the average SME in these areas being owed £55,000 in unpaid invoices, according to Lloyds Bank Commercial Finance. Area director Clare Boswell says: “The SMEs are missing out on opportunity to recruit new staff, break into new markets or develop new products because they are not harnessing the

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

SPRING 14

full range of funding options available. They are declining contracts they think they cannot afford to fund.” Lloyds suggests using their considerable assets to fund growth through invoice finance. Growth of business activity has remained sharp but weaker than the UK average. And whereas the Office of National Statistics reports output in construction half a billion pounds up over a year ago, Paul Connolly of global construction consultancy Turner & Townsend says much of this growth is in housebuilding, whereas infrastructure output is 3.2% down and the North / South divide continues. However, an index from Lloyds Bank shows North East and Cumbrian firms in general have increased their payroll numbers at the fastest rate for nearly nine years. And the North East’s labour productivity is growing at the fastest rate in the UK, according to the ONS. North East LEP’s chief economist,

Mauricio Armellini, says: “It’s not just a blip. Our area is producing more with less. So it’s not just quantitative improvement, but also qualitative improvement.” Despite a difficult first quarter, manufacturers in the region expect an uplift in output, orders and jobs, according to EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, and accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO LLP. EEF regional director Andrew Tuscher says: “It looks like we’re turning a corner and will soon be actively heading down the right road.” The region’s ambitions to excel in new energy development suffered from a decision by developer RES to stop work on its £300m biomass power station project at Port of Blyth, but bosses at the nearby Lynemouth power station have been confirmed as one of eight recipients of contracts for renewable electricity projects, switching on from 2015.

>> Achievers Alastair Waite the serial entrepreneur and business angel profiled in the previous BQ, has been named Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors North East. He is involved in about 30 companies. Mike Lever, a director of New Results Training at Houghton le Spring, has been named national sales trainer of the year in the awards run by the Institute of Sales and Marketing. He has been with New Results for two years, having taken redundancy from Northern Rock after more than 17 years. Amanda Maskery, a partner at law firm Sintons in Newcastle, has been elected to chair the Association of Specialist Providers to Dentists. Described by the Legal 500 as “a top dental sector specialist”, she is the first woman to hold the position. Paul Charlton, chief executive of PDL Solutions (Europe) Ltd, is now chairman of the business support body NOF Energy. He succeeds Graham Payne. Lynn Waterman sales director at Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, has been named sales person of the year in Hilton’s national awards. She has been with the group more than 10 years. Dianne Sharp is the new regional director of CBI North East, succeeding Sarah Green, now member relations director (regions and nations). Sharp, managing director of SCM Pharma, previously headed Mechetronics of Bishop Auckland. Lucy Winskell, pro-vice chancellor of Newcastle University, is now chairman also of the North East Chamber of Commerce. Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne’s chief executive, has been appointed chairman of the British Ports’ Association. Alastair MacColl, chief executive of BE Group to which BQ belongs, now chairs also the governors of Teesside University. Verity Dobbie, managing partner at Swinburne Snowball, has been elected 188th president of Newcastle Law Society. She’s the first Consett practitioner and fourth woman to lead the society. Graham Robb, owner of Recognition Marketing and PR in Darlington, has been appointed chairman of the Institute of Directors North East. He succeeds Alastair Thomson, dean of the Business School at Teesside University, whose four-year term has ended.

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NEWS

SPRING 14

Growth fund injection will create or safeguard thousands of jobs, £14m graphene centre gets go-ahead, OGN Group lands multi-million pound contract, marine insurance specialists join forces >>£57m pumped into growth Some £57m is coming to the North East for 11 projects in Round 5 of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF). This allocation – around 16% of a £300m spread around England - is designed to raise £320m of private investment and create or safeguard thousands of jobs. Added to the share of previous rounds, this represents £320m of RGF in all coming to the North East. The private sector has responded to date with £1.6bn. Round 6 will open for applications this summer. The RGF is a £3.2bn fund, of which £2.9bn has been allocated so far. Bidders from Round 5 with conditional offers in the North East include: • Cleveland Potash • Cummins • Fine Industries • Gestamp Tallent • Huntsman Polyurethanes (UK) • Hydram Engineering • JDR Cable Systems • Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies • Let’s Grow • Tinsley Special Products • TRW Systems www.gov.uk/understanding-the-regionalgrowth-fund

>> Sara’s craft a snip Sara Davies’s Crafter’s Companion business, started in her York University bedroom in 2005, expects the business to grow 15% to £8.8m this year. The firm at Coundon, South West Durham, now employs 60 staff and continues to attract US hobbyists.

>> REGIONAL GROWTH FUND: NORTH EAST

PROJECTS Round 5 Selected Rounds 1-4 Finalised Alnwick Amble

NORTHUMBERLAND Morpeth

Cramlington Corbridge Hexham

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Newcastle upon Tyne

Tynemouth South Shields

Gateshead Consett

Washington

Sunderland Seaham

Durham Tow Law

COUNTY DURHAM

Peterlee

Crook

Bishop Auckland

>> Time travel soars Beamish Museum in County Durham has seen visitor numbers 20% up in 12 months as attendances attracted by social history reached a record 589, 474.

Ashington

Bedlington

Hartlepool Stocktonon-Tees Darlington

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SPRING 14

>> £2,000 support chance for SMEs Business services provider BE Group has a contract – worth about £600,000 – to run a £30m government research programme benefiting small businesses around the country. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills Growth Voucher Programme is giving selected small businesses a voucher worth up to £2,000 to meet up to half the cost of securing strategic business advice to aid growth. Up to next March 20,000 businesses can seek strategic advice in the programme which has an online marketplace of approved business advice suppliers. Firms chosen must have fewer than 50 employees, must have traded for at least a year and have annual turnover or a balance sheet of maximum £10m. Alastair MacColl, chief executive of BE Group based at Seaham, says: “Working with 20,000 businesses and their advisers is a challenge but builds on extensive work we have already done, administering grant and other business support programmes up and down the country.’’ Vouchers are allocated randomly to ensure a statistically randomised control trial, and participating businesses have their progress monitored over two to three years. All evidence is being used by the Government to assess how best to help small businesses further. Mr MacColl added: “External advice can

increase a firm’s productivity, improve sales, maximise profits – and improve survival chances.” Businesses can apply for a voucher via www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers and their needs will be assessed online or with an assessor. They will learn what type of advice is appropriate, and whether they have been allocated a voucher. They can then select an adviser from the online marketplace. BE Group already runs the £30m Let’s Grow programme in the North East, which, so far, has awarded £25m to more than 60 businesses, creating or safeguarding 3,000 jobs. It also helps run Derby’s £20m Regional Growth Fund.

>> Graphene grows here

screens, ultra-fast transistors and other electronic parts, super-bright lasers and objects from sports equipment to aircraft wings. Nigel Perry, CPI’s chief executive, says the new centre will complement academic organisations such as the National Graphene Institute, graphene manufacturers and end users. It will integrate with CPI’s electronics and formulation centres at Sedgefield. CPI manages the national development centres for industrial biotechnology, printable electronics and biologics. It works extensively to develop SMEs. Aim-listed Applied Graphene Materials of Redcar is seeking dominance in the £800m graphene market and taking the staffing up from 20 to 30, despite a six month rise in losses to £1.2m from £398,887. Net assets, however, have soared in that time.

Sedgefield is to be home to a new £14m Graphene Applications Innovations Centre, the Government has decided. The centre, under aegis of the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), will open later this year, giving facilities and expertise helping firms develop, prove, prototype and scale up graphene based products and processes. Graphene, a British discovery taken from graphite, comprises tightly bound hexagons of carbon one atom thick, 200 times stronger than steel, and able to conduct electricity a million times better than copper though thin as a human hair. It is invaluable to semiconductor circuits and computer parts. Its optical purity and mechanical strength adapt also to high-capacity batteries, flexible

>> Virgin’s progress Virgin Money’s pre-tax profits recently announced for £179.4m last year, compare with £150.6m in 2012. Total assets were up 13% to £24.6bn. The bank that saved massive North East job losses by acquiring Northern Rock in 2012 now has more than 2,700 employees. It has rebranded the Northern Rock outlets. The downside for the North East is that the Northern Rock Foundation, which supported 4,200 organisations with £215m over 16 years has been abolished. It was originally formed as a ringfence againt any takeover of the Rock.

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NEWS

SPRING 14

>> BQ spots tomorrow’s winners BQ Magazine is launching a major entrepreneurs event with a difference. In the North East and elsewhere it will shortly hold a series of Emerging Entrepreneur Dinners in conjunction with MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival 2014. The goal is twofold: to recognise and celebrate the immense contribution today’s entrepreneurs make to our economy, and also encourage and motivate others to succeed. The events will bring together our featured and established entrepreneurs with a challenge: to be each accompanied by an individual they believe can excel in the next generation of entrepreneurs. These emerging go-getters may be mentored presently, guided or simply have caught the eye. They will benefit from networking with entrepreneurs who have featured in the magazine. A North East dinner will be held at the Hilton Gateshead on 6 June. Similar dinners are being held also in Scotland, Yorkshire and the West Midlands prior to the MADE festival at Sheffield in September. Two emerging entrepreneurs will be selected at each dinner, who will then be accompanied by their nominating entrepreneur to MADE. Their achievements to date will be recognised at both the festival conference and the MADE gala dinner on 25 September. The eight finalists from whom a BQ Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year will be selected will have been identified by a panel of judges whose deliberations will take in short profiles submitted on behalf of each earlier. The week long MADE festival promoting entrepreneurship is expected to attract 4,000 delegates from all over the UK. Speakers will include notable entrepreneurs and other business experts. See also Page 15.

>> Bridge plan relaunched With £82.5m Government funding for the New Wear Crossing scheme assured, plans to build a new bridge across the Wear at Sunderland have resumed. The City Council is seeking a design and build contractor to deliver a modified structure and following a meeting with potential contractors before Easter, intended to issue a PQQ to the market by end of April.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Job creator: The EnQuest Producer at OGN on the River Tyne

>> Tyne builds big OGN Group has won a multi-million pound contract to build an 800-tonne process module in the North Sea, creating perhaps 150 jobs. The firm will need up to 500 workers to deliver the 16-month programme at OGN’s Hadrian Yard in Wallsend. The contract is with ConocoPhillips — partner of Chevron in the Britannia facilities. It’s OGN’s second big win in North Sea oil & gas development recently, having also secured a contract with EnQuest to work on the EnQuest Producer, a 249m-long floating production, storage and offloading vessel. The EnQuest Producer through OGN has led to more jobs also OGN’s international coatings neighbour Barrier.

The bridge’s earlier design was thwarted when contractors withdrew, citing risks associated with building independently curved freestanding bridge pylons. Now the indicative design is for an A-frame pylon, cable-stayed structure - less of an engineering challenge and more cost-effective, the council says, though it will also be open to other considerations.

>> Edge crosses the border Construction and property group Esh should add to its £200m turnover and

broaden its activities further beyond the North East through its acquisition of Carlisle based Border Holdings and Border Construction. The new subsidiary, Esh Border Construction, will work in Cumbria and the Scottish Borders. Esh Group, employing nearly 1,000, has offices in Durham, Cramlington, Leeds and Kendal, and is active throughout the region. Border Construction, employing 143, has been involved in award-winning projects such as the Robert Burns National Birthplace Museum in Ayr (£10m) and an £18m extension and refurbishment of Trinity School, Carlisle.

>> QUOTE OF THE QUARTER

While there are concerns about the UK’s trade deficit, research shows that imports used in the right way benefit UK businesses and the overall economy by boosting productivity and driving export growth. Far from being the enemy of UK manufacturing, they are the overlooked ally of many smart businesses.

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Pat Dellow, Tyne Tees area commercial director, HSBC.


MADE

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NEWS

SPRING 14

>> Drug firms go American Unlicensed medicines (specials) manufacturer The Specials Laboratory and specials supplier Craig & Hayward have been acquired by Professional Compounding Centres of America Inc (PCCA). Sharon Griffiths (left), managing director at The Specials Laboratory and Craig & Hayward, says: “With market conditions in specials tough in recent years, we have created a stronger, more sustainable business model. That was doubtless a major factor in PCCA’s decision to buy our business.” The Northumberland firms have recently taken staff numbers up to 130, and invested in new chemistry facilities and laboratory space at Prudhoe headquarters. Specials serve patients who need a drug unavailable as a standard licensed medicine.

>> Builder for sale A flood of buyers’ interest that followed the entry to administration of North East housebuilder Yuill Homes has failed to attract a new owner. The firm founded in 1927 was bought by Cecil M Yuill Ltd in 1993 and employs more than 50 staff. It had been working on a development in its home town Hartlepool, and owns other sites for future development. Joint administrators at Baker Tilly noted a high level of debt finance. The company did continue to trade temporarily. Douglas Kell, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association (North East), said: “The sight of a company of Yuill’s standing in difficulties shows how the housebuilding, construction and civil engineering sector is far from out of the woods in our region.”

>> X marks the sales spot X-ray specialist Kromek is working on £525,000 of orders to supply

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

radiation detectors and integrated electronic parts to a global manufacturer. The Sedgefield based Durham University spinout that supplies patented radiation detection technologies to the medical, security and nuclear markets, has amassed orders topping £770,000 in this fiscal year from the same customer, which operates in a specialised bone X-ray market.

>> Marine insurers merge The North East’s two oldest international marine insurance firms have formally merged into a £900m company. North of England P&I Association (North) and Sunderland Marine Mutual Insurance Company Ltd (SMMI), based in Newcastle and Durham respectively, have formed North Group, with approval from regulatory authorities at home and abroad. The North Group is now one of the largest marine liability insurers, with a combined premium income of more than £300m, free reserves of more than £200m and

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total assets topping £900m. Sunderland Marine will remain an independent regulated company within the group, under a parental guarantee to provide enhanced capital support. Chief executive Geoff Parkinson said: “Though no longer a mutual, Sunderland Marine will retain its mutual ethos of providing best possible service to policy holders.’’ North Group’s joint managing director Alan Wilson says that of 350 employees, more than two-thirds will work in the North East. “This merger will provide greater security and development opportunities for our staff,’’ he added. The two businesses had already co-operated informally.

>> UAE scores a double Arab involvement in North East business has been stepped up through two business developments involving firms in the UAE. Ducab, which has six operations there, has acquired Birtley based AEI Cables which entered administration in 2011 and has been kept alive by a company voluntary arrangement. Some 200 jobs have been saved. AEI, 175 years old, pioneered telegraph cable laying between Britain and the Near East and India. The second UAE company, Environmental and Quality Solutions (est 1997), now has an operation in Sunderland’s Software Centre, where 14 staff will focus on Europe.

>> Spreading wings pays A Cramlington firm set up four years ago expects to top £1m sales this year. Hyperdrive Innovation initially focused on the low carbon automotive sector. Now its 11 strong workforce under managing director Stephen Irish has national contracts for other vehicles and electrically driven equipment, for purposes both onshore and offshore. A £750,000 investment into R&D over two years has helped launch six new products.


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NEWS

SPRING 14

>> Onshore gas reserves could create 500 jobs Work will start this year on a billion pound plan to extract gas from massive undersea coal reserves off the North East coast between North Tyneside and the Scottish border. Five Quarter, a Newcastle clean energy company, expects gas extracted from the coal could be enough to serve the UK for several decades. Lynemouth, Teesside and Blyth are suggested land sites where vertical bore holes six inches wide will lead hundreds of metres down then out to access immediately the first 2bn tonnes out of trillions believed to be available under the North Sea. About 500 jobs for drilling crews are predicted, and up to 2,000 jobs in the “deep gas winning” process. Dermot Roddy, the company’s chief technical officer, says the concealed coal reserves represent an amount thousands of times greater than all oil and gas extracted so far. Hull has beaten Tyneside in securing a major Siemens wind turbine building factory. But Siemens says 300 more jobs are being created in its service renewable business at Newcastle.

>> Reece ups research The Reece Group in Newcastle is creating a new research and development division. Reece Innovation will bring on new products led by Dr James Martin. The group is into defence, subsea, construction, and oil and gas markets.

>> HR showcase launched Hay & Kilner law firm has launched an HR management development service to help businesses effectively manage their workforce. HR Showcase has been designed by the Newcastle based firm’s employment team. An early user has been Faltec Europe, a major South Tyneside employer and global supplier to automotive manufacturers such as Nissan and Honda.

>> Newsmakers Sanderson Weatherall (450 deals in 2013) won three accolades against national competition a second year running in Estates Gazette awards. The Newcastle and Teesside firm has been

named the North of England’s most active property agency. Nepic, the Teesside based process industry cluster body, has received an award ranking it among Europe’s best cluster organisations. It is the UK’s first winner of such an accolade, given by the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis. Newcastle Airport is up a place this year voted the UK’s third best airport by readers of Wanderlust magazine. Evolution Forwarding, a Middlesbrough firm of international shipping and dangerous goods specialists, has won top award in the Tees Valley Best New Business Awards, and best service award too. Ward Hadaway for a second year running has been rated the country’s top law firm handling PFI projects, by Corporate International publication. Thompsons of Prudhoe has been named Demolition Specialist of the Year in Construction News national awards. Haskel Europe the Washington offshore manufacturer has received a silver award from NHS North East for quality in its health and wellbeing towards employees.

>> Firms check their bills A drive by many firms to cut back energy usage in the wake of price rises is driving business for Utilitywise, the South Shields energy and water efficiency consultant. It had contracts totalling £23.8m for a half year to 31 January. Its half yearly results were due on 29 April.

>> Up a gear in China Sevcon has launched a joint venture to win business in China’s growing market for electric vehicles. The Gateshead firm has linked with Risenbo Technology, a subsidiary of a Chinese Tier 1 automotive supplier. The companies hold an equal stake in the new firm that will source from Sevcon and market and sell existing and future Sevcon products for on-road electric and hybrid vehicle uses. Nasdaq-listed Sevcon recently reported Q1 revenues up 36% to £5.5m.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Bright business: Navigator of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships, gets its sun blinds from South Shields

>> Shaded sailing Recent orders Solar Solve Marine has won at South Shields for its marine roller screens include one from Korea to provide for four large container carriers being built for Hyundai Merchant Marine at Daewoo’s DSME Okpo shipyard. The firm also has orders for cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Navigator of the Seas – one of the world’s largest vessels of its kind.

ONLINE: Get the latest North East business news delivered to your desk every morning by subscribing to our daily alert, BQ Breakfast. www.bq-magazine.co.uk

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Growing success: Ean Parsons (left), founder and managing director of Parsons Containers with Stephen Collins, recently appointed container sales manager

>> Ticking the boxes Parsons Containers of Sedgefield has doubled its container sales turnover in two years and raised its local workforce to 16. Founded in 2000, the company not only sells containers but also hires them and offers self-storage under U Hold The Key brand, operating on nine sites – all but one, at Grantham – situated in the North East. A third division, Container Container set up in 2007, sells containers via the internet, and has grown year on year. Founder and managing director Ean Parsons says the group now generates £1.5m turnover.

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AS I SEE IT

SPRING 14

BEWARE A HOLIDAY PAY ARMAGEDDON

Firms with employees whose weekly pay varies through overtime and bonuses may face hugely increased holiday payouts. Paul Johnstone offers a legal expert’s explanation of the implications and suggests steps to take now

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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SPRING 14

Concerns over possible losses of many jobs – with firms folding, even – through backdating of holiday pay have prompted construction and civil engineering industries in the North East to seek legal guidance over varying interpretations of EU and UK laws. Given that the laws apply potentially to any business, it’s an issue confronting every employer with staff whose weekly pay may vary, according to overtime worked and bonuses paid. Fears of a “holiday pay Armageddon” are bringing detailed consideration of judges’ findings in the wake of the EU’s Working Time Directive and the UK’s Working Time Regulations, relatively “old” laws whose interpretation in case law decisions, both in UK employment tribunals and the European Court of Justice, has raised the problem. The Working Time Directive – the European legislation – states statutory holiday pay is to be calculated using the ‘week’s pay’ provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Some employers take this to mean periods of voluntary overtime and overtime payments should be disregarded when calculating pay to an employee about to take holiday. But in the case of Williams and others v British Airways plc [2011] the European Court of Justice held that, under EU law, workers taking statutory holiday are entitled to receive their “normal remuneration”. This includes, besides basic salary, remuneration “intrinsically linked to the performance of the tasks” they must fulfil under their contracts. So when calculating a worker’s dues in respect of statutory annual leave, it is important to look at what their normal weekly pay is under their contract of employment. For a worker on fixed hours and one basic pay rate, this is not difficult. Problems can arise, however, where an individual works differing shift patterns attracting differing rates of pay (e.g. overtime payments made on top of the ‘basic’ pay rate) or in cases where they earn commission. The Williams case concerned an airline pilot who claimed contractual supplementary payments which she would have received had she been flying or staying away from home on business (if she weren’t on annual leave). As these payments were contractual, and the

European court held they were intrinsically linked to the performance of the pilot’s contractual tasks, Ms Williams had the right to have those amounts included in her holiday pay. In a case since Williams, the Advocate General has given opinion in the Lock case which (while not legally binding) has indicated that commission payments should be taken into account as remuneration in respect of a worker’s annual leave – calculated to ensure workers are no worse off for taking holiday. The case of Neal v Freightliner has addressed this issue in the context of overtime. The judge held that, in light of EU law, overtime should be included when calculating holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations, the UK legislation. This was so, even though the worker’s overtime was voluntary, because the judge noted that throughout the overtime periods the worker was still doing tasks he had to do

AS I SEE IT

under his contract. Accordingly, the worker’s overtime hours, pay and premia should have been included in his holiday pay calculation. Provisions of section 222 of Employment Rights Act 1996 may come into effect. These require a calculation of “normal weekly pay” by using a 12 week reference period. Note: Use of this reference period would be consistent with calculating amounts of compensation in other scenarios – such as compensation payments in unfair dismissal cases. Unlike the Williams decision, the Neal decision is not binding on other tribunals, as it was a decision at first level, and an appeal was lodged on 20 August 2013. The Employment Appeal Tribunal was due to consider the Neal case on 10 April 2014. There has been no decision domestically over how to apply the Williams case either. But this is what the Neal case should do once the appeal is heard. n Paul Johnstone is employment partner Muckle LLP.

What to do meanwhile Employers are in a state of limbo, with different businesses taking different interim action in response to developments. John Lewis pre-empted the Neal appeal’s outcome, on a basis of general indication being that holiday pay should include elements such as contractual commission and overtime pay. They backdated employees’ holiday payments accordingly. However, for some this prospect is unattractive – potentially even financially impossible. Maybe a deal can be reached whereby employers agree to an amended method of calculating holiday pay going forward, in exchange for the workers waiving their right to bring claims for “historical” unlawful deductions. Employees can bring such claims in the employment tribunal, or may try to bring them in the county court as this could allow a longer time limit. (six years). If the current decision in the Neal case is ratified, many employees of firms with hourly paid workers regularly on overtime or extra shifts for additional pay would be able to claim that, where the amount they receive on taking holiday does not accurately reflect that which they would receive while at work, they should be compensated. In many cases this could result in backdated claims which many companies will not be able to afford. The result could be that some companies will effectively be insolvent. And, yes, some may go bust with many jobs lost. Should employers lobby MPs? Absolutely, yes – those with hourly paid employees face a significant risk: that some cases could be going through the tribunal system, leading to a substantial liability materialising “out of the blue”, and giving employees an incentive to claim for significant sums in regard to backdated holiday pay. Also there would be the potential liability for future payments of holiday pay. This could create difficulty for many companies in terms of cash flow, productivity, profitability and job security.

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ENTREPRENEUR

SPRING 14

MARK’S BEER IS SHEER POETRY

Mark Hird is proving through locally produced food and locally brewed beer that the one pub a week closure rot can be remedied. He explains his philosophy to Brian Nicholls

With roughly one pub a week closing in the North East, you have to be a Mr Micawber or a Mr Magnificent to stake your future there. Well, there’s no “something may turn up” about Mark Hird. Having taken on a £3.5m loan, he’s making a sterling declaration that something quite rewarding lies ahead. His record in leisure and catering after 16 years justifies it. He’s managing director of Sunderland based Tavistock Leisure Ltd, which owns two hotels, plus bars and restaurants, and managing director of Sonnet 43, a brewery launched just 18 months ago, accompanied by brew taps, and gaining national recognition. Safely through recession, he’s an exemplar in raising local pub standards, and pride in locally produced food, beer, community and heritage. “Our family are great supporters of local produce, limiting the miles from field to fork. So that was key to me, being a restaurateur,” he says. His recent immersion in beer, so to speak, followed his reaching 40 a couple of years ago. “I thought, what shall I do the rest of my career? I had an interest in cask beer, particularly new craft beers” he explains. He’d already made his mark in hospitality and catering, acquainted with it since childhood. One of his grandfathers had served his time at the Ritz in London, was catering manager on Pullman trains and became an early lecturer at Newcastle Catering College. Low Fell-born Hird attended that college after leaving Grainger Grammar School. With chef’s qualifications he followed the route to international hospitality management. On graduation day he flew out to unwind,

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

working at bars in Crete for six months. On return, he entered pub management with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, and worked at a Team Valley pub alongside Sunderland’s former football captain Bobby Kerr. As partners, they took over and improved Copt Hill pub, Houghton le Spring. Two years later Hird and his wife Nicola, 42, set up the Sunderland restaurant, 11 Tavistock Place, inspiring the Tavistock brand. He at 25 and she at 26 built it till it outgrew its premises. By then they were looking at other sides of the business. Ten years ago they sold. Through family investments, they could diversify. Tavistock Leisure, which Hird founded and led as managing director, built a reputation pre-recession for buying problem freeholds to refurbish and relaunch profitably. Tavistock sold one or two higher value pubs to national companies. They had 14 units as recession came. “Luckily, any site not performing we managed to lease out or sell,” he tells. “We concentrated then on our core businesses for about three years, stripping all the fat off the bone.” Today Tavistock Leisure (having disposed of the Best Western Middlesbrough to Greene King) has the Best Western Roker Hotel,

Sunderland, and the Best Western Grand Hotel in Hartlepool. It also has, under a tenancy partnership scheme for premises it refurbishes, the Plough Inn, Burnopfield; Tavistock Italia Retro, South Shields; the Board Inn, Birtley; and Mumbai Exemplary Indian Cuisine at Haswell Plough. Two years ago the couple bought a former pub in West Rainton, The Greyhound, transformed it into the Italian Farmhouse – “a rustic and shabby chic style restaurant going phenomenally well.” It has been three years in Nicola’s tender care. Hird then got the mid-life beer-brewing bee in his bonnet. “I must have gone on so much to my wife she bought me a week’s training,” he says. Brewlab, set up at University of Sunderland in 1986, trains and analyses for the international brewing industry. Hird knew Arthur Bryant there, who suggested Hird should sell beer of his own. “I did the course. Brewing proved more a science than I’d ever given credit for. But with the course I found something dear.” He knew what he paid big brewers for their beer. Now he learned how much he could make beer for. “Arthur was right – it was a no brainer. I was fortunate enough to attract some money through the Regional Growth Fund >>

There are many microbreweries, but a lot are devoid of brand identity. We gave that a lot of consideration

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ENTREPRENEUR to help with the plant and setting up costs.” Hird then bought The Kicking Cuddy, a pub in Coxhoe eventually receiving a £200,000 conversion. Adjoining was a disused garage which the pub’s earlier owner Vaux Breweries intended to convert into a catering kitchen. Should Hird set up his brewery there or behind the Roker Hotel in Sunderland? He decided: “Being Tyneside born and bred, I’m well aware of rivalry among lads over the football. Trying to sell beer north of the Tyne from a microbrewery on Wearside would have been a hard ask. So Coxhoe was ideal, neutral territory – and beside the A1 for delivery routes. There are many microbreweries, but a lot are devoid of brand identity. We gave that a lot of consideration.” Hird worked closely with Ian Smith, a friend whose company is the Durham branding agency Surreal Creative. “Eventually the brand took its inspiration from the brewery’s location. We discovered in local history of the 1800s the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her famous Sonnet No.43: How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways, describing love for her husband. I thought that apt given our love for beer. So our brand became For the Love of Beer.” Eighteen months on Hird could report the brewery “a phenomenal success, a great journey, very exciting… lots of highs and certain lows - as with any business.” One of the highs was being recently acclaimed one of the three best microbrewing pub companies nationally in The Publican Awards. Also: “Well received already across the North East, we’re now tapping into the Midlands, Yorkshire and London, and are being well received in pubs. Through the brewery I opened three brew and tap restaurants.”

SPRING 14

The first, getting a £500,000 refurbishment, was in Chester le Street. Hird explains: “The Lambton Worm, previously owned by a national company, had closed. As with many pubs closing through lack of investment and tenants overcharged for rents and customers for beer, it had fallen into disrepair. Yet it’s in a fantastic trading location. “We breathed new life into it, opening in February last year as a Sonnet 43 Brew Tap and restaurant. The pub element sells our ales and a good selection of craft beers. The restaurant holds dear our ethos of local produce where possible, supporting many local food heroes whose names appear on the menus.” After that came Jarrow. Hird recalls: “Our family had owned the property for eight years and it was never the right time to do anything with it. Refurbishing what was Dougie’s Tavern was the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on –

Being Tyneside born and bred, I’m well aware of rivalry among lads over the football. Trying to sell beer north of the Tyne from a microbrewery on Wearside would have been a hard ask. So Coxhoe was ideal, neutral territory BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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three walls, no roof and asbestos problems. A drug rehabilitation unit opposite didn’t help.” Now it’s The White Lead, and doing well. It had also previously been The Royal and The Royal Hotel. But locals had remembered it as The White Lead. “Not a glamorous name - lead poisoning and all that,” he agrees. “But that’s what it was because a metal foundry nearby once manufactured for the shipbuilding, its chimneys covering the entire area with a byproduct of fine white lead dust.” And at Chester le Street? “Who’d want to change as famous a name as The Lambton Worm?” Then at the turn of this year the Kicking Cuddy became The Clarence Villa, Coxhoe’s history having shown also that was its earliest name when a local brickworks owner established the building in 1857 – as far back as the Indian Mutiny and the relief of Lucknow. Clarence was the name of a coal railway formerly behind the premises. It, in turn, had been named after the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. An entire wall of the bar is also taken up by a photo blow-up of workers from a clay mine that once stood nearby. There’d been a brewery there too. “Tie all this in, along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Coxhoe Hall where she was raised, and you win the hearts and minds of locals and visitors,” >>


SPRING 14

COMPANY PROFILE

What can you do to protect your business from risk and prosecution under the Bribery Act? Neil Dwyer, Head of the Employment team at Hay & Kilner, is helping businesses take action to comply with the Bribery Act As the three year mark approaches since the Bribery Act was introduced, now is a good time to review matters. In response to the new law, many businesses commenced steps to ensure compliance, without implementing them fully and some did nothing at all. It appears that the absence of publicised enforcement action has caused good intentions to be left on the back burner. There are signs that all that is about to change and businesses now need to act to put preventative measures in place. Whilst Bribery Act prosecutions were initially slow, they have picked up pace over the past year. In August last year the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) brought its first prosecution under the Act against three individuals who were charged with offences of making and accepting a financial advantage. In March, this year, five individuals appeared in Birmingham Crown Court on Bribery Act offences and in April the National Crime Agency arrested thirteen individuals for corruption. There are indications more prosecutions are in the pipeline. By way of a reminder, the Bribery Act created new criminal offences of: • Offering or receiving bribes • Failure to prevent a bribe being paid on behalf of a commercial organisation • Bribery of foreign public officials As an employer you can be held responsible for acts of bribery committed by “associated persons”, which includes your employees, agents or contractors. How can an employer defend itself? A defence is available to employers who have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery. Guidance requires businesses to focus on six high-level principles and advocates a “risk-based proportionate and common-sense approach to the design of policies and procedures”.

Hay & Kilner’s employment team: Sarah Hall, Neil Dwyer & Sarah Furness

With this in mind, employers at Board or Senior Management team level, should carry out the following tasks: • Conduct a risk assessment of all activities to identify where a risk of bribery may arise • Confirm top-level commitment to establishing a culture within which corruption is eliminated and appoint a senior officer to be directly responsible for overseeing the anti-corruption programme • Carry out a due diligence assessment before any major business relationship or project • Prepare clear policies and procedures to minimise the opportunity for corruption. This is to clarify the approach that those responsible should take when negotiating contracts, and because bribes can be disguised as legitimate business expenses, there should be a clear policy on gifts and entertainment • Ensure effective implementation and the policy must be publicised to employees and all “associated persons” with financial controls in place to minimise the risk of bribery • Monitor and review the policy on a regular basis.

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In carrying out these steps, your business will be in a better position to avoid risk and prosecution. Is there any benefit from “corporate selfreporting”? The previously held assumption that self-reported misconduct would lead to a civil settlement being offered rather than criminal prosecution has been changed by new guidance, which states that self-reporting will not automatically avoid this. Instead, to be relevant, it must form part of a “genuinely proactive approach” adopted by your corporate management team. Hay & Kilner’s employment team offers a free audit and gives advice on implementing the correct protective policies.

Please contact Neil Dwyer or Sarah Hall for further information or advice on 0191 232 8345 Email: neil.dwyer@hay-kilner.co.uk or sarah.hall@hay-kilner.co.uk Visit: www.hay-kilner.co.uk

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ENTREPRENEUR Hird suggests. “The Coal Board pulled down Coxhoe Hall some years ago. That was criminal.” But what’s done’s done. The Clarence Villa, besides serving bar meals, has a 74 cover restaurant. The bar offers Sonnet 43’s six core brands, guest ales and a warming stock of whiskies. Tankards hang from its beams, hunters’ trophies over the fireplace, and wallinscribed homilies like “walk in as a stranger, walk out as a friend” set the tone. There’s match day TV, acoustic music and quiz nights, newspapers and books to peruse, suggesting its 77% recommendation from 71 reviews in Trip Advisor is justified. Hird’s free time is limited as he explains: “My wife’s business is getting a lot busier, and due to retirement at Durham Estates, the family business owning quite a lot of land and property, we’re buying for my business the two Best Westerns, stock and franchises.” He draws not only on Nicola’s support but that also of Jonathan Graham who, at 39, is operations director at Tavistock, excelling in menu and recipe development. He and Hird studied together. He worked in the four star De Vere Oulton in Leeds and the five star Grosvenor in London then returned to the North East 10 years ago, initially helping Tavistock Leisure to run Marsden Grotto in South Shields while it was part of the group. Hird’s £3.5m bank loan from “a very supportive” NatWest will go towards £4.3m securing the hotels and stock. Tavistock, employing 170 people, turns over £8m. Sonnet 43 and the brew tap restaurants, which employ 70, are in first year trading. Hird aims to get 12 venues across the North East, driving production at the brewery, where Michael Harker is head brewer. Hird met Harker on the Brewlab course, and Harker joined him from a brewery in Northumberland. He gets out 40 barrels a week now that there are 300-plus outlets in the North East alone. Different areas have different favourites. Bottling is done in Cumbria. However, a brewery extension underway will give more brewing space, a visitor centre – and machines for bottling and craft kegging. “At 41 I’ve taken a leap of faith,” says Hird. A glint in his eye suggests a faith unwavering. n

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Young entrepreneur: Son Charlie at 14 has had his own business for two years, a pig of a job

Charlie brings home the bacon Son Charlie went entrepreneurial far sooner than mum and dad. Now 14, he’s been in business two years. Pigs he breeds provide pork for their menus. Like many youngsters on X-boxes, he’d regularly implored his parents for a new £40 or £50 game. His father joked: “Do you realise the cost of things? You’ll have to think about a part-time job.” Charlie came back shortly after. “Dad, what’s the opportunity for us to keep some chickens? I’ll sell eggs around the doors.” The Hirds live near the A690 between Sunderland and Durham, on property at Burdon Hall where Nicola was brought up and a parental home also stands. Dad advised Charlie: “One of our neighbours has chickens. That’s market conflict.” Then Charlie, a pupil of Durham School, learned from TV’s Countryfile the importance of preserving breed lines of pigs. He asked his dad: “What if I keep pigs? When it comes to taking them to market I can sell them to you and the restaurants?” Grandad had to be consulted since they’d have to be kept on his land. Grandad said: “Charlie, I’ve no problem with that. But don’t give them names.” Years before, he too had kept pigs. He’d named them and, come abattoir time, couldn’t bear to part with them. Charlie replied: “I’ve already got names for them. One will be Mynewphone. One Mynewcricketbat. One Mynewipad.” So Dad arranged to send him on a week’s course on pig husbandry at Pig Paradise in Wiltshire. “I thought it would show him they’re not just friendly little animals but big hairy, dirty things. That’ll turn him off,” dad thought. “But Charlie came back enthused. So I got some of our shopfitters and joiners to produce the pig arcs. Then we went to Charlie’s bank. He had saved about £450. He withdrew the money and in Yorkshire he paid for the first 12 weaners. “He’s now up at six every morning – hail, rain or snow – and is back in before anyone else is up. He feeds them again on return from school and is realising fruits of his labour.” Charlie has about 40 heads currently: old spots and saddlebacks. Says Hird: “At the right age they’re taken to the abattoir. And their meat is served in our own restaurants.”

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COMPANY PROFILE

Combined Chambers team proves there is strength in numbers New Park Court Barristers Chambers is a large and well-established set of Chambers comprising 84 barristers in Newcastle and Leeds, including 10 QC’s. 13 of their barristers sit in a part-time capacity as Deputy High Court Judges, Recorders or Tribunal Chairmen At the start of 2012 Park Court Chambers, one of Leeds’ largest and longest-established sets, merged Newcastle’s New Court Chambers to create a regional powerhouse.The move combined the experience of the North-East’s pre-eminent barristers’ chambers and also provided individual and corporate clients with access to 84 barristers able to offer expanded expertise in civil, crime, commercial, family and other matters. At the time Michael Meeson, Chief Executive, of what has been dubbed the new combined ‘super set’, explained how the increase in size and reach would not come at the expense of the quality, integrity and reliability for which both had been traditionally renowned, and predicted growth for both sets under the new umbrella. The move has since been well received by clients in both Leeds and Newcastle and there has been a real sense of excitement and momentum. Chambers has been operating fully from its two bases in Leeds and Newcastle, and is today among the leaders in the fields of regulatory, family, crime, civil, employment, personal injury, chancery and commercial work. New Park Court Chambers are proud of their strong reputation for conducting substantial cases. Major regulatory, civil and family cases together with complex medical negligence and Health and Safety prosecutions are all undertaken, in addition to inquests, judicial review and cases involving human rights issues. Numerous cases are conducted in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court and members of the specialist teams have appeared in the European Courts. Building on this momentum, New Park Court Chambers formed an alliance with a leading set from Birmingham. Birmingham’s Citadel chambers agreed to join forces in a move that saw a further 50 barristers from its nationally renowned crime

The Bar is constantly changing and will look like a very different place in five years’ time but with change comes great opportunity for those willing to embrace new ways of working team – including head of chambers Andrew Fisher QC – become available to New Park Court Chambers’ client base and vice versa. There was a strategic advantage to the joining of these two sets in a business relationship. First and foremost it enlarges the presence of both on the national stage and opens up potential new avenues of work. Secondly it indicates to the existing clients of both sets the type of forward-thinking, innovative and modern chambers they are working with. The Bar is constantly changing and will look like a very different place in five years’ time but

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with change comes great opportunity for those willing to embrace new ways of working. New Park Court Chambers is in a great position to take advantage of those opportunities going forward. Focusing on the present, New Park Court Chambers has already seen benefits to its merger as new clients have been won and early financial results have improved. Service levels across both the Leeds and Newcastle bases are consistent by virtue of the very latest in IT systems and video conferencing facilities, with members able to work seamlessly wherever they are in the region. New Park Court Chambers are committed to growth while at the same time determined to continue providing the same high quality of service that they are renowned for. Despite their latest alliance, they are not closing the door to further enlargement and are keen to look at recruitment throughout their areas of specialism. Two recent appointments as QC have only added to the expertise. Michael Meeson concluded “Service to clients is the priority. This together with clear commercial strategy is the only way forward. We look forward to the future with enthusiasm.”

NEWCASTLE 3 Broad Chare, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3DQ T: 0191 232 1980 E: clerks@npc-n.co.uk www.newparkcourt.co.uk LEEDS 16 Park Place, Leeds, LS1 2SJ T: 0113 243 3277 E: clerks@npc-l.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

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Why pamper SMEs? Encouraging medium size and family businesses to raise their professional element could do more, and faster, to boost the North East’s economy, Lucy Armstrong argues. She tells Brian Nicholls how

BRING ON THE PROFESSIONALS Bring in professionals to unlock the potentials of medium size businesses, and the North East economy could be £4bn a year better off. “What a transformation that would be for the economic viability and provision of jobs in our region,” says Lucy Armstrong, the new David Goldman visiting professor of innovation and enterprise at Newcastle University Business School. It’s a view held also by the CBI, in which she has had a key role, and one she promotes as chief executive of The Alchemists, the Gateshead based consultancy upraising fast growing family and entrepreneurial businesses.

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Delivering the David Goldman lecture at the school, in her succession to Roy Sandbach (now leading an innovation team at the North East LEP) she countered arguments for concentrating support on small businesses (SMEs) as top trump in raising the North East’s economic game. Armstrong told a packed lecture theatre: “Some SMEs are perpetually small, some are growing, some declining and some static. We’ve been desperate to throw money at them. Yet they do little training and are rarely held to account.” Describing the term SME as a convenience to

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governments and institutions, she warns: “We have to train and develop business leaders, not just anticipate they’ll spring out of thin air. We need more professionally run businesses than owner managed businesses.” Statistics accompany her argument. In the North East, medium size businesses (MSBs) are only 2.2% of the total yet employ 13.5% of the private workforce. They provide 47.5% of the region’s private sector turnover. Digging deeper, she finds our region has 445 businesses per 10,000 population, against an all English average of 655. Creating 200 startups gives basically 200 jobs, she argues.


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“But if you get some MSBs in that 445 to double in size you create thousands of jobs. They’ve proved they won’t be here today, gone tomorrow. “Only a few hundred businesses are capable of the transformation. We’ve a duty to challenge them to stay in business, grow, be ambitious, invest in their leadership. The entire North East economy and its society will really benefit.” Who, then, are the professionals? She admits to BQ: “I wish I’d a better term for them. Hallmarks of a well run business are qualitative rather than quantitative. But there are some quantitative ones, including a professionally qualified finance director, as the CBI has observed and the BIS endorses. Also their share ownership spreads beyond one individual. Presence of a third party investor or nonexecutive director is another hallmark. So additional voices and demands are made and you never just look in the mirror.” She’s noted since coming to the North East in 1989 how professionals with degrees and expertise in specific disciplines scare some owners. Yet moulding them within a team is latent businesses’ key to advancement. Moving from owner managed to professionally managed is challenging but, she points out, something that Goldman himself identified, enabling Sage to become the quintessential example of a spectacular journey from start-up to plc. “Few businesses rise at that speed and get that far,” she observes. She believes the change possible without losing in subsequent generations the early family gene of enterprise. She exemplifies Ringtons, also British Engines which, several generations on, finds Alex Lamb, in his early 40s, in new offices building tens of millions of turnover, running things differently from his father before - investing, growing and developing people, markets and products. Harry Banks, head of the long established family business of that ilk, is putting professionals into place. Armstrong says: “When you see him preparing them for further development of businesses he started by digging the first hole in the ground, it’s amazing. His business will live long with his family still custodians.” Can’t all entrepreneurs operate professionally? “It depends how you define entrepreneur,”

she replies. “If you mean someone starting up on their own and gradually adding people, they’ll infrequently make the change in my experience. But entrepreneurial start-up flair, if held collectively, is more than capable. Professional behaviour’s there from the start.” She cites Tariq Nasir who, from day one, wanted a team around him at Thi_nk who’d be mostly older and experts in their field. “By government statistic, Vertu under Robert Forrester, was a start-up. But it raised £20m on the AIM and had a management team instantly, most having run a plc already. Within six months they had 40-odd franchises. Seven years on it’s 106 with £1.5bn turnover.

INTERVIEW

qualifications, she also finds most start-up entrepreneurs have struggled with formal education – “maybe because they leap chasms and gaps and have different perceptions of risk. Our schooling and education is as much about how we’re socialised as about how we’re educated. And people doing turnarounds must be hugely entrepreneurial,” she declares. What about university spinouts, whose managements probably have skills and academic qualifications but less commercial experience? “I find under 40s setting up, particularly students, do so in small groups, seeking external advice from the start. A lot of that may

Some SMEs are perpetually small, some are growing, some declining and some static. We’ve been desperate to throw money at them. They do little training and are rarely held to account That’s probably the North East’s fastest growing start-up ever. I think imagining an entrepreneur as one man on his own a rather narrow definition. “In family businesses you need entrepreneurship in every generation – in different forms. Our society sometimes gets that wrong. Business schools too. Entrepreneurs, we love to think of as Superman. Actually they come in all shapes and sizes.” While reeling off entrepreneurs with academic

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be due to how they’ve been taught. I think universities are accepting a spinout doesn’t necessarily mean miraculous inventions or technology advances – new biochemistry, new enzymes. It might. But most are businesses taking away pain or otherwise solving problems in people’s lives.” People must work on, not in, their business, she suggests. “A parent treating a teenager as it did a baby will get negative responses. Carry on running your business as if it’s six months old when it’s now 16 and your business will >>

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INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

be less successful. Stand aside and study all of it.” The North East has a rare chance now to drive professionally run MSBs with existing leadership and ambition. Fewer than 54% of private businesses are currently financed externally. Says Armstrong: “This 13.4% of employment, and half the turnover in medium business, is ungeared. Confidence was shaken by the financial crisis. But MSBs’ ability to invest, grow and do business hasn’t been affected. They already do lots on little – a skill vital for some time yet.” Also, she feels, it will be hard for some time to sell businesses satisfactorily. “The UK is obsessed with selling businesses. It creates no value – just transfers it with some leakage to accountants, bankers and lawyers.” Could SMEs be more accountable? Armstrong suggests: “If you move away from scores on doors and, as a society, are prepared to put resource behind certain organisations saying ‘here are the business outcomes we’d like and they’re sensible’, that would be possible. “But doling out bits and pieces here and there, we see people good at gaming the system. “I think we’ll get better at measuring incomes rather than outputs. RDAs were measured on how much they’d spent. Jeremie Funds will be measured on jobs created – social not economic outcomes, but also making returns to taxpayers on money invested. “Sometimes spending public money wisely means not investing in company A but putting twice as much into company B. We’re not in that culture yet. But, with fewer resources and greater focus on partnerships, trust will grow.” In doubting that throwing public money at SMEs will match the job creating and enterprising effect of professionally managed MSBs, would she suggest cutting SME funding or diverting more to MSBs? “Money has been cut,” she points out. “Anyway, support and encouragement for businesses is not measured in pounds. I feel – something national and local government find hard to accept – that money isn’t the only unlocking resource. There’s sharing of ideas. “The Government’s accelerator programme is trying to emulate Lottery money into the Olympics, shifting from an ‘all must have prizes’ to targeting. But because it’s public

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money, the crude measure remains scores on the doors.” One example working well, she thinks, is Ian Livingstone the new trade minister’s targeting of MSBs as exporters. “He’s offered every MSB among some six and a half thousand he has labelled a one-to-one to assess their export potential. From there the extent of public sector support, if any, will be determined.” She suggests: “In our compact region – the only one in the UK with a positive export balance though fewer than 1,000 businesses export – you and I could easily assess and list additional companies with export potential and not be a million miles off. With a grand national plan you must have numbers. Did the regional development agency do it any better and will the LEPs do it any better? “I’d say as long as purse strings are held in London, where the same set of measures is applied, unless a really compelling argument is made, it will be hard to have a different set of metrics accepted for what’s public money, and what has to be accountable to taxpayers.

If you took the cover off business plans of the seven former RDAs you’d see they were interchangeable. “Ministers decided priorities. They all had a digital strategy, an infrastructure strategy, they all looked and read the same and had only slightly different logos. I don’t believe we have one economy. Nor do I believe with LEPs we’ve 39. Seven across England was probably closer. As for two LEPs in the North East, originally five? Our region is one economy of 2.6m people – too few, and too few of them young. It has some national assets like process industries on Teesside, three rivers whose deep ports are major strategic assets. Nissan, and Hitachi shortly, are major manufacturers, then there’s a solid medium size business structure with relatively decent public transport… “That in the 21st Century is just about a credible size of any economy - but still on the smaller end. Greater Manchester with the M62 corridor collectively is much more credible. At a LEP level, as small as a few hundred thousand people isn’t an economy.” n

Reasons not to sell on Armstrong says selling on a business may look attractive. But the UK needs more tax revenue and a business sale does little for economic development, wealth, tax or jobs generation, whereas retaining and nurturing private businesses with steady and sustainable growth improves everyone’s life. She compares the NHS budget of £437m at its launch in 1948 (£9bn in today’s money) with last year’s budget of £108.2bn. “We’ve 12 times the expectation of the NHS that we had in 1948. We’ve longer life expectancy, greater health care. That’s why you need economic growth – people’s expectations keep rising. It’s not about getting richer. It’s also about getting healthier, better educated. Or living longer or having a better quality of life.” Only the private sector pays tax, she reminds us, yet less than 25% of the turnover among FTSE 100 companies is in the UK. For many, less than 25% is in Europe. “So they’re not British businesses,” Armstrong argues. “And many international businesses don’t pay tax here. If we want universities, hospitals etc, we need more businesses paying significantly more tax.” Yet in the North East only 11% of private businesses have more than 20 employees. The three biggest employers in Newcastle in fact are in the public sector: the two universities, the council and the NHS. Most small businesses in the UK are shell companies employing no-one. Even startups don’t pay tax for a long time, hence Armstrong’s focus to MSEs once more. Lucy Armstrong, born in Manchester of Teesside parents, is Oxford educated, holds an MBA and joined The Alchemists in 2003 after an early career in private equity, corporate development and headhunting with 3i plc, Courtaulds Textiles and Tyzack. She has served numerous bodies in business and academia. The Alchemists help high growth mid-corporate businesses to speed development and success through focus on shareholder and management, and succession.

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INTERVIEW

Snapshot of a region New businesses in 2013: hotspots

Over reliance on public sector employment

Unemployment rates North East North West Yorkshire and The Humber East Midlands West Midlands East of England London South East South West Wales Scotland UK Rate

Change on quarter

Unemployment rates as at October 2013

Latest official figures show North East's Q1 unemployment down by 10,000 but still, at 9.3%, the highest in the country

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• Looking at the annual change between September 2012 and September 2013, the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 52,000. • By September 2013 the percentage of public sector employment was down to 21.8. • Better than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. • Nationally, the number of people employed in the private sector increased by 537,000 to reach 24.4 million. • BUT in the NE we have only created 7,000 net new jobs in the year to Sept 2013.

Snapshot based on a post-Budget presentation given in Newcastle by Tait Walker chartered accountants with details drawn from Start-Up Britain.

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in association with

ROOTING FOR A CITY The issue: What’s the future for ‘making’ in Sunderland? Sunderland has a long, proud history of making things. Seventh Century glassmakers of Gaul led to a Sunderland glass industry eventually prominent across Europe. From the 19th Century the city gained recognition as the “world’s greatest shipbuilder”. Recall also the making of fine Vaux beers and the world class Nissan Qashqai - making things is clearly in the city’s DNA. But what of tomorrow? Is digital the new glass? Can an economy develop around low-carbon? What skills will be needed in the next decade to assure Sunderland a place in a market place increasingly global? And, crucially, how can young people of the city be equipped to write their own next chapter in the city’s making story? Paul Watson opened discussion, citing the recent finding by a Financial Times publication that Sunderland is one of Europe’s most promising locations for foreign direct investment. It was eighth among all cities in Northern Europe and one of the top four among small European cities. It had secured 14,500 jobs and £2.5bn of capital investment in a decade – more than any other UK city of its size, and many of

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these jobs were in manufacturing through Nissan. The city focuses on key industry sectors and the city centre, building on industries already existing and emerging sectors such as ultra-low carbon vehicles, offshore wind and subsea engineering, and software technology development. Sunderland has also been described in the Financial Times as the start-up capital of the country. “The appetite, commitment and track record are there to ensure it makes things happen,” he said. Anne Isherwood (who serves on the North East LEP) said she was concerned with what had to be done to make a skills agenda in Sunderland work for the making of the city. Ralph Saelzer felt diversification had to be maximised, and opportunity taken in everything, whether manufacturing or bioscience. “We have to be resilient, and the city is doing quite well in connecting to the future. We have the Sunderland economic master plan, the university and its facilities, Sunderland College where they are trying hard to prepare us for the future. We have tried to set up an engineering branch working with the Council and with the university and employers on board. I have the pleasure of

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TAKING PART Event hosts – Sunderland City Council Paul Watson, leader Dave Smith, chief executive Co Event Hosts - Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Jan Portillo - chair, North East Vivienne Long-Ferguson - deputy head, regional programme Debate guests Ram Banerjee OBE, Freeman of the City of Sunderland Paul Callaghan, chairman, Leighton Group, and chairman, University of Sunderland and the city economic leadership board. Peter Collins, RSA Fellow Margaret Elliott, Sunderland Homecare Associates David Howell, North East BIC Ltd David Irwin, RSA Fellow Anne Isherwood, principal, Sunderland College Ian Kershaw, RSA Fellow Melanie Laws, ANEC Rob Lawson, PR and media consultant Stephen Levett, University of Sunderland Deborah Lewin, Sunderland City Council John Lloyd, RSA Fellow Angela Lockwood, RSA Fellow John Macintyre, University of Sunderland Frank Nicholson, non-executive director, Port of Sunderland Sir Paul Nicholson KCVO, former chairman, Vaux Breweries Michael Potts, RSA Fellow Vince Taylor, Sunderland City Council Ralph Saelzer, managing director, Liebherr Peter Walls, Gentoo Group Kate Welch OBE, Acumen Development Trust Paul Woolston, North East LEP Rob Worrall, University of Sunderland In the chair: Caroline Theobald Also present: Brian Nicholls, editor, BQ Magazine Kevin Gibson, photographer, BQ Magazine Coordinators: Richard Binney - business development manager, BQ Magazine Coleen Lavelle - corporate affairs officer, Sunderland City Council Venue: Washington Old Hall BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback of a range of key business topics and issues.


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sitting on the education leadership board and we are trying to see what needs to be done for young people. We have quite a challenge but are on the right track.” Paul Watson, a former shipwright who later ran several types of businesses, said: “The economy can’t exist without companies that buy and sell. But Sunderland’s heritage and DNA is to make things. However, to take advantage of opportunities in the global market, we must diversify. Part of our strategy as a city now is to bring people in like tonight to inform us what we need to do. Hopefully it will come about in an ongoing process. Dave Smith said it was the council’s responsibility to make it as easy as possible for business to locate and grow in Sunderland through hard and soft infrastructure it develops. We’ve identified areas where we

believe we have competitive advantage. Can we take that competitive advantage and move beyond the production side of some of those things, to reap also advantages of a much deeper relationship in terms of research, development and design? I’d like Sunderland to be recognised also as a centre for excellence

DEBATE

for co-operative businesses - a centre growing and developing various forms of mutualised businesses. We’ve examples of some huge successes in that area.” Margaret Elliott: “I run an employee owned social enterprise. I’ve run co-operatives, social enterprises and employee owned companies for most of my life. They can make a big difference to people. They’ve been described as flexible in difficult times and crucial in contributing to the long term economy. We can fit employee ownership into our long term economy. It’s a vision for all of us, I think, to have a fair society.” Paul Callaghan: “Leighton Group employs about 160 people in software. We have offices in London, Washington DC and Singapore, and are about to open in Australia. I was born in Sunderland when it had a very well known and organised industrial base. I live in Sunderland still and the history of my life in terms of the economy (I’m an economist) is that there has been a dramatic change in what we produce. The industry I operate in didn’t exist until I was into my 30s. I never saw a computer until I had left university. So many opportunities existing for Sunderland are only just beginning. There are things we have managed to establish over the last 20 to 30 years like the automotive industry, a really important cornerstone. But many things are happening also in technology, science and IT that we haven’t even really seen yet. So we must create circumstances in infrastructure, but also in skills and education to allow us to benefit.” Jan Portillo: “The RSA is a fellowship organisation with 431 fellows locally. Though founded in 1754 it came a long way after Sunderland’s manufacture of Saxon glass. >>

Many things are happening also in technology, science and IT that we haven’t even really seen yet. So we must create circumstances in infrastructure, but also in skills and education to allow us to benefit

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DEBATE

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Our history is about innovation, ideas, and turning ideas into action. I hope we can bring networks, organisations and visions together and align around creativity, inclusion and innovation, putting Sunderland ahead of the curve.” Kate Welch: “I’d like us to think what might be coming and how we can be prepared to change. We haven’t always got right in Sunderland or the region our reaction to things that happen to us. We do some R&D in some areas, but not across a whole range of different sectors.” Paul Callaghan: “I wish I knew what’s round the corner. I do know the university is about the only real set research in the city. We don’t have large HQs of multinationals doing research and development. Even in automotive a lot of the R&D is done elsewhere, even at

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Nissan. That’s disappointing. Opportunities in automotive are tremendous, particularly in low carbon, and I think recognition in the climate debate which has come to the fore in the past few weeks will focus people’s minds on where we should be putting R&D funding to create a less hostile environment. With IT, we’re always innovating, on a smaller scale – we’re not Microsoft – but we’re trying to come up with new ideas and products – to be up with technology whether in evolution of broadband or wireless or whatever. We haven’t enough R&D culture in the city when you look at really successful technology areas. We try our best to encourage it at the university but are not really a research university. Our percentage of income from research is relatively small compared to Russell Group universities. That’s difficult to break into. The way money

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is allocated for research tends often to be traditionally allocated. We have to punch above our weight to get the funding.” John MacIntyre: “Nissan’s corporate research programme towards further success is about software of the vehicle, just as when we had the first configuration of mobile phones when they were built like a brick and with luck you might make a successful phone call. Now that’s about internet connection and games platforms. The vehicle is now internet connected. It’s about software technology. The driving experience will become different. The value of the vehicle will be different to the buyer. If we as a city can’t position ourselves on this, given our strings in automotive and in software and take advantage... but why not Sunderland? Technologies of future vehicles can be made anywhere. We have a great opportunity to make both vehicles and some technologies that accompany.” David Irwin: “Big innovations in the United States came from bored and stifled middle managers of major companies that couldn’t be persuaded that what they had to offer was brilliant. They resigned to do it themselves. That’s how companies like Apple came about. How do we get bored and stifled middle managers to start their own business and all employ around 160 people?” Anne Isherwood: “Providers of skills for young people are often criticised. At Sunderland College – and other colleges – we are trying to address those criticisms, trying to communicate more effectively with employers. We must ensure employers feel able to converse with us and we can try to put things right – not just manufacturing skills but softer skills too that employers say we must address. In manufacturing, perhaps we at the college haven’t done sufficient. We’re well placed now to put that right. We anticipate in the next couple of years to invest heavily in resources to make us a state-of-the-art provider for manufacturing and engineering. We’re talking with employers to ensure our investment will be fit for purpose. We also must do something about the high unemployment among young people in our area. Liaison with employers is so important towards growing apprenticeships.” Ralph Saelzer: “Something very good has


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Nissan has a plant in Russia making roughly as many vehicles a year as Sunderland, which employs around 5,000 to do this. Russia employs about 126,000. The answer isn’t about technology. It’s about people’s skills started successfully in Sunderland - Discovery Week, linking businesses with schools, teaching youngsters and their schools about skills of vocational training and also soft skills. How do I dress properly for an interview? How do I conduct myself in an interview? Things probably not taught in schools.” Ian Kershaw: “A worrying issue for me is standards we expect of our children. I still think there’s a tradition of low expectation among some of our professional colleagues, sad to say – and a tradition of low expectation among some families. The challenge is to find how industry, university, college and professional leaders of the schools can work together to raise the aspiration. I have lived in Sunderland more than 50 years and worry about how to reach young people and convince them Sunderland is their future, a great place where they can make their living, and where the schools are seen visibly to be supporting industry.” Peter Collins: (a school governor) “I agree. Many young people don’t have family support. The families actually resent what schools are trying to do and stand in the way. In the pit village where I used to live, and where there’s no pit now, there’s a view that there’s nothing to do now and the only real economy is the black economy. We are preparing many people for the black economy – total tragedy. We have to start with the very young. If you sit on a disciplinary committee you see the problems children have got into. At primary school the problems will have been contained rather than solved. By the time you get to teenagers you have problems that are not containable. I had to deal with a child refusing to do homework. The mother said homework

was “only Shakespeare” and Shakespeare had never done her any good. You understand where she’s coming from. But the attitude is not helpful. Standards are beginning to improve. There’s a serious agenda. But to say it is succeeding would be grossly overstating. A large population is being left out of the economic future. Families don’t understand that. We must do something about it. As living on benefits, which has held some families together for one or two generations, becomes less viable, it can only be allowed not to exist once we have something to replace it.” Kate Welch: “Parents do have aspirations for their children, research shows. But this is really about access to finding something outside the norm they know. I’ve seen in East Durham people limited by what they know and see around them. You must find how to give them the next stage. Some of our kids in Sunderland need to get outside, see

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something else then come back to Sunderland and do more. Maybe that’s something we must try to achieve. A recent survey has thrown up attitudes and behaviours – like honesty, trustworthiness and commitment – that alongside literacy and numeracy have to be built up.” Peter Walls: “What strikes me about the education system is the strength of will attached. Processes of running the sector repress an innovative approach. Without creativity that I think isn’t in the education profession I don’t think we’re going to unlock this. A proportion of our children are going to suffer through something not their fault.” [He told of an academy student of the year, ‘a broken kid’. She was taken out of the academy because she was a handful. Some work was done on her behalf. Since then she had visited David Cameron’s office and become a campaigner in finding jobs for young people. She became an inspiration and spoke to a room of 200 people. This had not proved difficult but it was not working within the mainstream.] “We need provision outside the mainstream to enable young people to exercise innovation, not suppress it. It doesn’t take a lot of money.” John Lloyd: “One problem is that educationists think education is the prime objective rather than providing understanding. I was shocked when a young Bangladeshi working in a restaurant told me: ‘I can speak Bangla, English, Urdu and Arabic and read >>

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them all.’ How many other people in their mid-20s in Sunderland can deal with four languages? Yet they would look down at the minority. The Bangla community in Sunderland have been entrepreneurs and seek little from anyone, yet have successful businesses.” Angela Lockwood: “Where you have huge pockets of deprivation you have very low aspirations. The North East is one of the country’s most deprived regions. How do we get the region to have a stronger voice to ensure more influence in central government, so when we get hit by welfare reform it doesn’t impact bigger on the North East? I feel we get done to. In a housing association we do much more than provide houses. In peoplefocused services people generally respond and do well. But you need funding. In initiatives that we have tried people do turn corners. But we’ve had the rug pulled from under us. We need much more than what exists to crack third and fourth generation issues.”

Dave Smith: “Whitehall departments work pretty independently. You may strike a deal with one of them, but if it involves another department you have to win them over too. There isn’t a single set of policies. It doesn’t mean you can’t make progress. One advantage we have over many cities is that I am blessed with political leaders who are pragmatic, and don’t seek to score political points which would make progress with the current government hard. We’re prepared to work with anything seen to benefit the city and its people. We’ve been negotiating a City Deal. Through business leadership also we can demonstrate how we make a difference to people’s lives and provide opportunity. Business has led on redeveloping our education system in Sunderland, and the education leadership board is led by business. Making the application of education to business opportunity central to our platform for education all plays to the Government’s

I was shocked when a young Bangladeshi working in a restaurant told me: ‘I can speak Bangla, English, Urdu and Arabic and read them all.’ How many other people in their mid-20s in Sunderland can deal with four languages? BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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agenda. They are persuaded we are serious about what we want to do for the city. So we’re making real gains. The city working together has traction with the Government and with the Opposition. The university is a massive plus in all this.” Paul Woolston: “Nissan’s most productive plant anywhere is in Sunderland, and the majority working there are young people from Sunderland. In the LEP if you look at the region’s economic position, and look at GVA as a measure of economic performance from 2000 onwards our GVA growth rate has been the best anywhere outside London and the South East. If we continue our growth rate, in eight years we’ll have the UK’s best performing region. But our baseline is too low. Businesses are doing well but we need more to create more and better jobs. They will come out of making, trading and innovating. I can’t believe Sunderland wouldn’t be in the heart of that success. With government, it’s about quality of proposition. The better the proposition, the more they will listen, especially if they see the benefit for UK plc as well as for the region. The North East’s best chance is to articulate better what it wants. I’m optimistic.” Paul Callaghan: (former chairman, One North East) “Sunderland has done well in creating new jobs and new industries from the mid 1990s up to recession. We outstripped any other city in the North then. We’re not now attracting as much inward investment, partly due to how the Government sees inward investment, and partly to how we propose it. Sunderland attracts inward investment creating jobs. Yet our unemployment rate doesn’t fall. That’s about skills and creating the workforce to fill those jobs as they come in. The biggest thing holding my business back is a lack of skilled IT people in the region. I’m sure the thing worrying Nissan in their next stage of development, and would worry any inward investor about the region - such as Hitachi building a factory at Newton Aycliffe is the supply of a long-term skilled workforce. Also, very few coming to university choose to live in Sunderland. It’s not an attractive environment to them. If someone’s coming from London, Manchester or somewhere, and we manage to attract them to the North East, they often choose to live outside the city.


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In the pit village where I used to live, and where there’s no pit now, there’s a view that there’s nothing to do now and the only real economy is the black economy While we’ve done well to create jobs, people filling them are often from other parts of the North East. The challenge is to get our own people filling jobs and to make the city more attractive to live in – not just in housing but also in making it more vibrant, with more culture. People come all the way from China to study in Sunderland but we can’t get them to come from Surrey, however good our courses. The perception has to be challenged.” Sir Paul Nicholson: (who is involved with

the County Durham Community Foundation) “I think the biggest problem is getting our young people to work and understand what’s going on. An initiative called Learning, Working, Earning has been producing new apprenticeships very successfully. I think it should be looked at in Sunderland. Nissan has saved Sunderland. Yet when anyone abroad asks me where I come from I say ‘from near Sunderland’. ‘Where’s that,’ they say. ‘Near Newcastle.’ It’s essential to

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establish Sunderland as a centre of excellence. We should be developing initiatives on apprenticeships and education to find enough people to fill the needs. We must also address this difficulty of persuading people to locate to Sunderland.” Ram Banerjee: “I’ve been in Sunderland since 1962. I came as a house surgeon and retired as a consultant. Our infrastructure compared with that of the whole country – in education, transport and health especially – has gradually become totally within a little area of Sunderland District General Hospital to provide medical people. One third of the nursing staff is from abroad, recruited fully trained. We’ve a very good nursing school, a school of pharmacy and enormous resources devoted to the health service within this district, yet we can’t recruit nurses. Is our education system failing on this? Is medical education going towards regional centres with medical schools? (He suggested a postgraduate medical faculty in Sunderland). With changes in the Health Service over the last couple of years money has disappeared from health authorities to commissioning teams. They are not accountable. They spend as they want and have their own interests. Within the region we have lost our voice. All nominated appointments in the region go to one area rightly described as The Box – Gosforth.” Peter Walls: “Our politicians have been beached and the tide has gone out. We seem to represent the region through council. That’s no criticism of the council. A gathering of businesses recently concluded business needs to be coherent, not only through its representative vehicles but also fighting in its own right for things Ram’s talking about. If you could make anything in Sunderland it should include the power of joined-upness, helping a council to drive agendas.” David Howell: “North East BIC celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. In that time 600 businesses have been placed there. And 4,000 have been supported in starting up in Sunderland. There are a lot of great businesses out there. I’d like further emphasis on helping start-ups. We have vacancies and public funding. People don’t necessarily want business premises from day one now. So we’ve created an open-space area people can use >>

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when they want to work. They get access to business support and mentoring. We also work with young people. They should be exposed to enterprise at a very early age. Young people and young companies – that’s where we need to put resource when we can.” David Irwin: “A lot’s happening to encourage people to think innovation. But I also suspect the jury is still out on how big a difference they will make. I’ve read somewhere how Fab labs and Mac labs used in technology today may be in schools tomorrow. Why wait until tomorrow? “ Angela Lockwood: “Support for young people is very much around. People can be creative and set up their own businesses. Equipment is there, in schools and colleges, but the RSA is discovering people there don’t know how to use it.” [Ralph Saelzer pointed out that only 26% of businesses are offering apprenticeships]. Kate Welch: “We have conversations about early stage start-up. There’s something in the German model for middle size businesses. That may be where we could start to get innovation. Perhaps middle sized companies could be real drivers in a move forward.” Ralph Saelzer: “They offer many apprenticeships and that’s where things start to happen. They’re exporters. They enter new markets. They explore what’s possible. Also they’re family owned mainly, so it’s about long-term investment, not about getting a quick buck.” Paul Watson: “I think we do a bit of it through the BIC and entrepreneurs like Paul Callaghan. We’re not called by the Financial Times the business start-up capital of the country for nothing. ONS statistics show we’ve improved year on year on that. We also have incubators round the city and are building more, including at Washington. We’ve secondary places too. So we encourage that, work that and do that. But from a governmental point of view you may give them tax breaks and help with things like that. But in the end it comes about through a community’s volition. Sunderland has a heritage of monolithic industries. There would have been no entrepreneurial role models for young people then. That touches on all sorts

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There’s something in the German model for middle size businesses. That may be where we could start to get innovation. Perhaps middle sized companies could be real drivers in a move forward of things like travelling to work for 20 minutes to half an hour. We sank a pit shaft and built cottages round it. We’ve a long learning curve to get things changed here now. Meanwhile, it’s an hour and a half to Leeds. Why not commute there for work too? This North of England is very small. But how many do you see going from Sunderland to Newcastle to work every day? How many come from Durham to work at Nissan or Doxford Park? We need to work together to take advantage of opportunities that do exist.” Dave Smith: “We’re heavily critical about lack of mobility in the North East. But one reason Nissan’s productivity is so successful in the North East is that it has a very low staff turnover. That’s not because the individuals are greatly different. It’s because they wouldn’t dream of travelling to a job 40 or 50 miles away. So they stay put and adapt to their circumstances.” Melanie Laws: “Over 25 years the North East has become much more outward facing to gain our place in the global economy. We’re thinking very much of how we’re perceived in the UK. Having a gathering like this is a good

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instance of how Sunderland, for example, is facing outward, open to ideas and thinking of the future and the council’s role in this. It’s happening elsewhere in the region too. That conversation about how we should work together as communities is really important.” John Macintyre: “Nissan has a plant in Russia making roughly as many vehicles a year as Sunderland, which employs around 5,000 to do this. Russia employs about 126,000. The answer isn’t about technology. It’s about people’s skills. True, moving from one part of the Russian plant to another can involve a 30 minute bus ride. Otherwise they have the same robots, the same machinery. Nissan has a global culture. But ultimately it boils down to people, and many people working at Nissan here are from Sunderland. They’ve been incredibly successful in making that plant work. At the university we are massively international, both through foreign students who come here and in taking the university out to the rest of the world. While it’s true we can’t get students to come here from Surrey, neither can we get students from here to go to Surrey, although employers want students


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from Sunderland and have vacancies. And we need students to go out from here and come back. It’s a big challenge, a cultural legacy and we must do something about it.” Rob Worrall: “International students have all taken a massive step coming to Sunderland. The civic nature of local authority and university – I think we need to work on that. We pride ourselves on being a civic university but that civic side needs to be more than economic development. Besides international students at St Peter’s Campus, we have a few thousand in London. Each is very well connected and well off. They’re a different type of student and we haven’t found how to benefit from that. They’re Sunderland University graduates and we must find some way of saying they’re from the City of Sunderland in that sense.” John Lloyd: “Would Sunderland be better off with 127,000 working in Nissan? I think successes I’ve seen in Sunderland have been real. But I think the degree to which people wish to accept there are other places – like, dare I say, Newcastle University – which have things Sunderland hasn’t raises a question of how much Sunderland understands its something about working with paradox and population. University of Sunderland students complexity. Maybe it’s something about being from from Lithuania, Indonesia and Poland, flexible and adaptable, and looking to see I learned, did research and the attraction how we can work together to grow the skills of Sunderland was that it was the cheapest to be successful in the 21st Century. What place for a student. Is that a reputation that already works to the interest of the city and its Sunderland wants? I don’t know. Where does citizens? What will make us sustainable in this Sunderland want to be, not in 10 years but in complex, paradoxical and polar world? What 25 years’ time?” will help create co-operation and enterprise? Janoce19962 Portillo: “Maybe theCentre future Ad of making What16:03 are ourPage thoughts Software 175x60is 25/04/2014 1 about creating space

DEBATE

We’re heavily critical about lack of mobility in the North East. But one reason Nissan’s productivity is so successful in the North East is that it has a very low staff turnover where innovation and enterprise can thrive? We’ve heard about inward investment of people, people who stay, re-create and rebuild. Maybe it’s making joined-upness that might work for Sunderland and the region, so that we’re proud and decent and working together for the future of everyone. Tonight I hope we are starting to rebuild connections, make new ones, and innovate ones we already have, building towards success.” n

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


COMPANY PROFILE

SPRING 14

A new approach for investors and a new beginning for UBS Newcastle It is not just the recent changes in personnel that have brought about a feeling of a fresh start in the UBS Wealth Management office situated in St James’ Gate. Granted, some well-known faces have joined the office over the last fifteen months and an injection of new personnel in any environment does create an element of uplift to the office as a whole. However, the on-going development of the UBS investment offering is also beginning to create a unique position which is pushing UBS Wealth Management into a commanding position in the market place. Headed by a Global Chief Investment Officer (CIO) Alexander Friedman, who heads up a 900 strong team of Global analysts and strategists the UBS approach to investment has been refined and shaped over the past few years in order not only to meet regulatory obligations but also to satisfy the understandably demanding needs and expectations of investors. Vinay Bedi, recruited last year, after a twenty-five year career at Brewin Dolphin, explains it like this “Just prior to my starting in the industry there was an old, let’s call it stockbroking, style of investing people’s money. The client utilised a ‘broker’ who would make share and bond recommendations based on their intuition, experience and maybe a little bit of in-house research. Unfortunately, many investment houses have struggled to adapt that approach to today’s much more demanding environment “. Vinay goes on to explain further – “The old stockbroking investment style simply embraces too much risk for investors in modern markets. The principal risk involves the investor ending up with a poor ‘broker’ who simply isn’t very good at deciding on the right investment opportunities or analysing markets. Even if you get lucky and find a good decision maker, he can still have a bad day, or a bad week, or indeed a bad few years. There is no accounting for this, there is no come back and there is no control. This is before we have even started considering the client’s own appetite for

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Vinay Bedi, Executive Director, UBS Wealth Management

investment risk or their needs and objectives.” So how has UBS managed to overcome these issues and what is the role of Vinay and his new colleagues in today’s rapidly evolving investment World? “We are actually focussing even more on looking after the client and their investments. The big difference that UBS has brought in is the clear opportunity to take advantage of the huge global research and analytical resource that Alex Friedman and his team co-ordinates. Our CIO works with his team to interpret developments across markets and economies globally, from this he is

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able to form clear positions on markets and asset classes that make up the UBS House View. As your client advisor I will use the UBS House View to structure your portfolio. The fact that I don’t have to make a decision between specific sectors or indeed individual stocks enables me to get the strategy and the overall profile right for my client. It allows me to be sure that what we are doing for the client is fully in line with what they want and what suits their needs. Not only can the client sleep at night knowing that their investments are being managed by the top professionals in the industry, they also know that they are


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COMPANY PROFILE

A fresh start at UBS - Newcastle

I like to think we run a highly efficient office. Our belief is that our investment offering is of the highest quality and service levels must be also. Standards are high, accuracy is paramount and nobody is under any illusion that the overall focus of the UBS offering is anything other than the client actually being managed daily. That is because the decision making process really is a team process with significant strands of individuals involved. It certainly doesn’t rely on any one person to consistently make the right decisions.” Vinay goes on to explain how his experiences in equity markets helped drive his belief that this UBS process and philosophy is the way forward for the new regulated investment environment. “As an analyst some years ago I occasionally came up with some good recommendations, indeed once or twice I may have made a few great recommendations. However, I am very aware that there were analysts who were better than me, yet who those analysts were changed frequently. In this industry no one person can be the best at managing money for any significant period of time.” As Vinay stresses, there still has to be a good understanding of how portfolios are being constructed and the fundamentals behind each investment decision. “Not only is the client having their money managed by teams of serious investment professionals, they also have another pair of eyes to assess those investments on their behalf. My colleagues and I pay particularly close

attention to the daily decisions that are being made in client’s portfolios and these are monitored as a matter of course. We discuss all investment decisions on a regular basis and those decisions have to be fully explained to us. The great thing about this overall process is that it doesn’t just have to apply to discretionary accounts and UBS is very open to clients with advisory and even execution only accounts, something many of our competitors are now shunning.” Over the last fifteen months, Aidan Dunstan, Head of the Newcastle office and Jonathan Brown (Managing Director and Head of the Regional UK business) also based in Newcastle, have been joined by Andrew Elliot, David Scordino and as we have heard, by Vinay Bedi. Richard Moller changed roles to Client Adviser status and these individuals all bring considerable experience and a tremendously varied knowledge to the UBS offering. Andrew has spent over twenty years in the banking industry, most recently with Barclays, where has become a well-known regional expert in the management of charitable funds, in particular over the last 15 years. This fits in very well with Vinay’s

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twenty-seven year experience in the industry where he also has built up a very strong expertise in the charity sector alongside his well-known associations in the industrial sectors of the North East. Both Andrew and Vinay will be putting their experience to good use in the charity field as well as with pensions and high net worth individuals in the North East. David Scordino also came from retail banking, having previously been with HSBC, and David is applying his skills and expertise principally in the private client arena. Vinay and David are also very strong advocates of the North East region as one whole and will be focusing just as avidly on the Durham and Teesside areas as much as the usual Newcastle hot spots. Aidan Dunstan is keen to stress that what has emerged over the past few years at UBS Wealth Management is focused strongly around quality rather than quantity. “I like to think we run a highly efficient office. Our belief is that our investment offering is of the highest quality and service levels must be also. Standards are high, accuracy is paramount and nobody is under any illusion that the overall focus of the UBS offering is anything other than the client.” Jonathan Brown, Head of the regional UK business, reflects on what has been an important period of change at UBS Newcastle –”The opportunity to strengthen our team of investment professionals has given a huge uplift to the office and fitted in very well with our extremely high quality investment offering. I cannot stress enough how delighted I am to have been able to make such powerful additions to the office and we have no doubts that we can now offer all our wide range of clients and friends in the region the complete UBS experience and expertise.” UBS’s focus is on quality – quality of its personnel, its investment offering, its advice to clients, its relationships. Recent changes have simply raised the quality levels even higher.

Vinay Bedi, Executive Director, UBS Wealth Management. Tel: 0191-211-1015. Email: vinay.bedi@ubs.com. Web: www.ubs.com/uk

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

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New industrial park leads resurgence in commercial development, kitchenware chain’s latest recipe for success, airport’s improvement plans take off, three hotels get set to open in city centre >> Enterprise Street

Signalling success: The rise of a housing group headquarters at Northshore, Stockton, signals development picking up on Teesside

>> Sheds and offices back in favour Development is picking up fast commercially in the North East. Highbridge Properties, owner of Cobalt Business Park – the UK’s largest office park – has set out plans for a second North Tyneside site. This will become Indigo Industrial Park, 82 acres with space for more than 1,000 jobs. Director Adrian Hill says properties of up to 750,000sq ft – unprecedented in the region – will feature. The site on Sandy Lane, near the A1 at Gosforth Park racecourse, is a collaboration with North Tyneside Council. Knight Frank and Storeys Edward Simmonds will be the agents. Over 12,000 people work at Cobalt, where security giant G4S is one of three new lettings, having taken 10,000sq ft additional to an existing 30,000sq ft. Management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm Accenture has taken 10,000sq ft additional to 20,000sq ft already occupied. And IBM has acquired 5,000sq ft. Aidan Baker at BNP Real Estate is in talks with other major businesses. Also, on North Tyneside, Naylors Chartered Surveyors have instructions to let a new speculative industrial development, Elm Park. Hellens Group is the developer with a loan from the North East LEP and an ERDF grant. The £2.6m project will provide 17 units (1,500sq ft to 5,500sq ft) at West Chirton Industrial Estate. Interest is expected from offshore and manufacturing sectors particularly. Units should be ready by May and GVA is joint agent. In Newcastle and Gateshead central areas, 34,000sq ft of much needed grade A office space is being created. The spectacular Tesco-led Trinity Gate development beside Gateshead Metro station will shortly introduce 19,000sq ft over four floors. Agent Knight Frank says asking rent will be £16psf. At Newcastle’s new Stephenson Quarter that Silverlink is developing behind the Central Station, 35,000sq ft is being created in Rocket House, currently being built. On Teesside, Muse Developments is building headquarters for a new housing group on the 57 acre (£100m) Northshore scheme at Stockton. This is being developed in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency to a design by Ryder Architecture. The 43,000sq ft building, beside the Infinity Bridge, will take up to 436 staff for Thirteen Group, a merger of the Fabrick Housing and Vela Groups, which together own 32,000 homes between North Tyneside and York. Simon Dew at Muse Developments says: “This development follows the delivery of the award winning Vivo residential scheme and is ahead of a new art Innovation Centre, due to be started. “With phase two building of residential Vivo continuing, and 80,000sq ft of commercial buildings due on site this year, Northshore is one of the region’s most active regeneration schemes.” Sanderson Weatherall and GVA are joint letting agents for the commercial element. A search is also on for a new developer to deliver a £200m Middlehaven Dock regeneration for Middlesbrough.

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Start-ups proliferating on Cheapside in Spennymoor are prompting locals to call it Enterprise Street instead. Latest opening is a tearoom, owner Tracy Parnaby’s entry into full-time self-employment. Formerly a manager with Durham County Council, Parnaby of Newton Aycliffe got a loan from Transmit Start-Ups, which has also helped Kan Move, another initial venture, this time by Denise Banner of Bishop Auckland. She has over 20 years’ experience as an agent, valuer and mortgage adviser with national estate agencies. Other recent openings include a florists, a spectacle and fancy goods shop and an Italian restaurant.

>> Beacon shines bright A £6.5m Newcastle enterprise centre is almost fully occupied two years after opening. The Beacon on Westgate Road is an eco-friendly centre, funded by Centre West and Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) charities.

>> Moving across Expanding retailer Lakeland has pulled out of Newcastle’s Eldon Garden and signed a 10 year lease for a 4,400sq ft store in adjoining Intu Eldon Square, whose annual footfall now touches 36m a year. Eldon Square is currently getting a £22m mall refurbishment and has planning permission for a new dining quarter. Lakeland’s move was advised by Lunson Mitchenall and Sanderson Weatherall. Lakeland was advised by Harmer Ray Hoffbrand. Tenants still in Eldon Garden are complaining that traffic arrangements outside are harming footfall. Newcastle City Council, which has a share in the centre owned by Peer Group, says there will be a review of road layouts soon. Meanwhile parking charges have been reduced.


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>> Golden expansion Golden anniversary changes at Ramside Hall Hotel and Golf Club see the hotel situated between Sunderland and Durham getting 47 more bedrooms and a 32,500sq ft spa. Group managing director John Adamson says this second phase of a £15m redevelopment will follow the opening of a new 18 hole golf course this summer. Christopher Padgett, of County Durham architects Padgett White, and builder Walter Thompson are working to a May 2015 opening.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

Cumbria. It now runs from four sites, including Dalton Park near Seaham and Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. The website and online shop will be re-launched in mid-May.

>> Bookies’ non runners The boom in betting shops may be over in the North East – the region which had most readily accepted them, granting most permissions at 11 out of 11 applications. London was lowest, allowing just 40% of

>> £14m boost for airport

>> Collectables relaunch Collectables gift and kitchenware chain is back in business after six months in administration. The family-owned firm has re-opened a kitchen and dining store in the Metrocentre, and will open a flagship above M&S there also. The business began from a barrow in the Metrocentre during the 1980s. About 40 jobs have been created, roughly half going to staff who were among 175 made redundant by the administrators. Collectables faltered when its property values, including that of Collectables Retail Park in Stockton, fell. Managing director David Lewis says: “We never missed a payment but unfortunately breached our loan-to-value covenant. We felt there was never need to put the retail divisions into administration as they were healthy. The wholesale side was strong too. Pre-administration, Collectables had 14 stores across the North East, North Yorkshire and

applications, data from Estates Gazette shows. Altogether councils approved nearly 80% of applications (by square feet) for such a change of use in units through the planning system. Now the Government is reportedly acceding to a request by the Local Government Association for stronger powers to veto “betting blight”. The shops were until now considered the providers of financial and professional services under the rules.

Airport chief Dave Laws pulls a pint at the newly opened Flying Hippo

The departure lounge of Newcastle International Airport is getting a £14m-plus improvement over a year. New shops, restaurants, cafes and bar areas will feature in a better layout. Phase one has been completed with The Beer House, Flying Hippo, and Aspire Lounge now open. Phase two begins this autumn, bringing a new walk-through duty free store and further food and beverage outlets. Completion is expected by May 2015. The improvements are expected to improve the appeal of the airport, which could meet increased competition from Edinburgh and Glasgow if Scotland votes for independence in September and the Scottish government fulfils an intention to abolish passenger tax applied generally at present. Brussels Airlines now connects Newcastle with Brussels twice daily. EasyJet has introduced twice daily Gatwick flights. And a new Saturday service to Verona has been introduced by Thomson and Italian owned Livingston Air.

Regional coverage from offices in Durham and Sunderland • Chartered Surveyors • Commercial Property Consultants Durham Office

www.lofthouseandpartners.co.uk SERVING THE NORTH EAST PROPERTY SECTOR SINCE 1985

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0191 375 5777 Sunderland Office

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

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>> Medicine advances

London calls: David Robinson (left, founder and managing director of The Original Sofa Company) and David Thomas (investment executive at NEL Fund Managers)

>> Sky’s the limit

>> Sofa so good, then The Original Sofa Company, which handmakes Chesterfield furniture at Gateshead, is opening a showroom off Sloane Square in London. Through NEL Fund Managers it has secured a £100,000 investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund. Further capital is coming through The Funding Circle, HSBC and the firm’s management. The business has been operating for 13 years.

>> Three more hotels for city Three big new hotels will be opening in central Newcastle. The eight storey Baron House (once the Douglas Hotel) is being converted to a 160 bedroom Hampton by Hilton opposite the Central Station. Metnor Construction expects to complete work by May next year. Behind the station, in the new Stephenson Quarter, the 251 bedroom four star Crowne Plaza hotel continues to go up. And contractor Interserve is starting a £17m transformation of the former Co-operative department store on Newgate Street. The financially troubled Cooperative Group has sold the imposing Grade II listed art deco building to the National Grid UK Pension Scheme for £9m. Remodelling nearly 170,000sq ft over six floors will give a 184 bed Premier Inn on upper levels, retail and leisure on the ground floor, and a basement gym. The sale includes an adjoining NCP car park and Landmark Chinese restaurant in Stowell St. The building has featured on the city skyline since its opening in the 1930’s. Total value of the project, its completion due by December 2015, is £30m-plus. Agents Sanderson Weatherall represented the vendor.

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Work is starting on a £38m hub complex where biotech companies can develop advanced medicines at Central Park, Darlington. Interserve, which has worked on Teesside for nearly 60 years, is designing and building the government-backed National Biologics Manufacturing Centre. It will have up to four floors, giving up to 40,000sq ft with laboratories and clean rooms where companies of all sizes can develop, prove, prototype and scale up the next generation of biologic products, processes and technology.

Passers-by now wonder whether the building’s giant clocks, which mysteriously disappeared after the building was put on the market, will just as mysteriously reappear. Almost 800 new hotel rooms are expected in the city by 2016.

>> Restaurant in view A restaurant will shortly overlook the 350 berth marina at Royal Quays, North Shields, where coal used to be shipped from Albert Edward Dock. The architect, Brightblue Studio, works from the transformed fish quay nearby.

>> 40 years and thriving The Galleries shopping centre at Washington is celebrating its 40th year with new stores and tenancy expansions. M&G Real Estate reports Select fashions having moved to space 58% larger on a 10 year lease. EE, formerly Orange, in a restructured lease, is reinforcing its commitment. Independent retailers Bags 4U and Doxford Carpets have also moved in. The future of the town centre post office has also been secured through a relocation within. The Health Shop, a longtime occupier, has entered a larger unit. And Asda has invested more there.

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Live Theatre Newcastle is behind a £10m project to infill part of the historic Quayside with a four-storey Liveworks building that will include a pocket park with stage for outdoor films and shows, and 1,500sq m of office space overlooking the Tyne. The present theatre in nearby Broad Chare will be retained. Completion is expected in June next year.

>> Hotel ups its appeal A £450,000 investment in golf and spa facilities features in phase two of an upgrade at Matfen Hall hotel near the Roman Wall in Northumberland. Owners Sir Hugh and Lady Blackett have already spent around £150,000 refurbishing the 53 bedroom hotel’s fitness suite. A further £150,000 is going into new thermal facilities, with £160,000 more spent on upgrading the golf course’s maintenance equipment.

>> Workspace at Blyth Contractor Bowmer & Kirkland is erecting Blyth Workspace at Commissioners Quay, to build on Blyth Estuary’s reputation as a centre of excellence in renewable energy and research. Northumberland development company Arch is leading the delivery of mixed use development there over three years. Completion is expected by next February.


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MANAGED OFFICE SPACE

SPRING 14

Fledgling companies with modest budgets can now enjoy the benefits of a professional working environment thanks to the widespread availability of serviced offices and managed business space >> Space and support, a twin boon As office business gets brisker, there’s no shortage of support for those in need of painless expansion or initial entry to the market place. The widespread availability of serviced offices and managed business space will help meet needs of incoming businesses, start-ups and sudden growth situations as the North East economy continues to pick up. Businesses have already benefited from access to serviced offices and managed business space across the region for more than two decades. From the start, the space was created on easy in/easy out flexible lease terms - advantageous especially to new and expanding smaller firms. They could grow cost effectively through shared facilities and on-site management. A big plus too is that it enables young businesses with modest initial business plans to enjoy a working environment that might be beyond their means if they looked for their own long-term premises straight away. In Newcastle, lots of space for the purpose has been carved from existing vacant buildings such as Churchill House, or by subdivision of larger vacant floor plates including Regus in Rotterdam House and the City Executive Centres within Cuthbert House, Newcastle. The concept has also moved “out of town” to major office parks, as at Regus on Doxford Park, Sunderland and Team Valley, as well as the CBX – Cobalt Business Exchange at Cobalt Park, North Tyneside. CBX, offering fully fitted office suites, has been developed within the former Siemens/Atmel building beside the A19. CBX, a 120,000sq ft independent serviced facility, and the CBX Central offices have recently attracted HP and IBM. Tenants have their own coffee shop, restaurant, conference centre and free parking. It is 96% occupied, has an 88% retention rate, and an above average agreement length of around 27 months. More than 700 people currently work there, in anything from sole trading offices to

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Benefits: Serviced offices and managed business space may offer more attractive premises and facilities than a firm might normally be able to afford organisations the size of Duco and Capita. At Gateway West Business Centre, Newburn Riverside, Business Space Solutions have extended their business centre to some 15,000sq ft. This was launched in February 2012 and strong interest is ongoing, the operator says. The offer available in terms of serviced offices and business centres, attainable on flexible terms, can not only play a big part in the region’s economic revival but also speedily meet changes of space needs across the region at a time when staffing levels may be climbing again. GVA believe the implementing of flexible working in offices, and remote working, will accelerate over the next decade. Organisations will increasingly adopt a broad mix of out of office working, serviced offices and traditional leased/owned property. The issue of legacy

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property will be a barrier. But flexibility of occupation (shorter leases, serviced offices, managed offices, outsourcing, office-hotels etc) will become more prevalent. One company has expanded three times in two years at The Grainger Suite. Peak Indicators, a business intelligence consultancy run by Matt Harte, moved from 138sq ft and is now in 1,905sq ft. The word is that the firm will probably take more space again in due course. Victoria Hunt, business manager at Cobalt Business Exchange, says: “The serviced office industry has changed dramatically in the last few years. We are seeing a range of startup consultancies and businesses looking for greater flexibility towards their office needs.” The Grainger Suite, one of the longest-serving managed office facilities in the North East, was opened in the Regent Centre at Gosforth more than 30 years ago by North British Properties


SPRING 14

MANAGED OFFICE SPACE

Grainger Suite is ‘comfortable, affordable and flexible, and has excellent amenities’

(NBP). It was then retained when Sun Life Properties acquired NBP. At one time, it was little over 3,000sq ft. Today it is rapidly heading towards the 20,000 sq ft mark. Its recently started fourth phase is 85% occupied and the first three phases are reaching 99% occupancy. Christine Murdock, the Suite’s marketing manager, says: “At the time The Grainger Suite was formed in Dobson House, the concept of managed office space was entirely new. Today, especially in light of businesses being supercautious about controlling overheads, the managed concept is increasingly in demand. For example, we had developed phase two about two years ago, have raced through phase three and now the fourth phase, started late last year is filling rapidly.” She says it has much to do with controlling costs as it has with flexibility. “The traditional lease is more tenant-friendly than in days of

the 25 year FRI lease with its upwards only rent reviews every five years. “But despite terms being more relaxed, companies either starting up, contract driven or dedicated to managing a business with pretty much a watertight control on property costs, we find a broad range of businesses

want short-term commitment, flexibility to allow for growth, access without the penalty of city centre traffic and parking costs, a known ‘address’ and access to public transport,” she adds. Director Michael Jurowski chose The Grainger Suite for the Lorna Michaels recruitment agency in 2010. “It’s a convenient location – comfortable, affordable and flexible, he explains. “There is free car parking, dedicated meeting rooms, excellent amenities such as the High Street and that ‘community of businesses’ here.” Matt Harte says: “Peak Indicators started at The Grainger Suite with four people, now has a dozen employed in Newcastle and 60 across the UK and Ireland, all in just four years. The fact that we have made three moves within The Grainger Suite says much about the concept of managed space.” n

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


PUT YOUR TRUST IN YOUR PEOPLE BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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SPRING 14

ENTREPRENEUR

Twenty years into a business that’s growing beyond its North East home ground, Sally Waterston is proud of an organisation run like few others because of a bond built up with the workforce. She tells Brian Nicholls about it Twenty years ago, on April Fool’s Day, Sally Waterston launched the future Waterstons. No Fool she, however. From an early venture in a basement office of the Durham City home where she and husband Mike live, Waterstons business and IT consultancy has reached a point of 8% growth in total sales over the past two years – and 35% in consultancy sales. “Gosh though, I don’t really remember a definitive first day. I’d worked before as a sole trader then alongside someone else for some years sort of part-time. So the whole thing seems to merge. Isn’t that weird?” She does remember the first person taken on, and the first big break with a customer – “a big company in South Shields. We’d done small companies, but this was really big. We then worked with that company for nearly 20 years.” Waterstons – nothing to do with bookseller Waterstones whose ‘e’ towards the end tends to get overlooked – operates now from two impressive buildings on the equally impressive Belmont Business Park in Durham City. It also operates from London – with further key centres expected. Remarkably, it’s a service with no sales force, an employer that doesn’t clockwatch its employees, a consultancy that doesn’t foist expensive new equipment onto a client at first opportunity. And its performance standards win it clients such as Grainger plc, Balfour Beatty, Quorn, Newcastle International Airport, Port of Dover, Durham and Sunderland Universities, distillers William Grant & Sons, and Gateway, Vopak the world’s largest independent tank storage provider, and Home Group. Some 73% of its work is for the private sector now, with the 27% public mainly academic. “Our main rationale,” Sally says, “is

performance through technology. We always try to improve our customers’ performance that way, reflecting that on the bottom line. You shouldn’t do things that aren’t going to pay for themselves. Recession has been an opportunity for people to look at that.” Of the £6m turnover currently, Sally observes: “We’ve been lucky. Our customers are very loyal and we keep them. We’ve also been referred to new companies through the recession as people realised the need to be leaner and more efficient. We’ll always look at an existing IT system and try to exploit it, rather than saying ‘go and buy something new and shiny’ for the sake of it.” As she explained in a lecture to students of Queen Mary’s College, London, a day earlier, businesses should lead technology, not the other way round. “Exploit what you have first.” Her overview drew so many questions she nearly missed her train home. “I had a fixed ticket for the train and feared I’d have to buy another ticket. I had to leg it like mad. No chance to visit our London office,” she laughs. About 80% of Waterstons’ work comes from referrals and 20% from tenders. “We’ve never really cold called,” she says. “We’re not going to get work from people who don’t know us. So we must have people who do a really good job, and we do. We recruit only the best.” They tried having sales people. Sometimes

it worked, sometimes not. They do have a marketing manager. Her priority is to manage the company’s good name. “Our reputation is everything,” Sally says. “We don’t have flexitime either, because we don’t measure people in time. We trust people who work for us. They can work from home if they wish. We don’t measure bums on seats. We do measure how much people bring in. When and where they do it is up to them. Hours worked are irrelevant.” Staff manage their holiday rota too, ensuring a colleague fully acquainted with their customers can cover. “We have trouble getting people to take holidays at all,” she says. Can this work for other firms? Where shifts apply it would be difficult, she suggests. “But too many firms measure ‘presenteeism’. What people get done is more important than how and where they do it.” Waterstons people know if there’s a family illness, they can go home and the job will be covered. Similarly some work hours that fit in with children’s schooling. “Why are other companies scared to do this? I think because they don’t trust their employees. But we get tremendous loyalty. “I’ve been in situations as a junior programmer when I felt unsupported, also when I was a working mother with a husband working away a lot. With your own business, you can >>

They can work from home if they wish. We don’t measure bums on seats... too many firms measure ‘presenteeism’. What people get done is more important than how and where they do it

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


ENTREPRENEUR do what you know is right, work to your own values and not compromise your beliefs.” Occasionally someone has proved slightly less trustworthy. What to do? “Deal with that person. Don’t change the system. If someone pushes the envelope a bit, that will normally be addressed by their peers who are covering for them.” Careful recruitment, Waterstons finds, usually pre-empts any such problem. She says: “I have seen some of our customers occasionally respond to such a problem with draconian measures for everyone. Why? Address that one person and don’t ruin life for everybody else.” Desperation drove Sally’s career initially. She recalls: “My first IT job after university was as a trainee programmer at Southern Gas in Southampton. Mike and I had just got married – we’d met at university – and Mike was doing a PhD. We’d no money. I was so lucky though. I got work as a temp for £10 a week, answering lots of letters of complaint. The bloke running this huge office of about 400 people came and said: ‘I’ve noticed you can write letters.’ ”I replied: ‘I have an English degree so it would be a bit embarrassing if I couldn’t.’ “He asked what I was doing. I told him I was desperate for a job. I had an interview and was asked if I’d ever thought of computer programming. This was 1971. I said: ‘You know, it always sounds interesting!’ In fact, I knew nothing about it but was still desperate for a job. They gave me an aptitude test. “Next day they offered me one of two jobs. I took the one with more money, I’m ashamed to say, but adored it. Probably one of the happiest times in my life was when I was a programmer. I haven’t done it for years now. So, thank you, man at the gas board. He saw something I didn’t know I had.” After a career gap and some moving around she wanted to work again. “In Darlington I contacted Coats Patons looking for part-time work. They were so brilliant. They let me work from home. I said I should start at the bottom again as a programmer because I’d lost my confidence although I’d been an operations manager. They said fine. After six months they summoned me and said: ‘Now you can do some proper work.’ She did part-time consultancy from 1986,

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

SPRING 14

We’ll always look at an existing IT system and try to exploit it, rather than saying ‘go and buy something new and shiny’ for the sake of it

then got a two-strong operation going for six years until Mike joined the business in 1994. Waterstons was getting known. “Someone advised me to go with that name. I regretted it after,” Sally admits. “We get mixed up with the bookseller. But it’s too late.” When Mike joined a partnership was formed then, in 2000, a limited company with Mike managing director. There are now six directors including Aijab Singh who has been with the company almost 20 years – “a brilliant

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projects director” who’d worked with Sally at Coats Patons. The business relocated first to premises over a Toyota garage. Now one building at Belmont houses the bespoke developers, plus Aijab and Sally. The other building houses the business technology consultants, also specialists in infrastructure projects and managed services. Here Mike works too. Smilingly, Sally explains: “Mike and I work in separate buildings to maintain our sanity. >>


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ENTREPRENEUR Being in separate buildings works quite well. We do have a couple who work opposite each other and I think that’s saintly. I’m just not that saintly!” Mike heads the education arm, Sally manufacturing customers, many in the North East. She also deals with HR and professional development. Staff appreciate how she sends everyone a handwritten birthday card, knows their children and partner’s names. They in turn respond cheerfully to her frequent cri de coeur of “has anyone seen my specs?” Most of the staff are graduates, many from the five North East universities and York, and a round of recruitment is currently under way. “We’re thinking to take on apprentices too,” Sally discloses. “They’ll have to be bright. We look for three things – attitude, brains and knowledge. “If people have the first two qualities we can teach them the last. We consider all sorts of disciplines, not just computer science graduates. We’ve nuclear physicists, chemists and people with degrees in politics. It’s brains we’re looking for. If I could become a programmer with an English degree and no maths A level I reckon anyone can do anything.” Three years ago the London office opened. Up to 15 staff at a time may be there as work is increasingly won in the South East. A tiny office near Kings Cross soon gave way to one larger at Euston, and further expansion is currently contemplated. Manchester and Aberdeen also provide good business and 44% of all revenue now comes from outside the North East. Sally says: “Because we’re really good chief execs often take us somewhere else when they move on, as do financial directors. So we keep the original customer and gain a new one. We never let anyone down… never walk away and leave a customer in trouble. If a customer has a problem even in the middle of the night, and even without a support contract, our people will go and help. Some customers have 24 hour support – Christmas Day and all.” There’s something very steady about the Waterstons. Having lived in the same house for 30 years, their main concession to change may have been their decision to do away with that basement office. It’s a home cinema now. ■

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

SPRING 14

Self-belief instilled during formative years Sally Waterston thinks there’s too much talk of technology being unfeminine. “I believe women can do anything except possibly coalmining,” she says. “I put that down to the school I went to.” It was an “ordinary” girls’ grammar school near her birthplace Ruislip. She recalls: “We all thought the headmistress scary. Yet from my year a friend I’m still in touch with became a judge, another was the first woman to get an MA in industrial design at the Royal College of Art. Another got a first in electronic engineering at Sussex. “We were brought up to believe we could do anything. I think my headmistress was an early feminist.” Did she feel any resentment, then, when husband Mike entered the business she’d pioneered and became managing director? “If it had just been me the company would be much smaller now – perhaps four instead of 86 of us. He’s a visionary - probably braver than I. So I think we’re quite a good combination.” Mike, who’s from Morpeth, initially fancied the aircraft industry with his degree in aeronautical engineering, an MSc in high temperature gas physics and dynamics, and a PhD. He was applying to plane makers when he was unexpectedly offered a place with the Teesside chemical pigments firm Tioxide. In 19 years there he led research and development and IT, and became managing director. Some time after ICI bought it he decided to move on. It was agreed he’d join Sally, adding to the technology element. He also introduced some of Tioxide’s enlightened employment practices. The Waterstons have two sons: Alex, 33, and Edward, 30. Cycling mad Edward is marketing manager in Australia for Canandel Cycles. Alex has just started at Waterstons, experienced as a creative strategist in computer games. What next, then, for Waterstons? “We want to continue growing,” Sally affirms. “We’d like to replicate the London office perhaps in Aberdeen and Manchester.” And eventually? “We’d like people within the company to carry it on when we retire. We’ve no plans to sell outside the business. That would be unfair on the people here, and we think it would lose ethos,” she suggests. PS – Sally did like maths but in her “draconian” school you could only study maths at A level if you were “one of the chosen few.”

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Project part funded by the North East Investment Fund


INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

SUPPORTING FALCONS IS A SNIP

Semore Kurdi and Dean Richards, the big two at Newcastle Falcons, tell Brian Nicholls why, despite this tough season ending, there’ll be good professional rugby in the North East next season His polite but firm decline to be photographed had more to it than the shyness he professes. Semore Kurdi, owner of Newcastle Falcons rugby club, also had growing concerns (pardon the pun) about his length of hair. He’d wagered with his son not to get it cut until Falcons know they’ve avoided relegation from the Premiership. That could mean no scissors until perhaps 10 May – or even after – and Semore says coach Dean Richards has to get him out of this one, which Dean insists he will. No picture posing, then, but much verbal enthusiasm, at least, in this rare media interview as Semore explains why, after months of speculation about the club’s future in September 2010, the local businessman bought a 40% stake in

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

the club, easing its financial difficulties. A tiny framed and undated group photograph, easily overlooked beside the door leading into his majlis of a personal box at the Kingston Park ground, shows a young rugby XV of Newcastle Preparatory School, with a sublimely happy looking Semore in the middle. He took to the game at 10. He recalls: “I wasn’t very good at catching or running but I could shove really hard. So I found my niche. I started as a prop in the second row then became a flanker. I pushed and shoved and grunted. I don’t think I even touched the ball to be honest. “But I owe rugby a lot. It gave me a sense of belonging. It gave me confidence and social acceptance. On a pitch you’re part of a team.

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re best or worst in the team. I hope that’s not changing. I don’t think it is. Since then I’ve always felt a strong debt to the game. I found a place that helped build foundations of confidence. “The ethics of hard work and helping each other are all in rugby, the idea that you’re all in it together. You shouldn’t be...but you’re all miserable together after if you lose.” Rugby, he defines as all inclusive. “Rugby’s family is bigger than any one club’s attitude to the game,” he goes on. “It’s one of the few sports I know where home and away fans will sit together before the game, banter afterwards and have a drink together. Winning’s always nice. But the spirit of the sport is bigger. We’ve saved that in rugby. >>


Things haven’t quite fallen into place, Dean Richards says.“But our fans see the bigger picture. The club will be totally different next year, as indeed the year after.”

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BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

I think it’s why I’m in this game.” Dean joins the majlis before a scheduled training session and an aura of synergy and empathy is immediately evident over the two as he takes a seat. Semore laughingly points out again that Dean is the one to get him out of his tonsorial dilemma. Dean remains comfortable about it. So what, for Semore, is the club’s biggest business challenge otherwise? “The weather’s never very helpful,” he regrets. “Walk-up match attendances have massive swings depending on the weather. That’s not something you can plan – to a day you can, but that’s too late. You’ll already have ordered your catering, and your bar staff and you’re geared up for X thousands, then numbers suddenly fall short because it decides to blow up a gale and torrential rain. There’s nothing you can do about that. But we do try to build more regular attendance.” So is the priority a roof over the North terracing, as the club website hints? Semore gazes through the panoramic window and down to the rich green turf looking between games like billiard baize, but on post-match rainy days divoted as if home to a moles’ convention. “Right now,” says Semore, “getting the

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

There’s quality in the type of player coming from this area. It’s a case of harnessing it, and ensuring the players don’t disappear elsewhere pitch into better condition is the priority. The torrential rain hasn’t helped. But people come here to watch elite rugby. The pitch has hindered the quality. The club has since announced a synthetic pitch will be laid for next season. Dean stresses though: “This stadium is a fantastic venue and I want it to be a venue ever and a day. It’s in a great location.” Given his passion for the game, was Semore proud that day he secured his major stake in Falcons? “Getting involved in professional sport generally is almost like a childhood fantasy,” he replies. “Everyone I know wants to be involved in professional sport. It’s a great privilege and a big social responsibility.” And he adds, laughing, when you’re not good enough to play it’s good to be in management. Does it remain a pleasure – win, draw or lose? “Three minutes after a defeat the answer

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may be slightly different. But in general, yes. Pleasure describes it. Week in, week out you can come here and see some of the world’s best players in action. They may play for the opposition – but they’re still here. “When I first got involved in the club I asked a few people what needed improving. I thought it would be something about the rugby. But everyone gave me the same answer. ‘Hog roast.’ So first thing we did was bring back a hog roast. Then I realised the rugby needed improving too. We have the maestro here (gesturing to Dean) who knows more about the rugby than I’ll ever know.” How, then, does the maestro inspire the determination and grit increasingly evident in the side? Dean affirms: “I think the spirit within the side’s growing through the players we’ve got and our characters in the team. >>


INTERVIEW

SPRING 14

I pushed and shoved and grunted. I don’t think I even touched the ball to be honest. But I owe rugby a lot. It gave me a sense of belonging “During recent months we’ve missed points we should have had. The boys understand where we need to work to make it happen. We don’t always get the rub of the green, and the North-South divide has a bearing with referees sometimes, it seems – I don’t know whether it’s because we’re thought not fashionable or whether it’s just the weather. Things haven’t quite fallen into place. But our fans see the bigger picture. The club will be totally different next year, as indeed the year after. Everyone has bought into that.” Representing the smallest region in the country, and having Premiership football clubs on the doorstep means Kingston Park attendances may be several times smaller than those of clubs in larger populated areas. That means less gate money to help buy new players and perhaps keep existing stars. It’s all a far call though from 1877, when some old boys from Durham School met at a house in Gosforth thinking it would be fun to form a new rugby club in the area. Dean admits: “I don’t think we’ve as many chimney pots as the Southern clubs. But people in our area are predominantly of a nature to fall into rugby far more easily. It’s a rough and tumble sport and there’s this saying about ‘soft Southerners’. “Look through the Premiership. You could easily select a Premiership winning side formed from players of this area. There’s quality in the type of player coming from this area. It’s a case of harnessing it, and ensuring the players don’t disappear elsewhere. That starts with the academy here, and I’m very pleased with the players and the characters coming through. They’ll add to the style and nature of the group as a whole.” Semore remarks how, for two years now, the number of players up from the academy squad has been much greater, and Dean estimates that in one game recently about 17 players had

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

academy associations, including some who’d moved away and since come back. The vision for achieving business and playing success appears with the colours Falcons have nailed to the mast on their website. They aim to qualify for the Premiership playoffs annually from 2015/16 and for final stages of cup rugby from 2016/17 – with a majority of the squad coming through the club academy. “To be sustainable you must go down that route,” Dean declares. “You don’t want a quick fix. Grow from within and your roots become a little stronger.” Competition won’t get easier, even in the lower Championship table that Falcons soared out of after a season’s relegation. London

Welsh are working on a venue plan to help ensure their Premiership presence will be much longer in any future promotion. Bristol are investing heavily in players. And a new allYorkshire side looks likely. The championship could indeed be very difficult to get out of next time. And up in the Premiership there’s a swathe of spending power from London to the South West, which attracts quality players. But he and Semore would welcome seeing an all Yorkshire team in the Premiership since local derbies can attract bigger attendances and boost the North’s standing. Dean says the Premiership’s geographical lean towards the South (apart from Sale) would be addressed, and with that a tendency for Falcons to be overlooked. How can businesses, apart from sponsoring as BQ does, support the Falcons? Semore says: “There’s good opportunity for more company days out here, whether to watch a game, hold meetings or hold training courses. I’d like to think most companies would have a staff day out, and I’d like it to be here.” n

Sport? He knows no end of it Hardly any sport, it seems, wouldn’t attract Semore Kurdi. “I go to football regularly. I’ve also been to netball recently – that’s an interesting sport – and when I’m in America my son will drag me to baseball and ice hockey. Any sport going, I’ll go to.” Also Semore, whose daughter rides a horse better than he, has nevertheless played a key role in bringing Olympians and other top riders to the North East to contest the Burgham Horse Trials in Northumberland. But rugby for him has that special family atmosphere too. So he also watches local amateurs play when family commitments allow. The Falcons avoid Saturday games unless TV insists on it, since many Falcon supporters also have family members playing for non-professional teams and forcing a choice between one game or the other isn’t something the Falcons like doing. Also, while Friday night games have atmosphere, it’s not the best time for Falcons fans who travel in from the Scottish borders, Cumbria and Durham southwards. But whenever such a game is held, fans can be assured of the usual entertainment offering additional to the 80 minutes of rugby, given the accompaniment of catering and carousing put on. From next year too there will be the added attraction of rugby league games since Gateshead Thunder now look certain to be relocating to Kingston Park to ground share. The club’s Community Foundation, also, is delivering numerous programmes, some educational and many going into areas that are testing for a lot of people. “These programmes help deliver a lot of good social support. They do a fantastic job,” Semore says. One thing that does concern him is the preponderance of the game’s revenues now coming from TV and other media, compared with income from attendances. “How can we maintain the ethos of the game in face of the all seeing cameras?” he wonders. Ah, those cameras again!

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COMPANY PROFILE

Newcastle United turn up the heat at St James’ Park Newcastle United is already well underway with preparations for the upcoming 2014-15 campaign after it was announced that an exclusive open kitchen restaurant will debut at St James’ Park next season, in addition to the development of six new executive boxes With a minimum of 19 home games and over 50,000 matchday hospitality guests per season, Newcastle United’s corporate hospitality team is no stranger to ensuring that clients receive a first class experience when visiting St James’ Park. With the opening of The Park Grill – a completely new matchday dining concept – and the addition of six new executive boxes, Newcastle United is hoping that it can continue to build on its reputation to offer clients an experience to rival the country’s most prestigious sporting venues. Located in the Leazes Stand, The Park Grill will offer guests a high-quality restaurant dining experience. Providing modern and contemporary surroundings, The Park Grill will offer private tables and cooked to order meals made with fresh, locally sourced produce. On arrival at St James’ Park, a maître d’ will ensure a warm welcome and dedicated waiting staff will ensure a first-class service is enjoyed throughout the day. Offering a bespoke restaurant-style menu, meals are ordered on arrival at the Grill allowing diners the opportunity to sit back and watch Newcastle United’s team of executive chefs prepare their order in the restaurant’s open kitchen. A range of freshly prepared speciality salads and desserts are also available from bespoke food bars located throughout the Grill. All meals can be enjoyed with a selection of fine wines, draft beers, soft drinks or spirits. Entertainment is provided in the form of pre and post-match analysis with a sports compere or former Newcastle United player and other benefits include an exclusive corporate gift, licensed betting facilities and on-site car parking. Many tables within The Park Grill boast pitch-

New for the 2014-15 season, Newcastle United’s Executive Leazes Boxes and The Park Grill

views, allowing guests to soak up the atmosphere before the game. Once kick-off nears, guests can make their way out to executive seating on The Park Grill’s dedicated balcony, before making their way back into the Grill for half and full-time refreshments. In addition to the opening of The Park Grill, the 2014-15 season will also see the launch of six new executive boxes to cope with demand. Highly sought after, the boxes provide private dining and seating, with dedicated waiting staff to ensure all clients’ individual needs are met. On-site car parking is supplied, along with all of the facilities that would be expected with first-class sporting hospitality. For those who prefer a more traditional matchday experience, packages in one of Newcastle United’s suites are also available and can be tailored to meet individual requirements. Boasting the third largest stadium in the Premier League, with over 52,000 seats, St James’ Park offers an atmosphere and experience that is hard to find elsewhere. Its City Centre location and convenient transport links ensure that every

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aspect of the hospitality experience is seamless from start to finish, making Newcastle United’s hospitality packages appealing to businesses in the region and further afield. A range of seasonal and single-match hospitality packages are available to meet all budgets and sponsorship packages also provide an ideal opportunity for companies looking to promote their business to a wide audience, whilst entertaining clients. Win two places in The Park Grill for a game in the 2014-15 season by emailing hospitality@nufc.co.uk with ‘The Park Grill’ in the subject heading.

Further information on all corporate hospitality can be found by visiting www.nufc.co.uk or by calling 0191 201 8444.

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COMPANY VIEWPOINT

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Business IT – Evolution or Revolution In this article, TSG’s regional managing director for the North Mark Joynson considers how developments in technology have the potential to transform the way businesses operate, and asks the question ‘is it evolution or revolution?’ In the 10 years since leading technology services company TSG entered the market much has changed in the fascinating world of business IT. Whilst the economic downturn has seen caution around investment in IT, during this same period advances have been dramatic and the result is that for many businesses there’s now a substantial gap between their existing systems and what is now possible. More significantly, leading edge technology has become increasingly accessible and affordable and is undoubtedly within the reach of all forwardthinking businesses. Rather confusingly, the technology emperor has worn many new suits of clothes over the last decade. In fact, our industry is prone to hype and over-excitement, most of which drifts meaninglessly above the heads of business leaders and owners who are too busy doing what they do to notice. However, if you cut through the hyperbole, there’s little doubt that technology is more important than ever for businesses determined to drive their competitive advantage. One constant throughout this period of transformation is that the technology itself should never be the story but rather it should be how the technology can enable effective and efficient processes and most importantly drive productivity and profitability. So how do decision-makers determine what’s genuinely useful? And are the decision-makers themselves occasionally part of the problem when old habits and preferences die hard?

Mark Joynson, TSG’s regional managing director for the North

Is it a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ or ‘if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get the same results’? In at least some businesses, a shift in mind-set is probably required and at a reasonably senior level. I was interested to hear that our own CEO, David Stonehouse recently made a fairly radical change in his own use of technology, as he explains, “A combination of necessity, created by failing hardware, and coincidence catalysed the change although in truth it was something I’d been

It’s not about the technology, but rather it’s about the business process and determining the most effective mechanisms to deliver a fantastic customer experience – an experience that others can’t match

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considering for a number of months.” “To cut a long story short, I’ve shelved my iPad and my iPhone for the Microsoft Surface Pro and Nokia Lumia 925. The Surface, much maligned within the tablet market, actually operates as my main computer linked up to a normal keyboard and large format touchscreen.” In many respects, the hardware itself is largely irrelevant. What’s critical is that both devices use the Windows 8 operating system and settings flow seamlessly between them as part of Microsoft’s strategy of ‘one experience, across all devices, anywhere’. Dynamics NAV and CRM 2013 are also part of the Microsoft story and they seem to be joining the dots in a way that others haven’t, and in all probability, can’t. Admittedly, there’s been a lot of talk about Microsoft’s lack of traction in the device market but, then again, history suggests that they don’t always get it right as anyone who recalls Windows ME will testify. You could argue that getting it wrong seems to have been a conscious strategy that allows them to test, learn, move forward and ultimately dominate, even though they may not always be first to market. Amazon Web Services certainly got a head start but Microsoft’s Azure platform is catching up at a staggering rate and in many ways sits at the heart of their future plans. Even Sage – another of our key partners – has chosen to deploy its Cloud offering on Azure. All of this brings us neatly to the Cloud – something that seems to have dominated a disproportionate amount of column inches yet I suspect most don’t really understand including many who are promoting it as a ‘must-have’ for any business. A recent survey suggested 70% of businesses are still undecided about the Cloud, although many of these will probably be using


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COMPANY VIEWPOINT

A recent survey suggested 70% of businesses are still undecided about the Cloud, although many of these will probably be using Cloud services already in some shape or form Cloud services already in some shape or form whether that’s in a personal or business context, and whether they realise or not. The issue of personal use is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can offer an insight into what’s possible in the world of ‘real-time’ and ‘mobility’. At the same time, it can dangerously raise expectation around what can be achieved in the business context, causing significant challenges for those who are expected to deliver – often with outdated tools and restricted budgets. The migration of businesses to the Cloud won’t happen overnight and it shouldn’t. More and more will see the value, but it must be a considered decision rather than a knee jerk reaction. Get the decision right, whether that’s a full on-line deployment, a hybrid approach or a high availability solution, and the improvements in business performance will speak for themselves. Again, it’s not about the technology, but rather it’s about business process and determining the most effective mechanisms to deliver a fantastic customer experience – an experience that others can’t match. Technology should certainly play a part but the industry has been guilty of overcomplicating, constantly reinventing wheels and charging hefty upfront fees for doing so, when the aim is actually to make life more straightforward. It’s this desire to make life more straightforward for our customers that has driven a significant investment in building an R & D team at TSG that combines the highest level of technical expertise with a proven track-record in delivering world-class products at small business, medium organisation and enterprise level. Harnessing on-the-ground intelligence from TSG’s 300 specialists and technicians, with a combined total of more than 5,000 years of experience, allows R & D to focus on developing quality

products that are appropriate, accessible and affordable for our customers. Our focus is developing products and solutions that address the common requirements shared across specific sectors, building on powerful platforms such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013, to create straightforward, configurable products that deliver great out-of-the-box functionality. Equally, they offer the possibility of limitless integration – essential when nothing in a successful technology environment can ever exist in isolation – and leave the door open for deeper customisation if required. Best of all, when we launch TSG Tribe for the membership sector later in the Spring, the first product developed by our R & D team, it will be available both on-premise or on a subscription basis as a private or public Cloud deployment to spread the cost of ownership. In sectors or businesses where there has been a technology lag or underinvestment, products like TSG Tribe could be the only way to bridge the gap and avoid being left behind. Everyone is looking to achieve more for less

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and deployed astutely, that’s exactly what technology delivers. The key is to remain in control of technology and the starting point is to understand the contribution technology can make. So, is it evolution or revolution? That probably depends on the legacy you’re working with but either way it’s about embracing the positives to be gained through well-considered change. I suspect that we’re all now in a position where we can’t live without technology; the challenge for many remains how do we make the most of it?

For more imformation please call 0845 111 1888 or visit www.tsg.com

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in association with

Faculty of Applied Sciences

GOING UP A GEAR The issue: What are the opportunities for, and barriers to, growth in advanced manufacturing in the North East? The North East’s dependence on a successful manufacturing industry is an incontrovertible fact, delegates asserted as they got to grips with BQ’s latest live debate. An equally unshakable truth is that, for the region to compete globally long into the future in this crucial sector, the opportunities emerging among the industry’s frontline pioneers must not be missed. The Adonis Review and numerous other analytical sources have identified advanced manufacturing as a vital part of the current and future economy of the North East. And manufacturing experts gathered in the Stadium of Light’s James Herriot suite recognised a need to embrace innovation in the sector to help build long lasting success. John MacIntyre put the issue into context. His employer, the University of Sunderland, has a long history of working closely with manufacturers to help them achieve growth and better conduct their business. A forerunning facility of the university, Sunderland Engineering Technical College, became the first institution in the country to offer industrial sandwich degrees in 1904 and more recently the university has forged close ties with major manufacturers, including Nissan. “Manufacturing is vitally important to the North East,” MacIntyre said before explaining that around 14% of the workforce in this region is

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in manufacturing, representing around 130,000 people, which is proportionately higher than other regions of the UK. “But does that mean the North East is more vulnerable if things change in the manufacturing markets as indeed they did in the late 1990s and early 2000s? “What we saw then was the advent of low cost competition and an awful lot of manufacturing activity being offshored. We were being defined as an area of branch manufacturing, with employers having their head office somewhere else. We were working with a lot of companies at the time and the entire conversation was about there being no stickability to the manufacturing situation here.” Since those darker days in the sector, success in the North East has been partly built on a growing reputation for increased productivity through innovation, as exemplified by Nissan. “One of the elements that defines advanced manufacturing is a commitment to innovation. The great success story at Nissan is predicated on innovation but not on invention. It’s based on being extremely good at making vehicles in a very productive and efficient way. They innovate their manufacturing process but they are not doing the product design of the vehicles.” While the ability to innovate creates new opportunities, STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills shortages are a

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TAKING PART Iain Pritty, director (corporate), Bond Dickinson Chris Hylton, associate innovation and manufacturing adviser, Manufacturing Advisory Service NE and business and technical consultant at North East Business and Innovation Centre Judith Quinn, director of computing, health and education and head of Usworth Sixth Form, Sunderland College Paul Varley, board and investment panel member, the North East LEP Shaun Oakes, managing director, iEvo Ltd Gavin Townsend, head of operations, Express Engineering (aerospace) Ltd Andrew Hodgson, CEO of SMD Ltd and vice chair of North East LEP Dr Robert Trimble, associate dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, University of Sunderland Roger O’Brien, UK engineering and process development manager at Gestamp Tallent Ltd Prof Roy Sandbach, head of North East LEP’s innovation strand Vince Taylor, head of strategy and performance, Sunderland City Council Phil Handley, managing director, Caterpillar Afrticulated Trucks Dianne Sharp, managing director, SCM Pharma / regional director, CBI North East Odin Taylor, solutions architect – emerging technologies, SPX Bolting Systems Paul Gough, strategy leader, business growth and employer engagement, Gateshead College John MacIntyre, dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences / pro vice chancellor at the University of Sunderland Venue: Stadium of Light, Sunderland BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback of a range of key business topics and issues.

threat to the industry, MacIntyre warned. However, amid talk of a manufacturing renaissance, there remains cause for optimism, so how can the North East take full advantage? Clearly the ability to diversify into new markets or towards emerging opportunities has an important role to play. Under various guises over more than 65 years, Gestamp Tallent has certainly shown the agility to do so in a lifespan that has taken in such disparate product lines as washing machines and women’s compacts.


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Today the Newton Aycliffe firm is a thriving automotive parts supplier. Roger O’Brien said: “As we moved through some of the difficult times that we had, as recession hit, we did look at whether we needed to diversify to keep people within the business and retain the skills. But we are very much focused on automotive as we’ve grown and become part of a multinational parent with Gestamp [its Spanish parent] then I don’t think we have the agility now to retransform ourselves from being an automotive supplier into something else.” Another large manufacturer with a long history in the North East, Caterpillar, has also pondered diversification in search of new opportunities. Phil Handley, managing director at the group’s articulated trucks division in Peterlee, explained how evolving emissions regulations and carbon directives have led it onto the road of new product development. “For the past seven years we’ve been on a path to improving the emissions that come from the product and this year we launched an emissions compliant engine that’s used in the higher regulated areas of the world like America, Europe and Japan. Next year, as we’re now compliant with emissions, our focus will probably change towards looking at what weight reduction we bring to the machines, what cost reductions can we make and what features can we build in that customers want.” Alongside market conditions like new carbon legislation, what part does the workforce play in advancing manufacturing into new areas? Andrew Hodgson: “We talk a lot about economies needing skills and economies needing manufacturing and value added. I actually think it’s the other way around, whereby economies arrive because you’ve got value added and you’re creating spaces and sectors. That’s not to say that those don’t then need services and support. But you need value creation to create an economy and if you want to create a high value economy, you create that by having the highest level of skills. “We try to get the best skilled people and give them the biggest amount of scope to develop and grow and come with ideas and innovate and try to develop the business. There’s no such thing as a stupid idea. Renewables and mining are two examples of sectors that we’ve got into

because someone’s come into my office and said ‘we should try this kind of stuff with our capability’. Not because we had a strategic plan to go into those sectors. So if you have bright, skilled and intelligent people, they are what create the business, not the other way round. Advanced manufacturing for me is where intellect and knowledge are the key drivers and creators of value, not the factories, space, physical manpower.” Agreeing that intellect underpins advanced manufacturing, Roy Sandbach said: “Advanced is a rather old term. It resonates with the word ‘innovation’ but as soon as you say ‘innovation’ people automatically think of product or process. In reality, in the manufacturing organisations around this table, their innovation is in product, process, business model, cost, marketing, sales, design, skills development or organisational form. It’s all of those things. In an advanced manufacturing organisation, there’s some degree of innovation happening all the time in virtually all of those areas. “The issues are skills – have we got the people who are capable of grasping that novelty? – and also risk, because every time you try to get to leading edge, you are risking something.” Andrew Hodgson: “Risk is very important. It is perceived as a negative statement but it’s actually positive and smart and intelligent people apply their skills to manage risk. Financially, that’s where you actually make your return, by taking risk. If you don’t take or manage risk, you’ll never make a decent return out of a business. That’s why you need

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to be in this advanced state.” John MacIntyre highlighted prominent examples of where a combination of risk taking and innovation around business models had paid off among North East manufacturers, while Odin Taylor explained how his organisation was able to do this in its shift out of automotives into oil and gas and other sectors. Chris Hylton, who works with small businesses in his role at the North East BIC, was asked whether there was a steady stream of start-ups with innovative ideas blossoming in the region. “The vast majority are continuing with conventional business and just wanting to make good business decisions and try to make a profit, and they deserve a medal if they do in these competitive conditions. People have got to be fairly determined to make a change if they come in with an innovative idea because it takes up so much resources, time and money, and despite the fact that on the BIC the innovation programme has been giving away tax payers’ money, it’s surprisingly difficult to do so because people of course have to fit the criteria. “With nearly all grant funding schemes it is paramount that jobs are created. But with a lot of good business decisions and a lot of investments in capital, you’re going to need less people after the investment rather than more. So I would ask that grant funding schemes reprioritise their criteria so that job creation is second, third or fourth on the list. It has to be a good business decision that leads to more business, more exports, wider markets, new products and growth, which then perhaps >>

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


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leads to taking on people. And that would improve our international productivity which I’m told is still woefully low. We need to improve our output per person.” Gavin Townsend: “Surely defining advanced manufacturing is about providing something that’s better and more completely supports a market or a customer need – perhaps an unmet need. Perhaps what leads from that is the design and development of manufacturing processes and value adding products that provide competitive opportunities. So they might not provide the jobs in the first instance but the innovation comes from that and the jobs will follow thereafter.” Chris Hylton: “It’s a brave politician who says ‘it’s not about job creation’ though.” John MacIntyre: “Increased productivity has resulted in a reduction in jobs and being more efficient and lean does potentially need fewer people. The strategic economic plan from the North East LEP talks about ‘more and better jobs’ and it’s the ‘better jobs’ that I think is the answer in manufacturing. “In trying to support manufacturing, is there a conundrum there? The lead time between the innovation and when jobs follow is potentially an economically and socially challenging issue, but it’s the inevitable consequence of being at the head of the value chain. “In the 1990s and 2000s we saw the effect on the North East manufacturing industry that had been large but was not at the head of the value chain. We were only competing on price and if you’re doing that with South East Asia, you’re going to lose and that was the drive to offshore. “More and more now the market is looking at the challenges that came with offshoring and

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reversing some of that policy. But the problem is we’ve lost both capability and capacity in the North East manufacturing base. Once you’ve got out it’s pretty hard to get back in.” Chris Hylton: “Initially we’d have to bring people from abroad to help us fill the gaps.” Paul Varley: “I look at advanced manufacturing as effectively brains not brawn. If it’s brains we’ve got a competitive advantage but if it’s brawn then we’ll never be able to compete with the Far East. So it starts with great ideas from great people and we then have to drive it through the businesses that get located here and cultivate them, invest in them and support them. The biggest challenge, and also the biggest opportunity, is collaboration within the region. We need to collaborate better because for me, when you’re at the top of the tree in an organisation in this region, and you’ve got a smart idea to do something, you’ve then got to look at your supply chain around here and ask if it’s a local supply chain. It may just be that instead of using the brawn in Asia, it’s better to do it here. Then you get the better jobs – because you’ve got the brains – and you get the more jobs, because you’re bringing lower skilled work. Andrew Hodgson said there is a clear recognition within the LEP’s 30-year strategic economic plan, that manufacturing in the region needs higher spec rather than simply more jobs. “We’ve got some systemic issues within the region and we need to face up to them and short-termism isn’t going to get us there. The easy reaction is just to say ‘let’s do some job creation stuff’ but we’ve proven now that’s not sustainable. It’s going to mean some very challenging conversations in the next few years. Are we going to be brave enough to say

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we’re only going to support companies who are bringing an R&D centre here, for example? There are going to be some really difficult calls.” Vince Taylor: “In manufacturing the GVA generated by an individual is around £35 to £40k. In financial services in the North East it’s about £15k. It’s barely paying the wages because we have customer service desks here. In some respects it doesn’t matter how many people are employed in manufacturing because, if the economy is aligned to it, and if the service sector understands it, then it works well.” Taylor also questioned whether manufacturing could be used to help boost tourism. “We can celebrate the industrial heritage of the region but maybe even look forward as well. One of the problems with our museums and our education is that it looks backwards. It doesn’t say what manufacturing is like now, or even 10 years ago, and certainly doesn’t say what it’ll be like in 10 years time when the people at school now might be leaving. Part of the problem in getting young people interested in manufacturing is getting them to understand just how exciting it can be.” The discussion then moved on to the issue of cost associated to R&D and in generally pursuing the opportunities at the advanced end of the spectrum. As a drugs manufacturer, Dianne Sharp works in a field which is perceived to have a particularly expensive route to market. She said: “The pharma sector has an awful lot to learn in terms of efficiency of manufacturing and embracing new manufacturing. It’s got by over the years on very good returns and blockbuster drugs. Now they’re having to look at the efficiency of the entire supply chain. Up until two years ago the number of drugs


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being licensed each year was dropping but the R&D bill was increasing. So they were getting less bang for their buck. Where my business is seeing efficiencies is in embracing that old technology around agility and flexible manufacturing. While our science is great, the manufacturing [processes] are not as cutting edge as you might think.“ On the issue of R&D, Sharp underlined the quality of work being undertaken at the region’s universities but also warned that beyond academic circles R&D is being scaled down in the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s much more about spinouts and not about companies having big R&D sites. [Big firms] are watching what’s going on in the market place, allowing spinouts to make the expensive mistakes, and then buying into them.” So what of the prospects for growth in the white-coated quarter of manufacturing? Sharp said: “The process sector is massive in the North East, it’s thriving. Ok there might be divisions rather than UK headquarters but let’s not underestimate the amount of people, technology and GVA that’s being generated in this region. It’s growing and vibrant.” Meanwhile, in terms of small businesses which might drive future opportunities in advanced manufacturing, few are showing as much promise currently as Tyneside-based iEvo. Having last year received a £250,000 boost from the Finance for Business North East accelerator fund, the fingerprint scanning technology firm is eyeing up global markets ripe with opportunity. Managing director Shaun Oakes said: “We’ve utilised as much resource as we can within the North East but we’ve had to use some resources overseas, which puts me in a very uncomfortable position because I like to be able to control stuff and do it locally. Five years ago I had a dream on how I wanted to future proof our business. To be able to achieve that we had to come up with some forward thinking ideas. Ultimately to bring more things in-house we’ve had to look at what I would class as advanced manufacturing techniques. To me this means going back to the core design of your product and thinking, ‘ok we’ve done it this way for so long, these are the problems that have been attributed to that so how can we redesign our product to future proof us, enhance the technology and bring us more manufacturing

and use more local sources?’ ’’Moving on to the issue of bringing new innovative ideas into the manufacturing industry, it was acknowledged that colleges have a vital remit to deliver. Judith Quinn: “The need to give young people the skills ready for employment will always be there. But also there are other courses where you are trying to teach them to be innovative, come up with new ideas and present themselves in a way that is suitable for employers. “The hard thing is making sure the advice and guidance we’re giving is putting them on the right path and leading to something that makes it worth them investing in their education.” And are colleges working closely enough with manufacturers to bring talent into the sector? Paul Gough: “I would like to think so, with half of our turnover now coming from employer-led provision. In terms of advanced manufacturing, the biggest skills gap we’re addressing is multiskill maintenance technicians. We’re doing

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that through apprenticeships and we’re in a fortunate position that Nissan is our biggest client. We have 200 multi-skill maintenance technician apprenticeships on five-year programmes but the issue in the sector is that we just don’t have a critical mass of employers wanting to take on apprentices.” Shaun Oakes: “We’ve employed five apprentices in the last four years. I think there’s an opportunity here with start-ups. A small enterprise has the opportunity to take a younger individual and mould them into that new business to help them grow with the business. I wouldn’t give our apprentices up for anything. “We need to get small enterprises to understand that they can get a valuable worth from the apprenticeship scheme and even dip their toe in the graduate schemes.” John MacIntyre: “There is also an issue of how many young people want to go into manufacturing in the first place. Couple >>

Going forward: barriers that must be broken down It was recognised in the debate that opportunities for growth in advanced manufacturing will increase if the following barriers are removed: A reluctance to invest in the most advanced equipment available, which might result in fewer employees being needed. The need for far more collaboration among businesses of all kinds, to share ideas and develop indigenous supply chains. Realisation and acceptance of the need for long term perseverance in looking for rewarding results. Reluctance among companies to accept a risk factor in seeking to take products on. While more jobs need to be created in the North East, they need to be increasingly highly skilled jobs. The need to loosen the politically motivated tying of grants and loans to the number of new jobs created alone, looking more at benefits achievable in other aspects of a business such as growth and exports. Not enough effort made in present manufacturing to see rewarding opportunities to be had in supporting the service and leisure sectors, including museums that currently look too much to the past and not enough to the present and future in exhibiting. Not nearly enough manufacturers are taking on apprentices despite incentives. Flaws in apprentice funding often making it uneconomic to provide the necessary training. A lack of dedicated academies in the North East to compare with the JCB Academy in Staffordshire, the Volvo School in Sweden and other paragons in Australia and Cincinnati. Lack of awareness about the financial and vocational rewards engineering offers. Not enough endeavour made to attract young women into apprenticeships and graduate training. A lazy approach to teaching skills is a weakness on all sides. Schools are not encouraged by the existing funding system to encourage engineering. A need for engineering to recapture from the arts the associations with ‘creativity’. A need to acknowledge that innovation does not necessarily mean devising new products but that it can be nurtured in any department of an organisation.  

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that with the population decline and there’s going to be a point when there are fewer 16 years olds anyway, and even fewer wanting to go into manufacturing. There’s an ageing workforce and companies like Nissan needing to refresh their workforce with technical and production skills. There’s a deep, systemic problem that I don’t think anyone’s cracked yet. There are lots of examples around the world of people trying to solve it at the macro level. We’ve seen one example in Australia where schools and employers are working as a consortium and taking a completely different approach to the teaching and inspiring of engineering and technical skills. But we don’t have anything like that here but we need it.” Roy Sandbach: “It’s easy to whinge on about this. We could deal with this if we really wanted to. Look at the JCB academy, for example. It’s JCB oriented with a full curriculum, an orientation towards STEM and it’s a straight forward academy for 14 to 18-year-olds. We could do that in the North East, there’s absolutely no reason why not, it simply requires businesses to get together to do it in a series of different places with the support of the further education colleges. This is what I call disruptive innovation. It’s not incremental stuff, it’s disruptive, so let’s just get on with it.” Paul Gough: “The Volvo system in Sweden would deal with lots of the issues we’ve got here because it’s an engineering school which covers all the main trades, and at 14 they do STEM subjects at school. At the same time they get four years in the studio. So after four years in the system, by age 18, they’re at the level that a level three apprenticeship would be in our system. It has a 98% success rate, with

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the other 2% channelled to go to university to benefit Volvo in due course.” The conversation moves to the issue of graduates and Robert Trimble is asked whether there is still a reluctance among university leavers to enter the manufacturing sector. “It’s always been difficult to get students to come into engineering. We try hard to push it as a career on school visits and also have put in a new pathway into engineering by having a foundation year which students can do without the relevant qualifications. So there are ways around the problem. Another issue is that there are already current employees who may have been with a company for a number of years with the knowledge and capability but not necessarily the higher qualifications which would take them onto that next level.” Returning to the issue of enticing more young people into engineering, Iain Pritty said: “The highest number of undergraduates at the moment are going into law degrees but there are no jobs in law. When I visit clients like SMD, I see these fantastic bits of kit being built which are being used in situations like oil disasters and I think we need to use things like that to get youngsters to understand what being an engineer is. If you’re making biometric fingerprint readers, that’s exciting, as are things that can go three miles under the sea, but nobody understands it as engineering.” John MacIntyre: “And it’s not 14 that we need to reach back to, it’s eight or nine. By the time they get to 14, it’s too late in terms of making educational choices. There has to be a real paradigm shift in the way we present and teach the core disciplines like maths and physics. We’re almost limiting half the population with

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very few girls going into engineering disciplines. Is there a way to get more girls enthused by the idea that the sector is a viable choice for them? “We also need new approaches to teaching the subjects to link them to the creative process. It is a creative process – you take a lump of something and turn it into something else – and there’s also a design element to it. We’ve fallen into a kind of outmoded lazy way of teaching the fundamental skills and the principles of engineering and manufacturing. It’s not a schools, further and higher education or an employer issue, it’s an everybody issue. In Australia everyone’s working together on it and they are engaging more girls and do everything in the context of the creative process, and that seems to be having better results than anywhere else and that’s something we can learn from.” Phil Handley: “Last year we had 12 apprenticeship places and 1200 applicants. We’re working with local schools in Peterlee and have some great partnerships, but there’s an issue around funding. When we take somebody out of their sixth form, the school loses funding. The schools are not encouraged to try to put people through to engineering. So there’s definitely a conflict of interest there.” Paul Gough: “In schools the advice has always been, if you’re bright, do A-Levels and go to university. But now we’ve got this higher apprenticeship offer. Parents can see the choice between the £60k cost of going to university against the year of college and day release, the chance to be an engineer, travel the world and have no debt. Principals are asking how can they do STEM at a much earlier age and how can they improve information, advice and guidance. So we’re moving away from the


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conventional route of degrees. The problem we have is if a sixth form loses its students to higher apprenticeships they lose income.” Dianne Sharp: “There’s lots of things we want to push in terms of policy, but what can we do tomorrow that might change this agenda? It’s about creating a pull from the young people so they want to work in this industry. With work experience we have a two week programme where you have to spend time in every department. So no department is taking on a burden of more than half a day and there are actually work books they go through to understand what business really is. So when someone leaves the programme, there are 20 jobs they have experience of and might get interested in. If you bring the opportunity closer to the young people then nine times out of 10 they’ll reach for them.” Gavin Townsend: “It’s interesting that a relatively high proportion of students choose to go through an engineering degree and don’t do engineering at the end of it. Perhaps academics need to be fresher in their thinking about the education programme and perhaps there’s a need for collaboration at that end.” John MacIntyre: “The problem is there aren’t enough who choose it as a subject in the first place. We’ve got to rethink the way we present engineering and say it’s a creative career.” Chris Hylton: “We really have to wrestle this word creative back from the arts. The ingenious solutions that people come up with to solve the world’s problems is incredible.” Hylton also argued that the salaried value of engineers is mismatched to the importance of the work they do. “The Germans worship their engineers, the French worship their scientists. We’ve got to be doing a bit of both there.” Suggesting that the undervaluing of engineers may be a misconception Andrew Hodgson said: “I’m losing engineers in their 20s who are going to Aberdeen typically for significant six-figure packages. Engineering does create significant amounts of wealth. We have to break that perspective without giving kids the wrong message that it’s about making money. But actually from a lifetime career it creates a significant amount of wealth. We have to ensure people know that.” Iain Pritty: “Surely that comes down to the PR of the businesses doesn’t it?”

Andrew Hodgson agreed and explained that he continues to push hard to replace outmoded perceptions of what manufacturing is in the North East with new and exciting undertakings. “If it means I have to take people round a robotics factory I will,” he said. Roy Sandbach suggested the North East might learn a lot from a programme in the US he witnessed in his days at P&G. He said: “Cincinnati [home of P&G’s HQ and a major GE base] initiated a programme called Strive, a cradle to career engagement between businesses, schools, local authorities and universities with the intention of building a greater and better number of skills, going through to STEM-based education and then careers. It’s been unbelievably successful, driven by businesses, and has expanded out to 20 different cities. It’s interesting that we don’t have schools around this table – this is often a gap at discussions on this issue. The teachers just don’t know about the stuff we’ve mentioned tonight. If we were really together on this we could apply one of these best practice examples. This is only a two million population region and it is manageable.” Andrew Hodgson said such programmes are in the offing, but also warned that, as well as education and government, businesses also must do more to fix the skills shortage hindering advanced manufacturing. “The best people to provide information, advice and guidance and to inspire young people are businesses.” He also cited recently launched regional initiative, the North East Schools Challenge, as a step in the right direction. It encourages businesses to boost sector skills by interacting with the hundreds of primary and secondary schools in the region. As the debate neared conclusion, a statement was read from Ralph Saelzer – managing director of Sunderland-based crane maker Liebherr – who was unable to attend the debate. In it he warned that: “The lack of will of businesses to invest is the biggest challenge – unfortunately a large number of businesses are not willing to invest in equipment and staff development. As long as this hurdle can’t be cracked the region will struggle to be competitive.” Summarising, John MacIntyre recognised that, despite numerous barriers, there is a will

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DEBATE

from businesses and educational organisations to work together to tackle the barriers to accessing new manufacturing opportunities. He acknowledged the importance of innovation in all aspects of business, not just process and products and concluded that of the points raised, the need to enthuse young people about advanced manufacturing is the most pressing. He said: “Engineering and manufacturing is creative and can inspire young kids. If we can get that across, we’ll be on the right path.” n

Innovation at the heart of our future in advanced manufacturing There is no doubt that manufacturing is of vital importance to the future of the North East economy – as the only net exporting region in England, and with a higher proportion of our regional employment and GVA being based in manufacturing, we have much to be proud of. The question we considered in this debate is how to ensure we have as bright a future as we do a proud past. The term ‘advanced manufacturing’ often gets bandied about without having been truly considered – what does the ‘advanced’ mean? This debate gave us the opportunity to explore that question, and identified innovation as being a key element in the future of manufacturing, whether it be innovation in product design, product development, or manufacturing processes – and indeed innovation in fundamental business models too. Supporting innovation in these areas is also at the heart of the University of Sunderland’s strategy and we look forward to building on our existing relationships with employers in the sector, helping them to innovate and developing their existing and future workforce. Professor John MacIntyre Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Sunderland

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BUSINESS LUNCH

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WINTER 14

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BUSINESS LUNCH

YER ON YER OWN, MATE Jeff Winn is the entrepreneurial lawyer who could have won 2,000 more jobs for the North East but was left in limbo. His story begs the question: what does a Scottish referendum hold for his – and our – cherished part of the world? Brian Nicholls details

Sorry to raise this as Scotland’s vote on independence nears. But BQ wants to share with you the experiences of Jeff Winn, whose entrepreneurial flair (rare among lawyers) has led Winn Group, within 12 years, from start-up to highest echelon in securing fair settlements for innocent victims of road traffic accidents. From unpretentious headquarters in a converted supermarket beside Byker Metro station, this remarkable Newcastle one-stop

shop in traffic accident management (TAM) has grown turnover to £45m and its workforce to 300, 37 of them lawyers and about half the total having some legal background. It removes or eases drivers’ stress by taking care of every aspect of a claim – including compensation, temporary vehicle replacement, medical services and professional advice - on a “no win, no fee” basis. Clients calling them rather than their insurers, Winn Group says, avoid losing their no claims bonus, perhaps even a jump in their premiums. Group turnover up 30% yearly, revenues of £393,000 per lawyer, and profit per equity partner outstrip performances of many law firms in London and Manchester. Jeff Winn has disproved well intentioned Jonahs who advised he was risking a successful career by focusing wholly on litigation often notoriously laggardly. One case Winn was involved in was adjourned for five years, the judge wishing to deal with all elements together after the client’s full recovery. The group shouldered the costs meanwhile. But its template

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didn’t charm lending banks. No win, no fee cases require extensive credit. Fees, vehicle hires and medical costs are reimbursed by eventual successful recovery from the other party’s insurers. Banks, however, want assurances about dates of repayment which, in litigation, can’t always be given. One banker said: “Look, Jeff, yours is a new idea. New ideas work well in London. But you’ll not find support in the North East.” That jarred with Winn, who’d just returned to the North East from a successful legal career there. “I mean, to return here then find that to do anything entrepreneurial you must get yourself back to London. But I think bank attitudes have changed now,” he suggests. For 10 years, though, profits had to be reinvested heavily, and drawings from the business kept modest. But there’s been a chuckle along the way. “One banker thought my five year projections ridiculous. Yet I was actually 5 or 10% ahead of those when the five years ended.” There’s no hilarity, however, when a sketch is outlined of North East initiative and innovation being disadvantaged both from London and Scotland. Winn tells: “We had an opportunity to bring 2,000 more jobs to the North East. I’d have loved that. It involved a start-up >>

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Many jobs go north of the border because it’s not a fair fight. Why should Scotland with less unemployment get £10,000 a job and the North East nothing?

two private equity investors planned. In Glasgow they were offered a £10,000 a job grant - £20m of start-up costs. “They’d done their sums assuming the North East could offer similar. Though I spoke to the city council here and others no grants were to be had. The investors couldn’t see why, when Glasgow offered £10,000 a job they’d get nothing if creating the jobs in the North East, whose unemployment rate was higher.” The North East’s regional development agency was being run down then. “In the end, the entrepreneurs considered nothing from the North East was too risky despite their commitment, especially since regulatory changes were imminent. They didn’t go ahead in Glasgow either because it was our legal processing abilities they wanted. “You get political rhetoric about helping the North East. It was disappointing. Many jobs go north of the border because it’s not a fair fight. Why should Scotland with less unemployment get £10,000 a job and the North East nothing?” The market gap was filled – by a London company. Adding to Winn’s irony, Tesco got a grant to locate a national headquarters on Tyneside for its home and motor insurance

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bank with 1,000 jobs – half what Winn had envisaged. “Tesco are national. If you were an entrepreneur in the North East it seemed nothing was available,” he reflects. “Simplified grant rules ensuring jobs are created as promised would help the North East. Presently it’s Mickey Mouse bits and pieces. I guess some people go round the back through the London lobby, or through friends of X and Y and Z and get a leeway. “About 10 years ago we did get an innovation grant of about £125,000. It cost us about £70,000 in accountancy fees to comply with all the hoops, then admin costs on top. Even then we’d been refused the grant until I challenged the appeals people to show me anyone else trying to do what we do.” Tesco’s support came from a previous Labour government. And of course the Barnett Formula under which the Treasury apportions more public spending per head to Scotland remains in place. Barnett, to be fair, was not prepared in Scotland, and the North East in Scotland’s situation might feel satisfied. But if Scotland chooses independence what follows for the North East of England? Will England (rather, Westminster) recognise in the resultant shrinkage the need to >>

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What’s in a name? Jeff Winn’s enterprise seeded 15 years ago when another vehicle rammed his Jaguar. Despite the other driver being at fault, Winn’s insurer settled and still raised his premium. He lost his no-claims bonus, had to pay the excess, lost value in the Jag whose repair was unsatisfactory and, moreover, was given a tiny courtesy car. “I lost around £5,000,” he still regrets. A successful criminal defence solicitor then – his father was Det Supt Al Winn, head of Newcastle’s murder squad – Winn couldn’t persuade partners at his firm, Singleton Winn Saunders, of a major financial opportunity. So he set up Winn of the RTA ilk with eight staff in 2002. The group runs everything in-house – and besides the legal arm there’s temporary transport and injury and rehabilitation. So is the very name Winn conducive to attracting business? He laughs: “I did once come across a Mr Lose, believe it or not. I did think if I had a name like Lose I’d change it.”


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BUSINESS LUNCH develop better the potentials in its territorial extremities? Or will the recent concentration of resources on London and the South East intensify, with an HS2 boost for Birmingham perhaps? Part of Winn Group’s prosperity stems from its lower cost base. It secured its current 27,000sq ft premises at Byker in 2006 at around £5psf against rates of £30-£40 in Manchester and Liverpool, £60 in London – and even perhaps £16 on Newcastle’s Quayside and £10 on Grey Street today. Thus the group’s annual property costs are £200,000. Another firm of similar turnover has targeted a prestigious location at a cost of £3.5m. That firm, Winn points out, has to get £3.3m more turnover than Winns just to meet additional rent and rates charges unnecessarily. That’s the sort of cost benefit the North East can offer. Jeff has availed now of the Legal Services Act whereby companies can be licensed to become an alternative business structure (ABS) providing regulated legal services with some

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non-lawyer involvement. Ergo, as a lawyer might say, ABS means firms may seek external funding to boost growth. Winn, a 47-year-old father of three from Morpeth originally, found two non-legal partners: the international investment company JZ International (JZI) and Souter Investment Group, the private equity arm acting for the charity trust of Sir Brian Souter, founder of Stagecoach which Winn Solicitors has been known to act against. JZI invests in and develops SMEs in partnership with founders and entrepreneurs. It’s into more than 30 companies across Europe. Andy Macfie, Souter Investments’ managing director, says that in a period of significant change now upon accident management, Winn Group is strongly placed. The new partners bought 60% into Winn’s holding company, and the group can now expand faster its one-stop shop service. The day to day board now comprises Jeff, Dawn Winn and Ghazala Bashey, with sales director Chris Birkett and finance director

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill Who mentioned diet? As Jeff Winn had a London train to catch, Business Lunch took place at Indigo Hotel’s Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill, close to Newcastle Central Station. Opportunity also to meet the new hotel manager Paul Borg, delighted that about 60% of customers at the still young establishment are regulars. Paul has most recently come from the Holiday Inn at Ellesmere Port and the Crowne Plaza at Chester. The table d’hote would have pleased most tastes. We called for cream of onion and thyme soup, and blue cheese panna cotta with pear puree, pickled celery, pancetta and walnuts. These in preference to confit chicken and ham terrine with homemade chutney. Mains included pan fried sea trout with fresh pea puree, new potatoes, fricassee of broccoli and baby leeks. However, the diners selected instead, on one hand, slow cooked shoulder of lamb with wild mushrooms, baby turnips and crushed new potatoes, and on the other roast supreme of chicken with asparagus, pureed potato and baby beetroot. Jeff, who’d earlier vowed to go on a post-holiday diet, ordered creamed cabbage and bacon from a selection of 10 side orders. We promised not to tell. Two reprobates agreed a bottle of chianti would revive memories of mis-spent youth for both. This proving out of stock, our wine waiter suggested a Pinotage 2011, a Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (nee Hermitage) from cool slopes surrounding South Africa’s Table Mountain. A bit far from Tuscany but smooth indeed. Had time allowed, dessert would have been a choice from chocolate and peanut terrine with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, blackcurrant parfait with baked apple, honeycomb and apple puree, or a selection of ice-cream and sorbets. Lunch in short is value for money at £18 for two courses, £21.50 for three and £3.50 per extra side order (drinks excluded).

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Iain Richardson. A senior board, meeting five times a year, comprises five representatives of the new investors, with Jeff, Dawn, Ghazala and Iain. Today the South East and London is the firm’s fastest growing area, and the opening of a London satellite may be considered. But half the total business still comes from the North East. The group uses North East suppliers “at every opportunity” but has had to go beyond for its specialised digital-type software. The group’s paperless IT has driven down costs and it is recognised as no mere ambulance chaser but an operation with competence and ethos enough to have won the national Personal Injury Award 2011 and the Claims Technology Award 2010. It has been profiled respectfully by the legal profession’s Press, and has crossed the welcome mat into the Accident Management Association, Motor Accidents Solicitors Society, the Law Society and the Personal Injury Panel. Jeff Winn himself, recently named North East Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, is also shortlisted in EY’s North of England Entrepreneur of the Year Awards to be decided on 24 June in Manchester. He’s already acclaimed nationally as the first ever personal injuries solicitor to take home a £10m pay packet. It helps keep his Aston Martin in fuel, and would settle in a few months if he so wished his £3.6m buy into Jesmond Towers, once La Sagesse School and one of only 4,000 Grade II* architecturally listed buildings in the country. He and his partner Danielle Dunn, of Danielle Dunn Creative Agency, will have a five bedroom home there. Things are getting tighter financially for the sector, though. Under government changes, maximum recoverable costs for low-value claims are being slashed from £1,200 to £500. Yet the group, in contrast to traditional legal practice, still provides a lot of work free, even to some guidance for enquirers perhaps not blameless but who may feel crushed under bureaucracy that often follows accidents. Winn expects only around a dozen significant players to be left eventually out of around 2,000 claiming to do personal injury work. He also expects Winn Group to remain a front runner. n


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MITCHELL ON WINE

Andrew Mitchell, chief executive of North East Finance for Business, uncovers the delights of a lesser-known Spanish grape variety and is seduced by a sumptuous, summery French rosé Having been an avid reader of the BQ wine column, I was delighted to have the opportunity to try two new wines (for me at least): a Spanish white from the Basque Country and an excellent rosé from the Mediterranean coast in Provence. Both are available from Majestic Wine, which has branches in Berwick, Durham, Darlington and Gosforth. If you’re not familiar with the Majestic offer, the marketing proposition is plenty of car parking, young knowledgeable staff, reasonable value and an eclectic mix of well-known favourites, combined with interesting wines from off the beaten track. Generally, there will be a selection of wines open to taste in the store and multi-buy offers on pretty much everything they sell. The only condition is a minimum purchase of half a dozen bottles. Most Majestic branches run a range of events for customers, including tasting evenings, so if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the noble grape, take a look at the website. Discovering (and drinking) new and different wines is a passion of mine. Finding an unfamiliar label, especially from one of the less celebrated regions, to share with friends is really rewarding and well worth stepping out of your comfort zone. As chief executive of the North East Finance for Business (JEREMIE) venture capital programme, I am always on the lookout for exciting young businesses and innovative entrepreneurs. So it is with wine. The two wines selected by BQ this quarter both deliver a real taste of summer and were an ideal accompaniment to a few

days of walking and golf on the East Coast, under relatively sunny skies, over the Easter break. Turning first to the white, the As Caixas Godello 2012 (Martin Codax) is priced at £9.99 or £7.99 for two or more bottles. It comes from one of the most ambitious of the new generation of producers in northern Spain. Presented in a screw-top bottle, this is a real alternative to French Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire or Bordeaux. Spanish wine spent many years in the doldrums. Over-production and poor quality meant that even the best Spanish wines, such as Pesquera (reputedly Alex Ferguson’s favourite tipple) were little known in the UK. Although red Rioja wines have maintained a steady presence on dining tables and restaurant wine lists, few of the country’s other offerings made a mark outside the Iberian Peninsula. Fortunately, all that has now changed. Along with the growing popularity of Spanish food, Spanish wine has now firmly established itself alongside wines from France and Italy. Perhaps, the best known of the Spanish white varieties is Albarino, also from the Basque country. As Jancis Robinson wrote recently, “the more I taste these North West Spanish wine varieties the more I love them”. Largely forgotten since the war, the Albarino grape experienced a resurgence in the late 1980s and 1990s and led the way for other varieties, such as the Godello used to make this offering from Martin Codax. This drinks really well

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with seafood of all types and shellfish in particular. Dry and fresh with an acidic finish and hints of citrus fruits, this wine could cope nicely with oily and salty fish, such as sardines, anchovies and mackerel and would go pretty well with a goat’s cheese or salty blue. In my opinion this wine would generally work best with food, to be honest, rather than on its own as an aperitif or a ‘party’ white, but I’m happy to recommend it nonetheless. Turning to the Provencal offer, like many Brits apparently, I have only tended to drink rosé when in sunnier climes. Somehow the pink stuff didn’t seem to translate very well to a BBQ under leaden English summer skies! The M de Minuty Rosé 2013 from the San Tropez region really is a delight. Unlike many rosé wines, it is not too sweet, but is really easy to drink. The tastes are floral (think elderflower) rather than fruity but none the less interesting for that. This really is an excellent summer party wine and the bottle design will attract attention from your guests if nothing else does! It isn’t cheap (£14.00 for a single bottle but really significant reductions on two or more) but it is certainly worth the premium if you want a slightly better class of rosé than the normal High Street offerings. A hint: to get the best out of it, serve chilled but not too cold. Great with summer picnic fare. So, if you too are missing the sun on your back and longing to feel the caress of gentle summer breezes, these two wines will put you firmly in the mood. Happy drinking! ■ Caixas Godello 2012 £9.99, or £6.66 each when you buy two 29 April - 2 June (From 3 June £7.49 on multi-buy). M de Minuty Rosé 2013 £14.99, or £9.99 each when you buy two, 29 April - 2 June (From 3 June £11.24 on multi-buy). Wine supplied by Majestic Wine Warehouse, Gosforth.

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MOTORING

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WOW FACTOR MAKES UP FOR IDENTITY CRISIS BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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MOTORING

forgive me, but I must admit to being a little underwhelmed. I remembered reading some time ago, that this was really a posh Nissan, built for the executive market. Then I thought, ‘hang on a second John, don’t go prejudging it – you’ve done that once with a Nissan, but then got the chance to drive a Nissan GTR at Silverstone’. What followed was the best and fastest drive of my life, in an absolutely blistering Nissan. So, ‘be open minded’, I thought, and let’s see what we’ve got. That’s when my first problem started. I hadn’t been available when the car was delivered. I knew it was in the staff car park, so after about 20 minutes, I returned and said to my PA, ‘Are you sure it’s in the car park – I can’t find it!’ Turns out I’d walked past it about five times as, from the badge on the front, I’d mistaken it for a Mazda. When I took a walk around it – and looked in a bit more detail, it was clearly a little bit different – the name ‘Infiniti’, the model, ‘Q50’, as well as ‘AWD’ and ‘Hybrid’, really make me want to give it a spin. I started her up with the keyless ignition system – or at least I thought I had. It genuinely took me several minutes to realise that at tick over the rev counter shows zero rpm – and there was no noise or sound from the engine at all.

I actually thought that if some boy racer tries to get past me, I could probably call in a missile strike! John Craggs, deputy chief executive at Gentoo, was impressed with the ‘blistering performance’ of the Infiniti Q50... once he managed to find it I got quite excited at the thought of doing a test drive for BQ. Would it be an Aston Martin, a nice little Mercedes sporty thing,

or even a Ferrari. Now, where could I best park that in Sunderland? When I was told it would be an Infiniti, well,

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Having never driven a Hybrid before, how was I meant to know it was running off the lithium battery? Oh yes, and the other surprise was the lack of a handbrake – well, until I stumbled across it with my left foot. So, into reverse and get ready to finally leave the car park. Hang on – what on earth? My eyes were drawn to the huge double display panel on the dash, showing off the full range of amazing all-round camera system – for >>

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safety and precision. I’ve seen smaller screens at the cinema! The main thing in this regard, however, which really blew me away, was the Google Earth like aerial view of the car, in real time, so that you get a 360° shot of your car from above. Wow – I still haven’t managed to work that one out. I actually thought that if some boy racer tries to get past me, I could probably call in a missile strike! Off I went, picked my wife up, who immediately loved the heated leather seats. They don’t have them in her 1987 BMW 5-series, she pointed out to me.

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Not knowing what engine size the quiet Infiniti had, we headed off onto the A19. I was just toddling along minding my own business, noticing that the immensely comprehensive on-board computer display showed that this Infiniti had done some 6750 miles thus far, of which 1850 were from the electric motor, which I thought seemed quite respectable, and must help with both fuel economy and CO² emissions hugely. Then, something quite extraordinary happened. I guess in answer to my ‘question to self’, I decided to see what sort of power an Infiniti Q50 Hybrid had – so I put

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my foot down (I must point out that I didn’t use the full performance of the car. It does 155mph and there may be senior members of Northumbria and Durham Constabulary reading this review!). Anyway – wow. The Infiniti took off like a scalded cat. The fusion, the 3 litre combustion (@ 300 bhp) and the lithium charged electric motor (@ 70 bhp) gives a superb blistering performance, which really takes you by surprise. Whilst the engine is never noisy, it gives a kind of ‘swoosh’ as the two motors and automatic gearbox gets you from nowhere to somewhere else in the blink of an eye. The instant acceleration really is immense, and a joy to behold. Over the next 48 hours, the mist really descended over the North East, and the opportunity to use the Infiniti to its full potential wasn’t great. It did mean that I did more town and city driving. It was interesting and very easy to see just when the car was running off the battery or the engine, and dependent upon the settings you choose on the on board display. I could see that around town I was able to get around 30 mpg. This, for a car delivering a claimed 370 bhp, was no mean achievement. The visibility from the cockpit/driver’s seat was good. It was light and airy, and my wife always likes an electric glass sun roof, which I believe was an optional extra. The space and comfort in the rear was acceptable if not generous. The trim was of a high quality, stylish and a nice use of materials and colour. However, a drawback to the Q50 is the boot isn’t very big. I read somewhere once, that something like 80% of people who run a Lexus, also play golf. So you might struggle to get a golf bag and trolley into the space. I’m guessing that’s a concession to the Lithium battery storage, which given the added performance and the fuel saving, is a worthy sacrifice. So, could I Iive with this as my day car – the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Would I have one – unfortunately I would have to say ‘no’ as I couldn’t part with my classic 1988 BMW 315i convertible. n The car John drove was Infiniti Q50 Hybrid AWD priced at £49,055. The car was kindly supplied by Infiniti.

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10/03/2014 13:45


FASHION

Certainly, society has long held deeply-cultural prohibitions against women dressing as men, sometimes, as in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, even proscribing it in law

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FASHION LOOK WHO’S WEARING THE TROUSERS “Power”, Giorgio Armani recently announced, “can be feminine.” Look to the catwalks, and power is certainly in play. If the 1980s saw women embracing the sober tailoring of their male counterparts – all the better to play them at their own corporate game – then so-called power dressing is back: the middle line of soft mixed separates, as espoused by Michelle Obama – not an unpowerful woman after all – has given way to a revival of the office style that some women working the greasy pole in big business once felt compelled to wear in order to be treated as equals to the pin-striped men. Now the likes of Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and, of course, Armani are back with those trouser suits for women – but this time with a softer, slender, more feminised silhouette than the broad shouldered kind of 30 years ago. The power shades are still there – the black, navy and charcoal that look right around the boardroom table – but now too are more gentle, pastel shades of metallic neutrals, which can carry the look away from the office and into eveningwear. The style is not so rigid either – jacket and trousers may well now

Trouser suits – much maligned during the Thatcherite era – are making a comeback, but not at the expense of femininity, writes Josh Sims be co-ordinated separates rather than stiffly matched. That the new power suit is a softer affair is just as well – figures suggest that the first women to buy into this more formal style are young enough not to have remembered power dressing the first time around, and are perhaps excited by the crisp air of authority and grown-upness that it brings; but of course the big fashion brands also need it to appeal to the wealthier, older customers for whom the power suit – as the makers of 1980s satirical puppet show ‘Spitting Image’ hyped in their Churchillian portrayal of Margaret Thatcher – often suggested a more overt masculinisation that was not always that appealing. Today the power suit may be right for a more serious, post-crash working world, but women are, all the same, not quick to dress with androgyny in mind. That was not always the case. If the sight of a woman in a trouser suit is unlikely to upset the horses these days, recall that it was enough to see women barred from entry into certain private establishments within the last three decades. The first power suits, indeed, very >>

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FASHION

Katharine Hepburn, Annie Lennox, Margaret Thatcher and Madonna knew how to play the power suit fashion game

much had in mind the agency of the provocateur. It was bold for any woman to play with gender stereotypes through their clothing during the 1920s and 30s. The exceptions perhaps were Hollywood stars the likes of Marlene Dietrich, who wore trouser suits by Elsa Schiaparelli, or Josephine Baker – a regular at the Parisian men’s bespoke tailors Cifonelli – or later artists the likes of Frida Kahlo or Lee Miller. Their celebrity and/ or avant garde lifestyle somewhat permitted it. Certainly, society has long held deeply-cultural prohibitions against women dressing as men, sometimes, as in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, even proscribing it in law. It was only from the early 1890s through to late in the first decade of the 1900s that women were permitted to wear trousers in public for, by turns, horse-riding and bicycle-riding. This was not, however, an issue for most women. And fewer still would even have considered wearing what was

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strongly defined as a man’s two-piece suit – the choice of some early women’s rights campaigners during the 1920s precisely because of its scandalousness and bohemianism. This was dressing as politics. In contrast, up until World War Two, most women who did wear trousers did so purely for acceptable reasons of practicality – for ranch or factory work, or because one happened to be an adventurer-aviator the likes of Amelia Earhart. But this was a trend that the War made much more commonplace, such that throughout the 1940s trouser-wearing by women became fashionable – again ably assisted by the endorsement of ‘slacks’ given by Hollywood stars the likes of Katharine Hepburn (whose characters often played on her supposed ‘mannishness’). Trousers were worn for sport and leisure. For most the tailored suit, however, remained an outsider proposition – the stuff of theatre and androgynous play, and perceived as such. It was a >>

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FASHION What, in 30 years, will women make of this latest round of sharply tailored style? Perhaps, in another three decades, the notion of a woman’s attire seeking to evoke anything perceived as masculine will have been consigned to history too

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FASHION Through the 1970s the trouser suit was taken on by American designers the likes of Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass and Calvin Klein. The fabrics used may have been traditionally masculine – flannel, tweed – but the cut was more fitted in the body, looser in the leg and altogether less manly. By the end of the decade – and in no small part thanks to the wardrobe of Diane Keaton in Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall’ (1977) – the wearing by women of what a few decades perviously would have been considered masculine clothing had entered the mainstream. Power dressing, in its harder edged 1980s incarnation, was just around the corner. What, in 30 years, will women make of this latest round of sharply tailored style? Perhaps, in another three decades, the notion of a woman’s attire seeking to evoke anything perceived to be a masculine trait will have been consigned to history too. A trouser suit on a woman will be no more cause for discussion than one on a man. n

perception that would last, as with Julie Andrews in ‘Victor/Victoria’ (1982), The Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox or ‘Vogue’-era Madonna. Certainly the new, more flattering power suit appears to be conscious of one lesson fashion history has offered: what suiting would become accepted by society and fashion alike was a much softer, feminised version popularised through Anton Courreges’ and Yves Saint Laurent’s women’s tailoring of the mid-1960s – most notably the latter’s ‘Le Smoking’ of 1966, a velvet and wool dinner suit reinterpreted for the female physique which both helped revolutionise attitudes to women in trousers, and scandalised society in the process. When singer Francoise Hardy wore it to the Paris Opera, “people screamed and hollered,” she recalled. New York socialite Nan Kempner was refused entry to upscale restaurant La Côte Basque in 1968 wearing hers – so she removed the trousers and wore the jacket alone as a kind of impromptu mini-dress. She was then admitted.

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EQUIPMENT

A NAIM WORTH INVESTING IN

Attention to detail and a willingness to embrace the digital future of audio delivery has enabled an established, yet little-known, brand to flourish in an increasingly competitive market Paul Stephenson remembers his first encounter with a company that has gone on to become one of the greats of the largely unsung British audio equipment industry. He ran a hi-fi retail business and was looking for new brands to fill his store. “I came across Naim and it seemed as though it had no real sales or any marketing in place – they were all engineers, beards and weird guys. It was just totally product-oriented, which is fine, but it doesn’t get you much business,” he recalls. So he joined as sales manager and, by 2000, was managing director. Now, he is proud to say, the company has 1000-plus accounts, even if it remains what Stephenson calls a “fairly unknown brand”. Indeed, its reach is good going given that

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Naim is, Stephenson suggests, one of a small band of companies operating in their own small sphere of audio experience. “In fact, I think we’re part of a market of audio specialists that is only just emerging, offering something that is very different to, say, the more commercial take of Japanese makers. Theirs is a commodity approach – it’s not about using your ears to decide if something sounds good. The way people listen to music at home is different to what engineers think they’re making out of electronics at a workbench. It’s about sensitivities and emotional values, not what you see on an oscilloscope.” The Salisbury-based company has just celebrated its 40th birthday so, beards aside, it must be doing something right. Founded by

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the late entrepreneur Julian Vereker – who, frustrated by his own experiences of listening to recordings of live performances decided to experiment building his own amplifiers and loud-speakers – Naim can count itself a twotime Queens Award for Enterprise winner, and has the contract to supply stereo systems for Bentley, the “technically challenging, noisy environment that is the inside of a car,” as Stephenson notes. In 2011 Naim grew considerably when it merged with French loudspeaker manufacturer Focal. But it has also grown, Stephenson argues, because of people’s increased attentiveness to the audio experience – a surprise perhaps given these so very visual times. “The internet has provided a platform for


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EQUIPMENT Paul Stephenson current MD, Julian Vereker Founder

The changing landscape of audio is challenging. Five years ago we would have been afraid of the idea of streaming, and would have regarded streamed music as the lowest common denominator way to listen

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people to find out about us, and also to be better informed about audio generally,” says Stephenson. “But, more than that, we’re seeing a big change. Typically when people buy their computers and X-Boxes, hi-fi is about no.282 on their list of priorities – but audio is becoming fashionable again. People care about sound.” Indeed, remarkably – given the oft-discussed demise of the CD – it’s not even MP3 where audio is at: already some 35% of Naim’s business is in products to stream music direct from the internet. “The changing landscape of audio is challenging. Five years ago we would have been afraid of the idea of streaming, and would have regarded streamed music as the lowest common denominator way to listen,” says Stephenson. “But coming out of that you realise that millions of people are listening that way, millions more are going to, and what they are out there looking for is a way to do that with quality. Thankfully Apple has done a great job. Without their efforts what we do would come across as pure geeksville. But consumers now are much more advanced than their parents in terms of understanding tech and their willingness to invest in it.” Most of Naim’s products are now connectivityenabled although, Stephenson notes, “you still need speakers and amplifiers – streaming technology has been the carrot to pull people in to buy other products.” That might include CD players, but not often. They now

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account for just 17% of sales, with much of those going to China, where there is still a preference for what Stephenson calls “the physical manifestation of music. Vinyl has the tendency to sound better than CD and offers a different, mechanical experience. But a CD is this little plastic box with a bit of silver metal in it – it’s just not very sexy.” Streaming, on the other hand, may be unnervingly intangible to anyone over 30, but it is, Stephenson assures, the future operating with a higher fidelity than CD, with a solid state back-up solution and software upgradable – and a future Naim wants to be a leader in (even, that is, while operating a service department busy looking after machines now older than the first home computers). For anyone under 30, there is another factor that the company must prove itself a leader in. “Style is becoming extremely important,” says Stephenson, “though maybe not for the audio aficionado. The fact is that most people don’t want audio equipment that looks out of fashion in a year, or, for that matter, dominates a room. We’ve always tried to take a form-follows-function approach which doesn’t work for some markets – they want machines that light up like Las Vegas, and every man and his dog has tried to outZeppelin Zeppelin in the way some systems look. But I think we’re shifting back from such extreme styling now.” There is, in this, also a kind of green >>

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EQUIPMENT

thinking, moving away from the consumerist habit of frequent upgrading (and consequent dumping of the perfectly serviceable but now seemingly outmoded kit) with audio equipment that lasts, both in use and looks, for perhaps a lifetime. Stephenson concedes that this is probably to cost the company revenue – a quick modification to a stock product remains an easy way for more massmarket manufacturers to make a quick sale. But that is not what he, or Naim, are about. Suffice it to say that the company’s last big launch was in 2008 and the next is due this year, but still under wraps. Its most recent launch was certainly big in scale and sound: this spring it released its Statement speaker, with all of its 746 watts of power – or one horsepower – and projected $200,000 price. “Well,” says Stephenson, “we’re a British company and we make everything in Britain. To be able to make here taps into long traditions of engineering and design and craftsmanship and puts your products in a higher league, even if it doesn’t always put them at the higher price point too.” Not always at least. ■

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Every man and his dog has tried to out-Zeppelin Zeppelin in the way some systems look...we’re shifting back from such extreme styling

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ENTREPRENEUR

SPRING 14

MEET THE INTREPID HOLIDAY FINDER Alistair McLean, Britain’s outstanding provider of adventure holidays, tells Brian Nicholls the story behind his exciting business, which he runs from a converted farmhouse in Northumberland You do something especially well to capture three top national honours – best small holiday company for family, for activity and sports, and for adults only. So what is it? We want everybody to benefit from one of our holidays. We have to make a profit to pay overheads and staff, and our suppliers must do the same. But we don’t try to squeeze our suppliers for every single cent, and I believe our clients receive a better and more fulfilling holiday experience because of that. We also have an incredibly dedicated, hard working, creative and intelligent team. It all seems to work. We’ve received an “overall holiday satisfaction” rating from our clients of over 95% for the past five years. I think this is what contributed so strongly to our gaining three awards recently at the travel industry’s Oscars – The British Travel Awards. Have you countered the recent cutback in holidaymakers’ foreign travel caused by recession? We’ve ridden it out comfortably, recording record profits and record passenger numbers in the financial year to 31 Aug 13. We were

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the first UK holiday company to recognise the Northern Lights would become big news. By creating The Aurora Zone, a brand maximising chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis, we opened a new market and raised sales through the difficult times. We now find ourselves cash rich in, hopefully, an economic recovery. We’re looking to spend some of that money on new projects. I’ve just returned from researching Alaska, The Yukon and Vancouver. Exciting times lie ahead!   You tackled the recession by concentrating more on the adult market, but is the family market returning to normal yet? Clients who have travelled with us over the last few years have been almost exclusively aged between 45 and 75, reasonably affluent and generally looking to tick “wish list” boxes. The family market has suffered, no denying. I blame the recession and more competition in what was a pretty niche field originally. However, last summer saw a 28% increase on 2012. This year looks like it will be well ahead again. We’ve a way to go to reach 2008 passenger levels, but the awards have raised our profile and boosted sales.

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What benefits do you find operating from a small place like Stannington? I can employ local people and as there aren’t a huge amount of jobs in the area, we tend to get considerable staff loyalty. I like to think we treat our employees very well too. Also, I live in Gosforth and it takes my wife (who also works in the business) and me less than 10 minutes to get home in the evening. We have two children, aged 11 and eight, and believe our family life is equally or more important than the business. The location was chosen with that in mind.   Your business has been running 11 years – did your ideas catch on right away? The first version in 1999 was a struggle. Through hard graft and sheer bloody mindedness, the business slowly grew to an extent that I obtained an £80,000 loan from the bank to expand. The money hit our bank account on 10 September 2001 and the very next day was the 9/11 tragedy and nobody wanted to fly for several months after. I was left trying to service the debt on the loan while bookings dwindled. Despite propping it up with a lot of my own cash, I took the >>


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ENTREPRENEUR

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ENTREPRENEUR

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business into liquidation in 2002. This was a low point. I’d lost my business. I was almost made bankrupt. My marriage was suffering. But with the support of my wife and my accountant we raised £40,000 from private investors and started again. Second time around was much easier. I had learned from my mistakes and had more confidence in my decision making. For a few years we were barely paid but had some great adventures setting up holidays in amazing locations. Slowly but surely the passenger numbers grew. So did the returns. Some ideas, such as The Aurora Zone, catch fire straight away. Others take longer. My cash cow pays for my rising stars and allows them time to grow. Are about half of your 14 staff graduates of Northumbria University like yourself? Yup, Northumbria has been a gold mine for us especially the BA (Hons) Travel and Tourism Management degree. Having done this degree myself, I know what’s being taught. It very much suits our needs. We generally take students on a 12 month placement and keep in touch during their final year back at university. I can think of only one placement student who hasn’t come back into full time employment with us.   How much of your working time do you spend travelling and for what purpose? I initially set up the business so I could travel. I’ve no interest in material goods. Flash cars, fancy suits and ridiculous personalised number plates leave me cold. I simply want to live my one and only existence to the fullest extent possible, and I believe to achieve that I need to see the world. The plan went on hold for a few years when the children came along. Now they’re 11 and eight, I’m getting back into the travelling side. You’d be amazed how few tour operators send staff to destinations they feature. I believe we have to know places we sell like the backs of our hands. Our company motto is ‘we’ve been, we love, so will you’. Clients booking our holidays can be sure our staff have been to all the destinations we feature. We’ve slept in the beds, eaten the food and loved the activities! I’ve just returned from an 18 night trip taking

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I’ve no interest in material goods. Flash cars, fancy suits and ridiculous personalised number plates leave me cold in Alaska, The Yukon and Vancouver. I’m fascinated by the Gold Rush, the Northern Lights, distance dog sledding races, the works of Jack London and the vast, vast North generally. Dancing underneath the Aurora Borealis on the Dalton Highway (of Ice Road Truckers fame) at 3am, taking a helicopter ride over the Colony glacier, a boat trip on Prince William Sound and dog sledding with somebody who has competed 10 times in the toughest dog sledding race in the world are just a few highlights I aim to share with our clients over the coming years. In June, one of my product managers will go out to finalise the trips we’ll create in conjunction with the local suppliers, and in September one of my sales team will also make the trip to ensure we know the destinations and the activities fully. We’re not in the travel business to sit behind desks!   What do you consider are the most exciting holiday(s) your company offers? So many to choose from! It largely depends on whether it’s a family or adult trip. For families,

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I think our long haul holidays are amazing – not cheap, but that’s unavoidable given the adventures and accommodation within the holiday. Ecuador and the Galapagos has to be up with the best http://www.activitiesabroad. com/holidays/291/active-adventure Of the winter holidays, any trip that includes hunting for the Northern Lights is amazing, and I love dog sledding. So our five day wilderness safari in Finland, driving your own team and sled ticks all the right boxes for me. www.thewhitecircle.com/holidays/9/5-dayhusky-safari   Can you give some idea in figures of how your company has grown? Last financial year we turned over £6.9m making pre-tax profit of £719k. It keeps the wolf from the door!   What was your job when you decided to jack in and get into business for yourself? I worked for a stockbroking company in Newcastle for six years and hated it. I dearly wish I’d done something more productive >>

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ENTREPRENEUR

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with that time. One day, aged 30, I packed a tent, a sleeping bag and other bits and pieces on the back of a bicycle and just went off travelling to try and satiate my increasingly restless wanderlust. That’s where it all started. Had you travelled quite a bit yourself before you set up the business? I’d cycled across Europe for about 11 months. Other than that it had always been two weeks on some God forsaken Costa lightly grilling under a burning Mediterranean sun. There’s so much more to do now. The holiday industry has changed dramatically.   How old are you? Ugh! 51, and as my time grows shorter, my list of “must-do’s” grows longer. I tried to deny my 50th by stoically ignoring the landmark, hoping it would go away and bother somebody else. I eventually relented and invited my close family to lunch which I cooked. When my dad came in the house he shook my hand and said: “Congratulations son, 50 to 70 is the blink of an eye.” Thanks for that, Dad! As usual, he has been right. The last year has flown. But it has been the best of my life. Long may it continue.   Where were you born? Corbridge. I’m never happier than when cycling Northumberland’s country lanes.   Your wife’s name, by the way? Take your pick: Long-suffering. Ever dependable. My rock. Best mother in the world. The most understanding and supportive woman in the world. But mostly, I call her Kate.   How old were you when you became a mature student at Northumbria University? I was 31 when I went to North Tyneside College to get the qualifications to get into Northumbria. As a mature student I had a huge advantage. I read newspapers and had a rough idea of what was going on in the world and the industry. It’s amazing how many students are clueless on such matters. At 32 I went to Northumbria on a four year course. The other students called me Dad. I allowed them to live, but at times it was close!

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The money hit our bank account on 10 September 2001 and the very next day was the 9/11 tragedy and nobody wanted to fly for several months after Where were you educated before that? West Jesmond Junior School, Dame Allan’s Boys School, which I left in the fifth year to go to Gosforth High School where you were allowed to associate with girls! School and I didn’t really get on, truth be told.   What advice have you for anyone venturing abroad? Listen to the locals. They know, you don’t. Never ever assume you’re in any way superior to the locals and always respect their home environment. Dig deep. Most tourists barely touch the surface in any given destination.   Do you have much competition? We’ve always been pretty pioneering. We were the second company in the UK to set up multi-activity holidays. We established winter holidays in Scandinavia when they were in their infancy. And we were first to run dedicated Northern Lights trips. What are the biggest challenges in your business? Coming up with new and innovative holidays.

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We’ve a name for being different and innovative. But there’s such a massive range available it’s hard to remain completely unique. Your future ambitions for the business? I’ve a new brand planned which will take up much of the next 12 months as we are investing in new staff, systems, websites and more. We’re going to feature some incredible locations but there’s a lot of work to be done. Eventually, I’ll have to sell my share in the business because it’s my pension and I sincerely hope it’s my staff who buy me out. They would look after it in a way no big corporate would. n The Activity Travel Company operates under three brands. Activities Abroad www.activitiesabroad. com – Family activity holidays winter and summer The Aurora Zone www.theaurorazone.com – Dedicated Northern Lights holidays for people aged 18 and over                        The White Circle  www.thewhitecircle.com – Winter adventures such as dog sledding safaris for people aged 18 and over.


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COMPANY PROFILE

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships can help you generate £millions of new business Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are the ‘gold standard’ in terms of accessing University of Sunderland expertise to grow your business and increase your profits Put simply - KTPs are a 3-way partnership between a business, University and a graduate of exceptional calibre. The graduate (known as The Associate) is recruited into the business to work on a project of strategic value, such as developing new products or helping to access new markets. University academic staff mentor the graduate for ½ day per week and provide sustained support to the business through the transfer of their knowledge and expertise. The University’s knowledge is embedded into the business leading to genuine new opportunities and capabilities for the company. The KTP model has been around for 30-years but relatively little is known about them in the North East. This is something the University of Sunderland seeks to change as the results from KTPs speak for themselves. A recent KTP between the University of Sunderland and a North East print company led to the company partner, Imprint Group, generating £2million of new business in a short space of time. When Imprint Group wanted to develop their largely manual business process into IT driven systems, the company turned to the University for help and benefitted from the input of computer software graduate Kris Carr, who has spent the last two years supporting the company’s ambitions in IT solutions. Now Imprint is one of the biggest suppliers of digitally printed promotional material for retail marketing campaigns and Kris has a full-time role as a software engineer with the Newcastle-based company. The success of the KTP has resulted in a rare grade A - ‘Outstanding’ rating by the UK’s innovation agency – the Technology Strategy Board, which funds, approves and rigorously reviews each project. Mark Donnelly, Business Development Manager for the University of Sunderland, said: “We are delighted our collaboration with Imprint through this KTP has been such a success and resulted in an ‘Outstanding’ rating.

Kris Carr, Sunderland graduate with Graeme Wilkie (Group IT Director at Imprint Group)

Mark said “The Company has significantly improved their IT processes and generated £2m of new business, the academics have had a great experience transferring their research knowledge to help the business succeed, and one of our talented graduates has secured full-time employment.” Imprint was suffering from bottlenecks and some inefficiencies in their processes, and the KTP was designed to give the company access to the latest knowledge and expertise from the University’s Department of Computing, Engineering and Technology around the development of management information systems and complex processing technologies, as well as methods to engage employees in the adoption of new technologies into their working practices. Kris’s efforts have partly helped the company grow year on year by 30 per cent and produce revenue gains of up to £2m through increased efficiency and new client wins. This has in turn led to an increase in staff from 40 up to 70. Graeme Wilkie, Imprint Group IT Director, said

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“the rewards to the company from the process have been immense. Since Kris joined us in 2011 he’s been fantastic, bringing with him new technologies which have helped transform the way we work.” KTPs deliver real value for business but are actually a very cost effective way of driving your business forward. There is a 60% subsidy for small to medium sized businesses – so for less than £20,000 per year you could be realising significant profits from accessing the very best in University support.

To start a conversation on KTP please contact Mark Donnelly in the Business Services team at the University of Sunderland. Tel: 0191 5153555 ktp@sunderland.ac.uk

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


IN ANOTHER LIFE

SPRING 14

Gordon Brown, who heads the commercial team at Gordon Brown Law Firm and specialises in commercial property, feels that in another life he might have cruised the skies as an airline pilot

A HEAD FOR HEIGHTS My dream of a career as an airline pilot began at what many would consider to be fairly late in life. It wasn’t until I was 31 that I realised it was something I would love to do day in, day out. I have my nephew to thank for my first flight experience. I took him to a local airfield for his fifth birthday present. Before that, I’d never sat in the cockpit of a light aircraft. But that first flight convinced me I had caught the aviation bug. I wish I could say my nephew enjoyed the experience as much as I did. However, he looked a little green by the time we had touched down! The feeling of complete escape and release when taking to the skies has to be experienced to be understood, and anyone who has ever flown a plane will echo my sentiments – there really is nothing quite like it. I went on to take regular flying lessons and achieved my official pilot’s licence in 1985. Then at 35 I bit the bullet and submitted my application to British Airways, to become an airline pilot. However, it wasn’t to be – my application didn’t make the cut (to this day I still blame my age at the time!) and the rest, as they say, is history. My wife and I were starting a family and my career as a solicitor was reaching alternative heights. So I put flying on the afterburner. These days, I’m more than happy with the odd hour’s flight, which occasionally comes my way via a friend or family member in the form of a generous birthday or Christmas gift. Despite my aviation career never officially taking off, I have found in the law a fulfilling profession, and it’s an area which I’ve enjoyed for over 35 years now. The UK business landscape is shifting, but at Gordon Brown LLP we are embracing the change it brings.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

I feel it is a major achievement for a number of people at the firm that we have navigated the business sensibly through good times and bad – in many ways much as a pilot should! We have a loyal customer base with whom we have fantastic relationships. The airline pilot dream didn’t work out, but

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life has given me many “happy landings”. My career as a solicitor has been an incredibly rewarding one, although not always in the financial sense. That’s not to say that if I won the lottery I wouldn’t be tempted to buy a Beech Baron 58 and take to the skies more often! n


A part-time MBA for full-time people Don’t just take our word for it. Here are some full-time managers who have completed our part-time MBA: “Newcastle Business School has a wonderful group of tutors who support and encourage improvement in a professional but friendly manner. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. The knowledge and skills I have learnt have changed my career prospects and increased my opportunities and horizons.” Jeff Stephenson “Everything I learned during the programme was geared towards my job and proved particularly useful not only for my personal development but for solving the problems and issues I was facing at work.”

“My favourite thing about studying at Newcastle Business School and Northumbria University has to be the modern facilities and IT support. I can access key information from home and work which means I can work more flexibly.” Elaine Fletcher “Other colleagues had completed the programme and spoke highly of it... the MBA has improved all aspects of my performance at work.” Jane Gibson

Trevor Milner “The locality of the School really appealed to me. Having previously undertaken fulltime, part-time and correspondence study. I valued the ability to speak to lecturers face to face and interact with other students.” Yvonne Gale

www.newcastlebusinessschool.co.uk

Contact

Dr Lucy Lu, MBA Director l.lu@northumbria.ac.uk 0191 227 4972


PRINCE’S TRUST

with John Wall

EVERY FLICK OF THE SWITCH REWARDS Often I’m asked, exactly what does The Prince’s Trust do? I say simply that we flick the switch. Inside every disadvantaged young person we help is a light bulb waiting to be turned on. For them to be given the support and encouragement that they have never had before will ultimately give them the self-belief and confidence to change their lives for the better. I’m extremely proud The Prince’s Trust has so much passionate support across the North East, especially within the business community. The fantastic achievements of the North East Development Committee and the Leadership Group grow each year, ensuring we can help more young people than ever. I’m also delighted that Professor Roy Sandbach, who was David Goldman Visiting Professor of Innovation & Enterprise at Newcastle University Business School and now chairs the North East Leadership Group, will be taking an instrumental role on the Development Committee. In coming months, he’ll be helping us to further leverage income and engagement from the region’s business community. Leadership Group events continue to enable us to bring together members in shared experiences and best practice. Recently

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

SPRING 14

we’ve been given a very special audience with Mike Johnson, recent chief executive of Castrol and executive vice president of BP at the Quayside’s Live Theatre. Mike, originally from Sunderland, has crafted an outstanding global career, culminating as chief executive of Castrol, now a $9bn global lubricant business of more than 7,500 employees in 60 countries. He created a remarkable sports endorsement strategy for Castrol, developing contracts with Beckham and Ronaldo, and in 2011 supporting the Bluebird Electric land-speed record programme. In his role working with the University of Sunderland, Mike is passionate about encouraging more young people in the North East into business. Our heartfelt thanks also go to His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, who generously hosted a private dinner for The Prince’s Trust in

I was astounded by so many of the stories from this year’s awards of incredible young people from across the country, in particular Victoria Hudson from Stokesley. She has been awarded the Novae Educational Achiever of the Year Award 2014. At nine, Victoria was put into care. As she got older she became unhappy in her foster family. This emotional stress hindered her concentration in school. She was vulnerable and began to get bullied. She fell out with friends, became disruptive in class and skipped school. Concerned about her, the school referred her to the Fairbridge programme which helps disadvantaged young people to develop skills and self-belief to improve their lives. At first, she was nervous. But the experience of meeting new people, working in a team and doing interesting, and challenging activities rebuilt her confidence.

I was astounded by so many of the stories from this year’s awards of incredible young people from across the country the North East, held in the stunning grounds of Alnwick Castle. Guests heard from Emma Reilly who, after being unemployed for over a year and experiencing depression, turned her life around to run an impressive business, the Brave and the Bold Apparel. During the next few months we have some of our much enjoyed fundraising events including the annual clay shoot, kindly supported by John Marshall at Bond Dickinson and John Holland, and set on the spectacular Lambton Estate. Last year we raised over £30,000 and hope to raise yet more this year. Celebrating each other’s successes and pushing each other forward to greater things is something we can all benefit from, something that is also at the heart of what we do at The Prince’s Trust. The Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success awards, now in its10th year, has honoured more than 2,400 young people, who have battled against the odds and worked hard to change their lives.

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She learned to trust people again. She is now with a new foster family and feels settled. Her attendance and effort at school are much improved, and she has taken nine GCSEs a year early. Victoria is the embodiment of flicking the switch. She has shown how a little support can transform a young person’s life. Over the past decade, we’ve seen so many young people who are now on the path to success. With support from the business community this vital work can continue across the North East. www.princes-trust.org.uk • The Prince’s Trust North East Leadership Group comprises like minded entrepreneurs who are passionate about investing in the futures of disadvantaged young people. If you’d like to get involved, call me on 0780 291 7615. If you’re interested in any of our events, call Zoe Mulvenna on 0191 497 3227.

2014


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MEDIA BRIEFS

SPRING 14

>> Biz Quiz 1. Who is PwC’s senior partner in the North East region? 2. Robert Stephenson’s famous locomotive building business outgrew its works behind Newcastle Central Station in 1901 and had to relocate. Where did it go? 3. Who is the current North East Business Executive of the Year? 4. The liner Mauretania was the world’s largest ship for four years when she was launched on the Tyne. What year? 5. Who has recently been named the first chief executive of Sunderland’s Business Improvement District? Answers at the foot of the page.

The Scrutator >> Where to land some lolly It’s easier than before for small businesses to access funds. There’s a signpost pointing the way too. The business builders’ bible is out, now in its fifth edition. The latest North East Access to Finance (NEA2F) Guide suggests no fewer than 250 possible sources of funding and support for start-ups and businesses eager to grow. Detailed Information in its 98 pages covers background and contact details on public sector investment funds, equity and loan funds, business angels, and grants. There’s also information on services the business support agencies offer. NEA2F chairman Geoff Hodgson reckons the North East is the best place in the country for access to this kind of assistance. He says work is also under way to introduce JEREMIE 2, a sequel to the £125m scheme that was launched in 2010, enabling small and medium size businesses yearly to access funds

of up to £1.25m for projects in our region. More than 850 firms could benefit by 2015. NEA2F manages the legacies from the region’s investment funds for SMEs and is working with Tees Valley LEP and the North East LEP towards creating a successor to the current publicly backed investment funds. Hodgson points out that a majority of firms in the North East are SMEs, and SMEs despite the economic upturn still face problems accessing finance from traditional sources such as banks. He’s looking forward with interest to see what impact the new British Business Bank and the first Regional Social Investment Fund for the North East will have when they take effect later this year. The £11.5m Social Investment Fund for our region was announced last December by Northern Rock Foundation and Big Society Capital to support the development and expansion of voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises. See www. nea2f.co.uk/the-north-east-social-investmentfund-update-on-progress/#sthash.RWB29tyu. dpuf Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One

A majority of firms in the North East are SMEs... and, despite the economic upturn, face problems accessing finance from traditional sources such as banks

Law which sponsors the NEA2F Guide, considers it a signpost relevant to current needs – helpful also to fund managers, accountants and corporate finance lawyers seeking investment for their clients. The guide is also available online at www.nea2fguide.co.uk

>> Meat and proper I can’t go shopping in Newcastle now without visiting the Grainger Market, whose transformation has been remarkable, not least because it suggests that the public sector – in this case Newcastle City Council – can run retail successfully if it applies itself. The market’s a buzzing social hub nowadays, as every market should be. And my only disappointment lies in the otherwise enterprising little commercial booklet the council has put out which tells the market’s story past and present. I had hoped to see a two-page spread filled with a photograph that could easily have been taken, of the area where all the restaurants, cafes and deli stalls are flourishing, as too the gossip and chatter. Instead, space is taken up with tiny images of fruit and veg, as if we don’t know what fruit and veg look like, and which could have been photographed inside any market in the country. There are one or two little gems in the booklet’s text, though – like the disclosure that one of the many butchers there counts among his regular customers students from Newcastle University Medical School who buy their meat to practice their stitching skills on!

Answers: 1 Bill MacLeod. 2 Darlington. 3 Mike Matthews, Nifco European operations officer and managing director of Nifco UK at Eaglescliffe. 4 1907. 5 Ken Dunbar.

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

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SPITFIRE LOUNGE Visit the Sunderland International Airshow and experience informal comfort in the Spitfire Lounge featuring a drinks reception and two course buffet lunch. Spitfire Lounge guests will also receive a complimentary copy of the souvenir programme and a free park and ride pass.

LYNX LOUNGE VIP Hospitality with a Prosecco and canapĂŠs reception and three course waiter served luncheon including a half bottle of wine. Vintage afternoon tea and an opportunity to meet Display Pilots. Lynx Lounge guests will also receive a complimentary copy of the souvenir programme and on-site parking. Sunderland Council Sub-brands

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BIT OF A CHAT

SPRING 14

from Sunderland Polytechnic and worked for Common Brothers in Newcastle. He switched to Freightliner Ltd as a management trainee and eventually managed the company’s operations in Wilton and then Leeds. He gained an MBA from Newcastle University Business School in 1995. All of which leaves me standing.

with Frank Tock >> Ean’s doing a runner I think I may cheer on Ean Parsons in this year’s Great North Run. Not just because he’s 54 but because he’s the chap who gives them the runaround in Sedgefield area literally, leading a field of campaigners out to fund and build a pukka athletics training track and field events facility locally. Ean has completed all but one of the GNRs since they started in 1981, an acquaintance tells me, and he doesn’t intend to miss this auspicious one, which is expected to see the event’s half millionth finisher cross the line. Last year Ean, who also chairs Sedgefield Village Games, took part in the troubled Boston Marathon, and this year he expects to go in for the Rotterdam Marathon and several other races. Last September too he won the silver medal in the North East track championship 10,000m (veterans). He coaches many senior and junior members of Sedgefield Harriers, which he founded in 2005. He also prepares training plans for individuals. In pursuit of those funds for the venue project, many other Sedgefield Harriers will join him on the GNR starting line. And many junior club members will take part in the Mini and Junior Great North Runs. Most surprising perhaps is that Ean finds time to do all this while also pacing along a winning track his company Parsons Containers, which he founded in 2000. He has been in the container industry more than 30 years. While obviously gifted with good landlegs, he has sound sealegs too. He’s ex-merchant navy, qualified at South Shields Marine College, graduated with a nautical degree

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

Ean has completed all but one of the GNRs since they started in 1981, and doesn’t intend to miss this one >> How do they do it? I expected some breast beating among the promoters of business start-ups in our region’s two largest cities when neither appeared in the top 10 hotspots named by StartUp Britain, the campaign to foster the breed. We can understand London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow to be well ahead given their populations and the fact that the table was not calculated on launch numbers alone, nor even start-ups per 10,000 population. But then you see Warrington and Reading, both smaller than Newcastle, and Sunderland, up there too. So how do they do it? Has anyone into business support checked this out?

>> Red, white & black Talking of Newcastle and Sunderland, both cities’ Premier football clubs are partners in NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Sarah Stewart, the NGI’s chief executive, says: “We’re probably the only organisation that can count both these clubs as partners.” So what colour shirt does she wear on a Saturday? “Whichever club has invited me,” she laughs. Which still leaves derby day.

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>> Saluting a hero I’m delighted the campaign my colleague The Scrutator publicised in our previous issue of BQ is succeeding, and that more than a century after the Titanic sank, a memorial to its chief engineer Joseph Bell is being restored in the graveyard at his home village in Farlam, Cumbria. John Lightfoot, chairman of Solar Solve at South Shields, who made known the campaign here in the North East, tells me a service of rededication, following the completion of conservation work on a memorial gravestone to Bell, was to be held on 26 April. John and his wife Lilian expected to be there, representing supporters, marine engineers and the marine industry in general. Donors from the North East were among those who have raised £2,000 needed initially to restore the memorial. John tells me: “Funds must be found regularly to complete displays and keep the access and surrounding area clear and tidy for Lakeland visitors to come and pay respects.” Bell and his entire crew of engineers suffered horrendous deaths as they remained in the bowels of the sinking ship, continuing their duties to keep the lighting alive as long as possible. They were among 1,500 victims of the iceberg collision, and it is widely believed their sacrifice enabled many passengers to survive who might have been lost too had complete darkness descended sooner.

>> Home, sweet home People with a career in the North are the least inclined to relocate for their dream job, a House Buyer Bureau survey suggests. Almost half would move up to 100 miles, but little over a quarter would move up to 500 miles. Hardly a surprise. Surely the bureau’s aware that trading houses from North to South is a mortgage nightmare in this nation with an economy hideously imbalanced geographically, and (b) Lifestyles in the North are much more rewarding?


SPRING 14

COMPANY PROFILE

Streamlined business support provides the right reaction for Hart Biologicals’ global expansion Hartlepool-based Hart Biologicals is proving a major hit overseas – thanks to a little help from its friends With the ‘Made in Britain’ badge growing in international prominence by the week, companies across the country are looking to explore new markets and sell their components and processes across the world. Recent data is reinforcing this trend. Even international rivals – once keen to chase low cost manufacturing options – are considering reshoring after experiencing issues with delivery delays, quality and ‘hidden costs’. The UK is now in vogue and our firms are beginning to take advantage of it. One such example is Hart Biologicals, a specialist producer of biological reagents used to investigate blood clotting disorders. Based on the Queen’s Meadow business park in Hartlepool, the company has posted impressive growth that has seen it expand from three employees in 2002 to a £1.7m turnover business with a 22-strong workforce. Its success has been based on a commitment to R&D and investing in the best people and a state-ofthe-art manufacturing facility. Export has also played its part, with 80% of annual sales now going overseas to clients in Asia, Australia, Europe and the US. However, the Hart Biologicals management team always knew they couldn’t do it on their own and tapped into support from three Government-backed business support initiatives in GrowthAccelerator, the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI). Owner Alby Pattison picked up the story: “In an ideal world you’d like to approach one contact with your situation and then let them bring in the right partners to help you deal with it. This is what we got with GrowthAccelerator, MAS and UKTI and it has helped us capitalise on new opportunities.” Simplifying business support is something these three organisations are committed to achieving in the North East and this has led to regular meetings at Tees Valley Unlimited (the local LEP) to discuss new assistance and how they can best meet the needs of local firms. This involves making each other aware of their specific support offers

Left to Right : John Heslop (Growth Accelerator) , John Holmes-Carrington (UKTI), Jim Barr (MAS), Alby Pattinson (Owner – Hart Biologicals) and services and ensuring that signposting is streamlined and efficient. Pattison agrees it is a philosophy that is working well: “Being able to harness the right advice at the right time from GrowthAccelerator, MAS and UK Trade and Investment has been seamless and it has really made a difference to our company. “We were always focused on taking our expertise in biological reagents into new markets and we used UKTI to access funding for exhibitions and, more recently, in gaining entry into individual countries, such as Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.” Hart Biologicals, which is now involved in all areas of coagulation and platelet aggregation, was able to access GrowthAccelerator support in the shape of biomedical and life science specialist Kenny Lang. He supported the company with advice on business strategy and how to manage its growth, whilst also providing complementary advice on international business development. Pattison continued: “The fact Kenny was an expert in our industry – often deemed a very specialist market – ensured he had an immediate understanding of our activities and the opportunities we could exploit.” The final element of the support was provided by the Manufacturing Advisory Service, who worked with the company to develop its business strategy to identify stakeholders, business objectives and

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issues that needed resolving. It also provided employees with specialist development courses and in enhancing their management skills. Jim Barr, Manufacturing Advisor at MAS, concluded: “Hart Biologicals is a fantastic example of how simplified business support should work. MAS, UKTI and GA all bring something different to the table and, because we all understand each other’s offer, we can work seamlessly to deliver what fast growing firms want.” Hart is increasingly undertaking R&D projects for a number of its clients and links with some European customers have led to it becoming a nominated reagent research and development partner. This will fuel future growth and, with investment in a new specialist manufacturing room underway, the Hartlepool firm is aiming to double turnover by 2019.

GrowthAccelerator - 0191 499 8401, www.growthaccelerator.com Mas - 0845 658 9600, www.mymas.org UKTI - 0845 05 05 054, www.gov.uk/ukti

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14


EVENTS

SPRING 14

BQ’s business events diary gives you lots of time to forward plan. If you wish to add your event to the list send it to editor@bq-magazine.co.uk and please put ‘BQ events page’ in the subject heading

MAY 16 EEF briefing, Health and Safety, Climate and Environment, EEF House, Gateshead (9.30am) 19 CBI North East, regional council Q2, PD Ports, Middlesbrough (9.15am)

11 ICE, Sustainable Drainage Systems, Newcastle University (5.45pm) stephanie.henderson@environment-agency.gov.uk 11 NOF Energy, Evening with Professor Richard Davies (Durham University), Beamish Hall Hotel (7pm)

20 ICAEW Spring Tax Update, Durham (2pm). www.icaew.com/events#result

12 Stand up and be Counted, NECC networking event, Holiday Inn, Darlington North (2.30pm)

20 NOF Energy’s Oil, Gas and Shale Gas networking lunch with Sasol Petroleum International, Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield (10.30)

17 CIM presentation, Making and Marketing the Perfect Pint, Simon Theakston, Masham (6pm)

20 ICE event, Biomass, Newcastle University (5.45pm), Michael.coulson@ bamnuttall.co.uk

18 Managing Employee Relations, EEF seminar, EEF House, Gateshead (10am) 0808 2020 888

20 Access to Finance, an NECC local event, Wansbeck Business Centre (4.30pm)

19 Nepic International Biosources Conference, Vermont Hotel, Newcastle (9am) john.brady@nepic.co.uk

20 Spring Tax Update, ICAEW briefing, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham (2pm) 20 to 22 Annual Thinking Digital Conference, Sage, Gateshead. Speakers include Carl Ledbetter, X Box One’s industrial designer; Erin McKean, founder of wordnick. com; Jonathan O’Halloran, creator of the net led DNA Lab; Ian Wharton, creator of Jamie Oliver’s mobile apps; and Colin Ulltoa, 3D animator. www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-thinking-digital-conference 21 NECC Willow Wednesday, Willow Farm Pub Restaurant, Cramlington 22 Entrepreneurs’ Forum visit to Nissan. www.entrepreneursforum.net 0191 500 7780 22 NECC Incoterms at 2010, overview, NECC Durham (9.30am)

19 ICE, NGG Annual Seminar, Central Sq, Newcastle (1pm) d.g.toll@durham.ac.uk 19 Customs Compliance, Processes and Document, NECC briefing, NECC Durham (9.30am) 20 Revolutionising how we drive: Dr. Brian Carolin, senior vice-president (sales & marketing) with Nissan in North America, explains how he launched the Nissan Leaf in the US - the world’s first mass market electric vehicle. A convocation weekend event for North East alumni branch of Newcastle University Business School: at the school (5.30pm) 0191 208 1500 20 NOF Energy and FPAL , networking lunch with Shell (tbc)

22 CIM Marketing Boot Campaign, HMS Calliope, Gateshead (9am) 22 North East Mussel Club @ Dacantus, Newcastle (6pm)

24 IoD director development seminar, The Role of the Chief Executive (Ward Hadaway, Newcastle 7.30am. Sukie Ranken 0191 213 1289

28 Energy Introduction to Oil and Gas, NOF Energy industry workshop, NOF Durham (9am)

25 NOF Energy Annual Supplier Day, Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield (10.30am)

JUNE 2 ICAEW, The Reporting Requirements of Small Companies, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham (2pm). www.icaew.com/events#result 3 Digital Debate: Do-It-Yourself technologies - bridging digital and material in cultural heritage settings. Dr Luigina Ciolfi, of Sheffield Hallam University, discusses use of digital technology within the cultural heritage setting, and difficulties some institutions face. Newcastle University Business School (5pm) 0191 208 1500

25 Willow Wednesday, NECC networking, Willow Farm Pub Restaurant, Cramlington (8am) 26 Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Riding the Waves with former film producer Mark Shorrocks. www.entrepreneursforum.net 0191 500 7780

JULY 2 – NECC local event, Devenport Hotel, Middleton One Row (3pm) 8 – ICAEW, Direct and Indirect Tax Issues of Property Transactions, Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham (2pm) www.icaew.com/events#result

3 Import Procedures and Documentation, NECC Durham (9.30am)

8 – NOF Energy, oil and gas networking lunch with WoodGroup Kenny (tbc)

3 NOF Energy, Subsea North East Conference, Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield (8.45am)

8 – Local Employment Advisory Forum, career guidance, Gateshead College Academy for Sport (8am and noon)

4 Intelligent policing: How systems thinking methods eclipse conventional management practice. Simon Guilfoyle, a serving police Inspector and systems specialist, on why performance measuring systems should be changed. Newcastle University Business School (5.30pm) 0191 208 1500 4 CBI North East M Club: Access to Finance, Newcastle University (8am). clara.stenning@cbi.org.uk 5 Nepic Meet the Members conference and exhibition, Excel Centre, Newton Aycliffe (8.30am). Speakers include Stephen Catchpole, Mark Kennick, Roy Sandbach, Dermot Roddy, Sarah Castle, Patrick Pogue, Matt Parsons, Paul Harrison. www.nepic.co.uk 6 BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Dinner, Hilton Gateshead. kirsty@room501.co.uk, rachael@room501.co.uk, 0191 426 6300 10 NECC agm and NECC 200 launch, Ramada Hotel, Durham (11am)

BUSINESS QUARTER | SPRING 14

The diary is updated daily online at www.bq-magazine.co.uk Please check with contacts beforehand that arrangements have not changed. Events organisers are also asked to notify us at the above email address of any changes or cancellations as soon as they are known. KEY: Acas: Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, CIM: Chartered Institute of Marketing, CECA (NE): Civil Engineering Contractors Association (North-East), HMRC: Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, ICAEW: Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, ICE: Institution of Civil Engineers, IoD: Institute of Directors, NEA2F: North East Access to Finance, NECC: North-East Chamber of Commerce, NSCA: Northern Society of Chartered Accountants, FSB: Federation of Small Business, Tba: to be arranged, Tbc: to be confirmed, Tbf: to be finalised.

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