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Making a spectacle

Glasses Direct entrepreneur, Jamie Murray Wells shares his specs success story



of the best business smartphones

The marketing issue

Expert advice to drive your business

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mall and medium business enterprises are the backbone of the British economy. SME’s contribute more than £1bn to the UK’s economy each year, and account for over 50 per cent of employment. As Britain’s largest supplier of commercial space through our extensive lettings estate, we’re helping many SME’s to make that contribution to UK plc every day. We’re flexible We offer a flexible rental package that benefits smaller tenants, including monthly rental payments and shorter termination periods to allow for easier annual budgeting and better cash flow.

Keeping British business moving We’re affordable We help to locate your business in places you never knew you could afford. Offering competitive rates for key business locations, simple contracts and a 48 hour turnaround service are just some of the ways Network Rail supports small businesses.

We’re diverse In major towns and cities across Britain we’re offering businesses a wide range of niche space – many of which are railway arches. We also have offices, shops, restaurants, leisure and light industrial units, ranging in size from 100 sq ft to over 100,000 sq ft. Current tenants range from estate agents to wine makers and hairdressers to high-end cheese makers. For more information and to view our available properties please visit www.networkrail.co.uk/property or call 0800 830 840.

Intimation Creative is a design and marketing agency specialising in branding and corporate identity. It was already a well established business with a head office in Haddington, just outside Edinburgh, when the decision was made to expand into the north east. As the new studio grew and established itself, it needed new staff and bigger premises. Director Andy Smith said: “We moved into Arch 14 three months ago. We’re delighted with the new space. It gives us an edgy and unique studio. It’s a great talking point for clients. We’ve now employed another designer and won several new contracts.” Managing Director Steve Sadler added: “We couldn’t have picked a better space to take our business forward. It’s definitely got a buzz to it.”

London Fields Brewery was opened by Ian Burgess and Jules Whiteway just eight months ago – almost on a whim. Ian founded thriving local coffee company Climpson & Sons before leaving the business and travelling while deciding his next step. Inspired by the Australian love of beer, he returned to London and met fellow enthusiast Jules, and their microbrewery was born. “It’s been a steep learning curve,” said Ian. “We started with a four-day course in Manchester and went from there.” But Ian’s not a total novice. “There are similarities between roasting coffee and brewing beer,” he said. “It’s about developing flavours and they’re both quite delicate jobs, even if brewing beer looks rather industrious. The irony is, I’m not actually a real ale drinker. I prefer sparkling new-world ales, so there’s a lot of room for us to grow.” The arch with accompanying yard is a great space for the fledgling business, which holds regular music nights on site. “This space is also a good temperature, and it’s in a great location with lots of creative businesses and start-ups. There’s a real sense of community. Combine that with the freedom of being my own boss and, despite the hard work, I’m pretty happy!”



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52 85 11 Introduction

50 Death of the bank loan?

15 News & events Focus on success

18 Face on the cover

Glasses Direct founder Jamie Murray Wells

24 Take one company

We look at the Seatwave phenomenon

27 Introducing…

TB grills an up-and-coming entrepreneur

28 Just say YES

Network for young entrepreneurs


This month: David Spencer-Percival

37 Book reviews 122 The daily grind John Specht

Focus on money

39 Tax haven

Save money on self-assessment

43 The retail revolution

Digital shopkeepers invest for growth

83 The power of PR

Focus on strategy A problem shared… The board meeting with a difference

85 ‘You’re fired’

55 Embracing the nerds

Get geek-friendly, says Rich With

58 Speak easy

The business benefits of public speaking

61 Game, set, match

Claire Young gives her top tips

63 Facts tell, stories sell

Give your website the human touch

33 The interview

Embracing flexible working

93 People power

Engaging employees

96 Secret diary of an entrepreneur

Vanessa Vallely’s business diary Focus on technology

99 I’m just browsing

Best business browsers

102 Playing the long game

Should you cut IT costs?

106 The best things in life are free

Disadvantages to be being the boss

68 Go for gold with your BCP Get Olympics-ready


Focus on marketing Facebook friendly? Pros and cons of Facebook

77 The big two…

Creating a finance shared service

89 Working 9 to 5?

66 Who wants to be a director?

46 Interesting rates 49 Top tips: FSS

Correct dismissal procedure

105 Getting IT right

The pitfalls of wrongful trading

74 Make yourself at home

Mis-selling of financial packages

Lee McQueen on quality PR

64 Where angels fear to trade

44 International relations

Foreign exchange expenses

Focus on people

Alternatives to traditional loans

Gareth Jacob on powering sales Marketing questions to ask yourself

81 The email trail

Get the right IT solution Open Source = free software

108 Smartphones to sigh for The best smartphones Focus on franchise

111 Franchise news 113 Spotlight

Greene King launches Meet & Eat

114 Take one franchisee

Revive!’s Chris Varney

117 Exhibitions

Making the most of franchise exhibitions

Secrets of smart emarketing

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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

Mitchell Finlay mitchell.finlay@astongreenlake.com ACCOUNT MANAGERS

Scott Hartley scott.hartley@astongreenlake.com Damien Ward damien.ward@astongreenlake.com FINANCE DIRECTOR

Stephen Jones stephen@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:0203 617 4680 ©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.

The big dipper It has been something of a difficult month, despite the sudden emergence of the longed for British summer. You must have had your fingers stuffed in your ears and your eyes firmly shut if you failed to notice the headlines declaring that the dreaded double-dip recession had become a reality. We are masters of the old ‘doom and gloom’ mentality here in the UK – but while a return to recession is certainly not something to be celebrating, economic downturn also provides room for innovation, room for businesses to experiment, test the market and push forward with their ideas. Being more cost-effective, efficient and productive is of course key if businesses are to survive the rollercoaster ride that is the global economy. However, several of our features this issue warn against knee-jerk cost-slashing and argue in favour of innovation and investment for growth. Face on the cover Jamie Murray Wells advises on page 18 that there is no right or wrong time to start a business – if the product is right and you have the dynamism and drive to succeed, the economic climate shouldn’t stop you. And on page 102, MSM Software’s Thomas Coles emphasises the need to invest in the technologies that will ultimately take your business to the next level, giving you the tools you need to take on your competitors. So chin up! Don’t let the headlines get you down. Now is the time, not just to survive, but to strive, to be creative, to put yourself in the best position you can possibly be in – so that when the economy turns to growth, you’ll be a front-runner in the marketplace. To that end, we have put together a marketing special for this issue of Talk Business, with our brand new marketing section in place to provide sound advice on how you can target the right kind of clients, in the right kind of way. Who knows? Picking up this magazine could just be the best investment you’ve made this year. Enjoy,

Helen Coffey Editor

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Meet TB’s marketing boffins Gareth Jacob is 45 years old, lives in Essex and has two

daughters. Before joining Linden Homes, he set up a new firm in Milton Keynes and for five years worked for Essex developer, Weston Homes. Since joining Linden Homes as a marketing director, he has driven its sales and found ways to better market the brand. In his spare time he plays golf and is a member of a local club.

Mel Larsen is a creative marketing strategist. She combines

vision-work, strategy and coaching to help her clients communicate effectively. Her clients have included: Arts Council England; The Australian Arts Council; Creative New Zealand; Audiences Central; MLA London; The National Trust; English Heritage and The British Council. Her training, speaking and consultancy work has taken her all over the world – from South Africa to Scandinavia.

Stefan Boyle is a small business local marketing expert,

author, social media public speaker and founder of leading online printing company, PrintRepublic.co.uk. Stefan works with business owners implementing leadgenerating marketing programmes, focusing on both onand off-line marketing, including social media, blogging, online marketing and direct response marketing.

Donna Hewitt is a marketing expert who speaks plain English:

why use 20 words when 10 will do? Never afraid to ask questions, Donna gets to know her clients’ organisations inside out and doesn’t take anything for granted. Her focus is on multi-channel campaigns, ensuring that every channel is working as hard as possible to target the appropriate audience with the right message. Donna is working with Elephant Creative to help a number of SMEs to put order in their marketing ideas.

12 June 2012

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The Rockstar Mentoring Group is the UK’s number one mentoring organisation for business owners looking to grow or raise finance. Since its establishment in 2007, our mission has to been to help businesses at the SME level. Established and startup level, fast track their sales and profit growth by providing experienced and successful mentors on a one to one, face to face basis.

With over 75 mentors to choose from nationwide and having helped over 400 UK businesses so far, our mentoring programs our purely results driven and all of our mentors are committed to help you take your business to a completely new level!

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News &


Government StartUp Loans launched Dates for the diary Future of Wireless International Conference 27 June 2012 The Møller Centre and Churchill College, Cambridge cambridgewireless.co.uk/ futureofwireless Digital Marketing Master Classes 21 June – Search Engine Optimisation 28 June – Pay Per Click Marketing 5 July – Social Media Mastering Bath Ventures Innovation Centre bursttraining.co.uk My Business Adventures Conference 22 June 2012 The Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury mybusinessadventures-kayak. eventbrite.com The British Franchise Exhibition 8 & 9 June 2012 Manchester Central franchiseinfo.co.uk The 7 Graces Global Conference 22-24 June The Window, London the7gracesofmarketing.com The Business Growth Show 19 June – Solihull 22 June – Gloucester 26 June – Royal Tunbridge Wells thebusinessgrowthshow.co.uk

To register, go to: businessinyou. bis.gov.uk

The Government has launched its long-awaited scheme to loan £80m to young entrepreneurs under the new StartUp Loan programme. Loans of up to £2,500 are available exclusively for people aged 18-24 with a business idea who are living in England. In addition to the loan, the Government is committed to providing mentors for the young entrepreneurs. They will also receive a free copy of the StartUp Loans Kit, which offers guidance and support for those starting their own business. Lord Young of Graffham, founder of the StartUp Loans scheme, said: ‘The StartUp Loan programme is designed to help you create a business plan,

and then give you a loan to get started. You will get continuing support from your mentor, and your future will be in your own hands. The limits of your business will be up to you.’ Dragons’ Den investor and Chairman of the StartUp Loans Company, James Caan, said: ‘To be an entrepreneur is more than having a job. It gives you the freedom to make your own mark, in the way in which you choose, and create your own path to success. It can be challenging, and exceptionally hard work, but the rewards are immeasurable.’ The loan must be paid back within three to five years at a fixed APR of 3% plus RPI, currently 3.5%.

Businesses urged to enter National Business Awards Small businesses have been urged to enter the National Business Awards’ Small to Medium-sized Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Santander Corporate Banking. The award is open to all organisations with no more than £25m turnover in their last financial year, and recognises companies that have maintained consistent growth and strong financial performance. Entrants will be asked to demonstrate a clear understanding of their customers, full buy-in from staff, and how they have delivered on core strategic objectives.

Marcelino Castrillo, head of SME at Santander UK, said: ‘Small and medium-sized businesses are the drivers of the UK economy, and the National Business Awards are an excellent opportunity to recognise the innovation, flexibility and hard work of these companies. I would urge companies to enter these prestigious awards to celebrate the success of British businesses.’ Finalists will be announced on 2 August 2012, and winners will be honoured at the National Business Awards gala dinner and awards ceremony in London at the Grosvenor House Hotel on 13 November.

To enter, go to: www.nationalbusinessawards.co.uk

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News & events

Women held back from becoming board members

To see the report, go to: www.equality human rights.com

The appointment of women to FTSE 350-listed non-executive director roles is being held back by selection processes which favour male candidates, according to a new report released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The report, produced by Cranfield School of Management, is the first in-depth study into the appointment process to corporate boards and the role of Executive Search Firms. It follows the Davies Review, which called upon ESFs to take on a more active role in increasing gender diversity on FTSE boards. The report reveals a recognition by many chairmen and search firms that gender diversity should be increased at board level. A voluntary code of conduct has had some success at getting women on long lists. But when it comes to shortlisting and appointing, those selected tend to be those who are perceived as “fitting in” with the values, norms and behaviours of existing board members, who are largely men.

Workers have no confidence in management New research shows that employee confidence in management is falling. Almost half of the workers sampled (43%) felt that they are better people managers than their own boss, and 23% say that management standards are getting worse. Nearly a quarter of employees also don’t think their boss has adequate people management skills. The research was carried out by employee survey specialist, ETS. Employees highlighted the need for managers to receive formal feedback from direct reports. Despite 91% saying that this would be valuable, just 42% of employees are currently invited to provide feedback to their manager as part of their appraisal or through 360-degree feedback. Asked to highlight what single thing would improve the quality

of management where they work, almost half of employees picked clear, honest communication from their managers. Hannah Stratford, head of business psychology at ETS, said: ‘Line managers play a crucial role in the success of any business by driving the performance level of teams. One problem is that often high-performers are promoted into management positions without the skills, desire or support to manage a team.’ Broader survey data from ETS, encompassing the views of over 450,000 employees, shows that managers are adept at praising their teams: over three quarters of employees say they receive recogniti on from their manager for For more information, visit: www.etsplc.com

Interviews with senior consultants at 10 leading London ESFs have revealed that search firms are beginning to challenge chairmen and nomination committees when defining briefs. This includes giving more importance to competencies than “fit” with existing board members. The research shows how selection of candidates based on “fit” and previous experience rather than competencies is self-perpetuating, as it works against women who have had fewer opportunities to gain previous board level experience. Baroness Prosser, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: ‘Research shows that diverse boards produce better performance. ‘However, the often subjective way appointments are made ends up replicating existing boards rather than bringing in the talented women who could bring real benefit to individual company performance and ultimately help Britain’s economic recovery.’

Winning student entrepreneurs announced

For more information, visit: www. setsquared. co.uk

The SETsquared Partnership has announced the winners of its second annual student entrepreneurship awards to recognise the most promising up-and-coming entrepreneurs and student businesses. The winners were chosen from the 90,000 students at the five SETsquared member universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey. The diverse and bold entries ranged from renting online gaming servers by the hour to fashionable, ethically made socks sold to help the local homeless community. Guest presenter Simon Woodroffe OBE, founder of YO!, inspired the entrepreneurs with his experience of creating a set of successful businesses under the YO! brand. Winner of the Best Student Enterprise Experience, 29-year-old Luke Tregidgo, said: ‘It’s fantastic to have the recognition for the project. It has had such a big impact on the students at Bath, from 1st year students to post graduates and from mature to international students.’

16 June 2012

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Want to be a rock star? There are a lot of companies out there selling ‘mentoring’ services. Jonathan Pfal, founder of Rockstar Mentoring Group, chats to TB about how to differentiate between the chancers and the experts


Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else’s?

Real mentoring is someone who knows what they’re talking about

started my career at Goldman Sachs in private wealth management. I wasn’t doing well because I was the youngest that had been brought on – I was only 20. I was struggling to convince people to invest millions of dollars with me, being so young. So I was put in the internal mentoring scheme, which was six months of one-to-one sessions. We set a goal for me in the beginning, and after six months I had gone over and above it. I moved to London in 2005 and then started mentoring people in property at first, before setting up Rockstar. I call what we do REAL mentoring. There are lots of companies out there claiming to do mentoring. But real mentoring is someone who knows what they’re talking about. You set a financial goal at the beginning, and with real mentoring you should actually achieve that goal. We’re now coming up to having 60 mentors all over the country. In the beginning I used to find them through getting out my mentor wish list and cold calling the people on it. These days I get

between 15 and 20 enquiries from mentors every month. I take on only two a quarter, because there are two criteria to be a Rockstar mentor: you have to have mentored someone to a financial goal before, and you have to have built, run and sold a company for over £4m. That’s real mentoring. Over 100 people come to us per month enquiring about a mentor. Everyone gets a free consultation with one of our mentoring managers. They find out what they want to achieve, what their business is and what makes them tick. Customers can pick their own mentor, but people tend to take our advice because we know what we’re talking about. Experience, contacts, guidance and accountability – they’re the four key things that mentoring should provide. My motto is, why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else’s? All entrepreneurs have goals and the only reason they don’t achieve them is they make mistakes. Mentoring allows people to fast track their goals.

Most if not all achieve their goals with us. We leverage off the mentors’ experience. The goal financially is that clients make back double what they paid. Sometimes the goals are bigger… but everyone will achieve what they set out to. Our clients are getting time with some seriously impressive entrepreneurs. It’s the accountability that makes sure people achieve their goals. At the end of the six months, a lot of people stay on with their mentor; in many cases the mentor is offered a nonexecutive director position with the mentee’s company. We’re hugely passionate about what we do. We know that it works because I’ve been through it myself. And we’re doing it with hundreds of businesses now – we could do thousands – and we’re keen to grow. That’s real mentoring. Contact: www.rockstargroup.co.uk

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Focus on success

Seeing is believing Jamie Murray Wells has come a long way from the boy who started an Internet business with his student loan to avoid law school. Here the Glasses Direct entrepreneur tells TB how he took on the high street and won, and why his customers will always come first This is probably not something one should admit to, but I look up Jamie Murray Wells’ Wikipedia page before meeting him. All other questions take a back seat while I quiz him ruthlessly about whether the “facts” about him on there are, indeed, facts. To my surprise, the things I took as read – that he had hopes to become an MP – are complete rubbish, while the

stories I assumed were a bit of a joke turn out to be true. For instance, there really is always a dog who holds the position of Glasses Direct company mascot and resides in the Swindon office. ‘That is true,’ Jamie admits. ‘Each dog has a contract, which gets signed literally with a paw print. We’ve got a terrier at the moment.’ I am understandably charmed

by this notion, and throughout our interview there is a real sense that Jamie cares deeply about his customers and his staff – that with him, the personal touch really is personal. Jamie was in his final year of university, scouting potential business ideas, when he alighted upon the one that would see him pit himself against the high street giant,

18 June 2012

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER

Specsavers, and which he would eventually grow to be the biggest online glasses retailer in Europe. It is a classic tale of triumph over adversity, of the underdog David taking on the corporate Goliath and winning. The concept was simple – allowing customers to buy their glasses online, direct from the manufacturers, thereby bypassing the huge mark-ups found in traditional opticians – but its very simplicity marked it out as a huge threat to high street competitors. Someone less strong-willed may have crumbled under such violent industry pressure, but Jamie was encouraged by their bullyboy tactics. ‘To me, the more they kick and scream, the more you know you’re doing something right,’ he says. The company has come full circle – from being shunned by the rest of the industry, it is now the go-to for many high street retailers when they need advice about taking their businesses online. Jamie has since launched Hearing Direct, now the biggest online hearing aid retailer in Europe, and his next “top secret” business start-up is in the planning and investment stage. It is clearly an exciting time for him, but he hasn’t lost sight of the fact that, in retail, the customer really is king. ‘As you grow there are ways you can keep that personal vibe strong and make a personal, emotional connection with your customer,’ Jamie says. That is what has kept him at the top of his game thus far, and it is what is sure to stand him in good stead as he continues to dominate the online retail scene. TB: How did you come up with your idea and what made you actually put it into practice? It’s so tempting when you’re an entrepreneur to think “never mind, someone else will do it”, and I certainly felt that pressure. It was partly because at the time I was signed up to do a law degree – and looking at the

size of my friends’ books, and trying to assess my chances of me actually getting a job as a solicitor (given the fact that I was struggling to pass English at the University of West England) I figured that I had to find a way out. So I was actively looking for a business idea – I suppose everyone thinks that it was a massive unique moment, struck by lightning, but actually that’s not the case. With Glasses Direct, it was the first business that, the more I looked into it, the more excited I got. The more I talked to people in the industry, the more I realised there was nothing to stop the idea working. And from that, once you start down that path, the leap to turn it into a fully-fledged, operating business becomes smaller and smaller. TB: How did you start trading? Did you go directly to the manufacturers? It was really difficult to find a manufacturer, because a lot of these laboratories I went to just said: “No, we’re not dealing with you, you’re 21 and you’re knocking on the door of the industry telling us we’re selling glasses wrong. Go away.” I think anyone wanting to radically change something has got to expect some sort of stonewalling. I certainly got it. Eventually you will find a supplier who needs the business and who believes in you and your idea. I found one up near Blackburn, and they agreed to work with me. I sent up a prescription, they sent down a pair of glasses with a bill, so in one hand I was holding a pair of glasses that I got from Specsavers for £150, and in the other hand I was holding the same pair for £6, and I was thinking: “There’s something wrong here”. TB: It’s amazing that no one had thought of it before… I know, but you’ve got to remember though that in 2004 you had all these industries flipping over – books, DVDs,

travel, food. If you think about it, it’s kind of logical that glasses, being probably the hardest product to retail online, would come last. Because it’s the most cosmetic product, the most touchy-feely, it’s probably the biggest challenge in e-commerce; that’s why no one had done it yet. TB: How did you initially fund the business? My student loan. I put the last instalment of my student loan into the business, which was £1,100. Not a lot, but that enabled me to build a website. I managed to convince my suppliers to hold all the stock, the frames and the lenses, take the orders, even post it for me, so I never even see the glasses. And I paid them 30 days later. I got the credit card money up front, so I effectively had two months’ cash flow. I wasn’t aware of how important it was – I did it out of necessity because I didn’t have enough money for stock – but looking back it was pretty important. TB: You had quite a public battle with Specsavers. Was that your biggest challenge, do you think? It was just a nightmare. It’s hard enough trying to start a business without big high street names trying to shut you down. The big guys back then were freaked out, because they had this massive high street infrastructure, and this upstart was coming along and 1) was exposing them for what they are – which is ripping off the public on glasses, and 2) was threatening to undercut them by up to ten times in some cases. Their response was – rather than to try and understand the Internet – very ostrich-like. Stick your head in the sand, hope it will go away, but also try and snuff it out and stop it at the beginning. The way they did that was to put pressure on our suppliers not to do business with us.

I think anyone wanting to radically change something has got to expect some sort of stonewalling. I certainly got it

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER

t was just a nightmare. It’s hard enough trying to start a business without big high street names trying to shut you down

Our customers felt like they were part of a movement

TB: How did you deal with that pressure? The way we dealt with that was twofold. Firstly, we always respected our responsibilities to provide great eyewear, so we set up our own self-regulatory regulations and our own board of expert advisors and ophthalmologists and opticians to go above and beyond what was needed. The second prong was that we decided to try and turn this cloud into a silver lining by having a bit of fun with it in terms of PR and marketing. We put billboards up that said ‘don’t get fleeced’, and herded sheep into Specsavers to illustrate that point. Our customers felt like they were part of a movement, so those

that were in the know were responsible for creating a kind of legend behind the brand, and that was invaluable for us. TB: Do you have quite a lot of competition now? Almost immediately we got people who were putting up sites straight away, and I think anyone that starts a business has to be prepared for that. Whilst there’s a lot of noise out there, we’ve always been in the leadership position in Europe, and we’re not too spooked by online competition. TB: What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur? My customers I think, because I love being a consumer

entrepreneur, as in an entrepreneur who deals with B2C rather than B2B. Nothing gives me more of a kick than talking to my customers and having produced happy faces. I’ll never forget when I first started, one time I was in a black cab, and the guy looked at me and he must have seen something in the newspaper about Glasses Direct. He rummaged in his bag and pulled out two pairs of glasses and said “I’ve got your glasses and they’re brilliant!” TB: Any bad bits? There must be some… It’s not something for the faint-hearted in terms of your general security. It’s something where you have to get used to the feeling of not really knowing exactly how you’re going to end up – that sort of openendedness if you like, where you don’t have a clear career path. It’s something that I certainly have never completely got used to. TB: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an entrepreneur? I was due to be a solicitor. I like big challenges and I like solving problems, so I’d really like to have helped people with law, criminal law, or companies where there’s a lot of opportunity for change – where you can really make a difference. TB: What would your advice be to start-ups trying to drive their business forward when we’ve just hit double-dip recession? There’s no right or wrong time to start a business – it’s all about the combination of the idea and your own conviction and desire to do it, and if both those things are in the right place, then I’d say go for it. And secondly, try it out in a very small way. So, like I did with my student loan, test the market. Anyone can start a business on a few thousand pounds and see if it works. 

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Focus on success FACE ON THE COVER

Vital statistics: Date the company was founded: May 2004 Start-up capital: £1,100 Current turnover: £10m+ Current net profit: Undisclosed No. of employees when company started: 1 Current workforce: 100+ Work/life balance: 50/50

You only get word of mouth by offering a fantastic service

TB: What was the secret to your success at Glasses Direct? A lot of what we’ve done right has been this ability to get people talking about their experience with us, making people go “wow”. Because if you can make people go “wow”, they’ll talk about it over the garden fence, they’ll talk about it at Sunday lunch, they’ll talk about it at church, they’ll talk about it online, they’ll talk about it offline. You only get word of mouth by offering a fantastic service – the little extras. Like the little card we get our dispatch guys to sign, or sometimes sending flowers to customers when we’ve done really badly, or giving people a free coating TB: What’s the future? they didn’t expect. Bigger and better things TB: Do you think you’ve got a for the business? Absolutely. I’m working on good work/life balance? I believe in working very, very a top secret new start-up, which is in the planning and hard, and I believe it’s the investment stage. I can’t tell same for people that work you more at this stage, but it’s here as well, but not burning a new retail concept. This is the midnight oil – because going to be big! I can’t wait to then you burn out. If you’re show you, but this is not for contracted to work certain today. That’s what I’m focusing hours you should work hard in those hours, but you have a a lot of attention on at the responsibility to be sharp and moment. Here at Glasses Direct be with it when you’re on duty. we’re busy with the launch of That means having time ‘My Optique’ which is a new off duty. upmarket retail website where we’ll be selling boutique, TB: What do you do to designer brands. wind down? Also, one of the things we’ve I guess my ideal wind down been focused on here for is a nice pub garden in the last couple of years is to Gloucestershire with a good expand our product selection pint of local ale in my hand. from about 1,500 different With a handle!

choices to over 10,000 choices. So not only are we the biggest online retailer, we’ve got the biggest display of frames of any store in the country. Contacts: www.glassesdirect.co.uk www.hearingdirect.com

My life: I’m watching: I can’t wait for The Dictator to come out! I’m reading: Setting the Table by Danny Mayer I’m listening to: Reggae I’m surfing: The FT online

22 June 2012

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Spreading the spirit of enterprise

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Unlock your entrepreneurial potential Fast track your ideas to commercial reality Inspire innovative culture for business growth Access the Cambridge Entrepreneurial Network For further information, please visit www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk

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30/3/12 11:32:29

Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY

From Government inquiries to bank refusals, Seatwave has had its fair share of challenges. Joe Cohen tells TB how he overcame these to turn his ticketing know-how into the successful business where people can buy and sell gig tickets online

The ticket master “I have this notion that a company is an idea that everyone believes in”


hen Joe Cohen moved from his native America to London in 2000 to set up and run Ticketmaster’s online operations, little did he know that he’d end up the head of his own ticketing company. Ten years on and it’s hard to imagine a world without Seatwave, the revolutionary business, which allows people to buy, but more importantly sell gig tickets, right up until the event itself. It’s one of those ideas that’s so

incredibly simple, you feel like kicking yourself for not having thought of it first. More than anything, Joe was motivated by the customer. He recognised that ticket selling up to that point had been largely about the relationship between the event organiser and the ticket seller: ‘The people who actually buy the tickets and go to the events are an afterthought,’ says Joe. He also realised that the issue was even

24 June 2012

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Focus on success TAKE ONE COMPANY

“If you have an idea that you think is so great that it keeps you up at night, then you should do it. Anything short of that and it’s really hard”

bigger on the resale side of the business – if you could no longer use your gig ticket, you didn’t have a lot of options. In true entrepreneur style, Joe recognised the unique opportunity this presented. ‘It was very clear to me that creating businesses are about solving problems, and the more consumers there are who have the problem, the bigger your business opportunity is.’ Apply this theory to the buying and selling of gig tickets, and that’s a whole lot of consumers. ‘Pretty much everything we do, we talk about “Is it better for customers? Does it provide better transparency, does it provide better peace of mind, better choice?” That’s very much the lens through which we view things.’ In some ways, Joe was more fortunate than most, having met a VC very early on in proceedings who loved the idea. Therefore startup capital wasn’t an issue – but that doesn’t mean the problems didn’t come thick and fast. ‘When we were starting we couldn’t get any bank to process our credit card transactions. They said: “You’re a new ticketing company, we’d rather not take the risk.” So literally the night before we launched we got approved by Paypal to clear our credit card transactions. We would have had no way of taking money, we couldn’t be in business.’ They breathed a collective sigh of relief – but it wasn’t long before another barrier came along to take its place. The DCMS decided to have an inquiry to see if they should outlaw the resale of tickets. This could have been a major blow, but the company decided to use it to their advantage. ‘We took the view that it was pretty unlikely that this law was going to get passed, but we should use the inquiry to tell the story of Seatwave and how we want to make it better for customers. ‘We could have very easily been quiet and said “We’ll let this blow over”, but we took the opposite approach. I think that ratcheted us up a level in terms of brand recognition and brand awareness.’ Off the back of this, they launched an ad campaign on the London underground, and lo and behold the Seatwave brand became a household name. It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride – and like most entrepreneurs, Joe has borne the brunt of it. ‘The first thing I would say to anyone who’s thinking about starting something is that you should only do it if you can’t not do it. So if you have an idea that you think is so great that it keeps you up at night, then you should do it. Anything short of that and it’s really hard.’

The hardest part?

‘Having the energy every day, no matter what’s going on, to come in and be high energy and be focused and be positive and be rational and all those things – because I know that it influences everyone around me – that’s really hard.’

A blessing and a curse, that feeling of responsibility is also the very thing that has kept Joe focused and determined to keep at it. ‘There have been plenty of times where I’ve thought I should just go back and do something corporate. But I have an obligation, I’ve convinced other people to come and work with me and I’ve convinced these other people to invest money. I can’t just say it’s too hard for me – what about them?’ Of course, that’s not the only thing that keeps him at the helm of Seatwave. ‘I love the challenge of trying to make things better for the consumer. I love, particularly in the last few years the way that social media has grown up, being able to talk to my customers every day. It’s great.’ His personality type, too, is suitably entrepreneurial: ‘I love to compete. I’m very competitive.’

And Seatwave is winning at the moment?

‘We’re doing OK. We have our ups and downs.’ Modest words indeed – but he’s not too worried about competition. ‘There’s other people trying to do the same thing but they’re not competitors,’ he says. ‘I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about competition: I never have. I know there are competitors who spend a lot of time thinking about us, and I think that’s great because that means they’re not thinking about customers.’ The real competition is inside their own office, according to Joe, and that is what he concerns himself with. ‘I have this notion that a company is an idea that everyone believes in. If people believe in the same idea then that’s a company. It’s when you don’t all believe in the same idea that you’re in trouble.’ For now at least, it certainly seems as if they are all singing from the same hymn sheet. With a new shop having opened by the O2 recently, where customers can come and collect their tickets before shows with ease, the business is moving forward and improving its model. Allowing customers to buy and pick up tickets right up until (and even during) a gig, Seatwave has managed to offer a much more convenient service. With buyer satisfaction 70% higher thanks to these improvements, Joe says: ‘We’re cautiously optimistic that this is a pretty good model.’ And with future plans to open a Barcelona office and further Seatwave shops strategically placed around the UK, they can probably afford to be. Contact: www.seatwave.com

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The virtual secret to success


nce upon a time, outsourcing administrative tasks was limited to getting help with repetitive data entry and transcription tasks carried out by offshore freelancers. Whilst this is a simple and cost effective way of getting time consuming jobs done, the growth of the Virtual Assistant industry in the UK means that SMEs can now make use of a much broader range of office and accountancy services. Access to talent is the top reason why companies choose to outsource – in research, over 70%* said they outsource for this reason. Customers of outsourcing gain maturity and have great plans for expansion. The growth of the internet and development of cloud technology means that SMEs suddenly have access to a wealth of highly skilled professionals right at their fingertips, without needing to worry about the costs and issues associated with employing the right people for the job. For any entrepreneur wishing to build a successful business, this is an incredible resource that should be used to its full potential. Administrative and financial accounting tasks are hugely important and necessary - they are the backbone of the business. If you fall down here with substandard processes and poor paperwork, it will almost certainl

create problems for the business. And yet there are still so many small business owners working long hours, sacrificing their evenings and weekends trying to ‘cram in’ all the time consuming but oh-so-important admin. Of course, the common excuse here is that “I can’t afford to pay an assistant” or “nobody will do the job as well as I do”. *Newsflash* yes you can, and yes they will. In fact, they might even do the job better. Just ask a few successful entrepreneurs about the last time they did their own book-keeping. The main challenge here is changing the mindset. You must first understand the value of your time and the fact that it would be far better spent on your sales and marketing; the things that make you money, rather than the bits that don’t. Think about how long it takes you to make a sale, or pick up a new client. Let’s say 10 hours. Now think about how many hours a month could be freed up by outsourcing things like book-keeping, call answering, diary management and customer service tasks. With this in mind, a virtual assistant could pay for itself almost immediately as small business owners can then focus the time on picking up a new customer. Simple, eh? Once this concept is understood, then the decision of whether to hire a virtual

assistant simply becomes a matter of who to go for! Of course the benefits of using a top UK virtual assistant are that they are able to offer a lot of value that is more than just admin. Being experts in their field and usually being business owners themselves, a good VA can suggest ways of running a business that save time and money and educate new business owners on the basics of keeping business tight and efficient which then goes on to create healthy businesses. This in return can enable SMEs to grow significantly. At a time when we are being encouraged to start-up in business and with so many entrepreneurs looking to get ahead of the game, using resources such as a virtual assistant or virtual finance director will certainly be a major part in growing and developing successful businesses. We could even go as far as to say that the virtual assistant industry could have a hand in reviving UK business. Watch this space.

Contact: totalbackoffice.co.uk

*Price Waterhouse Coopers survey

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Focus on success UP-AND-COMING


Amy Hale

We’re all for young talent here at TB, so each month we’ll introduce you to a bright young thing who’s all set to be the next big success story. We chat to Shell LiveWIRE finalist Amy Hale about her brainchild, ZeroCarbon Catering, the sustainable catering company with a difference Amy Hale is not your typical young entrepreneur. Rather than deciding to start her own business to reap the financial rewards, she set up ZeroCarbon Catering in order to support the charity she runs, which uses surplus food from local retailers to make meals for people in need. The catering company arm will use the same principle, using food which would otherwise be thrown away to make low-cost, first-class canapés for Bristolbased events. What’s your advice to young entrepreneurs trying to get an idea off the ground? Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or worry when things don’t turn out as planned. As a friend of mine once said: “If you’re always hitting the bull’s-eye, you’re standing too close to the target!” If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be doing today? Perhaps working in a larger organisation being an ‘intrapreneur’ – trying to shake up the status quo and make the company more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable…or maybe a musician! What was your first ever job? The first, and definitely the worst-paid, job I had was a Betterware catalogue lady… trudging around with a trolley delivering catalogues and orders and getting stuck in old ladies’ living rooms chatting.

What’s top of your bucket list? Tricky one. Something that I’ve wanted to do for a while is to go and live in the French Alps and get fluent in French. Do you think all businesses have an obligation to operate sustainably and put social responsibility at their heart? Without a doubt. A number of big organisations profiting at the expense of society is completely unsustainable. We are currently experiencing serious environmental and financial crises that existing models are not dealing with; I believe in order to survive one day all businesses will be what we now call social business or social enterprise. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a young entrepreneur? Finding time for working on projects while maintaining a full time job and a social life (and not feeling overwhelmed!) has definitely been one of the biggest challenges for me. I also think, in the beginning, staying motivated can sometimes be hard as you put a lot of work in before you start to see any real output.

What gets you out of bed in the morning? A cup of tea! I get out of bed because I enjoy what I do – the challenges, problem-solving, spending time and sharing ideas with the people I work with, challenging the existing state of affairs and feeling like I make a positive difference…perhaps slightly clichéd, but true! How much does money motivate you? Life would be a bit meaningless if it was just about money. I want to make money and live comfortably, but creating social value (and enjoying life) are much higher priorities for me. The beauty of social enterprise is that you can make money and create social value simultaneously. Talk us through your vision for the future of ZeroCarbon Catering... I’d like to see it expand in Bristol and become a wellknown and popular catering option, catering regularly for university, society and local business events. Eventually I would like to see the model franchised across other cities.

My life I’m watching: QI I’m reading: Let my People go Surfing: Yvon Chouinard I’m listening to: Quantic Soul Orchestra I’m surfing: www.fairobserver.com

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Focus on success NETWORKS

When she couldn’t get a job, Carly Ward decided the only thing to do would be to create one herself – by starting a network of young entrepreneurs and resources to inspire the next generation of businessmen and women

Just say YES

T “The world’s changing, but the curriculum’s not”

he network described by Dragons’ Den star Julie Meyer as ‘incredibly important for the future of the UK economy’ started out as one unemployed 19-year-old, armed only with a streak of perseverance bordering on stubbornness and a stalwart determination to start her own business. The Young Entrepreneur Society (YES) Network, which now provides an accredited entrepreneurship qualification for schools and colleges in addition to a mentoring programme and networking scheme, was originally Carly Ward’s response to being out of work herself. ‘At the end of the day, if it was

easy to get a job, I’d probably be somewhere climbing the corporate ladder,’ she says. But the reality was that, as a young school leaver at the height of the recession, job offers were not forthcoming. Carly needed to look elsewhere. ‘I knew I wanted to be my own boss but hadn’t a clue what business I wanted to go into. I thought there must be a lot of young people who want to start their own business but don’t know how to go about it,’ she says. ‘I spotted a gap in the market and I think that is why a lot of entrepreneurs start up their business.’ The first step was to get some help from the best of the business world. After all, as

Carly herself identified: ‘How could I tell young people about it? I was only 19 myself!’ She decided to contact top entrepreneurs and beg, steal or borrow an hour of their time for an interview. Not an easy accomplishment – top entrepreneurs by their very nature are usually fairly busy. However, a little perseverance goes a long way. A lot of perseverance goes even further. ‘I grafted so hard. I was at every event banging the door down,’ Carly says. ‘With a lot of persistence and determination we pinned them down.’ Even entrepreneurs have their limit, and eventually she managed to set up interviews with her top ten, whose words 

28 June 2012

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Focus on success NETWORKS

of wisdom would go on to form the basis of the YES entrepreneurship course for 16-18-year-olds. The YES network started out, very simply, as a networking collective for under 35s. This was inspired largely by Carly’s own experience at networking events, where she was attempting to make business contacts. ‘I was going networking and everyone was old!’ she laughs. Thus the YES network was born, designed for young people but guided by some extremely experienced entrepreneurs, some of whom act as mentors, others of whom are business angels on the lookout for young people to invest in. This wasn’t enough for Carly though, who dreamt of inspiring the next generation to think of starting a business as a real possibility rather than a last resort. ‘They’re running out of options,’ she says of young people. ‘Vince Cable said “make a job, don’t take a job”. It means you’re not on the dole and you’re not in some job you hate. It is small businesses and entrepreneurs that will get us out of this mess.’ Not academic herself, Carly understands the frustrations of learning in an environment which doesn’t suit many learners’ needs. ‘The world’s changing but the curriculum’s not. I wasn’t academic, I left school at 16 because I hated the school environment. ‘Maybe if they were given a bit more direction in the first place… we want to prevent them becoming unemployed long-term.’ This inspired Carly and her mum – who is her business partner – to design their own ten-step programme with resources to be used in schools. The course, piloted this year in various schools and colleges, has already had a positive response from the participants. ‘We had a really good annual review with West Herts College. I was so worried about that meeting! But it was a real breakthrough moment.

‘You can’t get a better feeling than that. That’s when you know you’ve arrived.’ The next step is to get the word out to schools, and ensure as many as possible are offering the course. There is funding available – technically any school can claim it and run the YES programme – but it’s still hard going, as with any new venture. One particular hurdle is finding the right people to join the YES team: ‘It’s hard to find people who are hungry,’ says Carly. She eats, sleeps and breathes the job, and she expects nothing less from her team. The YES Network is tapping into something that has been lacking in British education for far too long – a real focus on, and encouragement of, entrepreneurialism and enterprise. As Government and experts alike seem to agree that SMEs are the key to rejuvenating the UK economy, it could be seen as one of the best investments, preparing the next generation to think seriously about becoming a start-up rather than another unemployed youth depending on the state. ‘My dream is for as many young people as possible to become aware that starting a business is an option,’ she says. For a girl of 22, Carly has certainly demonstrated that it can be done with will-power alone, having come up with the idea for her business just three years ago. Her ultimate goal is to become an angel herself one day. ‘I want to become an investor in young people. I have always had a dream to build a school in Africa that teaches entrepreneurship,’ she says, visibly excited. It is this dream that fuels her goal of making money – the hope that she can use it for good in the future. ‘You can’t help the poor by being one of them. It’s not about materialism. I want to earn money so I can do good with it.’ Although YES is her baby,

she’s already considered the future of the business and how she will best achieve her goals. ‘In the next five years I want to sell it – but I’d want to stay involved. I’d have to sell to a company who were happy to let me be involved,’ she says. For now though, she’s got more than enough to be getting on with – pushing the YES programme to as many schools as possible, raising the profile of the YES network, securing new entrepreneur mentors… and, from next month, writing a regular column for TB. Welcome to the team, Carly.

“It is small businesses and entrepreneurs that will get us out of this mess”

Contact: www. yesnetwork.co.uk

30 June 2012

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06/06/2012 14:46

Focus on success THE INTERVIEW

My life: I’m watching: Game of Thrones I’m reading: Generals, about 10 generals who changed the world I’m listening to: The Black Keys I’m surfing: Auction websites, looking for stuff for the offices

School of

hard knocks We quiz recruitment whizz, David Spencer-Percival, on his meteoric rise from shop boy to energy entrepreneur as his newest venture, Spencer Ogden, approaches its critical third year of business


It’s people that drift who lose the plot and fail

rom bank cashier to boutique manager, recruiter to serial entrepreneur, the boy who dropped out of school at 16 has enjoyed a fascinating, somewhat meandering journey to get to where he is today. Having founded and sold Huntress for over $100m before setting up an energy recruitment company with Sir Peter Ogden, it is easy to see why David SpencerPercival scoffs at the idea of “degrees for all”. Here he gives TB an exclusive snapshot of life as an unexpected entrepreneur. I went to work in Lloyds bank when I was 16 and hated it. I was very good at it, I was on some kind of fast-track programme. I was bright but I wasn’t into the whole school thing – I was quite quick, always

top of the class for some things, but I just wasn’t that interested. Then I went into fashion and my mother and father were terrified by the fact that I’d gone from Lloyds bank, which is a really good, steady job, to go and work in a clothes shop. I spent quite a long time in fashion and worked my way up. In the end I got to look after a couturier shop and it was great, lots of fabulous parties, lots of interesting people, great clothes – but no money. I was on the dole for about a year. I wasn’t really bothered about working or anything like that. A friend of mine was working in recruitment, and she said: “You’d be really, really good at this, do you want to have a go at it?” I went to the interview; I didn’t have a suit or anything,

I had long hair. The guy didn’t really want to hire me, but she made him, and in the end I just turned out to be really good at it. I did that for a couple of years and then set Huntress up with three other people, and we took it to £100m. Pretty mad, considering I was a complete drop-out! Huntress was an amazing journey. In seven years we took that company from nothing to 27 offices, 500 staff and £100m turnover – it’s incredible. And sold the company for a lot of money right at the top of the market, which was great. There were a number of difficulties setting up a business of that size. Constant emergency board meetings, we were always running out of money – it was horrendously stressful, but our 

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Focus on success THE INTERVIEW

It is in your head 24/7, so you’ve got to enjoy it

sheer determination and drive just pulled it through. You’ve got to really be able to deal with that enormous amount of stress, because the company just grew so quickly. We had 30 staff on day one. We had 100 very quickly, then 200, then 300, then 400, then 500 people in seven years. It was a massive infrastructure to build from scratch. I was a sales guy. I was a good recruiter, but I learnt along the way about how to build a business. To be an entrepreneur, you have to be able to make decisions quickly and stick by them. You have to have a natural sense of what’s right and what’s wrong for your business, because the decisions you make at the beginning come thick and fast. You’re making 50, 100 decisions a day, and some of those decisions can materially affect your business down the road – you can get it spectacularly wrong. I think one of the best things about doing this – setting up businesses – is that you make a difference. Your decisions are quite final; that’s why you have to have the courage of your convictions. But you’re in control, that’s what I like about it. It’s certainly not a 9-5 job where you walk out the door and don’t really think about it. It is in your head 24/7, so you’ve got to enjoy it. But with that comes this great freedom. I looked at energy, and

realised very quickly that it was a sector that I could do something very interesting in. There was no one conquering it in end-to-end energy, doing gas, doing renewables…no one was doing the whole thing, so I thought: what a great way to go into a market, with all the recruitment knowledge I had. And it just so happens that it’s a very strong sector, and quite a cool sector. I’m an all or nothing guy. If I wasn’t doing this, I wouldn’t be doing anything. My biggest achievement to date has probably been this business to be honest with you, because I’ve done it more or less on my own. Sir Peter Ogden is my partner and he’s our backer, but he’s very good at letting me drive and run the business because I’m the expert in it. The concept’s got to be right. It’s got to be well-funded. There’s no point going into business under budget – it’s doomed to fail. The other really good piece of advice that I was given and definitely use is: just focus on one thing. The problem with some entrepreneurs is that they drift all over the place into other investments. If you are good at one thing and you stick to it and follow a project through from beginning to end, you will make money. Finish the project, do not drift and keep focused – because it’s people that drift who lose the plot and fail. It’s fairly ironic that I’ve

ended up in a company that hires graduates when I’m not one! I’m not a great believer in further education for the sake of it, and the reason is because I must have hired over 1000 graduates in the last ten years, and I have never hired one who actually sat in front of me and said they wanted to do what they did in their degree. From where I sit, I see it as a bit of a waste of time. I’m a great believer in getting out in the world and working, finding your way. The only good thing about degrees is that it shows that somebody has committed to something and finished it. I think it’s a good discipline – but I don’t think it makes anybody a better person than a person who doesn’t have a degree. But then I would say that, because I haven’t got one! Contact: www.spencer-ogden.com

The facts Date company founded: January 2010 Start-up capital: £1m Current turnover: £27m Net profit: £2m No. of employees when company started: 1 Current workforce: 100 Work/life balance: 95/5

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06/06/2012 14:50

Focus on success BOOK REVIEW

LIKE A VIRGIN: Secrets they won’t teach you at business school by Richard Branson


Looking for advice on setting up your own company, improving your career prospects, or developing your leadership skills? Why not ask Richard Branson? In Like A Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School, Richard distils and shares the wisdom and experience that have made him one of the world’s most recognised and respected entrepreneurs. From his top secrets on succeeding in business to some hard-hitting opinions on the global financial crisis, this is business school, the Branson way.

He says: A blend of responses to some of the most popular questions I have been asked by people across the globe, and an assortment of my reflections on the ups and downs of running successful companies, this book brings together my best advice on all things business. As I have never worked for anyone, this book is written through the eyes of a founder. However, the advice is pertinent for anyone faced with the challenges of working in a business or company. We say: One you can easily skim through on the commute to work, Like a Virgin is a very

readable business book that takes things back to basics. A mixture of practical advice and anecdotal examples, it is made up of short chapters that cover almost any business issue you can think of, from customer service to sustainability, from branding to pitching for investment. It is encouraging, too, to read something which puts the emphasis on treating people well and being passionate about your business, rather than the need to clinch a sale at any cost.

Like A Virgin is published by Virgin Books, priced at £12.99 in paperback original


How to start an online business by Lucy Tobin


Entrepreneur is published by Capstone Publishing, priced at £12.99 in paperback original

In this handy little book, Lucy Tobin puts her experience as a business reporter for the London Evening Standard to good use, telling the story behind some of the biggest Internet success stories and offering advice on how you can achieve similar success. She charts the rise of 11 of the biggest names on the web, including Moonpig, Groupon and GoCompare.

much easier. Thousands of people are out there reaping the rewards the web can bring. If you want to join them, you’ve come to the right place. You’ll hear first hand from the bright sparks behind some of the UK’s top online businesses. With interviews, practical advice and insights, you’ll learn how they did it, what they recommend, and how you can do it too.

She says: Thinking of starting a business? Already have a business online and looking to take it to the next level? The wonderful world wide web has made creating a start-up that

We say: A book that is a cut above the usual business tracts, thanks in large part to Lucy’s experience in the field, knack for bringing out the best in her interviewees, and superior

writing skills. The subjects are well-chosen, being drawn from all types of online business, with the key linking factor being that they’ve all made a huge success of their respective companies. The structure is useful, split into two simple-to-follow sections: the first tells the startup stories behind the chosen case studies and carefully maps their route to success, and the second gives practical advice for whatever stage your business is at, from building the website to planning your exit strategy.

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“Acting as the ATI Trust’s accountants and professional trustee, Kuhrt Leach provides a sound and extremely responsive service in advising the Trust on financial planning and regulatory matters. Each of the firm’s partners takes a proactive view of the financial services they provide and we find this handson approach of immense value in all matters undertaken on our behalf by. . . Roger Ward, ATI Trustee ATI Trust

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08/03/2012 15:48

Focus on If your tax bill caused more than a raised eyebrow this year, read on for the best tips on saving with the self-assessment, courtesy of tax partner at RJP, Lesley Stalker


Tax haven

Running your business as a limited company offers many tax planning opportunities

So January’s self assessment deadline brought with it a shockingly high tax bill – what could you be doing to ensure you don’t get bitten twice? Now is one of the best times of year to consider different tax planning strategies, so make sure you’re rethinking yours. Here are my top tips for business owners to ensure they don’t get stung. 1. Maximise relief on pension contributions One good tax-efficient investment option to consider is topping-up pension contributions to make use of the maximum tax-free allowances. Owner-managed limited companies can obtain corporation tax relief on pension contributions of up to £50,000 a year for each director. There may also be an opportunity to bring forward unused contributions from previous years, although the legislation surrounding this area is complex.

Employer contributions still offer significant tax savings and are something every business owner should be considering. 2. Manage your director’s loan account Effectively monitor directors’ loan accounts. If your director’s loan account goes overdrawn, whatever the reason, there are adverse tax consequences both for the director and the company. Overdrafts such as these can be minimised (or even avoided) if the loan accounts are monitored and reviewed on a regular basis and any necessary action required to minimise tax is taken. Tax year-ends are always a good time to review the status of directors’ loan accounts in line with directors’ income levels. It’s possible to do this after the company’s year-end, or when the accounts are being prepared, but there is less scope to reduce the tax liability arising because planning options are significantly reduced. 3. Plan for capital gains If you have capital assets like shares, there are a number of options available to minimise your tax. The number one option is to use your annual exemption of £10,600 to “uplift base cost”, thereby limiting capital gains. The cost base of a capital gains tax asset is generally the cost of the asset when purchased. However, it also includes certain other costs associated with acquiring, holding and disposing of the asset. Increasing the base cost is called uplifting (careful planning is needed here to avoid the “bed and breakfasting” rules, which come into play when the same shares are sold and re-acquired). Alternatives include: transferring assets between husband and wife to utilise both annual exemptions; selling assets standing at a loss in order to offset those losses against other gains in the year; and ensuring any gains made by married couples attract tax at the rate payable by the lower rather than the higher earner.

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Focus on money TAXATION

Tax planning will ensure that wherever possible tax is not paid at 50% or even 60%

4. Consider tax-efficient investments Another tax-efficient investment option to consider is an investment in an approved small enterprise. Provided you have a well-diversified investment portfolio and understand the risks, Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) or investments through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) may be suitable and will help to reduce your income tax liability for the year. 5. Avoid the 60% tax rate The simple answer to this is to ensure your total income for the year does not fall within an income band of £100,000 and £113,000. Income at this level incurs an effective tax rate of 60% because of the withdrawal of the £7,475 personal allowance. Options open to people potentially affected include making pension contributions or gift aid donations, and equalising taxable income between husband and wife.

Tax planning will ensure that wherever possible tax is not paid at 50% or even 60%. If it is too late to do this for the current tax year, take the opportunity to rearrange your affairs to ensure it is in place for the next. 6. Incorporate your business People who are sole traders or manage partnerships and limited liability partnerships (LLP) should consider incorporating all or part of their business. Running your business as a limited company (by incorporating) offers many tax planning opportunities. This is primarily because of the additional flexibility offered in the forms your income can be taken, for example as salary, shares or dividends. Contact: www.rjp.co.uk

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30/05/2012 17:30


The retail revolution With so much money being spent online, many small retailers are able to sell to a mass market. iwoca’s Christoph Rieche looks at how they can find finance for growth

“Business lending in a world of declining bank lending is out of reach for most”

Companies that sell online in the UK have a much brighter future than those that sell exclusively to the offline market. According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, the Internet is adding more to the UK’s GDP than for any other G20 nation. WorldPay has highlighted that, in the UK, 25% of disposable income is currently spent on the Internet, with half of those being interviewed have said that they could see themselves spending more than 50% of their disposable income online in the future. Small-scale digital shopkeepers with low overhead costs seem to be among the main beneficiaries of this retail revolution. According to eBay UK, 180,000 commercial sellers have registered with

“Be in control of the risk at all times”

them. Many of them make a living by buying job lots from wholesalers and selling them on piece-by-piece on online market places. The emergence of online market places such as eBay or Amazon enables them to sell to a global audience – a privilege only a few global players enjoyed so far. Although the minimal operational costs of these small businesses make them competitive, growing into a larger retail outlet with low operating cash flow remains a challenge for them. Business lending in a world of declining bank lending is out of reach for most. The solution for many micro businesses resides in their personal credit cards or bank overdrafts, and of course the occasional injection by friends and family. But once the capital requirements grow from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds, it becomes increasingly difficult to expand further. At iwoca we saw an opportunity to set up a supportive finance operation that exclusively caters to digital shopkeepers. We use pioneering methods in assessing credit risk, by reviewing an applicant’s eBay trading history and feedback scores from data sources that are unknown to high street lenders.

The top three tips for financing a business:

1 Managing seasonality is critical for maximising the potential of your business; additional third-party working capital can make a big difference in the run up to, and during your high season. 2 As a rule of thumb, an optimal funding strategy matches long-term assets, such as machines, equipment or property with equity and some long-term debt, while a portion of short-term assets, such as inventory should be financed with shorter-term debt. 3 Be in control of the risk at all times – as with so many other things in life, responsible usage is likely to work in your favour; excessive usage generally doesn’t.

Contact: www.iwoca.co.uk

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Richard Driver, analyst for Caxton FX, tells you how to get smarter with your foreign exchange expenses


t’s official: the UK has entered into a double-dip recession following the latest GDP figures, which showed the economy contracted for the second quarter running. If that wasn’t bad enough, inflation remains a constant battle, growth predictions aren’t particularly positive and companies looking to gain access to credit remain thwarted by conservative lending policies dictated by the banks. In short, it’s a tough world out there for businesses that are looking to expand and grow their operations.

Branching out

The pinnacle for many SMEs is for their business to operate in or sell to foreign markets. If this is achieved, revenue will undoubtedly increase – but there are additional costs to be wary of, and one of them is being exposed to foreign exchange fees. Let’s say your business buys supplies from a company in Spain. This will mean converting your sterling into euros as the Spanish company may only accept payment in the local currency. Not only is this an administrative burden, but banks will charge for the conversion and offer uncompetitive rates – hitting your business’ bottom line. Or perhaps you or one of your

employees travels abroad on a business trip, and every time money is taken out or a bill is paid using a credit or debit card, you will be hit by unnecessary foreign exchange fees.

Cutting costs

So how can you reduce your exposure to foreign exchange and the cost of those transactions? The next time you are being asked to pay a supplier or a member of staff in a different currency than your own, check the latest exchange rates in the currency markets. If the pound is performing well against the currency you need to pay in, then it would be wise to purchase your currency and pay the invoice as soon as possible. Alternatively, you can buy the currency required at an earlier date when the exchange rate is favourable, as opposed to waiting for market dynamics to hurt you.

Explore your options

When buying foreign currency, it is recommended that you shop around for the best rates as this could save you money in the long run. Banks are not necessarily the best places to purchase your currency, and we recommend you go through a specialist foreign exchange broker as they have the expertise to help reduce your

"You can buy the currency required at an earlier date when the exchange rate is favourable"

“Banks will charge for the conversion and offer uncompetitive rates – hitting your business’ bottom line”

exposure to foreign exchange, and therefore save you money. For example, some foreign exchange brokers waive the fee to complete transactions, others have online trading platforms, meaning you can conduct your own trades at any time of the day, and they can also organise to pay your supplier on your behalf leaving you to concentrate on running your business. Specialist brokers will also explore hedging options to minimise your exposure to currency fluctuations. There are ‘spot trades’ where your transactions are settled on the spot, affording you more control of your money flow, and you can also look at ‘forward trades’, where you are able to lock-in a good rate when you see it but pay for the transaction at a time that suits you. And in terms of saving on costs while you or your staff are overseas, on items such as hotel and restaurant bills, why not try a prepaid currency card; it offers convenience, security and generally better exchange rates. Prepaid currency cards are a great alternative to carrying around lots of cash, and can be used to pay for bills anywhere you see the Visa or MasterCard sign. Contact: www.caxtonfx.com

44 June 2012

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12/06/2012 10:21

Focus on money MIS-SELLING

been sold, mainly between 2005 and 2008. However, as interest rates have fallen to historic lows in the last few years, borrowers can find themselves tied into unsuitable products by the extortionate and unexpected costs involved in moving to a more appropriate product. Derivative products explained Base rate cap: This sets a ceiling on the borrower’s interest rate costs. When the floating rate is above the cap rate, the bank agrees to pay the difference between the floating rate and the agreed cap rate. In return, the borrower pays the bank a premium which can be upfront or in instalments.

The mis-selling of financial packages has hit small businesses hard this year. Patrick Selley, banking disputes solicitor at Keystone Law, explains the issues (without the banking jargon)




ost businesses borrow at rates offered by their bank, which will typically be at a floating rate based on LIBOR (the London InterBank Offer Rate) plus a margin for the bank. Interest rate volatility can have a dramatic impact on financing costs and cash flow for business borrowers. The most common tools used to minimise exposure to interest rate fluctuations are swaps, caps and collars. These derivative products represent a highly specialised area of financial services and require considerable understanding. The problem is that the products banks offer to borrowers to reduce their exposure to interest rate fluctuations can themselves have hidden risks and costs, which are at least as damaging to a borrower as the interest rate fluctuations they were designed to guard against. It is estimated that tens of thousands of these derivative products have

Base rate swap: This allows a borrower to convert a floating rate loan for a fixed rate debt. If the floating rate is higher than the agreed rate on the ‘rollover’ date, the bank pays the borrower the difference. If the floating rate is lower than the agreed rate then the borrower pays the bank the difference. Base rate collar: This is a combination of a cap and a minimum interest rate or ‘floor’. The borrower limits exposure while benefiting from favourable rate movements within an agreed range. Common complaints These products offer savvy borrowers a valuable facility, can save them money and allow them to fix financing costs. However, these products are very lucrative for the banks which sell them and questions have been raised about alleged mis-selling. Here are some common concerns: • The borrower did not understand what was being sold and the bank’s

46 June 2012

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Focus on money MIS-SELLING

promotional literature highlighted only the benefits of the product. • The borrower never wanted to buy the product but it was made a condition of a loan or of continuation of a loan. • The very substantial break costs were never explained. • The bank was able to terminate the contract if rates moved against the bank. • The borrower did not understand that the product (and the need to continue paying for it) would continue even if the accompanying loan was paid off.

“These products are very lucrative for the banks which sell them and questions have been raised about alleged mis-selling”

Mis-selling Mis-selling is essentially a breach of duty owed by the entity (typically a bank) selling the product to the purchaser (i.e. the borrower). It is often, if not invariably, characterised by the failure to inform fully or to mis-describe the attributes of a financial product, resulting in the sale of a product that is unsuitable for the needs of the borrower. With sophisticated and complex products such as interest rate derivatives, it is easy to understand how the affected business can believe that it has been mis-sold a particular product. Remedies Individuals or small businesses (defined as those with a turnover of less than £2m or fewer than 10 employees) can bring a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which has wide powers, including the power to award compensation up to £100,000. The FSA’s Conduct of Business Rules (COBs) set out, principally in COB 9, the requirements for the seller of a financial product to have obtained sufficient

information from the purchaser of that product so as to ensure recommendation of only a product that is suitable for that customer’s needs. Also, the seller must assess the expertise, experience and knowledge of the customer to establish that they were capable of making an informed decision and that they did in fact understand the risks involved. The customer must also be capable of bearing the risks should those risks materialise. If a complaint is brought before FOS where the customer can show that the seller has failed to comply with the relevant COBs, then FOS will make an award. Where damages are likely to be greater than £100,000 or where the claimant is not a small business, claims can be brought in the courts. Section 150 of the Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA) allows individuals and sole traders (defined in FSMA as ‘Private Persons’), to claim for loss suffered as a result of contravention of the applicable COB in the courts. The action is essentially an action for breach of statutory duty. The essential issues in most claims are a) did the bank have a duty to advise the borrower? and b) do the terms of the contract between the bank and the borrower lawfully exclude liability? If a bank can be said to have acted as an adviser, then it will have much higher duties to a business than if it did not. Invariably banks will say that the nature of the relationship between the bank and its customer was such that no duty to advise arose and that it was an ‘execution only’ relationship. Each case will be determined on the facts, and the primary method of establishing the nature of the relationship will be to look at and to interpret the contract between the parties. Other factors, such as the size and

“As interest rates have fallen to historic lows in the last few years, borrowers can find themselves tied into unsuitable products” sophistication of the business, or whether it had the chance to enter into a similar contract with other banks but without similarly onerous terms, will be relevant but are unlikely to displace a very clearly worded contract. Exclusion clauses are one of the most fought over and written about areas of contract law. Businesses therefore need expert advice from solicitors specialising in resolving disputes between banks and their customers to give them the best chance of avoiding the costs and restrictions involved with unsuitable financial products.

Contact: www.keystonelaw.co.uk

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The five golden rules for creating a Finance Shared Service, brought to you by Maxxim Consulting’s senior engagement manager, Jonathan Ruddle

Top tips:FSS 1. Think big, but break plans down Transferring your current business model to a Finance Shared Service may seem a large and somewhat daunting task – however, by breaking the plan down into “It’s important attainable steps and targets to proactively the transition can become manage the achievable. When looking for change, not to cost efficiency, focus on work just sit back that is common across all and expect sites, or what could be made the change to common. Think about whether happen. Shared standardising processes, Service models systems or reporting could provide major help you to make savings. challenges” Finally, look to the people you have and the people you hire. Look to take on fewer, better employees with the flexibility to manage future changes in the business who will be up for the challenge of reengineering processes as the model evolves. 2. Streamline your services Rather than outsourcing Shared Service models to external companies, first try to streamline your own services and processes to see what can be achieved internally. Diageo, the global drinks business, started an ambitious rollout of its Finance Shared Services model in 2002 following two years of detailed development and planning. Deployment of the model was a rigorous process applied in a similar way across all operating countries.

The benefits delivered by this transition include reduced costs, but also extend to tighter financial controls, the ability to make process and systems changes more easily, and the ability of country finance teams to focus on key business objectives rather than day-to-day processing. 3. Get the governance right There are a number of possible organisational structures available to companies who are implementing a Shared Services model, so it is essential to ensure that senior finance people are engaged from day one in designing and governing the Shared Services and that their teams are involved in the design process. One emerging trend is for separately managed Shared Services teams in different functions to come together under one management umbrella combining, for example, finance transactional activity with similar back office activity in HR, IT, procurement and customer services. This approach enables best practice and systems investments from one function to be shared more widely. 4. Communication is key The overriding factor in the success of Finance Shared Services, as always, is people and managing the change in behaviours required. It is therefore essential that business partners know what

their roles will be. Often this is the downfall of a Shared Service model, rather than the Shared Service performance itself. It is important to communicate early and often about the idea and the progress it is making, taking time to explain what benefits the Shared Service model could bring. It may lead to cost reduction, less overtime, and could free staff to focus on their main business objectives. 5. Be proactive To successfully implement a Shared Service model, it is important to proactively manage the change, not to just sit back and expect the change to happen. Shared Service models provide major challenges. There will be some service performance issues as work is migrated, and there will inevitably be some upheaval to the company. However, Maxxim’s recent research found that 85% of finance staff view Finance Shared Services as a positive influence. Once service levels have stabilised, it is surprising how quickly suggestions are made about adding new services. As long as staff are informed and engaged, initial reluctance can very quickly become an unstoppable bandwagon.

Contact: www.maxximconsulting.com

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11/06/2012 14:37

Focus on money FUNDING

David Abbott, managing director of BoostCapital.co.uk, tells us why small businesses are looking for alternatives to traditional loans

Death of the bank loan


he channels of small business funding are drying up. The banks, often the first call for SMEs, are struggling – paying PPI claims, buying out taxpayers, provisioning for bad debt, and meeting tougher capital adequacy requirements. At the same time they are trying to respond to the Government’s request to increase SME financing, while minimising risk to protect shareholders. One of the problems facing new or fast-growing businesses is that banks like near certainties when it comes to investment decisions; they generally need two or more years’ accounts and prefer larger deals if they can get them. Recent findings point to an increasingly difficult year

“The key to driving small business growth in the UK is through a more flexible approach”

“SMEs in need of funds must look to creative alternatives”

ahead. Many highlight a funding drought hindering small business growth – they point to late payments, delayed investment decisions and a shortage of traditional funding as problems which must be overcome to generate growth. The ‘easy credit’ party ended years ago, so SMEs in need of funds must look to creative alternatives if they find traditional doors closed. Dragons’ Den-style TV programmes have highlighted equity sale as an alternative to bank loans. Selling equity can be a very expensive funding method, and with no guarantees that the sale will complete, it’s high risk; sometimes the equity investor pulls out at the last minute or resorts to ‘bait and switch’ tactics. Crowdsourcing is another option, where investors, unable to get a decent return from banks or the stockmarket, join forces to back businesses with collective funds. Each user takes a slice of the risk, in return for a slice of the reward. Crowdcube has advanced £2.8m to businesses since it launched just over a year ago. Relatively new in the UK, the business cash advance industry has been active in the US for more than 10 years, pumping

over $1bn per annum into the SME market. Its main focus is on consumer-facing industries such as hospitality, retail, dentistry, health and beauty, and automotive services. Available to any business with at least six months’ card acceptance history, a business cash advance offers businesses the opportunity to raise up to 125% of their monthly card turnover in as little as five days. In the US, users range from small startups to established brands such as Dairy Queen. The main advantage of a business cash advance is that the advance is recovered as a fixed daily percentage of card turnover, there is no APR, no fixed term and no end date. If the merchant has a good day then a larger amount is repaid, if it’s a slow sales day then a lower value is repaid. It is this flexibility, and the fact that the size of the advance is based on recent performance, that has made cash advances popular across the pond. Whether it’s crowdsourcing, overdraft, a loan or a business cash advance, the key to driving small business growth in the UK is through a more flexible approach to business funding. The demand is certainly there; now it’s time for the lenders to supply it. Contact: www.BoostCapital.co.uk

50 June 2012

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11/06/2012 14:41

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06/06/2012 15:48

Focus on Strategy strategy

A problem shared… Being the boss can be lonely – who do you go to with your problems? Central Working have set up a unique forum where entrepreneurs can air their troubles and get support from one another. Helen Coffey investigates


“Part business meeting, part group therapy session, it is heartwarming to see how readily everyone chips in”

know very little about the Central Working concept when I’m invited to go along and attend an entrepreneurs’ “board meeting”, but I must admit, I’m intrigued from the outset. ‘It’s important that confidence is kept – they might very well be saying, “we’re running out of money tomorrow”,’ James Layfield, the brain behind Central Working, warns me upon my arrival. I assure him that no names will be named, for obvious reasons. I am not affronted by this censorship – indeed, there would be little point in entrepreneurs meeting up to share their trials and tribulations and asking for help if they had to be cagey about the challenges they’re going through. And this is exactly what Central Working allows business owners to do. The whole culture CW is trying to cultivate is one of frankness, honesty and support. ‘Our aim is very simple – to try and help 10,000 businesses to grow over the next 10 years,’ James tells me. A bold ambition, I remark. ‘Yes. But it’s doable – it’s a thousand a year. Obviously from one space it would be hard. But from more spaces it’s less hard.’ They are already working out of two spaces, one near Tottenham Court Road, the other stationed in Old Street at the heart of tech city, and the plan

is to have another two up-andrunning by the end of this year. The first part of the Central Working mandate is to provide beautiful spaces for its members to work in – after all, it’s not cost-effective or even necessary for all entrepreneurs to rent out their own offices. The Tottenham Court Road venue includes a hip café area (where you can also pay for printing services and buy stationary), an upstairs, relaxed work space where members are encouraged to interact with each other, and a cosy downstairs area complete with sofas, carpet and impressive range of novelty cushions to make one feel at home. Members can also hire out a range of stylish, contemporary boardrooms for meetings. Unlike some of the members clubs I’ve been to, it genuinely does have a friendly, informal atmosphere, yet the place is buzzing with energy. ‘We actually know who all our members are by name,’ James explains. ‘We’re like real world LinkedIn, we can put people together who can help each other.’ This proves to be true as he gives me the grand tour, introducing every person we come across by name (unless of course he’s making them up as he goes along, which seems unlikely given the friendly greetings he receives in return).

Although the spaces themselves are undoubtedly lovely, they are not the fundamental point of CW James emphasises. ‘An environment to us isn’t just about the physical space – that has to be brilliant, but that’s not all. It is more about putting in place layers of support.’ To that end, they offer several services where individuals can draw on the expertise of other members, both in a troubleshooting capacity, and if they need guidance going forward with their business. James tells me of a case where a member wanted to launch a new men’s skincare brand and needed help with the packaging. Central Working pulled in a panel of eight experts from among its membership, and as a result of their suggestions he completely changed his branding. “The Board” is another of the services, and it is this that I’m allowed to sit in on this evening. I imagined it to be a far more formal affair, complete with suits and spread sheets (perhaps it is the faceless title of “The Board” that has put this idea in my head), so I am pleasantly surprised when the five entrepreneurs turn up, casually clad and chatting happily about how their various weeks have been. It turns out they have been meeting regularly for six months now, and it shows – there

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12/06/2012 10:24

“The idea of the isolated entrepreneur having to carry the load all alone seems to melt away”

is a truly wonderful vibe, and it seems more like a group of old friends getting together than anonymous “associates”. One of the group, a professional artist, enquires after another member’s new dog. It turns out he’s been causing some trouble. Once this line of conversation has been fully explored (advice from various members on how they dealt with their own dog traumas, sympathetic “oooh”s and “mmm”s from the rest), it’s time to get down to business. But not before they’ve cracked open a chilled bottle of white, naturally. I never thought of board meetings as being fun per se, but this one is fast managing to subvert all my preconceptions. Once called to order, the rules are read, and all are designed to promote a candid attitude and harmonious interaction between members: 1. confidentiality, 2. mutual respect, 3. no interrupting, 4. everyone’s opinion is important. They have each prepared for the meeting by considering certain questions – this month’s highs and lows for their business, things that they’re excited about, things that they’re worried about, defining their focus for the months ahead. Running through these in turn, the group gets a pretty good overview of where everyone’s at before focusing on those who particularly need help or advice. Part business meeting, part

group therapy session, it is heart-warming to see how readily everyone chips in – not only with their thoughts and ideas, but with their contacts too. One member has barely finished expressing his wish to break into the education market before another is scribbling down a list of people in the sector to call, while someone else is handing over the card of a useful contact who would be great to tap for ideas. The whole evening is like this, with everyone listening to one another’s challenges with rapt attention and genuine interest, and doing all they can to assist. By the end I can’t help but be won over by the concept, which is truly putting into practice the Talk Business ethos: being an entrepreneur is hard work, so get as much help as you possibly can from people who are in the same boat. It’s such a simple idea, but Central Working is actually making it happen, helping businesses to thrive with each other’s support. What is being done here is demonstrating great steps forward in the business community – after all, every entrepreneur should have a support network. Who better to turn to for help than fellow business owners? Contact: www.centralworking.com

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12/06/2012 10:24


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is 30 seconds to say who you are, what you sell and to who. Nice and simple but so, so effective  At the end of the video, invite them to join your mailing list where they will receive a video once every week/two weeks of you giving away snippets of your professional insight into your industry. After 10 videos even, without ever meeting the viewer, they will feel like they have established a relationship with you. Remember, people buy from people


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24/05/2012 16:52


Embracing the nerds Brand boffin, Rich With from Hoot creative agency, urges us to get geekfriendly with our campaigns

“Embracing our fans is not just about how much we can take from them”

“They’ve ejected the mass market in favour of smaller and highly desirable niches”

So I’m absent-mindedly watching this TED talk that a friend has sent me a link to, and this guy (who looks a lot like Mike from Neighbours) starts talking about Greek Gods and the advancement of technology. It’s swiftly apparent that this was referring to a viral video promoting the new Alien film, Prometheus. It was smart and precision-aimed at the core audience for this movie: nerds. Now, I don’t mean to sound derogatory, but where recent instalments of the Alien franchise have tried to appeal to the lowest common denominator and suffered poor box office returns, the new movie is clearly pitching itself at true Alien fans. And why not? The guys that buy the face-hugger t-shirts and the remastered DVD box sets are the ones who won’t shut up about how awesome the film is. In business terms, they’ll advocate the Alien brand to anyone who will listen, they’ll do it for free and they’ll come back to you time and time again. As business owners, we must embrace our “nerds”. These are the clients that love our product or service and get genuine pleasure from giving us repeat business. These are the clients that refer us to their friends and

are the reason we pay our bills every month. At its heart, embracing our fans is not just about how much we can take from them; it’s also about providing them with more value, giving them extras they won’t get from our rivals, and inspiring them to stay in love with our brand.


The “Ad Makeover” campaign for Dove Cosmetics built an app that allowed women to create Facebook ads in direct response to the multitude of “lose weight fast” ads that populate our social media sidebars. Each Dove fan could then send their friends Facebook ads that said “Hello beautiful” or a dozen other complimentary messages. It’s completely on-brand and has a positive message that reinforces their core values.


Over in Korea, Emart noticed that sales drastically slowed in lunch hours. Their answer was to create an outdoors QR code that can only be scanned correctly when the sun casts a shadow on the code from 12pm-1pm. Once scanned, the consumer enjoys premium discounts, offers and specials as part of Emart’s “Sunny Sale” campaign. The campaign

prompted a 25% rise in sales during the midday period.


Recently, fashion brand UNIQLO created a “Wake Up” app – a charming alarm clock that “sings” to the user what time it is, where they are and what the weather is like. It’s a gentle and useful way of putting their brand in front of their desired market first thing, every day.

Geek aftercare

All of these examples use the campaign as an extension of the brand, and make fans part of the experience. They’ve ejected the mass market in favour of smaller and highly desirable niches, and because these people are fans the ROI is enhanced too. We are often so focused on finding new clients that there is a danger we take our fans for granted and don’t treat them with the respect they deserve. Yes, we all have to embrace the nerds, but in order for our businesses to flourish we need to nurture and care for them as well. Contact: www.gohoot.co.uk

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Bravery and branding Whenever I think about branding there is one example that springs (pardon the pun) to mind – Sharrocks Fresh Produce – a family-run fruit and veg. distributor. In 1998 they were approaching a 50th anniversary and wanted to update an image that was looking both dated and confused. With a new distribution centre coming online and the fleet of vehicles being gradually replaced it was the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. The younger generation of the firm were keen on a radical overhaul, the challenge was to convince all parties this was the right approach. The logo and livery below were rolled out a year later, in time for the anniversary, and remain in use to this day. I still get a feeling of pride when passing a lorry on the M6 – it’s proof positive that while the road getting there was an unusually long one, the end result was worth it. As a consequence of the new image, the recognition of the company was greatly improved – the previous livery especially was such a mish-mash of colours and elements that camouflaged the brand – something we addressed with the large citrus elements to form the ‘S’ of the logo. No two branding projects are the same, but it’s always a case of finding a voice/tone and style that fits the company and the people within “.... a mishit. When you get to that point it should be mash of obvious to all concerned, especially your colours and customers or clients. elements that

© 2012 R+H Design

Matthew Sumbland of R+H Design, looks back at a memorable branding exercise – a long process that ended up with a long-lasting result.




sharrocks be fresh



sharrocks sharrocks be happy

sharrocks be fruity

sharrocks be choosy




S SH The original logo (top left) and a selection of the proposals


Est. 1949



Chosen option

camouflaged ..the brand...”

branding+identity R+H Design, Kings Arcade, King Street, Lancaster LA1 1LE T: 01524 36406 E: info@randh.net W: www.randh.net

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06/06/2012 11:46 15:07 25/05/2012

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08/03/2012 16:32

Focus on strategy PUBLIC SPEAKING

Speak easy Advanced Training’s Dr Paul R Holmes shares his advice on the business benefits of public speaking Customers or clients are the life-blood of any business. If you have all the customers you want, if everyone knows your name, if your reputation is sky-high, you can stop reading this. But wait... you might just have something worth sharing with others. Self-promotion No one will hire you or buy from you if they don’t know you exist. Traditional print advertising or Internet marketing has its place, but if you really want to achieve growth in your new business, these are not enough. There’s no more reliable way to help grow your business than through the power of public speaking. In my own case, it was speaking to audiences where my prospects gathered – and doing it better than anyone else – that brought in 85% of the business I generated in my first ten years of trading. To enhance your reputation and to have clients calling on you rather than having to chase them, you need to make yourself visible. And more than that, you need to present yourself as an expert, as someone who knows in great depth what they are doing and how to achieve results for their clients. You need to stand out from the crowd. With even just the beginning

of a reputation, you should have some stories to tell about your successes. This must apply even if you are just emerging from the corporate world. It’s these stories that will form the core of what you tell your new prospects. An emotional connection Stories are the best way to make the vital emotional connection with your audience. We may reach people through their heads, but we change them – into customers, clients, even champions for our business – through their hearts. Let’s get one thing clear. Business audiences are not going to be convinced by your logical arguments. Facts and figures will probably be forgotten as soon as you mention them. What’s going to convince your audience is your energy, sincerity, vitality and enthusiasm for your business. We’re all used to having to sit through dull, boring speakers: if you’re the standout exception, you’ll be the one who wins the business. You need a lot of confidence to speak with sincere enthusiasm. Where does it come from? Certainly, from knowing your material well, especially the captivating stories that show what you can do. It also comes from lots of practice. You may need to get

“What’s going to convince your audience is your energy, sincerity, vitality and enthusiasm”

“We learn to talk at a very early age, yet few of us learn to use the power of speech”

help with this, because there’s not a lot of use in repeatedly practising the wrong thing. Practice makes permanent, rather than perfect. You’ll soon find many willing audiences for your talks, once they know you’ve got something worthwhile to say. Look for conferences where your prospects meet. Look for opportunities offered by professional and trade organisations, local chambers of commerce, business networking organisations and colleges. Make sure your talk is relevant, interesting, and not a sales pitch. We learn to talk at a very early age, yet few of us learn to use the power of speech effectively. We should! A speech to the right business audience, delivered with confidence and enthusiasm, can be the best way there is to build reputation. With reputation comes growth, and with growth comes success for your business.

Dr Paul R Holmes is a member of Pure B2B – masterminding your business to the next level. Visit www.pureb2b.co.uk Contact: www.a-t.co.uk

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12/06/2012 10:25

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01/05/2012 13:46

Focus on strategy CLAIRE YOUNG

good Linkedin profile, Twitter and Facebook, business cards, email signature, professional phone greeting…the list goes on! All small tweaks add up and make a difference.

4 Have a thick skin After being launched into the public sphere during The Apprentice, I learnt quickly to be resilient and to not take things personally. I always treat people how I’d like to be treated; however, appreciate that not everyone is like that. Business is business and people are not there to be friends. Be clear, firm and fair.

“Business is business and people are not there to be friends”

5 Set your own benchmark It’s important not to follow the crowd, and to avoid people who sap your energy with negativity. Good contacts will always be supportive and want to see you succeed. Avoid anyone who can bring you down: you will ultimately morph and become like the negative people you are around!

Game, set, match Wimbledon may be about to kick off, but here Claire Young tells us how to have balls in business 1 Confidence, not arrogance, is the key to success Believe in yourself and others will be drawn to your enthusiasm and positivity. People buy from people. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Leave any arrogance at the door when you walk in, have the humility to listen, learn and respect others. 2 Just do it So many people just talk and talk and never actually do.

Words mean nothing without action! Be proactive and contact new people outside of your regular network. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? So what? Move on. The next person could say yes.

3 Develop your personal brand You are the figurehead for your business, and there is no better ambassador. Make sure you utilise all elements to maximise your personal brand. Website up-to-date,

6 Keep your own counsel People don’t need to know everything about your life; hold a little back and keep it for in private. Children, for example, don’t need to be spoken about 24/7. You love them dearly but most people will not be bothered. Stick to business, and discuss personal matters only in small doses. 7 Look the business This isn’t about spending thousands of pounds on a wardrobe, but about making the right impression immediately. Think groomed (hair washed), natural make up, smart clothes and always on time. If you look the business, generally people think you ARE the business!

“Words mean nothing without action!”

Contact: www.claireyoung.co.uk www.schoolspeakers.co.uk

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12/06/2012 10:31

WHY VIDEO IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR COMPANY There are a whole host of reasons we could tell you why your company needs to be using video on a regular basis, but there are 3 main things that stand out in the times we are in. 1. Revolution The first one would be obvious. It has to do with the technological revolution and the advancement of social media. You don’t need to be a genius to see that the way we communicate has changed radically in the last few years, this has had an effect on the way we do business. Smart phones are so commonplace now that Youtube has become the second largest search engine (Google’s 1st). When we want to search for a new product or learn about a brand, many of us will head straight to video to find out what it looks like and what others are saying about it. Video is everywhere and accessible to the masses no matter where they may be. Video on the web is growing exponentially and with the

advent of mobile devices there has never been a better way to get your message directly to your audience.

2. Video connects with people on an emotional level The most important thing for any company is your brand. It has to be something people are talking about. If done well, video has the power to move your audience, to excite and inspire them to buy a product or get behind a vision. Effective communication is power. You want to connect to your customers, whether internally or externally, on a deeper level. We are often swamped with emails, memos and endless power point presentations.

3. Global and green These days we are encouraged and sometimes even forced to change our travel behaviour. This could slow your business down. However, today’s technology enables high quality visual communication that can make us more productive and more effective in how we do business. Efficient visual communication means less costly time-consuming travel will reduce your carbon footprint. We are a creative team of video producers, editors, designers, developers and communication specialists. Contact us to find out more. T: 0203 551 7878 T: 02392 299 069 E: contact@gfproductions.info



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06/06/2012 15:09

Focus on strategy FACTS VS STORIES

Regular columnist, Stefan Boyle, explains why facts and figures rarely turn prospects into customers

Facts tell,

stories sell

We all love stories. They are how we relate to things, reminding us of our own lives, whether it’s an experience we’ve had, one of our ambitions, dreams or – on the other extreme – our nightmares. Stories work in all media and all forms of communication, be it face-to-face, in music, drama, film or the written word. It’s hard to disagree with this, right? Well, if it’s a great way of connecting with people, why do so many businesses forget that the art of storytelling is an incredibly powerful way of connecting with prospects and engaging clients? So many pieces of marketing literature, emails, websites and other business marketing materials are full of dull, uninteresting content that will never connect with a prospect in a million years! I was recently working with a client on the content of their website and their marketing strategy. When describing what they did for their customers, my client was full of passion, told great stories and you could see how much he cared. Then he started thinking too hard about what he wanted to say in his website and the wheels fell off. He started trying to dictate “corporate speak” content that he struggled with, and was simply awful! So we went back to his stories. We went back to his passion that prospective clients will love. How are you writing sales

and marketing content for your business? Are you trying to engage with and see life from your prospect’s perspective? If not, then think again. And practise! One of the quickest and easiest ways to learn this in a real world environment, where you can build your skills through trial and error, is a blog. If you are not blogging regularly, then you need to. By regularly I mean often: at least once a week. To be successful, your business blog must have a regular stream of fresh, interesting content that drives visitors to your site and persuades them to share the information you provide. There are ways to get this done if you don’t have the time or the inclination. After all, setting up a blog is one thing, but using it effectively as a platform for communication and customer engagement is quite another. You can always brief a social media manager on the style you want, and they’ll take care of it for you. It’s great to use strong headlines in your posts, with the “7 top tips” on your specialist subject or “how-to guides” that are often searched for on Google, and can therefore lead to more traffic. This will help position you as an expert in your field, which in turn builds trust. Make sure you write in a conversational manner; show a human image, not that of

“If you are not blogging regularly, then you need to”

a marketing department. If it’s informal and easy to read, people might actually read it! Finally, DON’T try and sell on your blog. Of course you can lead people to web pages where there is a likelihood they may buy, but overall, tell stories, add value, build relationships and gain trust. Contact: www.printrepublic.co.uk

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12/06/2012 10:31

Focus on strategy WRONGFUL TRADING

A cautionary tale from Mark Copping, partner at Hamlins LLP, as he uncovers the pitfalls facing directors of start-ups and SMEs who could find themselves liable for wrongful trading

Where angels fear to trade


ne of the great advantages of trading through a company, rather than in your own name, is to take advantage of limited liability. Unless a director has personally guaranteed a liability – for example by way of surety under a lease or Person Guarantee to a lender – then he is generally entitled to hide behind the limited liability of the company if it becomes insolvent. However, an important exception to limited liability is the principle of “wrongful trading”. This gives liquidators, acting on behalf of creditors, a statutory claim against directors personally for the company’s debts if they allow the company to carry on trading after the point when they should have known that it would ultimately go into liquidation. Trials of wrongful trading A recent High Court case illustrates the potential dangers for directors. It concerned a start-up tech company call Langreen Limited, which was attempting to break into the wireless Internet services market. The claim was against the two non-executive directors who had put £23,000 into the company but were not involved in running it other than managing its finances – perhaps not surprising in a struggling start-up company in which they had invested significant funds. The liquidator claimed that the directors were personally liable for the significant shortfall because they had allowed the company to carry on trading after the point when insolvency was inevitable.

However, the court disagreed and found that the directors had not been guilty of wrongful trading. This decision was in spite of the undoubted facts that the company had always been undercapitalised, always traded at a loss, and had probably always been insolvent on a cash flow basis. The critical point was that the nonexecutive directors had genuinely and reasonably believed that the company could be saved, and had done all they reasonably could to minimise the loss to creditors. The actual cause of the company’s insolvency was the failure of the only available satellite provider, and was an event completely beyond their control. Directors’ duties The decision has important implications for business angels and other non-executive directors. The reason the directors were relieved of responsibility was nothing to do with their non-executive status. This status, so universally respected in the business world, has once again not been recognised in English law. The reason for this is the legal view that every statutory director has a duty to be involved in essential decisions about the company, and will be judged accordingly. This means that, in legal terms, the duty owed by a non-executive director, however part-time, is the same as the duty owed by a full-time executive director. Directors are entitled to delegate functions to other directors, but this doesn’t absolve them from the duty to

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Focus on strategy WRONGFUL TRADING

“It is vital that all the directors identify the moment when the death of the company is inevitable and act accordingly”

supervise their fellow directors. Effectively the creditors are entitled to the protection that all directors of the company will act together to ensure that their interests are protected when a company is nearing the point of insolvency. Limiting a director’s responsibilities, whether under an appointment letter or otherwise, will not enable them to contract out of their duties as far as the law is concerned, and it won’t be enough to protest that they were only protecting their investment or that of the investor or shareholder who appointed them. Whatever the legal agreements governing their appointment say, the duty to supervise will involve regular monitoring, if necessary over and above the usual board meetings, to ensure that delegated functions are being properly performed, especially when the company is in difficulties. In particular, it is vital that all the directors identify the moment when the death of the company is inevitable and act accordingly – usually by calling in an insolvency practitioner. Lessons to remember • There is a danger of assessing directors’ conduct with the benefit of too much hindsight. Whether or not a director is liable is based purely on information which was known, or ought to have been known, by him at the precise date upon which the company became insolvent – and the reasonableness of his conduct.

be a director at all but an observer, with the right to attend the board meeting under contract but without the Companies Act director status. • It is likely that an investor will be able to exert the same degree of control over the company’s affairs through contractual rights given to it under a shareholder’s agreement, without the danger of personal liability. Although there’s always the possibility of being treated as a shadow director, the test for that is quite restrictive and as long as the agreement is properly drafted, this shouldn’t be a real risk. Beware or be aware? The appointment of directors by ‘angels’, investors and other shareholders wishing to exercise control over a business is an almost universal practice, but there are significant risks and non-executive directors need to be aware of the legal responsibilities that come with the territory. Blind optimism is not condoned by the courts, however much entrepreneurship and risk-taking may be business virtues. At the point when a business is heading for insolvency, directors have concrete duties to protect the creditors and will be held accountable if they don’t. Contact: www.hamlins.co.uk

• There is an objective test of what each director ought reasonably to have known, based on the standard of a reasonably diligent person and the general knowledge and skill that the director themselves had. Where, for example, the directors were experienced property developers, they were assumed to have a degree of understanding of a new build development that ‘lay’ directors may not have had. • The director’s belief of better times ahead must be reasonable and not simply based on a Micawber-like hope that ‘something might turn up’. Directors have been found liable for wrongful trading in allowing the company to carry on in reliance on wilful blind optimism when it was clear that the company simply could not fund its immediate liabilities. • Resignation is not necessarily the answer once the issues have arisen and should only be considered if a director’s views are being ignored. • One of the most important lessons is to make careful, dated notes and minutes of all decisions and actions taken to protect the creditors. • The only certain way to avoid liability is not to

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Focus on strategy ON THE BOARD

Who wants to be

a Director?

Lots of us apparently. With limited companies on the rise, Saunders Law litigation consultant Christopher Burgon looks at the potential pitfalls of being the boss

There are a number of ways that a business can be set up, each with different responsibilities and obligations under the law for those charged with running the business or owning it. You may find yourself as a partner in a partnership, as a member of a limited liability partnership, or as a director and/or a shareholder of a limited company. Traditionally, professionals such as architects and surveyors adopted partnership as the standard model for their businesses. But in recent times this has changed significantly, with limited liability partnerships and companies becoming far more common. So let’s look at the responsibilities and potential pitfalls of being a director in a limited company. Of course, being at the top of an organisation and taking decisions that matter is obviously attractive and can be personally and financially rewarding; but the flipside is that directors have responsibilities as well as privileges. The first is to the company itself. Under the Companies Act 2006, a director has a duty to promote the success of the company and to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence, while avoiding conflicts of interest and external influence.

These duties are enforceable by the company and, while instances of a board of directors voting to bring an action against itself are rare, actions against ex-directors are not. The removal of a director requires an ordinary resolution; usually 50% of shareholders which, depending on your circumstances, may leave you feeling worryingly exposed. Even if your co-directors are satisfied, any shareholder can bring an action against a director – even after he has retired – for negligence, default or breach of duty or trust, for behaviour predating a shareholder’s membership. If the company goes into liquidation, the Insolvency Act 1986 gives powers to a liquidator to bring any appropriate action against the directors of the company. A liquidator’s primary responsibility is to the company’s creditors. He has wide powers to investigate all of the company’s transactions, going back up to two years before the insolvency. A director needs to avoid criminal liability for the actions of others in the company, which can attach to directors personally where they are found to have acted ‘neglectfully’ or have ‘connived’ with the offending criminal behaviour.

“The flipside is that directors have responsibilities as well as privileges”

Other statutory duties are imposed on directors under legislation as diverse as the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and the Environmental Protection Act 1999. Directors can of course be prosecuted personally for criminal offences such as bribery, fraud, insider dealing and price fixing. Under the recent Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2007, directors can be found personally liable if their gross negligence causes death. Finally, directors will become personally liable to another party if there is evidence of personal dealings between them, outside of their position within the company. So, what’s the good news? Don’t forget: being a director has many advantages over being a sole trader or partner, where you are personally liable for the business’ debts. With care, diligence, a certain amount of business acumen and sound, commercially-based legal advice, there is no reason why a director should fall foul of the law. Contact: www.saunders.co.uk

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22/05/2012 12:28

Focus on strategy EMERGENCY PLANNING

Go for gold with your BCP You may think your business is Olympic-ready – but unless you’ve prepared a business continuity plan, you’ve still got work to do says MD of QuoStar Solutions, Robert Rutherford

“You should consider all possibilities and have a documented strategy to deal with the risks”


he Olympic Games are obviously a great occasion for Britain to celebrate, but large events like these can mean that risks to businesses increase. Businesses throughout the country – not just in London – should therefore be revising their plans way in advance of the event. At a high level, the generalised risks for businesses located in or around Olympic areas will see travel disruption (including staff not being able to make it into work), supply chain issues, and restrictions on goods and services going out. All of these areas should be covered in a business continuity plan (BCP) and/or a disaster recovery (DR) plan. The issue is that many businesses still don’t keep their plans up-to-date and, more importantly, they don’t test them regularly. When the time comes to draw up your BCP, you need to at least consider the following potential issues:

1. Can you live without systems? You probably have an understanding of the time you can afford to lose with no access to key systems and data, and how many hours or days of lost data you could arguably manage without. Once you define this, you can effectively balance desired recovery times and risk tolerance against a budget. 2. Plan for all eventualities Downtime, however it rears its head – fire, flood, power outages, transport strikes, hardware failure, even flu pandemics – will hurt your business financially. You should consider all possibilities and have a documented strategy to deal with the risks you can identify. 3. It’s more than just IT As part of your planning process you should be identifying key information, systems, people and processes, and how they all interact to keep your business running. Then envisage what

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Focus on strategy EMERGENCY PLANNING

would happen were you to lose any, or all, of these key ‘assets’. 4. Scrutinise your suppliers In business, it’s not just about you; you’re almost certainly reliant to some degree on other companies. It’s fine to have a well thought-out business continuity plan, but you need to ensure key suppliers have plans of their own in place to ensure they can still deliver a service to you if they encounter any similar problems. 5. Understand the technologies Effective technologies to protect businesses from disaster – virtualisation, replication and cloud services will scale down to the SME budget and, if you’re astute, you’ll find you can even implement some without charge. 6. Test and communicate In order to trust your BCP, you’ll need to prove that it works

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and tell people about it. Test it regularly – if you wait until an emergency occurs, then you’ll probably be in trouble. Also ensure that the human side of the BCP is tested and proven, not just the IT parts: make sure everyone in the organisation is aware of the procedures and what part they will have to play if the BCP needs to be invoked. The more you test, the more routine it will become and the slicker your recovery will be, saving you money and perhaps even the business itself. Here’s another way to think of it: you pay for insurance policies, you lock the server room, you close your windows, you put the building alarm on… but you don’t know how you’ll deal with a disaster? Madness!

QuoStar Solutions is a rapid-growth, privately-held information technology firm headquartered in the UK. As a premier-level IT resource provider, QuoStar delivers IT outsourcing services, strategic and technical consultancy, and a comprehensive range of enterprise-class managed cloud services. The company’s client profile encompasses a broad range of industries and businesses with a turnover of up to £200m in the UK and overseas.

Contact: www.quostar.com

12/06/2012 10:30

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03/05/2012 16:24

Focus on marketing

Simon Armstrong, marketing manager of ecommerce supplier, Actinic, looks at the pros and cons of Facebook advertising, what works best and how to get started

Facebook friendly


n March 2012 Facebook had over 800 million people using its service worldwide at least once a month. This makes it an opportunity not to be missed, and Facebook knows lots of information about its users, their habits and interests – all of which helps you reach the right people.

The pros and cons

FOR: You can argue three possibilities in favour of Facebook. It’s good for: new or innovative products that prospects won’t be actively searching for; brand owners or exclusive distributors that expect to catch the sale whichever route is subsequently taken; and general ecommerce, but only if you can significantly reduce competition by catching the interest at an early stage, which is much more likely if the time from interest to action for that product tends to be short. AGAINST: Against this is the fact that if purchasers typically perform further research on the product, you may have sparked their

interest with a Facebook ad that you paid for, but a competitor gets the sale. If you have built a substantial base of fans on your page, Facebook allows you to target friends of your fans. So with the average Facebook user having more than 100 friends there can be a multiplier. However, as the number of fans increases, there is more overlap between friends. Also, your early fans are more likely to be early adopters and have more friends. As a result, the multiplier decreases significantly as your fan base increases. But while a decreased multiplier seems bad, there will be much more endorsement of your ads e.g. “This is an ad – Peter Brown likes this.” A user gets this endorsement when they view the Facebook ad and Peter Brown is their friend.

Creating an advert

Step 1: Define your goals Identifying what you want to achieve with your advertising is the first step to a successful campaign.

Goals could include engaging with prospects, increasing sales with promotional offers and building awareness of your products or brand; you need to decide which end result you are aiming for. “Identifying what you want to achieve with your advertising is the first step to a successful campaign”

Step 2: Target the right people The real power of Facebook advertising comes from its unique fine-tuning. You can establish the profile of the person you want to reach and target them by: • Location, language, education and work • Age, gender, birthday, and relationship status • Likes and interests You can also target friends of fans already connected to your pages. This approach has fantastic possibilities for catching people before they realise that they want your products, and is potentially hugely useful for launching anything new. Step 3: Ad design Be creative with the ad content. Include high resolution images (but avoid stock photos) to help

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the ad stand out. Trials show that the human face, especially a smiling woman, boosts the click rate. Experiment to see what works best for your brand. Make sure you have a clear call to action to motivate people to click. Again, try different options – Google found that phrases like “Click here”, “Find out more” or “Visit today” didn’t work as well as motivational language like “Learn more now”, “Check it out” and “Explore today”. Step 4: Set your budget Your budget needs to be set at a level suitable to achieve the objectives of your campaign. You can specify your daily maximum budget and elect to pay on a cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-perimpression (CPI) basis. Step 5: Review and improve Use Facebook’s reporting capability to see how your ads are performing and make adjustments to further optimise them for maximum effect. Step 6: Reward If people become followers, reward them with great content to keep them loyal; post advice, offers, video clips, polls, images, sample products, etc.

What works?

Ecommerce and marketing are in their infancy, so you’ll need to do split or A/B testing on your advert content and targeting. You may want four

different ads for the same campaign. Try them for a day or two before checking your ad statistics to discover which one performed the best. Highlight any offers or unique features that make you different from your competitors. I read that targeted birthday ads with a tailored offer can work well. If your goal is brand awareness, then include your company name in the ad title or in the body copy. Another option that can work is marketing to your locality. While direct mail has always been perfect for segmenting on geography, it’s been notoriously difficult to get the same result online. With Facebook though, this isn’t a problem, and since people’s friends on Facebook are often real life buddies, it’s likely that you can use a fan’s recommendation to help influence this group.

Google versus Facebook

Both Google and Facebook make money from advertising, but they are quite different. According to BusinessWeek. com, banner advertisements on Facebook receive around 20% of the number of clicks compared to the web generally.

“If you have a novel product, which no one is looking for yet, Facebook is a better place to garner new interest ”

The research says that Google users click on the first advert around 8% of the time, while Facebook’s users click on advertisements an average of 0.04% of the time. This would seem to suggest that Google is hugely more effective than Facebook, but that would be missing the point. People searching on Google are looking for a solution to a problem, whereas Facebook users aren’t. This simply means that Google searchers are a lot further along the ‘sales funnel’, i.e. they are a lot closer to the point of buying. If you have a novel product, which no one is looking for yet, Facebook is a better place to garner new interest than Google. And obviously, if you can capture someone’s interest at an earlier stage than you would on Google, you may avoid a head-to-head battle with competitors. Contact: www.actinic.co.uk

Download a free white paper which looks at the opportunity to promote products and services to Facebook users and recommends how to maximise the potential offered by the platform: www.actinic.co.uk/free-whitepaper-selling-on-facebook.html

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Focus on marketing POWERING SALES

The man who puts the power behind Linden Homes’ sales, marketing director Gareth Jacob, tells us how he turned things around for the housing giant in just one year

Make yourself at home With the housing market slow, it is more important than ever for businesses to have the right strategy to maximise sales, prove to the market you are the best, and close the deal to every customer’s satisfaction. I joined Linden Homes Eastern in August last year, having helped set up a new building firm in Milton Keynes. Coming to Linden Homes, I knew it had a reputation for being a leader in quality, which is a big advantage over our rivals in attracting customers who want the best; it gives our older divisions a great brand to work from. But as a relative newcomer to the region, our sector had to push harder to reach those customers who might not have been familiar with what we offer. We couldn’t just expect people to march into the show home and sign on the dotted line. That was a challenge, and it required formulating a strategy that combined Linden Homes’ strengths as a market-leader, its top class properties, the financial products to help our customers and the expertise of staff. A good example of how we successfully brought an initially slow-selling development up to its full potential was at Newhall, in Harlow, Essex. Sales were disappointing in 2011 but have since surged, with 30 sold in the last five months. Crucially, it was the combination of strategies that created the success. We were able to attract people who were on the market already but, through schemes such as the 95% Step Up mortgage, also prompt those who felt excluded from the property ladder to consider purchasing. We are also part of the Government’s New Buy scheme, plus we offer a part exchange package that takes the hassle out of moving home. That assistance pays off particularly because our sales staff have the knowledge to support house hunters and help them choose the right route that is appropriate for them to secure the new home that suits them best. Getting the right team for the

job was key, and we were prepared to bring in people from further afield to get a fresh look at the development and swap them to different sites. It made that vital difference. At another site, Burntwood Square, in Brentwood, Essex, we complemented that approach by creating a buzz about the development. We set up a four-day window for customers to book half-hour tours, and people soon understood that they were up against the market to secure one of the properties, worth between £350,000 and £650,000. We had a strong database, and rather than just opening the doors and expecting people to flood in, we contacted people and targeted them for specific appointments. It worked, and 30 properties have now been sold. The future challenge will remain the question of how to attract people to come to us first: how we get that initial inquiry before everyone else. There are a lot of companies doing a similar thing, and essentially we are aiming at the same number of people. But Linden Homes has core strengths and bringing those out for customers to see is what I plan to do to ensure we stay ahead of the pack.

“We couldn’t just expect people to march into the show home and sign on the dotted line”

“Crucially, it was the combination of strategies that created the success”

Contact: www.lindenhomes.co.uk

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So why do you have a website? By Sean Hamilton BSc Hamilton Web Solutions Well, why do you have a website? Lot’s of sites are created by peer, business partner, relative or other pressures. You may have a site because someone told you to have one. So, you get a site and everyone stops bothering you. Great, you now have a site. However, is it performing for you? A website really has two primary functions and both of them relate to one thing and one thing only. Leads! Without leads there are no sales, and no sales, no business. So if your website is not generating leads then why do you have a website? Your business website should do two things; attract traffic and convert that traffic into some sort of action. That action might be calling you, visiting your shop, ordering a product, signing up for a mailing list or obtaining information. Obtaining traffic is typically done by creating an optimised site with great content related to specific keywords. Traffic is also generated by getting referrals from other websites and from using paid advertising (Pay per Click options such as AdWords). Web traffic is no different than visitors to your physical facility. Without them (your visitors) you have nothing! Generating traffic as you might already guess is only half the battle. Just as in a shop where you need sales people to guide your visitors to a successful sale so do you on a website. Is it easy to find out what you want the visitor to do? Any sales person will tell you, you must ask for the order. While there are certainly customers who come right to your site and do what you want the majority don’t (just like in a shop). If there is no constant traffic flow, your website has practically no way to survive. Traffic is your lifeblood of your internet marketing business. Like all sales

whether it is offline or online, if there are no leads there are no sales. Thus, you have to build constant traffic, either fresh traffic or return traffic. A constant return flow means that you are credible and trustworthy as an equity brand or your online presence. Now that we established the importance of having a good amount of traffic on your website lets look at some of the possible reasons why some websites don’t receive any traffic at all: • Your pages are called: “about us”, “products”, “contact us” and the rest of the pages “company name” • You write a title like “affordable accountancy services for small businesses” and the content of the page is about where your company is located and you don’t use any of the words from the title in your content - in other words there is no relationship between the title and the content of a page • You think that if you put loads of keywords in the keyword meta tag you’ll rank well for those keywords • Don’t have unique descriptive titles to each page • You either don’t use the keywords from the title on your page or you overuse it throughout your content (the result of this will lead to content that will look odd for readers and your rankings will not improve) • You don’t know exactly what does it mean to have search engine optimised content • The URLs of your pages are dynamically generated that is page id’s from a database instead of page titles • You don’t have a list of keywords to target in your content or you do have one but don’t know how to use it - there is no SEO strategy, no planning

• Your incoming links are not that gre at as they come from low volume traffic web sites, they really need to be from high volume traffic web sites instead • You don’t monitor the statistics of your website • You don’t market your content - the only thing you do is to publish the article and wait • You don’t know anything about SEO and you don’t want to pay for someone else to do it for you and teach you the basics You must know exactly what to happen when a visitor (the traffic you generated) arrives at your website. It’s not unusual to find websites where you can’t find contact information, phone numbers, email addresses and the like. All that effort to get a visitor there and they don’t know what to do or even if they did they can’t find out how to do it. So, the question of “Just Why Do You Have a Website” is not all that silly. If you know WHY you have the website you can optimise it to generate traffic and you can create the calls to action and the means for that call to action to succeed. If you don’t do those two things then there really is no need for you to even have a website!

To find out more about how search engine optimisation can work for your business and truly generate more leads for your business contact Hamilton Web Solutions on 01227 811708 or email info@ hamiltonwebsolutions.co.uk www.hamiltonwebsolutions.co.uk

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11/06/2012 14:46

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Focus on marketing KEY QUESTIONS


Creative marketing strategist, Mel Larsen tells TB the two big questions that will radically change the way you look at marketing your business

The big two… “People need to hear, see and feel that they are valued”

here are two common pitfalls in marketing your business: one is to take yourself for granted and the other is to take your customers for granted. If you don’t notice when this is happening, your relationship with your customers can become like a good marriage gone stale. There are days when routines drive us and long task lists dominate our every waking thought. On those days, we may forget that no matter what our product, at the heart of our work are relationships. Here are two questions that, if asked regularly, will make a positive difference to how you think about marketing your business over the long-term: 1 What would my customers’ lives be like if my company didn’t exist? Asking yourself this question forces you to really look at what is unique or special about your company. If you take your business seriously, then it’s likely that your products and

services make a significant difference to people’s lives: so much so that they are willing to spend time, effort and money with you. It’s shocking how many times women in particular casually put themselves down in conversation, even when talking about their own business. If you don’t value yourself, it is very hard to authentically convey your value to others. Self-doubt can be a useful and healthy thing, but when it becomes a habit, it’s a problem. One way to re-connect with the value you are creating is to ask a few of your loyal customers to talk in-depth about what you give them, how your product makes them feel, and what they see in you. I don’t mean hire a research team to do it for you, although that has its place. Make a few calls yourself. If you really listen intently to both the words and the tone they use, the answers may surprise and inspire you. If not, you will know it’s time to look for where improvements can be made. 2 What would my life be like if my customers didn’t exist? How much do you value your customers? “100%”, you may reply, but do you ever take them for granted, even just a little bit? Do you ever moan about them or even resent them? Without customers, you would have no business. Also remember that without customers you would lose a core purpose in your life. That may sound extreme, but think about it: you spend most of your waking life at work, making a difference to other people’s lives. Customers are like any other relationship in your life, in that occasionally people need to hear, see and feel that they are valued. How do your customers know for certain that you value them? Think about yourself as a customer. Think about those companies that treat you as just another routine part of their day, and then compare that to

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Focus on marketing KEY QUESTIONS

“You need to fulfill your brand promise from the heart”

the companies that make you feel special: the ones that do wonderful, unexpected things. Most people will choose to recommend the latter. In today’s challenging times, people are looking more than ever for extra value and certainty. Being treated as valuable can make the difference between someone putting up with routine service or choosing to find special treatment elsewhere. People really appreciate feeling cared for – it doesn’t have to cost you more money, it just needs to come from the heart. Ensure you reward loyalty: tell or show a group of loyal customers how much you value them. Organise a reception, special offer or discount for them. This should help get you feeling energised and thinking more creatively. Another positive side effect may be that you come up with new ideas for your products, services and marketing. Moving your marketing on It’s worth integrating the approach and insights from the two questions above into your marketing strategy for two reasons, and funnily enough

they are both related to matters of the heart: firstly you need to fulfill your brand promise from the heart and feel good about doing so. The insights from the second question will help you keep re-connecting with the deep self-belief and inspiration that prompted you to start your business in the first place. Even the most committed business owner needs to recharge their batteries from time to time. Secondly, all new customers will be making their initial buying decisions based on an emotional response. They will of course rationalise their choices later when they look at practical aspects, such as price and convenience, but the more you understand their likely immediate emotional responses the more you can communicate in a way that really clicks for them. The information you gain from your existing customers can give you clues as to what those impulses are likely to be for new buyers. Look to the first question for these insights. If you are a small business and can’t afford a lot of research reports, a few phone calls can make a surprising

difference and help you to step outside your internal view of your business. Over the long-term, thinking in this way will help you to keep strengthening the bonds between you and your customers in a way that makes you happy too. Don’t be like the spouse who makes the error of thinking Valentine’s Day doesn’t matter any more – your success and your customers’ satisfaction all hangs on great relationships. Keep asking these questions to keep the relationship fresh. Contact: www.mellarsen.com

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Focus on marketing EMAIL MARKETING

We all get bombarded with marketing emails. Donna Hewitt of Elephant Creative Solutions shares her top ten secrets of smart emarketing

The email trail Every time I open my emails, 80% of them seem to be from people I don’t know about things I’m not interested in. So what makes a good business marketing email stand out from the crowd?


Set one objective per email – do you want recipients to register for an event, visit a specific web page or make a purchase? Be careful to only have one strong call to action that is immediately apparent as soon as you view the email.


Don’t forget the subject line, it could be the only thing people see – it’s all too easy to focus your attention on the message content and dash out any old subject line. But this is what makes a recipient decide whether to open the email or not, so consider this as much as you do the main email message.


Carefully consider the sender name that you use from the outset – try to make it sound “human”, like a real person is sending the email, rather than a generic email address such as “info@company.co.uk”. Instead, why not try “donna@company. co.uk”?



Decide who you are sending your email to at the beginning of the process. Don’t send every email to all of your database. Instead, target different segments with different messages. This will enable you to have a strong, targeted message – and thereby increase your response rate and ROI.

“Try to make it sound human, like a real person is sending the email”


It’s imperative that you include an unsubscribe link within each email you send – make sure you test the process so if someone does click on this link they are actually unsubscribed quickly.


Test personalisation within your emails – it’s so much friendlier to read “Dear Donna” at the start of an email rather than “Dear customer”. If you’re able to, try to personalise the subject line too.

10 Keep your emails out of spam folders – check with your email broadcasting software provider, as they are likely to have already built a number of methods into their software.


A/B testing in email marketing can have a massive impact on the end results – only ever test one thing at a time so you can be sure what variables have affected the results. Things to test include subject lines, HTML versus Plain Text, personalisation, imagery, headlines, copy, design, messaging hierarchy…the list is endless!


The day and time that you send an email can have a huge impact on the open rate, clickthrough rate and response rate, so test this until you are confident you’ve got the best combination.

Always check how your message looks in different email formats – all too often an email looks great in Outlook and so it’s sent to the recipient list, only to find that in Yahoo or Hotmail the images don’t render correctly.

“Don’t send every email to all of your database ”

There are a lot of things to consider when planning email campaigns, but don’t be scared – if you can get them right, email marketing can be a really cost-effective, quick way to target your audience.

Contact: www.elephantcreative.co.uk

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07/06/2012 14:27

Focus on people

The power of PR Not all press is good press. Columnist Lee McQueen, director of recruitment company Raw Talent Academy, explains why it pays to invest in quality PR As with any business, from start-ups to large global corporations, choosing where to invest your money is crucial. Often things are tight, and a wrong decision can be hugely costly, both financially and in terms of the progression of your business. Since I started my company, Raw Talent Academy, I have regularly invested in PR. There can be a tendency for SMEs to overlook the importance of spending money on PR, but for me, good PR is invaluable to a business. Obviously there are countless other ways to publicise your business with advertising, marketing stunts etc – but good PR can give you not only publicity, but also credibility. Credibility is hugely important to a new business, and you can usually divide this into two target groups that you can reach through PR. Firstly your bread and butter customers. When someone buys a newspaper, logs on to a website or tunes in to a radio station they choose to do so for a reason, usually because they trust that media outlet, and more often than not

“PR is no longer just a case of getting your name in the papers”

“It can be an extremely cost effective way of publicising your business”

agree with its editorial decisions and opinions. Therefore, if someone hears good things about your business on their favourite radio station, they are more likely to remember that and take note of it – and may well keep you in mind for next time they need a service that you offer. This credibility is also hugely important for another target group: potential investors. If you are pitching for a contract for your company or standing in front of a group of venture capitalists, then it will put you at a massive advantage if you can cite examples of media outlets that have featured your business. It will impress them, demonstrate that there is genuine interest in your company and help you create a buzz about your brand. In today’s world, the vast majority of people use Google to find out what they want. PR is no longer just a case of getting your name in the papers or heard on the radio, it can now also massively increase the online profile of your company. Media outlets often have websites that attract massive

amounts of traffic so feature highly on the Google rankings; getting you or your company on them is a simple way of improving your SEO. Good PR will include links to your own website, thus driving traffic to your own site which can boost your business. Probably one of the most important reasons to invest in PR is that it can be an extremely cost-effective way of publicising your business. A full page advert in a newspaper can cost several thousand pounds, yet a full page article in a newspaper can be achieved with good PR at a fraction of the cost to your business. Obviously buying advertising space has many positives for a business, but the fact is it doesn’t come cheap. Keeping your face out there is important and has many benefits. It will keep you ahead of your competitors, raise your profile and get you good value exposure and publicity. Contact: www.rawtalentacademy.com

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06/06/2012 15:24


‘You’re fired’ Letting staff go is never easy. Margery McBain, founder of Gravitate HR, explains how to follow the correct procedure when firing

“Employee dismissal can be a complex area with many pitfalls and obstacles”

Firing employees is never a pleasant experience, but it is unfortunately a necessary one in business. It is not as simple as just pointing your finger at someone and saying ‘You’re fired’, like Lord Sugar on The Apprentice. There are repercussions. Effective and safe dismissal as opposed to ‘firing’ can be carried out, but it does depend on following the correct policy, process and procedure. It should always be the last resort, following on from unsuccessful informal and formal disciplinary action that has failed to solve the issue in question. Read on to find out how you can conduct dismissal entirely by the book to avoid any unpleasant, unfair and costly consequences for those involved. Step 1 – put policies in place Make sure that you have upto-date and accurate contracts of employment with a related disciplinary and grievance policy and procedure, which is agreed upon and signed. If you do not have this in place,

you should get some advice on what contractual terms and policy provisions are appropriate for your business, and get this consulted and agreed upon among employees. Without this in place there is a lack of clarity within the employment relationship. If there is a breach or somebody steps out of line and you do not have this in place, then it can be quite difficult and messy. A good place to begin to get advice on your obligations and rights as an employer is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). They have a range of guidance notes and codes of conduct online which are helpful, or you can phone for specific advice. Step 2 – conduct or capability? Understand the difference between conduct and capability, as the way that you approach a disciplinary situation will depend on whether it is related to an employee’s conduct or capability. Conduct is about behaviour, therefore concerns what somebody has done, and

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misconduct is typically related to a specific incident in which an employee’s behaviour is alleged to be unacceptable. General examples include: stealing; accessing IT sites that are prohibited; fighting and being abusive to customers or colleagues. A conduct issue can be treated as an isolated incident and a penalty applied in proportion with the misdemeanour. So if your disciplinary policy states that stealing is considered to be gross misconduct, and by following a structured and statutory process it is found that there is conclusive evidence that theft has occurred, a possible outcome would be summary dismissal. Capability, on the other hand, is related to the person’s performance or ability to fulfil the job requirements. Typically this could be an aspect of their performance, such as poor attendance or failure to achieve key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives. The treatment of capability issues is quite different – there needs to be a series of interventions in which there is an outcome and improvement plan or objectives put in place, which are then reviewed at regular

intervals. If improvement does not materialise, then further disciplinary action can be taken and escalation through the process over time may lead to dismissal. So before you proceed, decide which approach is appropriate and consider whether it is a misconduct issue or whether it is related to capability.

“Do not make assumptions or cut corners in the investigation”

Step 3 – follow the process For any disciplinary process to be considered fair (irrespective of the decisionmaking) it must follow the ACAS Code of Conduct. This is a very condensed version of the process to follow and is considered to be the bare minimum required:


Always investigate – it is very important to conduct a thorough investigation to establish the facts. You may need to take written statements from those involved – these may be employees, customers, witnesses or other third parties. Do not make assumptions or cut corners in the investigation. You need to ask questions, take statements and find out what evidence there is to support or refute the allegations.


Inform the employee in writing – you must write to the employee to advise them of their rights and the nature of the allegations that have been made. At this point you should share the evidence that you have collected to support the allegations.


Hold a disciplinary hearing to which the employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or Trade Union representative if they belong to a union. Ask lots of questions, listen to the responses and make sure that you have given the employee an opportunity to represent themselves fairly.


Consider all the evidence and information available before making a decision. You can take some time to deliberate on the evidence in order to make a considered judgment.


Confirm the outcome in writing to the employee within the timeframes in your policy and give the employee the right of appeal. You may also have to meet some contractual requirements in the case of dismissal, for example accrued holiday pay or pay in lieu of notice.

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Step 4 – reflect, review and revise There is always something to be learnt from an incident or managed process, and it is good to consider if there are improvements you can make to prevent similar circumstances reccurring. You also need to think about communication to employees and whether any learning can be passed on, or whether confidentiality prevents this. The costs of getting it wrong are high: the average award for an unfair dismissal claim from 2010-2011 was £8924. That is what you might have to pay to an aggrieved employee in tribunal if the case was found against you. In addition to the management cost of preparing for a tribunal, you may also have to pay for advisors to help you navigate through the process. Employee dismissal can be a complex area with many pitfalls and obstacles. To avoid some of these you should: • Have agreed contracts and policies in place and actively managed • Train managers on legal obligations and policy provisions • Act fairly and promptly when you have a concern • Consider informal action or alternative approaches, such as mediation • Take some advice if you are unsure • Take action – no action can be even more corrosive in a business

Dismissals are regarded as unfair if an employee expresses specific rights concerned with: • Pregnancy/maternity leave • Family reasons • Discrimination • Pay and working hours

“The costs of getting it wrong are high”

This article only touches the surface of this complicated issue, but should hopefully give you confidence that there is plenty of help and support available to assist at every stage. It is in the remit of all managers to manage performance, and managing disciplinary issues comes with the territory, so you should make sure you are always compliant and act in accordance with the correct regulations, policy and procedure. Contact: www.gravitatehr.co.uk

Dismissal procedure at a glance… • Step 1: Ensure you have up-to-date and accurate contracts of employment with a related disciplinary and grievance policy • Step 2: Consider whether it is a misconduct issue or whether it is related to capability and respond accordingly • Step 3: Follow a disciplinary process which adheres to the ACAS Code of Conduct • Step 4: Reflect and consider if there are improvements you can make to prevent similar circumstances reccurring

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06/06/2012 15:26

Focus on people FLEXIBLE WORKING

Senior associate at Fox Solicitors, Emma Clark, tells us why we should move out of the Victorian era and embrace flexible working

Working 9-to-5? In a recent speech, Nick Clegg said that the Government wanted to examine the option of extending flexible working beyond mums and dads. He talked about extending flexible leave to grandparents or close family friends in order to make it ‘much more common – a cultural norm’. The law currently restricts the right to request flexible working to parents with children under 17 (or 18 if the child is disabled) or to carers. Sometimes such a request can stall or, at worst, end careers. It is often sensible for working parents to mention at interview stage that they want to work flexibly, whether it is working four days a week, asking for a job share partner, or leaving on a certain number of days to collect children from school. Refusing these requests can result in an unnecessary loss of talent. An employer is fully entitled to refuse such a request on the basis of a “genuine business ground”, such as the negative effect on customer demand, quality or performance or due to the effect on existing staff. As we have read many times before, flexible working can instil immense loyalty in workers and improve staff

morale. This is often seen by management as a “nice” employee relations exercise and something that firmly falls within the remit of human resources. However, true change should come from management. There are many positive business advantages of flexible/remote working, and the real-life examples detailed below illustrate the benefits. Now is the time to consider extending the option of flexible working beyond the current legal remit. Remote working does not mean working from a kitchen table surrounded by noisy children and builders. It means working anywhere that is not the firm’s physical office assisted by the use of skype, facetime and video conferencing to discuss matters with colleagues and clients. Employers often argue that they cannot be certain their employees are working hard. There is an element of trust in every employment relationship. Unproductive people will find ways to procrastinate whether they are remote working or gossiping with colleagues in the office. These issues should be managed through appropriate HR procedures.

“Flexible working can instil immense loyalty in workers and improve staff morale”

“Remote working can also have an enormous benefit in reducing sick days”

Remote working provides an employer with access to new markets. If your employee wants to spend a couple of hours after school with their child to assist them with their homework, coach a sports team every Wednesday afternoon, or pursue a passion for music by giving regular piano recitals, then why not let them take the afternoon off work and reach your American client market for four hours that evening? This will invariably deliver a better and extended service for clients in our age of amazing technological advancement. Remote working can also have an enormous benefit in reducing sick days. According to a study of 24,000 IBM staff worldwide, employees who worked flexibly were able to work an additional 19 hours a week before they experienced the same levels of stress as those who did not work flexibly. Reducing current levels of sickness is key for any employer, and the positive effects of flexible and remote working could therefore result in a win-win situation. Remote working can manage the increasing high percentage of office space that employers fail to utilise. Companies like

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Focus on people FLEXIBLE WORKING

Flexible working can: • • • • •

Provide access to new markets Reduce sick days Free up office space Reduce your environmental impact Meet the European Working Time Directive head-on

“Remote working does not mean working from a kitchen table surrounded by noisy children”

BT allow their staff to vary their hours for a range of different reasons. This has resulted in the need for less office space, and BT claims to have saved £500m. Remote working frees up this space and reduces what is often considered to be “dead commuting time”, especially when individuals need to change their mode of transportation a number of times in one journey in order to reach their office. How about the environmental impact? Twenty two percent of UK domestic carbon emissions are from traffic. The Government is currently considering legislation to reduce parking spaces at work, with Nottingham leading the way and imposing a “Workplace Parking Levy”. With the ongoing focus on reducing carbon emissions, remote working is a pragmatic solution and is certain to impress employees and shareholders. The Government has recommenced the fight to prevent Europe from making our employees work less than 48 hours per week. Trade unions and employer organisations (collectively called “the social partners”) are trying to reach an agreement on working time issues by September 2012. The main debate in Europe relating to the Working Time Regulations 1998, which implement the European Working Time Directive (the “Regulations”), is whether or not Europe will still allow the UK to ask its middle management and junior staff to sign a

document, often attached to an employment contract, in which they agree to “opt out” of the 48 hour working week. Although it is often hard to exceed the 48 hour working week (as it applies over a rolling 17 week reference period), the fundamental aim of the restriction is to protect workers from the health and safety consequences of overworking. Rather than rely on this stringent 48 hour working week, or lose sleep over the health and safety liabilities that might arise if these hours are exceeded, employers could start to focus less on potential loopholes and consider offering employees the right to work flexibly and remotely. Meeting clients and colleagues face-to-face is hard to beat and should always be encouraged. However,

all employers, whether large or small, should think imaginatively. A strategic business decision, led by members of management who want to move out of the Victorian era and embrace the benefits of ever-changing technology, could change the workforce of the future. Employees should be judged by the results they achieve and not by presenteeism. Contact: www.foxlawyers.com

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06/06/2012 15:29

Focus on people STAFF ENGAGEMENT

“Who are your bankers and who are your obstructers?”

People power Richard Close, chief executive at Briggs Equipment, advises on how to transform the fortunes of a flagging business by engaging employees


n the past few years, the status of the UK and global economy has meant that many business owners have faced hard decisions. When times are tough, it can be tempting to give up and take the easiest route out. However, this should be the very last resort, and there are steps you can take to transform the fortunes of your business, to ensure quitting isn’t an option. Firstly, you must establish your business transformation agenda from the outset – are you pursuing a long-term strategy or a short-term win? Each will require a very different approach and different ethics. Are you in for the long-haul, or do you want to get it back on the straight and narrow in order to sell the business? If you feel like your business has hit rock bottom, take a step back and consider why this has happened. It might be that customers are no longer purchasing your products and services, that your competitors are in a healthier position and can offer better deals, or that your suppliers have increased costs and you are struggling to meet them.

These problems are not insurmountable; amend your product offering to suit customers’ preferences, undertake a strategic marketing campaign to stave off the competition or switch suppliers.

Staff engagement

More often than not the answer is not so straightforward. In my experience, when a company is failing it is very often due to a lack of staff engagement. By identifying this as the problem, you are already half way to ensuring a successful business turnaround. It may be a cliché, but staff are indeed your biggest asset, and their engagement and level of happiness is likely to be the catalyst for your business’ success or failure. In terms of staff, you first need to ascertain who are your bankers and who are your obstructers. By this I mean the senior members on the team who are on your side, and those that aren’t. Unfortunately there will always be people who want you to fail, whatever you do, often because they feel threatened. Once you have established who are your bankers, ensure 

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Focus on people STAFF ENGAGEMENT

they are in your “top team”, whether that is round the board table or as part of senior management. While it’s important to ensure balance and not be surrounded by yes men, ascertain who will be a positive influence, and can be relied upon to support you. While getting management on board is essential, it is the attitude of the majority of staff that will have the widest impact on your business transformation. Primarily, the group that must be engaged with immediately are the staff that have customer-facing roles, as they are the ones that can make or break your brand. It is imperative that they convey an impression of belief and contentment in the company they work for, because negativity passed on to the customer can lose you business immediately. So how do you engage your employees to ensure they are communicating positively to potential customers? It need not be expensive. Over the last 20 years, I have undertaken the turnaround of a number of businesses, transforming them from loss-making companies into organisations making multi-million pound profits by ensuring that employee engagement is at the top of the priority list. Believe it or not, although financial reward is appreciated, it is rarely the primary motivator for staff, and there are a number of inexpensive and simple tactics you can use to engage them:

1 Empowerment

“It is through people that you will survive”

Allow staff to have the freedom to make decisions, and make them aware they are accountable for them. Many business owners make the mistake of taking on too much responsibility, and hand-holding their staff. It may be difficult to let go and trust others, and inevitably mishaps and mistakes will occur along the way, but in the long-term it will ensure you can separate the wheat from the chaff. You are likely to be pleasantly surprised – if staff are held accountable for their decisions, they will consider them more carefully and evaluate the consequences before going ahead.

2 Reward programmes

While we would all love to be in a position where we can reward staff with substantial financial incentives, few are able to do so in the current climate. If you have the option, perhaps reward instead with shares in the business, which will not have an immediate impact on your bottom line, and will encourage loyalty and longevity, as staff are more likely to commit to the long term. Instigate an internal reward scheme, perhaps awarding an “employee of the month”, or enter external award programmes for your industry. These are a fairly inexpensive way of raising staff morale.

3 Invite feedback

Staff will appreciate being asked their opinion on issues affecting the business. Run regular workshops where staff can communicate any idea

they have, or perhaps set up an anonymous staff feedback campaign in case they feel reluctant to speak their mind. There may be a number of issues that cause staff to feel unmotivated that have not even occurred to you, and may be simple to change.

4 Be honest

If it is unavoidable to make staff cuts for business survival, ensure you do so in a transparent and honest manner, and make absolutely sure you are aware of the legal issues involved. While letting staff go is never pleasant, as long as it is for the right reasons – business survival as opposed to increasing profits – on the whole, they will understand. No matter what the size and sector of a business, it is likely you will witness peaks and troughs in its lifetime. Regardless, my experience has shown that it is through people that you will survive. Business turnaround is only possible through staff engagement. Despite the unpleasant decisions to be made along the way, by motivating and rewarding your team you are in a strong position to improve productivity and be on the path to future success.

Contact: www.briggsequipment.co.uk

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Is your outsourced HR handpicked for your business?


or many small and medium companies outsourced HR is often the sensible, efficient and economical way of ensuring that their HR provision complies with legislation and that contracts and policies protect both the employees and the company.

understood their products and familiarised themselves with the organisation and ethos in which the contracts and policies will be used and nothing is printed until agreed to and signed off by the company so that they are fully satisfied with the contents.

However, in many instances this also means ‘off-the-shelf’ contracts, working on the basis that one size fits all. Of course one size does not fit all, no one would buy clothes or shoes this way so why buy your HR this way? Similarly, pulling contracts off the internet may seem like a cheap and quick way to solve the issue but they often need filling in and can you be sure that you are putting the right things in the spaces?

It goes without saying that any HR materials must comply with the law and current legislation and we ensure that they do, but the needs of an IT company are different to the needs of a company with a factory shop floor and this should be recognised. This is especially pertinent in terms of Health and Safety, the requirements of H&S compliance on a shop floor are different to the needs of a small office environment.

QHR Solutions believes that a company’s HR contracts, policies and procedures should be written specifically for that company, in other words bespoke to their needs. All industries have their own ‘language’ and terminology and things should be written to reflect that, there is little use in having a contract or policy that employees can’t understand.

There are many individual things that may, or may not, need to be included in your contracts. If your company has vehicles do your contracts contain a vehicle policy? If you visit client’s premises do you have a policy setting out the protocols for this? Do you work with children, if so are you sure that you are fully compliant with child protection rules?

QHR Solutions never write anything until they have visited the company,

The support offered by your HR company should also be

comprehensive, you may have a situation for which you need help but the help should take into account the needs of your business as well as complying with the law, to do this the HR company needs to understand your business and not just offer you an instant solution but be able to discuss the implications of that solution in the context of your business needs. So, outsourcing HR a good idea? Yes, we believe so, but you should ensure that the company you choose can provide you with what you need, can write to reflect your business and can offer sensible and relevant support To discover the value that QHR can add to your business, contact us today on: P: 01253 350002 M: 07914 939020 E: info@qhr-solutions.co.uk W: www.qhr-solutions.co.uk

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11/06/2012 15:00

Secret diary of an entrepreneur This month, CEO of WeAreTheCity.com Vanessa Vallely nipped to Spain, Scotland and almost Singapore to discuss expansion. Talk Business shares her diary


onsidered one of the 100 most influential women in the City of London, Vanessa Vallely started WeAreTheCity.com in 2008. It has now grown into the leading women’s information portal for the latest news, events for women, networking, careers, jobs and competitions in London and the UK. Vanessa recently took a whirlwind tour from Marbella to Edinburgh, to see which city WeAreTheCity should travel to next.

Day 1: Marbella

WeAreTheCity.com was built for professional women who work in the City of London and Canary Wharf to be their online “little black book” in terms of professional development, support and lifestyle choice. For some time now we’ve been pondering which city to go for

next; after the site achieved 1 million hits and 50,000 visitors, it seemed ripe for expansion. Stansted, usually my airport nemesis, is surprisingly cooperative today. Time to touch base with my PA to forewarn her that my schedule might change as the next three days of meetings progress. TOWIE may have put Marbella on the map, but there’s a buzz about this tiny little part of Spain that I’m interested to explore; I can’t wait to see how women network in Spain. En route to my first meeting, I call the directors of The Retreat, a pop-up hospitality venue being created in the heart of the City. It seems the Olympics have unleashed every off-the-wall, can’t-possibly-work dream, waved a magic wand and plonked them straight into reality. Bang! This idea has got everyone excited, with its fine dining, Champagne garden, nightclub, games rooms…WeAreTheCity. com put in a bid to create the backstage boudoir, dedicated to all things female, and this morning’s great news is that our sponsorship is confirmed. Which means we now have to design

the interiors, organise furniture, partners, branding, tickets, marketing, PR, props, makeup artists, stylists and hair creatives. Second call becomes an SOS to Louisa Barnett of Butterfly boutiques, with a request to make at least half this list disappear for me. My first meeting is with Tim Arnold, my mentor. He’s slightly less interested in my idea for 6ft pink shoe chairs for The Retreat than WeAreTheCity expansion, advertising and revenue stream plans. Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but mentors are mine – directing, challenging and inspiring me. Tim has been with me for years. I’m concerned that Europe, with the Euro, Greece and the crisis of confidence hanging over it, might not be the right place to look at first. In three years we’ve built a brand that has earned its seat at the table by being a hub for 700 global women’s networks, and the women we want to be in front of need to be actively optimistic, socially engaged and information hungry. He instantly feels that it’s not the right time for Spain, with the economy – and even WiFi

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Focus on people SECRET DIARY

availability – reducing scalability and impact. We look at a few magazines that are more or less WeAreTheCity in print and run through alternatives. Asia, Tim thinks. Large ex-pat community, many secondment jobs, sociallyactive women, entrepreneurs. I call my PA – is Singapore not Stockholm possible? She laughs. No amount of diary shuffling magic can make that happen this quickly. Next call is to another makeit-happen woman, Helen at D3 Marketing, who is heading up our sales, PR and commercial development projects with us. She’s also in Marbella overseeing a client’s film project so we discuss a soft launch for our new jobs board, due to the Olympics and The Retreat project diverting resources and attention. We settle on an official launch date of October and within an hour, a prestigious city launch venue is booked and the guest list being compiled. I meet up briefly with an influential friend. She mandates the economy situation in Spain and agrees with Tim’s view on the market not being right for us, but links me in to key women, networks and speaking events

that might act as a slow burn platform for the future. With that, it’s back to the airport to head to Edinburgh via Stansted.

Day 2: Edinburgh

Home to some exceptional companies such as Blackrock and RBS, I think Edinburgh might be small enough and close enough for us to cut our teeth on in terms of a first franchise. Some of the female networks here already promote themselves through the London portal, so the transition wouldn’t be hard. There is a young vibe that could evolve a different kind of WeAreTheCity, perhaps more of a 60/40 split in terms of lifestyle/professional development. While I’m still in the air, the team on land are beavering away, sending me names, networks and research on publications active in women’s diversity – by the time I hit Edinburgh, meetings are confirmed and I’m fully prepped. The temperature may have dropped through the floor, but the palpable energy of the city is still going through the roof. I spend the morning talking with Maggie Berry, head of Women in Technology, who just happens to be Scottish. She

“There’s a buzz about this tiny little part of Spain that I’m interested to explore”

knows women’s networks inside out and has been a long time friend and confidant. She points me in the direction of the3rdI, and promises to hook me up with her contacts there. As I leave Edinburgh armed with ideas and reams of A4 notes, I take a call about speaking at a future women’s conference in Qatar. With media and public perception being one of extreme inequality when it comes to the life of Arab women, Qatar has embarked on a diverse programme of support and opportunities that are all about empowerment. It’s uplifting to hear about initiatives being put in place from the very top echelons of power. Despite my diary looking like that of ten people and my husband sometimes thinking I’m a figment of his imagination, it’s days like these spent connecting with forward thinking people that make being an entrepreneur the best job in the world. A Singapore Sling back in my favourite London haunt seems like an appropriate way to celebrate. Contact: wearethecity.com

“He’s slightly less interested in my idea for 6ft pink shoe chairs than WeAreTheCity expansion”

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Focus on


I’m just browsing What’s the best browser for your business? Bari Abdul, vice president of Check Point’s consumer business, gives his advice on staying safe on the web When a massive spam attack posted violent and indecent images across the news feeds of many Facebook users last year, many wondered how hackers had launched the attack. As it turns out, it was by exploiting a vulnerability in users’ web browsers. The event shed light on an often overlooked issue of online security: your web browser. There are many browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But the real question is: which browser offers the most protection for your business? Many browsers are fighting for market share, and therefore paying more attention to their security, but popularity is not necessarily based on security.


A recent study has revealed that the UK’s most popular browser, Internet Explorer, isn’t ranked as the most secure compared to the second most popular browser, Google Chrome, which won the title. Although all browsers and vendors are vulnerable to attacks, it remains difficult for the most commonly used browser, currently Internet Explorer, to also claim the prize for most secure. Since it has millions of users around the world and the largest market share, it naturally tends to be a favourite target for cyber attacks. Last month the German Government also named Chrome the most secure browser, lending weight to the study. Overall, Chrome ranks the highest in creating and putting into use new safety measures to boost its security, with Internet Explorer only slightly behind. Firefox was deemed the least secure in the study. Despite these recent findings, the browser wars remain a hot-button issue, with various entities dubbing some browsers more secure than others. During a hacker conference in

2011, at which hackers attacked four popular browsers – Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome – the hackers were able to quickly compromise Internet Explorer and Safari. Regardless of the browser, all manufacturers are always working to ensure users can enjoy surfing the web safely and securely. However, alongside these security advances, cybercriminals worldwide step up in their attempt to break through these security barriers and continue the hacking process. This means that it’s important for businesses to educate themselves about this threat and take the steps necessary to lessen their chances of falling victim to a browser security breach.

“It’s important for businesses to educate themselves about this threat”

How do browser attacks work?

During a browser attack, what hackers typically do is create deceptive web pages or links that redirect the user to undesired locations that then download malicious software onto the user’s PC. The attacker then exploits the access as if they are the user with full rights, and can steal sensitive or private information, hijack

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Focus on technology BEST BROWSERS

the browsing session or use the original target computer to attack other computers, leaving businesses at serious risk. These exploits can even affect secure web browsers protected by SSL certificates, such as banks or credit card companies that hold highly sensitive data, which can then be stolen by the hackers. While many years ago you could get infected typically if you downloaded a bad program or perhaps pirated software from odd web pages, cyber attacks have now become a lot more sophisticated. Today, hackers can inject malware directly into reputable websites that businesses and their employees may visit every day.

How to stay safe

A mixture of both simpleto-implement tips and more complex advice, the guidelines below will help protect your business and its intellectual property from potential attacks, whatever browser you choose to use… • If you plan to download a new or different browser, make sure you are downloading a legitimate version. Go directly

to the manufacturer’s site and ignore ads or pop-ups – they may be tricks to get you to install a corrupt version. • Set your online preferences to allow for software updates. Some browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Safari, will automatically update with your operating system. But others, including Firefox, automatically update themselves to deploy security patches and provide enhanced security features. • Set your browser’s security settings to the highest possible to prevent others from exploiting your browser. • Disable pop-ups in your browser or install security software that prevents pop-up windows. Deploying infected pop-ups is a popular way that hackers trick users into downloading malware. • Sandbox your browser. Also known as browser virtualization, it prevents the browser from affecting user data, other applications or the operating system. This works by redirecting the web attacks to a sandbox, where the

attempted attack is trapped and cannot access or harm the operating system. • To safeguard against web-based threats in an enterprise environment, it’s highly recommended to complete protection with an IPS system that will detect and block these attacks.

“Cyber-criminals worldwide step up in their attempt to break through these security barriers”

• For ultimate protection, businesses should disable built-in browser functionalities and configure security settings so that Java applets, JavaScript and VBSScript, ActiveX controls don’t run automatically. This will decrease the risk of attacks through feature vulnerabilities. Finally, regardless of which browser you use or the size of your business and the level of computer use, always follow safe practices and remain alert to any unusual or suspicious functioning when you log on to the web. Contact: www.checkpoint.com www.zonealarm.com

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Modern businesses rely heavily on the processing power and communications functions of computers, so it’s critically important to keep your IT systems operating reliable and efficiently at all times. Based in Glasgow, DSIS is a computing and IT company specialising in ensuring the smooth and effective operation of all your computer equipment, programs and networks. We have decades of knowledge, from hardware replacement and data recovery through to hosting websites and dealing with email viruses. As a result, you can simply focus on your day-today business, leaving us to handle computing matters without stress or interruption.

How my Sunday brainwave added 17% to Tuesday’s sales Sunday morning jog. I’m thinking: can outlets sell more of our self-distributed magazine? Display them more prominently? Why not reward those who can increase their sales by the biggest percentage! I’m a pianist, not a computer whizz kid, but with Ffenics I built a database system to handle our distribution. In less than an hour that Monday I tweaked the app to add issue-by-issue comparisons for each outlet. Vans went out Tuesday. When we collected later, the inducement for a better shop position paid off with 17% more sales!

Stay Ahead – Grow Your Own App! Just like my venture, your business needs to tweak operations to be more efficient, profitable and ahead of the competition. Computer apps are essential in this battle. Free and open source is fine for common functions like accounts. But to gain your edge, you need to control your data. Ffenics puts you – the business owner – in the driving seat. It’s your friend at work.

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07/06/2012 13:50

Focus on technology IT INVESTMENT

The UK has sunk back into a recession, if the official estimate of economic growth in the first quarter is to be believed. However, I believe the underlying strength of the economy is probably much more robust than this data suggests. The danger is that the gloomy outlook delivers a fatal blow to the fragile revival of business confidence seen so far this year.

Short-sighted vision

Playing the

long game

With a double dip recession to contend with, the temptation is to cut costs on IT. MD of MSM Software, Thomas Coles, explains why this could be a huge mistake for your business

I also fear that the news of the double dip recession will mean businesses place cost cutting at the top of the organisational agenda, with IT training, salaries and investment in particular, coming under scrutiny. While sensible cost-management is a sound strategy, this is a process that must be managed carefully so the long-term health of the organisation is safeguarded. Recession is often regarded as an opportunity to implement strategic change that would otherwise not have occurred. Unfortunately, many businesses (understandably) become too preoccupied with short-term survival to think about innovation and growth, or lack the resources to implement such strategies effectively. This often means essential IT projects or investment in technology is placed on hold, and the IT department itself may be streamlined to save costs. I firmly believe businesses which drastically cut their IT resources are making a big mistake and putting themselves at risk and harming their chance of recovery.

Investing in the future

In my experience, many businesses view technology as a cost, not an investment. This line of thinking can be detrimental to an organisation and its future growth. Without investment in new IT systems, projects and technologies, no new wave of productivity improvement is possible. I strongly advise that IT and technology investments are the price of continuing to

compete on both a domestic and international level. In China and other emerging economies, the technological infrastructure is attracting huge investment. While this may not impact upon a business operating in the UK in the short-term, it is important to consider how the landscape may change in the next five or ten years. A lack of investment now may put a business on the back foot when the economy returns to growth. Holding onto older equipment may also work in the short term, but it leaves businesses vulnerable to competitors making fresh investments – gaining higher productivity, and in turn more satisfied customers.

The IT factor

With increasing pressure being applied to businesses to generate more sales with fewer resources, IT can be a vital enabler to succeed within these stringent frameworks. Tablet and mobile devices, applications and interfaces for example, are forecast to be the top strategic technologies with the potential to significantly impact on enterprise over the next three years. Wider tablet and smartphone use also offers the potential for savings in IT resourcing and infrastructure. The use of personal devices for business purposes is increasing, with 25% of both larger enterprises and SMEs supporting their use in the workplace.

Innovation on a budget

There are a number of ways organisations can reduce IT overheads while promoting the innovation needed to sustain growth and competitiveness. In my experience, many businesses are now looking to IT outsourcing not only as a means to generate cost savings, but for its ability to allow a company’s inhouse team to focus on their core activities, bringing in dedicated, technical specialists to act as an extension of that team. Outsourcing also presents one

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Focus on technology IT INVESTMENT

of the key ways of introducing change into business culture through outside innovation. Outsourced specialists know what companies across a broad range of industries around the world are doing to promote change. An increasing number of organisations have also begun to understand the benefits of supplier consolidation, contract and performance management, which can aid businesses in terms of both risk avoidance and lowering costs.

Quality counts

Businesses can, during the planning and deployment stages of an IT project, place too much focus on reducing the implementation costs rather than on how the technology will make an operational difference to the organisation in the longterm. I think this is the wrong

“IT and technology investments are the price of continuing to compete on both a domestic and international level”

approach, as it can lead to organisations becoming reluctant to make a more significant investment in IT software implementation, preferring to limit expenditure by opting for a cheaper provider with less quality assurance. This can even increase IT overheads in the long-term if the technology doesn’t perform as well as expected. A recent survey commissioned by MSM Software revealed that 63% of organisations admitted to being involved in projects that had not achieved the desired level of success. Failed IT projects can lead to lack of buy-in, loss of revenue, profit and customers, so it’s important that organisations look beyond the initial costs and consider whether the software will be reliable and fit for purpose, not just tomorrow but in the future.

IT is the solution

I believe that businesses which continue to invest in IT will overcome the increased revenue challenges and market uncertainties that are present. Winners always emerge out of recessions, and they almost always beat their competition on the basis of something new. For example, Apple worked on iTunes, iPod and the iPad during the last recession and came back strong once growth returned. IT can be deployed as the enabler for organisations to survive difficult economic times and come out the other side stronger, with fresh propositions for growth. This is why businesses must carefully consider their IT needs and the level of investment required to remain competitive – or they could find themselves being left behind when the economy returns to growth. Contact: www.msmsoftware.com

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04/05/2012 14:54

Focus on technology IT SURVEY

Getting IT right New research highlights that too many businesses are investing in IT without consulting their supplier first. Steve Holford, sales & marketing director of Fasthosts Internet, explains why getting professional advice is the secret to finding the right solution

“It is vital to plan technology investments properly”

“Around half of firms feel that they should have better understood their technology before they made their purchases”

Every business owner would surely agree that technology is an essential investment and can often drive competitive advantage. However, the depth and accuracy with which technology is researched and purchased by business owners can often be affected by the pressures of day-to-day work. Most business owners know that they can benefit from technology, but do they feel supported in their buying of it? A brand new Business Technology Audit of 788 UK small firms, commissioned by Fasthosts, found that large disparities exist between those who are excelling with their use of technology and those that are struggling. The data reveals a split picture between the techhaves and have-nots. The very good news is that 48% of firms report that they have achieved more efficient or ‘smarter working’ through their use of technology. In many firms, technology has improved work methods, driven growth, proved a sound investment and, for over 40%, even proved enjoyable for their staff to use. As a result, one in three companies

surveyed say that they have further technology in mind to implement in the near future. However, a further 35% of business owners are not faring so well. Fifteen per cent are unhappy with the impact their technology has made to their business, and 20% believe they now work harder after introducing it. So what have these firms done differently to lead to these shortcomings? The answer could well lie in the statistic that around half of firms feel that they should have better understood their technology before they made their purchases. Many businesses admit that they simply do not invest the time to ensure that they are buying the best technology for their needs. An inadequate approach to buying and reviewing solutions can lead small businesses to miss out on the maximum value of technology being enjoyed by others. All firms must take steps in order to actively drive the efficiencies they gain. This should begin from the very start – firms can save money by evaluating their needs earlier in the process. It is vital to plan technology investments properly, working with suppliers

to ensure the user needs are clear and the right solutions are being considered. Surprisingly, only one in four firms seek the advice of an IT professional before they make substantial investments in technology, a worrying trend which shows businesses should work more closely with their suppliers before purchase to ensure they buy the right solution. All businesses can gain massively by measuring the success rate of the solutions being deployed and take necessary steps to address errors or shortfalls in performance. In all aspects of buying IT, knowledge is the key to success for businesses; contact suppliers to ask for advice, guidelines, case studies or examples of best-practice usage before an investment and on an on-going basis. Contact: www.fasthosts.co.uk

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11/06/2012 16:13

Focus on technology FREE SOFTWARE

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free software is another matter. With Open Source there’s no need to spend a single penny on your office software according to Richard Jenkins, director of Hamaliel IT Services

The best things in life are free

“If you’re worried about security, don’t be”

“You can guarantee that there will be a thriving online community offering help”

Open Source, in terms of IT, refers to software for which the underlying code or blueprints are freely available for anyone to view, use and modify. Hundreds of geeky people around the world contribute a little slice of their free time to writing software – by fixing bugs, making improvements, etc. – that they and others can benefit from. Said software is also released to the public for nothing. 100% legally free business software; fancy that! Such software usually has a feature set rivalling or overtaking that of commercial alternatives (after all, it’s been developed by the kinds of people who actually might use it). Why pay thousands of pounds to equip your staff PCs with Microsoft Office when you can download and use OpenOffice (www.openoffice. org) for nothing? It has all the same programs a general Office user would need, and while it doesn’t have an Outlook equivalent, Mozilla’s Thunderbird (www.mozilla.org) is a great alternative. There’s even a website dedicated to finding Open Source alternatives to commercial packages – www.osalt.com (Open Source as Alternative). Before you buy any business software, plug the name in there and see if there’s a free option. If there is, give it a try. If it’s not right for your needs you can always uninstall it and make your original purchase. Nothing lost and potentially an awful lot saved. If you’re worried about security, don’t be. No software can be 100% secure, but think about it – a typical Open Source project may have 200 developers working on it on and off. That’s 200 pairs of eyes on the code that can spot potential exploits. Compare that to a typical commercial project with 20 or so developers, and you should see how simply ‘hiding’ the source code may actually make it easier for hackers to find ways in. While Open Source software may not have a dedicated support desk attached to it that you can contact, you can guarantee that there will be a thriving online community offering help,

support and guidance on anything from getting it installed to ‘power user’ stuff. Mention a feature that you’d love to see included, and it may well make it into the next version. I doubt you’d get that sort of service from commercial software companies. It’s true that some Open Source software can be slightly more complex to set up than commercial software (commercial software companies can afford to spend millions on making their setup and configuration procedures as smooth as possible, with userexperience testing and the like), but there is always the option of getting someone in to do that for you. Would you rather pay £500 for software, or £90 to get a consultant in for a couple of hours? Even if you pay to have the entire transition to open-source managed for you, once you have the software, it’s free forever. No paying for updates, upgrades or anything like that. So, before buying that expensive software licence for your business, check out whether you could benefit from the output of the Open Source community – what have you got to lose? Contact: www.hamaliel.co.uk

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ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A RELIABLE FLEXIBLE CLOUD SOLUTION THAT DOESN’T STOP WHEN THE INTERNET STOPS? WABSTOR PRO+ is your cloud based file server, now even remote users can work as though they are in the office without the need for expensive hardware solutions.



256Bit military grade encryption means that your data is always secure and safe.

• All the features of BACKUP & SHARE • Secured group folders • Unlimited users per group • Management portal for full control

• All the features of BACKUP • Share files of any size or types. • Sync files between all PCs • Archive old business data • Edit files in web browser



• 256Bit Military Grade Encryption • Keeps last 30 versions of a file • Access backup via PC, Mac, and mobile • Easy file recovery • Stream media from backup to any device

• 25GB mailbox with up to 40MB attachment size • Shared calendars, tasks and contacts • Email Anti-virus and spam filtering • Compliant mail archiving for up to 10 years • PC, Mac & Mobile’s supported • Full outlook web access and seemless mobile anywhere access

For advice on how this can change the way you work, save you time and money, contact us on:

T: 01924 635343 E: info@wabsys.com W: www.wabsys.com wabsys v1 new-use this.indd 1

06/06/2012 15:36

Focus on technology GADGETS


Smartphones to

sigh for… 1


The Samsung Galaxy Note

The Galaxy Note combines the benefits of a notebook with the portability of a smartphone – so there’s no longer any need for customers to carry or switch between multiple devices when they’re out and about. Its HD screen is the largest and highest quality display available in any phone, which makes it the perfect device for viewing content such as movies, photos, and documents, and playing games. An advanced pen-input technology called the S Pen and a full touchscreen mean owners of the Galaxy Note can easily create and consume more content while on the go.

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11/06/2012 16:27

Focus on technolgy GADGETS

There comes a time when that old Nokia 3210, loyal friend though it has been, just won’t cut it anymore. Here we give you a hand-picked selection of the best business smartphones on the market




ZTE Tania Windows 7.5

Fully equipped with the latest Windows Phone 7.5 software, the ZTE Tania is great for both business and pleasure, and makes it easier than ever to connect and share with friends, family, and colleagues. The 1GHz processor and 800 x 480px display make responding to emails, editing documents and browsing the Internet in IE9 not only simple to do, but easy to see. If all that wasn’t enough, a 5MP camera with autofocus and flash are on hand to capture the important moments that need to be shared with family, friends and colleagues.


T-Mobile Vivacity

T-Mobile’s Full Monty for Business is aimed specifically at SMEs, offering flexibility and financial control through an unlimited and short-term package. A choice of free smartphones is available on this plan, including the T-Mobile Vivacity. The phone runs on Android’s Gingerbread 2.3 OS and has an eye-catching design and essential multimedia features. A vivid, high resolution screen is perfect for web-browsing and viewing images and video content. The latest 3G+ and Wi-Fi support lets users access the web whenever you want – ideal for on-demand browsing, managing work emails etc.


BlackBerry Curve 9320

BlackBerry’s stylish new smartphone for sociallyconnected customers. The new BlackBerry Curve 9320 features all the core BlackBerry messaging and social-centric features that keep people connected, while offering global 3G connectivity backed by long battery life to allow users to make the most of their day. The BlackBerry Curve 9320 has everything a user needs to stay in touch, featuring a dedicated BBM key, bringing the power of RIM’s popular mobile social network up in an instant, as well as the best keyboard in its class for quick and easy typing.

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Let’s Talk Holidays! There are lots of business opportunities and franchises out there, from cleaning drains to weight watching clubs, but My Travel Biz focuses on everybody’s favourite subject – holidays!


ight now it all seems to be about money, or how little of it many of us have. When was the last time you thought “I could really do with some extra income”, or “I wish I didn’t have to pay so much for that”, or, what just about everyone thinks, “I need a holiday!” My Travel Biz has been created to solve those three problems in one easy package. It’s motto is Earn, Save, Travel.

So how does it work? EARN - My Travel Biz agents do what we all do – talk to people about their holidays and then point them towards the www.mytravelbizholidays. co.uk web site where they can book holidays on line or call one of the travel experts at the company’s call centre. Either way, when a booking is made under the unique agent’s code they earn commission in the form of a percentage of the profit made. This is a much better option than a flat commission, because the more expensive the holiday and the more elements booked, the more commission the agent makes. Agents don’t do any of the work or handle any money, everything is done for them. All bookings come with a

advertorial v1.indd 27

price guarantee and are fully protected so customers will come back again and again. With the “Customer for Life” programme, agents are always credited the commission from returning customers so earnings will grow steadily year on year. SAVE – My Travel Biz has teamed up with the UK’s biggest and most established discount company Countdown to connect agents to a national network of high street and local discounts. With average savings of between £500 and £700 per year, agents can enjoy shopping at ASDA, Iceland, M&S, Morrisons, B&Q, Boots, Comet, Halfords, Pizza Express, BUPA, Sainsbury’s, PC World, Currys, WH Smith, Burtons and Topshop to name but a few.

So how much does it cost? A My Travel Biz agency costs £2,450 for Talk Business Magazine readers who quote code: TBM1 (£250 off normal retail price). Included in this price is a brand new iPad3 and a 1 week all-inclusive stay at the Hilton, Sharks Bay, Sharm el Sheikh for 2 people (flights and transfers not included).

Contact: www.mytravelbiz.co.uk

TRAVEL – Do you know why travel industry staff take so many holidays? It’s certainly not because of the fantastic wages! It’s because hotels, resorts and airlines, offer them exclusive travel discounts of up to 80% off the standard rates!! My Travel Biz has teamed up with Travel TIS and Touchdown to offer agents incredible deals on their own and their family’s travel, meaning agents can travel much more for much less.

12/06/2012 12:09

Franchise news UK franchisee bags Papa John’s top award

Scottish Franchise Week a success

A UK franchise owner was awarded the title of International Franchisee of the Year by US pizza brand, Papa John’s, netting him $20,000 and a crystal trophy. Raheel Choudhary, who took on his first Papa John’s franchise in 2003, now has 11 units in and around London. He was selected as International Franchisee of the Year in recognition of his first-class customer service, superior pizza, and outstanding community involvement. Papa John’s VP for UK and Europe, Jack Swaysland, said: ‘Papa John’s has more than 3,500 stores worldwide, so for Raheel to win this accolade is just fantastic. He has always impressed us with his commercial success, commitment and dedication and this is just confirmation of his amazing talent.’

The ninth Scottish Franchise Week took place between the 30 April and 4 May. Sponsored by Lloyds TSB and supported by Platinum Wave, Business Franchise and whichfranchise. com, the week proved to be a success, with an increased profile for franchising in the media, high attendance at events and lots of information passed onto those considering franchising. Franchising plays a significant role in Scottish business, with nearly 500 franchise brands operating in Scotland today, accounting for over 2,000 individual franchisee businesses and many thousands of jobs. The biggest event of the week was the Scottish Franchise Business Breakfast on 3 May. It included the much-anticipated keynote presentation from Olympic medal-winner, Roger Black MBE, as well as talks from David Weir, managing director of énergie Group and

Focus on franchise

Hugh Davidson, a franchisee of Water Babies. Roger recalled experiences, challenges and lessons from his time as an athlete, drawing many parallels that the audience would find in their own businesses. The importance of empowerment, inspiration, determination and teamwork were all vital to Roger’s own success; so was the ability to not only learn from the journey, but also to enjoy it whenever possible.

YO! Sushi heads to the States The largest UK sushi restaurant chain, YO! Sushi, is to open its first US franchise in Union Station, Washington. The franchisees, Richard Pawlowski and Darren Wightman, who have signed a 10-year site deal, hope to open two restaurants in the Washington area by the end of the year. Richard Pawlowski is already a multi-system franchisee, with 36 casual dining units in three US chains, while Darren Wightman is a former executive chef of the sushi brand in the UK. YO! Sushi has 61 restaurants in the UK, in addition to

franchises in Ireland, Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Norway, serving 3.5 million customers every year internationally. Alison Vickers, business development director, said: ‘Breaking into the US is the natural next step for the business as we expand our international presence. The Washington restaurant is the first of many, as we are in discussions with several experienced multi-unit franchisees in casual dining to take us to other large US metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Boston and Miami.’

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Looking for something new and a little bit different? Then why not consider owning a Back in Motion franchise? We are a vibrant company linking healthcare and leisure, a new concept in the UK franchise marketplace and a profitable and rewarding business if you are passionate about helping people. We combine Physiotherapy, Pilates and other evidence-based therapies to deliver real lifestyle improvements to our clients. Operating a chain of branches in East Anglia, we have real experience of the potential in Physiotherapy services, both in the increasing private marketplace and in the changing NHS. As a franchise owner, we’ll help you all the way - our support includes a tailored training programme, helpline, customisable website, marketing strategies and our industry insight. You don’t have to be a Physiotherapist to build a successful Back in Motion business, but you do need to be enthusiastic and hard-working with a drive to succeed. Contact Clare and Elaine to talk about how our franchise could help you achieve your aspirations.

0845 474 1193

www.backinmotionfranchising.co.uk | franchising@back-in-motion.co.uk Back In Motion HP Apr2012.indd 1

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09/04/2012 21:58

07/06/2012 12:19

Focus on franchise SPOTLIGHT

Pub on a plate: the brewery and pub operator Greene King launched their franchise package last year. Simon Longbottom, MD, explains how Meet & Eat stands out in a competitive environment

Under the spotlight...Greene King Tell us about Meet & Eat… It’s really a pub on a plate. At Greene King we’ve been brewing for 200 years. We’ve got the know-how and scale of running successful pubs in the community, so we put together a package for franchisees to do exactly that. What does the franchise package offer? It’s a 10 year, assignable franchise and we’ve thought about the marketplace – the community marketplace – particularly around value, service and quality. We’ve put together an offer: a ‘wet’ range, a food menu, pricing, modern entertainment and put that into a package that we know will attract customers. So…let’s talk wonga We are basically putting forward a pub that we will fully refurbish. Greene King will spend between £120,000 and £140,000 refurbishing a pub for the Meet & Eat brand. What we’re looking for is an investment of around £85,000. That will buy the franchisee all the fixtures and fittings for the business as well as a small franchise fee, and perhaps £15,000 of working capital to get the franchisee up and running. Are all franchisees created equal? Within our model we have a turnover fee and that turnover fee is set at 8%. But it can be reduced by up to 1.5% for very high performing franchisees

who deliver great service, value and quality. We measure them with audits every quarter, and those that score well have the potential for that turnover fee to be reduced. So that’s just an example of how we try and align what we believe is important in delivering the brand flawlessly, with the franchisee driving the top line and being successful. If Greene King wins then that franchisee wins. What’s the earning potential? I’d say you have minimum expectations of around £45,000 in year one. We’ve got 13 pilot sites up and running, 13 franchisees who are training very successfully. You’re looking at getting your money back within about two years – it’s a pretty good investment.

Why Meet & Eat? Now is a good time in the marketplace where customers want affordable treats – we think that our offer provides that in terms of value within the Meet & Eat offer, so it’s a good time for attracting customers to the Meet & Eat brand. Watch the entire interview, filmed by franchisesales.co.uk at the National Franchise Exhibition, Birmingham at www. talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk Contact: www.greeneking.co.uk

What do you look for in a franchisee? We’re looking for retailers, we’re looking for people who have a love of serving customers, delivering, executing, putting great teams together – and of course making you a lot of money. I think you need energy. You need the ability to energise situations working in pub retailing, but above all it’s someone who is also proud of working in the community. These sites are in the community so someone who wants to work within the community, to grow the reputation of the brand, to grow their reputation, to be successful in pulling customers to them.

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11/06/2012 16:33

Focus on franchise TAKE ONE FRANCHISEE

TB meets Chris Varney, who set up his Revive! franchise after working in the banking sector for six years. He tells us why he loves being a SMART repair franchisee

Take one franchisee: Revive!

“They were very frank and honest, no ‘salesy’ nonsense”

“It was important to me to find a franchise that had a family feel to it”

Why did you leave the banking sector, having been so successful? Banking became very salesorientated and I didn’t agree with some of the new policies. I was losing interest and made the decision to leave. Why franchising? My father and I used to dream about running our own business together, but unfortunately we never got round to it and my father passed away some years ago. Whilst at the bank, a good colleague of mine was in charge of advising businesses, and he recommended franchising to me. He said that franchising is a tried and tested model and that I’d have a much greater chance of success. Why SMART Repair? My big passion is cars, and until recently I kept nine of my own! I immediately started looking for a car-related franchise and a friend suggested I look at SMART repairs. It was important to me to find a franchise that had a family feel to it. I went to meet a few different franchises from those

involved in distributing tools to some SMART repair ones, but I didn’t feel that they fitted with my down-to-earth personality. Why did you choose Revive!? My father died of cancer and I read in the franchising press that Terry Mullen and Mark Llewellyn from Revive! had done a skydive for a cancer charity. I know it sounds silly, but that just resonated with me – so I got in touch and made an appointment to meet with them. For me it’s as much about the team of people you’re working with as it is about the set up, and with Revive! you get it all. I went for an interview and it just felt right. What were your first impressions? Revive! had exactly the familyorientated approach that I was looking for. They were very frank and honest, no ‘salesy’ nonsense. Do you enjoy what you do? I love it. It’s my business so I get to see my own ideas come to life. I enjoy being out on the road and, far from being

lonely, I talk to people all day. Customers often like to watch and chat while I work. I also get to be flexible for the family and I can pick my son up from school. The only downside is that I seem to eat more when I’m in the van driving! What are your plans for the future? I’d like to have a monopoly over my area, and that would take five vans. I don’t want to sell the business, but I would like to build it up to the point where I can take a step back and employ someone to manage it for me. That’s my ultimate aim. Would you recommend Revive!? Definitely. Revive! is getting stronger and stronger in every way, securing bigger national accounts and setting high standards in the SMART industry. They’re a great team to work with and you never feel like you’re in it on your own. Contact: www.revive-uk.com

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11/06/2012 16:33

Franchise master 59555:Franchise master 59555



Page 1

Lloyds TSB can help you with your franchise plans. Whether you’re buying into a franchise or franchising your own business, it’s important to have the right kind of support and guidance before you take the next step. That’s why we have a team of specially trained franchise managers who have a wealth of knowledge, and can offer you practical support and guidance. To find out more call:

0800 681 6078 lloydstsb.com/franchising

Calls may be monitored or recorded. Lloyds TSB Commercial is a trading name of Lloyds TSB Bank plc and Lloyds TSB Scotland plc and serves customers with an annual turnover of up to £15m. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority under numbers 119278 and 191240 respectively.

Untitled-9 1

01/05/2012 14:17

Connecting you to the right audience

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DynaCom IT Support was established in 2003 to give a personal service to a high business standard, serving Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas.

Remote and telephone support is great for monitoring and simple fixes, but we believe you can’t beat an engineer on your doorstep! With fully customised fixed price contracts or simple pay-as-youuse solutions, we deliver services in the following areas:

Small Business Server network solutions, connecting your users and making collaboration easy Health checks and upgrades Hardware supply to give a one-stop-shop. Web sites E-mail including hosted exchange, accessible anywhere anytime on almost any device End point protection -Antivirus, Antispam, Firewalls (hardware and software) Backup and Disaster Recovery, whether it be traditional tape or “cloud” based online backup

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06/06/2012 15:52

Focus on franchise EXHIBITIONS

An exhibition is a great way to get to grips with the world of franchising. Adrian Goodsell, franchise exhibition manager at Venture Marketing Group, tells us how to get the best out of a franchise show

Making the most of the exhibition For many people looking to set up their own business, franchising offers the perfect balance – the freedom to work for yourself coupled with the support of an established brand. With over half a million people currently employed in franchising, it’s an option that appeals to many, and with 897 franchisor brands operating in the UK, there are business opportunities to suit every lifestyle and budget. The key to choosing and operating a successful franchise? Research. A visit to a franchise exhibition forms an important part of the research process, enabling budding franchisees to meet face to face with a range of franchisors, to discuss opportunities, and to receive support and advice all under one roof. Here are some gems to help you make the most of a visit to a franchise event: • It is important to identify exhibitions that are accredited by the industry body, the British Franchise Association. This means that all exhibitors at the event have met the industry’s code of ethics, and so are an ethical entity within the UK market.

• Before visiting an exhibition, do your homework and consider your minimum and maximum investment levels. It will help to discuss with the franchisor what level of financial commitment they are after and what you can expect in return from this. Also, consider other questions to ask the franchisor such as: What is the franchise about? Who are the management team? What support will I receive? • Once you arrive at the event, make a beeline for a show guide or floor plan and take time to note down who you want to see and in what order, factoring in the various seminars that may be on offer. • Meetings between franchisors and potential franchise owners have been likened to two-way interviews – on the one hand you will want to find out more detail about the business; on the other hand they will be keen to assess your suitability as a franchisee – so first impressions count! Make sure you leave the stand with all your questions answered, and with information packs and follow up details if required. • At most major franchise exhibitions, you will find expert

seminars to educate visitors about different aspects of franchising. There are also plenty of advisory centres, including career management clinics and business plan clinics, to provide advice on how to prepare that all-important application to the bank. Approached in the right way, franchise exhibitions are informative, useful and enjoyable ways to gain access to a wide range of business opportunities and receive plenty of support and guidance. Venture Marketing Group runs a series of BFA-accredited franchise exhibitions at various cities in the UK throughout the year. The next one is The British Franchise Exhibition, which takes place on 8 and 9 June at Manchester Central. It brings together a wide range of businesses as well as features and seminars to help visitors gain answers to all the key questions they need to consider before making a decision. Visitors can gain free admission by using the promotional code EDTALK when they register on the website.

“Make a beeline for a show guide or floor plan and take time to note down who you want to see”

“Leave the stand with all your questions answered”

Contact: www.franchiseinfo.co.uk

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11/06/2012 16:35

Directory JUNE 2012


Real Accountant take a new approach to the way qualified Accountants should work. We are more interested in helping to add value to your business, than just producing a set of Accounts and Tax Return. T: 01895540974 W: www.arealaccountant.co.uk

R+H Design: Company Name Cost-effective Here Tariobranding in con rewith restem identity. cuptat in Based enlhimus Lancaster, aboris with over illat.25 Arum yearsquae experience, estrum destiam we can create, illitiuredevelop corepedoritatin implement corum your id magnis destiamwith identity illitiure design coreped that works. itatin corum We areidamagnis small estem firm with auria bigeperferum ideas, producing ent moditesed effectivequias design ipsumqu untiam solutions for start-ups di temporit and global face stiuhhggmqu. brands alike. T: 01524 00000 36406 000000 E: info@randh.net xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk W: www.randh.net www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk


Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat CFO4Growth: enlhimus Is there aborisa illat. gap in Arum your quae management estrum destiam team? Providing illitiure coreped CFO support itatintocorum CEOs id and magnis destiam entrepreneurs illitiureincoreped SME businesses itatin corum at each id magnis stage of estem development auria eperferum • Growth •ent Funding moditesed • Acquisitions quias ipsumqu Contact:untiam Maddy di Kennedy temporit FCCA face stiuhhggmqu. T:T:00000 07887000000 610597 E: E:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk maddy.kennedy@cfo4growth.com W: W:www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk www.cfo4growth.com

Wisteria Business Plans provide professional, bespoke and high quality business plans. Whilst we often write business plans for various businesses in all types of industries, Wisteria’s primary focus is on producing plans for businesses seeking funding from the bank. T: 020 8951 6342 E: businessplans@wisteria.co.uk


Comprehensive Business management Ltd Business Planning Consultants Guaranteed Investor ready tailored business plans from experienced MBA’s who help with strategy development, forecasting and market research etc. T: 01604 420 420 W: www.cbmgroup.co.uk E: Charles@cbmgroup.co.uk

Business mentoring for the SME sector Through 1-2-1 business mentoring we develop together an easy to implement bespoke programme for your business. Ensuring you grow your business to the one you deserve. T: 0750 1161014 E: alan@alanbalmer.co.uk W: www.alanbalmer.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: E: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk krw@thecfgroup.co.uk

Company Name Here Tario in con re restem cuptat enlhimus aboris illat. Arum quae estrum destiam illitiure coreped itatin in corum id magnis With over 30 years’ experience business destiam coreped itatin corumCube3 id magnis planningillitiure and management services, estem auriaLtd eperferum moditesed quias Solutions provides aent tailored approach ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. to suit any business T:T:00000 000000 0151 343 1639 E:W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.cube3solutions.com W: E: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk info@cube3solutions.com

Company Name Here Tario in con re restem A full service webaboris agency based in London. Our cuptat enlhimus illat. Arum quae estrum friendly illitiure and experienced team can helpidwith all destiam coreped itatin corum magnis aspects illitiure of your digital marketing, including web destiam coreped itatin corum id magnis designauria / development, PPC and conversion estem eperferumSEO, ent moditesed quias optimisation. ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. 020 7566 6312 T:T:00000 000000 www.energyhousedigital.com E:W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk E: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk hi@energyhousedigital.com W:


Outhouse-UK is a premier provider of virtual Company Name Here con re restem back office support forTario smallinbusinesses. With a cuptat enlhimus aboris from illat. diary Arumbookings quae estrum wide range of services, to destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis accounts admin, our fast and efficient services destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id magnis free up your time to concentrate on core estem auria eperferum entthings moditesed quias business activities and the that you do ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. best. T:T:00000 000000 0121 663 0564 E:W: xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.outhouse-uk.com W: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk E: office@outhouse-uk.com

We provide affordable, high-quality IT support, training and consultancy services to businesses throughout South London, and are not afraid to ‘think around corners’ to develop innovative solutions based around your business needs. T: 020 8401 1492 W: www.hamaliel.co.uk E: enquiries@hamaliel.co.uk

We help owners of small and medium sized businesses like yours make improvements and changes so they and their business perform and continually grow to a much higher level, whatever the business climate. We help identify areas for improvement using enquiry questions to clarify your most effective way forward in an action orientated collaborative partnership. T: 07976 414020 E: ian@mybusinessadvice.co.uk W: www.mybusinessadvice.co.uk

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Directory JUNE 2012

PitchPartners: Professional IT Management & Support. We are your IT department. From ad-hoc Pay As You Go services to Fully Managed Contracts. Visit our website, email us or simply call for some free advice! London & SE. T: 0203 397 1515 W: www.pitchpartners.com E: Info@pitchpartners.com

My Travel Biz is a low cost entry into the exciting world of travel. Agents’ earn valuable extra income; make significant savings on their every day purchases and receive exclusive travel discounts. T: 0208 133 1266 W: www.mytravelbiz.co.uk E: info@mytravelbiz.co.uk

Quality leather briefcases for men & women. Laptop bags, wheeled designs, business Totes, iPad / Netbook briefcases, Messenger bags plus more. Wide selection of designs & colours. Corporate rates available. T: 0844 272 1545 W: www.McKleinUK.com E: sales@McKleinUK.com

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 deliver the traffic - You convert the sales. FREE ‘Consumer to purchase incentive schemes’. High conversion visitor to purchase ratios. High value organic and pay per click traffic FREE of charge! Pay nothing until you start selling! Payments are sent direct to your bank account or PSP channel. Save up to 50% by NOT paying commission fees paid on products sold! We build your own customised store and upload your products. FREE PCI DSS ecommerce shopping cart secured by McAfee. Low monthly subscription fees - unlimited sales! T: 02088476177 W: www.hootsmart.com

At PS Finance we specialise in finding a tailored working capital solution for your business via access to the leading lenders; taking time to understand your business as well as the lenders so that we are constantly aware of their appetite and are best placed to find you the right partner. Direct access to decision makers means we get you a reliable, prompt response. T: 0161 247 8520 W: www.psfinance.co.uk E: enquiries@psfinance.co.uk

Scanbar offers a wide choice of CDD, Laser and long range barcode scanners as well as wireless bluetooth readers. As Wasp Barcode experts we also includes barcode printers, barcode label design software as well as complete inventory control and asset management solutions. T: 0845 500 9022 W: www.scanbar.co.uk E: mf@scanbar.co.uk

At Smart IT we provide a comprehensive range of IT services and software solutions for businesses of all sizes. Our aim is to ensure that your investment in IT delivers real tangible business benefit. Services range from IT support to applications such as CRM and ERP together with web and e commerce solutions. T: 0844 8118270 W: www.smart-ltd.co.uk W: www.smartonlinebackup.co.uk E: info@smart-ltd.co.uk

With a customer focused approach to web design and experienced personnel, the company is able to offer a range of quality services to businesses looking to grow their client base or even establish an online presence for the first time. T:0845 475 1991 W: www.SpicerDesigns.com E: info@SpicerDesigns.com

Urban Media employ a considered and individual blend of Website Production (including Website Design and Website Development), Online Marketing and Bespoke Application building to deliver the results each Client requires. T: 01494 538441 W: www.urbanmedia.co.uk E: angela@urbanmedia.co.uk

Achieve Balance help you achieve balance in your personal and work life, grow your business and create more time by increasing clarity, focus, efficiency, productivity and enjoyment using practical strategies and techniques. T: 07764 235394 W: www.achievebalance.co.uk E: anna@achievebalance.co.uk


Stewart Nash Consultancy Coaching & Mentoring for Business Growth

Mentoring for Business Growth. Support, Advice and Health-Check to owners of micro, small & medium sized businesses. Specialists at helping businesses to grow profitably since 1989. T: 01884 861363 W: www.stewartnash.co.uk E: info@stewartnash.co.uk

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Directory JUNE 2012

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

Tech IT Solutions is your single point of contact for all IT related services, in Devon and Cornwall. We have experience working for the private and public sector, manufacturing, media, finance and travel industry in the UK. With over 20 years experience in the corporate sector, we are well placed to look after your business. We offer a range of solutions from technical support to management outsourcing and now cloud service provisioning. T: 0845 6804023 W: www.techitsolutions.co.uk E: karl@techitsolutions.co.uk

Company Name Here Tario in con re restem 24 Seven is a UKaboris based illat. Telecommunications cuptat enlhimus Arum quae estrum Networkillitiure Operator, providing telecoms destiam coreped itatin corum idsolutions magnis for clients ranging from multi-nationals destiam illitiure coreped itatin corum id to magnis corporates, SME’s ent to resellers andquias local estem auria from eperferum moditesed enterprises to end-users. ipsumqu untiam di temporit face stiuhhggmqu. T: 00000 08000 000000 247 247 T: W:xxxxxxxx@xxxxx.co.uk www.24seven.co.uk E: E: info@24seven.co.uk W: www.xxxxxxxxxx.co.uk

DSIS is a computing and IT company specialising in ensuring the smooth and effective operation of all your computer equipment, programs and networks. We have decades of knowledge, from hardware replacement and data recovery through to hosting websites and dealing with email viruses. T: 0141 4382030 W: www.dsis.co.uk

At Forge Dynamic, we understand the challenges that small and medium sized businesses face. This is why we aim to provide the highest quality service we can offer, while keeping costs as low as possible. We endeavour to offer flexibility in our working practises and to work closely with your business to develop solutions that suit you best. In addition, our partner network means we are able to offer additional services, creating an all round IT Support to your company. E: info@forgedynamic.co.uk T: 0845 564 6883 W: www.forgedynamic.co.uk

We at Soft-Teck cater to every needs of a Clients Requirement. • Branding • Web Design • IT Services • Telecom Solutions • Graphics Design • Security Solutions • Company Formation

O.B.C.I.A Ltd provide a truly tailored SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Service, designed to take your business to the next level. Our trained, experienced and trusted experts are focused on delivering the highest results and rankings for each of our customers and have one of the most successful records in the industry. T: 020 30062315 W: www.obcia.co.uk E: info@obcia.co.uk

iTek Computer Solutions was formed to offer the highest quality Outsourced IT Support and solutions service for small and medium sized businesses in the Cumbria and North Lancashire area. T: 01539 898125 W: www.itekcomputersolutions.co.uk E: info@itekcomputersolutions.co.uk

MONBRO specialise in assisting SME’s with all manner of creative New Media solutions from company websites, e-commerce, intranets and all types of online solutions to increase business efficiency and communication. T: 0207 735 4892 W: www.monbro.com E: info@monbro.com

Building visibility for your business and designing sites that bring you leads and sales. Adaptive’s focus is on getting you results T: 02081837978 W: www.adaptiveconsultancy.com E: info@adaptiveconsultancy.com

Avis long term car hire is a flexible alternative to car leasing or car pooling. Enjoy fixed daily price and your only commitment will be to hire a car for 28 days. T: 0844 544 7733 W: www.avis.co.uk E: avisflex@avis.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

T: 0203 488 4884 W: www.soft-teck.com E: sales@soft-teck.com

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Directory JUNE 2012

I.T.S Telecom Ltd is part of the I.T.S Group of companies, comprising of I.T.S Support Ltd, I.T.S Internet Solutions Ltd & I.T.S Telecom Ltd. We provide a comprehensive range of IT and communications solutions to the Corporate & Education sectors. T: 0800 008 7009 W: www.its-telco.co.uk E: enquiries@its-telco.co.uk

The Sethi Partnership Solicitors has a dynamic team of highly experienced solicitors based in West London, who can provide individual clients and businesses with a full range of legal services delivered in an understanding, professional and cost effective manner. T: 020 8866 6464 W: www.sethi.co.uk E: ritu@sethi.co.uk

Whether you are looking to build a new web site from scratch or improve or re-design an existing site, we want to help your company put its best foot forward and create a great online experience for your clients. T: 020 7127 5121 W: www.decho.co.uk E: contact@decho.co.uk

DynaCom IT Support was established in 2003 to give a personal service to a high business standard, serving Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and surrounding areas. We use a combination of remote and onsite support where appropriate – our aim is to resolve your issue in the shortest time with the least inconvenience to you. Remote and telephone support is great for monitoring and simple fixes, but we believe you can’t beat an engineer on your doorstep! T: 01376 342787

In essence, BartaClub is a trading site. Barta, for example: a hotel room, a cleaning service, photography for a special occasion – whatever services and products you offer – for services that you need today – for example, printers, accountants, car valeting, live entertainment …. You sell at full price to our client base, and then you pick what other services you’d like to obtain from our network. W: www.BartaClub.com

BCPA offers a comprehensive payroll service to meet the needs of voluntary/community groups and other organisations. The service provides practical support, information and advice on any aspect of PAYE and other payroll related issues, taking on the administrative burden and freeing you to deliver your voluntary and community services.. T: 01274 787800 W: www.bradfordcpa.co.uk E: payroll@bradfordcpa.co.uk

SupportPlan specialises in Apple Mac Support for creative business users. Providing both Fixed price as well as Pay-as-You-go Support. Also: Consultancy & Networking, Disaster Recovery, Remote back up & Cloud Services. T: 020 7582 9999 W: www.supportplan.com E: info@supportplan.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 E: enquiries@intosomerset.co.uk W: www.intosomerset.co.uk

Over 5 years ago, we set out to build an independent energy brokers that focused on delivering quick, free, impartial advice to both small and large businesses, on what is the best gas and electricity deals available. T: 0800 043 0423 E: mail@utilityhelpline.co.uk W: www.utilityhelpline.co.uk

We provide over 400,000 homes and small businesses throughout the UK with Home Phone, Mobiles, Broadband, Gas and Electricity. In a recent survey, 96% of our customers said they would recommend us to a friend.Where do you want to start saving? Home Phone, Broadband, Mobile, Gas and Electricity.The more services you take, the more you save T: 0800 131 3000 W: www.utilitywarehouse.co.uk

For over 5 Years we have provide Small Businesses with affordable SEO services to promote themselves online. In this time we have gained the reputation of providing a high quality service and offering friendly and helpful advice in all apsects of online marketing for small businesses in the UK. T: 0800 611 8151 W: www.optimisemywebsite.co.uk

At ABN AMRO Commercial Finance, we know that life can be full of frustrations. But we can allow ourselves to smile at these once the big issues are dealt with – like funding your business’s growth. T: 0800 515 053 E: enquiries@abnamrocommercialfinance.co.uk W: www.abnamrocommercialfinance.co.uk

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And finally... THE DAILY GRIND

TB asks a well-known entrepreneur 20 questions about their life, work, inspiration, and a few other things of no particular importance. This month, we’re up close and personal with John Specht

The daily grind

Where in the world are you right now?

My secret underground bunker in London.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

“I have a huge appetite – I can eat a 32oz steak in 12 minutes”

Gordon Gekko famously said: ‘lunch is for wimps’. Do you do lunch?

I have a huge appetite – I can eat a 32oz steak in 12 minutes.

Can ‘anyone’ be a successful entrepreneur?

Not sure – never met them.

How many entrepreneurs does it take to change a light bulb?

Strong coffee!

Choose three dinner guests (alive or dead)

What do cereal (sic) entrepreneurs have for breakfast?

Jesus, Al Capone, Bob Marley.

Depends on how many it says in the PowerPoint presentation.

What has been your most effective business tactic?

What would you say is your most important skill?

Aged 11, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Do you have anything to declare?

My competitors.

Who or what inspires you the most?

Jerry Springer (my problems don’t seem so bad).

Where and when were you happiest?

When I was the pool cleaner at the Playboy mansion.

What single piece of technology could you not live without?

My left ear as otherwise my iPhone won’t work.

If it’s successful then I thought of it – if not...you’re fired!

I wanted to be a pro motor cross rider.

Being 100% confident in everything I do…maybe.

It wasn’t me! I was just cleaning it and it went off…

What is your favourite smell (apart from crisp £20 notes)? Crisp £50 notes!

If you could have your time again, what would you do differently? Not have fallen off my motorbike so often.

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08/02/2012 10:13

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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business June 2012  

June's issue of Talk Busines Magazine

Talk Business June 2012  

June's issue of Talk Busines Magazine