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from mini cabs to private jets – the man behind addison lee

november 2011 ÂŁ4.50

ISSN 2048-4747

John Griffin

intelligent recruiting methods utilising the cloud the business start up show 2012 001_TB02_OFCover_v4gh.ga.indd 1

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R R 2

D m m

R e o

T o w p T b

Edinburgh 5 April

Newcastle 7 July

P Belfast 17 Nov


Leeds 18 Oct

Liverpool 11 May

0 Manchester 7 June

Sheffield 15 March


0 Norwich 29 Nov

Birmingham 6 Oct

Throughout 2011, Better Business Finance will be on the road, holding a series of free events across the UK at which businesses and their advisors can meet with the banks, tackle business issues, and get faceto-face information and support.

Cardiff 13 Sept

Bristol 27 Sept

1 Reading 1 Nov

London 22 Nov

Exeter 11 Oct


Newcastle 7 July

Exeter 11 Oct

London 22 Nov

Edinburgh 5 April

Cardiff 13 Sept

Leeds 18 Oct

Norwich 29 Nov

Liverpool 11 May

Bristol 27 Sept

Reading 1 Nov

Manchester 7 June

Birmingham 6 Oct

Belfast 17 Nov

T r w Register at www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk

Better Business Finance is a scheme run by the UK’s major banks. These events are supported by the British Chambers of Commerce. Better Business - DPS.indd 2

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REGIONAL OUTREACH ROAD-SHOW 2011 Do you run a business? Do you need help and guidance on access to finance, mentoring and finance for exporting? If so, a Better Business Finance event may be for you. Representatives from the UK’s major banks, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander, will be on hand to explain the support they can provide for small and medium-sized businesses. Each session will feature a debate on the key challenges currently facing firms in your area. There will be workshops on everything from ways to get the finance needed to grow your business to finding out about how business mentoring can help. Open surgery sessions with the banks will be available to those with specific questions. Attendees can also meet one-on-one with bank representatives throughout the event, providing an important opportunity to speak personally and in confidence with regional bank representatives. These events will tap into the business support available regionally and will provide a valuable opportunity for businesses to make and maintain local support networks.

Breakout Sessions - Taskforce Initiatives

Programme 0900

Registration and Refreshments


Chair’s Opening Remarks Chair will be a well-known local business figure


Keynote Addresses from Government and local business


Introduction to the Taskforce & Better Business Finance Angela Knight, Chief Executive, British Bankers’ Association



Coffee Break: 1-1 meetings with individual banks will be available


Breakout Sessions 1-4 (Session 1 runs for 1 hr)


Breakout Sessions 2-4 repeated


Networking lunch and an opportunity to meet with regional banking representatives on a 1-1 basis

Panel Discussion and Q&A The panel will comprise of senior corporate bankers and local business speakers

1. Access to finance for growing and expanding your business (1 hr session) This workshop is designed for established businesses seeking to grow; who may be evaluating finance options, expanding overseas for the first time and seeking help with how to approach the next phase of their business activity. A panel of professional advisors (lawyers, accountants) and specialist financers will also be present to provide practical advice and help. 2. Access to finance for start- up firms (30 minute session) This workshop is designed for individuals or groups of individuals seeking to set up a business and wanting to know how best to approach the finance and overall ‘start up’ process. It will include banks, finance specialists, lawyers and accountants ready to offer practical help and advice; including ‘top tips’ on achieving a successful finance application . 3. How mentors can help support your business (30 minute session) This workshop will provide information on the support available to businesses through mentoring. Mentors can give SMEs firsthand support on all aspects of starting and running their business.

To book on to your nearest road-show event please follow www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk


4. Open surgery with the banks (30 minute session) This Q&A session with the banks provides an opportunity to ask questions and voice your concerns in a smaller forum. Representatives from Barclays, Co-operative, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS and Santander will be present.

(Please note, once registered your details will be not be held or used for any further marketing purpose) Better Business - DPS.indd 3

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It takes an airfare expert to save you money on travel

Managing your company’s airfare spend can be something of a minefield. Should I book in advance or last-minute? What class of fare should I book? Should I book a flexible or restricted fare? What’s the most time-efficient routing? Get any of these wrong and you can be seriously out of pocket. Not to mention the time it takes. Bring the Corporate Traveller team on board and you’ll have access to a team of airfare specialists who’ll work through this minefield for you. Not only that, you’ll have access to a global network giving you more fare options. Published fares. Net fares. Industry fares. Wholesale fares. You name it, we have it. And best of all, our expertise means that we can pick the fare that best suits you to make sure you get the very best rate every time.

Bring an expert on board and reap the rewards • Expertise, experience and energy • Dedicated personal and flexible service • Save money, save time, save stress • Access to the best priced & widest range

of product – air, hotels, car and more • Flexible payment options • No contracts and a competitive fee structure • 24 hour Emergency Assist

The benefits don’t stop there. Contact the Corporate Traveller team today to make sure you save on your next booking.

Call 0800 840 7862 www.corptraveller.co.uk 04187

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inside talk business november 2011





cover story: john griffin, addison lee

07 Introduction Editor, Gill Anderson takes a look at what’s affecting the business community

09 On the money

18 Face on the cover: john griffin The founder of Addison Lee talks to Tom Holmes

This month we have the FBB reaction to Shawbrook Bank’s bold claims and a useful diary of events for the forthcoming month

21 Spill the secrets

14 Book reviews

28 best practise

The brains behind a £20m table dancing empire, Stephen Less moves on to IT

Shaun Chatterton’s Think Big and Working in the cloud Make a Difference’: 52 proven ways to grow your company, plus 18 31 Start up tips ‘I started Minutes: Find your Focus, – Data capture off as a Master Distraction, and Get DMA’s Chris Combermale worker and the Right Things Done, by discusses data protocol I’ll finish Peter Bregman

16 money talks A refreshing, sometimes light hearted look at all things fiscal

as one’

john griffin, addision lee

34 take one company

Bubble & Balm founder, Sue Acton steps under the spotlight

37 survival of the fittest Nick Martindale looks at the imperative of controlling cash flow

41 You’re hired! Rianna Fry looks at the benefits of taking on an apprentice

47 Business bonanza Another must-attend event – the Business Start Up Show

52 Hire ‘em, fire’em Overcoming the pitfalls of finding and recruiting the right staff

58 gadget guide This month we focus on comms systems

66 sound the customer out Even a one-man-band can sound bigger www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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comment talk business november 2011

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

Gill Anderson gill.anderson@dreamcreative.co.uk deputy editor

Tom Holmes tom.holmes@dreamcreative.co.uk features editor

Emma Morgan emma.morgan@dreamcreative.co.uk web editor

Rianna Fry rianna.fry@dreamcreative.co.uk graphic designer

Gary Hill gary.hill@dreamcreative.co.uk web development manager

Mitchell Finlay mitchell.finlay@dreamcreative.co.uk Production manager

Dan Gardiner dan.gardiner@dreamcreative.co.uk Production coordinator

An Truong artwork@dreamcreative.co.uk account managers

Stuart Hardy stuart.hardy@dreamcreative.co.uk Tobias Waltham tobias.waltham@dreamcreative.co.uk James Tombs james.tombs@dreamcreative.co.uk circulation manager

Malcolm Coleman malcolm.coleman@dreamcreative.co.uk Managing director

Jay Boisvert jay.boisvert@dreamcreative.co.uk finance director

Stephen Jones stephen.jones@dreamcreative.co.uk commercial director

Scott English scott.english@dreamcreative.co.uk Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Dream Creative Solutions Limited T: 0845 873 9100 F: 01245 280303 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Dream Creative Solutions Limited. Suite 2-4 , Goldlay House, 114 Parkway, Chelmsford, Essex. CM2 7PR T:0845 873 9100 F: 01245 280303 ©Copyright 2011. 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 Dream Creative Solutions Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

Welcome to Talk Business – the magazine written specifically for anyone who’s either thinking of starting a new business, or is in the initial three-year trading period Talk Business sources information from genuine entrepreneurs just like you – some admittedly a rung or two higher up the ladder to success, while others have already made their millions and are now enjoying the fruits of their labours. Each of these people has a story to tell – some good, some bad, and some, well, let’s just say unlucky - but each of them shares something common to all successful entrepreneurs – the desire to help others succeed too.


And that’s where we at Talk Business come in. We’re not here to preach the rights and wrongs of business start up to you. We are simply a platform for all of those success stories to make their voices heard in order that you, and others like you can benefit from their advice. I really hate to mention words like recession, double-dip, banking crisis or Euro zone on these pages, but even in these ‘unusual’ times, there are signs of green shoots for the entrepreneur who’s ready to grab life by the scruff of the neck and make it work. According to a number of sources, India is ripe to do business with, and the UK jobs market is bouncing back – hitting an eightmonth high in October. This month, in order to inspire as well as inform, we are delighted to bring you an interview with the archetypal self-made man – owner of Addisson Lee and the man behind one in three London minicabs - John Griffin. We’ve also spoken to Stephen Less, who had it all, lost it and then rebuilt his fortune through lap dancing clubs and IT – quite a combination! On the more mundane – but nevertheless important – front, we have information on controlling cash flow, which is one of the most cited reasons for new business failure; how to recruit successfully; and tips to make your company appear large and established – even if you’re working alone in the spare room.

gill anderson editor www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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on the

money go online: www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

Steve Jobs

24 Feb 1955 – 5 Oct 2011 Last month the world lost a techno legend when Steve Jobs died aged 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. The visionary co-founder, and later chief executive of Apple had revolutionised one industry after another throughout his career. He was the creator of the Macintosh computer, the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, and the man behind the success of the computer animation company Pixar, makers of cinema hits such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo. A college dropout in 1976, Jobs, aged 21, used his business flare to create

life-changing technology for the rest of the world. Selling a van and two calculators, Jobs and Steve Wozniak raised the funds to launch Apple. Apple inventions, such as the iMac and iBook opened up a whole new generation of computing. The launch of the iPod in 2001 changed the way we listen to music, the iPhone changed the mobile phone market and with the recent introduction of the iPad, Jobs changed our computing prospects once again. After all he was once quoted saying: ‘People with passion can change the world for the better,’ and that he certainly did.

For entrepreneurs, he is an inspiration to what can be achieved when you put your mind to it. Overcoming the ups and downs like many businesses, Jobs taught the world how to sell a dream. For most of us, it was via an Apple creation that we found out the sad news of Jobs’ passing, but this famous quote from the man himself, makes us think that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way: ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.’

FPB hopes for Shawbrook Bank

Mind your language

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has given a cautious welcome to a new bank promising to lend £250m per year exclusively to small businesses. However, the FPB is calling for steps to improve traditional small business relationship banking in parallel to assetbased lending by Shawbrook. Shawbrook Bank - a subsidiary of RBS Equity Finance – began trading with the claim that business customers will be able to borrow at genuinely competitive rates, and in most cases have a definitive answer within 24-hours on whether their loan application has been successful. Businesses will not even need to hold a current account with

UK-based businesses could be risking international growth by failing to invest in cross-cultural language and communications training, according to new research by The London School of English. Business people may appear to be speaking the same language but do they really understand one another? How important is cultural understanding? And should native English speakers adapt their language when communicating with non-English speakers? The research forms part of a series of projects designed to highlight the importance of language and communications training in the UK. 100 HR directors were questioned on

the bank to access its services. ‘The bank represents a new source of finance for small firms and that is certainly a positive development,’ said campaigns manager Jane Bennett. ‘But it has to be put into perspective. Shawbrook’s model is lending against the value of a property, a form of asset finance rather than a return to the strong relationship banking that we want to be the bedrock of commercial finance in the UK. ‘While a target of lending £250m per year is not huge, the funding that will be available via the new bank should not be dismissed out of hand.’ For more information, visit www.fpb.org


their attitudes towards language and communication skills and their approach to training. The questions were designed to cover the increasing number of professional non-native English speakers working in the UK as well as native English speakers. ‘These results show a shocking lacking of regard for our international, non-native English speaking business partners,’ says chief executive Timothy Blake. ‘The Brits may be reluctant to learn other languages, but this research suggests that we are not even prepared to invest in the training required to adapt our own language, accents and behaviour to help non-native English speakers understand us.’

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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Back to school


Robert Gordon University has launched Business Development Services to share its expertise and provide support to external companies, from start-ups to multinationals. The launch of the new service will assist businesses of all shapes and sizes to focus on their strategy and core strengths by providing them with the support and tools to realise their growth potential. Services include the development of accredited and customised courses initiated by competency assessments, consultancy in the development of customised training courses and creation and cultivation of new innovations, recruitment advice for career and placement opportunities, research collaborations, knowledge transfer partnerships and intellectual

property management. Stuart Rennie, director of business development services at RGU, said: ‘The University recognises the significance of sharing expert knowledge and the importance to all businesses in having access to services that will help them thrive; every business wants to succeed and gain that competitive advantage. ‘Our new business support services are underpinned by the universities experience, knowledge, industry connections and established partnerships to provide businesses of any size from any industry with advice, knowledge, tools and techniques, enabling them to focus their strategies and accomplish their objectives.’ Tailored services offered by RGU have already been widely deployed by local businesses

with global operational reach. The flexible nature of how services can be managed and delivered through methods such as distance learning ensures that all areas of the receiving business benefit to gain and maintain a competitive edge. To date, RGU has successfully collaborated with a range of clients including Shell, BP, Amec, Chevron and RBG. Tom Crimi, learning and development manager, Chevron Global Upstream & Gas, said:

‘For the past nine years we have had a productive, consistently solid business relationship with RGU whereby over 1000 Chevron participants have been successfully trained through RGU courses. We believe that Chevron participation in these courses has enhanced our competencies in the applicable supply chain management areas.’ For more information, visit www.rgu.ac.uk/ business-services

Business was never so good A place in the sun?

Details of political and commercial changes will be the topic of discussion at Libya – The Future 2 conference, which takes place on 14 November 2011 at the QE11 Conference Centre, Westminster, London. The event continues the dialogue started in September at the initial Libya –The Future conference and will focus on how British industry and businesses can help Libya rebuild the country. It is expected that the National Transitional Council (NTC) will be favourably disposed to British assistance in the rebuilding of their nation. The first keynote speaker will be Guma El Gamaty - the UK Representative for the NTC, the new Libyan regime, who will give an update on the rapidly changing Libyan political landscape. Mr El Gamaty will also brief on the new government formation and the priorities of the reconstruction programme. He will also explain the best way forward for UK businesses to do business with Libya and the cultural considerations involved. The second keynote speaker is Edward Oakden - managing director of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Sectors Group.

The UK Government recently published a list of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-backed projects for new business start-up support, which through all sorts of mismanagement, appear to have lost a staggering £31m of its funds. The debacle includes such errors as a £420,000 loss for breach of procurement, £856,000 lost by Invest for Growth for failing to comply with dictates and incredible Billy Bunter-style management – or mismanagement by Tees Valley that seems to include the loss of almost £2m, due to the misplacing of documents. Presumably they mean the cheque book?

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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on the

money Building for the future


Property maintenance specialist, James Nunn has been named Entrepreneur of the Month in a competition run by a national business organisation. Nigel Botterill’s Entrepreneur’s Circle supports and advises businesses, offering networking, hands-on advice and online information. Nunn, founder of JND Property Maintenance Guaranteed, joined the organisation earlier this year. As part of his prize, Nunn will receive a bottle of Champagne, a signed certificate, a free professional photographic session, and will be featured in the Entrepreneur’s Circle monthly newsletter. In order to win, business owners have to nominate themselves, or be nominated by someone else within the organisation and Nunn admits, he doesn’t know where the nomination came from. ‘But I am delighted to win the award, it is incredibly encouraging to know that other people think you are doing something right,’ he said. ‘If you are in property maintenance and the building trade in general you have to work hard to build a reputation for honesty and reliability and I think my company has done that. ‘I believe in treating people fairly and politely, in explaining clearly what work needs doing and keeping the customer informed all the way through the process. At the end, we ask customers to complete a satisfaction survey to make sure they are completely happy with what we have done. That has led to continuous growth of the business.’

DIARY DATES Media Pro 1-2 November 2011 Olympia Two, London www.mediaproexpo.co.uk

Growing Your Own Business 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.sme-events.com

BCM World Conference and Exhibition 9-10 November 2011 Olympia Conference Centre. London www.thebci.org

The British & International Franchise Exhibition 2012 16-17 March 2012 Olympia National Hall, London www.franchiseinfo.co.uk

The Great British Business Show 17-18 November 2011 Earls Court, London www.greatbritishbusinessshow.co.uk Business Startup 17-19 November 2011 Earls Court 2, London www.bstartup.com

HR Software Show 2012 20-21 June 2012 Olympia Two, London www.cipd.co.uk

Crisalis Business start-up surgery 12 Dec 2011 Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth University www.aber.ac.uk

Marketing Week Live 2012 27-28 June 2012 Olympia Grand Hall, London www.marketingweeklive.co.uk

Cambridge Wireless SIG – How to set up your business for growth from day one 12 Jan 2012 ideaSpace, Entrepreneurship Centre, Cambridge www.cambridgewireless.co.uk

Business 2012 18-20 March 2012, O2 Arena, London

Spotlight on

The event, which runs over three full days from 18-20 March 2012, features more than 200 workshops, 200 exhibitors and will host 200 seminars. Visitors who attend on the first day will be treated to an appearance by the legendary entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, who’ll be attending a cocktail event in the evening, designed to inspire potential millionaires. Lord Alan Sugar will also be in attendance to help and guide fledgling businesses. Harness 200 minds to take your business forward: With expert help and advice from 200 exhibitors, you can take your business to the next level in this amazing year for Great Britain. Gone are the days of lifeless exhibitions with rows of soulless stands - the future has arrived. Business 2012 has been dissected into three areas to help you find the best solution for you during your visit.

Twittering success Whilst adding the odd Tweet or telling Facebook friends what’s for dinner may work in your personal life – it simply doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to using social media in business. Coup Media has just developed the UK’s first dedicated business social media boot camp, called Social Media Mash. Through its partnership with the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Coup Media is

Business 2012 18-20 March 2012 O2 Arena, London www.business2012.com

delivering the five-day course to companies around the country. The first was attended by some of Wales’ biggest companies – including Principality, Brains Beer, Acorn Recruitment and Confused.com. They all left with a much deeper understanding of subjects, including the trajectory of social media, its history and future, the tools (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn etc) as

well as practical skills, such as setting up social media profiles, generating relevant content and devising social media strategies. Coup Media’s MD, Paul Sheperd, explained: ‘Whilst we all use social media at home, it’s a very different game when it comes to utilising it for business. Our new boot camp is the only one of its kind and will equip all attendees with the skills they need to make sure there’s a return on their time investment when it comes to being social online.

‘We also go a little deeper into subjects such as location-based and mobile marketing, QR codes and the gamification in the future of social media. The feedback has been fantastic so far’. The initial partnership has been so fruitful that Coup Media and the University of Wales Institute Cardiff are creating a social media tech hub with the aim of elevating Wales, as well as the University, to a recognised centre of excellence in the arena of social media and new technologies.

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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book revieWS

‘Think Big and Make a Difference’: 52 proven ways to grow your company Successful entrepreneur, Shaun Chatterton, launches his business book with a difference


Shaun Chatterton, founder and CEO of shares 25 years of business experience, knowledge and commercial insight in his new book, Think Big and Make a Difference. The book contains 52 quick and easy to read sections – one for every week of the year. Each focuses on a different idea, ethos or strategy, all designed to help owners of any size of business grow their companies, or indeed encourage those just starting out. The book covers such key elements as service; company positioning; ethical approach; business structure; customer relations; seizing opportunities; protecting margins; having a trader mentality; persistence; investing in people; understanding external perceptions of your company,

and when to cut your losses. These aren’t theories, they are proven techniques that Chatterton has employed to achieve significant global success with CPD. In each case he provides an illustrative example from his own company’s history, demonstrating the positive results achieved. And throughout he weaves in relevant and inspirational quotes from such visionary leaders as Winston Churchill, Richard Branson, J C Penney, Henry Ford, Anita Roddick and Walmart founder, Sam Walton. All profits from the book, which is on sale at Amazon and other leading online and high street book retailers, will be donated to CPD’s chosen charity, Fresh2o. Supporter of the charity, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin

said: ‘Shaun, congratulations on your excellent book that I believe will help many budding entrepreneurs achieve their goals!’ About the author Shaun Chatterton began his career selling double-glazing, before joining a small, familyrun office products company in his home town of Hull. A natural entrepreneur, in 1988 he founded CPD, supplying cleaning and hygiene products to local businesses. Within a year the company was turning over in excess of £1m and has since generated revenues of hundreds of millions and introduced a raft of innovations, through the development of environmentally friendly products. He went on to acquire Green Planet Solutions, and has recently introduced Inventors

Corner to help green innovators bring their ideas to life. He said: ‘I am always on the lookout for insights and ideas that will give my business the edge. In this book I’ve pulled out 52 of the best ideas that I have tested and found to work. Like many people I’ve always dreamed of writing a book, but until recently I didn’t feel I had enough experience, material, or practical advice to offer anything of value. Now, however, after 25 years in business and with a successful company to my name, I feel confident that I have something meaningful to impart.’ Published by Steve Brookes Publishing, priced at £25 in hard back, and available from Amazon and leading online retailers. ISBN: 978-0-9564 145 -1-9

18 MINUTES. Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Harvard Business Review columnist, Peter Bregman

18 MINUTES was born after a blog post that Peter Bregman wrote for the Harvard Business Review website became one of the most read andcommented on on the site. Bregman wrote the book because, despite having read all of the time management books he could lay hands on, he was

still overwhelmed with work, and found himself spending time working on areas that weren’t allowing him to move forward. His epiphany - and the birth of the book - seems to have come when he realised that all of the books he’d read were trying to teach him ways to get everything done, and that, he says, is the mistake. Instead, what he said was that to really focus on the things that were most important, he had to do the opposite - stop trying to do everything. He discovered that when he multitasked, he actually produced less, and organising his calendar traditionally only

intensified his guilt and increased his stress levels. As he increased his busyness, he became more and more overwhelmed and frustrated, while the things he wanted to focus on remained unresolved. Peter Bregman wrote 18 MINUTES because he needed to be able to find 18 minutes. He wrote it to enable himself to find a way to cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and to finally find a way to focus on - and move forward in those things which are the real priorities in his life. About the author: Peter Bregman advises and consults with CEOs and their

leadership teams in organisations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to new start ups. He undertakes speaking engagements worldwide on how people can work, lead and live more powerfully. He is a frequent guest on public radio, provides commentary for CNN and writes for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes and Psychology Today. 18 MINUTES. Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, is published in hardback by Orion on 5 January 2012. Priced £9.99

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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feature financial advice

money talks

Sound financial advice for business start-ups Words Stephen Jones, FCCA



hoosing your business structure is essential, and advice should always be sought from a qualified firm of accountants. Your business structure will affect which authorities you have to notify that your business exists; the tax and National Insurance that you pay; the records and accounts that you have to keep; your financial liability if the business runs into trouble; the ways your business can raise money; and the way management decisions are made about the business. There are a number of structures to choose from, depending on your situation and the area of business you are in. However, it ultimately boils down to whether you want your liability to be limited or not.

Sole trader Being a sole trader is the simplest way to run a business. Your records can be very basic and just need to show what your income and expenses are. From a legal perspective all you need to do is complete a self-assessment tax return once a year. The major down side is that you are personally responsible for any debts that the business accumulates.

Partnerships There are two main types of partnership: ordinary partnerships and limited liability partnerships (LLPs)

Common features of all types of partnership: Two or more people – i.e. the partners - share the risks, costs and responsibilities of being in business A partner can be an individual or another business, e.g. a limited company or another partnership The profits and gains of the partnership

are shared among the partners, unless the partnership agreement states otherwise Each partner is personally responsible for paying tax on their share of the profits and gains, and for their National Insurance contributions Each partner must register for Self Assessment with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and complete an annual tax return A nominated partner must also send HMRC an annual partnership return It is essential that there is a written agreement between the partners, so that if there are disputes or a partner wants to leave the business, there is a laid down process to follow

Ordinary partnerships: An ordinary partnership has no legal existence distinct from the partners themselves. If one of the partners resigns, dies or goes bankrupt, the partnership must be dissolved, although the business can still continue in accordance with the original partnership agreement. An ordinary partnership is a relatively simple and flexible way for two or more people to own and run a business together. If the partnership has debts, the partners are jointly liable for any amounts owed, and are equally responsible for paying off the whole debt. A note of caution, creditors can claim a partner’s personal assets to pay off any debts owed by the company - even those debts caused by other partners. Partners therefore have unlimited liability.

Limited liability partnerships (LLPs): This is essentially a partnership as described above, but with limited liability. There are obviously more legal requirements to adhere to. The LLP must register with Companies House; send Companies House an

annual return; and file accounts with Companies House. A partner’s liability is limited to the amount of money they have invested in the business, and to any personal guarantees they have given to raise finance for the business. This means that members have protection if the business runs into trouble.

Private limited companies: Limited companies exist in their own right. This means the company’s finances are separate from the personal finances of the owners. A company may be limited by shares or limited by guarantee: A company is limited by shares if members’ liability is limited to the amount, if any, unpaid on the shares held by them. For a company limited by shares, shareholders are not responsible for the company’s debts unless they have given guarantees. This means that the owners have ultimate protection and are only liable for debts that they choose to personally guarantee. A company is limited by guarantee if members’ liability is limited to an amount the members agree to contribute to the company in the event of its being wound up. In my opinion, sole traders and normal partnerships are a thing of the past, and limited companies or LLP’s are the future - with the owner’s/directors’ liability capped at what they can measure i.e. what they are prepared to provide personal guarantees for. It is not always debts from normal business trading that need to be considered. We live in culture where employee tribunals are frequent and where it can be all too easy to instigate court action against an employer. Cases that are lost can be extremely costly.

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 16:26


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04/11/2011 18:10

interview face on the cover

Driven to succeed Talk Business’ Tom Holmes catches up with John Griffin, founder and chairman of Addison Lee, the UK’s largest mini cab firm. He found a family man, entrepreneur and all round thoroughly nice chap who cares deeply for his workforce and customers



ddison Lee was founded in Battersea in 1975. The company was run out of a shed and had one car. Fast forward 36 years and the company has 2,2000 vehicles, and carries over 10 million passengers a year. In that time it’s launched a courier service and formed a partnership with PrivateFly.com for a private jet service - Addison Lee Private Jets, allowing customers to book private jet charters alongside chauffeured vehicles. For start ups and entrepreneurs Addison Lee’s progress and growth is encouraging. The company was launched in the middle of a financial crisis and was struggling to pay its bills, a period that founder John Griffin cites as his biggest challenge. ‘The banks weren’t very helpful. They were as they are now; they only want to help you if

you have money. We were high risk at the time. In the end it grew quite quickly and I had to sell part of it off – I got funding that way.’ Though Griffin makes the transition sound easy, in reality it was anything but. That the company grew in a recession and has become the largest minicab company in the UK is testament to his vision and attitude. At the forefront of this is the company ethos in which every worker is an equal. ‘I see all these people in ivory towers. I don’t know what it’s all about. Who are they impressing? ‘I started off as a worker and I’ll finish as one’ says Griffin. ‘I don’t do servants. I don’t have a PA or a secretary. We work in an open-plan office and I sit at a desk in an open plan office. I regard myself as part of the staff. We go down to the pub on Friday for a drink. ‘People have to realise that work isn’t the only thing in their life. I want them to go home at 5.30 and go to play squash or go down the gym or do what they need to do to relax. I want them to come into work the next day

Addison Lee fact file

Addison Lee has a fleet of 2,800 vehicles in London, over 2,200 drivers and annual revenues of £180m The company carries out over 20,000 jobs every day No vehicle in the company fleet is over two years old, owing to a commitment to new vehicle purchasing The company operates taxi, coach, courier, motorcycle taxi and private jet services

refreshed. It’s about quality not quantity.’ This approach has served Griffin and Addison Lee well. It’s indicative of a man that has grown his business on a set of values, at which honesty and integrity are at the core. His time as a working cabbie – he drove for seven years before founding Addison Lee – has taught him the value of good business practise and the need to treat your workforce and customers with respect. ‘I’ve always tried to be honest with our customers. If you’re standing on the side of the street and I tell you the cab’s five minutes away and it’s not, that’s not good business. When we were starting out I told people the truth. They tend to forgive that, but they don’t forgive lies. I think that was one of the best things I ever did. ‘I also respect my drivers. It’s a noble job. There are no shortcuts. If they don’t take the

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:35

face on the cover interview

the ‘I see ivo se pe all I d ry to ople whon’t kwersin aboat it’snow . a ut. all imp re thWho res ey sin g?


john griffin on...

... inspiration: ‘My family were my inspiration. I wanted to make my sons proud. Now I have the dream scenario. I have my sons working for me and they’ve made a great contribution. We’ve never had a cross word.’

Wise words Having launched his business in the economic downturn of 1975, and bucking the trend by growing through the latest recession (turnover and bookings were up 19 and 24 per cent respectively in 2010), Griffin is well positioned to advise on starts ups and prosperity during times of austerity. He is, perhaps not surprisingly, at his principled best when quizzed on the recession. ‘People think in a recession there are no opportunities, that it was easy before the recession. If you adjust your business you can make it successful, provided you meet your challenges. ‘It’s a good time to start a business.

There’s a realignment of the economic cake, but it won’t limit opportunities. ‘Stick to what you know and enjoy, and work hard. And make sure that you do enjoy it. You have to enjoy it – you won’t make money otherwise. ‘Footballers don’t think to themselves there’s a lucrative career in football. They play because they enjoy it. If they work hard and they’re good enough they’re successful. Do something you enjoy.’ ‘You can do what you want to do if you work hard. If you work hard then your business can grow. There are no pivotal moments – maybe in films, not in real life. There’s no Eureka moment.’


... the environment: ‘We’re working with Ford to develop a more efficient combustion engine. Cars that can do 70 to 80 miles per gallon. This will make a real improvement now by reducing emissions. We’re taking a pragmatic approach.’ ... hindsight:‘Sometimes it’s better to travel than to arrive. Sometimes the challenge is better than the success. It’s been rewarding. It’s worked and we still have plenty to do. I don’t think I’d make any changes.’ ... motivation: ‘When you start something from scratch you realise one day this could all disappear.’

John Griffin, Addison Lee www.addisonlee.com

photography and cover: richard gleed: www.richardgleed.co.uk

fare they don’t earn the money. I represent them and make sure they’re fairly treated – that way they feel valued, which they are.’

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:35

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04/11/2011 17:01

stephen less interview

Spill the secrets The business brain behind a £20m table

dancing empire and a booming IT business, Stephen Less shares his secrets to success


‘One morning I woke up owing more than I was making.’ Stephen Less has seen the dark side of business. A sudden drop in the stock market could have potentially been the end, but not for this wise entrepreneur. He has felt the pain and experienced how brutal business can be but continues to run one of the most successful table dancing ventures in the country. Less believes that there is a simple philosophy to success: ‘Business is all about four words; money in, money out. You can apply it to any business, no matter how big or small. It’s the yardstick. It should be taken as a basic theory to everything you do.’ The Secrets founder who has invested a six-figure sum into IT recruitment company, Harrington Starr, shares his advice on business success. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:01

interview stephen less

When I interview for a manager, I’m not looking for a body, I’m looking for that X factor Why a table dancing club rather than a bar or restaurant?


It’s very simple. I have been in the leisure industry 45 years. I’ve been to bars, restaurants, clubs and the latter. You can think of the elements as a jigsaw puzzle. They all have the same components but of different shapes and sizes; the food, drink, music and dancing. Table dancing came to the UK in 1996; I could see that it would happen; it was a collection of the aspects. The first milestone was finding a venue and it happened by chance. I had previously run a gentlemen’s club, which had been sold. One afternoon, I was walking past and noticed a pile of post outside the club. On the top of the pile, there was one addressed to me. It was from a firm of accountants who had a client who was looking for a chairman for a chain of pubs and my name had been suggested. We set up a meeting but I didn’t want to get involved with another pub venture. He mentioned that he had a gay disco in Hammersmith for sale called The Royal Oak. It was run down but the location was ideal. I said I would buy it, subject to me getting a table dancing licence and Hammersmith Council approved it. We opened that first table dancing club in Hammersmith in 1997. Since then we have opened venues in Swiss Cottage, Holborn, Euston, Tower Bridge and Covent Garden.

How do you overcome the stigma attached to table dancing? Previously, strip teases were going on in pubs with girls taking their clothes off and moving on within 20 minutes. Table dancing has given the industry class. Its safe, the girls are protected by security and it has a professional service. Table dancers of today are not the strippers of yesterday. They can work one day a week, be their own boss and dress smartly.

How do you stand out from the competition? We are located across London in order to be accessible. We work on the Italian principle of managing. It’s about building relationships with customers, our staff wear name badges, speak to customers and know their names. We want people to feel welcome. I don’t know of any other club in the world that does this and I believe its one of the main reasons we are successful.

What do you look for in an employee? It’s key to find the right staff. When I interview for a manager, I’m not looking for a body, I’m looking for that X factor, the personality, someone you can relate to. I want to be able to untie someone’s shoelaces and look for the person who can run. When I look for an assistant manager, I look beyond that. I’m really looking for a manager. If they can’t manage then I can’t promote. I believe in people. If they have something special I will develop it. I sought personality, likeability, and their hunger for the job. If you want to make more money but don’t have those people, you can’t do it.

You’ve been quoted as saying you now target ‘the bread and butter middle market’. Who do you see that market as? It’s your average businessman, the IT people, retailers etc. It’s those earning approximately 35 to 60K a year. It’s our biggest custom. Other than that, you have got the high rollers, city boys but these have diminished over the years either through cuts in salary or the fact they are not spending because they now have to save money for times when there may not be any. The recession has affected business but we targeted the middle market to compensate for the high rollers.

How have you adapted business to fit within the constraints of the financial market? We are always looking to improve, from the way the clubs look to advertising. In terms of advertising, the best promotion you can get is the customers.

Whose business would you like to invest in if money was no object? Well I’ve explored the leisure industry and I’m now expanding into IT recruitment. I guess it would be any business that could prove to be profitable. I would take a look at anything and evaluate.

Who do you respect within the business community? Most of those on Dragons Den. Theo Paphitis in particular - his investment in La Senza was impressive. In business you need to research, find the right location, evaluate competition and build relationships.

What do you want to achieve in the next 10 years? I am getting into theatrical things. I am currently developing a game show, two drama series’, two films - one of which will be at the Toronto film festival - and a musical. I also have two more nightclubs in the pipeline in London. It’s not about having a plan, it depends if it grabs me. This has all been developing over the last few years. It’s important to evaluate one by one.

What are your top tips for creating a successful business? You have to look at your competitors and target audience; who are you trying to hit, where will you be placed? Take time to look at the competition in that area. You need to do your homework, if you go in headstrong you will fail. It’s all about research, finding a niche market and the people you employ. Those you employ are key - I don’t want to pay for what I don’t get back.

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:01

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04/11/2011 17:04

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04/11/2011 17:06 28/7/11 11:40:50

advertisement feature

Better Business Finance

– Providing practical support for businesses The supply of and demand for bank finance continues to dominate the SME debate. According to new independent research, only one in five small and medium sized enterprises sought bank finance over the last 12 months and that proportion is not expected to change very much in the near future. Of those SME’s, the majority succeeded in obtaining the loan or overdraft they were applying for, but business confidence is undermined by the economic environment here in the UK and further afield and this has led to a naturally reduced level of demand for finance.


Here Angela Knight, Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), explains what support is available to businesses and how they can get the finance they need. Better Business Finance A strong and growing small business sector is crucial to economic recovery, job creation and the UK’s future prosperity. That’s why the largest high street banks Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds and Santander - have come together with the BBA to roll out a package of measures over the last year tailored specifically to help start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses. The Better Business Finance (BBF) initiative is designed to provide SMEs with practical resources and support to help them grow and thrive - and give them the confidence to borrow. All of the support offered through BBF is free. A new mentoring scheme, appeals

process, and national roadshow are all highlights of the BBF campaign and more will follow throughout the year. You can find out more at www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk

Free business mentoring for all BBF has launched a new network of free business mentors which can be accessed through an online portal, making it easier for you to find your local mentor. So far nearly 250 existing and recently-retired bank employees have been recruited and trained as mentors, and partnered with established not-for-profit mentoring organisations. And this is just the beginning - 1000 volunteers from the banking industry are being trained in the first year. www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:22

advertisement feature


The mentoring scheme will help businesses through all sorts of phases and stages, from start-ups needing a hand with developing their business plans to those looking to expand. Steve Light, an entrepreneur who is currently being mentored through the scheme, said: “I used to shy away from accounting and financial issues as I didn’t understand them, but by working with James, my mentor, I have gained the business knowledge and confidence to really take a hold of these issues and move my enterprise forward.” An experienced mentor can be a brilliant sounding board for companies to bounce ideas off. Research shows that businesses which seek guidance and support, particularly during start up and their first months of trading, are most likely to survive and succeed. It can be a lonely place for a business when stepping out on their own for the first time or running their existing business day to day – that’s where a mentor’s help and support can be invaluable. Jim Lawson, Senior Relationship Manager at the mentoring organisation BE-SY, one of the mentoring organisations involved, said “Mentee small business owners are telling us that the key benefit of having a bank mentor is that it’s a fresh pair of ears and eyes – someone they can think out loud to and get valuable objective feedback. A real benefit being realised is that the relationship opens up the mentor’s extensive network of contacts; other businesses and professionals who can be valuable contacts for the mentee business owner. We have long heard the saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts in business’.” If you think you would benefit from a mentor and that they might help you reach your business goals, visit www.mentorsme.co.uk.

Making it easy to appeal A lot of controversy surrounds lending decisions and the apparent level of declines. The recent SME Finance Monitor survey (more on this later) found that most requests for funding are agreed, but no system is foolproof. BBF banks have signed up to a common appeals process, through which businesses can request that their lending decision is looked at again. The process will be independently monitored to ensure that all appeals are handled fairly, promptly and transparently. BBF banks have committed that if you

launch an appeal the decision will be reviewed by a second person from within the bank who was not involved in the original decision. Your bank will consider all the information originally provided (and ask for more if they think it is necessary) and you will find out the result of the appeal within 30 days. If lending is still not made available after an appeal, your bank will provide information on alternative sources of finance that may be more appropriate, or provide support in another form, such as putting you in touch with a business mentor. The new appeals process is being monitored and scrutinised by an independent and external team of reviewers, led by Professor Russel Griggs, and supported by an independent consultancy so you can be sure the decisions are being looked at independently to keep them fair.

Signposting the alternatives Sometimes a bank loan or overdraft is not the right solution – if this applies to you there are many alternative sources of finance available. The BBF banks are committed to providing guidance to businesses on new streams of funding – asset, trade or invoice finance for instance – and assistance in sourcing other pools of credit. For example, there is a new set of export schemes that the banks have created with the government and, in addition, a newly established £2.5bn Business Growth Fund* can provide a further source of finance to established and growing businesses that can demonstrate a strong growth trajectory.

Further information on the alternatives available can be found on the Better Business Finance website www.betterbusinessfinance. co.uk, which brings together a wide range of information to help you secure lending and find out what else is available.

Face-to-face support We all know the importance of face-to-face contact. That’s why a series of roadshows have been taking place across the country giving businesses the chance to talk directly to the banking industry. Attended by local business leaders, politicians and representatives from BBF banks, the events are an opportunity for us to hear the concerns of businesses across the country and for you to find out about the help on offer. The events are completely free to attend – so far nine have been hosted with over 1,000 attendees. It is also a chance to network with other businesses, your community and senior politicians. Past guest speakers include the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban MP, and the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Sassoon. The tour continues to four more regions this year, if you’d like to find out more about our roadshows, or put your name down to attend, you can find out more at www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk/events.

Getting the right data A key BBF initiative was to survey SMEs across the country in order to get a precise picture of what small businesses are facing at the

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:22

advertisement feature

BBF’s top tips for lending application success


Develop a robust business plan - Business plans are more important than ever and you should demonstrate your business’s financials, showing the all-important repayment ability factor. A business plan should give a business owner/director confidence in their decisions, way before it is used to give confidence to a lender. Business plans are all about testing and measuring, helping make informed decisions that are based on fact and sense. In your plan you should demonstrate that you have done your homework, by researching your market and competitors. Identify clear routes to market and highlight in your plan when you expect to start bringing money in.

2 moment. We wanted the survey – called the SME Finance Monitor – to be completely independent, so we commissioned research firm BDRC Continental to interview 5000 businesses from a range of industry sectors and regions. We published the first results (they will publish quarterly) in July, and the next set will be published in November. Key findings include: Not all SMEs use external funding. Half (51%) of SMEs are using external finance, rising to 81% of those with 50-249 employees. Most SME applications for finance are granted. 85% of applications for overdrafts and 66% of applications for loans are successful. Looking ahead, one in five SMEs plan to apply for or renew facilities in the next three months while 63% of SMEs felt no need to apply. It was encouraging to see that most businesses are able to get the credit they need, and that those who have a good track record find the lending application process straightforward. However, the economic climate was flagged as a major concern, affecting businesses choice on whether or not to borrow. The Better Business Finance initiatives, like the mentoring and national events, are designed to give you the help and support you need and the confidence to borrow. * The Business Growth Fund has been set up by Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Lloyds and Standard Chartered. More information is available at www.businessgrowthfund.co.uk

Build your financial understanding – To be successful you must understand your numbers. To have a successful credit application you must be able to clearly demonstrate your understanding and show how the business will manage/maintain the credit it is asking for. You should also be able to clearly outline what you need the money for and how you will pay it back. Read-up or work with a business mentor to ensure you know what makes a sound balance sheet and cash flow projection. A range of resources are available on the Better Business Finance website (www.betterbusinessfinance.co.uk) or you can investigate working with a mentor through our new Mentorsme portal (www.mentorsme.co.uk).



Check your track record – When making a lending decision, banks will take into consideration how you have managed your finances in the past. It is therefore important that you know your credit rating and understand the key elements that might affect it. This can be done through Experian (www.experian.co.uk). If you believe your credit rating is incorrect or inaccurate you should challenge it.


Be honest – Do not underestimate how much money you will need. If you need to return to the bank and request further funds, it will be more expensive. It may also affect the lender’s confidence in your ability to manage your company finances. Do not over-forecast revenues or under-value the costs you will incur. Be honest about any reasonable living costs you will need to take out of the business.


Keep the dialogue open – It is important to communicate often and clearly with your bank and to seek feedback on your lending applications. A ‘no’ now may not mean a ‘no’ in the future. Ask your bank how you could adjust your business model to help secure funding and what elements of your plans may need further consideration. Be sure to check around and compare different banks and their small business offerings. Your bank may be willing to improve its offer if you have other quotes.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:22

best practice cloud computing

Best practise: Remote working in the cloud


Remote working is on the increase across the UK and SMEs are in the vanguard of this development. The online Small Business Review carried out by online business marketplace, PeoplePerHour. com, which sourced the views of 45,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises, reported a 68 per cent increase in the number of businesses hiring a remote worker in the last 12 months

Cloud computing

ough economic conditions and rising costs have been blamed for changing hiring patterns, but according to the survey, this trend could be here to stay. Almost 70 per cent of respondents said they planned to use freelancers in the next year. Of course, if productivity rates are to remain high, both for workers and the businesses themselves, many of these staff will require access to corporate data, process and systems. Today, new systems are emerging that can unleash the power of remote employees. These solutions combine the flexibility and convenience of mobile devices like the iPhone, the iPad, Android devices and Blackberry’s with the latest generation of cloud computing, which supports collaborative working and business mobility. Cloud services can be accessed wherever there is an Internet connection, so an organisation’s staff can link to most systems, even when they are working remotely.

[Noun]: Internet-based computing wherein large groups of remote servers are networked in order to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralised data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.* *In layman’s terms it’s all about storing your data on an online database so that it can be easily reached.

Embracing mobile cloud Today’s SMEs are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of working from home. A recent survey by

NewVoiceMedia, which spoke to more than 600 UK SMEs, found that 23 per cent of senior decision-makers in SMEs frequently allowed their staff to work from home. A further 60 per cent of respondents said they believed it increased productivity and motivated staff. This open, flexible attitude is reflected in SMEs’ growing interest in the latest generation of cloud computing solutions. Initially attracted by the cost benefits, they are already migrating to the cloud in growing numbers and starting to reap the rewards. Now the latest variation on the cloud paradigm is set to bring them even greater benefits by building on the trend towards a more inherently social, collaborative and mobile approach to business computing – effectively enabling a transformation into social enterprises (organisations that leverage social, mobile and open cloud technologies to put customers at the heart of their business).

Evaluating gains The latest cloud-driven mobile capabilities bring particularly compelling benefits to SMEs, driving business agility by enabling them to access their business applications via smartphone or tablet when they are on the road. For many SMEs, one of the main advantages is the ability to deliver

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:03


Be clear with what you want to achieve

Jon Milward, director of managed and support services at Northdoor plc shares five tips to minimise the risks of using cloud

Why are you moving to the cloud? Is it for added flexibility? Or do you simply view cloud an easier and cheaper way of accessing the latest hardware and software? It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll need to focus on your particular business objectives before determining what is the most appropriate IT and delivery options.

2 3 4 5

Look beyond the headline figures

Although cloud may seem financially attractive, many off-the-shelf packages don’t include the technical and customer services that most businesses need. You will also need to consider additional costs, such as fees associated with software licensing, Internet connectivity and service transition.

enhanced flexibility to their sales teams. Using the mobile cloud, for example, a sales manager could make a late change to a presentation while the executive delivering the pitch was already en route to the customer. The executive could then download the revised presentation on his or her iPad and deliver it from there at the customer’s premises. Using the mobile cloud also enables sales teams to stay in touch with the latest information about the solution they are pitching, even while they are on the road. They can, for example, be alerted to last minute changes in product pricing, enabling them to revise their quotation and avoid potential embarrassment. In line with the principles that drive the social enterprise, another key benefit is the ability simply to enhance communication across the organisation and to enable key people to keep in touch with all the latest developments. As an example, the approach will allow sales managers that are constantly on the road to check on all the latest deals whenever they want. Critically too, the combination of the cloud and enterprise mobility allows SME staff to collaborate in real time while on the road to quickly obtain the answer to difficult queries or to rapidly source key information needed to drive through an important deal.

How application development drives flexibility Product and solutions development can be made simpler with the mobile cloud. With the best application development platforms, for example, it is easier than ever for smaller businesses to build and deploy customised mobile applications. Administrators of all skill levels can create mobile applications with point-and-click ease that work across BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows and other popular mobile devices.

Think about how (and whether) different business processes will work together in the cloud

Most companies have a number of IT systems and processes that are essential for the day-to-day running of their business. Migrating elements of these IT systems to the cloud must therefore be done with the full understanding of how the new platform will integrate with any existing systems.

Make sure that you have the time, resources and skills needed for due diligence and migration


It’s essential for companies looking to utilise cloud to undertake the same due diligence as they would when choosing any other business-critical service.

Think about on-going service management

Even though cloud computing can offer many benefits; working with your vendor is still a two-way street. So you’ll need to consider whether you have the skills and knowledge you’ll need to manage an on-going relationship with your cloud provider, both now and in the future.

Every business has different needs. The most flexible application development platforms, however, give administrators the freedom to design custom mobile applications that meet the specific requirements of an SME’s field users, while allowing them to make quick and easy updates as their business needs change.

Driving growth A report by Juniper Research predicts that by 2014, 130 million enterprise customers will be using mobile cloud-based applications. It seems likely that SMEs will benefit just as much, if not more fully, than their larger enterprise peers from this development. Embracing technology such as mobile working may help SMEs thrive as the UK continues to emerge from recession. For PeoplePerHour.com CEO, Xenios Thrasyvoulou, the benefits of the approach

are clear. Speaking about the results of his company’s recent online Small Business Review, he commented: ‘UK businesses have found that the quality of work of freelance consultants working remotely is as good, if not better, than office-based staff as the financial incentives to do a better, quicker job are clearer. Not only that, but businesses have found that taking advantage of new technology, such as the Internet and cloud working, means they work more efficiently. ‘As a result of these changes,’ he concludes, ‘productivity of British business is increasing, quality of work is improving and the long-lasting effects will be a virtual work revolution.’


www.salesforce.com www.peopleperhour.com www.northdoor.co.uk www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:03




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04/11/2011 18:33

top tips feature

at the sharp end:

Data capture

Chris Combemale, executive director of the Direct Marketing Association, explains why good data is the key to effective direct marketing, and why companies must pay attention to data collection and security to avoid losing customers – or worse


irect marketing is the dominant channel companies use to reach consumers and prospective clients with their sales messages. Knowing customers’ names and purchasing preferences has always been a key component of effective direct marketing. Without such information, it’s impossible to produce tailored one-to-one sales communications that are relevant to the recipient’s specific interests. Whether opting for offline channels, such as direct mail and telemarketing, or digital channels, e.g. online, email, social media and SMS, all marketers rely on one thing – good quality data. In spite of its commercial importance, many companies

are failing to pay necessary attention to correct data collection and security practices. The consequences of failing to do so should alarm every business owner. In April this year, the Information Commissioner’s Office was awarded the power to issue fines of up to £500,000 for data security breaches. It’s not just the threat of legal action that should be of concern either; high profile cases of companies suffering customer data breaches highlight how lax data standards can alienate customers and deter them from sharing their details for marketing purposes. The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2011 Data Tracking Study, which monitors consumers’ attitudes to personal information security, revealed that thanks to data breach scares, 40 per cent of people are now afraid to share their personal details with companies online. While the findings of the DMA’s report will make for unwelcome reading for many, there is a glimmer of hope. Trust

in a brand is cited by 54 per cent of consumers as the most important factor in determining whether or not they choose to share their data. But building this trust requires effort. Companies must demonstrate to customers that they have robust data collection and security systems in place, and be clear as to

how they will use their data. At first sight, it may appear to be a formidable task, but becoming acquainted with data protection law and established standards of best practice are the first steps towards encouraging your customers to entrust their data with you.

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:06

feature top tips

The golden rules:


Data protection


The first place to start is ensuring your business complies with the law. The Data Protection Act 1998 is one of the most important pieces of legislation you must follow. The Act contains at its core, eight key principles that must be adhered to, stating that personal data must be (1) fairly and lawfully processed; (2) processed for specified and limited purposes; (3) adequate, relevant and not excessive; (4) accurate and kept up-to-date; (5) not kept for longer than necessary; (6) processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects; (7) protected by appropriate technical and organisational measures against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss or destruction, or damage, and finally (8) not transferred to a country outside the European Economic Area unless it has adequate levels of protection for personal data.



Your customers want to know how you will use their data. When requesting personal details, always make it clear what the data will be used for, whether it will be passed on to

third parties, how long it will be kept for and how often that person will be contacted. Also ensure you state that you adhere to best practice and how strict your data procedures are.


Data capture

Under the Data Protection Act, you can only collect data that is relevant and not excessive to your processing requirements. When capturing data, simplify the process of providing details by keeping questions short and pre-populate data wherever possible by saving details or using address finders. Always remember that sensitive personal data needs to be captured correctly on an opt-in basis and updated where necessary.


Caring for personal data

Your business must take appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect the security of your customers’ data. For example, you should consider password protecting and encrypting the data to limit access to relevant personnel only.

05 08 Receipt and transfer of data

Ensure everyone in your business understands their responsibilities regarding the transfer and storage of data. Classify data so that individuals can recognise its importance and sensitivity. Send data via electronic methods, where possible, and ensure it’s encrypted for security. Passwords should be sent separately.


Hire an expert

If you require complicated data systems and processes, and you don’t feel your own software will be able to do the job, then you should consider hiring a data company that will be able to process your data more effectively leading to better results.


Name and address cleaning Regularly update your data to ensure it’s still relevant so that you don’t waste time contacting irrelevant people as it could tarnish your brand and aggravate potential customers.

Data tagging and enhancement

If your business is planning to enhance its database with external data, then ensure you’re clear why you are doing so (for example, is it to improve targeting and selection to allow personalised messaging?). If you’re buying external data for use in targeting models, test which variables will give you uplift before buying. Retest data variables every year as the profile of your customers may change. Make sure you check how up to date the data you’re buying is. If possible, check a sample of data where you already hold that information on your customers, to check how accurate that data source is likely to be.

getting started

Good data practice should be high on the agenda for any business keen to avoid the threat of punitive action from falling foul of the Data Protection Act, as well as building customer trust, improving targeting when marketing to customers and preventing damage to your brand’s reputation.


For more information on data best practice, visit www.dma.org.uk

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:06

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04/11/2011 18:18

feature take one company

clean sweep 34

Like so many businesses before her, Sue Acton found raising seed capital for her business the toughest challenge. She took the time to discuss how the hurdle was overcome with Talk Business


ormer city banker, Sue Acton is founder and managing director of the UK’s first 100 per cent fairtrade and organic body-care company, Bubble and Balm. This year the company is expecting 100 per cent growth based on orders secured. But what influenced the banker of 10 years to join the world of entrepreneurial business? She said: ‘I’d always admired entrepreneurs who achieved success by doing things differently, and by combining a profitable and ethical business. I’m driven by a combination of things; achievement, making a difference, independence and financial success.’ Launched in 2009, the business originally started online with products made in Acton’s own home, but has since secured manufacturing and is now supplying to Waitrose, Planet Organic and a number of independent retailers. With a focus on fairtrade soap and hand-washes, Acton completed extensive research to ensure her business would be a success. She said: ‘Sales of fairtrade products have continued to grow, even during the recession. Fairtrade versions of everyday products, such as coffee have been particularly successful. This is why we decided to focus on soap. ‘Having identified fairtrade beauty products as a market opportunity, I

approached the Fairtrade Foundation to understand more and then spent six months learning all I could, such as formulations, manufacture, packaging and so on. I learned as I went along. Other entrepreneurs are a great source of advice and support and you can always find the information you need if you dig around hard enough.’ Once launched, Acton began to find that

Acton’s advice for start-ups

Do something you love or believe in – in the tough times it will keep you going and in the good times you’ll achieve what so many of us want, a job we want to get out of bed for. Listen to and consider all advice – don’t let others set your direction or put you off. A favourite quote of mine is: ‘Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it.’ Persistence is everything – the worst that can happen is someone says no. Keep focused – it’s really easy to have lots of ideas and ping around all over the place.

the world of business can be a rollercoaster ride. She explained: ‘Dealing with large retailers means there are peaks and troughs in ordering, so our income varies hugely from month to month. Over time, with more retail partners this should level out, but we’re still a pretty new business in the scheme of things. ‘Running a small business is a constant challenge. Growth brings cash flow challenges – the bigger the order, the bigger the problem and you need to be constantly looking forward while maintaining the day-to-day work. Supplying large retailers also brings operational challenges. For example, Waitrose give us five days from order to delivery, but our products take a month to make, meaning stock management is very important.’ Acton claimed that her biggest barrier to overcome has been securing financing. Though her previous experience within high street banking provided a good background she feels: ‘It has always been a huge struggle to raise the funds needed, and the business has been on the brink of running out of cash more times than I care to remember. Regarding banks, my experience is that unless you have a couple of years of profitable trading history the banks are unwilling to lend, regardless of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme and however good the business plan, which makes securing start-up funds all but impossible.

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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04/11/2011 15:08

take one company feature

fast facts with acton Launch date: June 2009 Start up capital: ‘Very little. However, in the first year, Bubble and Balm secured two ‘best new UK business’ awards at £10,000 each, plus an innovation award of £15,000.’ Growth rate: ‘Due to double turnover this year and break even.’ No. of employees when com pany started: ‘Just me.’ Current workforce: ‘Still just me. But I work with a big virtual team, in particular our manufacturers and graphic designer.’ Biggest achievement: ‘Can I have three? First 100% Fairtrade body care company in the UK; secured a Waitrose listing in our first year; and first company in the UK to raise equity- based crowd funding.’ Toughest challenge: ‘Cash flow!’

‘I’d r athe have r and tried fail than e trie n d d at ot all’

35 ‘In terms of my own savings, my thinking was,” what’s the worst that can happen?” – to which the answer was and still is – “I lose everything and have to start again, from scratch”. It’s obviously something I hope will never happen, but I concluded that if it did, I’d rather have tried and failed than not tried at all.’ Acton eventually managed to secure funding from three business angels. ‘Each of them is very different,’ she said. ‘One I worked with in my banking days, one was introduced via an angel network, and one attended a lecture I gave at Warwick University – and so each brings something different to the business. ‘More recently, I have crowd-funded £75,000 of equity funding through Crowdcube. The investments are through 82 investors who put forward their investments via the Crowdcube website. They range from £7,500 to as little as £10. This is hugely exciting as not only do I have the cash the business needs, but also a big team of supporters with a variety of skills.’ Crowdcube is an online platform where entrepreneurs can raise seed capital or growth finance

from a crowd of people in exchange for equity in their business. Appealing to any size of start-up, from an entrepreneur with an innovative idea to a business that’s been running for a few years that wants to grow, it provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase their business and investment potential to thousands of micro-investors, ordinary people as well as a high net worth of individuals and sophisticated investors. Luke Lang, co-founder and marketing director of Crowdcube said: ‘The task of securing business investment is notoriously difficult. Banks adopt a no-risk approach to lending, while business angels and VC funding is difficult to access. Crowdcube is democratising an age-old model for raising business finance, by empowering the crowd to pool small amounts of investment money and give Britain’s start-ups a much needed boost.’ With funding well and truly secured, Acton is looking to take the next step within business expansion. ‘Fundraising has been an ongoing journey for the last three years. I will now be able to focus on growing the business. I’m very much looking forward to working with all our investors as we take Bubble and Balm to the next level. Some of our new shareholders have already offered their skills as well as cash to support our growth, and this is another huge benefit of crowd funding. Not only do we have the investment we need to deliver against our plans, but a diverse team of supporters and customers too.’

In order to enjoy continued success and to grow as a business, Acton believes planning and forward thinking is key. ‘It’s a combination of looking to the future, for example, product development and sales growth. Managing priorities is also important. When the business was launched, I would say yes to most opportunities, but I’ve learned that keeping focused and saying no is just as important for growth,’ she said. For those taking their first steps in a new business venture, Acton highlighted the importance of staying focused and promoting the product. She said: ‘Don’t try to be all things to all men, determine your product and market and stay focused. Planning is important, but a business plan is not a business. You have a business when you make your first sale or equivalent. On a limited budget, we’ve found that social media is a great marketing tool. We rarely advertise but we do a great deal of PR. Consumer awareness is critical.’ Bubble and Balm has recently secured its largest contract to date, with a launch across 250 Oxfam stores in the UK. Acton commented: ‘Consumers continue to want to shop ethical, fair and sustainable ways and we will continue to meet that demand with an exciting range of products.’


www.bubbleandbalm.co.uk www.crowdcube.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

034-035_TB02_TakeOneCompany_v2gh.ga.indd 35

04/11/2011 15:08

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04/11/2011 19:06

Survival of the fittest

cash flow feature

Nick Martindale looks at ways to control cash flow


hile turnover and profit are essential, it is cash flow that ultimately determines whether a small business is able to survive its first few years. This has become even more critical in recent times, with small firms hit by a combination of restricted access to finance, longer payment terms and even the prospect of debtors going out of business altogether. According to a recent survey by invoice finance firm IGF, 38 per cent of small firms

have experienced cash flow difficulties in the last two years, while over half (56 per cent) say late payment by customers remains a real issue. ‘If you do not effectively manage your cash flow, you will simply go out of business,’ says David Taylor, chief executive of credit management company OnGuard. ‘You may be providing the best product or service in the world, but without a healthy cash flow, it’ll all be over. Full stop.’ www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 15:09

feature cash flow

mea ‘fac t prons theoring v re ide fin forsponsr takance ib es c payollec ility men tin ts’ g


One of the simplest ways of improving cash flow and reducing the chances of late or bad debt is to regularly credit-check customers and use their payment histories to establish your own payment terms. This is particularly relevant with new customers, with which you do not have established relationships. ‘It’s important for businesses to be confident that the new customers they are taking on can actually pay or have good payment records,’ says Simon Streat, managing director of Experian’s UK SME business. ‘This is especially the case if it is a long-term contract rather than a one-off service. You want to ensure they can continue to pay over a long period, so it is important to keep monitoring those customers to ensure they are still going strong and will continue to keep paying you.’ Paul Davis is corporate recovery principal at MacIntyre Hudson. He believes small businesses have improved the level of importance they place on cash-handling and credit management over the last few years – both because of economic necessity and greater scrutiny from their banks – but adds that there remains considerable room for improvement. ‘Small businesses should invoice more often, so when the product or service is delivered rather than waiting until the end of the month,’ he says. ‘It is tough to separate the basic accounting practices, particularly around credit management, from the issues of late payment and bad debt,’ adds John Davis, managing director of Business Centric Services Group. ‘In many ways bad practices are the cause, and late payment and bad debt the symptoms. Prompt, accurate invoicing, clear credit terms and staying on top of who owes you what and when, are the pillars of strong credit management.’ ‘Ideally, a business would have a dedicated person whose job it is to chase payments,’ says Streat at Experian. ‘The more it is put off, the bigger a problem it becomes. Forward planning is essential. Do a little at a time. It enables less exposure to debt and creates a better relationship with the customer.’ A further option for small businesses is to turn to short or medium-term financing as a way of boosting cash flow. For many, bank loans remain firmly out of reach but a

It’s tough to separate the basic accounting practices, particularly around credit management, from late payment & bad debt

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

037-039_TB02_Cash Flow_v4gh.ga.indd 38

04/11/2011 15:09

s, t

cash flow feature

Top tips to boost cash flow Agree credit terms

Wherever credit is extended to customers, the amount of credit offered and the terms on which it is given should be appropriate, given what is known about the customer’s ability to pay

Invoice correctly

Take care to ensure invoices are sent out promptly, with the name and address of the business clearly and accurately stated, along with the payment terms

recent survey conducted by the ACCA and the CBI found that overdrafts are the most popular form of finance, with 33 per cent of small businesses applying for them and almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of requests being granted. Others are seeking to maximise credit from their own suppliers, within agreed terms, with 29 per cent using this as a means of credit and 91 per cent succeeding with such requests. The use of invoice financing has also increased over the last few years, with the latest quarterly figures released by the Asset Based Finance Association showing year-on-year growth of 14 per cent. ‘Invoice finance is an instant injection of cash that mirrors the company’s sales turnover, by advancing around 85 per cent of the invoice value on the day the invoice is raised,’ says John Atkinson, head of commercial business at Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance. ‘The balance, less costs, is paid once the customer pays the bill. This helps businesses secure better discounts with suppliers for prompt payment and ensures Paul Morgan, staff get paid. Typical costs managing director are around 1.5 per cent of of PS Finance, shared the invoice value.’ his words of wisdom on Here, customers have the topic of cash flow: two main options, known ‘Finding the right financial partner, as factoring and invoice one who takes time to understand discounting, explains your business is the real key to Peter Ewen, managing succeeding, particularly in difficult director at Venture trading circumstances.’ Finance and chairman of www.psfinance.co.uk the International Factors Group. ‘Factoring means that the finance provider takes responsibility for collecting payment

Monitor potential problems

Keep an eye on outstanding invoices and chase debtors up if payment fails to turn up when it should

Use up-to-date data

Many firms rely on incomplete and dated information which is twice as old as they would tolerate when using information for their own management purposes Source: ACCA

from a business’s customers while with invoice discounting, businesses carry out their own credit control,’ he says. ‘As a business grows and its sales increase, so does the amount of working capital that an invoice finance provider can make available,’ adds Edward Rimmer, UK chief executive of Bibby Financial Services. ‘This makes it very attractive to growing businesses, especially when compared with other more traditional business finance products.’ In the current worsening economic climate, it’s likely that businesses will require a mixture of approaches to ensure they don’t become the latest victim of a lack of cash flow. One thing that is clear, though, is that this is an issue companies ignore at their peril. ‘A poorly-managed cash flow is one of the biggest factors in businesses failing,’ says Rimmer. ‘If there is no cash in the bank to pay monthly bills, meet staff wages or purchase raw materials or new equipment, the business will suffer and its survival is threatened.’ No sensible business can afford to take that risk.



Bibby www.bibbyfinancialservices.com Venture Finance www.venture-finance.co.uk Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance www.hitachicapital.co.uk Experian www.experian.co.uk MacIntyre Hudson www.macintyrehudson.co.uk Business Centric Services Group www.bcsg.com OnGuard www.onguard.com www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

037-039_TB02_Cash Flow_v4gh.ga.indd 39

04/11/2011 15:10

Business StartUp Show London - Earls Court November 17-18


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04/11/2011 17:13

apprenticeships feature




Former apprentice, Rianna Fry, discusses the benefits of the programme for start-ups and SMEs


he profile of apprenticeships has risen considerably, for which in part we have the BBC to thank. Since the hit TV programme aptly named The Apprentice – which sees Lord Alan Sugar put a number of business people through their paces to secure a place as his apprentice – hit the airwaves there’s been a marked rise in the number of enquiries. However, as a former apprentice myself; I can confirm the programme bears no resemblance to the real life process. I know, you’re shocked aren’t you?

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

facts & figures



On a positive note, the heightened awareness of apprenticeships has lead to many overcoming the stigma that these programmes are solely targeted at hairdressers and mechanics. In reality there are more than 200 courses available, from nursing to graphic design, horticulture to engineering. In 2009/2010 more than a quarter of a million people started an apprenticeship; in excess of 100,000 employers in over 160,000 workplaces offer schemes; nine-out-of-ten employers said vocationally-qualified staff were vital for their business success; and 63 per cent agree that skills training could play an important role in economic recovery. Digesting these figures I wonder why all SMEs and start ups aren’t chomping at the bit to play Lord Sugar? How about we put it down to a lack of awareness? Ok, perhaps not a lack of awareness maybe more of a lack of knowledge. If you slot into the category of those missing out on the opportunity to harness raw talent in the next generation read on, my friend. Allow me to fill you in on the need-to-know details. The first thing to understand is that an apprentice is an employee; they cannot be part of a training programme without employment. Effectively they are, if you like, trainees who attend tuition off-site with a dedicated provider, while being taught the job role at their place of work. Yet they have a lower minimum salary than trainees, which is perfect for start-ups and SMEs. ‘Organisations that aren’t cash rich can take on apprentices to build their workforce on a lower budget,’ Jackie Davies, business training adviser at the Professional Training Academy for Colchester Institute, explains. ‘The employer is responsible for paying the

Quick fire

Holiday entitlement: Yes, minimum of 20 days paid per year Tax and NI: Must be paid if over the age of 16 Maternity and paternity cover: Yes Age limit: 16+ No. of 16-18 providers 2011/12: 793 No. of 19+ providers 2011/12: 801

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

apprenticeship wage, however the training itself, for those under the age of 19, is fully funded for by Government. And for those above 19, a contribution is required; this is a one-off payment of between £150 and £300, subject to the qualification.’ Once you’ve decided to take on an apprentice you’ll need to find a training provider. The National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) has a dedicated Search for Learning Provider page on its website to enable employers to peruse training providers’ offerings as not every provider offers all courses. The process of hiring an apprentice, from start to finish, takes between six and eight weeks, and there is no limit to the number of apprentices that can be employed. During this time the training provider would stringently assess applicants for suitability and advertise the role on the Apprenticeship Vacancy Online system – the official recruitment system for apprentices in England. It is here that vacancies from employers may be viewed and applied for nationally by thousands of candidates who’ve registered, making it easy for employers to attract and recruit. That said, many providers have a bank of students waiting for local employment. This process also involves health and safety checks, and risk assessments of the working premises, which will be carried out by the assessor. Courses can take between 12 and 36 months to complete, during which time the student will be placed with an organisation. And, once the documents have been signed off, the exams complete and certificates received, it’s up to the employer to decide whether to take an apprentice on full-time. ‘Research shows that 80 per cent of apprentices continue with their employer once they have achieved their certificate,’ Davies confirms. Small businesses have many thousands of apprentices working with them and are huge supporters of apprenticeships. ‘In the past five months alone we have spoken to over 15,000 small businesses who are interested in starting programmes,’ explains Mandip Bilkhu of NAS. ‘In fact, their popularity is highlighted by one such campaign we are working on in the North East to create 100 Apprenticeship places in 100 days. The campaign has already created

80 per cent of those who employ apprentices agree they make the workplace more productive 81 per cent of consumers favour companies that take on apprentices The national minimum age for apprentices is £2.60 per hour. However many employers prefer to pay more; research shows that the average salary is £170 per week Employers who take on a 16- to 18-year-old apprentice only pay their salary while the Government funds their training There are over 85,000 employers offering apprenticeships in more than 130,000 locations; there are over 200 frameworks suitable for hundreds of job roles 88 per cent of employers who employ apprentices believe that they lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce 83 per cent of those who employ apprentices rely on their programme to provide the skilled workers needed for the future One-in-five employers have hired more apprentices to help them through the tough economic climate

over 700 places, three weeks early.’ With over 100,000 employers in England alone offering apprenticeships, if you aren’t already involved, it’s time to realise the benefits.


The Professional Training academy at Colchester Institute: www.theptc.co.uk National Apprenticeships Service: www.apprenticeships.org.uk

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Clare Rayner is the brains behind several brands, all focused on serving the retail sector – for example, The Retail Champion for SME retailers; Retail Acumen providing analytics and insights for multiples; and e-mphasis Internet Marketing. We speak with her about the benefits of taking on an apprentice 44

What appealed to you about the apprenticeship program? We’d tried working with experienced staff but because we have clear processes and we’re entrepreneurial business owners, we found experienced persons challenge the defined methodology or try to prove themselves. In the end we often found their experience to be either not applicable to our approach or worse, needed to be unlearnt. When we heard about apprenticeships it really clicked with us. I felt that it was a brilliant partnership between employer and employee – a blend of work experience, training and a formal qualification. The people we interviewed were all very young, eager to learn and realised the value of the current workplace – pure academic qualifications wouldn’t cut-it.

How did you find the process of taking apprentices on? We had three routes – our local college and two different private providers. The college was dreadful, to be frank. We were advertising for a trainee Internet

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marketing analyst, so they sent us CVs of people who had said their long-term career aims were to be hairdressers or beauticians. It felt like a round peg/square hole situation. Obviously we wanted to invest in someone for the long term; not just get a cheap resource. It did feel at times that some people would do anything, not relevant to their career plans, just to get £2.50 an hour and an NVQ when their mates at college got nothing. They were not who we wanted to bring on board.

What could be done to improve the process or make it easier? The providers each had to do a full health and safety check – that

could be more efficient if one approved provider has done a check and can provide that on-record for all providers to see. We had three H&S checks; all identical. Surely that process could be improved?

in work time. But non-apprentices also come with drawbacks, so it’s no more or less difficult as a manager, it’s just that the challenges presented are different.

What have you found to be the most beneficial factors of taking apprentices on?

Absolutely. Within two months of starting we are able to hand over pieces of work which would otherwise have tied up time of key resource. That resource can now be out attracting new business, which in turn means we can bring in more apprentices to meet the demand.

They are keen, they recognise the value of combining a formal qualification with work experience, and have no preconceived ideas. The real benefit is we know that our investment in their learning will reward our business and in turn we offer them increased salary and wider scope of responsibility. Of course it also feels good to be surrounded by a team of eager, positive, energetic teenagers – they keep us young.

And the drawbacks? They’ve never been in a workplace before and 17-21 year olds can, if not kept in check, be a bit silly. We’ve occasionally had to have a few words about focusing on work and, for example, not using Facebook

Have they aided your growth?

Will you offer you apprentices full-time employment after the course? We’re not recruiting for the short term. We will have invested considerable effort in their training. We like long term, stable growth – and through apprenticeships we can begin that growth, but only through retention of the talent we have home-grown, can we sustain it.

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Business Start Up Show feature

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Business bonanza

Another must-attend event for the budding businessman – or woman - as the Business Start Up Show rolls into London this month or anyone thinking about starting or expanding a business, the Business Startup Show is a vital event. As the industry-leader, the show provides the perfect platform for entrepreneurs and SMEs, with over 250 seminars, 350 exhibitors, and some the UK’s most successful business figures. Among the leading figures sharing their knowledge this year is James Caan, known as much for his role on the BBC show Dragon’s Den as he is for founding

Hamilton Bradshaw, the Mayfair-based private equity firm. Also on the speakers’ list is David Gold, chairman of West Ham United and the Gold Group, who takes part in a Q&A session. The King of Shaves founder and chairman, Will King, also discusses the use of social media from a company and brand perspective. Ian Jarvis of show organiser, the Prysm Group has also confirmed some exciting new features. ‘We’re www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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feature business start up show

featured events

The show offers a veritable feast of events to help you kick start or grow your business. Here’s what you can expect...

Starting your own retail business

A one-stop-shop of advice, information, goods and services to help you get your new business off the ground - or take your current business to the next level. November 17 & 18.

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Inspiring women

Launched at last year’s show with great success, the series of talks with leading businesswomen returns this year, offering advice to help get your start up off the ground. Speakers include Saira Khan, Kimberley Davis, Caroline Marsh and Paloma Vivanco-Coutts. launching the biggest networking event in the UK – Business Connections. This networking feature will bring together the online business community, providing a place to meet up, share ideas and chat about business. There will also be an area where you can exchange business cards, build on your client-base and forge strategic alliances,’ he explained. Also new for this year is the Great British Business Show, a new event that will run alongside the Business Startup Show, in the same hall at the same time. The new event is for SMEs looking to expand rather than taking the first step. ‘It’s here to help your great small business grow into a great big one,’ says Jarvis. The show continues to go from strength to strength – this year is its twenty sixth – running twice a year, with a spring edition in May. Jarvis believes the show is successful because offers so much in the way of inspiration

and advice; it provides business tools, resources and networking. The people taking part are at every stage business growth, and industry experts are able to assist the audience with business objectives. In short, it’s an invaluable platform for small businesses to network, seek answers and create strategic alliances. Still not convinced? ‘It would be easier to list the reasons why they shouldn’t attend,’ says Jarvis. ‘Put frankly, if you are an SME, young business or entrepreneur, you have to attend this show - and there are so many reasons why - 350 exhibitors offering the tools and resources that your business needs; 250 seminars from some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, each offering their own pieces of great advice on starting or growing a business, and Interactive workshops run by industry experts such as Google, Saatchi & Saatchi and the London Stock Exchange.’ You’d be mad not to ...


Going global

If you’re looking to trade internationally or expand overseas, this is the seminar for you. Experts discuss the integral points of setting up in a foreign market, how to sell products internationally, and the step-by-step process of expanding your existing business.

Be the boss

Escaping the 9-5 humdrum and being your own boss is a large part of the attraction for people who start their own business. The series of seminars addresses key questions, such as what makes a good boss? What support is available? If you are the owner-operator of your business, how do you keep yourself motivated? If you have a workforce, how can you get the best out of them? Now in its fifth year, the series is considered one of the highlights of the show.

Ian Jarvis, 0117 9304927, www.prysmgroup.co.uk

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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recruiting feature

Hire’em, fire’em

Peter Bartram looks at the trick to hiring the right staff


hen TMA, a £1.2m-turnover marketing agency recruited a new finance manager, it learnt lessons about how to get it wrong - and how to get it right. Jim Horsley, chairman of TMA, which is based near Henley-on-Thames, explains: ‘At first, we advertised locally because we thought there would be people in the area with the right skills. ‘But although the adverts produced some interesting candidates and TMA appointed a finance manager who’d had senior experience in a large company, he found it difficult to apply his skills in a smaller organisation and left,’ says Horsley. For a second try, TMA approached recruitment agency, Hays to provide a list of suitable candidates. Horsley says: ‘We felt the agency would provide a better selection of candidates – and as it was a large recruitment player, we thought it would attract good quality people.’ TMA wanted to recruit a finance manager with good practical skills and

knowledge of how a small company works. The company started with a list of a dozen potential candidates. ‘We looked at the CVs to see whether the skillsets matched the needs of the job rather than just at whether they were impressive CVs,’ says Horsley. ‘We were looking for somebody who had worked in a similar-sized organisation, who’d had responsibility and accountability for the finance function, and who’d had a depth of experience’. TMA winnowed the initial applicants down to a short-list of four for interview. During the 45-minute interviews, Horsley and director Ian Shortman focused on probing questions about

Below (from left to right): Jeff Grout, Jim Horsley and Sandra Beale

www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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feature recruiting

you need to include essential and desirable criteria


the skillsets and personality they wanted. The final decision was made after a further in-depth review of the CVs, assessing the interviews, and taking up the candidates’ references. TMA is delighted with its new finance manager, Joanne Massey. ‘She has great people skills and fits in well with our team,’ says Horsley. ‘Too many companies take a wrong turning when recruiting’, says Sandra Beale, an HR consultant who advises small and medium-sized organisations on recruitment decisions. ‘The problem is that they cut corners and that’s when things go wrong.’ But smaller firms can hire some great people if they go about it the right way, says Jeff Grout, a former managing director of recruitment agency, Robert Half International who now specialises in people management consultancy. ‘In the past, corporates took the cream of the crop, but that’s no longer the case,’ Grout says. ‘These days a top-flight manager might want to get a few years’ experience in a smaller company before moving on.’ Despite the straightened economic times, there is still a dearth of top talent out there. Companies that want to recruit the best must be professional at every stage of difficult to sort out the good candidates the recruitment process. A good starting from the no-hopers when applications and point is to draw up a job description. ‘List CVs come in. Grout recommends holding the full duties of the role, who the individual a series of 10-minute telephone interviews will report to and where they will be based,’ with candidates who look promising. ‘It’s a says Beale. Then draw up a ‘person good way of weeding out the ones that specification’ which sets out what you’re aren’t suitable so you can invite the others looking for from the ideal candidate. for a full interview.’ Beale suggests you should break it When it comes to conducting the down under four headings – experience, interviews, preparation is vital, says knowledge, skills and qualifications. ‘You Beale. ‘The interview should be structured need to include essential and desirable so that all the candidates receive the same criteria,’ she says. information and are asked the same Attracting the best candidates also means questions to avoid discrimination.’ developing what Grout calls ‘candidate Grout says it’s important to ‘ask insight’. ‘Try to understand what it the right questions in the right w is that individuals in your target way’. He advises: ‘Don’t ask e rvi l e candidate pool want from theoretical questions where t l in we d e their working lives,’ he says. the answer is going to be h e ‘T was tur For example, older workers theoretical. Instead, ask c e u h strand t wers may be looking for pensions what the candidate did in a vieded and financial security specific situation and then r e intprovity of n’ probe that deeply.’ while younger employees n io are more interested in There are plenty of plermat o developing new skills. other tools and techniques f in Many managers find it managers can use when

recruiting. They include psychometric tests, giving candidates a short relevant assignment to complete, involving an industrial psychologist, and running a recruitment day which includes interviews as well as group and individual exercises. But too many small businesses don’t realise that recruitment is a two-way process. They are choosing an employee but the best candidates also have their pick of employers. So employers need to present the company in a positive and professional light during the recruitment process. Back at TMA, Massey had little doubt that she was joining a highly professional company. ‘My initial impressions were very good because of the impressive premises, friendly staff and plenty of parking,’ says Massey. ‘The interview was well structured and the interviewers provided plenty of information about the company’s current position. They were very professional and made me feel at ease. We discussed in-depth what they were looking for and what I wanted and the job appeared very well suited to my experience and skills.’

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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- Search for networking events across the UK by Region orTown/City - Weekly email bulletin of events in your local area - Listings for Business Workshops, Seminars and Business Shows - Regional LinkedIn groups for support and advice from other businesses




Taking an open and honest look at the fight that entrepreneurs face to reach their success, Talk Business is bursting with inspiration, tips and advice to assist those battling through the day-to-day struggles of the current climate.


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At We Do It All, we understand the immense potential that online marketing has for a business, therefore, we utilise the best means to create a brand presence for you in the online community. We realise the magic that happens when technology joins creativity, which is what Internet marketing is all about. It is not everywhere that you could find a specialised team like ours who can design, develop, advertise and sell at one go. We Do It All brings high quality, professional search engine optimisation services within reach of small to medium sized businesses. All of our SEO experts are highly trained and experienced in the guidelines and practices of the major global search engines. From the time that the original business, now rebranded as We Do It All, was established in 1999 we have been following the strategy of only using white hat SEO techniques and so have built up a respected reputation for integrity and long lasting results. Every client account is managed by personal relationship managers who make sure that we provide an efficient and effective service that are focussed on your unique business objectives. Once we come on board with your business we keep you regularly informed of all the work we do and the results we have accomplished for your website along with regular recommendations that will help you make the most of the opportunities your website provides to your customers. Our work and techniques are completely transparent so that your business can learn and develop its understanding of SEO tactics. For more information please visit our site www.marketusnow.co.uk


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Innovate and communicate Getting the best out of your communications system can help you grow and save money Words Tom Holmes As a start-up or SME you’ll want to ensure that you aren’t wasting money unnecessarily. One way to do that is by making sure your communications system is as streamlined and efficient as possible. An effective communications system helps workers to collaborate more effectively, boosts productivity, reduces costs, and seamlessly connects people on the move. This month we take a look at some of the options available to anyone who’s tasked with sourcing a communications systems for a start up



Avaya is a global leader in the business communications sector, providing unified communications, contact centers, data solutions and related services to businesses around the world. A number of its products are designed specifically for use by start-ups and SMEs. They’re cost-efficient and modifiable – meaning that as your business grows, the system can be adapted to meet your needs. The flagship product is IP Office, a one-stop shop for the growing business. Built from the ground up, IP Office delivers the communication capabilities of a larger business, with the

functionality and ease-of-use required by smaller companies. Among its more innovative functions are the mobile worker and the teleworker options. The mobile function allows the business to route any mobile phone through the office phone system, complete with call handling. Similarly the teleworker option gives employees that work remotely the same phone functionality they’d have in the office. Users can connect their phones to the company’s phone system via a virtual private network. Because it all goes through the IP Office system, you can hire talent from anywhere and save money. Avaya, 01483 308 000, www.avaya.com

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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If you’re just starting out or already running a small business, it is worth considering the Mitel 3000. At its most basic, it’s a traditional private branch exchange, though its capabilities stretch far beyond that. Features such as conferencing, centralised voice mail, and an automated attendant for greeting and routing incoming calls make communications more efficient and free you and your employees to focus on your business. The modular system is also easily expanded to accommodate up to 52 employees and multiple devices. It can also be expanded to support secure voice communications over the Internet to substantially reduce long distance call charges. As with the Avaya system, the Mitel 3000 can grow with your business. Simple, add-on modules allow companies to add phone lines and extensions, while other modules are available for centralised voice mail, shared broadband access and secure voice and data communications over the web. Mitel, www.mitel.com


While some companies still use key and PBX systems, most are migrating to a more advanced, cost-effective system with voice, video, data, web conferencing, wireless, and other applications running on a single Internet Protocol (IP) network – and with good reason. A communication system running on one network allows access to a variety of applications. For an all-in-one package, Cisco’s Unified Communication 300 Series is as good as any. The system is affordable and easy to use, and allows business users to take advantage of IP telephony to reduce costs and boost profit and productivity. Like most on the market, additions can be made and functionality improved to meet your changing business demands. Cisco, 020 8824 1000, www.cisco.com


Whatever type of network you choose, you’re going to need phones to make and receive calls on. While grabbing a job lot of phones from your nearest department store may seem tempting, you will need a handset that can cope with the demands of a business. Aastra has a range that meets the various requirements of a busy office, ranging from the simpler 25 and 35 models, to the rather more advanced 5370IP and 5380IP. The 25 is fairly basic –reflecting its design for use in offices with relatively low call volumes. Both phones offer message playback, call transfer and other in-call functions. If you’re starting out they’re a good bet. The more advanced models are designed for use in offices with heavy call volumes. The 5380IP has high-end functionality, including an integrated alphanumeric keyboard which saves users time when searching for contact names or composing text messages. Practical functions such as automatic call back, call forwarding and conference call also help improve efficiency. The phone can also be protected against unauthorised use with an access code. Aastra, 01252 532100, www.aastra.co.uk

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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directory talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk november 2011

Simple Enviro Ltd: Office Furniture Recycling – We Tick the Box. Under this new initiative we collect redundant office furniture and recondition it to give it a new lease of life. T: 01482 598219 E: sales@simplenviro.com W: www.simplenviro.com

L.O.I Joseph & Associates: We are a broad base practice formed by professionally qualified accountants who have gained experience in both public and private sectors as well as in the practice. Our Chief Executive Officer and founder has over 40 years relevant professional experience gained at Senior Management Level in the profession and industry. T. 020 8362 0629

Design Video Innovation: For all your Website videos, Training videos, Product demonstration videos, Company promotional videos, e-Learning videos... Business video producers T: 07548 827992 E: info@designvideo.co.uk W: www.designvideo.co.uk

CFO4Growth: Is there a gap in your management team? Providing CFO support to CEOs and entrepreneurs in SME businesses at each stage of development • Growth • Funding • Acquisitions Contact: Maddy Kennedy FCCA T: 07887 610597 E: maddy.kennedy@cfo4growth.com W: www.cfo4growth.com

Smart Video: Dave Holland is CEO of www. smart-video.tv - a unique Online Video SEO tool for businesses of all sizes. Smart Video’s affordable SEO tool will instantly host your videos and get them indexed in Google searches with a thumbnail image in a matter of hours, with all the traffic coming directly to your website. W: www.smart-video.tv

Sparky Media Productions: We produce leading video work for clients such as IMG, Ficoh and HSBC. If you would like to develop a viseo idea to support your business, we would be delighted to help. T: 01702 343992 E: mark@sparkymediaproductions.com W: www.sparkymediaproductions.com

Orchard Hosting: Seriously robust business hosting from £7.50 a month. 24 Hour Support, UK Data Centres, multi-tiered backups. T: 0161 850 0563 E: help@orchardhosting.com W: www.orchardhosting.com

HC Hosting: If you transfer your domain to our hosting servers we will transfer the domain for you for free and then offer you 3 months free hosting. T: 01268 548636 E: stephen@hillierconsultants.com W: www.hchosting.org.uk

Sterling Trade Finance Ltd: With our flexible combination of products we can finance the complete supply chain. this includes purchase of goods from overseas or domestic suppliers, payment of Vat, duty and shipping charges, and selective invoice discounting supported by a full credit management service. T: 020 7569 9609 E: sales@sterlingtradefinance.com

The Rockstar Mentoring Group: The UK’s Number 1 mentoring organisation for business owners looking to grow or raise finance. Since its establishment in 2007, our mission has been to help businesses at the SME level. T: 0845 652 2905 E: info@rockstargroup.co.uk

SEO Shrink: Do you want to see your website on the first page of Google? How about web marketing without the jargon? Want to speak to a search engine optimization specialist? Talk to us today about increasing business to your website. T: 01733 687699 E: sales@seoshrink.com W: www.seoshrink.com

Skills Hive: To get started just register and start to build your profile as a Worker or Hirer or both, then browse the other profiles and start to get a feel for who else is in the Hive. Once you have activated your membership you can then start to either issue tasks as a Hirer or receive tasks as a Worker. T: 07894 561726 W: www.skills-hive.co.uk


www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk November 2011

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04/11/2011 17:09

feature opinion

Sound the customer out

Mark Williamson, sales and marketing director at PH Media Group, explains that although a business may be small, it needn’t sound it



n business, image is everything. That’s why you’ll be keen to create a positive first impression on new customers with your marketing, and why you’ll know that promoting your business takes time and money. But even in its infancy, a new business can still think big when it comes to making an impact in the marketplace. This is where sound can be a powerful tool. If you’re expecting to receive enquiries through the telephone, a professionally your team have gone home. These written and recorded on-hold message is an messages will encourage the caller to innovative and cost-effective way to market contact you by alternative means or your new business to a captive audience. between certain times so you’ll never Instead of plunging callers into silence while miss an enquiry. they’re on-hold or being transferred, you can Using the same voice artist and music use this valuable time to tell customers all to add sound to your marketing will help about your other services and products, you build an effective, engaging audio promote any seasonal offers or simply tell brand. Just as powerful as a visual design, them where you’re located and when you’re audio branding helps you to shout about open. As a new business, you’ll want to take your business at every opportunity. The every opportunity to talk about yourself, and right voice and music can speak volumes with a caller having already shown an interest, about your company – and you can create this is an excellent way to connect with them. brand continuity by using the same You may be a small enterprise, but you combination over the telephone, in radio don’t have to sound small. Even if it’s just advertising and online. Think about how you you manning the phones for the first few want your business to sound; the music weeks, an auto attendant message will and voice that best represent your ethos immediately give the impression of a larger and capture your brand. Are you targeting or longer-established business. This customers on a regional or national level? service carefully and quickly guides callers What sort of music will inspire your through to the right department, customers and your staff? You can so if you’re dealing with even consider introducing ‘Just as accounts, sales and IT appropriate music into your powerful as a yourself, callers will feel retail or office space. It’s visual design, like they’re being proven to motivate your audio branding transferred to an expert. employees and helps you to At the end of the encourage customers to shout about business day – whether stay longer... so there’s your business you’re shutting a shop or more to music than at every locking up an office – an meets the ear. opportunity’ out-of-hours message will Audio branding is ensure you continue to sound versatile and can be rolled out professional even when you and across all of your customer

touchpoints. Using web audio, for instance, enables you to captivate visitors with key information, or direct them to special offers or content that they might otherwise miss. Elsewhere, video tutorials and podcasts can be used to discuss critical issues or provide step-by-step instructions for product assembly. It’s all about standing out from the crowd, and along with the telephone, your website is a great way to help establish and extend your audio brand. To really make a lasting impression acquire an audio logo – a centrepiece or motif that completes your audio brand. It needs to be memorable, distinctive and flexible enough to fit with and support your existing marketing strategy and company ethos. Adding this logo to your website, on-hold messaging or radio advert will do even more to reinforce your brand in customers’ minds. Ultimately, choosing the right sounds can help you influence customers on a more subconscious level than visual marketing alone. So whether you’re small and want to sound bigger, are part of a national franchise but want to sound local – or are simply rushed off your feet and want to sound organised – it’s possible to control, manage and brand how you sound with these innovative products and services.

Contact www.phmg.com

November 2011 www.talkbusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Profile for Talk Business

Talk Business November 2011  

November's issue of Talk Busines Magazine

Talk Business November 2011  

November's issue of Talk Busines Magazine