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W W W . T A L K B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E . C O . U K




the year of the



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22 11 Editor’s letter


13 Letters 15 News & Events 19 2012: The year of the SME

Focus on success 22 Ideas man Egg and First Direct founder, Mike Harris 28 Take one company Ethical bottled water business, Life Water

70 The Christmas campaign Dazzling email marketing

32 12 steps to success Carly Ward shows us step six

73 Outstanding Marketing at a trade show

35 The interview Life Peer and Cobra Beer founder, Lord Bilimoria

78 Features that fit Analyse your key media

39 Book reviews

83 The people column Lee McQueen

130 He said/she said What are our entrepreneurs saying this month?

Focus on Christmas 41 To do. . . We take care of the business xmas ‘to do’ list 42 The Xmas Factor The challenges of hiring seasonal workers

69 96

Focus on marketing

31 Introducing… TB grills an up-and-comer

45 The guide Gifts for the busy entrepreneur

Focus on money

Focus on people 85 Virtually perfect The benefits of a virtual assistant 90 Performance problems Managing employee performance 96 Secret diary of an entrepreneur Wordville’s African diary

Focus on technology 99 Our man in the valley David Richards’ tech column 100 Ring the changes Implementing technological change

47 Bank says no… Alternative finance

105 Software solutions Why virtualisation matters for SMEs

50 You’re worth it? Business valuation

107 Reaping the rewards Consolidating IT suppliers

53 Compliance: your secret weapon Tips on expanding overseas

111 I’ve got an app for that… Our fave business apps

57 Before you sign on the dotted line… 114 Battle of the brands Mini tablets: Amazon vs Apple Negotiating terms

Focus on strategy 59 Claire catches up with… Claire Young chats to Phil Benson 60 The branding column Rich With 62 Rule Britannia Research and development

Focus on franchise 117 Franchise news 119 Spotlight Nationwide cleaners 120 Take one franchisee SureLet’s Sunil Mehta and Nimesh Shah

64 Every little helps SMEs and CSR

123 The franchise network Building a franchise network from scratch

69 The office makeover Maximising space on a budget

125 Wise up Franchise exhibition

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Scan this QR code to register for your free copy of Talk Business EDITOR

Helen Coffey helen.coffey@astongreenlake.com DESIGN

Stephanie Allingham stephanie.allingham@astongreenlake.com Ross Trigg ross.trigg@astongreenlake.com PRODUCTION COORDINATOR

An Truong artwork@astongreenlake.com WEB DEVELOPMENT MANAGER

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Scott Hartley scott.hartley@astongreenlake.com SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER

Damien Ward damien.ward@astongreenlake.com ACCOUNT MANAGER

Trystan Hurley trystan.hurley@astongreenlake.com Nathaniel Todman nat.todman@astongreenlake.com MANAGING DIRECTOR

Jay Boisvert jay@astongreenlake.com Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Limited T: 0203 617 4680 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Limited. Floor 8, 6 Mitre Passage Peninsula Central Greenwich, London SE10 0ER T:02036174681 ©Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. No part of Talk Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Talk Business will make every effort to return picture material, but it is sent at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore Aston Greenlake Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

Tis the season… Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the manic grins and relentless faux cheer, with everyone pretending they’re having such a jolly time while secretly hyperventilating under the stress of present buying, thoughts of the inevitable forthcoming family feuds, and cooking a four-course meal for at least six sugar-crazed/mildly drunk people on the big day itself. Oh joy. And it is an even more traumatic time of year for the overworked entrepreneur, attempting to juggle a social life, family commitments, and deal with the often much higher workload – particularly for those involved in the retail sector. It is also wildly different to the Christmas experienced by your average Joe on the payroll; no one will be dishing out your holiday pay over the festive season. Oh, and it’s you who has to foot the bill for the annual office party, busily counting the pennies and ensuring no one goes over their two free drinks limit, rather than fully enjoying the revelry along with everyone else. Whichever way you look at it, for the entrepreneur, Christmas is an even more pressure-filled and expensive time than it is for the rest of the population. But before we get all ‘bah humbug’, or I start on some sort of tirade about the real meaning of Christmas, let me emphasise that this issue of Talk Business is here to help (aren’t we always?). With our special Christmas section on page 41, we take care of the Christmas ‘to do’ list to help even the busiest SME stay on top of things, and give you presents to swoon over in our ultimate entrepreneur gift guide. Simply leave where it will be easily spied by a loved one, perhaps with the top choices not-so-subtly highlighted, and watch all your Christmas wishes come true… Merry Christmas!

Helen Coffey Editor

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Our Talk Business angels… Mike Norfield is CEO of Team Telecom Group (TTG), a

global telecoms specialist, which researches, develops and manufactures much of its technology in the UK. Mike has over 30 years of multinational experience in the wireless business, having held senior positions throughout his career. Mike has fast-tracked plans for growth and development within TTG, with a focus on maximising the global potential of the company. His knowledge of the telecommunications industry, together with his international business expertise, has seen him become the driving force behind the business’ creation, growth and success. Read his thoughts on research and development on page 64

Neena Patel specialises in employment law and is an associate

at Fox Solicitors. She advises companies, LLPs, professional partnerships, senior executives and partners on a variety of issues, including commercially sensitive senior level appointments and departures. She also has experience in advising on redundancy exercises, sex and disability discrimination litigation, and providing strategic and tactical advice in team move scenarios. Neena is a member of the Employment Lawyers’ Association and regularly attends seminars and training events. Read her article on employee performance on page 92

Martin Spiller is a partner with Jenson Solutions, an angel

investor and a lecturer in finance. He qualified as a chartered accountant before joining Deloitte in 2002 as head of the food and beverage sector team, and was involved in disposals, buyouts and strategic advisory for clients. In 2003, he co-founded a successful consumer goods business before taking a year out to complete a graduate diploma in law and to pursue other interests, including getting his motorbike licence. Martin is also a lecturer for leading professional training providers and a regular contributor to TB. Read his advice on alternative funding streams on page 47

Bev Regan is head of franchising at aspect.co.uk, and has

more than 25 years’ experience across the franchising sector. A franchisee herself for 18 years, Bev drove her business to be a flagship franchise covering Hertfordshire, Middlesex, North and North-west London. Bev’s core skills lie in the creation, development and implementation of processes and tools that can help a company solve business issues. She enjoys working with people to take away the background noise, so that they can focus on the success of the business. Read her top tips on building a franchise network on page 121

12 December 2012

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What gems has Santa brought us in his (mail) sack this Christmas? Ooh, we love a bit of healthy debate…

If you’d like to send us your thoughts about Talk Business, or anything else that’s happening on the SME scene, just get in touch: e: helen.coffey@astongreenlake.com snail mail: Aston Greenlake, 6 Mitre Passage, 8th floor, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 0ER

Wonga, so wronga Dear Editor, I’m not at all sure about you holding up Errol Damelin as an example of entrepreneurialism in November’s issue of Talk Business [The art of Wonga, November]. He clearly has taken advantage of those who are most vulnerable, preying on the poorest people who are the only ones who will agree to the ridiculous interest rates because they are so desperate to have cash now. Isn’t it high time we started realising that business doesn’t end with the bottom line? Companies need to think about people and the planet, not just profit.

‘Concerned reader’ (by post)

Tweets of

the month… @hedgehoglab Great article on Networking from @TalkBusinessMag

Wonga’s wonderful!

Hi, I was really chuffed to see the Wonga interview last month [The art of Wonga, November], it was good to read about someone who’s seen a gap and made the most of it. People love to have a go at pay day loan companies, but all they’re doing is seeing a need and meeting it – that’s probably the textbook definition of an entrepreneur, right? Anyway, as someone with a fledgling business, I can only hope to be that successful myself, and it was interesting to read about one of the most innovative entrepreneurs on the scene at the moment.

@InstantImpactuk Just read @ManBuysPresent interview on @TalkBusinessMag. Love Tegan, how can I find out more?

(by email)

@HiscoxUK Cyber protection tips for #smallbiz on @TalkBusinessMag

Alex Carter

Let’s socialise


Dear Editor, According to recent IAB research only 55% of businesses have adapted their business strategy to include social media. A shocking revelation in light of social media becoming more and more popular. Social media isn’t something that businesses should be apprehensive about. It is a very effective tool for engaging with customers and prospects if it is used correctly. It is all about setting up the right channels for business and learning to engage and filling those platforms with the right content. It is about working out what to say and how often to say it before commencing, and it is important to create a library of suitable content. It is imperative that the other 45% of businesses in the UK are effectively making the most of the social age and embracing the technology freely available to them.

Gemma Farmer Neo PR (by email)

@JacobBaileyLtd Read our MD Rob’s article on responsive web design in this month’s @TalkBusinessMag

@pinatabox @shelllivewireuk Really looking forward to chatting more with @TalkBusinessMag - good hook up xx @Bazzazoom ZAPP is App of the Month in @TalkBusinessMag! @Simpologytweets @TalkBusinessMag “Don’t let a first impression become the last” Relevant in all areas of business, especially your website @TalkBusinessMag Talk #Business magazine is now iPad ready! View it for free!

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News & events


ENTREPRENEURSHIP New research released today reveals that Britain’s youth has a passion for entrepreneurship. Over 63% of students who took part in the survey by Dell and StartUp Britain said that they wanted to start their own business after leaving college or university. More freedom and the desire to be their own boss were the main reasons expressed by students for wanting to set up their own business, although unsurprisingly, 32% highlighted finance as a potential barrier to getting started. Technology was also raised as a key factor with the two most important pieces of equipment required to get their business up and running identified as a laptop and a mobile phone. The survey was conducted with 380 students aged 15 – 24 across Britain between October and November 2012. ‘It is refreshing to see so many of Britain’s youth interested in starting their own company and it is important that we do everything we can to support them on this journey. These students will be the business leaders of tomorrow and play an important role in the future of the global economy,’ said Sarah Shields, UK & Ireland general manager & executive director, of Dell Consumer and Small Business. ‘Dell is committed to fostering entrepreneurship and connecting entrepreneurs with the right technology as well as access to advice, networks and new markets.’ The survey was conducted as part of the 2012 StartUp Britain bus tour, designed to inspire and support young people who are interested in starting their own business. For more information, visit: www.startupbritain.co.uk

Dates for the diary RBS SE100 Index & Awards 5 December London www.socialenterpriselive.com/se100 YES Network Christmas Party 6 December Mishcon de Reya, Holborn www.yesnetwork.co.uk The Diversity Summit 6 December The Dorchester, London www.economistconferences.co.uk/ event Business Club Online 6 December www.eventsforbusiness.co.uk Investing in Startups – the easy way 6 December Academy at the Hub, London www.academy-hub.net Marketing & PR Tactics for Startups 7 December General Assembly London

Legal Issues Around Marketing and Advertising 8 December Goodman Derrick LLP, London www.eventbrite.co.uk TechHub ‘Learn to Bootstrap your Startup with Online Freelancers’ 11 December TechHub Campus, London www.techhub.com Quest for Success – Time Management 12 December www.eventsforbusiness.co.uk End of the Year Entrepreneur’s Lunch 12 December General Assembly London www.eventbrite.co.uk Most Contagious 2012 12 December King’s Place, London www.mostcontagious.com

University Entrepreneur’s Brunch 8 December General Assembly London www.generalassemb.ly/locations/london

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News & Events

FREELANCERS EARN DOUBLE NATIONAL AVERAGE The average self-employed worker earns more than double the national average salary, according to a new report by Boox, the cloud-based accountancy service. Self-employment tax incentives and a recent surge in freelance demand have resulted in a positive increase in freelance pay that dwarfs the national standard annual income. The findings emerged in a study of 1,000 British self-employed workers, which found 70% of the self-driven workforce earn over the UK’s £26,093 average, with the average self-employed salary hitting £50,820 per year. The average salary differences are particularly surprising given 25% of self-employed workers became contractors as a result of being made redundant. ‘This report really lays bare the remarkable changes happening in the self-employed sector. Self-employed workers now account for 12.4% of the UK workforce, a 20-year high,’ said Phillip Venn, commercial director at Boox, which conducted the report. For the full report visit: www.boox.co.uk/the-boox-report

National Sales Awards’ winners announced NEW CHANNEL The UK’s leading sales professionals were revealed at the 16th National Sales Awards in partnership with Huthwaite International. Hosted by Jason Manford, the event saw over 800 leading business and sales professionals recognise outstanding sales teams and individuals, who are contributing to economic growth, with a focus on ethical, smart and professional selling. Winners include LivingSocial, Teeofftimes.co.uk, Everything Everywhere, Royal Mail and O2, with the prestigious Sales Team of the Year Award presented to O2’s bid and contract management team, as judges felt they represented exceptional business acumen and vision over the last year. For the first time ever, the Field Sales Executive Award was judged live at the National Sales Awards event, with five finalists in this category given two and a half minutes to prove their superior selling skills by delivering their most impressive sales pitch to the audience and judges.


The judging panel included Lawrence Dallaglio, former England rugby captain and now sales director for contact centre services in Serco’s new UK & Europe business process outsourcing (BPO) business, as well as Apprentice winner, Lee McQueen. Sohiab Khan from Virgin Media was the overall winner of the award. Lawrence Dallagio said: ‘A great sales pitch by Sohaib, he deserved to win the accolade – he really won over the crowd and judges.’ For more information, visit: www.nationalsalesawards.com

Do you feel like your work/life balance just isn’t working? Do you dream of being your own boss but have no idea where to start to make that dream a reality? Do you feel like you’re at a turning point in your life? True North Productions is looking for couples and families for a brand new Channel 4 series who want to make changes to their lives and start running their own business. They are looking for people who are ready to make these changes but need some expert help to identify the right opportunity. It’s a perfect chance for people who dream of a new life but until now just haven’t had the expertise or head space to go for it. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, send a bit of information about yourself and your current situation to: compareyourlife@truenorth.tv

16 December 2012

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04/12/2012 12:45 11:53 20/08/2012

At a glance 2012 review

the year of the

You may well have been distracted by the Jubilee and the Olympics, but here at Talk Business we had our eyes on the prize; and 2012 was all about entrepreneurialism here in the UK. Here’s why

SME magic: • There are an estimated 4.8 million businesses in the UK, which employ 23.9 million people, with a combined turnover of £3,100bn • SMEs account for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in the UK, 59.1% of private sector employment and 48.8% of private sector turnover • SMEs employ 14.1 million people and have a combined turnover of £1,500bn • Small businesses alone account for 47% of private sector employment and 34.4% of turnover

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At a glance 2012 REVIEW

Positive policies When it comes to politics, however you feel about the present incumbents of Number 10 on a personal level, there’s no denying that this year has seen the launch of numerous Government initiatives to try and improve the lot of the humble SME. There’s still a way to go, but with entrepreneurial qualifications being taught in schools, cash incentives for businesses to take on apprentices, and tax credits available for SMEs who have run R&D projects, things are at least moving in the right direction. At the forefront of this movement towards prioritising entrepreneurs as a way out of recession is the Start-Up Loans scheme, a student loan-type initiative for young entrepreneurs to kick-start their business. The best bit about this is that the Westminster bods have cottoned on to the fact that they don’t have the expertise to do this themselves. They’ve brought in real-life, successful entrepreneurs to head up the scheme and provide first-class mentoring (far preferable to simply sending a hapless bunch of 18-year-olds on their way with a wodge of cash). Cue James Caan, with his glossy posse of twenty-something entrepreneurs in tow, swooping in to save the day in the manner of The Avengers…

In the media It’s official: the UK hearts entrepreneurs, big time. At least we do if what’s lighting up our telly screens is anything to go by. What started as a mild flirtation with Dragons’ Den soon moved on to a more serious relationship, with the nation increasingly glued to each new series of The Apprentice. But it’s only in the last year that we’ve committed to our romance with all things business, what with new BBC3 show, Be Your Own Boss. Headed up by Innocent founder Richard Reed, it sees him put new start-ups through their paces. Add into the mix James Caan’s new show for CNBC, The Business Class, and the new Channel 4 series currently being cast to star families looking to start their own enterprise, and it is clear that this is no one-night-stand. Brits are truly loving entrepreneurialism these days. It’s not just on the box either. Barely a day has gone by without small business hitting the headlines in 2012, whether it be David Cameron shouting from the rooftops about how important SMEs are to the economy, or entrepreneur Julie Deane being profiled in the online Google Chrome advert. Oh yes, Britain’s gone business mad!

20 December 2012

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At a glance 2012 REVIEW

Money, money, money There has been a lot of talk about lack of funding for startups over the past 12 months. And, yes, it has been harder to tap the high street banks for finance – once bitten, twice shy and all that – after so much financial turmoil. But what has been ignored by many critics is the wealth of funding opportunities (pun intended) that have sprung up in the place of traditional lending streams. Crowdfunding websites like Crowdcube and Kickstarter have come into their own this year, enabling both budding and established entrepreneurs to quickly secure capital from multiple investors who can choose to invest as much or as little as they like. Competitions for innovative business ideas have come thick and fast, offering start-up cash in addition to much needed publicity as the top prize: Qualcomm’s QPrize, the Orange Different Business competition and Amazon’s Start-up Challenge all provide a package of resources and support in addition to cold hard cash, giving the winning businesses a great chance to quickly expand and flourish. And let’s not forget the Enterprise Capital Fund, a £40m pot introduced by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to invest in science, technology and engineering-based SMEs. Factor in UK business incubator programmes, which have seriously upped their game in 2012, and it’s hard to see what everyone’s complaining about…

Festivals, events and trade shows, oh my! This was definitely the year of events designed just for startups and SMEs. Sure, some of these have been running for a few years now, but 2012 was undoubtedly the year they really gained traction and grabbed our attention. From the Business Startup Show to the travelling Business Growth Shows, from Youth Enterprise Live to the Become a Key Person of Influence seminars, there really was something for everyone. Providing advice, resources and a wealth of opportunities for networking, this everexpanding selection of events created for the developing entrepreneur reflected the fact that we are increasingly becoming a nation of SMEs, and that our small business community thrives on this extra support. One of the biggest events this year was the third annual MADE Festival in Sheffield, which drew in a whole host of A-list entrepreneurs keen to wrestle with issues surrounding the future of British business. The festival attracted politicians and businesses alike, with Business Secretary Vince Cable in attendance and fighting the SME corner. ‘We have a very dynamic small business community,’ he said. ‘But clearly we need to do more.’ Well, our money’s on even more access to expert advice, mentoring and networking in 2013 through the growth of these firstrate entrepreneur events.

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Focus on success IDEAS MAN

18 November 2012

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Focus on success


What do you call a man responsible for founding three billion-pound businesses in less than 10 years? Why, Mike Harris of course. He tells Helen Coffey why these days he is more motivated by mentoring than money


t is no coincidence that I am introduced to Mike Harris through one of his mentees, a small business owner who raves about how witty, wise, and generally wonderful he is. Mentoring is Mike’s passion these days, though he is better known to you and I as the CEO of not one, not two, but three iconic billion pound brands: First Direct, Mercury Communications and Egg. Add to that Garlik, the semantic web company he cofounded seven years ago (which had the accolade of being the only company in the world to have the founder of the world wide web on its advisory board), and you have a man who has packed four lifetimes’ worth of careers into just one. Without giving you a potted history of his entire working life, if this man’s CV landed on your desk you would either be scrabbling around for your mobile to ring him immediately and implore, nay beg, him to come and work for you, or you’d be so intimidated by

this astonishingly competent candidate that you’d shred it without a word. He launched First Direct, the world’s first major telephone bank, as founding CEO in 1989. This was quickly followed in 1991 by his time as CEO of Mercury Communications, the first competitor to BT in the UK; under Mike, Mercury’s turnover grew from £1bn to more than £1.6bn, and he established a consumer brand with over four million customers. And let’s not forget Egg, for several years the largest Internet bank in the world, which Mike became founding CEO of in 1995. It’s no wonder that these days he’s more likely to be found sharing his ideas and experiences with start-ups and entrepreneurs. ‘Mentoring is my passion now,’ he tells me. ‘I’ve set myself a challenge of helping create 100 pioneering world leaders in the next 10 years.’ Yes, I can do the maths (just about): that’s 10 world leaders a year, every year, for the next 10

“It’s too hard to get money. The people who are around just want to back proven winners”

years. Mike has obviously never really got the hang of retirement and, with his frighteningly successful track record, there can be no doubt that by 2022 there will be 100 pioneering world leaders, formerly under Mike’s tutelage, wafting around and basically being brilliant. If you fancy being one of them, go to Mike’s mentoring website: www.iconicshift.co.uk HOW DO YOU EVEN START TO TURN A BIG IDEA INTO A REALITY? It’s funny, I was recently speaking at a conference on that very question. With First Direct, the idea came in a conversation with a few people: there was a little spark, and we said what would we need to make this happen, what tools, what resources. But when you have a big idea, what’s key is going out and pitching it. I started with my mum, and she actually told me it was rubbish and gave me great feedback. The more you pitch it, the more real it becomes. The more you

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Focus on success IDEAS MAN

pitch it, the more it changes and takes shape, until you’ve got five or six people around you saying, this is fantastic. At that stage it becomes a bit more formal – who do we talk to about funding this etc. But that initial stage of talking and pitching and improving is really important. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU? WHAT KEEPS ENTREPRENEURS GOING WHEN THEY’RE SITTING ON MILLIONS? For me, I love the process of making something new and different happen. The motivator is being part of those big ideas – the game changers that generate economic benefit. But for me the joy is twofold: seeing something that does a great job for customers, combined with team spirit, inspiring a group of people to pull together to make something happen. You go out there and try your hardest, and win or lose, it’s a great way to spend your time.

My life I’m watching: The Sopranos (boxed set) and Anna Karenina I’m reading: Beastly Things by Donna Leon. I’m not a magazine reader I’m listening to: Bob Dylan (endlessly since the 1960s!) I’m surfing: vimeo.com

“For any entrepreneur, there are very bleak times”

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST STRUGGLES AND CHALLENGES YOU FACED WITH EACH OF YOUR BUSINESSES WHEN YOU WERE STARTING OUT? They were different with each one. At First Direct no one had ever done anything like it before. The conference I spoke at this week was a call centre exhibition. I’d never heard the words ‘call centre’ before First Direct; none of us had ever built or put together a business before. I knew nothing about marketing and branding. The sheer scale of learning about everything, every aspect of the business, was huge. A lot of famous VCs say they love beginners’ minds because they don’t think anything’s impossible, which was certainly true in our case. The lack of resources was also a big challenge. With Mercury, it was much more to do with culture – trying to shift the culture was really hard. Egg was a similar experience to First Direct – we were the first Internet bank in the world, we had Microsoft and Cisco

helping us, but when we put it all together, nothing worked. Things fell apart, security was poor, and we were having to solve problems in the glare of the public eye. At that time we were on the front cover of the FT every week. It was like the wild west! Garlik was different again – we were making groundbreaking, pioneering tech with a great team, and we had to do it with a lot fewer resources, so it was finding a way to get groundbreaking technology out there without using loads of money. It was the middle of the credit crunch, so it was really hard to raise enough cash. And a big issue was finding distributors to sell it for us. DID YOU EVER WANT TO GIVE UP? With every one I wanted to give up at more than one point. For any entrepreneur, there are very bleak times. First you think, ‘Is it even possible to do this?’, and you sort of fight your way through that and it’s really hard. One of the tricks you learn along the way is how to relight the fire that kicked you, and others around you, off in the first place. A good quote is: ‘The night is darkest just before the dawn’. The darkest moments are often followed by great periods of breakthrough. Research shows that entrepreneurs tend to give up when success is actually just around the corner. PEOPLE TEND TO BE PRETTY CAUTIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO BANKING. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT CREATING A NEW BRAND THAT PEOPLE WOULD BUY INTO AND TRUST? We did it differently than you would do today. We really gave a lot of emphasis to TV advertising. That used to lend a brand a lot of respectability. We also got independent people to write about us. These days it would be more about social networking. We were obsessive and crystal clear about what the brand stood for: customer service 24/7, and we were obsessive about delivering that. People would see us deliver

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Focus on success IDEAS MAN

on that, and they would write about us, and we built up a reputation and brand that way. The same principles remain true no matter what the business is, and despite the advances in technology – you have to create a brand experience that is exactly what you promised to deliver.

taught. But you have to be fired up. Not everyone has it, and if you can’t discover the fire inside that burns and says, ‘I’m going to get this done’, you’re never going to be able to inspire others. If the fire’s not in you, how can you fire up other people?

DO WE GIVE ENTREPRENEURS ENOUGH ENCOURAGEMENT HERE IN THE UK? There’s a lot of encouragement in terms of programmes and support. One issue is that they’re not that well known, and another issue is that there is more demand than there is supply. And finally, it’s too hard to get money. The people who are around just want to back proven winners. There’s a gap in not just making money, but in boosting the economy and giving people jobs. The Government does not support small companies enough with its own purchasing power – they should be buying services from SMEs. It’s much better in the US, they use a lot of their procurement to buy services from SMEs. There’s a lack of ambition to a certain degree – and with small, ambitious tech companies, big companies come along and buy them. My friend, who founded Monetise, has a great story; they should have been bought up, but they turned around and bought a big American company in an audacious deal. But when you get right down to it, the lack of seed funding really hurts in this country – it’s easy to get in the US, but very hard to get here.

WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO FIRST-TIME BUSINESSES WHO ARE EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES IN THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE? Don’t give up – keep pitching the idea. Make sure the idea is viable though, and be honest with yourself that this is something that could work. But don’t give up. Get feedback, and keep at it. Remember you’ve got to live, so make sure you don’t sink all your cash into it. Get your cashflow sorted first, and then think about the big idea; you need that solid base. There are two fundamentals – be certain it’s viable, and then keep pitching and never give up. Know that every single entrepreneur has been in the same place you’re in right now..

WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR? It’s doing what I want to do: no one can tell me what to do (apart from the Government and all these regulations). The freedom is great, and putting a team together that is chosen by you…it’s your team, and making that work is a great way to spend time. DO YOU THINK EVERYONE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR? I’d say not everyone: there’s a set of skills that are teachable, and anyone with an interest in or acumen for business can be

DO YOU FIND IT HARD TO BALANCE BUSINESS AND YOUR PERSONAL LIFE? I’m really good at it – I’ve given it a huge amount of attention. The people I mentor say that a great thing they get from me is that I show them it’s possible to build a big business and also have a good home life. One of the things I say is that I like to work with people that want to be massively successful, and have a great life as well. You have to work at it though – it doesn’t just happen by itself. WHAT ARE YOU UP TO AT THE MOMENT? IS IT MORE ABOUT INSPIRING AND MENTORING OTHER BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS? Yes, the Iconic Shift mentoring is my passion now – I set myself a challenge of helping create 100 pioneering world leaders in 10 years. I piloted it this year, and I’ve now launched my website. I’m running three programmes

this year. Firstly Game Changers, which is for people that have world changing ideas, to see if they can be scaled. Mostly those people are just in the initial stages, working on their idea. There is also the Leadership Programme, where they have a leadership team and are bidding for funding; their business might be making £2-5m. Then there is High Performance, which is for people that have an idea that could have a big impact on a niche industry. I give them the tools and the space to see whether it has wheels.

“It’s possible to build a big business and also have a good home life”

Contact: www.iconicshift.co.uk

26 December 2012

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03/12/2012 16:50

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04/12/2012 11:55

Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY


Social entrepreneur Simon Konecki is most likely to be splashed across the front page for his high profile relationship – but it really should be for Life, his British bottled water business, argues Helen Coffey


he bottles are bluetinted, and you can’t recycle blue-tinted plastic. So you end up wasting all this plastic just for a blue tint. I’d sack my designer if they came up with that!’ What has prompted such vitriol from Simon Konecki, the otherwise seemingly happy-golucky eco-entrepreneur? Nothing more than a harmless looking Evian bottle left by a hapless young man on his desk. Simon may appear laid-back to the point of horizontal with his ripped jeans and unruly facial hair, but when roused he is fiercely opinionated on all manner of

subjects, from the banking collapse to TV advertising. But it is on the topic of water that he is most vehement; and, after spending less than five minutes in his company, it is hard not to be swept along by his passionate, robust arguments against selling imported water here in Britain. ‘Evian and Volvic are the biggest brands in this country, and they’re selling water from a different country without ever bringing attention to the world’s water problem, which is really serious,’ says Simon. ‘That’s the pinnacle of how lucky we are, isn’t it? You have water in your house, but you’ll go and buy

“It’s a long-term challenge I can dedicate my life to”

bottled water from France.’ Simon Konecki, co-founder of both Life, the ethical British bottled water company, and drop4drop, the accompanying water charity, has had a huge amount of press over the last year. Unfortunately it has nearly all been for his headlinegrabbing romance with songstress Adele, rather than his own pioneering business. Which is a real shame, because Life should definitely be getting some major airtime of its own. Life was founded just six years ago when Simon, then working in the banking sector, decided he needed to get out

28 December 2012

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04/12/2012 17:23

Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY


and do something worthwhile. ‘It was a miserable life,’ he says. ‘I used to think at 25, if I don’t get out soon, I’ll have to tell my kids I’m a banker!’ Inspired by raising money for charity while still working at Lehman Brothers, Simon identified the world’s water crisis as a cause that truly motivated him. He says: ‘No one can survive without water, and yet there’s over a billion people without it. It’s insane. ‘It would cost $30bn to end the world’s water crisis: then that basic human need would be sorted. America spends $90bn a year, that’s $30bn every four months, just on treating obesity.’ Compelling numbers, and ones which convinced Simon that here was something he could dedicate his life to. What began as an idea to set up a charity providing communities with clean water soon developed into an ethical water business, which has sold close to 10 million bottles this year. The original vision was to deliver the equivalent amount of clean drinking water to developing countries as was being sold by Life in the UK; the truth is that drop4drop can now provide far more than that, thanks to the success of both the business and the charity. ‘I originally contacted companies like Evian and CocaCola to look at the situation – I said, “I’ll do this charity for you. If you give me a little bit of money for every bottle you sell, I’ll make sure that much clean drinking water is delivered to people who need it.” Everyone just said no.’ Faced with rejection by the corporations that he believed should be trying to change the situation, Simon had no choice but to give bottled water a bash himself. ‘I thought, I’ll just set one up, I’ll do it myself,’ he says. ‘Once I felt confident (and once I had my bonus), I left Lehman.’ Although access to analysis and projections thanks to

his banking background put Simon in a better position than most, like many a firsttime entrepreneur he had the problem of underestimating just how much time it would take. ‘I thought: “Oh in six months I’ll have it all done.” You can’t do it all in six months! ‘I had to look at sources, I had to look at where to bottle it, I had to look at different designs, I had to look at different strategies. It takes a lot of working out.’ Life hit the ground running though, doubling the amount of bottles sold year-on-year for its first three years. Simon says: ‘We’re making money now. For the first five years I always thought I’m closer to failure than success: one thing can’t make us a big company, but one thing can ruin us. ‘But now I would say I’m as close to either – no one thing can make us huge, but no one thing can take us down.’ It’s an impressive feat just to have infiltrated and survived, let alone demonstrated such healthy growth, in what is a hugely difficult market to crack. Simon puts Life’s success simply down to customer relationships. ‘I can talk about my clients because I know all of them,’ says Simon. ‘No one can take my clients away from me because they believe in what we’re doing, and the service we’re giving. It’s a relationship – it’s old-fashioned but it works.’ So what is Simon’s vision for the future? As you’d imagine, it’s ambitious. ‘I want to be a big drinks company doing the right thing,’ he says. ‘I like to think that one day, we will not buy Evian in this country. Suddenly everything will click and we’ll go, why are we buying water from France when a kid’s dying every five seconds from not having clean drinking water? And I hope that Life encourages that click.’ He mentions going international, launching other

drinks flavours here in the UK, and becoming a much bigger player – yet Simon is realistic in terms of how far he can go with Life personally, readily admitting: ‘There’s bits I know I won’t be equipped to take it beyond. If we were a 70 million bottle company, which we hope to be, I can take it to that. Beyond that, it’s different language.’ But when that point comes, you can be sure it won’t be the end of the story for Simon. ‘My future will always be around the water charity. When you set yourself the challenge of ending the world’s water crisis – well, that’s a long-term challenge I can dedicate my life to.’

“I want to be a big drinks company doing the right thing”

Contact: www.life-water.co.uk www.drop4drop.org

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04/12/2012 17:23



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04/12/2012 11:57

Focus on success UP-AND-COMING

we live in increasingly risk-averse times; people can’t fathom why I would even contemplate starting a business. When confidence waivers, you need to keep cool and be really resilient to doubt.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?


We meet EJ Trivett, the inspirational young entrepreneur behind creative activity provider, Piñata Piñata is a mail-based subscription, delivering mini boxes of educational and creative activities for 3 to 8-year-olds. The brainchild of EJ Trivett in response to an increasing lack of family values, these unique boxes are perfectly sized to fit through standard letterboxes.

Where did the idea come from? Parents are so busy that family values are being eroded; TV and the Internet act as babysitters. I hope that Piñata, a toolkit to take the thinking out of family time, might go some way to changing that.

What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs?

Identify your support network, because it can get lonely out there. You need to be realistic and robust because many doors will close before the right ones open.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be doing today? I enjoyed a very happy 10 year career in the creative industry working with children. It’s a sector that I am hugely passionate about and will always maintain links to.

What’s been your worst ever job? I had a promotions job in a department store in my teens. I had six weeks selling a new shampoo for “thinning and balding” hair; to add insult to injury the company set me targets to sell to balding women…awful!

What’s top of your bucket list? I worked in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami. I want to go back to the village and revisit the families we helped. There were some incredible enterprise programmes out there working to boost micro-businesses.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a young entrepreneur?

Starting up is exhausting: you can kiss goodbye to your social life. Also,

People. I’m such a social creature, I find people so inspiring! I love to make people smile, share ideas and help them fulfill their potential. I suppose Piñata is a physical version of those aspects of my personality.

How much does money motivate you?

Money is important, but for me it’s about something bigger than that. As a social enterprise, it means that solid values are at the core of everything we do – whether that’s using local suppliers, sustainable materials or being responsible in our community.

What’s been your proudest moment? It has to be watching one of the young people I mentored carrying the Olympic torch.

What’s your vision for the future of Piñata Box?

Subscription commerce is hot property currently; I would love to see Piñata scaling to the size and recognition of brands like graze.com or Abel&Cole. I believe Piñata has the potential to lead in the children’s subscription market. Contact: www.pinatabox.co.uk

My life I’m watching: Dragons’ Den and Young Apprentice are regulars on the box I’m reading: Rules of the Red Rubber Ball by Kevin Carroll; it’s a beautiful scrapbook about having the determination to follow your dream I’m listening to: I’m a geek. I love the oldies and can often be found dancing away to swing, big band and jazz…don’t tell anyone! I’m surfing: I’m completely addicted to TED talks, Kickstarter and Demos

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04/12/2012 17:07

Focus on success 12 STEPS

Carly Ward

The steps to success: Step 6 It’s all about confidence. Carly Ward, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Society, explains why self-belief is key to success in step six of her accredited entrepreneurial qualification In this step I have given you a couple of activities, which you can do in your own time and which may prove helpful. Write your answers down if you can. Do you think you are a confident person? If you had to suddenly do something you knew might be hard, like attend a job interview or talk in front of a large group of people while standing on a stage, how would you feel? It’s good to think about these things, because it can really test your confidence. Having self-confidence is essential if you are going to succeed, not just in business, but in life. Lacking self confidence is a major reason why people tend to fail or not even have a go at something in the first place. So, what is confidence? To me, confidence comes with knowledge. It’s obvious you are going to feel more confident if you know your subject and you know what you’re talking about. We don’t always have all the answers to everything, but the key to having confidence is to be knowledgeable and, most importantly, have self belief. You can learn from people who are confident. Think of someone you admire; how do they act? What is it that makes them confident? What is it about them that makes you think they have confidence? If you are already confident, that’s brilliant, but there are always ways in which we can improve.

“If you are already confident, that’s brilliant, but there are always ways in which we can improve”

After all, practice makes perfect. Start imagining lots of things you wish you could do (or do better). Start dreaming about all those things that you would love to do, but the fear of doing them is holding you back. It could be anything. It could be simply talking to someone, speaking in public, saying no to others, admitting you need help with something, taking the lead instead of following the crowd, or taking a risk. Draw a circle. In your mind, step into the circle and

imagine yourself doing all those things. Always remember, it’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

Contact: www.yesnetwork.co.uk Twitter @carlyyes @yesteam

32 December 2012

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07/12/2012 11:28

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04/12/2012 12:01

Focus on success THE INTERVIEW

Lord Bilimoria, co-founder of Cobra Beer, is much more than a life peer and lager magnate. A key player at this year’s MADE festival, he shares his thoughts on the UK entrepreneurial scene with Helen Coffey

Lord of the lager


t’s not every day you get the chance to pick the brains of a real life Lord. Particularly one with the industry insight and entrepreneurial vision of Karan Bilimoria, the business brain behind Cobra Beer (questions abound: what’s expected genuflection-wise? Should one curtsy? Or perhaps bow?). But having been an active part of this year’s MADE festival, which took place this September in Sheffield, he is keen to discuss his thoughts on the UK start-up scene. It’s a mixed bag it seems; in some ways it’s better than ever before to be an entrepreneur, but still more needs to be done to encourage enterprise in this country according to Karan. ‘There’s been a huge change in the whole approach to entrepreneurialism in the last three decades,’ he tells me.

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03/12/2012 16:59

Focus on success THE INTERVIEW

“In the 80s and 90s it used to conjure up images of Del Boy. But Britain has changed”

“I do think the Government could do far more”

‘In the 80s and 90s it used to conjure up images of Del Boy. But Britain has changed from a country with a glass ceiling; now people from ethnic minorities can get to the very top. It has allowed entrepreneurship to flourish.’ But it’s not all good news. ‘The best thing countries can do is create an environment where entrepreneurship can thrive. We do that pretty well, but taxes have crept up. I do think the Government could do far more,’ says Karan. Normally when people make this kind of sweeping political criticism, they are simply airing their views for the sake of airing them, without much hope of being listened to. Certainly without the idea of being able to fundamentally change anything. It is somewhat different for Lord Bilimoria: having been made a life peer in 2006, he is a powerful voice for the UK start-up scene, and relishes his opportunity to impact policy and have his opinions valued and considered by key decision-makers. So what motivates him more these days – business or politics? ‘I love both,’ he tells me. ‘I’m very lucky to be one of the youngest peers in the House of Lords, but I also love my business – making the best Indian beer, and creating a global brand. ‘I love them both equally.’ When it comes to engendering an entrepreneurial spirit, I ponder whether it is access to money or mentoring and education that is the more important factor. A considered pause from Karan. Then: ‘A combination of everything. The educating part is very important – generating awareness of entrepreneurialism with initiatives like the Cranfield and Cambridge University scheme, where they have teamed up with Rolls-Royce to create a course in business manufacturing.

‘Funding initiatives from the Government are really very useful to help people get off the ground. But they’re not doing enough at the moment, and funding today is a problem.’ It’s not all about start-ups either, Karan acknowledges. More needs to be done to support and encourage businesses in the next stage of growth if we are to truly have an impact as a nation. He tells me: ‘It’s starting to get them to go from start-ups to global businesses. It’s crucial to think global, and Government can definitely play a part there.’ Starting in business as a fresh-faced youngster, Karan has not always had an easy time of it, saying: ‘When I started I craved some grey hairs so people would take me seriously. Nobody knows you, nobody knows your brand – you’ve got to have absolute faith and believe in yourself.’ Add to that the lack of support from peers, friends and family, and you can see why his motto is: “To aspire and achieve against all odds, with integrity”. ‘Everyone tells you that you don’t have a chance; even your families and friends are trying to convince you not to do it,’ he says. ‘You’re up against obstacles all the way. The whole journey is against the odds.’ Nor have years of experience made all the challenges melt away, simply to be remembered in the annals of history: in 2009, Cobra Beer, the business he cofounded over 20 years previously, went into administration. Shored up with a loan, Karan still presides as chairman, and has stated that he is determined to pay off Cobra’s debts. His is a tangible example, which proves that even the most accomplished of entrepreneurs can make mistakes – but it is the ability to bounce back and rethink strategy when up against a problem which determines whether someone has what it takes.

‘You’ve got to have a sense of when to move on if things aren’t working. Initially, when we were trying different projects, before we landed on Cobra, we hit quite a few dead ends. It would have been foolish to persevere.’ He steers away from the idea that there is one personalitytype suited to being an entrepreneur, having seen people from all walks of life who he believes would make great businessmen and women: but you’ve got to have the hunger, says Karan. ‘There are some people to whom it will come more naturally, definitely, but there are others who can learn it. ‘In my Ernst and Young days, there were lots of my colleagues who, in hindsight, would have been amazing entrepreneurs. But they never made the leap. You’ve really got to want it.’ Having championed entrepreneurship for 20 years now, it is gratifying to observe that Karan’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned – his passion is infectious, and he has a vision for the future of the UK as a business hub, through education and access. ‘The first thing is to encourage people to make that leap, right from school onwards. It has to be done at universities, and you need to be creating as much access to entrepreneurship as possible. ‘There’s nothing more inspiring than hearing from successful entrepreneurs – their stories, their mistakes, and learning from them.’ And as Karan’s own story – of triumph against the odds, of making mistakes and overcoming them, of persevering despite the ups and downs – is nothing if not inspirational, one can only agree with his diagnosis for the future of UK entrepreneurship.

36 December 2012

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03/12/2012 16:59

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04/12/2012 12:04

Focus on success BOOK REVIEWS

ETSY-PRENEURSHIP: Everything you need to know to turn your handmade hobby into a thriving business by Jason Malinak


Most Etsy sellers are confident in their crafting and artistic capabilities. However, many need guidance on the business-related intricacies of starting and maintaining a successful Etsy business. Author Jason Malinak got his start on Etsy through his wife. When she began her Etsy shop in 2007, Jason helped with the bookkeeping, taxes and legal aspects of her business. Soon after, Jason’s own Etsy shop was born, selling financial tools and advice. Etsy-preneurship helps existing and potential Etsy sellers understand the business fundamentals needed to become a small business owner on the site.

He says: Etsy-preneurship consists of the knowledge and tools needed to start and run a business on Etsy – turning a hobby into a thriving business. Since 2007, I have helped thousands of Etsy sellers start their Etsy businesses, perform their bookkeeping, fulfil their tax obligations, operate with efficiency, market their products, and run legal businesses. Etsypreneurship is the resource that gives you all of this and more! I’ve packed as much valuable content and tools into one book as possible! It is my aim that this book will be a resource for both Etsy newbies and Etsy veterans. It provides a firm foundation on which to build your business.

We say: If you’re looking for a very specific book to help guide you through the world of setting up a business on craft site Etsy, then look no further. Malinak covers all the basics of getting started and running your business legitimately, including taxes, bookkeeping, operations and marketing. However, as the title suggests, it is all very much geared towards Etsy, and therefore is not so useful if you are looking to sell on another online marketplace or across multiple platforms. In addition, much of the info is aimed at an American audience; advice on taxes wouldn’t be much use to a UK entrepreneur.

Etsy-preneurship is published by Wiley, priced at £13.99 in hardback and e-book

RENEGADES WRITE THE RULES: How the digital royalty use social media to innovate by Amy Jo Martin

Renegades Write the Rules is published by Jossey-Bass, priced at £17.99 in hardback or e-book

In Renegades Write the Rules, author Amy Jo Martin, founder and CEO of social media agency, Digital Royalty, and Digital Royalty University, reveals the innovative strategies behind the social media success of today’s top celebrities and brands, and how to follow their lead in sometimes unconventional ways. This book details the latest techniques to attract a social media fan base and to keep it engaged through a strong and entertaining online presence. In order to achieve this, she argues, you must challenge previous assumptions and instead embrace your own inner renegade.

She says: This is a book about social media. Even if you’re late in joining the new frontier called social media, you no longer have to stumble your way through a cracked and dry land to find water. A path has been forged that you can follow. I’m not saying you won’t have to get on your boots and saddle up. You will have to break a sweat and wipe a bit of dust from your eyes. But this can be the ride of your life if you know where you’re going. This is also a book about innovation. It has to be. Innovation is being redefined by one primary force today: social media.


We say: This book is perhaps not for those coming to Twitter and Facebook for the very first time from scratch – but it is for those looking to shake up the way they use social media, and particularly for those whose idea of using it to market their business effectively is by tweeting ‘sale on today!!!!’ on an hourly basis. Amy Jo uses her experience as founder of a ground-breaking social media agency to shed some light on how these new forms of media can actually be used to influence, to create fans, and to market a brand in a truly revolutionary way. Fascinating reading.

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03/12/2012 17:02

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06/12/2012 15:12

Focus on

To do…


Christmas can be a pretty hectic affair: even more so when you’re attempting to run your own business. Tear out this handy ‘to do’ list, stick it on the fridge, and tick your way to a stress-free Christmas


The card First things first – make sure you’re making connections rather than alienating your clients this Christmas. A company Christmas card can remind your valued contacts that you’re more than just a faceless business: whether you go for a real card or an e-card, try to make the message feel warm and personal rather than corporate, to let the personality of your brand shine through. And be sure to send them out in plenty of time so you’re not scrabbling around for labels and envelopes the week before Christmas.

COMPLETE BY: 7 December


The party You may not have that much to spend at the end of the year, and perhaps a lavish Christmas party is not on the cards. Nevertheless, it’s important to make your employees feel valued, even if it’s only with a token gesture, so make sure you organise something for the last week of work. It could be as simple as getting in some beer and wine and having a little celebration at the office: just bulk-buy the mince pies and crank up the tunes on Spotify. Alternatively, book an area in a local bar and get the first round in – it needn’t break the bank, just make your staff feel appreciated.

COMPLETE BY: 12 December


The e-campaign If your business is customer-facing, the lead up to Christmas may well be your busiest time. Even if you’re b2b and the festive season doesn’t have much of a concrete impact on your sales, it’s a great time to send out a tailored e-campaign, wishing them a merry Christmas and reminding them of your products and services. For tips on constructing a dazzling Christmas e-campaign, flip to page 70.

COMPLETE BY: 14 December


The holiday Lots of businesses have a policy of giving the period between Christmas and New Year as compulsory leave. Have you prepared for the potential loss of earnings over the pre- and post-Christmas lull? Have you planned tasks that need to be done before Christmas, to ensure that the business has done enough to keep functioning with all members of staff off for a week and a half? Staff members will often book off a couple of extra days in addition over Christmas – ensure you have put in everyone’s holiday days, and check that all priority tasks are covered. And remember to give yourself a break too, however difficult it may be to switch off from the business.

COMPLETE BY: 17 December

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Focus on Christmas SEASONAL STAFF


Xmas Factor

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail this Christmas. Elliot King, director of staffbay.com, looks at the challenges of hiring seasonal workers at short notice who still have the X factor The big retailers are gearing up for Christmas 2012 like never before by announcing plans to take on thousands of staff to meet customer demand in the run-up to the big day. Amazon has said it will advertise 10,000 new jobs at its “fulfilment centres” around the UK, while Argos is looking for a massive 12,000 people in the UK and Ireland. One thing’s for sure: the process of hiring staff over Christmas isn’t cheap. Temporary staff might seem the most cost-effective way of recruitment in the run-up to the festive season, but in recessionary times, the sheer amount of

candidates can be overwhelming. Employing an agency to scour through thousands of CVs might save you time, but it certainly won’t save you money. Each year the cost of hiring extra staff at Christmas adds 5-10% to the annual budget of HR departments, but what is becoming increasingly evident is that the growing number of people applying for each position is putting a huge strain on human resources professionals. It’s not uncommon to see large recruitment campaigns at Christmas time. However, it’s just as important to hire quality as it

“It’s just as important to hire quality as it is quantity”

is quantity. Time restraints mean that getting to know as much about potential candidates even before they’ve sent a CV in is now more important than ever before. The chance to vet candidates even before they’ve applied for a job is something that staffbay.com offers, and we’ve found that the employees listed on our site appreciate the flexibility of knowledge this gives them. Candidates on our website can upload videos and other social media so that the employer can ascertain whether or not they will be suitable for a role before taking the time to conduct a face-toface interview. Efficiency is the name of the game in the run up to Christmas 2012, and beyond. The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) says that the growth in online shopping (between 14% and 16% per annum) means retail sales have been diverted from bricks and mortar stores to online shops. Many national retail chains are looking to trim their estate by 10%20% as leases expire or rent reviews become due. Essentially, a company no longer needs so many shops to sell £100m of merchandise. This means that getting the right staff into the right stores becomes even more essential. ‘If we do not adequately predict customer demand or otherwise optimise and operate our fulfilment centres successfully, it could result in excess or insufficient inventory or fulfilment capacity, result in increased costs, impairment charges, or both, or harm our business in other ways,’ said Amazon in a recent statement. In other words: it needs the right people doing the right things, or it will fail. Never has it become more apparent that retailers need to pick and choose their staff with the utmost care, consideration and – most importantly – costeffectiveness. Contact: www.staffbay.com

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03/12/2012 17:04

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Focus on Christmas GIFT GUIDE


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03/12/2012 17:07

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Focus on

Bank says no…


Martin Spiller, a partner with Jenson Solutions, angel investor and lecturer in finance, explores some alternative sources of finance for SMEs when the banks close their doors

I “The good news for entrepreneurs is that there are new sources of funding and Government initiatives”

n September, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Sheffield to attend the annual pilgrimage that is the MADE Festival, where the issue of funding start-ups was discussed at length. Interestingly, during one of the debates, former Dragon and investor Doug Richard stated that in his view banks have never been a good source of funding for early stage ventures, and that there is alternative funding available. It was a statement that received almost universal agreement from the investors, advisors and entrepreneurs with whom I had lunch later that day, and it thereby raised the question: where should entrepreneurs with small and growing businesses go for funding?

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) “Banks have never been a good source of funding for early stage ventures”

The single most important development in 2012 for those seeking investment in early stage ventures arguably comes from the Chancellor, in the form of the SEIS. It appears to be the one that has grabbed the professionals’ interest as a result

of the substantial tax breaks – of up to 78% on the maximum of £100,000 of investment. As you would expect, there are a number of conditions for the investor and the company (see www.hmrc.gov.uk), most notably that the total amount that can be raised is £150,000 for a maximum of 30% equity, thereby no SEIS investor can control the investee company. Whichever way you view it, the measures provide a compelling incentive to consider investing in early stage or growth business. At Jenson Solutions, we certainly agreed with that sentiment and have teamed up with Foresight Group, a leading asset manager and private equity investor, to raise and launch our own SEIS investment fund (see: www.jensonseedeis.com). What does SEIS mean for entrepreneurs looking for funding? It should mean that if you have a qualifying business, securing funding is more straightforward as the Government have de-risked early stage investment and dangled a significant carrot for investors should the venture prove successful. However,

incentives alone will not make investors forget core fundamentals and, while the Government may have offered sweeteners, the investment proposition must be strong on a standalone basis. Don’t expect a free ride.

Regional development programmes

In late August, I flew back to the UK from my summer holiday and went straight to the even sunnier climes of Cardiff with fellow partners from Jenson Solutions, after a number of our clients indicated that they are considering basing investments there. Various factors are influencing their decision, such as access to quality staff and lower overheads, although possibly more significantly is the Welsh Government’s rolling out of the metaphorical red carpet, by providing access to both funding and assistance via its Regional Business Centre Service (see: www.business.wales.gov.uk). During our visit, we were fortunate enough to spend time with Ram Morjaria, a passionate and entrepreneurial business

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Focus on money FINANCE

support manager with the Regional Centre Service (soon to be renamed The One Stop Shop), who outlined that the aim of the regional centres is to attract businesses by offering ‘one-toone support to businesses in Wales through a fully integrated service. The aim of this service is to help all businesses in Wales access the advice and tailored support specific to their business needs.’ Furthermore, Wales is not the only region offering funding, as a quick search on the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website (www.bis.gov.uk) highlights. While loans, grants or other aid from Government will never address an entrepreneur’s total funding requirement, they certainly assist in enabling existing resources to stretch further. Additionally, if your venture is not location-specific, cities such as Cardiff offer a lower cost base with no apparent reduction in infrastructure or available pool of talent.

Crowdfunding and peer-topeer lending (P2P) These fall under the umbrella of “alternative funding” and are often mentioned interchangeably despite their key differences. They are essentially offshoots of traditional forms of funding, and in the right circumstances can offer fast, low cost finance for entrepreneurs. The original form of crowdfunding was raised via friends, family or angel networks that provided investment in return for small portions of equity. This has become a more mainstream solution, particularly since the emergence of online facilitators, such as Kickstarter (www.kickstarter. com), which claims to have successfully raised over $300m for ventures. Start-ups and early stage entrepreneurs can now offer micro-sized slices of equity to a wide audience in exchange for funds, as well as potentially

gaining access to a pool of expertise within their investors. P2P lending follows a similar vein but focuses primarily on debt rather than equity. Businesses, such as Funding Circle (www.fundingcircle.com), which states it has funded loans of over £50m to date, enable money to be directly lent to SMEs. Alongside direct lending in the form of secured and unsecured loans, there has been a significant rise in P2P sourced invoice finance, where businesses, such as Market Invoice (www.marketinvoice. com), enable companies to raise working capital based upon the security of their debtors. Both of these solutions have certainly had an impact on funding options for entrepreneurs, and access to a wider pool of potential investors significantly improves the chances of raising funding. However, it is not unadulterated good news. P2P lenders may not have the stringent requirements of a bank but are not an option for start-ups as they still require financial information and potentially personal guarantees. Crowdfunding can be slow to complete and is not always successful at raising funds.

readers should undertake their own due diligence and seek appropriate professional advice before securing any funding. Contact: www.jensonsolutions.com Twitter @MartinRSpiller

And finally…

The lack of bank lending is not the major factor limiting growth in early stage ventures that it appears to be. Banks have never been particularly strong supporters, largely because of the mismatch between risk and return from these businesses. The good news for entrepreneurs is that there are new sources of funding and Government initiatives available that are better attuned to the risk profile of their business. The most important question for entrepreneurs is whether their business is investable, and how they are going to make it happen. This feature does not advocate or promote any one option in particular. Furthermore, all

Get online: start-up resources -

www.hmrc.gov.uk www.jensonseedeis.com www.business.wales.gov.uk www.bis.gov.uk www.kickstarter.com www.fundingcircle.com www.marketinvoice.com www.crowdcube.com

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11/09/2012 13:49


Valuing a business can be one of the most worrying parts of buying an existing enterprise. Terence Gale, Menzies’ valuations expert, takes us through this complex process

You’re worth it? For many business owners, the majority of their wealth is tied up in the business, and any transaction will prove to be one of the most time consuming, important and stressful times of their lives. So the question of valuations is naturally a highly emotive and critical area.

Valuation for business acquisition

As part of any investigation, the most difficult part is valuing the intangible assets. These are usually difficult to measure and could include the company’s reputation, supplier relationships, value of goodwill and licences, patents or intellectual property. Value is also impacted by stock, location, assets, products, debtors, creditors, suppliers, employees, premises, competition, and the economic climate. Once all of these factors have been considered, you can determine if you want to buy it, and how much you want to offer. Once an offer is accepted and terms are agreed, a period of time is allowed for due diligence, to verify the information provided is accurate. There are three types of due diligences and each requires a different advisor:

• Legal due diligence: as part of a sales and purchase contract, lawyers can check that the business has legal title to sell, the ownership of all the assets, and that regulatory and litigation issues are fully addressed. • Financial due diligence: accountants can check the numbers and make sure there are no black holes or hidden financial issues. • Commercial due diligence: finding out the business’ place in the marketplace, checking competitors and the regulatory environment.

Valuation for business disposal

The main aim in any valuation exercise is to arrive at a price that takes into account all the relevant information at the valuation date. Some of the information used in a valuation may be dictated by how courts have considered the issue in previous cases, and some of it will be based on market circumstances. However, the one overriding factor is that each case is different, and it is not a process of using a simple mathematical model. Once business owners

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understand that the valuation is bespoke and unique, they are then only really beginning to enter the realms of considering how they can maximise the value of their business at the point of sale. The starting point in all cases is to consider why the valuation is required; for example tax reasons, a matrimonial matter, shareholder dispute, or it may be because a party wants to know the value of the business for a merger, sale or acquisition.

confident picture that will help underpin a favourable value. While maximising earnings in one year is good, it should be avoided if it is at the expense of the following year so that the graph goes up and down. A would-be purchaser could become nervous, lowering the potential value of the business. Therefore, robustness of earnings is a key factor, and a maximisation of value goes beyond that to show a rising and confident trend.

When is the right time?

The evaluation process

Another crucial aspect is the effective date of the valuation, particularly if there needs to be an information cut-off for determining the value. In an open market sale of the company the date is vital, bearing in mind how external factors change and impact on the valuation. For example: think about the impact on the market of the difficulties in the Eurozone. Thinking and planning well in advance of a sale in order to maximise the value is crucial – this may mean planning up to three years in advance.

Factors affecting valuations

“Thinking and planning well in advance of a sale in order to maximise the value is crucial”

Important for any business owner are the key drivers that determine the structure of value, and how they can be controlled so that they impact favourably to maximise the price of the business. Some of these are outside of your control, such as declining industries, but many are not. Dependency on a few key customers or suppliers dealing with the business will create added risk, which can impact significantly on the business and its value. The key, as it would be from a commercial viewpoint, is to spread the risk so that no one customer failing or supplier’s change in terms would seriously impact on the earnings capacity of the business. The growth of earnings, of either a constant or increasing trend, will paint a good and

In considering the valuation process, the typical approach for an SME will be to consider adjusted assets, dividend return or earnings – or a mixture of all three. Certainly for an investment company it is the assets, such as property or a share portfolio, that are important. A service company would typically be looked at based on the earnings of the business, and the need would be to arrive at the maintainable earnings of the business, which may be those from the previous few years or those in the foreseeable future, and to consider a capitalisation of those earnings. But overall, there is no precise way of establishing the value of a business: each company is different, and so many aspects go into the pot to evaluate what is fair and reasonable. The aim must be to control as many factors as possible, and to reduce risk to maximise the return. In the end, while some aspects can be formulated, the final test is to stand back and consider whether you personally would sell or buy at that price – if the answer is no, then the result is probably not right.

“Each case is different, and it is not a process of using a simple mathematical model”

Contact: www.menzies.co.uk

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04/12/2012 12:09

Focus on money COMPLIANCE

Craig Sullivan, VP and GM international of NetSuite, looks at how businesses can get around the expensive red tape issue of compliance when expanding overseas


your secret weapon


t the time of writing this article, the UK economy was looking as gloomy as its summer. The IMF downgraded its forecast for UK GDP from 0.8% to an even weaker 0.2%. It’s hardly surprising then, that many small businesses are now looking abroad for growth opportunities – whether this is purely for exports, or even setting up small offices to provide a local service for new customers. While the growth opportunity abroad for small businesses is certainly clear, there are a number of hurdles which they need to overcome if they are going to be successful and achieve that much-needed growth. It goes without saying that understanding local culture or speaking the language may present challenges, but another issue, which has financial implications rather than cultural, is regulatory compliance. This has long been an accepted cost for small businesses, which have any form of international operation, and many CEOs or financial directors are spending huge sums and dedicating countless hours to the task. However, with requirements regularly

changing and the economy still struggling – Europe in particular faces a volatile environment – the burden of meeting compliance requirements is only going to increase. Achieving compliance while also striving to delight customers and grow the business can be a headache – particularly when expanding into new countries. Each time a business expands to a new region, it comes with its own currency, rules and tax regulations, meaning that the cost and time spent on compliance will continue to grow. With budgets tighter than ever, finding a way of cutting through the red tape and delivering compliance without spending a fortune on consultants – or even employing a full time CFO – is a key challenge for small businesses.

Spiralling costs

When it comes to international tax and compliance, businesses of any size have traditionally faced the same challenges – different regulatory requirements in each country, with different or disconnected systems. The extent to which it differs can be extreme. For example, take the average time 

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04/12/2012 12:10

Focus on money COMPLIANCE

and/or a network of spreadsheets and external systems. When combined with the time required for each and every corporate entity in each country, the cost of compliance rapidly adds up. If the problem wasn’t bad enough, small businesses will now need to brace themselves for this cost to increase further in the face of new regulation. There are things that we know about, such as mandatory e-filing of VAT returns for UK businesses from April, which many businesses were unprepared for, and the threat of more changes to help the economy, such as the recent changes in VAT. And the consequences of non-compliance aren’t limited to losing ground to competitors; large fines and even jail terms are possible.

A fresh approach

“Large fines and even jail terms are possible”

“The burden of meeting compliance requirements is only going to increase”

required for preparation, filing and paying activities to do with VAT. In Switzerland it takes eight hours, but Bolivia requires 480 hours and Brazil can be as high as 1,374 hours. To put this into perspective, the latter figure equates to employing one fulltime finance professional just to meet regulatory reporting requirements in just one country! Many businesses are now turning to enterprise resource planning (ERP) to help reduce this regulatory burden, but the unfortunate fact is that most traditional ERP packages don’t support international compliance effectively. While they may function well in a domestic environment, they struggle to handle the complexity of multinational requirements, and the result is a hairball of disparate ERP systems in each country,

A different approach to the way finance operations are structured can reduce the time needed to achieve tax compliance, submit returns and maintain full auditability. Small businesses which are trading internationally should look at the possibilities Internet-based systems can offer them. Unlike traditional systems, they can consolidate multiple regional subsidiaries into a single financial platform, and provide the ability to produce accurate country or region-specific tax reports at the click of a button. Cloud-based ERP also brings a major benefit in compliance efforts by being automatically updated to reflect any changes in regulation. For example, if the VAT rate were to change again, the software could be updated instantly. Take a company like Groupon, the daily deals company. When the company first launched in 2008, it only operated in a few small US cities, but by late 2010 the company was serving more than 150 markets. Today, it operates in 500 cities and 46 countries around the world. Each time it entered a new market, the amount of time and effort needed to close the books grew, turning financial reporting into a time consuming

and labour intensive process. The collection of different programmes, processes and spreadsheets made it difficult to understand the full scope of its international operation, and made standardisation of practices impractical. Recognising the inefficiencies of this approach, it adopted a cloud-based ERP system which allows it to support multicurrency management and local taxation compliance as well as reporting and analytics. Within three months, the system was live in 26 regions, with the rest following within a year. As a result, Groupon now has global visibility on all aspects of its business at any given time. By removing the headaches around compliance in each new region, Groupon has been able to expand at a phenomenal rate, and is now widely regarded as the fastest growing company of all time. With many small businesses facing increasingly tough conditions in the UK, extra regulatory requirements for trading abroad are an unwelcome additional outlay – but the high cost of compliance no longer needs to be blindly accepted. By removing this cost, rapid international expansion can be enabled. Organisations need to review how their ERP systems work and how they are handling compliance – and consider what savings could be made by switching to an alternative. While many small businesses will not have the capacity, or even the desire, for a growth plan like Groupon’s, the company has shown that there are simple ways of getting around this unproductive burden, allowing the CEO – or whoever is responsible for financial matters – to be focused on growth and business success. Contact: www.netsuite.com

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Before you sign on the dotted line… Cashflow can be a nightmare, what with ever increasing payment terms. NaviStar Legal founder, Jo Rogers, shares her tips on negotiating terms in the fourth of our series on careful contracts finding what the negotiation value for that corporation is, will set you off on the right path.

“Remember that everything is negotiable”

2. Explain the importance

As a business owner, you quickly learn that cashflow is critical to business. This is especially true when providing services as a small business to a larger corporation, where you quickly learn that cashflow does not always flow in the direction you would like. Recently, a number of small business owners have reported that larger corporations are demanding an increase to their payment lengths. These new payment terms range from anything from a reasonable 60 days up to a maximum of 120 days before payment is due. Some of these requests may be as a consequence of new outsourcing of payment services abroad (adding another level of paperwork), or increased pressure within a corporation to maintain higher cash reserves in our uncertain economy. Whatever the reason, it does not encourage healthy cashflow! The Prompt Payment Code is a voluntary agreement that intends to promote good payment practices in business.

Recently Michael Fallon MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, wrote to all companies listed on the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 share indices to encourage them to sign it. In particular, the Code aims to prevent companies changing the length of payment terms for smaller companies on “unreasonable grounds”. However, until the Code is common practice or you have access to an in-house lawyer, here are four key points to consider when in negotiations:

1. Everything is negotiable

This may be your biggest client and a great opportunity, so of course it is tempting to accept the corporation’s payment terms without exploring the real cashflow consequences. They will suggest that these terms are ‘standard’ and ‘cannot be changed’ and you may come to believe that you don’t have any leverage or choice in the matter. Remembering that everything is negotiable, and focusing on

(clearly) Sometimes the contract or procurement manager is only following protocol. They have probably never run their own business or P&L, and never needed to consider the impact of such changes. Explain clearly that the payment terms will be seriously detrimental to your cashflow, and that the new terms won’t allow for a sustainable partnership in the long run; ask them to work with you to find a suitable solution.

3. Bring in a third party

Bringing in a third party (i.e. a lawyer or contract manager) as a negotiator provides you with a middle man to directly and firmly make your requests, while maintaining your relationship with the corporation. Alternatively, if you have senior management connections within the corporation, then explain your concerns to them as well.

4. Know when to walk away

Most importantly, sometimes you have to set boundaries and refuse to go beyond them. By completing an accurate cashflow projection, you can objectively determine where those boundaries lie and whether or not a contract actually works for your business.

Contact: www.navistarlegal.com

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Focus on strategy

Claire Young

Claire catches up with… Phil Benson

Claire Young catches up with friend and fellow entrepreneur, Phil Benson, cofounder of Xing, about smoothies and getting started Phil is an inspirational and charismatic entrepreneur. Co-founder of Xing Smoothies (shortlisted for young innovative company of the year by Yorkshire Post), his journey from the humble beginnings of a mobile smoothie cart to a successful high street outlet makes for a compelling story. Xing now runs inspiring workshops in schools and universities, as well as supplying high level sports teams and celebrities: Phil uses his experiences of building a successful business to drive enterprise in students. Phil is a proud Ambassador for Enterprise UK and business mentor for companies started under the Young Enterprise format. With many successful visits to schools across the country, Phil has received an award for his commitment to developing youth in enterprise. With appearances on local and national radio and features in the national press, Phil is an accomplished ambassador for entrepreneurialism and healthy living.

Where did the name Xing come from?

A brainstorming session in my business partner’s front room. The word Zing represented energy, freshness and health,

with the spelling change to ‘Xing’ giving the name an interesting twist!

What’s the dream plan?

To have a nationally successful, respected, recognised brand and business.

What sacrifices did you make to start Xing?

“Be prepared for knuckling down and getting your hands dirty”

there, but only just emerging in the UK. Issues of obesity spurred a greater awareness in the UK media of healthy eating. With this opportunity waiting to be tackled, Xing was born! Contact: www.xinghealth.co.uk www.schoolspeakers.co.uk

Plenty. When you start a business, be prepared to work for nothing or virtually no money. Long hours and lack of down time mean maintaining a good work/life balance is nigh on impossible. Relationships can become increasingly difficult and strained, and social life and sleep diminishes. (Really selling the dream here!)

What’s your top tip for anyone getting started?

Where do I start? Be prepared for knuckling down and getting your hands dirty. Know your potential business and market inside out – become a guerilla. Get as much help and advice as possible along the way! Be prepared to innovate and add value: mediocre doesn’t cut it.

Where and when did you have your business “lightbulb” moment?

Phil Benson

Studying abroad in the USA in 2003. Smoothies were huge over

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03/12/2012 17:24

Focus on strategy THE BRANDING COLUMN

Rich With

It’s been emotional

It makes perfect sense that clients and customers need to feel an emotional connection with your brand – but how do you achieve that? Our branding columnist Rich With has a few ideas We’re often told it’s not enough to have customers these days. Our brands need to have raving fans who are willing to bellow how amazing we are to everyone they come across. We want our brands to have the equivalent of a herd of Bieberettes standing outside our premises, chanting our name to the world at large. So how do brands emotionally connect with their audience? In his book, The Dream Society, Rolf Jensen believes we will evolve from an information society to one that focuses on dreams and aspirations. A society where creativity and storytelling behind the brand have shifted to become the emotional drivers. We want to be shown tales of success so we too can enjoy it. Jensen believes there are six criteria brands need to adopt to create raving fans. Firstly, by adopting a sense of adventure, brands as diverse as

Go-Ape and Call of Duty give their fans an ideal of fun, adventure and attitude (even violence) that others want to be a part of. To give them an experience they won’t get anywhere else. The second trait is togetherness. If your brand comes with its own tribe – advocates who see being part of your brand as an exclusive club – then this is a powerful tool for growth. Owners of VW Beetles and Harley Davidsons have long had a sense of community, giving the impression that they are privy to a secret only the enlightened will discover. The third factor is care. We long to be cared for whether it’s in a private hospital or in an allinclusive hotel resort. If we get first rate service and attention to detail, our dreams are realised and our sense of experience is dramatically improved.

“We will evolve from an information society to one that focuses on dreams and aspirations”

To define ourselves is the fourth criteria. Several years ago, Jaguar cars would bang on about the benefits of a vehicle that adopts similar technology from lesser Ford makes. Gradually sales dropped because the people that want to buy a Jaguar don’t want the same spec as a Mondeo. They want glamour, excitement, but also to define themselves as the epitome of a Jaguar owner. Peace of mind is next on the list – creating the reassurance that buying from a certain brand means everything will be alright. From insurance plans to the Disney Corporation, there are a wealth of storytelling opportunities which brands can capitalise on. We’re happy to advertise your brand to our friends and family if we have peace of mind. The final criteria is creating the reassurance that they’re doing the right thing. From energy companies charging higher tariffs to those on green energy plans to paying more for organic produce, we align ourselves with companies who have the same convictions as us. To create these emotional connections to our brand, we need to instil the message from the top down. Every member of your team has to believe in your product or service – only by having that conviction and empathising with your clients will you maintain a solid brand. Contact: www.gohoot.co.uk

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03/12/2012 17:25

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05/12/2012 17:14

Focus on strategy R&D


BRITANNIA! Mike Norfield, CEO of Team Telecom Group, makes the case for a change of Government policy for research and development to help drive innovation in the UK


ncient Greece was a land blessed with invention, creativity and unimaginable wealth. Today Greece is where we go on package holidays. Britain was once a land of great invention, creativity and unimaginable wealth. Today it is in danger of becoming a historical theme park. We are not quite there yet, but the danger is real, present and wholly avoidable. Why do successive governments fail to take the lead and back companies that are trying to create wealth for the nation through technological innovation? How does the UK Government’s approach differ from other successful manufacturing-based economies? What is needed to stop the decline?

The need for support

In 2012 one of the TTG Group companies, Simoco, developed a digital mobile radio product line that is about as radical as the shift from analogue mobile phones to the current digital smart phones that we all take for granted. The investment for this funding was a drop in the ocean compared to the R&D budgets of global competitors like Motorola. Why? Because it had to come entirely out of last year’s profits. Now don’t get me wrong, this product will be a success in niche markets, but with the right investment we could accelerate development, bringing valuable export earnings into the UK. You would think that, with all the publicity created by UK

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Focus on strategy R&D

Government about support for British companies who want to invest in technology, there was an open cheque book. The truth is, accessing what funds there are is more like a war of attrition. Instead of the awarding body visiting the headquarters and reviewing the technology, each company has to fill in a questionnaire. A committee of three people that have never visited the organisation makes a decision that determines the whole future of the business.

The global picture

What is this sort of approach to investment doing to Britain’s competitive status on the world stage? In China, the government makes long-term investment

commitments to telecoms companies like Huawei, which is why they have gone from being unknown to becoming one of the largest and fastest growing telecoms companies in the world. In Australia we have even been able to secure government backing for our ComGroup subsidiary, which then went on to develop a market leading radio system for the country’s emergency services. As well as supporting indigenous companies with R&D grants, our competitors do not observe the same policy of buying anything but their own country’s products. This country seems to take a perverse pride in not buying British, even when we do have world-leading products on offer. Government faith in British industry would be a good place to start to shift this mindset to the one they have in Germany, China, France and Taiwan. For example, German government departments use Siemens phones and French public bodies use Alcatel. The same cannot be said for the UK Government or public sector. Government would argue that UK companies cannot always offer the best price, but that is a short-term view. If the public sector invested in British companies, we would be able to generate the profits to invest in R&D and achieve the economies of scale that would make UK manufacturers more competitive. At the same time this would generate corporation tax, income tax and reduce unemployment benefits, while ensuring that we are not exposed to arbitrary price increases by overseas suppliers, due to the fact that we no longer have the infrastructure to manufacture ourselves. Where we have got the formula right there are some outstanding examples of how UK companies with government support can become world leaders. Just look at Rolls-Royce in my own town of Derby – a high technology company that is a world leader in manufacturing

jet engines. This highlights that there is no rule against British companies being successful at the leading edge of technology. Imagine how many Rolls-Royces there could be if the Government got its act together?

Problem solved

“The truth is, accessing what funds there are is more like a war of attrition”

“This country seems to take a perverse pride in not buying British”

There is, as always, lots of talk of commitment on the subject of consistent long-term industrial strategy. However, this continues to be all hot air, as the Government are not taking a long term view that will live on regardless of which party is in power. We don’t have the option to compete on price alone in the UK, as our cost base is just too high. However, we do need to focus on building value through innovation and quality. This means support for UK technology in the form of direct targeted grants that result in the Government buying British products and investing in education. The apprenticeship schemes are a good start, but there is too much focus on job creation when the emphasis needs to be put on wealth creation sectors like technology and engineering. Innovation is an integral part of this country’s history, and the Government needs to make a long-term commitment to wealth-generating industries to ensure this continues. We need to put the UK back on the world stage, and make Great Britain great once more! Mike Norfield is CEO of Team Telecom Group (TTG), a global telecoms specialist, which researches, develops and manufactures much of its technology in the UK. Contact: www.teamtelecomgroup.com

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04/12/2012 09:18

Focus on strategy CSR

Every helps little

Small things can make a big difference. Sadie Hopson, MD of Euthenia Touch, outlines how and why SMEs should engage in CSR


orporate social responsibility (CSR) is by no means a new concept. To date, it has predominantly been associated with the global conglomerates that have an entire department devoted to promoting the organisation’s commitment to society. Yet the SME sector comprises over 90% of businesses across the world, and as such should play a pivotal role in promoting positive change for the future. Those already engaged with the responsible business agenda are reaping the rewards of their endeavours, and it is apparent that CSR underpins the strategic operations of many successful and sustainable businesses. When it comes to CSR, size doesn’t matter. So, what exactly is CSR, and where do you start?

Internal environment

Every business needs to assess their individual processes and the ways that they can accurately target their CSR efforts. To optimise impact, principles surrounding socially responsible practices must embody company values and be relevant to unique visions endorsed by that business. This requires employees to be engaged from the outset; it is

essential that everybody is given the opportunity to contribute ideas. If necessary, appoint a CSR committee or champion, but essentially the objective is to ensure that any new practices receive maximum buy-in and are relevant to everyone. Once core values have been established, it is possible to embed CSR within business operations. Before external impact can be considered, it’s important to assess the internal environment. First and foremost, legal requirements must be met to promote a safe workplace for staff. This should include (but not be limited to) the provision of insurance cover, health and safety policies, regular risk assessments to identify and address potential hazards, first aid and fire safety training, up-to-date employment contracts and current complaints/ disciplinary procedures. From this point, efforts can evolve to more actively promote staff engagement and wellbeing. This could include talking to employees about their skills to develop an individual staff training and development plan, conducting regular appraisals, introducing a mentoring scheme to transfer vital skills across the business, and undertaking employee engagement surveys to gain staff feedback. Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

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04/12/2012 09:28

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Focus on strategy CSR

“When it comes to CSR, size doesn’t matter”

can be a useful way of measuring success and employee efficiency. The idea behind these steps is to promote a balanced work culture, where employees feel appreciated and respected; in turn, the workforce will become more motivated, with business benefits including reduced absenteeism, increased staff retention and productivity.


“It is vital that you proactively blow the proverbial altruistic trumpet”

Beyond the internal environment is the marketplace within which a business operates. Whatever the business type, positive working relationships underpin sustainable businesses, and the key to this is communication and respect. This could include honesty and integrity with consumer information, efficient complaints procedures, paying suppliers on time and client/ customer feedback. In turn, this will build confidence internally and externally and differentiate a business from others in the marketplace.

Green business

Perhaps more traditionally associated with CSR is the subject of being a green business, an issue which has gathered momentum over recent decades. Issues for consideration may include resources (such as energy or water), waste (packaging, hazardous waste), emissions (solvent emissions, air pollution) or recycling. The legislations

affecting each business can vary dramatically dependent on the specific environmental issues. This could require COSHH notices, compliance with WEEE legislation or Site Waste Management Plans. The Environment Agency provides guidance on the specific legislations that must be complied with for each individual business, and from this point it is possible to start considering exceeding legislation. To begin reviewing where improvements can be made, it may be necessary to undertake a risk assessment to identify the impact of the business. This could then be used to implement an environmental management system to integrate improved business practices, ideally using KPIs to measure factors such as energy use. Considering the environment does more than help the planet; it also reduces costs and overheads, improves reputation and helps prepare for potential legislations that may be introduced in the future.

Community engagement

Community engagement relates to a wide range of potentially intersecting groups, from local, regional, national and global community to business competitors, suppliers and employees. Contributing to these communities will not only build trust and loyalty across stakeholders, but it will also evoke positive image and help to further engage with employees. Like most things associated with CSR, it is vital that any efforts are business-specific and relevant; if a business owner chooses a charity donation or sponsored event, it is important to take steps to ensure that the cause is meaningful to an employee. Similarly, when considering suppliers, it is prudent to keep a focus on keeping trade local where possible. Educational contributions could include mentoring at local

establishments or getting involved in apprenticeship schemes – anything which demonstrates a commitment to the wider community is an important step in enhancing relationships.


Once CSR activities are being successfully implemented within a business, it is vital that you proactively blow the proverbial altruistic trumpet. Many fail to speak up about their efforts, whether through fear of cynicism or because they are not sure how best to deliver the message. Yet it’s essential that stakeholders know what a business stands for and understand the statement of commitment to best practice. Common ways to market CSR activity can include newsletters, website and email updates, PR, or product/service labelling. A more formal way of gaining acknowledgement for embedding such practices is to gain a relevant accreditation. There are a number of different accreditations available for those looking for a certified stamp of approval, including a host of ISOs, Investors in People and the Responsible Business Standard, a certification designed specifically for SMEs. It is clear that for any commercial business owner, CSR is increasingly becoming a necessity, not a luxury. The emergence of the socially responsible SME provides an opportunity to survive and thrive. In my opinion, Voltaire got it wrong; I believe that with great responsibility comes great power. Sadie Hopson is one of the first ISMA-accredited practitioners to deliver services in accordance with the new BSI Standards in Psychosocial Risk Management. She is also a certified auditor for the Organisation of Responsible Businesses.

Contact: www.eutheniatouch.co.uk

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04/12/2012 09:28

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03/12/2012 10:00

Focus on strategy OFFICE DESIGN

Anthony Brown, board director of Overbury, offers his ten top tips for small businesses on a budget to help maximise the impact of their office space

The office makeover 1. It’s the little things

When it comes to transforming your office, often it’s the smallest – and cheapest – changes which make the biggest impact. Simply upgrading lighting fixtures or sprucing up common areas with artwork can have a big impact on the look and feel.

2. Engage employees

Workspace has a huge effect on employee engagement and morale, so if a pool table, cappuccino machine or even a desk reshuffle is going to create a positive change, then why not?

3. Leave it to the professionals

No matter what your budget, the most effective workplaces are built by specialist teams who can deliver with minimum disruption, and achieve maximum impact. Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

4. Scrimp and save

If you’re on a tight budget, making your money go that extra mile is even more important, and when it comes to office fit-out there’s no shame in cutting a few corners. Instead of replacing all the carpets or soft furnishings, make the small things count. Update fabrics or key walkways and get creative with your colour schemes for a big impact.

5. First impressions count

Give a new lease of life to tired entrances and reception areas by replacing key fixtures and branding your entrance. Vinyl wall transfers in your company colours can give a real sense of your business from the moment you walk in the door, and are very cost effective.

6. Switch your space

Break down the barriers in your office and move away

from the dated tradition of rows of desks and partitioned offices. Move furniture around to create distinctive “zones” for brainstorming, socialising and one-to-one meetings.

7. Off-the-shelf

To keep the costs of fixtures and fittings down, choose off-theshelf products from accessible suppliers rather than more expensive bespoke options. You don’t have to be in the trade to get a good deal, so ask around for the best supplier and drive a hard bargain.

8. Bring the outdoors indoors

Try to maximise your outside space by adding a few fun deckchairs and accessories to a balcony or terrace to help create a new informal meeting space, or use inexpensive sun loungers to give staff a breakout area for individual working.

9. Bend and stretch

Being flexible about when fit-out works take place can significantly help to reduce the costs. Encourage staff to work from home or on flexi-time to bring down your fit-out bill.

10. The balancing act

Fit-out aspirations aside, you will need to balance quality, cost and time to best meet your business needs. Be realistic in your planning, work out what is most important to you, and compromise on lesser priorities. Anthony Brown is a director at fit-out and refurbishment specialist, Overbury Contact: www.overbury.com

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04/12/2012 09:32

Focus on marketing

The Christmas campaign Louise Stephens, email marketing consultant at Little Green Plane, shares her pearls of wisdom on creating a truly dazzling e-marketing campaign this festive season

T “Isn’t it time you thought about your email strategy for capitalising on the big Christmas spend?”

he clocks have gone back and shop window displays everywhere are embracing fake snow and tinsel. Christmas is definitely on its way. In a bid to avoid the increasingly crowded shopping centres and streets, British shoppers spent £68bn online in 2011, 16% more than the year before. By the end of 2012, this figure is expected to have risen to £80bn. With this rise in shopping online, isn’t it time you thought about your email strategy for capitalising on the big Christmas spend? Louise Stephens, email marketing consultant at little green plane and vice chair of the CIM Essex branch, offers her top tips for making the most

of the festive season when it comes to your email marketing. What are you waiting for?

Look at last year

It is vital to go back and see what has and hasn’t worked over previous Christmas campaigns. What type of subject line received the highest open and clickthrough rates? Which products or services were the most popular? Armed with this information, you are now able to come up with this year’s strategy.


From the analysis you have done on your previous campaigns, you will have a subject line in mind to help entice your audience into

opening your email. So, the next step is to look at your design. Christmas is all about the WOW factor, and it is important that your email has the same effect. Include plenty of call to action buttons within your template: not only do they look more professional, but they are great for mobile users with touch screens. A button, unlike a hyperlink, screams ‘push me!’ According to Econsultancy’s Email Marketing Census 2012, 67% of people in the UK use their smartphones to access their email, so it is vital to consider how your audience will interact on their mobiles. It is also important to ensure that your email will open correctly on various email

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Focus on marketing EMAIL MARKETING

servers: there is no point spending lots of time designing an elaborate message if it only works in Outlook, with Gmail users unable to read it as designed. Spend time trialling it across different email accounts to ensure it will display correctly for most recipients.

Social media

Harness the power of social media. This is all about getting your subscribers to do some of the leg work for you! Ask your audience to share your email through their social networks as well as promoting it through your own to increase your outreach. Maybe offer an incentive for doing this as a way of encouraging your audience to spread the word for you – money off your product or

service, or perhaps a prize they could potentially win if they retweet your message. This is a fantastic opportunity to increase your exposure this Christmas, and all you have to do is ask!

Follow up

When using email to promote a product or service, it is vital that you follow up a couple of weeks later; your audience will not remember your email for a whole month, so be sure to remind them of how brilliant you are as we get nearer to Christmas. Make sure you are maximising on those last-minute shoppers. However, being traditional at Christmas can go a long way with many customers. If you are not looking to promote a particular product or service this year, then email is a great way of

informing your customers of your Christmas opening times or just thanking them for their support over the past year and wishing them a very merry Christmas! We’ve got lots more tips, and we’re also running a series of free roadshows where you can find out more about how email marketing can help grow your business. Check one out to get free advice on e-marketing that packs a punch.

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07/12/2012 13:47

Focus on marketing TRADE SHOWS


Exhibiting at trade shows is a great way to market to prospective clients, but only if you do it well. Simon Kay, MD of EMC Advertising Gifts, advises on making your stand stand out from the crowd


ere are my top tips for planning to exhibit:

SHOW SELECTION The trick here is to find an acceptable balance between ensuring enough relevant visitors and finding a show not swamped by your competition. Don’t be shy to ask for a full list of registered exhibitors, and if you are planning far enough in advance, go down the year before and check out the feel and layout of the show; most don’t change hugely year to year. You also need to consider the distance of the show from your intended markets. STAND SELECTION Once you have chosen a show, the next step is to choose your stand. Considerations are size, location and situation. Size: A bigger stand is great if you can afford it – it gives a better impression of your company and will give you enough space to have a few conversations at a time on the stand. On the flip side, if you are

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Focus on marketing TRADE SHOWS

working to a tight budget, then a small stand will suffice and will also be cheaper on the build. Location: This is key. Whatever the organisers tell you, there are busier areas and quieter areas at shows; good places to be are near any food outlets, networking or seminar areas, as people will naturally flow to these. From my experience, outside walls aren’t great, in particular the right hand wall, as visitors naturally walk in, turn left, and then work up and down. (A tip for visiting shows is to turn right and start at the other end, as you will find the stands less busy). Situation: Something else to consider is how your stand is surrounded. Firstly, by which firms: you want to be surrounded by likeminded gogetters who will help create a buzz in your corner of the show. Ask the organisers, as they will have a good idea from previous shows where there will be a good atmosphere. Secondly, consider how the stands are held together: do you want open sides or more display walls? Once you have chosen your stand, you need to decide whether to take the shell scheme (carpets, walls and fascia board provided) or free build (usually just the space, and possibly carpet if you require). The shell scheme is the straightforward option and works well if you are turning up with minimal samples and banners or a pop-up stand. However, in my opinion, if you are able to afford the time to do it yourself or the cost to engage a professional, I would advise going down the free build route. You lose the horrible fascia board and save money (£40-£80/metre depending on show cost). A great proportion of your budget will go into building your stand, so think carefully about what you wish to display. If flat graphics are sufficient, then a pop-up stand with magnetic graphics panels is probably a good plan; there are companies

that will sell you the graphics panels and hire out the stand equipment, which will save you money if you are only exhibiting once or twice a year. For our last show, after looking at the available options, I decided to build my own. It’s not as hard as you think. I booked three days work from a local builder/carpenter and together we constructed a raised platform and fixed IKEA shelving units in place topped with a header board (we designed and printed our own graphics for this) and canopy, and finished it off with oak finish laminate flooring and a kidneyshaped desk. We built a great looking stand for less than £800, including labour, and another £140 to hire a van for a week.

WHAT ELSE? Power and furniture: Usually booked through a third party provider, you will need to specify if you require any furniture for

“It doesn’t matter how silly; if it is engaging and fun you will get people approaching the stand”

your stand or power sockets for any lighting or displays that you may have running (be warned: you will pay a penalty if you try to book on the setup day). Storage: If you are offered accessible storage, check that it is actually accessible. Otherwise it may be easier to leave extra literature and samples in your van or car and pick them up from there. Staff: Try to use your own staff wherever possible – nothing beats the knowledge that they can offer to your potential clients. There are two schools of thought on uniform: on the one hand it definitely helps identify your staff quickly for people coming onto your stand and adds to your corporate identity. On the other, your staff should be engaging everyone that enters your space, and not waiting for them to approach. Either way, you should have your own name badges with logo, name and

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Focus on marketing TRADE SHOWS

role, and not rely on those given out by the exhibition. Gimmicks and games: Unless you have a really exciting new product, you will need to use something else to create a buzz around your stand. It doesn’t matter how silly; if it is engaging and fun you will get people approaching the stand. For our last show we set the whole stand up as a sweet shop, and gave the visitors a chance to make their own pick-and-mix pens from multi-coloured components in sweet jars, as well as giving away pots of retro sweets. Giveaways: Think about your clientele and what may be useful or of interest to them, then work out how many people you wish to engage and set your budget for giveaways. If you are looking at just a few people then you can go to town and buy expensive gifts; for a larger audience, you can have less expensive gifts to give out. My belief is that you are getting the best value for your

investment by giving something that will end up in use in their office or home so your message remains in view. Literature: It is important to give visitors a summary of what goods and services you are offering for them to take away. With the best will in the world, they won’t be able to remember the name of your company a few days after the show having met so many people. But they will see your catalogue or leaflet when they unpack their findings back in the office. If budget stretches to it, give it all to them in a branded bag – as well as an extra reminder and useful gift, this will ensure that your literature is kept and not binned over lunch, and it will also put your name about the show. Data capture: If there is a badge zapping system, take it. You will be provided with a spreadsheet of all the contacts you made after the show with all their details correctly typed,

“You want to be surrounded by likeminded go-getters who will help create a buzz in your corner”

“Don’t be pushed into rebooking during the show”

which you can import straight into your CRM. If you can’t do this, print contact sheets, leaving a space to staple business cards so you can add notes without having to write out the contact details or scribble all over the card back. Seminars: A great way to add to your image as a consultative expert is to volunteer to take a seminar, or arrange an industry figure to give a seminar on a tie-in subject. This will need to be educational in some way and not a direct sales pitch, but you can use it to explain more about your industry and drive the attendees to your stand (try to ensure the seminar isn’t too far from your stand). Make sure you put your literature and giveaways out. Breakdown: Top tip – if you have a simple stand and want to get away quickly, check out the procedure for booking in vehicles before the show starts. Often there is a virtual queue, and you will need to pop out in the afternoon of the last day of the show to get your place in it (at Earls Court it is an actual queue in the Seagrave Road car park). Analysis: Don’t be pushed into rebooking during the show. It’s easy to be swept along on the tide of positivity gushing from the organisers during the show, but unless you are taking confirmed orders on your stand, you won’t know how successful the show was until a month or two later. It is at this point that you can step back and add up your costs against the new business created, and evaluate whether you wish to rebook (don’t worry, the stands never sell as fast as the organisers infer). Simon Kay is managing director and joint owner of EMC Advertising Gifts, supplier of promotional and business gifts, exhibition and conference materials and corporate clothing. Contact: www.emcadgifts.co.uk

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Focus on marketing PR

Features that fit

Phil Turtle, managing director of Turtle Consulting Group, explains how to get inside editors’ heads by analysing your key media, enabling you to pitch features that fit the bill every time


e all regularly read the magazines and websites that our customers read, because they are our own industry’s key media (and if you don’t: shame on you!). And here’s a specific reason to find some time to read your industry media – you need to be in there alongside, or preferably more often than, your competition. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, there’s heaps of free publicity to be had if you follow some relatively simple PR rules. But let me say up front too, that most of the magazines that are happy to give you this free editorial publicity depend for their income on advertising – so if you don’t do some of that too, there won’t be any media left to give you all this amazingly valuable free exposure. There are a number of types of PR you can get into both printed and online media. Press releases can be sent out to hundreds of media and will get you short news items across the board. Most magazines and online media also like technical features, tutorial features, opinion features (preferably a little controversial) and case studies. Often these will get you two or three pages in a specific magazine! That space would cost you £5-6k if advertising, and editorial is reckoned to be worth three times as much as that because it is so much more credible. To start getting into the race to provide for the editors of your key magazines, you need to understand how their minds work. And although most trade editors are very helpful, you owe it to them before starting discussions to undertake this simple analysis task. Bear in mind that editorial or PR coverage is not like advertising – whether or not you get any depends on the quality of your feature ideas and the quality of the writing. In fact, you need to woo them.

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Focus on marketing PR

Get out of the office

So grab yourself three copies of each of the top half dozen magazines in your market sector. You’re going to need a couple of undisturbed hours for this, and probably a couple of cups of coffee. I take myself off to the local coffee shop when I have this task to do, and I’d suggest you do the same. You also need a supply of yellow stickies and a pad and pen. What we’re going to do is “reverse engineer” each editor’s magazine. Read through one copy of the magazine doing two things: 1) note down the different sections in a list on your pad (leave space to write yourself a brief description of the section later), and 2) for every story or article where you think, ‘We could write something along those lines’, stick on a yellow stickie. You need your lateral thinking turned up to maximum for that second bit – because of course what you can do is not going to be exactly the same (and if it is the same you’re too late because someone else got there first!). But if, for example, you’ve seen a piece on best practice for installing square widgets, maybe you could do one on how to install specialist left-handed round widgets? Maybe you see an opinion feature on why the market should go in a particular direction or develop a specific new technology and you disagree strongly – well, that editor is going to be delighted to feature an opposing view and to be able to have a strong debate going in future issues of his or her magazine. Or maybe you have a bee in your bonnet about a specific issue in your market place; that’s probably going to make an excellent opinion feature. Don’t forget to write down all of the ideas you generate for your own features and news items as you go – otherwise you won’t remember them later. Then, at the end of this exercise, I promise you’ll have the best part of a year’s PR ideas listed! Go through your second and third copy of each magazine, noting that most of the sections

Your PR homework ê

Do your research: go online and look at the websites of your key media, including their media pack and forward features list


Get reading: grab a few issues of your key trade magazines and a strong coffee, and dissect them in detail


Make notes: jot down the sections you could potentially contribute to, and the type of articles that work


Have ideas: list some feature ideas that would fit well with your key media, including advice pieces, opinion pieces and case studies


Pitch: ring the key editors and run your best ideas by them, including why these features would be beneficial for their readers

remain the same (you may discover a few further ones, as some editors have sections they run on alternate months). This time make yourself some notes on what each section is about, and what sort of things the editor is looking for within them. You now understand the format of the magazine far better than most people. Thanks to these notes, in future you’ll be in a much better position to offer the editor ideas that are appropriate to each section.

Ahead of the pack

Believe it or not, after this simple exercise (rarely undertaken, even by most PR agencies, to the constant annoyance of editors), you’re 80% of the way to understanding each of your key editors’ wants and needs. One more slice of the pie – go to the magazine’s website and scout around in the advertising section for the media pack. In this you will find an incredibly helpful forward features plan, which the editor has produced outlining what the main feature topics are going to be over the coming six to twelve months. What this allows you to do is to be able to pitch ideas for specific upcoming issues of the magazine or website, which fit in with that month’s flavour. However, don’t make the mistake many PR agencies do of sticking completely rigidly to that. If you’ve got a good idea for a feature, pitch it to the editor straight away – he or she may well choose to fit it in sooner rather

than wait until that topic comes up. And then you can submit another one for the future issue, and get yourself twice the publicity.

Time to pitch

When you’ve got your ideas into some semblance of order, write a 50 or 60-word outline or synopsis that encapsulates – from the editor’s perspective, not your company’s – what it’s about, and why their readers will benefit from reading it. Do not even think about mentioning what you want to publicise through it though. Good PR is a very, very subtle form of promotion. Now you’re ready to pick up the phone to one of the key editors in your sector. Always ask if it is a good time to speak (because they have some serious workload and deadline issues, and you need to treat them like gods because they have total control over whether you do or you don’t get free publicity). Say you have some feature and news ideas to run by them, and could you please discuss a few? Most will gladly spare you ten minutes – either then or at a more convenient time – and you’ll soon find you have a commission for your first of many feature articles or case studies. Phil Turtle is the MD of technology PR experts turtleconsulting.com

“You need your lateral thinking turned up to maximum”

“Good PR is a very, very subtle form of promotion”

Contact: www.turtleconsulting.com

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07/12/2012 10:55

Focus on people

Lee McQueen

You scratch my back… Our columnist on all things ‘people’, Apprentice winner Lee McQueen, shares his expertise on building business relationships, and tells us why it’s all about creating a win/win Business is all about relationships. So how do you start one from scratch? And how do you build a good one?

Common ground

Firstly, I try and find common ground with someone. If you’ve got something in common it can really help the process along. With me, I’ve launched my own business, so speaking to people who have done the same thing is a great way of opening them up. We can share and compare experiences with each other, and see if we’ve had similar issues.

Give and take

If you want to keep a relationship fresh, even if the person in question isn’t useful to your business right now, you have to remember that it’s about give and take. It’s just trying to understand what they would want, and then putting myself in their shoes. Nothing’s free in life unfortunately – they’ll be thinking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Imagine what they would want and try to help them in return. So, for example, we recently had a function that I had a few of my clients to, and I also asked a few potential clients that can’t help me straight away, but who might be able to help me a few months down the line. I gave them something that was useful to them, so they’d be more inclined to give me advice or support when I need it. It’s not just about taking, but about giving back – that way, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Long-term or opportunist?

I’m going to be honest. I genuinely think the choice of whether to develop a long-term relationship or not really depends on the opportunity. I do think it’s better to develop long-term business relationships in general, rather than going in and taking as much as you can. But it depends on what you’re offering – if it’s a one-off service, and a client will buy it and that’s that, then it’s OK. It depends on whether or not it’s worth it, because it takes an awful lot of work to build and develop a relationship. It’s like a boyfriend and girlfriend; they might be together six months and then choose to move in with each other, only to discover someone leaves the toilet seat up! Basically, don’t waste your time on a business partnership that’s not going to be fruitful to you in the future. A true partnership is a win/win for both parties; if it’s clearly not going to

be, then don’t waste the time and resources necessary to develop that relationship.

Knowledge is power

“Don’t waste your time on a business partnership that’s not going to be fruitful to you”

If you’ve just met someone at an event, don’t go straight into pitch mode. I always try and understand their situation first. Why would I want to pitch blind? I can save myself the embarrassment of pitching someone something they’re not going to be interested in, simply by listening. It’s all about knowledge, so I ask questions, I open people up and listen to them and then the conversation can take a different path. Knowledge is power. You need the knowledge to understand what your clients or customers want before you can sell it to them. Contact: www.rawtalentacademy.co.uk

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Virtually perfect Behind many a great business is a good VA. Find out how a virtual assistant could kick your business into fifth gear


arbora Stiess couldn’t do without her virtual assistant. ‘Having a VA was a new concept, but once explained I could instantly see the benefits,’ says the founder of the Devilled Egg Kitchen Academy, a successful growing Bristol business. ‘Now my VA handles our communications professionally and looks after all our booking enquiries and confirmations, invoicing and payments and website content updates. I can concentrate on what I love – the creative and cookery side – knowing the business organisation and processes are in safe hands.’ Barbora is one of many business owners turning to virtual assistants – experienced administrators who provide

“The benefits to the business were instant”

support remotely in the same way a PA would support a CEO. There are many advantages. VAs are self-employed, so clients are not responsible for their overheads, NI contributions, holiday, sick or maternity pay. As business owners themselves, their integrity is usually high and they want to help clients achieve success, as it reflects well on their business. ‘VAs are there as and when you need them, saving on the cost of a full-time resource, yet providing high quality support to businesses who need professional representation and organisation on a pay-as-you-go basis,’ explains Saghi Zarbafi, founder of Interim Business Services, which has a team of VAs around the country.

Many business owners would love their own PA, but simply can’t afford a full-time resource, and certainly not of the calibre they desire. Others can’t be in two places at once, providing the service and being endlessly on the phone dealing with dayto-day management. In both cases, a VA is ideal. Equally, entrepreneurs running high growth businesses or a number of enterprises and organisations that have suffered redundancies, are often in dire need of a VA, so they and their staff aren’t breaking under the added pressure of managing their own administration. And a VA isn’t always there just for the business. ‘Professionals often need help in managing their personal lives too, from handling personal 

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Getting the best from your VA • Strong communication is key, so speak to your VA at least once every other day. Book a time for the call and stick to it • Taking ten minutes to discuss requirements will help your VA understand the dynamics behind the activities and be able to speak more knowledgeably, making your business look more professional • Have a planning meeting, virtually or face-to-face, at least once a month. Spend an hour going through everything and planning for the month ahead • Copy your VA in on everything initially to help them learn quickly • If possible use an exchange server so your VA can access your calendar, contacts and email, and keep your mailbox under control

affairs and bill payments to organising a house move,’ says Saghi. ‘We recently looked after a digital Internet entrepreneur whose family lived in the UK. While he jetted around the world, we took care of their personal needs as well as his business requirements.’ Professional VAs have often worked at board level for a number of years as PA to a managing director or chief executive. Their broad skillsets mean they can efficiently manage many aspects of a business and work on their own initiative without supervision. Professional VA businesses often have teams of VAs at a client’s disposal, so resources can be added as needed. VAs can be involved in every aspect of a business – not only keeping the chief executive’s diary and managing office requirements, but having a broader skillset which sees them deal with everything from invoicing to credit control. They can handle bookings and payments, managing databases and mailboxes, preparing research and reports, dealing professionally with enquiries and being the voice of a business – functions which, in a larger company, would be done by several different departments. So what’s the catch? ‘Some VAs are seeking a part-time role to fit around their lives or family commitments, so ensure that the VA service offered matches

the needs and hours of your business,’ warns Saghi. ‘It’s also important that the VA service has the necessary software to support various IT requirements. ‘Remember too that VAs work for other clients, so ensure they can meet your needs as and when necessary. VAs aren’t there to make tea or do filing, although with Cloud technology, a paperless system can easily be set up.’ Saghi’s top tip? ‘As with most working arrangements, good communication is key.’ Richard Reeves, owner of Essential Sailing, a Readingbased luxury yachting holiday specialist, agrees. ‘I would recommend a VA service highly. However, you need confidence and trust in your VA, so choosing the right person is essential. Rather than trusting a CV, talk to referees and see testimonials. And your potential VA needs to understand your expectations fully in order to deliver the desired service.’ ‘Don’t go for the cheapest option,’ suggests Saghi. ‘You are not only paying for your VA’s time but their experience, honesty and integrity – and they are going to be representing your business. ‘Try to meet your VA for a chemistry session first to ensure you get on – it’s important to like each other as you will work closely and need a good rapport. If you can’t meet

geographically, use Skype to video conference. ‘Make sure they have researched your business and ask lots of questions – and then ask them questions back to ensure they have understood your objectives.’ Karen Dunne-Squire, MD of Sales Outsourcing Specialist, said: ‘The first time my VA and I spoke, she had prepared an agenda covering the insight she needed and was under the skin of the business in less than 30 minutes! ‘The benefits to the business were instant. For example, the management of my emails was transformed. I had always checked my own, but now folders were set up and emails would be read and filed, with a list of actions directed to me. I no longer had to manage my diary – my VA dealt with enquiries and prioritised meetings so I could concentrate on the work I really needed to do.’ Karen admits her VA experience has completely changed her outlook. ‘Everyone needs a professional VA service. To get more out of the business, to get more done in a timely fashion, and to be productive, having a first class VA is undoubtedly the way to make it happen.’

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86 December 2012

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Review, reflection and relationships:


utsourced HR is all about relationships. Building and developing effective, robust and open relationships. At this time of the year we review client accounts and discuss the work that we have carried out on with them and the value that this has added to their business. This allows us to identify the priorities for the business for the year ahead and shapes our strategy and plans for HR activities. It is a rewarding time for us as it lifts us from the “doing” part of our job and focuses on the benefits and value added that have brought to our clients. Equally it teases out areas for development and sets our direction for next year’s improvement targets. I would like to share one example of where a referral for a piece of “crisis” management work has turned into a longer term relationship which (we hope) will move the business from

reactive management back into the driving seat and being proactive. In the early part of this year we got a call from a distressed MD who was facing a significant short fall in work flow and cash. There were significant sales in the pipeline and it was important that they retained the specialist skills in the business in order to meet the demands of the pipeline. Redundancy was not an option so we supported the company to reduce salaries and reconfigure contractual obligations. A short term piece of work that got the company stabilised. A short time later another emergency emerged and we worked with the management team to address a sensitive performance issue and rescue an important client relationship. More drama! We are now working with them to develop and implement a performance

management process, which needs to be backed up with requisite skills and commitment to implement across the organisation. This is a project which will attract some external funding and over time address some of the management issues. Review of this client account has highlighted that the reactive approach solved the symptoms but did not provide the longer terms support, advice and business partnering approach that will get at the heart of the matter and put in place the systems, processes, culture and values that will make the real difference. The Outsourced HR Support model builds that longer term approach, avoids the crisis moments thus reducing costs in the longer term and is more likely to leave a lasting legacy.

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The Employment Minefield With legislation covering every aspect of employment from recruitment to termination, how are you avoiding your minefield. Trusting in luck is one option but are you sufficiently informed about employment matters to be safely get to the other side? Managing employment issues is onerous, time consuming, complicated and keeping up to date a real challenge and the problem is even greater for smaller employers without the expertise, time or money to employ their own HR resources. So what’s the solution?

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Avoiding the Mines Engaging with experienced HR Managers to help you navigate minefields is a solution and we’ve helped hundreds of employers both large and small deal with their complex employment contract, procedure, discipline, performance, redundancy and TUPE minefields. We take a pragmatic approach to HR, providing services tailored to your needs, often within fixed price service arrangements, ensuring that employment issues are managed effectively - helping you to steer through the minefield.

04/12/2012 13:48


Neena Patel, an associate at Fox solicitors and employment law specialist, looks at the importance of managing employee performance before problems arise




ackling performance issues

Under UK employment law, “capability” is a potentially fair reason for dismissal. However, in order to avoid expensive unfair dismissal claims, employers still need to follow the correct procedure, demonstrate that capability was the actual reason for the dismissal, and show that they acted reasonably in dismissing the employee on that basis. In addressing these issues, employers need to be able to point to objective evidence which reinforces their assertions about an employee’s lack of capability. An important element of this will be the extent to which the employer clearly communicated the requirements of the role to the employee. For example, a tribunal will want to be satisfied that relevant performance targets were brought to the employee’s attention and that the employee was made aware of the consequences of not meeting those targets. The tribunal will ask if appropriate support and training were offered to the employee. The tribunal will also consider whether or not the employee was given a reasonable opportunity to improve once informed of the problem. A

single act of poor performance will very rarely constitute a fair reason for dismissal. Where an employee suffers from a disability, there may also be a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments in respect of that employee. This may mean giving the employee longer to perform tasks, or even reducing general performance targets to levels which are suitable for that employee. An employer’s failure to make reasonable adjustments could result in disability discrimination claims. It is a basic principle of fairness that a dismissal for poor performance should not take place without a proper process being followed. While the ACAS Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures is not legally binding, tribunals are obliged to consider the Code when deciding whether a fair process has been followed. A tribunal can increase any compensatory award by up to 25% if a fair process has not been followed. Employers may prefer to address performance issues under their own capability procedure. That is fine, so long as the procedure complies with the basic principles set out in the Code. To minimise the risk of claims, employers should

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keep a paper trail of the process followed and the reasons behind the dismissal.

Older employees

Until April 2011, employers were able to rely on the default retirement age of 65 (DRA) to avoid performance managing older members of their work force. The DRA allowed employers to dismiss staff over the age of 65 without having to raise performance issues. Following the abolition of the DRA, effective performance management of senior employees is becoming increasingly important. While employers can still, in theory, choose to impose their own mandatory retirement age, they will now have to carefully justify that particular age as being a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. With all the uncertainty surrounding what retirement age a court may consider “proportionate”, the only safe advice is for employers to avoid having a mandatory retirement age altogether. Proper performance management is more important than ever in this context. Employers should be mindful of taking an even-handed approach towards handling performance issues for all of their employees, old and young alike. Without appropriate procedures, employers leave themselves open to claims for age discrimination.

Performance managing

Best practice is to manage performance issues head on before a problem arises. Doing so will help to increase morale and productivity. Employees will feel more engaged in the business and know what is expected of them. Regular feedback through formal appraisals and informal discussions should mean that performance issues are thrashed out, and unlikely to come as a surprise. Employees

are more likely to perceive that they have been treated fairly and are therefore less likely to bring a claim. A probationary period is an ideal time to assess an employee’s suitability for a particular role, and to pick up quickly on performance issues with limited risk of a claim. During the probationary period, employers can usually terminate an employee’s contract on very short notice, and the employee will not have acquired the qualifying length of service to bring an unfair dismissal claim. Although typically used for new recruits, probationary periods can also be introduced to assess the suitability of an existing employee who is promoted to a new role. Employers’ expectations can often be efficiently communicated by reference to performance targets: preferably discussed at the outset of employment. Performance targets are likely to change in accordance with the evolution of the business or an employee’s role, so should be kept under review and regularly discussed with the employee. Line managers often see appraisals as a pointless and time-consuming exercise, especially when profits are low and bonuses are small. In fact, regular appraisals can be an invaluable forum for giving both positive and negative feedback. Appraisals should also have a forward-looking element which focuses on improvement rather than simply dwelling on past performance. Written and verbal communications during the performance management process should be an accurate record and consistent with other decisions made in relation to an employee. We see employees using their flawless employment records to undermine their employer’s arguments relating to underperformance. An employer would get into difficulty

“Proper performance management is more important than ever”

trying to justify dismissing an employee on capability grounds if it had recently awarded that employee a top rating in their appraisal or a performancerelated pay rise. The Data Protection Act 1998 allows employees to request copies of certain types of information held about them, which is another reason for consistency in performance records.

The future

“Best practice is to manage performance issues head on”

Findings published by the Office of National Statics in October 2011 show that between 2008 and 2010 the average man aged 65 in the UK could expect to live a further 18 years, and the average woman another 20.6 years. With life expectancy on the increase, the Government now proposes that the state pension age will be increased to 67 between 2026 and 2028, which is much sooner than anticipated. With future generations of employees likely to retire later in life, the importance of good performance management processes can only increase. Neena is a member of the Employment Lawyers’ Association and regularly attends seminars and training events. Contact: www.foxlawyers.com

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entagon HR has gone from strength to strength since we started trading three and half years ago. Building our reputation by ensuring that the service we provide to CEO’s of our SME clients can’t be matched by others Sure we deal with all aspects of ensuring that your company is compliant with employment law and the mind field it is, but also we have relationships with our clients that is built on trust and mutual respect. We are sat next to our clients when they have to deal with employee issues and when you have to have difficult conversations with staff. Our phones aren’t switched off at 5pm – why because we know that sometimes the type of discussions that you need to have can’t always be done with the staff sat around you or while you’re having to deal with other aspects of your business. That’s why our portfolio of clients has grown, but our personal service hasn’t been compromised because of it. In fact, our clients are that happy with us that around 90% of our clients has come from recommendations from one business owner to another. So with everything from contracts to handbooks, from TUPE to redundancy we offer professional, straight forward advice. We work with our clients onsite for some once a week, to others once a month, but all of them knowing that we are at the end of the phone or email. Once your business has grown we can then work together on your strategic needs, rather than just operational HR. By this we mean, employee surveys, employer of choice status, 360 feedback projects and succession planning. In fact we have built such a reputable business that based on client needs, we recently launched two new services – Health & Safety and Recruitment. Who better experienced to know your culture and values ensuring that we get the right staff for the right job and on the H&S as we help to build

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“With Anne and her team by our side we know that we always get the best advice and solution that we need. Anne is a true professional with the management and HR skills required to be an asset to our business. Anne understands our business and that’s paramount when dealing with our employees” Dane Wilde Managing Director IDess Retail

FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH your business, we can help with accreditations such as ISO14001. Both have already made positive impacts for our clients, can we help you? Our MD Anne Egleton is qualified with the CIPD Postgraduate Advanced Certificate in Employment Law and is also a member of the CIPD. Anne’s previous working history was in a large PLC where she set up and successfully run a central HR team for 1,400 employees over 25 UK locations. She then furthered her career as a Chief People Officer with an online media organisation where she led the HR, Recruitment, Training and Payroll teams. Here’s a few comments from some of our clients (and we didn’t have to pay them either) Anne is one of the most down to earth, practical and pragmatic people I have ever met. Her knowledge of and advice on employment matters has been invaluable to many of our clients. Jeremy Holt Partner Clark Holt

Pentagon HR has been an invaluable resource to my organisation. Anne’s knowledge of employment law and working practices helped quickly identify our areas of risk. Within a week we had employment contracts, an employee handbook and all the documents we required to ensure we were compliant. The team also assisted in ensuring that all other documents that every business should have was in place in relation to our staff. Anne’s great sense of humour and infectious personality really makes her a joy to partner with and we continue to work with her and the team Mike Edwards Managing Director Komfort Services

We needed help with our HR and Pentagon was recommended to us. Anne now works with us on site 1 day a week and has made such a positive impact to the business in respect of our staff. With her HR and commercial business experience she knows exactly what we need and works with the senior management team and in fact with everyone in the business to make it happen. Pentagon’s recruitment team has started to work with deal with our advertising for specific roles. Karen Walton Chief Accountant Redtray Solutions

Is it time that you met with us and see what we can do to help your business? Contact us:

Tel: 01784 247059 / 07976 809682 Email: Anne@pentagonhr.co.uk / Claudia@pentagonhr.co.uk Website: www.pentagonhr.co.uk

06/12/2012 12:06

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06/12/2012 16:17

Secret diary of an entrepreneur This month our secret diary entrepreneur heads to Africa to meet a new client. Jess Matthias, a director at Wordville, shares her business diary after a fruitful trip to Senegal Jess Matthias is a director of Wordville, a PR consultancy based in London’s West End. With a new client that makes portable, off-grid solar energy systems for the developing world, Jess heads to Senegal to meet the executive team, carve a media strategy, and attend an important African lighting conference.

Day 1: London-Dakar

3pm: I am off to Senegal to meet BBOXX, a new client that develops off-grid solar lighting systems for communities without electricity in developing countries. Dakar is holding the third Lighting Africa conference, so it’s an ideal opportunity to meet people in their industry, check out their competition, and absorb valuable market insight. To do my job well, I need to completely absorb myself in our clients’ cultures. Although I don’t need to have a PhD in the sectors I work across, I do need to understand where each client fits into their market in order to carve them the reputation and awareness in the media that they need to meet their business goals. 4pm: I meet some of BBOXX’s other contractors at Heathrow Airport, and then start the journey out. There’s plenty to talk about on the plane, such as our client’s work in Africa so far.

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Midnight: The ten-hour journey soon passes, and we arrive at Dakar’s airport. The change of culture is already hugely apparent as we step out of the airport’s front doors. We are immediately swamped by locals offering phone cards, currency exchange and taxis. The air is thick, humid and hot, despite it being past midnight, and several men are sprawled out asleep on the roadside. Luckily, our clients are there to greet us and guide us to a waiting taxi.

Day 2: Dakar

7am: I’ve only had three hours of sleep, but the inviting thought of waking in an unknown and intriguing city entices me out of bed. I grab a quick breakfast and start the half hour cab ride to the conference centre. En route, I catch up on emails, in between snapping photos of what is clearly a city brimming with interesting art, culture and entertainment. Upon arriving, our client gives me a tour of the conference, showing me their competitors’ products and pointing out useful industry contacts. 1pm: Lunch with our client’s potential investors gives me a unique insight into the image the company is looking to portray. My PR brain is already busy forming interesting stories for some of my technology and business journalist contacts. 7pm: I am invited to dinner in a local make-shift restaurant complex. I’m told there is little

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Focus on people SECRET DIARY

electricity: just natural candle light accompanied by the smell of burning incense and the sound of ocean waves crashing merely three metres away from the dining area. I cannot resist this offer to experience true Senegalese culture, food and people. The food – an entire grilled sea bass – is delicious, and the relaxed atmosphere is just what is needed to round off an intense day of learning.

Day 3: Dakar

6.30am: From my window, the pool looks too good to resist, so I am up for an early swim under the rising sun. After breakfast, I catch a cab to meet my clients for a ‘kick-off’ PR meeting. 9am: Handing out my agenda while sitting across from the beach with a cool glass of baobab is, in my opinion, an ideal way to get a PR campaign started. We discuss messaging, upcoming company news, media interviews and strategy. 2.30pm: After lunch with some of my client’s potential partners, I attend a conference on trends in consumer behaviour across Africa. This seminar is an

invaluable insight into a fastdeveloping and complex market. 6.30pm: I meet some inspirational people, who I end up taking an impromptu “walking meeting” with along the beach. The stories they tell me about how much of rural Africa is without electricity are truly eye-opening and cements the significance of what my clients are doing.

Day 4: Goree Island

9am: My clients want a “meet the media” plan. This is one of the first tasks we do for new clients; we identify relevant journalists for them to meet, and carve stories and angles that would appeal to each one. I head to the beach to write my plan. 1pm: I head out with some of my client’s contacts to visit a local community where many households are using solar energy products. It’s a perfect opportunity to see what a difference these products are making, as well as meet some of the locals. I am introduced to Daouda, a local man who purchased a solar energy box. He could connect his phone charger, a lamp and even a small TV.

‘It means my family can stay connected,’ he said, ‘and live like we are in the city centre.’ 5pm: Our last afternoon is reserved for team building. I am excited when our clients offer to take us by ferry to Ile de Goree, once one of Africa’s Atlantic slave trade centres, so it is not a trip that will be taken lightly. After a harrowing tour of the Maison des Enclaves, where Nelson Mandela famously broke down in tears, we head to a peaceful cove before our ferry back. While waiting, we sip baobab juice with a local family who show us their fishing boats and handmade jewellery.

“The inviting thought of waking in an unknown and intriguing city entices me out of bed”

Day 5: Dakar -London

4am: Dinner ended in the small hours of this morning; as my flight is at 6.30am, I decide there’s not much point going to bed in case I oversleep. Blearyeyed, I set off for Dakar airport at 4am. Despite my growing tiredness, I manage to stay awake to gaze at the edge of the Sahara Desert as we fly over Mauritania.

“The stories they tell me about how much of rural Africa is without electricity are truly eyeopening”

Contact: www.wordville.net

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Sponsored Article Focus on Quality Websites Designer Websites

What does your website say about your business? Does it portray quality, integrity and professionalism? Is it ecommerce and if so does y it give your customers the confidence to buy?



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navigate and grow. Bespoke websites are developed by Software Engineers but to make them high quality you need to add User Interface experts; to make them look good you need professional Web Designers, and to make them optimised for the search engines you need SEO experts. All of these specialities together under one roof is what affords Designer Websites the ability to provide high quality bespoke websites, that simply put.. work! A high quality bespoke website is extremely valuable! So, does your business deserve a high quality website? Do you want an extremely valuable website that drives sales and enquiries?

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Focus on


David Richards

OUR MAN IN THE VALLEY Whether in San Fran or Sheffield, our tech columnist, David Richards, explains why people, not pounds, are key to getting a major tech start-up right When we started our tech company, WANdisco, in 2005, almost everyone told me there was no chance of developing major software outside London or San Francisco. Without the infrastructure, the workforce and the tech culture of the Valley (or the roundabout) they said, any software enterprise was doomed. The consensus was that there was no such thing as off-the-beaten-tech-track. As someone who hails from the steel city of Sheffield, it’s been a great source of personal pride to see WANdisco buck this perceived wisdom. Moving our software development arm to south Yorkshire three years ago was one of the best business decisions I have ever made. The company has gone from strength to strength as a joint Sheffield and San Francisco venture, and when we floated WANdisco on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market earlier this year – one of very few tech companies to have done so in the last few years – it was three times oversubscribed and raised £18m of capital. While that success vindicated the decision to have a major UK base outside London, I’m far from biased against the world’s major tech hubs. WANdisco is jointly based in Silicon Valley, and as I’ve said in these columns before, the Valley is an extraordinary place,

bringing together the best people, facilities and knowledgebase the tech world has to offer. I would never dream of doing down the Valley, or underplaying the vital role it has to play in the advancement of the global tech and digital economy. But there is a risk that its great advantages convince people that nowhere else can act as the foundation for successful tech enterprise. As I believe the experience of WANdisco has shown, it’s not just the people of London and San Francisco who can staff and grow a major tech company. And it’s the people that I think are particularly important. Ask most entrepreneurs and small business owners what the most important ingredient in a new business is, and they will say finance. There’s no question that money matters, but it’s not going to build you a business on its own. For that you need people. Ideas, talent and dedication are the vehicle; finance merely the fuel that makes it run. WANdisco has found the first three in abundance in my home town of Sheffield, and what’s more, we’ve never had to rely on venture capital to fill our tank. I’d even go so far as to say that our success is precisely because of, rather than despite, the lack of venture capital. Avoiding venture capital means a start-up can maintain the flexibility and the independence

“Ideas, talent and dedication are the vehicle; finance merely the fuel that makes it run”

to succeed on its own terms. By succeeding outside the traditional homes of tech business, and without a penny of venture capital investment, WANdisco has comprehensively shown that it is possible to build a world-beating tech company wherever there is the talent-base and the will to succeed. That, as one of our adverts says, ‘takes balls (of Sheffield steel).’ Contact: www.wandisco.com

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Focus on technology IMPLEMENTING CHANGE

Ring the changes Embracing change: Paul Grice, senior partner at Marquis Media Partners, outlines how you can implement tricky technological changes while achieving the best outcome for your business


hange is one of the most significant challenges that any organisation faces. The human condition is averse to change, and even those who profess to be comfortable with it often approach different or new tasks in a similar way. The processes in many organisations have hardly altered for years; however, with the arrival of digital technology, new working practices, processes and interactions are now essential. Organisations are now facing up to the changes imposed

on them by digital technology affecting delivery, production, distribution and customer interaction. Additionally, with the emergence of new consumption methods like social networking and Internet services, plus the introduction of alternative suppliers and business models, the change challenges are magnified. As a result, a significant number have concluded that delivery of fit-for-purpose technology can often be most easily realised by the redesign of everything: structure,

processes, technology and space. Such major transformations require significant thought and support to ensure a successful outcome. Frequently, the way organisations implement new systems is through creating a set of delineated organisational structures, such as property, technology and operations. These structures and their implied reporting lines are frequently isolated from one another, and this becomes the main reason for the less-thanoptimum consequences. This

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Focus on technology IMPLEMENTING CHANGE

can lead to a silo approach and different interpretations of a solution, rather than a team approach. The key to success is understanding that the majority of projects are about change, and change affects people. Successful change management requires clarity around the need for transformation so that all the stakeholders can understand what is to be achieved. The first step is to examine why change is necessary at all. For example, many organisations characterised by the traditional processes see the implementation of new technology as a way of emulating more nimble start-up businesses. Some other typical key strategic reasons for change include: • Market: The changing market leads to a fundamental shift of strategic vision for the organisation; a “blank canvass” approach is required. • Survival: The existing technology is either financially or functionally unsuitable for purpose. • Replacement: The current technology is out-of-date or expensive to support. • Efficiency: The lack of system integration has resulted in inefficient operations. Once the need for change has been clearly identified, it is important to step outside the technology domain to gain a view of the organisation’s objectives. Often this thinking needs to be undertaken by gathering together a group of key people who can articulate strategic ideas, and then translate them into user requirements. It’s wise to deliberately inject some realistic cynicism into these discussions, to avoid chasing flights of fancy rather than real requirements. During the discussions, the use of outside facilitation from people who can bring a wider view is often particularly helpful. At this stage, remember that one of the determinants of success in an environment which relies on individuals’

effort to generate value, is the delivery of working spaces and technology that foster such efforts. Additionally, the essential processes that support this business model must be as invisible as possible. On the one hand individuals need to feel that their contribution is important, while on the other, the organisation needs to guarantee that data is automatically gathered so that everyday tasks are made easier and processes can be managed. Once the high-level strategic objectives have been agreed, the next step is to test them on two key groups: firstly your senior people who are charged with the organisation’s direction. Ask them: ‘If I spend £X to achieve Y, does this fit with your view of the organisation and its purpose?’ The second group to question are those whose work will be changed by what is proposed. Ask them: ‘If we did X to make it possible to do Y, but this changed the way you work, how would that fit with the job you do?’ It’s only after the answers to these questions are understood that we can possibly think in terms of the technology projects that will support proposed changes in the organisation. It is also here that the best intentions can founder. This is frequently because facilities that have undertaken some good strategic thinking then leave the project to the relevant department to deliver and, like a game of Chinese Whispers, the eventual outcome does not match the original intention. For a successful outcome, organisations need: • Sponsorship: A key figure at an appropriate level to be the visible sponsor of the project. This person must be able to articulate both the need and the process, so that staff understand what’s going on. • Governance: Agreed objectives and quantified inputs and outputs should be owned by a group responsible

for delivering all the required outcomes. This group should monitor progress and have the decision on any material changes to the project. Properly constituted, they act as a custodian of the overall timetable and budget. • Clear project direction: All strands or separate projects that are part of realising the overall objectives must report to a single director. This individual is charged with delivering the objectives (as set by the project’s governance) on time and on budget, and should be incentivised appropriately to achieve this. • Communication: It is the interaction of people with technology that makes magic happen. Therefore, projects which affect working environment and practices mean that staff deserve to be a part of what’s going on. Investment in communication and feedback with staff and others affected throughout the delivery phase will reap dividends when it comes to final implementation • Involvement: Make sure that a number of end-users are involved in the implementation phase. Ensure that any solution doesn’t feel as though it is being imposed by outsiders. The way change is implemented is critical to the relative success of the transformation; putting effort into managing the process and the people involved will pay dividends in these changing times. Marquis Media Partners, part of Marquis Group, is focused on strategic technology planning, change management and deployment for organisations working in media and broadcast.

“The key to success is understanding that the majority of projects are about change, and change affects people”

“Like a game of Chinese Whispers, the eventual outcome does not match the original intention”

Contact: www.marquismediapartners.com

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30/08/2012 17:13


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04/12/2012 13:57

The original Virtual PA

Superior support to senior executives at a fraction of the usual cost!

Susan Finn started an outsourced typing service 30 years ago for a major firm of West End chartered surveyors. This was before virtual working was as straightforward as it is today, meaning she was one of the first people to offer a virtual office service. In 1999 Susan started Virtual P A Ltd to provide the service to a wider audience. During this period most problems and questions arising from providing a virtual service have been encountered and dealt with by Virtual P A Ltd. Virtual P A Ltd has a varied client base and services offered range from typing to a full Personal Assistant Service. Virtual P A Ltd charges clients in real time, with no limited usage. The only equipment necessary to use the typing service is a digital dictation system or a smartphone and an email account. The client benefits from paying for a service when it is needed rather than employing expensive staff in-house. Research has shown that to produce 35 hours of key boarding in-house a client would need to employ 2.5 full time staff.

Virtual Personal Assistant services are designed and charged on an individual basis and are provided by highly competent personnel.

For further details contact Virtual P A Ltd on 0208 599 4646 or visit our website www.virtualpa.co.uk ad v1.indd 37

07/12/2012 09:26

Focus on technology VIRTUALISATION

As a start-up, your business can undergo significant growth – sometimes unexpectedly. This means the demands on your IT infrastructure can increase rapidly without warning. Having a reliable, scalable and adaptable IT infrastructure in place is vital for small companies who want to pave the way for growth, stay ahead of the competition and evolve their business. Among small businesses there is still a significant amount of confusion around the technologies that have developed to help streamline IT infrastructure. Virtualisation is a prime example, and an area in which many companies require education in order to better understand the business benefits. In basic terms, virtualisation is software that makes it possible to consolidate the applications (operating systems, email, customer management systems) from multiple servers onto just one or two. The primary benefit and main purpose of virtualisation is to eliminate unnecessary hardware and maintenance costs. The technology enables growing businesses to take advantage of the flexibility that cloud computing offers, as well as benefiting from the likes of fast, more affordable back-up and recovery, improved scalability and optimised use of hardware.

Recent independent research, conducted on behalf of Dell and Intel, highlights a lack of understanding among smaller businesses of virtualisation as a technology that supports and enables business growth. Of the 1,150 small businesses and IT decision makers surveyed across Europe, 41% currently use server virtualisation. But the findings also indicate that companies with fewer than 25 employees are less likely to perceive the benefits of server virtualisation than those with 25-100 employees. These firms are also more preoccupied with the potential obstacles to adoption than their larger counterparts; the feeling that the company ‘might be too small to benefit from the economies of scale’ was the top concern. What’s more, 36% of companies not using server virtualisation state that they have no knowledge of the benefits of virtualisation at all, compared to 25% of companies with 25-100 employees. However, among larger small firms, the UK is leading the way. Server virtualisation adoption was found to be second highest in Europe among organisations with 25-100 employees, and these are seeing the benefits. The top three benefits perceived as most significant by businesses with 25-100 employees, were faster and cheaper back-up and recovery (59%), reduced

total cost of ownership (56%), and simplifying maintenance without impacting computing power (54%). Tellingly, the UK had the second highest number of companies with no knowledge of the business benefits of virtualisation, while desktop virtualisation was rated least favourably out of all the virtualisation technologies despite the fact that it may be the most beneficial to small businesses with mobile workforces. Ultimately, these findings highlight that, while there is a noticeable difference between the adoption rates as companies increase in size, both size groups perceive the benefits of server virtualisation as more significant than the obstacles. In fact, the UK was found to have the highest percentage of respondents stating that they are planning on deploying the technology in the future (33%). As businesses become more educated in the innovations and benefits of server virtualisation, we are sure to witness an increase in its deployment, resulting in more businesses being able to enhance their infrastructures and maximise efficiency.

“Many companies require education in order to better understand the business benefits”

Contact: www.dell.com/uk/business

Optimising your infrastructure: enterprise product manager for Dell, Nigel Green, explains why virtualisation matters for small businesses


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04/12/2012 10:20

w: www.erisystems.com e: enquiries@erisystems.com

ring us now on 020 8773 7661 to arrange your free technical consultation

Do you ever get angry when your IT systems waste your time? Give us a call to see how we can help! Who we are

For over 10 years, ER Information Systems have been providing a range of IT services to small companies. We provide friendly, knowledgeable on-site and remote IT support. We offer a broad range of hosted cloud services. We are able to supply hardware and software from all major vendors. Our expertise covers many vertical markets: finance and accounting, architecture and construction, business and professional consultancy, property management. We care passionately about what we do and we recognise that our clients simply want to run their business using IT as a reliable tool. We are only happy when we know that our clients are happy!

Our Values Quality

We always strive to exceed our clients’ expectations and provide a top-class service.


We are always friendly and helpful towards our clients, suppliers and colleagues.


We always act in our clients’ best interest. We propose only services that we believe will meet our clients’ technical requirements, budgets and timescales.


Our approach

We listen. We think. We design a solution. We implement the solution. We make sure it continues to work. We aim to become our clients’ trusted partner. Our clients can then run their business without worrying about IT.

We take ownership of our clients’ problems and deliver solutions to them.

We look after your IT so that you can look after your business!

providing cost-effective reliable IT services to small businesses in London, Surrey and beyond “ERIS solutions have given us real time and cost benefits.” Architects, London

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ER Information Systems Ltd · SBC House · Restmor Way · Wallington · Surrey SM6 7AH

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05/12/2012 12:31

Focus on technology OUTSOURCING

Are businesses reaping the most reward from their IT outsourcing? Thomas Coles, managing director of MSM Software, advises on consolidating suppliers for greater value

Reaping the rewards T

he benefits of outsourcing IT have been realised by businesses for many years now: not least because it allows a company’s in-house team, who have in-depth knowledge of the business, to focus on their core activities. At the same time it brings in dedicated, technical, specialist and, in some cases, more experienced hands on board to act as an extension of that team. However, despite the value that can be gained from outsourcing, this alone does not guarantee that an IT project will be a success. Research carried out by MSM Software in conjunction with Computing, based on interviews of 200 decision makers in the IT industry, shows that poor project management is pinpointed as a key reason for project failure by almost half of those questioned. To keep a project on track and ensure success, strong management skills and clear leadership is imperative, yet the rise of outsourcing can make this difficult. For organisations which outsource, headaches such as being let down by suppliers or under performance may resonate.

But this should not be a reason for an organisation to stop outsourcing altogether; I firmly believe that to do this could be incredibly detrimental to a business. I think the solution to this is to outsource supplier relationship management itself, and over the coming year I fully expect to see a strong trend of improving supplier relationship management (SRM). However, for SRM to be a success, a business must first consolidate the numbers of suppliers in order to optimise business performance.

Consolidating suppliers

Businesses often work with a multitude of suppliers who have been brought on board, frequently by different parts of the business over a period of time, to fulfil a specific role or need. Far too often this means that suppliers are not managed efficiently; each one is working disparately with various parts of the business, with too many relationships to be managed centrally. It therefore becomes essential to consolidate supplier numbers. The impetus for a business to consolidate outsourced services can be led by price, quality of service or some other relevant measure. Whatever the


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04/12/2012 11:09

Focus on technology OUTSOURCING

“I firmly believe that to do this could be incredibly detrimental to a business”

“Communication is essential to ensuring a successful client and supplier relationship”

driver, reducing the number of suppliers can not only lead to fewer firms delivering improved performance, but can also allow potential cost savings to be realised, not least through a supplier offering more competitive prices to secure increased levels of business. For a company to gain maximum value from its suppliers, it must not only understand what it needs from its suppliers, but also recognise the potential of their suppliers’ services. For example, by understanding what other services suppliers offer, a business could avoid costly procurement exercises. It’s also valuable to simplify re-tendering processes and contracts through the consolidation of suppliers, to remove the headache of complex invoicing. Not only this – working with a few key providers will also simplify service level agreement (SLA) monitoring and management, ensuring that suppliers are being kept on their

toes and delivering the level of service required. However, key to this is a business having one single supplier management function overseeing fewer relationships, and achieving greater consistency of monitoring and service improvement. But for many organisations, finding an internal resource with the time to take overall responsibility of managing contractors can be difficult. This is why I anticipate a growth in the number of businesses reaping the benefits of outsourcing the management of suppliers.

Growth of SRM

For some businesses, transferring the management of suppliers may seem like a risk. But by outsourcing, a business can benefit from improvements to its relationships with providers, which will subsequently lead to improvements in service, efficiency and therefore return on investment. There are three vital ingredients that are key to a successful transition of SRM: integration, understanding and communication. Frustrations can occur on both sides if a supplier is not integrated into the organisation, and subsequently does not understand the business’ objectives. Communication is essential to ensuring a successful client and supplier relationship; this in turn will build a mutually beneficial partnership. By devising a process for SRM at the outset of the relationship, ideally pre-contract, the transfer of risk or pricing can be actively monitored rather than the business being left to react should something go wrong. Governance of SRM is also essential, and establishing performance criteria aligned

to business objectives is the key to benchmarking supplier performance. This is more than simply an SLA – it is a measurement that allows the service to be quantified, and can differentiate a good supplier management team from one that is underperforming, in much the same way a business would for an employee. Regular service reviews are also great opportunities to review the performance of SRM, but to be effective these reviews must be prepared for, and attended by people of appropriate seniority from both sides. Supplier management can become inconsistent if it is dependent on individuals’ knowledge. Instead, operational processes should be built and refined to enable the efficient management of suppliers. From the nitty gritty up to higher level strategic processes, these should be based on best practice ITIL processes to support business operation. SRM can too easily become a personal matter; however, the inefficiency and subjectivity of opinion can be driven out by systematising activities, allowing the SRM team to run the process but imposing objective discipline on them. This avoids dependence on one person, and can make good relationships last longer, while also rooting out the bad ones. Businesses today face an abundance of pressures – both financial and regulatory – and I believe that the ones that work smarter in their outsourcing, and harder on their core business activities, will be the ones to see the most success in 2013. Contact: www.msmsoftware.com

108 December 2012

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04/12/2012 11:09

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06/12/2012 15:49

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04/12/2012 14:01

Focus on technology BUSINESS APPS

I’ve got an app for that… A pocket-sized business coaching tool and a way to build a mobile-friendly website in minutes? I’ve got an app for that! Check out December’s top picks


Price: FREE Compatible with: All iOS platforms The gist: A new business and productivity app written by business expert, Bev James. Despite all the supposed doom and gloom, the rate at which businesses are starting up is strong, with a 30% increase in the number of businesses since 2000. As an advocate for business start-ups, Bev James felt there was no better time to launch an app version of her bestselling book, DO IT! OR DITCH IT. DO IT! OR DITCH IT is an interactive business app which takes a mentoring and coaching approach to achieving your goal. The app is split into three different sections: 8 Steps To Business Success, Mini DISC assessment and Daily Do Its! – a daily dose of inspiration to help you accelerate your success. Downloadable from: The app store

The Telnames Mobile Website Builder

Price: FREE Compatible with: iPhone The gist: The first of its kind, the app enables professionals and businesses to buy and create their own mobile-friendly website in less than 10 minutes with just their thumb. By removing all the complexities involved in buying and building a mobile-ready website, the app means that anyone, regardless of technical ability, can get their own place online in a matter of minutes. You can even dictate your content and it will automatically publish it on your mobile site. Recent studies have revealed two thirds of small businesses in the UK still don’t own a website, while many more do not have a mobileoptimised online presence. Telnames has high hopes that its groundbreaking app will help bridge this gap. Downloadable from: telnames/iphone

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04/12/2012 11:11

THE LOCASSA TEAM Proudly supporting Movember.

Mobile Apps In Business

Locassa CEO and Apple fan Simon Lee discusses the benefits of mobile apps for businesses and why they are not always needed.


Untitled-5 Article.indd2 1

ocassa are making great waves in the app world, borne out of a desire to bring established principles and quality to the mobile arena, they are a ten person team creating some of the most engaging and creative apps around. Despite their

diminutive size, Locassa have been involved with some of the biggest app projects around, including The Times and The Sun for iPad, The British Forces Post Office app, projects for Universal Music, GSK and a host of start-ups and individuals. Founded in 2009, Locassa has always been on the creative side of app development producing unique apps which take usability and intuitiveness to new levels, truly embracing the features of todays devices. We caught up with Simon to get the essentials for those wishing to dip their toes in the warm waters of mobile apps.

03/12/2012 16:06

Is there anything I can’t do in my app? Apple publish a list of guidelines any app must adhere to for approval. It covers the obvious things such as no illegal / offensive content etc. but also more hazy areas involving broad appeal and longevity. If you are in doubt, prospective clients can contact us for an evaluation of their idea against these guidelines eliminating the risk of rejection by Apple. Does my business need an app? Apps are very popular, however they aren’t required for every business. If you create an app with lasting appeal then that’s great. However, merely creating one because they are popular, especially if they are simply

What can apps do for my business? There are two types of apps for businesses. The first are apps which are 1-to1 in line with a business’ products or services, i.e. a clothes retailer offering an app for people to buy their clothing. However, the more popular apps are those which are ancillary to the business, so in the example of the clothes retailer, an interactive style guide which promotes the brand and the products they sell indirectly. These normally come under a companies PR spend and are more likely to gain mass appeal, broadening the reach beyond the business’ existing customer base.

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It all started with a great idea and a desire to be the best. a rehash your website, is a bad idea. People want lasting appeal from an app as an extension to other forms of content, not a direct copy. Are apps only for big companies? No, not at all, in fact many of the apps we have worked on have been from individuals or small businesses. If you have an idea and you follow the guidelines then you can have an app. The days of apps belonging solely to the big corporate are behind us. How are Locassa innovating in this space? Many mobile app development firms still

think in terms of the web or desktop from five or so years ago. We now have multitouch, gesture support and accelerometer features so why aren’t we using them? We look at a clients needs and develop with these new technologies in mind to make the product simpler and more enjoyable to use. FARAYOLA OLADEJO

s ’ n o SimP TIPS TO

• Keep it simple. The best apps do one thing well. • Dare to be different, some of the best apps break away from the norm, be one of them. • Make sure you own the IP, too many development companies retain this at the end of the project, don’t use them. • If you don’t know the Apple guidelines ask someone who does about your idea, don’t put money into a project which won’t be approved. • Make the content of your app the interface, strip everything back and make the experience as clean and enjoyable to use as possible.

Website: Telephone: Email:

locassa.com +44 (0)20 8242 1857 info@locassa.com

03/12/2012 13:13 16:06 30/11/2012

Focus on technology GADGETS

Battle of the brands: Apple vs Amazon Feeling like the tablet is just too big for your delicate hands? Never fear, the mini tablet is here. Small enough to hold in one palm, but intelligent enough to respond like a full-sized tablet, this is a little gadget with big ideas

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[What they say]

04/12/2012 11:19

Focus on technology GADGETS

iPad mini

From £269 7.9in display 1024 x 768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch

7.2mm / 308g

As you would expect – pretty much identical to the new iPad, only smaller. If you are already a dedicated Apple user, it will look and feel reassuringly familiar. Comes in black and slate or white and silver

16GB, 32GB or 64GB

5MP photos / 1080p HD video recording

10 hours

WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology

Dual-core A5

“A beautiful display, powerful A5 chip, FaceTime HD camera, iSight camera with 1080p HD video recording, ultrafast wireless, and over 275,000 apps ready to download from the App Store”

[VS] [Price] [Screen] [Width/Weight]



Amazon Kindle Fire HD From £159

7in display 1280 x 800 HD resolution

10.3mm / 395g A simple design, with curved corners and a black frame, the Kindle Fire HD probably isn’t going to turn any heads in the looks department, but it’s certainly not an embarrassment either. Cases come in a wide range of colours to help you personalise your device

16GB or 32GB plus free cloud storage for all Amazon content


720p HD

[Battery life]

Over 11


Dual-band, dual antenna WiFi


Dual-core, 1.2GHz OMAP 4460

[What they say]

“Stunning 7” HD display for web, apps, books, games, e-mail, Facebook, movies, and more”

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04/12/2012 11:19

Accounting and Audit Sole trader, partnership, LLC and limited company accounts preparation Management reporting Statutory audits

Cost effective bookkeeping solutions including VAT returns, purchase ledger and sales ledger management Company secretarial services

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Tailored payroll reports PAYE administration and HMRC submissions Bank submissions Fixed fees

Taxation Services Personal returns (SA100) Partnership returns (SA800) Corporation tax returns (CT600) Trust & Estate returns (SA900)

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06/12/2012 15:52

Focus on franchise

Franchise news Bfa releases new guide to the Code of Ethics

Finalists announced for The Best Franchise Awards

THE BFA HAS revised its guidelines to the ethics on which good franchising practice is based and has published a book, The Guide to the Code of Ethics. This new guide is based on the European Franchise Federation’s (EFF) Code of Ethics, the overarching document for franchising across the continent. It is a comprehensive update and rewrite of Martin Mendelsohn’s The Ethics of Franchising, upon which the bfa originally formed best practice guidelines for ethical franchising in the UK. This new guide is the first time his book has been significantly revamped since it first came out; the content has been reworded to better suit modern UK franchising needs, and is essential reading for every ethical franchisor. The Guide to the Code of Ethics ebook is now available for download to bfa members, and hard copies are available to purchase from the bfa bookshop. Go to: www.thebfa.org

THE UK’S TOP franchisors have been shortlisted for The Best Franchise Awards 2012, sponsored by Lloyds TSB. The programme, now in its second year, had 50% more franchisors participate in 2012. These included a wide range of business sectors, offering franchise opportunities ranging from £2,000 to £325,000. There are five categories and the finalists are: Best Training and Support: • McDonald’s Restaurants • Music Bugs • TaxAssist Accountants Best Franchise System: • Home Instead Senior Care • McDonald’s Restaurants • Water Babies Best Growing Franchisor (open to franchisors with less than 15 franchisees or franchising less than two years): • Cloud Bookkeeping • HomeXperts

• Right At Home Best Mid-Size Franchisor (open to franchisors with 15-49 franchisees): • Music Bugs • Puddle Ducks • Water Babies Best Large Franchisor (open to franchisors with 50+ franchisees): • ActionCOACH • McDonald’s Restaurants • TaxAssist Accountants More information about the awards can be found at: www.bestfranchiseawards.co.uk

Domino’s franchisee selected as awards finalist A DOMINO’S FRANCHISEE has been chosen as one of the finalists in the NatWest everywoman Awards 2012, the UK’s leading programme for championing female entrepreneurship. Lisa Tobias, 31, a pizza franchisee from Glasgow, has been chosen as a finalist in the Demeter category for women aged 26-35. Having represented Scotland nationally as a gymnast, Lisa Tobias had ambitions of becoming a PE teacher, but gave up studying when she realised the future that franchising offered while working part-time at Domino’s. Having secured a bank loan at the age of just 23, she became a franchisee in Kilmarnock, and her business

grew steadily. Realising this was where her skills lay, she acquired a second outlet in Ayr and now boasts a portfolio of six premises across Scotland. Lisa is not only one of Domino’s youngest franchisees but the company’s most successful female in the UK and Ireland. Despite the worst recession for decades, in 2010 Lisa’s business achieved like-for-like sales growth of 14.2%. Lisa frequently speaks at educational events and conferences in order to inspire young people to start their own business, informing them about franchising as a viable route. For more information visit: www.everywoman.com/ewawards. talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 117

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04/12/2012 14:03

Focus on franchise SPOTLIGHT

Under the spotlight… Nationwide Cleaners A good rapport with your franchisor is absolutely vital, says Alex Markov, the Nationwide Cleaners franchisee for Anerley, South London What made you decide to get into franchising?

“It’s very important, when choosing your business partners, that there’s an understanding and mutual respect”

I was born in Russia, then I came here and had always wanted to run my own business. I found Nationwide Cleaners, and am now very happy. I gave them a ring, asked about costs and about the business, how to start it, how to run it, then made an appointment and met with the founder, Peter Monroe.

Why did you decide on Nationwide Cleaners?

He was an honest man, very experienced and decent. It’s very important, when choosing your business partners and colleagues, that there’s an understanding and mutual respect. Things clicked and I decided that it was what I wanted to do.

Let’s talk wonga…

For a business like this you don’t need a lot of money, whereas for other franchises you need more – £30,000 or £50,000 or even more. You also don’t need any qualifications or diplomas, so it’s easier from that point of view.

Did you get much support?

When you start, they provide everything. Peter arranges a day where you visit and ask all the questions you need to know, but everything was very easy to understand. Training is also provided. If it’s necessary they can do either two hours or two days – it depends how much time you need. I felt like I just wanted to start, and Peter is always there to answer questions and phone calls, which is great.

Do you make enough money just from the franchise? At the beginning I was working full-time and ran Nationwide Cleaners part-time. Then I found I was making enough money to pay the bills through Nationwide alone, plus even more on top, so I decided to give up my job.

Are you happy you went into franchising?

I have a larger income now, so more confidence – and it’s my business, so nobody can fire me! Success brings confidence and I’m more confident now. Contact: www.nationwidecleaners.co.uk

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04/12/2012 11:25

Focus on franchise TAKE ONE FRANCHISEE


SURELET HEMEL HEMPSTEAD SureLet franchisees and cousins, Sunil Mehta and Nimesh Shah, share their experiences, stories and advice about setting up a franchise in the world of rental property services

Having spent many years working for big name corporate banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, Sunil and Nimesh had become tired of the rat race. They wanted something tangible – a business, not just a career. They wanted a foundation on which they could build, which led them to choose a SureLet franchise back in October 2003.

Why franchising?

We loved our previous jobs and the fast-paced, competitive, highly lucrative elements were exactly what we lived for. But the love for the job faded when we started thinking about settling down and starting families. The most poignant moment was when one of our MDs mentioned that he’d missed his son’s nativity play three years in a row – this was the turning point for us, and really signalled the need for a better quality of life. Many of our friends said we should set up a business on our own. While we wanted to go it alone, we didn’t want to simply wander blindly into the legal minefield associated with the industry, so investing in a franchise seemed the best option.

Why SureLet?

With the SureLet model, we have the flexibility to go out and do the fun side of the job without having to be bogged down with the administrative aspects of a lettings business, because the SureLet Property

Management Centre takes care of this for us. SureLet also gave us a fantastic framework with which to start and grow a successful business.

What support/training was given?

There was a four-week comprehensive training course with a series of tests at the end. We learnt both in the classroom and in the field, but for us the best aspect of the process was going into our chosen area, Hemel Hempstead, and working through the research with the SureLet team.

laid. We want to branch out into surrounding areas, and have already set up a SureLet local in the Watford area. We now have the life we want. We have put a lot into our business and that’s the best part of it: it is our business. More importantly, we’re both pleased to say that we haven’t missed any of our kids’ plays…

“One of our MDs mentioned that he’d missed his son’s nativity play three years in a row – this was the turning point for us”

Contact: www.sureletfranchise.com

How is business going?

Business is going really well for us at the moment, as over the years we’ve managed to establish ourselves as a quality lettings agency in Hemel Hempstead. We have a fantastic portfolio of houses in the area and we are pleased to say that we still look after the first ever house we took on as an agency, which tells you everything you need to know about the quality of our service.

Would you recommend franchising?

We would definitely recommend franchising to those wishing to start their own business. It gives you a process, a proven model and a strategic framework on which to build a healthy business.

What does the future hold? For us, our focus is to build on the solid foundations we have

120 December 2012

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04/12/2012 17:25

Find your

dream business with


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edit2.indd 1

02/07/2012 16:33:48

‘We Send Anything, Anywhere!’ Pack & Send are the market leading retail packaging and freight forwarding business founded in Australia in 1993. Our network of stores provide specialist packaging and freight forwarding solutions to a broad range of business and domestic customers. We are unique in what we do, and are now expanding across the UK

1. Experience and Reputation

• Established in 1993, Pack & Send is an an Australian market leader that is a growing success in the UK too. • Our ‘no limits’ culture has resulted in an enviable reputation. • ‘We Send Anything, Anywhere!’

7. Profit Potential •

transaction values.

8. Low Investment Entry Level

• From £100,000 the Pack & Send business is one of the most affordable retail franchises on the market.

9. The Power of the Brand •

power and customer pulling power and assists you to build your business.

2. Our Niche

• We exclusively dominate our niche market of packing and sending fragile, large, awkward, and valuable items in the multibillion pound Freight Logistics sector. • We have real USPs and no direct competition!

3. Our Customers

• Everyone is a potential customer of Pack & Send. • We service some of the world’s largest companies through to small businesses and householders and tourists.

4. Variety and Enjoyment

• Our store owners tell us they love the variety and business trading hours. • Every day in a Pack & Send business is different and exciting.

5. Impressive Growth

• Our rate of sales growth is the envy of the industry and illustrates the value our services bring to the marketplace.

6. Comprehensive Support

• Our unique retail model is underpinned by a business system that has been honed to the highest level of proficiency. • First class support and resources.


Expanding across the UK

PACK & SEND very Days o c is D e is h c n ra F ions covering: tat Informal Presen portunity Op et rk Ma - The s Works es sin Bu - How the chisees m Current Fran - Experience fro liers pp Su d an rs stome - Input from Cu t es tW ut from Na - Financing Inp ll 0118 958 4628 book a place, ca To learn more or chise_discovery an cksend.co.uk/fr or visit www.pa

To find out more about our UK opportunities call our Franchise Development Team on 0118 958 4628 or email them at franchises@packsend.co.uk www.packsend.co.uk Untitled-6 1

56962 Pack and Send Ad v3.indd 1

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17/2/09 15:18:30

Focus on franchise TOP TIPS

• • •

understand all aspects of the business. Having first hand knowledge of all systems is vital to the future business model. Document the business methods and processes. Document the mistakes and how you resolved them. Ensure you have the funds to invest in building a franchise network, whether through the business, or via investment or funding. Review relevant information and advice from the British Franchise Association (bfa) on franchising your business.

Step 2: Things to think about

The franchise network Bev Regan, head of franchising at aspect.co.uk, gives her top tips on building a franchise network, gleaned from her 25 years in the business

“Be selective in finding franchisees; this will cut down on overheads”

A year ago, property maintenance and refurbishment company, aspect.co.uk, launched its franchise programme – underpinning a planned national roll out. With the tagline ‘one call property care’, aspect.co.uk manages all maintenance issues, from the drains to the roof and everything in between, for domestic properties, bars, restaurants, offices and business parks. An award-winning business, the company offers a 24-hour call out service, 365 days a year.

Bev Regan, who has 25 years’ experience across the franchising sector, provides her top tips on how a small business can begin building a franchise network.

Step 1: First steps

• The first thing is to build the business and run it yourself for a number of years. It is vital to prove the business model. • Consider if the business is regional: will it work across the country? • Make sure that you

• Complete a SWOT analysis on the whole business and each key role within it. • Engage an independent professional company that specialises in franchising – look for a BFA affiliate. • Create a business plan, which will include financials. • Ring fence funds to build the network. You are unlikely to have any real income through this channel for the first few years. • Be selective in finding franchisees; this will cut down on overheads and means you’ll be less distracted when building the network later on. • Consider what tools you are prepared to offer to support your franchisees. • Create best practice operations and marketing manuals for all parties. • Create a productive, focused environment to bring candidates to. • Take the QFP (Qualified Franchise Professional) course to enable better understanding. • Work with a lawyer that specialises in franchising to create your legal agreement. Finally, good luck!

Contact: www.aspect.co.uk

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awards, bags, baseball caps, bookmarks,bugs, clocks bottle openers, cameras, t-shirts, coasters, mouse mats yo-yo, desk pads, sweatshirts, diaries, drawstring bags erasers, exhibition stands, memory sticks, fleeces polo shirts, frisbees, fridge magnets, golf balls, glassware ice scrapers, badges, lanyards, mints, mugs, hoodies pedometers, pencils , pens,polo shirts, rulers, ring binders sticky note pads, stress products, golf clothing travel wallets, pop up display systems, roller banners umbrellas , wall planners, conference folders, mobile phone accessories, lip balm, keyrings, jackets, it accessories highlighters, sweets, environmentally friendly products

Telephone: 01323 416777

Website: www.writeawayproducts.com

franchise opportunity

We offer our business customers outstanding value, delivering innovative products, with exceptional service

Earn a six figure income Full training and ongoing support Proven business model Unique loyalty card Zones in prime business hotspots

contact Hilton Smythe for a full prospectus on 0845 094 0523... www.cafemoods.co.uk


FOR ALL YOUR PEOPLE NEEDS A consortium of over 50 Managing Directors and HR Directors, A2Z HR Solutions is dedicated to providing a top-level consultancy service to SME’s of all sizes and individuals. At A2Z we provide a full end-to-end service, covering the A to Z of human resources. • AUDIT • BUSINESS CHANGE • COACHING • EMPLOYMENT LAW



T. 0845 330 9868 E. info@a2z-hr.co.uk W. www.a2z-hr.co.uk

124 quarter ad layout.indd 1

05/12/2012 17:16

Focus on franchise FRANCHISE SHOWS


Once you are in front of your chosen franchisor you should be ready to ask three to five standard questions; don’t expect them to reveal all their trade secrets, it is purely a preliminary meeting, but will give you a good chance to see how they respond. You might ask about initial fees, ongoing support and training, and whether your home territory is currently available to purchase.

Time out

Wise up Research is key to finding the right franchise for you. Martyn Ward, franchise manager for Alex Clark Lettings, advises on making the most of your trip to a franchise exhibition

For most people, the search for their perfect franchise will start at one of the many national or regional exhibitions held across the UK; but how do you make sure you get the very best out of your day and come home better informed rather than thoroughly confused? The key, as with many things in life, lies in good planning and preparation.

What sort of franchise?

Firstly, identify the general franchise sector you are interested in. Man in a van? Management? Hands-on? There are plenty of magazines and websites offering information to help you make this choice.

What sort of exhibition?

There are many exhibitions across the UK. Would you prefer a national one held at the NEC, with up to 150 exhibitors, or a smaller, regional one with only 20-30? Or one of the new events where you book a pre-arranged meeting with a franchisor?


Whichever you choose, visit the exhibition’s website to find out which franchises will be attending and list all you’re interested in talking to. Prioritise the top three operations you definitely want to speak to by the end of the day. Visit their websites, and research their business model.

After your meeting and before heading to the next stand, take a minute to sit, gather your thoughts and make notes. What was your gut feeling? Did you find them friendly? It’s easy to forget what each company said when you are talking to so many people in one day. You will find the notes invaluable later.

Buyer beware

If the franchise offering sounds too good to be true it probably is. Franchising is about growing a sustainable business, not buying into a ‘get rich quick’ scheme: never, ever part with any cash or sign any agreements on the day.

And breathe...

Once you have visited all the franchisors on your list, take time to walk around the rest of the exhibition, looking at other opportunities you may not have previously considered.

Home, sweet home

“Take a minute to sit down, gather your thoughts and makes some notes”

Once home, go through brochures you collected and sort into ‘maybe’ and ‘absolutely not’. Start arranging meetings with the ‘maybes’ to see if you are a good mutual fit. They’ll be delighted to hear from you and will be happy to meet for a coffee to tell you more about their offering. Martyn Ward is the franchise manager for Alex Clark Lettings Franchise, and has over 18 years’ experience in franchising. Contact: www.alexclarkfranchise.co.uk talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk 125

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Talk business double pageDec12a_Talk Business double page Nov12 22/11/2012 11:02 Page 1

Business opportunities for the entrepreneur

Franchising with









Manage and develop your own Contract Cleaning franchise “After just 4 years, our business was turning over £500k!” Martin & Sarah Steinman, Franchise Owners ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services Manchester





M This management franchise is a significant business opportunity for any potential entrepreneur. Using our experience and expertise across the franchising industry and cleaning sectors, we will help you to build and develop a successful business. The role of the franchise owner is to develop the business through sales and marketing, employing and managing teams of cleaners who will provide a regular, quality commercial cleaning service to businesses in the local area.

This market includes commercial offices, the education sector, medical practices, shopping centres, event cleaning and more. We are seeking sales orientated individuals who are looking to grow and develop a successful and profitable business. Additionally, we look for personable individuals who are quick to learn. This is an exciting management franchise, providing an opportunity to create a successful business with a good income and lifestyle whilst building equity.








Why choose a ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services franchise?



• Potential for significant future growth

• Ongoing training and business support

• National Sales Programs

• Marketing assistance


• Proven systems and procedures

• Regular seminars with fellow franchise owners


• Brand name recognition

• Part of a multi brand franchisor

• More than 50 years franchising experience

• Commitment to ethical business practices

For further information on this fantastic business opportunity, contact us today! 0116 275 9005 www.servicemaster.co.uk/talkb Twitter: @SM_Franchises Untitled-13 2

04/12/2012 14:10


ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services Manchester: Our journey Sarah and Martin Steinman have owned ServiceMaster Clean

Guy Johnson is the company’s Managing Director and CJ, the

Contract Services Manchester since 1992. Prior to this, the

couple’s daughter, is the Sales Director. The franchise employs

couple worked together in Sales Management positions for local

approximately 15 staff at the main office and 300 cleaners who

printed directories across the UK.

work across the contracted cleaning locations.

“We enquired about having our own business as we wanted to

“The support and training available from our Franchisor is

be in control of our own destiny,” says Martin. “My brother

extremely good and we regularly encourage our staff to attend

already had a very successful ServiceMaster Clean Contract

the various courses on offer,” says Martin. “In the future, we

Services franchise and highly recommended that we investigate

aim to achieve further growth and development to ensure a more

a franchise with ServiceMaster.”

effective operation across our business.”

In January 1992, the Steinman’s moved from Woking to

2012: “Our business continues to grow”

Cheshire and began operating the Manchester South franchise.

“The business has grown dramatically over the years”, adds Sarah. “We went from an initial family business, to a limited

1996: “Our turnover hits £500k”

company, to one with a full management structure turning over

After just four years, the business was turning over £500k and

£2.5 million.”

Martin and Sarah were awarded with the ‘BFA Franchisee of the Year Award.’ This award is the greatest accolade a franchise

When asked if they would recommend a ServiceMaster Clean

owner can receive and celebrates excellence within the

Contract Services franchise, Martin and Sarah answer together

franchising community.

without hesitation, “Absolutely!” and “Totally!”

“Since then our business has seen annual growth and we are

“This is a great franchise and I wouldn’t have any hesitation

fortunate to have sustained profitable turnover which has kept

in recommending it to the right person,” concludes Martin.

us comfortable during the recession. The reputation of the ServiceMaster Clean name has certainly helped,” continues Martin. “Of course it was hard; however we used this as a time to invest in new systems and technology to prepare us for the future. We also significantly increased sales effort,” adds Sarah.

2008: “Our business expands” We expanded by purchasing the adjacent territory, as this was the ideal next step in developing our business,” says Martin.

Premises of ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services Manchester

ServiceMaster Clean Contract Services is part of the ServiceMaster Family of Brands with further opportunities available including van, home and office based and management franchises across the domestic and commercial sectors.

Your future depends on what you do today! Stop dreaming - Take action - Contact us!

scan here!

0116 275 9005 www.servicemaster.co.uk/talkb Twitter: @SM_Franchises Untitled-13 3

04/12/2012 14:10

Directory DECEMBER 2012

Suppliers of branded merchandise to help generate awareness of your product or service, raise your company profile, stand out from your competition and allow your clients to feel valued. T: 01249 650869 E: sales@cbgltd.co.uk W: www.cbgltd.co.uk

We offer friendly IT Support. We have options to suit all, from fully managed to P.A.Y.G. Other services include Google Apps and Hosted Exchange, VoIP, Mobile Comms, Data Comms and Backup Service. Clients range from single user offices to multi national corporations. T: 0330 999 1337 E: help@totallytecy.com W: www.totallytechy.com

From a single desk for one day to a whole building for 25 years Bruntwood provide office space, serviced and virtual offices, meeting rooms and retail premises throughout Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cheshire and Birmingham. T: 0800 731 0300 E: info@bruntwood.co.uk W: www.bruntwood.co.uk

• Hosted and Fully Managed Service • Our Certified engineers provide complete management and administration service for all of your: - Hosted Servers - Hosted Applications - Hosted Database Systems • Or if you prefer - self-managed T: 01223 832227 E: sales@focusonhosting.co.uk W: www.focusonhosting.co.uk

As the UK’s longest running organisation for professional leaders, we are dedicated to supporting our members, encouraging entrepreneurial activity and promoting the highest levels of professional business conduct. T: 020 7766 8888 E: membership@iod.com W: www.iod.com

World Addresses is a hosted web service that delivers international address lookup data to any website or in-house system from the input of a Postcode, partial address or ZIP code. T: 01508 494488 W: www.worldaddresses.com E: enquiries@worldaddresses.com




Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat enlhimus illat. Arum quae estrum Netsense focus aboris upon providing honest and destiam illitiure coreped itatin corumallowing id magnis trustworthy IT Support / Solutions destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum magnis your employees to concentrate theiridkey estem eperferum ent moditesed quiasour skills,auria making your business thrive, and ipsumqu untiam di you. temporit face stiuhhggmqu. own to grow with T:T:00000 01444000000 848160 E: W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.itsimplified.co.uk W: E: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk hello@netsense.co.uk

If you would like to find out what an award winning accountancy firm could do for you, we are happy to provide a free, no obligation consultation. • Business start ups Tario in con re restem Company Name Here • Accountancy cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum • Auditillitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis destiam • Bookkeeping destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis • Taxation estem auria eperferum ent moditesed quias • Payrolluntiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. ipsumqu 01322000000 614681 T:T:00000 info@gary-sargeant.co.uk E:E:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk W:www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk www.gary-sargeant.co.uk W:

DSIS is a computing and IT company Company Name Here Tario in con reand restem specialising in ensuring the smooth cuptat enlhimus aboris quae estrum effective operation of allillat. your Arum computer destiam illitiure coreped corumWe id magnis equipment, programs anditatin networks. have destiam corepedfrom itatin corum id magnis decadesillitiure of knowledge, hardware estem auria eperferum ent moditesed replacement and data recovery throughquias to ipsumqu untiam di temporit hosting websites and dealingface withstiuhhggmqu. email T:viruses. 00000 000000 E: T:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk 0141 4382030 W: W:www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk www.dsis.co.uk

We can help you: • Surface and resolve team working issues • Achieve Behaviour change • Get projects off to a flying start • Get teams to adopt new processes or procedures • Unite geographically remote team members We have a record of achieving significant results with teams large and small through specially designed events and development programmes to achieve outcomes agreed with you. T: (0)1869 347558 E: tony@hendrytraining.com W: www.hendrytraining.com

Do you want more sales, business or leads from your website? If so you need search engine marketing and / or social media optimisation. Remember, “When you work with Serendipity, there’s no long term contact, no hassle and no hype, just good business.” T: 0845 170 1800 W: www.serendipity-online-marketing.co.uk


Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis Quickfund provide working capital to grow estem auria eperferum ent moditesed quias your business with minimal qualifications. ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. £3500 - £100k T:T:00000 01279000000 759470 E: W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.thecfgroup.eu W: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk E: krw@thecfgroup.co.uk

128 December 2012

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Directory DECEMBER 2012

Skipton Business Finance is a leading receivables financier with offices in Skipton, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. The company’s award-winning service spans factoring and invoice discounting, boasts independent status and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Skipton Building Society, a mutual that has been serving its members for over 150 years. T: 0845 602 9354 W: www.skiptonbusinessfinance.co.uk E: info@skiptonbf.co.uk

It’s your brand. It’s your business. And with help from Avery, it’s your success. Avery have a product catalogue which includes laser and inkjet labels and cards, printer consumables, desktop accessories and filing products. T: 0800 80 50 20 W: www.avery.co.uk

At Flyerzone.co.uk you’ll find great designs ideas to easily customise online. Your business gets great design, printed and delivered from £7. Whatever your business, we’ve got a design for you. T: 0800 122 3003 E: hello@flyerzone.co.uk W: www.flyerzone.co.uk

Turner Business Consultants Ltd services are always flexible tailored to your specific needs. • Health and Safety Management • Fire Risk Assessment • CDM Coordination • Asbestos Management • Quality Management • Environmental Management • Information Technology Security • Business Continuity Plans • Business Strategy Development • Civil Engineering Consultancy services T: 01268 649006 E: info@turnerbusinessconsultants.co.uk W: www.turnerbusinessconsultants.co.uk

Cartridge World is the UK’s largest specialist provider of high quality printer cartridges. Cartridge World offer massive savings on inkjet and laser toner cartridges without compromising on quality. W: www.cartridgeworld.co.uk

KashFlow Software Limited is a privately owned company based in London, England. We provide online accounting software for small businesses owners — the emphasis always being on ease of use, automation and integration. We’re widely regarded as a pioneer of the SaaS business model and as the leader in web-based accounting. T: 0800 848 8301 W: www.kashflow.com E: sales@kashflow.com

we are an integrated direct sales and digital marketing company. Essentially, this means that whatever your lead generation and sales needs are, we’ve got you covered. We have 7 years’ B2B sales experience, we are Nimble CRM and Eloqua Partners and we are also Google Adwords Qualified. T: 0808 189 0789 E: info@konvertis.co.uk W: www.konvertis.co.uk

With Barclays Business Abroad, you get a package of educational material, discounts and tools, including free Currency Current Accounts. In addition, you get a 25% discount on the cost of making and receiving international payments, reducing overheads and making it easier to trade internationally. It’s free until 31 December 2012 after which a fee of £5 + VAT per month applies. W: www.barclays.co.uk/businessabroad

Complete Office Search is committed to providing clients a complete office space search solution from our first contact to occupation of your office. Unlike other office finder companies we do not refer you or your details to every single business centre and landlord under the sun. T: (0)208 868 1959. W: www.completeofficesearch.com E: info@completeofficesearch.com

Into Somerset is the inward investment organisation for Somerset. Its resourceful and independent team offers unbiased advice and support for businesses considering moving all or part of their business to somerset. T: 0845 1222066 W: www.intosomerset.co.uk E: enquiries@intosomerset.co.uk

With over 30 years experience supporting SME’s we are proud to be able to offer a wide range of outsourced IT services and support. Our services range from hardware and software provision, tailored business communication platforms to the latest cloud services and applications, all designed to increase your productivity for a fraction of the cost of in-house T: 0845 880 2634 E: info@orbitalnetworks.co.uk W: www.orbitalnetworks.co.uk

WebinaWeek specialises in affordable website design, development and hosting for Small and Medium Enterprises. Our unique technology is fast and highly effective. Packages from £10 to £75 per month. T:0844 8023093 E: info@webinaweek.biz W: www.webinaweek.biz

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And finally… HE SAID/SHE SAID

He said/she said It’s all about Virgin births and soap opera cameos for our entrepreneurs this month. Opinions (and spelling mistakes) all their own Lord Sugar @Lord_Sugar Off to do some filming now at the set of Eastenders for a Children in Need sequence hope to have some fun. Will let you know.

Deborah Meaden @DeborahMeaden Morning Twitter from Kyoto what am I missing back home apart from Marmite? You tell us Debs – Strictly Come Dancing? A nice cuppa and a custard cream?

Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Sure it was Don…

Claire Young @ClaireLYoung Wide awake in the Young house, Eva poorly, diary cancelled for the next 2 days. Today is going to be a long day I feel!

Richard Branson @richardbranson We’ve had a @Virgin birth on one of our @virginatlantic planes. Congrats to new parents & well done team! Very appropriate to have a virgin birth so close to Christmas!

Julie Meyer @JulieMarieMeyer What a sunny Sunday in Manchester! Could be Rome! Or Cyprus! Or Madrid! Could be, Jules, could be. But it’s definitely not.

130 December 2012

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Untitled-1 37

29/11/2012 17:08



at .uk ow .co rn n te e is lev eg pay w.


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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business December 2012  

December's issue of Talk Busines Magazine

Talk Business December 2012  

December's issue of Talk Busines Magazine