Talk Business Magazine - February 2016

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

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CREATING A BUSINESS THAT SUCKS Sir James Dyson talks research, design, how to stay ahead of competitors, and why he loves Japanese bins

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STRATEGY 39 The cardinal sin of customer communication

77 We love... top tech 78 Let it snow

Rich With

9 Editor’s letter 10 Contributors 13 News & events

Smooth style for the slopes

43 From Russia with love

80 On the road: Audi Q7

Productivity lessons from post- Soviet Russia

Oliver Hammond’s car review

46 Bless the gains down in Africa TECHNOLOGY

Is Africa the next frontier for SMEs?

49 Where there’s a web, there’s a way


How to hold the perfect webinar

82 10 signs your SEO needs fixing Get your SEO strategy sorted

85 Wi-Fight the future? MARKETING

Finding the right Wi-Fi

88 The danger within Protect your data against disaster

51 Playing your cards close to your chest


I’ve got an app for that

Kimberly Davis on protecting your brand

SUCCESS 16 Creating a business that sucks Sir James Dyson talks research, design, and how to stay ahead of competitors

23 Up and coming Olly Southern, Chored

24 Lessons learned Pieter K de Villiers, Barefoot Funnels

54 Do you need an imaginary friend? Should you buy Twitter followers?

58 What to avoid when developing your marketing campaign 61 How to be more creative 62 Searching for an answer to advertising spend?

FRANCHISE 93 Franchise news 94 Spring clean your franchise With Nicky Tatley from Dynamis

98 Franchise spotlight Paul Stafford of the bfa talks to Alan Lewin of Servicemaster

Outperform your competitors at paid search advertising


27 Book reviews PEOPLE


65 Zest is best Leadership expert, Deborah Benson on how to work with passion

67 Rise to the challenge

ADVICE 101 Sales Doctor Your questions answered

Challenging unhelpful behaviour

68 Dealing with grief Rich Cummings explains how to deal with workplace bereavement

71 Why networking is not for you How to get the most out of networking events

FINANCE 29 Can’t pay? Just say Adam Aiken

30 Is bigger really better? Do you really need a high priced lawyer?

33 Accounting for errors Streamline your accounts processes

36 Give me some credit Comparing the cost of business credit

72 Anarchy or innovation? Extreme management policies taking companies to the next level

75 Taking recruits to trial Lee McQueen - spotting the skills of new employees


102 Banish your career fears 105 It’s a match How to build instant sales rapport

108 Money matters Four major events to be aware of in 2016


Legally speaking Wright Hassell on unwanted office Valentines

113 Flood for thoughts Prepare your business for extreme weather conditions

116 Directory

OPINION 118 Question of the month: We ask: “Should the Government reconsider HS2?” 7



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Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it Trey Parker

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Circulation/subscriptions: UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: Aston Greenlake Publishing Ltd T: 0203 617 4681 Talk Business is published 12 times a year by Aston Greenlake Publishing Limited William Robinson Buildings, 3 Woodfield Terrace, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex, CM24 8AJ © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. No part of Talk Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Talk Business will make every effort to return picture material, but it is sent at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore Aston Greenlake Publishing Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation. The opinions expressed by guests in this magazine are not necessarily the views held by Talk Business magazine, its publishers, and its owners.

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ometimes, when faced with success, it is too easy to stand still and bask in the warm glow of triumph. However, much like the hare taking a snooze while the tortoise plodded forward, if you stand still for too long, you’re likely to get caught. Progress for progress’ sake is never the answer, but moving forward and never resting on your laurels should always be at the forefront of any successful entrepreneur’s mind. There are countless examples of companies which stood still and got overtaken – Blockbuster Video and Zavvi to name but two – but thankfully there are shining examples of those that have done it the right way, and become pioneers in their industry. Our cover star this month, Sir James Dyson, is a name you will all know, but the effort he puts in, and the curiosity and ingenuity he exhibits behind the scenes of his company to ensure it maintains its place as a market leader, may surprise you. From making the first prototype of his Dyson vacuum in his shed in the 1970s to initially being shunned by UK retailers, Dyson is now a world leader in technology, having persevered and evolved. And key to this success has been research and design. Check out his insights on this, being successful in tech, how the UK needs more immigration to stay ahead of the game, and more, on page 16. Elsewhere this month, Richard Chapman looks at whether it is really worth buying artificial Twitter followers to boost your standing online. A big followers number, even when filled with fake accounts can look great and perhaps lead to other real people following you, but will it all end in tears? Find out on page 54. Finally, we come down with a bit of an international fever as we ask whether Africa is the next frontier for SMEs to conquer and how they can manage it (pg46), and the lessons you can learn from post-Soviet Russia to increase your productivity (pg43). Adios, amigos! 9


The experts




Tony is a sales trainer and co-founder of The Sales Doctor. He has more than 14 years’ experience in sales, both B2B and B2C, and has trained more than 1,500 sales professionals in a variety of industries. Alongside his business partner, Tony set up The Sales Doctor in May 2006. He started by cold calling to generate appointments, and within the first year, The Sales Doctor had 56 clients; this has continued to grow year-on-year. Tony’s ethos: you can sell any product or service with the right attitude and a well planned call structure.

Rich has worked in a design environment since leaving college. After spending time in editorial, print, and web design, he began freelancing at agencies in London and the Caribbean. He set up his own studio Hoot Creative - last year. Based near Southend, he works with MDs of established businesses and start-up SMEs, who have a problem getting noticed in an overcrowded market. Rich likes Massive Attack, Jeff Buckley, smoothies, photography, and winegums; he is not fond of Brussels sprouts. You can follow him on Twitter @RichGrowCo

Adam is an experienced financial journalist who spent his early career at the Eastern Daily Press (EDP) before going freelance. After cutting his teeth as a news reporter, and then subeditor, he was personal finance editor and deputy business editor at the EDP. Based in Norwich, he is currently helping to launch Talk Money - an online personal finance sister title to Talk Business - and he also writes for publications such as Moneywise. Adam is a Sussex County Cricket Club member, and loves music. A regular concert-goer, he reviews live gigs for Classic Rock magazine and its stablemates.



10 February 2016






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news 59

% of UK SMEs are not taking their security seriously enough and are at huge risk of a security breach, according to new research. Digital ID, the access control and smart card specialist, conducted the research, which found 23% of businesses have very little visitor security processes at all. When asked what security measures they did have in place, of the 59%, most only had locks or security lights, with nearly twothirds of them admitting they were not in use during working hours. Adam Bennett, digital marketing manager at Digital ID, said: “At the very least, small businesses should have cyber security in place, but construction sites or building firms for example, should make sure there’s a level of access control in areas where items or equipment could be stolen. It’s surprising how much we hear of this kind of security breach, with a lot of it happening in broad daylight.”

Are you sure you’re secure? Research reveals that more than half of SMEs are failing on security In light of the research, Digital ID has put together a list of the most important security processes SMEs should have in place: • Cyber security – this will protect a company’s intellectual property from viruses, bots, hackers, and rogue employees, by restricting access to client data and payment details. • Access control – ID cards, swipes

Over half of UK workers want to be their own boss? Desire for change is strongest between 25- and 34-year-olds


ver half (54%) of UK workers wish they could change career, according to research by Standard Life. Millennials have the strongest desire for career change, with almost three quarters (72%) wanting new challenges in

their professional lives, when aged between 25 and 34. For many, it would seem that the desire to strike out on their own is a reason for thinking about a career change. Almost six in 10 UK workers (57%) have considered starting their

and barriers or gates can be set up to restrict access for certain people in specified areas of the building or premises. • Staff and visitor ID cards – useful not just for security, but also for health and safety reasons, or in the case of an emergency, such as a fire. Contact: own business, with those between the ages of 25 and 34 most motivated to do so. Wanting to be your own boss is the biggest driver for setting up, or thinking about setting up a business, and with 54% of workers saying they’ve had to miss a significant personal event due to work commitments, perhaps it’s not surprising some people want to call the shots. Stephen Ingledew, Standard Life managing director, marketing, commented: “It’s really encouraging to see so many young people embodying these entrepreneurial aspirations as they strive for workplace happiness, as well as looking clearly to the future to ensure their career provides the best possible financial security.” Contact: 13


news A third of SME owners use alcohol to relieve stress Survey reveals 10% more men than women turn to drink to help them relax


espite freelancers and microbusiness owners generally feeling less stressed having left regular paid employment (46% are less stressed), new research from Crunch Accounting has found that 35% currently turn to alcohol to relieve stress. The survey also found that 10% more men (39.5%) than women (29.5%) turn to drink to help them relax. This follows the UK’s chief medical officer’s announcement of new stricter alcohol guidelines. Some of the most popular methods

mentioned by freelancers to destress include exercising (42%), cooking (24%), sex (15%), and meditation (12%). The small business community named a series of factors that were contributing to rising stress levels, including the unpredictable ebb and flow of work (23%), late payments from clients (13%), and tax and red tape (9%). Jason Kitcat, micro-business ambassador at Crunch said: “It’s extremely worrying that so many of

the freelancers and SMEs that drive our economy forward are turning to drink to deal with stress. It’s clear that the Government needs to do more to reduce the burden of red tape, and ensure that freelancers and small business owners’ rights are being better protected. On average, it takes freelancers 25 days to chase a payment, and cashflow is a consistent source of stress; this is simply not good enough.” Contact:

DATES FOR THE DIARY Business Junction Networking Events 4 Feb - Lunch in Mayfair 10 Feb - Chinese New Year lunch in Chinatown 18 Feb - Champagne breakfast in Mayfair 24 Feb - Lunch in Liverpool Street

The Business Funding Show 2nd - 3rd February Old Billingsgate, London

www.recruitmentagencyexpo. com/london

Sterling Integrity 17 March - Somerset County Ground, Taunton 14 April - Gloucester, Kingsholm Stadium

14 February 2016

IoT Tech Expo 10th - 11th February Olympia Conference Centre London

Recruitment Agency Expo 3rd - 4th February Olympia Central, London

The Scottish Wedding Show 20th - 21st February SECC, Glasgow

Finovate Europe 9th - 10th February Old Billingsgate Market, London

Packaging Innovations 24th - 25th February NEC, Birmingham

CREATING A BUSINESS THAT SUCKS Engineering marvel, and famed British inventor, Sir James Dyson explains how time, patience, and persistence is key to UK SMEs being able to make British engineering and design a force to be reckoned with once again

16 February 2016 17


Here in the UK, I was told a clear bin on a vacuum would revolt people. The Japanese embraced the bin’s transparency; they liked to see what their machine had sucked up


e search the Internet via an American search engine, we get our electronics from Japan, and we import our clothes from Pakistan. Our cars are invariably German, Swedish, or French. Our food is Indian, Chinese, or Mexican – and even much of the fish caught for the quintessentially traditional British fish and chips is sourced from just off the shores of Norway. It seems that everywhere you turn the world is getting smaller, and international lines are becoming more and more blurred. However, despite many reports of the ‘death of British creativity and invention’ over the decades (seriously – there seems to be another scare report every other year), British exports to the EU alone have increased by 2.5% every year since 1999, so we must be doing something right. And okay, many years may have passed since the likes of Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Babbage were flying the flag for the ‘British is best’ brigade, and the names of great inventors could be recited by hordes of 10-year-old schoolchildren but, for all the talk we hear of the UK being surpassed as one of the great engineering powerhouses these days, there is mercifully still one shining light among the foreign imports that keeps the flame alight for British ingenuity – and chances are one of their products is sitting in your house right now. That’s right, it’s a Dyson. Founded by Sir James Dyson in 1993, Dyson has become one of those names that is synonymous the world over with quality (although funnily enough, many cultures refer to the vacuum cleaner as a ‘hoover’ – a rival company’s name, and one

18 February 2016

of the early success stories in the industry). And where one company gains success, imitators will try to follow in their footsteps. That’s why the dedication and effort that goes into creating a Dyson, and coming up with new patents and ideas is vital to maintaining this British icon’s place at the forefront of the industry. So what is the key to staying ahead of the counterfeiters, knock-offs, copycats, and genuine competitors? “When I started out, protecting and renewing my patents almost bankrupted me. At times, investing in the most recent piece of equipment is enticing. But – and speaking from experience – I’d urge young minds to opt for securing the legalities of their idea. If a design is protected legally, then the longevity of their project is secured,” revealed the entrepreneur, who developed more than 5,000 prototype designs between 1979 and 1984 alone. “At Dyson, we prioritise our technology. For us it isn’t about following trends, but putting our best ideas forward, and taking and embracing risks. We work on an idea until it is fully functioning, until the problem is solved. Secondly, it’s about investment and expansion. Last year we committed £1.5 billion in investments to future technology, including £1 billion for the research and development of new machine technologies. We have a 25 year pipeline of technology, and none of our machines come from behind those doors until our engineers have iteratively developed and tested

each element of the machine to the highest of standards.” Strangely enough, Dyson had to take his original invention over to Japan to hit the mass market, as it wasn’t seen in the most favourable light at first on UK shores. In this way he gained a valuable lesson in never taking no for an answer, and believing in yourself and your product. “Here in the UK, I was told a clear bin on a vacuum would revolt people. The Japanese are early adopters of new, disruptive technology, and over there they embraced the bin’s transparency. They liked to see what their machine had sucked up. The UK and countries across the globe soon followed suit,” smiled the Norfolkborn inventor, who actually began work on what would eventually become the Dyson vacuum cleaner way back in 1974. So, given that many are constantly bemoaning the lack of British inventors, and are forecasting the death of UK engineering, how does Sir James see the British industry’s chances compared to other technologically advanced nations, such as Japan and South Korea, and what was it that got him interested in engineering in the first place? “As a young boy I had a natural curiosity for the inner workings of things. I was always dismantling old radios, trying to understand how they worked. Twenty two years ago, I bought what was the top of the range vacuum cleaner, a Hoover


Junior. The machine didn’t work properly. It was clear that dust clogged the pores in the bag, compromising the machine’s suction. I had this nagging feeling that there was a better way to do it. It may have taken 5,127 prototypes to create a fully functioning alternative, but the result was the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner,” beamed Dyson. Espousing the importance of that time and attention to detail, he added; “At present, there is a predominant culture for quick, overnight wins. Good technology comes with time, patience, and development. Young inventors shouldn’t be afraid to fail. Thinking long term and learning from errors makes for a project that will stand the test of time. “Immigration is key to the UK staying ahead of upcoming technology nations. It has been estimated that Britain will need 640,000 extra engineering minds by 2020. While home grown is best, unless we keep our borders open to the brightest and the best, our position as technology leaders will slip – rapidly. UK tech start-ups need to support our own, and welcome those from abroad who have studied here in the UK, if we are to maintain and accelerate our position as market leaders.” Despite having the money and power to leave the inventing and hard graft to others, he explains that he still enjoys getting to work on the research and development side of things as often as possible. “Being surrounded by blue sky thinkers who are straight out of university certainly keeps me young; their ambition and drive is infectious. As chief engineer, I have the opportunity to see each and every project from pencil on paper, to prototype, to working machine. It’s even more exciting from those days when I was building cardboard cyclones in my shed. Our engineers recently radically re-engineered our cordless cleaner heads. Originally, the head they designed could pick up the average amount of dust found in a home. I took it a step further and I discarded five times the amount of dust in a home on the carpet – and ground it in with my foot. The result of their iterative designing achieved just this. And there is now a rig of my foot and weight in RDD!” he chortled.

20 February 2016

Good technology comes with time, patience, and development. Young inventors shouldn’t be afraid to fail

Today, the company is much more than just vacuum cleaners. As all successful companies that wish to grow must do, Dyson has diversified into other markets – though being a leader in new technology is always an underlying theme. From the Dyson Airblade hand dryer to the Bladeless fan, there are a myriad of products that are changing the way we live, and have seamlessly assimilated themselves into our everyday lives. But, given all of these inventions, does Sir James have a particular favourite? “That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child!” exclaimed the billionaire who, despite being placed 22nd on the Sunday Times’ British Rich List 2015, has never forgotten his roots, and the hard work it takes to ensure success. “Every machine that we produce marks a step change in our problem solving capabilities. If I have to choose, the Dyson Digital Motor (DDM) – which we have invested

over £250 million in the development of – may be it. The DDM spins up to five times faster than a Formula One engine, enabling our cordless machines to match the suction of corded, full size vacuums.” So, despite the naysayers and detractors of the UK tech landscape, there is comfort in knowing that, at least in one little corner of our glorious island, there is hope yet for British design and engineering. And for any budding technological entrepreneurs out there wondering whether their curiosity and ingenuity will ever be worth it in a market increasingly flooded with cheap foreign products, perhaps it is worth remembering that, sometimes, it is beneficial to go with an idea that really does suck. Contact:


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lly Southern completed his law degree and was quickly tapped up by tech giants, Yahoo and Telephonica, but he always dreamed of starting his own company. That dream came true while living with a number of frustrating housemates he came up with the idea of Chored, the organising app for house shares. WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR BUSINESS AND HOW DOES IT HELP PEOPLE? Chored is an app for young people house sharing. Through using the app, our users are able to split and pay bills (including rent and utilities) directly to their utility providers, so the days of chasing that one late contribution to the gas bill are over. Additionally, and as the name suggests, Chored allows housemates to assign and track household chores. The app includes group chat and a ‘who’s home’ feature, which uses geolocation so you can see who’s in and who’s not. WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION TO GET STARTED IN BUSINESS? Starting my own business has always been a dream of mine. One of my favourite aspects about running Chored is the autonomy of it. Working in a large company, you can feel like you are a small part in a massive machine. Running a start-up is the complete opposite – everything that happens is because of something you did, or didn’t do. Suddenly you’re the

machine. It means that you can take credit for the good decisions, and shoulder responsibility for the bad ones. So far, I’d say the good are outweighing the bad. HOW DID YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY REACT TO YOU STARTING A BUSINESS? My family and friends have been amazing. My Nan is 93 years old, and I’ve sent her all of our press. I’m not convinced she’s 100% clear on what we are doing, so I’ll settle with her telling her crib group that I “do something with phones”. That will do for now. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM? This is a tough question because there have been so many. Having my back end developer walk out 50% of the way through a sprint was somewhat inconvenient… But if I had to pick one thing, it would be raising investment. It takes a special kind of person to seek out rejection again and again in the hope that the next meeting will produce something other than a continuance of the trend.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WANTING TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS? Do not underestimate how difficult raising money is. This is especially true of the first investment – no one likes to be the first to make that leap of faith. That said, aim low at first. Smaller investments attract larger investments, so as long as you have the energy to keep the round open for a while, it could even be worth starting your journey with a small crowd-funding target. This is exactly what we did; we raised £20k with Crowd2Fund, then four months later, we closed the round with £150k. HOW DO YOU EXPECT YOUR BUSINESS TO DEVELOP IN THE FUTURE? From finding the right housemate, rating your landlord, finding your next shared property, or choosing utilities suitable for your set up – we think house share is a huge market, and right now we’ve just covered the basics. We are getting a lot of support from our current (and future) investors, to make the most of the shared rental market. Contact: 23


Lessons learned Pieter K de Villiers, founder of Barefoot Funnels, looks at the seven things he has learned since starting his business, with the benefit of hindsight


aving previously run businesses as both a domestic electrical contracting, and a high end home automation installer, I have both failed and succeeded in different fields. I have co-founded and run two companies, Barefoot Funnels (designing and implementing automated business systems and processes) and 48 Hour Launch (providing fully integrated and automated marketing solutions). In this time I’ve made many mistakes and learned from them. So, to help you avoid those same mistakes, here are the lessons I’ve learned since starting my business:

24 Febuary 2016

Don’t let your ego push you into always having to be the one in the room with the most knowledge FAILURE IS VERY SELDOM CATASTROPHIC When faced with failure, be it for the business as a whole, or simply the failure of a single project or product, we tend to focus on the disaster rather than the opportunity. Just as with the changing landscape of the world we live in and do business in, everything that might seem like failure at the time holds the seeds of something much bigger and better than you ever imagined. Don’t focus on the fact

that something is failing or has failed – step back, reflect, and mine the opportunity for all it holds. YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE As entrepreneurs, it is in our nature to be in charge, make decisions, and run our own ship. But every captain of every ship knows that if he spends too much time down in the engine room trying to fix something, because he knows the ship better


In order to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to be able to remove yourself emotionally from the business and have an objective eye

than anyone else, the ship will be blown off course, and possibly hit the rocks. Trust the people who are in this with you, and trust their skills. More than that, make sure you surround yourself with people smarter than you. Don’t let your ego push you into always having to be the one in the room with the most knowledge. FIND A MENTOR I have been fortunate enough to have had Nigel Botterill as a mentor for the last four years. It is invaluable to have someone in your corner, who not only has been there and done it, and who is further along this entrepreneurial journey than you, but someone who has no emotional connection to

your business, and can give you both strategic and creative advice, hold your feet to the fire, or simply give you the kick up the backside we all sometimes need. TAKE ACTION - IT OPENS UP OPPORTUNITIES Small hinges swing big doors. The greatest opportunities I have had have appeared very quickly, once I finally took real action on things that

I’d been thinking about for a while. One such example was in my head for over a year and, once I took action, over the course of just one weekend it gave birth to 48 Hour Launch,, two joint ventures, and an entirely new approach to business. So, take action today, even if it is simply calling someone and discussing your idea, and put a stake in the ground. CARRY YOUR OWN SKIN It is all your fault, no matter what happens. You have to take full responsibility for every outcome. The great thing is, when it all goes well, you can look in the mirror and say, “I did that; I made

that happen.” However, when something does not go to plan, or fails completely, you can’t then point the finger. This is your business and everything that happens here is linked in some way to a decision you made. You are fully responsible. SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES No need to re-invent the wheel. You are not the first person to set up in business, and no matter

how many times you tell yourself that ‘nobody has ever done this, or done it this way’, there are people around everywhere who have succeeded in markets like yours, with products and services like yours. Learn from as many people as possible. Learn from their successes as much as their mistakes. THIS MAY NOT BE THE RIGHT BUSINESS FOR YOU TO RUN Fail fast and often. This is a hard maxim to first get your head around, but there is a lot to be learned from iterative software design. The latest approach in Silicon Valley is to get version one out as soon as possible, and get to version three as quickly as you can. You will not be well

served by trying to make it perfect before you show it to someone. By the same token, in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to remove yourself emotionally from the business and have an objective eye. If it is not working, and has not been working for some time, move on. You are very unlikely to make a great success of your first effort. Get to version three as fast as you can. Contact: 25





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How To Sell Recipes For Retail by John Hoerner Our verdict: About the author: John Hoerner has been a successful retailer for more than 50 years. In 1987 he was recruited by the Burton Group to run Debenhams, and in 1992, he was made chief executive of the parent company. In 2001, he joined Tesco to lead the development of its clothing business. He has also been a trustee of London Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for 17 years and was chairman for four.

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However for the frequent business traveller, these issues become a serious problem. Using his experience in the aviation industry, Christopher has provided a small lifeline to those who jetset often, and have to deal with the rigours that regular air travel can put a body through. At a time when globalisation and technology makes the world smaller, solving the challenges of jet lag requires mastering healthy flying as a discipline. Christopher starts your journey with tips on how to master productivity, build vitality, and beat the symptoms of jet lag, no matter how often you travel. Farewell Jet Lag is published by Panoma Press, priced at £49.99, and is available as a paperback.

We say: Another in the long line of books professing to turn you into a sales wizard, How To Sell, does bring to the negotiating table some useful tricks and tips to help you go from zero to hero. For retailers wanting to succeed, whether it’s those working on the shop floor wanting to progress into management, small to medium businesses that want to become more successful, or entrepreneurs wanting to start a business, John provides a wealth of knowledge from the industry, and condenses it into bite-sized and incisive quotes covering all aspects of retail. This book won’t change your life, but it might just help you along the journey towards become a sales guru. How To Sell is published by Ebury Press, is priced at £10, and is available as a paperback. 27

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If you can’t meet your financial commitments, the most important thing is to be open, says Talk Money’s Adam Aiken


truggling to meet your financial obligations can cause all sorts of problems. Sometimes it marks the beginning of the end, but sometimes it’s more of a short-term problem, and there are things that can be done to help. The most important thing to do is to talk. Putting your head in the sand, hoping the problem will just go away, or simply failing to respond to calls from your creditors will not solve the problem – it will only make it worse. BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF If the problems are short term, there are ways to battle through, but there’s no point in wasting your time trying to negotiate new terms with suppliers, landlords, or banks, if you end up going under anyway. Admitting your business has failed is usually one of the hardest things you have to do, but taking the ostrich approach doesn’t make it any better. So be honest with yourself from the outset – can the situation be rescued? IT’S GOOD TO TALK Assuming the situation can be turned around, being proactive is always the best way forward. If you are struggling to make a payment to a landlord or a supplier, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at the flexibility they show. After all, if you have a short term problem, it’s in the interest of your creditors that things get back on an even keel. LOOK AT YOUR PAYMENT TERMS WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS Consider asking your suppliers if they will accept part-payment for a few months, with a pledge that you’ll make good the arrears when things

Can’t pay? Just say

Admitting your business has failed is usually one of the hardest things to do, but taking the ostrich approach doesn’t make it any better

pick up again. Most suppliers will have had experience with this sort of thing before as cashflow problems are not rare. One of the benefits of maintaining decent relations with your suppliers is that, if you treat them well by paying on time when things are on the up, you increase the chances of being treated favourably by them when things get a little trickier. BE CAREFUL WITH RE-FINANCING If it’s a bank commitment that you’re struggling to repay, see if you can re-negotiate the term of the loan. Perhaps you can repay it over a longer period? This would put up the overall cost of the loan but should see your monthly repayments lowered. Alternatively, see if your lender is prepared to switch an unsecured loan to a secured loan, which is usually cheaper. Although many businesses are finding that raising bank finance is near impossible, once you have a loan, a bank might be more willing to be flexible if the alternative is you going under. But pause before you seek to refinance completely; a business that is struggling is likely to be given harsher terms on any new finance (if you can secure it in the first place, that is). And if the new finance proves to be more expensive than your existing commitments, you haven’t necessarily made things better – you might have made them worse.



To date, the UK’s £29 billion legal services market has widely avoided the disruptive impact of the digital revolution. But, as Lexoo’s David Bushby explains, the landscape is changing, with technology now making it possible for entrepreneurs to access top quality legal advice – at an affordable price


or the uninitiated, London’s legal scene is dominated by the ‘Magic circle’, the capital’s five biggest law firms – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May. They have the top lawyers and the best reputations. But what they also have are huge salaries and grand offices – all of which end up on your bill. For most entrepreneurs, using a big law firm is like taking a space shuttle to the supermarket – expensive and likely to burn lots of fuel right as you’re trying to lift off. When you’re bootstrapping, you don’t need a lawyer with the wow factor. What you really need is an expert in a specific field, who can get the job done for a reasonable price. With this in mind, here’s some advice about how to squeeze the most out of your legal bill:

30 February 2016

LEARNING ON YOUR DIME In large firms, juniors will often learn on your dime. Many lawyers will remember their early years, being charged out at eye watering rates, despite having next to no knowledge or experience. Delegating work to juniors makes sense in some circumstances, such as basic research, due diligence, or litigation discovery tasks. So ask your lawyer exactly who will do your work. If juniors will be involved, get them to show you how the economics stack up in your favour, not theirs. BOTTOM OF THE PILE If you’re a start-up that’s getting traction, you may find yourself being courted by a brand name firm. They might offer discounts, or defer their fees, betting that one day they might (for example) get to work on your capital raise. The fees for that future work will more than compensate for backing a few loss-leading start-ups with cheap or free services in the beginning.

But it’s worth remembering that the lawyer working for you still faces internal pressure to meet their own billable targets. Be up front and ask them, “I know you’re losing money by doing our work. When the big clients call, will I go to the bottom of the pile?” HOURLY RATE VS FIXED FEES The trouble with lawyers charging by the hour is that it rewards time spent – the more the better. If a mediocre lawyer spends a day on a task, one that takes a great lawyer only two hours to complete, the mediocre lawyer gets rewarded and the client loses out. The systems and culture of recording time by the hour, and rewarding lawyers by the amount of time billed works in their favour – not yours. Here’s the thing: many lawyers hate billing by the hour. To escape, they leave big firms to go to smaller, boutique, or solo


)RU PRVW HQWUHSUHQHXUV XVLQJ D ELJ ODZ ĆŹUP LV like taking a space shuttle to the supermarket

practices. These firms are often those same lawyers can deliver their services for a fraction of structured to offer fixed fees, where you get the price up front the cost, at fixed fees. They might live in Bristol, for a defined scope of work. rather than Mayfair, and their office might be their kitchen THE HOLY GRAIL table, but you get the same big Big firms excel in complex, firm training, for less money – or large scale transactions and no junior will ever learn and litigation. Their lawyers on your dime. eventually become a highly Now that’s a no brainer. trained, specialised elite – whose expertise comes at a high price. But outside of those firms Contact: – and without their overheads –

Is bigger really better? 31

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Accounting for errors Craig Harman, Tax Specialist at Perrys Chartered Accountants, looks at how you can avoid making costly accounting errors


veryone makes mistakes, but errors in your accounts can be time-consuming to track down, difficult to repair, and can have lasting damage on your reputation. Just ask Tesco, which famously overstated its profit forecasts by £263 million. The furore cost people their jobs, sparked a lengthy debate over the supermarket’s supplier contracts, damaged customer trust, severely impacted its share price, and invited an ongoing investigation from the Serious Fraud Office. The lessons for small- to mediumsized business owners are ones of the ever-present need for consistency and clarity. If you have set up a new business, ensuring you have the right processes in place at the start will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Allow them to become convoluted or muddy, and you are

inviting nothing but trouble. Even small scale accounting mistakes mean you may not be able to accurately plot your cash resources or your overdraft facilities, understand how much a client owes you, whether you’ve paid a supplier, or whether you’ve perhaps even paid them twice – it’s enough to send a shiver down the spine of every business owner, big or small. So, with that in mind, here are some of the most common errors, and my suggestions for how they can be avoided:

there are errors and you don’t pick up on them quickly, they can easily become tangled in other accounts, become part of bigger payments, and cause no end of problems. Human error is still the most common data error, which is not always quickly identified if you don’t reconcile your accounts frequently. It sounds like

Proper reconciliation of monthly accounts is such a basic good practice but remains a common mistake RECONCILE PROPERLY The proper reconciliation of monthly accounts is such a basic good practice, but remains a common mistake. Poorly reconciled accounts are like an open door for financial headaches, and can seriously destabilise your internal processes. These can include: duplicated transactions, unpaid bills, un-cleared transactions, payroll liabilities, voided cheques, bills paid to wrong accounts, and even bank errors. If

such simple advice, but check cash received against invoiced amounts at least once a month, and ensure every transaction is accounted for. It’s a really good habit to get into, and the time spent is more than worth it. DITCH THE SPREADSHEETS Many small businesses and soletraders still rely on spreadsheets to track their accounts, manually inputting everything, rather than using reliable accounting software. 33


Without consistent entries year-on-year, it is almost impossible to draw meaningful data from your accounts

Spreadsheets should never be used as a cheap company financial officer, no matter how small you may think your accounts need to be. It’s too easy to enter data incorrectly, meaning systematic errors are not always picked up straight away, which can lead to your business losing money. It’s worth investing to use proper payments software – anything else is just a false economy and a nightmare waiting to catch up with you. DOUBLE, TRIPLE, QUADRUPLECHECK YOUR PURCHASE INVOICES Purchase invoices are like the little green gremlins of accounting; sometimes they are docile and easy-to-understand little things, sometimes they are anything but friendly, and turn your business upside down. Incorrect purchase invoicing can cause untold nightmares further down the line, so make sure you implement a rigorous process of checking every single invoice before it goes anywhere near the books. Were the goods received? Were the services delivered, and did they meet established KPIs? Is the information actually correct? Is the VAT correct, and does it add up properly? Establish a strong process and make sure you stick to it.

34 February 2016

VALUE STOCK PROPERLY AND ACT QUICKLY If you trade in goods, and have an inventory of stock in a warehouse, make sure that stock is correctly and continually valued, and re-valued. Stock that is not counted properly, miss-recorded, or improperly valued can cause serious headaches later on. You need to make sure that you are properly accounting for the stock you have at the end of each quarter, and not letting anything sit over. Getting a true value of stock is critical, not just noting what you paid. If you have stock sitting around that doesn’t sell, and is costing you in storage costs, then that stock is worthless to your company, so write it down quickly.

without fuss. Without consistent entries year-on-year, it is almost impossible to draw meaningful data from your accounts. Also, by making the accounts the cornerstone of your data gathering, you pour much more attention on them. If you consider them an annoying chore, like you might a tax return, you will learn very little from them. Ultimately, creating a smooth, seamless accounting process is not just a necessary chore, it can be an extremely useful focal point for your company’s growth projections and demand forecasting. And, if you’re lucky enough to grow your business into a multinational grocery super-giant, you’ll avoid any investigation from the Serious Fraud Office.

BE CONSISTENT Consistency is critical to establishing a smooth process that everyone in Contact: your company can adopt easily, and

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James Sherwin-Smith, CEO of Growth Street, explains how to compare the cost of business credit in the absence of an APR


t’s amazing how many finance providers aren’t transparent about the full cost of commercial finance. It doesn’t matter which product you choose – a term loan, invoice finance, or an overdraft; it doesn’t matter where you borrow from – a bank or an alternative finance provider; the real cost of credit is always a combination of both the interest and the fees you pay. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, you need to compare the total cost, and keep a watchful eye for all the parts that make up the total.

Any fees your business is charged for your credit are adding to the total cost of the finance provided. This sounds obvious, but prospective customers comparing costs often forget to include fees when calculating cost of credit. For many commercial finance products, the fees actually represent the vast majority of the cost. If you ever thought banks weren’t innovative, just take a look at the variety of ways (and names) that they’ve come up with to charge you fees.

charging structures used to charge SMEs more than they anticipate. If this was implemented, it would help decrease the cost of SME finance, and increase business and economic growth. But just because providers aren’t required to provide an APR, it doesn’t stop you asking them for this. Watch out for any provider that presents the cost of credit without reference to an annual interest rate, and particularly without a time dimension – it’s a warning sign that usually means you’re being charged a lot more than you think. If they won’t, or can’t, provide you with a clear APR number, you have to ask yourself if they have something to hide. If they tell you it’s too

Give me some credit WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF THE TOTAL COST OF CREDIT? There are two main parts to the total cost. The first is interest, which is a function of three elements: 1 Quantity - how much you borrow. 2 Price - at what interest rate. 3 Time - for how long. The second part is fees, which come in lots of different flavours: • Application fee • Arrangement fee • Service fee • Usage fee • Repayment fee • Early repayment fee • Legal fee • Exit fee

36 February 2016

APR? WHAT’S THAT? WHO NEEDS IT? Unfortunately, business credit isn’t covered by the same regulation as consumer credit. This means that commercial finance providers aren’t required to disclose an annual percentage rate (APR), which would otherwise help you compare the cost of different credit products and providers. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR), takes both interest and fees into account. Without a standard price indicator, it is difficult for SMEs to compare prices, even if the proposed remedies are adopted. This is badly needed to help simplify the complex

complex and not useful to assess the credit product in those terms – walk away. DIY APR CALCULATION The good news is that, if you want to calculate the approximate APR yourself, there is a simple rule of thumb you can use: simply add up all the interest and all the fees you pay over one year, and divide this by the average amount borrowed across the year. This will give you an approximate annual percentage rate that you can use for comparison purposes. Contact:






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You couldn’t make it up says Rich With


The cardinal sin of customer communication

hen you work in branding, people often regale you with tales of horrendous customer experience they’ve had. While some are the product of appalling mismanagement, I often feel that an unpleasant by-product of social media is the mock outrage we express at the most minor infringements a brand or business may accidentally happen to inflict on us. I regularly go to a local gym. It’s not a snazzy one – the kind where you do five minutes on an exercise bike followed by half an hour chatting in the sauna – it’s just a regular gym with a nice mix of members. While I don’t expect warm, fluffy towels and a sensual sports massage from a nubile therapist, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to get a hot shower and a toilet that doesn’t constantly smell of stale urine. When every member was billed for ‘update costs’ alongside a regular monthly fee (even though the premises were shut) that simple annoyance at a cold shower can quickly bubble over into a mass of seething resentment. Communication from head office was extremely limited. No email or text – little more than a A4 sheet of paper and a Facebook post that was four days late. When 2,500 people are regularly having a direct debit taken without being able to use facilities it was shocking that

management had little idea of how to deal with the rush of angry members taking to social media to vent their frustration. To add fuel to the fire, two new gyms opened within the same vicinity, and as all of this has occurred at the beginning of January, when every gym is looking to gain new members, this isn’t just mismanagement – it was brand crisis. Throughout all of this saga, head office remained stoic and silent – refusing to be drawn into argument, or even conversation. Many exasperatedly cancelled memberships – having the knock-on effect that would-be members would surely think twice before joining. You’ll always have a vocal minority who will advocate drastic action at the drop of a hat, but I do believe that many people are supportive of smaller businesses, and will forgive many sins (even ice cold showers in December). You cannot please all the people all the time, but to show customers (and loyal customers at that) such little respect that they can’t even be bothered to offer a simple apology is shocking, and will have an impact that will resonate for months, or even years. Frustratingly, this could so easily have been avoided as the updates to the premises were surprisingly good – new

equipment and a fresh appearance throughout. With just a simple email to all members, an offer of reduced membership, or even a free protein shake, by way of an apology would not only would have appeased many, but potentially increased brand loyalty. The lingering damage to the brand is painful to watch; so let this tale of brand incompetence serve as a humble reminder to treat our clients with respect. Contact:

To show customers such little respect that they can’t even EH ERWKHUHG WR RƫHU D VLPSOH apology is shocking 39


The Doctor will see you now We have a great retail business, but sales are a little slow. Would you recommend sales promotions to give us a boost, or is there another way?


ales promotion is a hot topic in UK business, especially in retail. US ideas like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have crept into the UK over the last few years, and while chasing increased sales by reducing prices may be appealing to your customers, what’s the cost to you? One risk to your business from discounting heavily is that you potentially pull forward sales, at a lower margin than you would have achieved if you’d kept your pricing stable. Secondly, you may have increased costs, with extra staff or overtime hours to deal with the enquiries, distribution, or delivery of your service offer, which means adding a higher cost of sale when you’re generating a lower margin in the first place. Finally, a higher volume of sales can also affect cashflow, as you’ll have higher stock levels to fund if selling products, and/or capacity issues when dealing with all the service follow ups. We all want to increase turnover, but to do so to the detriment of the bottom line makes no real business sense. The true key to business success is to focus on margin over turnover. Promoting sales by cutting prices might shift more units, but so what? In fact, not everyone buys on price. In many cases, key decisions on a purchase are made on understanding and fulfilling the customer’s needs, accessibility of the product or service, a professional or high level of service, or on recommendation.

Writing exclusively for Talk Business, Peter Fleming, Business Doctor for Cumbria, answers some of your business questions from the front line

So, unless you have deep pockets and the finances to deal on price, and aim to brutally force your competitors out of business, it’s best to focus instead on those areas where you offer a difference to your competition. Mining a lucrative niche is often a greater route to long term success than aiming to be all things to all people. It’s easy to get caught up in the euphoria of reducing your prices, but it won’t be sustainable in the long run. Two key areas worth spending some time analysing within your business are: • Understanding which products or services generate the highest gross margin. • Understanding what type of customers, by size and sector, buy them. Then focus your marketing plan and sales efforts on improving communication, building relationships, and therefore increasing sales to these targets customers. There’s an old saying in business, which still rings true today: ‘Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is reality’. It’s all about the margin, not about the number of units sold. Increasing the efficiency of every aspect of your business, from internal operations to the focus of your marketing, is a far safer and more sustainable route to success than cutting your prices.

We all want to increase turnover, but to do so to the detriment of the bottom line makes no real business sense Contact:

If you’ve got a question you think the Business Doctors could help with, email 41

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From Russia with love Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, provides four steps for your most productive day, using his experiences from post-Soviet Russia

Distraction is becoming an epidemic in the workplace


was raised in post-Soviet Russia, and at that time, scarcity was simply a fact of life. Supplies were scarce at school, food was scarce at the grocery store, and entertainment was almost nonexistent. As a kid, the most exciting part of my day was at 8pm, right before bed, when I got to watch precisely 15 minutes of cartoons, because that was all that was broadcast. So, I ended up reading books and playing a lot of chess. Looking back, it helped me build skills like focus, persistence, and concentration. These are skills I would not have honed had I spent the hours in front of a television set that my seven-year-old-self longed for. I also developed an appreciation for the value of the resources we did have, and an aversion to waste of any kind: food, money and, especially as I grew older, time. I became very

passionate about productivity. This is what led me to explore how to best leverage technology to make people more productive, and to build products that help us work better together in our digital world. As much as our ‘always connected’ world has solved a lot of problems, it’s created quite a few as well, mainly in the form of a deluge of communication from every possible direction. Distraction is becoming an epidemic in the workplace. The difference between having a great, productive workday and a feeling like we’ve wasted time can often come down to the habits we build with our digital tools and technology. The list below is a compilation of some of my own routines, and habits I’ve developed to stay productive:


RE-COMMIT TO YOUR BIGGEST GOALS It’s easy to start your day by jumping right into the middle of everything and floating down a never-ending stream of tasks, demands, responses, and requests. Yes, you’re busy;

yes you’re responsive; but are you focused on your best work – the stuff that really moves the needle for your organisation? It’s so easy to lose focus amid the constant, pressing demands. If yet another day has passed without enough time to dig deep into your most important work, it’s time to recalibrate. Before you check any messages in the morning, re-visit your big vision and most important goal. It’s the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing. Your goal should be simple and clear, and unlikely to change that often, even if your immediate circumstances do. Unapologetically filter all requests and initiatives for your day through your vision, and be ruthless in your focus.


COMPLETE ONE STEP TODAY Now that you have your focus for 43


Breaking goals down into digestible pieces is imperative, otherwise the work in front of you seems daunting and it’s easy to lose motivation

the day it’s important to balance your big picture thinking with some achievable tactics. Breaking goals down into digestible pieces is imperative, otherwise the work in front of you seems daunting, and it’s too easy to get distracted and lose motivation. Suddenly you find yourself answering an email that has nothing to do with your goal, and the day starts to get away from you. Think about one to two steps you can complete to move yourself forward and get started. Make it challenging, but possible. The most productive people I know are laser-focused on tackling what is right in front of them. Not anything that is in front of them, but the most important thing that gets them closer to their set goal.


BUILD A VIRTUAL WALL AGAINST DISTRACTIONS Needless to say, technology can be as much of a friend as a foe of productivity. Notifications should be there to tell you that something important needs your attention. Instead you can end up drowning in them, which completely misses the point. Disney vacations are 30% off this week? Maybe I should check that

44 February 2016

out. I need to present Wednesday instead of Thursday? Well, now that is actually important. Distractions sap your focus, but since most of our work is collaborative, muting everything is not always an option. Instead, funnel your inbound alerts into a single stream where you can prioritise some and reject others. You can also use apps to help you bundle and channel the noise. A little bit of time spent adjusting notification settings on the worse offenders (instant messaging is one that comes to mind) is well worth the investment. Set aside a few minutes at the top of an hour where you check to see if anything needs immediate attention.


ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR RESULTS One of the great things about setting an attainable goal for the day is that you consistently get that rush of achievement. This is a reward on its own, because progress can be intoxicating. You can also sweeten the deal by promising yourself a little ‘prize’ as a further incentive. Positive reinforcement is powerful. At the end of your day, review what worked best for you and contributed to your success. Was it starting earlier than usual? The place you chose to work?

Signing out of all messaging apps? Make a note of what worked and put it into regular practice. Lastly, plan for your next productive day, or even a morning or few hours that you can carve out of your week. Put it on your calendar. Make it a routine to move between collaborative work and inbound requests, to specific times where you insulate yourself from distraction and follow your own best practices. Once you adopt a certain way of doing things, and begin to see results, you can build a positive habit of productivity. When I was growing up, I had an environment that was scarce in entertainment but rich in focus; now it’s time and focus that are in short supply. In an age of endless distractions, it’s best to be proactive and strategic about how we manage our days at work, because time is too valuable a resource to waste. Contact:


Bless the gains down in Africa Is Africa the next frontier for UK SMEs?, asks author and founder of Sishima Holdings, Dr Mwenya Kasonde


he ‘Africa rising’ story has not yet slowed down, changes are ongoing throughout the African continent, and it would be naive of UK SMEs to ignore this. After all, if major players, such as IBM and Microsoft are now doing business in Africa, surely there is something to be gained for SMEs there too? A population of 1.1 billion across the continent means that there are opportunities to be seized in every sector, from retail to banking and everything in between. Diverse and vibrant African markets offer openings that have sparked interest among many exporters in the UK. In fact, UK exports to sub-Saharan Africa were up from £3.3 billion to £4.1 billion between January and June 2011, compared with the same period the previous year, and rose as high as £8.2 billion in 2013. Several trends have contributed towards Africa’s movement in business; one of the most obvious is the increasing population. Cultural changes, the growth of credit, and urbanisation are other important regional trends. In 1980, just 28% of Africans lived in cities. Today, 40% of the continent’s population is

46 February 2016

urbanised – a proportion roughly comparable to China’s, and larger than India’s. By 2030, that share is projected to rise to 5%, and Africa’s top 18 cities will have a combined spending power of £800 billion, according to McKinsey and Company. UK and European businesses are being forced to look to outside economies such as in Africa, as these continue to grow despite the constrained conditions of the global economy. South Africa is the top African country for UK exporters, and may be a straightforward place to start for UK businesses looking to break into this new market. The two countries have been doing business successfully for a long period of time, they speak the same language, and have very similar business cultures. Other major export markets are Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. Nigeria already imports around £1.6 billion in goods from the UK each year, making it the second largest market for exporters after South Africa. The biggest opportunity for UK companies in Africa stems from the reputation of British goods and services. The ‘Made in Britain’ stamp goes a long way towards instituting trust in the consumer’s mind, and people

will often pay a premium for the assurance of quality that comes with it. With a rapidly evolving middle class, African consumers have a lot more money that you might think. So where exactly do the opportunities lie, and which sectors should be looked at more closely? Edward George, soft commodities specialist at panAfrican bank, Ecobank Capital, says that the UK has traditionally exported high-value goods to Africa, especially machinery, distilled products, vehicles, aircraft, electrical goods, steel, and pharmaceuticals. “With urbanisation rates rising fast across Africa, demand for cars, white goods, computers, air conditioners, building machinery (such as bulldozers and cement mixers), and materials will continue to grow, and British companies could meet this demand,” he says. The fashion industry also holds significant potential for British exporters, especially considering the growth of e-commerce in Africa. Indeed, wedding dresses are high on the list of popular products exported from the UK to South Africa. Sporting goods, for example cycling equipment or football


With urbanisation rates rising fast across Africa, demand for cars, white goods, computers, and air conditioners will continue to grow

With a rapidly evolving middle class, African consumers have a lot more money that you might think

paraphernalia, is another area where British exporters could find a good market in Africa. Agriculture in Africa is booming. It is perhaps one of the most exciting industries on the continent today. Africa has 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and only 7% of its arable land is under irrigation (Asia has 40% under irrigation). New technology in agri-business is constantly in demand, with progressive farming techniques and scientific farming offering great opportunities. For UK businesses knowledgeable in this field, irrigation and providing water to industrial and greenhouse farming needs to be seriously looked into. With regards to soil quality, fertiliser production continues to be in demand too. A few words of advice; when working with African companies, it is important to understand the challenges they face, and the business etiquette of each nation. Africa consists of 54 countries, with many languages, cultures, religions, and ethnic groups. Each country is unique; while one solution may suit one country, it doesn’t necessarily mean the neighbouring country will be the same. It’s important to respect the people you are working with, including your partners and the local communities. If new

to business in Africa, it would be appropriate to take a regional approach. Ghana and Nigeria, both in West Africa would be similar in their ways of doing business, while East and North African regions would have cultural similarities. It is worth noting that communication across the continent is centred around mobile phones. Currently, post and email aren’t particularly reliable, so be prepared to use your phone for most of your contact. Brand loyalty is high across the continent too. If you can bring in some of the bigger known brand names, the better chances of success you have. Finally, be sure to research your market – as with any business – and try to get local advice and representation if possible. African economies are growing fast, creating new consumer markets, and marching new and established entrepreneurs to prosperity. Successful investment deals, M&A, JVs, collaborations, partnership models, and export/ import opportunities are widespread. It would be fair to say that now, more than ever, Africa is open for business. Contact: 47

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When there’s a web there’s a way Hayley Barker, event conference specialist at Powwownow, provides her top tips on how to hold the perfect webinar


hen you’re running a meeting with more than a handful of participants, your usual online meeting product often doesn’t cut it. Luckily, webinars are perfect for running company events, all hands’ meetings, company announcements, and updates. Like online meetings, some rules apply, but these tips can help you hold the perfect webinar. Ensure you have reliable internet. If you know your usual internet connection has the tendency of cutting out, find a better source for your webinar; the same goes for your audio connection. Webinars tend to be more formal so, because you’re likely to have a strict schedule and agenda to get through, you and your participants won’t have time to wait for you to try to re-join your meeting if it drops out. Best practice for webinars is to use an internet cable, rather than WiFi, and dial-in rather than VOIP for your audio connection. This is because you should always rely on what works, particularly when it’s for event conferencing or webinars.

PROMOTE THE EVENT Make sure you send the message about your webinar. You can do this by sending out emails, sending calendar invites, sharing on social, or just mentioning it to them. If you intend to get a good turnout, you need to communicate with your audience the time, place, and how to log in. MAKE IT INTERESTING If your participants need to see through an hour or more of your webinar, using a range of techniques for delivering your message will keep your audience’s focus. Nobody likes only being spoken to, or read out words from a slide, so incorporating surveys, videos, images, and encouraging questions, will prevent your attendees from getting bored. LIMIT THE BACKGROUND NOISE To make sure your message is delivered clearly, take yourself into a quiet room with limited background noise. As for your participants, mute them, and only un-mute individuals if, or when, they’re presenting. This way, your meeting can run smoothly, without unnecessary distractions.

Nobody likes only being spoken to, or read out words from a slide JOIN THE MEETING EARLY, BUT START THE MEETING LATE This may sound a little strange, but in reality, there will always be participants that join your meetings late. Meetings run over, and people get caught up with their work, so rather than having to repeat yourself, it’s best to give it a couple of minutes after your scheduled start to ensure that most people receive your entire message. MAKE SURE YOUR MEETING REACHES AN END POINT Whether this includes a couple of take away points, or the promotion of your next webinar, make sure your webinar reaches a conclusion. Then participants will know when they can ask questions, and when they can politely exit the meeting. Contact: 49


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Playing your cards close to your chest Protecting your brand can be a tricky business, says marketing expert and founder of Sarsaparilla Marketing, Kimberly Davis


Think you’re too small to have your ideas stolen? Think again

hen it comes to ideas, most business usually fall into one of two categories: Too overprotective – you never share your ideas with anyone. This can be detrimental because you close yourself off from amazing opportunities. If you spend all of your time hiding your baby from the world, then it can never reach its full potential, and let’s face it, paranoia can drive a person mad; or Not protective enough – think you’re too small to have your ideas stolen? Think again. If you fail to protect yourself, your ideas can be easily stolen and implemented by someone who is bigger, faster, and richer than you. Believe me. I know. I’ve had my ideas stolen by several competitors and criminals; one was a trusted mentor, one I had never met, and one was the very man that I built my business to protect business owners like you from. Some battles I fought and won. Some I walked away from. Some I let karma handle (one person is hopefully going to jail by the time this article is published). But, regardless of the outcome, they were all soul destroying, extremely expensive, and unbelievably stressful experiences.

At the end of the day, you will always need to take risks in business. Some will work out, some won’t, but the best thing you can do is take every precaution to protect yourself. Therefore, I’ve put together a list of simple and affordable things that you can do, right now, to help protect your products and ideas: 1 NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS/ CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS From interns to potential investors, an NDA is a simple document that you should have everyone sign before you share any sensitive information with them. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can download a free template at www.lawdepot. This doesn’t fully protect you, but it certainly helps. 2 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE Once you have a name and logo, you should register both of these items with the IPO. The process is easy and the IPO staff are there to help support you. There is no reason to hire a third party to process your paperwork, as they will charge you a lot of money just to be the middle man. To register both a name and a logo will cost approximately £400 and, once you have registered, 51


make sure you use your registration symbols such as ©, ®, and ™ correctly. You can learn more by going to

moments recorded anyway, to be utilised later.

6 SMALL CLAIMS COURTS In 2012, the UK court system opened 3 WATERMARK YOUR WORK up its Small Claims Courts to allow If you produce audio or visual copyright infringement cases. But items such as music, photos, or beware - these cases are only for other creative works, you may want works that are valued at £10,000 to consider watermarking your or less. If the value of your work or materials. Watermarking is the loss is greater than £10,000, then the process of layering your name on courts can transfer your case to the top of the work so that if anyone High Courts, and your financial risk tries to use it, the world can clearly could increase dramatically. Sadly, the see that it belongs to you. With UK courts do not provide you with a audio tracks, it can be a simple ‘how to’ guide, which, in my opinion, voiceover of your name every five means they give you just enough seconds. With printed materials, rope to let you hang yourself with. you can just layer your name in What may seem to be a cut and dried translucent letters over the top. case to you, might actually be highly Watermarking distorts the complex in the court system, and material just enough to mark your you can make your situation much territory, so that no one will be worse. However, I’m not suggesting able to grab it from the internet you don’t fight. In fact, if someone has and use it in their YouTube videos, stolen your material, they should be presentations, etc. At the same time, held accountable. Just please ensure it will not block the viewer or listener you get proper legal advice before from experiencing your work to proceeding with any court action determine if they want to buy it. – even in the small claims courts. You can find more information 4 COMPANIES HOUSE by searching Intellectual Property If you are a limited company, you are Enterprise Court at required to register with Companies Contact: House. Even if you haven’t started trading, you can register the company as dormant and hold your place. This is also the first place you want to look to ensure no one else is trading with your name or something similar. There is no point in being just like someone else. You can access Companies House via

Some battles I fought and won. Some I walked away from. Some I let karma handle

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5 RECORD EVERYTHING Whether it’s a speaking gig, a webinar event, or meeting with a client or prospect, make sure you record every event where your ideas are exposed to the world. Most smartphones come with voice memo apps. I use the one on my iPhone all the time. You’ll never have to worry about it’s his word vs. yours when you have absolute proof. Not to mention, some of your greatest ideas come while you’re in free flow, so it’s great to have these

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Do you need an imaginary friend? Richard Chapman, founder of Richard Chapman Studio, asks, “In the drive for better social media, should you buy or build followers?”


ost people don’t actually recall having had an imaginary friend when they were very young. My niece, sandwiched between two brothers, has a life-size Princess Elsa doll who feels very real to her. It’s a part of childhood that we play, and vivid imaginations are a healthy part of that. But apart from Peter Pan, we all grow up. Which is why, in an altogether more modern business setting, it’s always bamboozled me that people feel they look better on social media with tens of thousands of imaginary followers after purchasing fake ‘drone’ numbers to boost their constituency. It’s one of those odd things that is, without doubt, a bad idea, can’t possibly actually achieve anything on a day-to-day basis in terms of building engagement with people who might help your business, but somewhat annoyingly, can have a useful impact. So with this in mind, I’ve had a look at some pros and cons, as well as one or two ways to build a real audience too.

54 February 2016

BUYING FAKE FOLLOWERS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA: SO WHY DOES IT SOMETIMES WORK? This crazed obsession with numbers is of course all to do with perception. The argument follows that the more followers you have, the more impressive and impactful you become. But who might be influenced by this? I propose that this might make a difference to two groups of people who are actually useful to you. Firstly, there’s the ‘Pied Piper’ argument. This reasons that people might see your profile, be stunned by the 86,000 who have apparently already signed up to hear your pearls of wisdom, Facebook posts, or see what brand of coffee you’re drinking today (and where) on Instagram, then turn into real, new followers. After all, those tens of thousands can’t possibly be wrong, surely? So they decide to follow along too. Secondly, following a similar logic, as a new business you may just achieve the Holy Grail of new work. Prospective clients might be persuaded

you’re a big deal because many other people think so too. Just 273 Twitter followers is a little disappointing, but far more might well suggest you’re a real authority in your field, especially if it’s in media-related fields, such as advertising, fashion, or PR. In this case, numbers equal gravitas. LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE Where these arguments fall apart is if you’re caught out. There’s nothing quite as deflating to a reputation as the knowledge that the huge influence and popularity you appear to have is bought. I’ve seen this a few times where a business has an improbable number of followers. For instance, why would tens of thousands follow a car mechanic or jam donut kitchen? For me, the biggest snag of all is that this huge, fat, hollow number on your account actually doesn’t achieve anything in terms of the networking that is the original, core purpose of social media in the first place. No retweets, no comments back, and crucially on Instagram, no ‘likes’ on your images. The boring problem with purchasing fake followers is that the huge number is the only boost. It’s left to the people who are actually really alive and kicking, and who are interested in your business, to engage with you and make the media work the way it was intended. IF HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY, HOW DO YOU BUILD NUMBERS FOR REAL? The best way is the honest one: engaging people by creating witty, genuinely interesting content that you can write about with some authority, as well as genuinely original, ideally beautiful content. That said, if you’re starting a social media account from scratch and want to build your audience from single digits to something a little more impressive, I’ve a couple of basic shortcuts to propose. The first one would be to break the usual rules of social media and kick


things off with a massive ‘multi-post’. After all, nobody likes to follow a totally empty account. So why not fill your Twitter page with a series of posts showcasing key pages of your website, articles you’re interested in, recent blog posts that ideally come with a graphic of some sort, or open your Instagram page with at least 30 great photographs. As you’re doing this, try and follow the golden rule and ‘stay current, stay consistent’. Plan your launch out carefully and ensure everything you’re posting is of equal quality and relevance to your business, and that your photos aren’t needless filler, but considered and beautiful. The process I’ve outlined could be a little time consuming, but will stand you in excellent stead for another idea. That is to engage with a number of people in your industry who carry a huge audience relevant to you. Start multiple conversations, and put your business and its viewpoints out there. Avoid meaningless sales spiel, but rather pick up on trending topics that are currently being raised, and offer your own, positive viewpoint. The people you’re talking to will look at your page, see you’re the real deal, and might just click the magic ‘follow’ button. Finally, it sounds incredibly boring, but remember to hashtag your posts. It gives them a topic, a relevance across the web, and is the fastest way for people to find you. I can’t believe that the dear old hashtag won’t be replaced with something far more user-friendly one day in the not-too distant future, but for now it’s the best way of making your social media contribution a part of a much bigger conversation with a worldwide audience – which is a whole lot better than purchasing invisible friends.

It’s one of those odd things that is, without doubt, a bad idea, but somewhat annoyingly, can have a useful impact

Contact: 55

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Herbert Knibiehly, VP of marketing at Twenga Solutions, outlines five common online marketing gaffes retailers must avoid to ensure a successful marketing campaign


s technology continues to develop rapidly, so too does the opportunity for marketers to exploit the advances by targeting their consumers on a more personal level. With consumer activity increasingly shifting to mobile, businesses must now focus on how to communicate campaigns to a mobile audience in an effective and profitable way. Here are five things that, if ignored, could damage even the most promising marketing campaign: DON’T IGNORE THE IMPORTANCE OF MOBILE People spend 60% of their online browsing activity on a mobile device, compared to just 40% on a desktop, according to a report released earlier this year titled ‘Digital Future in Focus’. Now that websites are becoming mobilefriendly, and payment technology has developed considerably, consumers are much more likely to make purchases while on the move. With this in mind, retailers must figure out an effective online marketing strategy that converts mobile browsing into tangible transactions. But in order to convert this activity into solid purchases, it’s important for retailers to first get the user experience right. Is your website responsive enough? Are images compromising web page response speeds? Is your website both secure and easy to use? The incentives are already there. In fact, Google has released a new ranking algorithm, Mobilegeddon, which rewards retailers that

58 February 2016

customise their website to make it mobile-friendly, while penalising those who don’t (even on desktop devices). The chances are, if your ecommerce site is not tailored for optimum mobile usage, your company’s presence on online search engines will begin to diminish. FAILING TO MAINTAIN AN UP-TO-DATE PRODUCT CATALOGUE Consistently maintaining your product feed is crucial to achieving high conversion rates. To arrive at a purchasing decision, consumers embark on an extended journey, starting from the research stage all the way

through to the checkout phase. It is important, therefore, that the retailer eradicates any external factors that may jeopardise the chances of the consumer completing their transaction. Imagine the frustration when you click on the product you’ve finally chosen to buy (having already trawled through pages of other related content), only to find it’s now out of stock. Updating your ecommerce website will not only make the purchasing process more fluid and easy-to-use for shoppers, but it will undoubtedly increase profit margins as well.


This year Google has released a new ranking algorithm which rewards retailers who customise their website to make it mobile-friendly

What to avoid when developing your marketing campaign

Using images can trigger a psychological response from a consumer pre-purchase, which could ultimately lead to a better conversion rate

DON’T NEGLECT SEO In order to gain traction in a sector as competitive as online retail, means ensuring your website remains top of the pile, in terms of SEO. Who is your target consumer? What are the keywords that will attract consumers to your page? In order to avoid low conversion and high bounce rates, using programmes such as the Google Keyword Planner will help marketers establish what the most popular and searched words and phrases are. Retailers must create content that not only engages a consumer with the product, but also enhances usability, as long as this is not at the expense of your SEO optimisation. Are the semantics right? Will the product descriptions match with the keywords entered into a search bar when they begin their purchasing process? USING IMAGES INCORRECTLY Including the right images on your website can be an extremely

effective marketing ploy, but only if they are used in the correct manner. Using images can trigger a psychological response from a consumer pre-purchase, which could ultimately lead to a better conversion rate. The problems occur, however, if an image is not optimised specifically for the website and device, as this slows down the loading speed for product pages. This would ruin the user experience and potentially dissuade a consumer from completing a transaction on your site. ALLOWING SECURITY TO COMPROMISE EXPERIENCE This may be one of the more difficult challenges for retailers. With it now established that speed, ease, and simplicity of an ecommerce website are vital in order to achieve high conversion rates, how can web designers implement a payment method, which is innovative, simple, and secure, without compromising user experience? With a spate of high-profile cyber-attacks in

recent months, using trusted providers, and especially secure encrypted webpages, has become of even higher priority to retailers. STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE The key here is balance. How do you meet adequate security provisions without compromising user experience? Communicate attractive and unique product descriptions without neglecting SEO? Create an attractive looking website without slowing down loading times? How do you produce an ecommerce marketing campaign that caters for needs across a number of devices? In essence, the key to making the most of your marketing campaign is by embracing new technologies and the opportunities they provide, without forgetting the traditional proven marketing techniques that are designed to improve your sales. Contact: 59

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3 ways to become more creative Gerd Mittmann, VP international at Shutterstock, explains how to reinvigorate your creative side after the January blues


t’s hard to say there are hard and fast rules about how and where to find creativity – everyone is so different from one another. Moreover, what works for you one day might not work tomorrow, and sparks of creativity are often so fleeting. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t strategies that have stood the test of time. Here’s a rundown of a few ways to find your inner creativity:

creativity. If it’s distracting, you’ve let in too much ambient noise. But at the same time, trapping yourself inside a silent room is not the best position to be in. This proves why being at a busy coffee shop, or at a public park is so much more preferred, particularly for those who work for themselves and set their own hours. It’s not only more enjoyable, but it will also lead to better results.

GO FOR A WALK It might sound counter-intuitive, but removing yourself from a stuck, seated position can pay off. In a study conducted at Stanford University, researchers found that creativity levels were higher when a person was walking, and continued to be high even when they sat back down after a walk. Moving around keeps more than your body in motion; it leads to a more attuned mind. Researchers found that walking was most beneficial for tasks that required a fresh perspective, rather than tasks that needed users to focus and find a single answer. So, if you’re trying to stay focused to find a logical solution or to complete a project, sitting might be your best bet. But if you need to be creative, simply get up and start walking.

LOOK AT SOMETHING BLUE The University of British Columbia researched colours, specifically red and blue - two of the colours that are most frequently used in advertising. You might not have noticed it, but there’s a good reason why marketers keep coming back to certain hues: according to the study’s results, red is best for when someone needs to focus or pay attention to details, and blue is needed when it’s time to be creative. We naturally associate blue with tranquil, peaceful environments like the ocean, so when you come across it, you tend to relax and feel more comfortable. If your job requires frequent creativity, it might be worth hanging up a blue-toned poster, or keeping a few blue items on your desk. That way, when you hit a wall or grow frustrated, you can calm yourself with ease by re-focusing on what you see in front of you.

LET IN A LITTLE NOISE There is such a thing as too much noise, but researchers at the University of Illinois found that having something else going on around you can be great for

Moving around keeps more than your body in motion; it leads to a more attuned mind

Contact: 61



n 2016, UK businesses will spend an estimated £2.6 billion solely on Google search ads. Indeed, the paid search channel has become more important than ever as growth in online activity has continued. For start-ups, which have new websites that do not rank highly in the search results, search ads are often essential to create demand and drive growth. The aim of a typical paid search campaign is to maximise conversions (usually sales or leads), while minimising the cost per conversion, so that each conversion leads to a profit. Businesses compete intensely to be shown on page one, and gain clicks and conversions. Those that don’t fully understand paid search advertising end up running unprofitable campaigns and paying excessively to attract users that do not convert. Fortunately, unlike other forms of advertising, paid search is less art than science; if your process is strong, you can attract more converting users at a lower cost than your competitors – simply apply the tips below to your advertising to give your business the best possible chance of success: CONDUCT IN-DEPTH KEYWORD RESEARCH To build an effective campaign, the first thing you need to do is gain a sound understanding of how your users search for your product. To do this, put yourself in their shoes and brainstorm how they might search. Next, put the search terms, otherwise known as keywords, into Google’s Keyword Planner, and it will give you related terms and tell you the volume of searches for each of them. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can start typing in Google and it will give you suggestions. Be creative – Google isn’t the only place to look; you can talk to your customers, or even use Pinterest, which is more retail-orientated than other social networks. To minimise costs and maximise conversions, you need to identify keywords that are both long-tail (highly specific), and have purchasing intent. Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of developing an extensive list of negative

62 February 2016

keywords, i.e. search terms that you don’t want your ads to show for. These are essential to avoid wasted spend. BUILD A MANAGEABLE STRUCTURE Once you have all your keywords, you’ll need to categorise them into campaigns and ad groups. For example, a retailer might have one campaign for shoes and another for coats; a property company might have one campaign for rentals and another for sales. Think carefully about your structure; having one that is well thought out will make it easier to analyse and optimise performance, as well as control budgets effectively – budgets are set at campaign level. USE THE RIGHT MATCH TYPES Match types are defined in order to control which searches can trigger your ad. Google recommends using Broad Match, as it maximises traffic by allowing ads to show even when users’ search terms are merely related to the keywords you have in your campaign. Of course, this helps maximise Google’s revenues. In our experience, Broad Match often leads to lots of non-converting, irrelevant traffic. Instead, use Broad Match Modifier, which will allow your ads to show for different variations of your keywords but not for synonyms or related searches. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF TARGETING Google allows you to define both the locations and languages you want to target. Think carefully about this. If you are a local business, you can narrow the location targeting right down to your local town. If you think your product may sell in foreign markets, you can test performance by allocating a small budget to these markets. One mistake advertisers often make with language targeting is setting it to English. This means that people who have their Google interface in a different language won’t see your ad, even when their search matches your keywords. Globally, up to a billion people speak English as a second language, and may therefore search in English – if you don’t want to exclude this huge market, target ‘all languages’.

CRAFT TARGETED ADS AND THEN TEST, TEST, AND TEST SOME MORE To create the best possible ads, you need to understand your customers and why they would choose your business, then include these selling points in the ads. In addition, ensure your ads are targeted as tightly as possible to the keywords. For example, if your keywords include specific locations, mention the locations in the ads. This will increase the likelihood of users clicking on your ads. You should set up two or three ads for each group, then regularly test different variations. The key metric you should look at is the click-through rate. Done correctly, creative testing is a scientific process – change one variable at a time and always look for statistical significance. DESIGN A BIDDING STRATEGY THAT MAXIMISES PROFIT Most businesses have products that vary considerably in profit per sale, yet this is frequently ignored in advertisers’ bidding strategies. Make sure that higher value products have bids that reflect their value. For simple campaigns, you can manage bids manually. This allows control, but can be time-consuming. Alternatively, Google AdWords or other platforms can bid automatically based on a target cost per conversion, or a target return on ad spend. This saves time and with enough data can be highly effective. CONDUCT CONVERSION RATE OPTIMISATION SIMULTANEOUSLY Even if you follow all of the tips above, you may still find that your campaigns are too expensive, and are not driving enough conversions. Spending big to drive people to your site without ever testing how they react to different page variations seems crazy, yet it happens all the time. Using a tool such as Optimizely, you can easily test variations of your pages, and eventually improve the conversion rate on your campaigns. Even a small increase in the conversion rate could save you thousands. Contact:


Don’t underestimate the importance of developing an extensive list of negative keywords that you don’t want your ads to show for

Alex Redfearn, digital marketing executive at Semetrical, explains how you can out-perform your competitors at paid search advertising

Searching for an answer to advertising spend? 63


Zest is best Leadership expert and founder of Leaders For Leadership, Dr Deborah Benson, looks at how to find the passion to keep yourself and your employees motivated


emember the saying ‘make your hobby your career and you’ll never work a day in your life’? If you love your job, it will never feel like a chore. But, let’s be honest, some hobbies just don’t pay the mortgage, and we don’t all get to pursue our ideal career. Someone has to deliver those boring but critical widgets, or that service that really isn’t very exciting – and all jobs have some pretty repetitive elements. However, research and common sense tell us that people perform better if they’re passionate about what they do. So how do we keep our passion

alive, when we don’t really ‘feel the love’ for the product or service, and how do we then fire up that passion in our staff? It’s tempting to dangle good bonuses at people, but be careful – if people feel underpaid, they will be de-motivated, but once staff receive a decent remuneration package, further increases lose that motivational power. Money simply does not deliver passion. In fact, we can turn towards Maslow and his hierarchy of human needs to yield some clues. At the base of his pyramid of needs lie the ‘physiological factors’ e.g. food, shelter or, arguably, a decent working environment. Next come ‘safety and security’, perhaps translated as feeling secure in your employment. So far, so good; we all want job security and a decent salary to protect our families. Then comes ‘love and belonging’, e.g. family, connection to others. At work, we want to belong to the team and be valued in the organisation. You can see how a good leader, by encouraging strong teamwork, can have a positive impact. Next comes ‘self-esteem’. It is wonderful to feel good about yourself, which is one of the reasons successful teams keep on being successful – success is addictive, and we crave more of it. It feels great to hear your valuable contribution acknowledged, and to be respected by your colleagues. Finally the killer variable, ‘self-actualisation’.

Money simply does not deliver passion This is basically morality, problem solving, and values. Are individuals challenged? Are they allowed to suggest, and actively contribute to improvements? Do our employees’ values and ethical principles align with the organisation? If they don’t, they’ll struggle to perform to their maximum potential. Maslow’s hierarchy can thus be applied to address staff engagement and motivation. The business may not deliver the most exciting product or service ever invented – not every company can – but as leaders, we can recognise, and actively work to meet, our staff’s psychological needs. Aim to create the best working environment you can, support strong teamwork, and make staff feel secure, challenged and valued. Set high delivery standards and publicly recognise good contributions. Inspire passion for achieving top performance, whatever the product or service. As a leader, we must be passionate about our business being the best possible and that passion for high performance will spread across the organisation. The passion to be successful is contagious. Contact: 65

CONFIDENCE COMES FROM WITHIN. THE ALL-NEW volvo XC90. Leading a business takes confidence. And that, in turn, requires a little room to reflect. That’s why the all-new Volvo XC90 is designed to provide the perfect environment for contemplation. Its intuitive communications technology keeps you connected to your professional world, while its effortless drive connects you to the road ahead; an intelligent blend of human and machine combines to deliver you to your destination assured, composed and inspired. SE ARCH ALL-NEW XC90 OR CALL THE VOLVO CAR BUSINESS CENTRE ON 0345 600 4027

Official fuel consumption for the all-new Volvo XC90 in MPG (l/100km) ranges from: Urban 28.8 (9.8) – 45.6 (6.2), Extra Urban 40.4 (7.9) – 52.3 (5.4), Combined 35.3 (8.0) – 134.5 (2.1). CO2 emissions 186 – 49g/km. MPG figures are obtained from laboratory testing intended for comparisons between vehicles and may not reflect real driving results.


Rise to the challenge Nigel Purse, founder of The Oxford Group, looks at how to use conversation to challenge unhelpful behaviour


hen we’re affected by difficult behaviour, we’re often held back from resolving the situation by our fear of approaching someone. In 2014, the Oxford Group commissioned some research into the state of workplace relationships, and we learnt that 62% of the 5,000 people surveyed did not feel confident in dealing with unhelpful behaviour, and 54% of those who had tried to deal with difficult behaviour found it made things worse. This shows that the fear is often grounded in a lack of selfconfidence; a belief in one’s inability to handle such a situation, a fear of making the situation worse, or damaging their relationship with the offending person. The approach we recommend is based on Marshall Rosenberg’s NonViolent Communication approach, first developed as a peace-making tool during the 1960s civil rights movement. The approach focuses on three main principles: 1 SELF-EMPATHY Acknowledging, and developing your own inner feelings 2 EMPATHY Listening to, and supporting your colleague 3 HONEST SELF-EXPRESSION Expressing your own feelings, while acknowledging those of others

An unhelpful conversation doesn’t have to become a battle While small incidents of unhelpful behaviour are best tackled in the moment, this approach is for significant failures of behaviour and performance, which exhibit a recurring theme or pattern. To prepare for the conversation, ensure you’re clear on what the problem is, who is affected, and what change you’d like to see. Be aware of how you word the invitation, as phrases like “Can I have a word?” and “Can I give you some feedback?” often generate a fight or flight response. Try using less threatening wording, e.g. “Would you like to go for a coffee sometime today?” Having initiated the conversation, be aware that it is a two-way venture; ensure that the other person is invited to contribute at each of the four steps: • MAKE AN OBSERVATION State this as an observation, immediately inviting the other person’s side of the story.

• DESCRIBE HOW IT MADE YOU FEEL Articulate the emotional aspect of the situation, using descriptive language, then ask the other person to share the feelings behind their behaviour. In order for this approach to have a real impact, the manager must own their feelings about the situation, and verbally acknowledge why they need a change to be made. • STATE YOUR NEEDS Marshall Rosenberg stated; “When people hear needs, it provokes compassion. When people hear diagnoses, it provokes defensiveness and attack.” Put the other person in the right position to contribute constructively. • REQUEST A CHANGE State what you need, leaving room for negotiation. Give the other person space to provide information on what they need in order to make this behaviour change. And finally, it’s important to re-boot the relationship afterwards; close with a thank you, giving recognition that you have the sort of relationship in which this type of conversation can be held. With the right mindset and thorough preparation, your relationship with that person can become even stronger. An unhelpful conversation doesn’t have to become a battle. Contact: 67


For some people, work is an important coping mechanism and a distraction, especially during the early stages of grief

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Dealing with grief HR Insight’s Richard Cummings explains how you can help your employees when dealing with bereavement in the workplace


or many employers, it can be difficult to know how to respond when an employee is bereaved, and how to ensure that the impact on both the individual and the organisation is minimised. This can be made even harder when there is an unexpected death of someone within the team. Remember that you are now dealing with a number of grieving employees. You should acknowledge the loss to the company and the employees. Many of your employees, possibly even all of them, may wish to attend the funeral. In an ideal world, you would want to allow everyone to attend, but practically that may not be possible. Try to think of other ways that those employees not attending may be able to contribute, perhaps by holding a minute’s silence when the funeral is taking place. THE IMPACT OF BEREAVEMENT A 2014 survey conducted by Ashridge Business School, of 4,000 adults in the UK, found that 32% of people who had been bereaved within the past five years, and who were in a job at the time, did not feel

they had been treated with compassion by their employer. And 56% of those surveyed said that they would consider leaving their job if they were not treated with compassion. THE ROLE OF WORK IN THE COPING PROCESS For some people, work is an important coping mechanism and a distraction, especially during the early stages of grief, as some people find that it provides some normality and routine. However, just because someone is at work doesn’t mean that their performance will be at the same standard previously expected, so some leniency should be given in these cases. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO DISCUSS THE ISSUES THEY ARE FACING You should try to create opportunities for individuals to speak in confidence about their grief. Having someone to trust and confide in at work can significantly aid recovery. If appropriate, perhaps look to bring in someone from an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or a grief counsellor,

who can offer additional support. UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF THE EMPLOYEES It is important to ask the employees how they would like to be supported during this difficult time. It is vital that employers do not offer just a one-off conversation about an employee’s bereavement and how they are coping. It should be an ongoing process until such time as the employee indicates that they no longer require the additional support. BEREAVEMENT TAKES TIME Despite appearing to perform as normal, some individuals struggle for a long time after a bereavement. By being compassionate, not only will you be seen as a nicer organisation to work for, you may also have higher staff retention levels as a result. These steps should help you to be able to cope with bereavement more comfortably. Contact: 69

Set your cash flow free Syscap tax funding can help you avoid spikes in your expenditure and maintain cash flow freedom throughout tax season and beyond. Spread the cost of your tax bill over 6 or 12 simple monthly instalments, allowing you to utilise precious cash reserves in the areas where you need it most. Benefits of tax funding: ä Avoid a large lump sum expenditure ä Smooth your cash flow ä Maintain existing banking lines ä Protect vital working capital Syscap has over 25 years’ experience in providing tailored finance solutions to SMEs. We have helped over 21,000 businesses in that time, and provided around £2 billion of funding. As part of the Wesleyan Group, we are now stronger than ever.

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If you expect to go to a networking event and sell, then you are at the wrong event and it can be daunting to break into groups that are already in discussion. I have a friend who always arrives early and then stands and greets as many people as he can. It’s a nice trick, and people – especially those flying solo – are often so pleased to see a friendly face that it can reap great dividends.


Why networking is not working for you


ith countless events taking place every night of the week in cities across the UK, the business community could easily spend their life networking. Despite the value in making business contacts, not everyone enjoys networking, and many dread going to these types of event. However, I believe networking is still a key part of today’s business world. Throughout my career I must have attended more than 500 talks, lunches, seminars, briefings – you name it, I’ve been there. I view networking as a way of building relationships, and you need to make an effort when attending events otherwise you won’t get anything out them. So many people say they hate networking, which I think is a real shame as they’re missing opportunities. So, here I share my top tips for approaching this invaluable business tool:

If you expect to go to a networking event and sell, then you’re at the wrong event – it’s all about relationship building. I always try to find a way we can help the people we’re talking to, such as recommending a contact or a website that might be of interest.

Jane Schofield, director of, provides her top tips for getting the most out of networking events


FORGET BUSINESS EVENT THINK RELATIONSHIP Think of it more like a social event, and the opportunity to make new, and lasting friendships. Go and seek out these new friends, and plant the seed for what could develop into a beautiful new (business) relationship.


BE INTERESTED AND INTERESTING Don’t focus on what they can do for you, and what you can do for them – friendships don’t work like this. You have to invest time in getting to know people. Make them want to find out more about you, and stay in touch. Give before you receive.



If you don’t like networking, arriving late seems like a good idea, but by then the party has already started



SHARE YOUR PASSION In order for people to want to work with you, your passion needs to come across. If you work for Mercedes, make me want to buy a Mercedes. There’s nothing more off-putting than someone who is bored talking about what they do.


DON’T HIJACK THE CONVERSATION Nerves can make us talk too much, and we forget to listen. Nobody likes someone who holds court and doesn’t let people get a word in, so listen more than you talk.



Never go to an event and forget to take note of the people who have attended. If someone interested me, I will do a little more research and make make an effort to stay in touch from time to time. Contact: 71


Anarchy or innovation?

Matias Rodsevic, PR & communications at Impraise, examines some extreme management policies that kick it to the next level


xtreme company cultures are taking over HR, and thriving. Their policies have completely gone against the grain of traditional management strategies, yet innovation is flourishing and millennials are flocking to interviews. What is the secret behind these companies’ irresistible weirdness? When comparing three leading companies to the results found in Deloitte’s Millennial Survey, we begin to see some patterns.

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ZAPPOS Zappos has put the ‘weird’ into weird company culture. Tony Hsieh’s penchant for everything llamas has led him to create his own commune in downtown Las Vegas where they roam free among luxury employee trailer homes. The design of the offices includes everything from jungle themes to Star Wars. How does Zappos stay weird while continuing to grow? One way is by hiring the right people. Rather than just working to attract top talent, Zappos hires for company culture fit. In fact, the company offers new hires $4,000 to leave Zappos, to ensure everyone is 100% integrated into the culture. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, losing an employee due to company culture fit results in a loss of 50-60% of the employee’s salary. This is a particular risk with millennials, who are known for their lack of company loyalty. Even if you have the best of the best applying at your company, if they don’t fit the culture, you won’t see the expected returns in the long run. According to Deloitte’s 2014 survey, 78% of millennials want to work for a company that encourages innovation and creative thinking, yet most say they’re not getting this at their current company. In fact, they believe the top two barriers to innovation are management (63%), and organisational structures and procedures (61%). For this reason, companies that eschew conventional hierarchies and give more freedom to employees tend to attract young, independent-minded talent.



PATAGONIA Created in the 1970s by outdoor enthusiasts, ‘Let my people go surfing time’ has been a standing policy at Patagonia. This policy effectively allows employees to leave the office when there’s a perfect surf, or for other outdoor activities - even during office hours. Located not too far from the beach in Ventura, California, it’s not uncommon to see managers and employees catching some waves before a big meeting, or taking some time out to go rock climbing. There’s even a daily updated surf report and a stock of Patagonia towels provided. Other than helping to refresh the mind, encouraging employees to leave the office for outdoor activities fosters a strong belief in the product they’re selling, with employees being encouraged to test out their apparel regularly. If an employee really believes in the product, it will come across to the client. Hiring environmentally conscious employees allows them to think like their clients, and means they’ll be on board with the more extreme marketing techniques that Patagonia employs. Going against anything you might learn in ‘Marketing 101’, Patagonia has followed extremely unorthodox marketing campaigns including its ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ advert, which aimed to actually discourage people from buying new clothes during the holiday season. Another is its ‘Footprint Chronicles’, a shockingly transparent report of how their products are made. The company has also done substantial work in Patagonia itself to help preserve the environment. The Deloitte Survey shows that millennials don’t just want great jobs, they also want their jobs to have a social impact. According to the 2014 millennial survey, 71% believe companies should do more to address global issues, such as resource scarcity (68%), climate change (65%), and income inequality (64%).

ATLASSIAN Business Review Weekly named Atlassian the best place to work in Australia for the past two years in a row. Perhaps the most extreme aspect of its people management policies is the (paid) time off given to employees to devote to fun, charity, and their own personal development. Even before new hires begin work, they’re given a travel voucher for a ‘Holiday before you start’. Once they’re relaxed and ready to work, employees are also given five days of volunteer leave a year to help out with their favourite charities. Based on FedEx’s guarantee to ship packages in a day, Atlassian challenges its employees to devise new ideas in 24-hour ‘ShipIt days’. During these four days a year, employees are told to drop their normal work and spend time on any creative project they can come up with. The policy has produced innovative results, from new product features to a mini arcade for the office. In his TEDTalk, Dan Pink explains that more and more, we are finding that economic incentives are not as effective at encouraging creativity as autonomy, using Atlassian’s ShipIt days as an example. More than fifty companies have now incorporated this strategy into their own development plan. Google calls its own version, ‘20% time’. To keep Atlassians engaged, the company has devoted a lot of attention to creating a space in which employees feel recognised and supported. One way is through the system of giving each other kudos, or handwritten cards and gifts from HR, in recognition of great work. Atlassian’s MoodApp was a Shipit day invention that allows employees to rate different aspects of the work day. The company is also now using a brand new, web-based and mobile solution, called Impraise to encourage real-time and 360-degree feedback between employees and managers. While giving more autonomy to employees has proven to boost creativity, in order for it to be effective companies must also keep up effective methods of communication. These solutions allow colleagues, managers, and executives to check in with employees, and provide support without compromising their independence. Contact: 73


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Taking recruits to trial

Lee McQueen, founder of Raw Talent Academy and season-four winner of BBC’s The Apprentice, looks at how to spot the right skills in people who want to work for you

applicants to complete, you are going to increase the chances of spotting those people who have the right skills.

ATTITUDE COUNTS But what about those people who haven’t yet picked up the necessary skills but who have the ability to become valuable members of your team? Clearly, a task test wouldn’t be s an employer, there are much use in this situation, and this few things as important as is where a proper interview comes hiring the right people. into its own. Make sure you focus on But how do you give attitude and willingness to learn. yourself the best chance How have they developed during of getting it right from the outset? their previous employment? Can they What skills should you look for, and demonstrate a track record of having how do you go about measuring them? learnt new skills on the job? If they have just come from PRACTICE BEATS THEORY university, what did they do when An interview is all well and good, they were there? Did they look for and can give you some indication of part-time work and show some getsomeone’s aptitude, but it’s only a up-and-go? start. Seeing someone’s skills in action Those of you who saw me in The Do you feel they have the stomach is an even better way of judging Apprentice all those years ago, might for what lies ahead, and do they want suitability for the role. remember that I got caught out for to better themselves? At Raw Talent, we put prospective fibbing on my CV. It’s not something It’s about the ability to unlock employees through a series of tasks. I’m proud of, and I would never potential. It’s no coincidence that As a result, we can see what they can condone anyone else doing it, but the everyone who’s been successful has actually do – not just what they say reason I won that series and got hired they can do. by Lord Sugar, was that he was also able shown a great work ethic, and this is something you need to look for in If someone’s applying for a to see me in action over the course of a candidate – even someone you’ve marketing position, it’s about seeing if 12 weeks, and see what I could do – never met before. they have the relevant marketing skills. not just what my CV said I could do. If someone’s going for a sales job, we You’re not going to have 12 weeks Contact: ask them to make a phone call to see if to put every candidate through their they have what it takes to sell. paces but, by devising tasks for


It’s no coincidence that everyone who’s been successful has shown a great work ethic 75

Trident_ redefined.



C60 TRIDENT GMT 600 – Swiss made dual time watch with automatic mechanical movement, graduated rotatable ceramic (ZrO2) bezel, arrow-headed 24 hour hand and water resistance to 60 bar/600m. Available in 38mm and 42mm case sizes, three dial/bezel combinations and four strap styles.






Each month we bring you a selection of gadgets, gizmos, and gifts that we’re going crazy about. Here are our favourites this month.

For the ultimate living room accessory that will leave both style gurus and music lovers purring with contentment, look no further than the Christie DAB Radio & Bluetooth Speaker from VQ. The speaker couples vintage design appeal with innovative functionality, including a rotating display and control panel for landscape or portrait orientation. British design and sound engineering come together to provide the Christie with a whole host of excellent features, including DAB, DAB+, and FM radio reception, which means you have access to the full spectrum of digital services available across the UK and Europe. If you want to play music, or any other content from your own library, it offers one-touch connection via NFC, or simple pairing with Bluetooth for smart devices. Available in 13 different colours to suit any taste, (including the rather attractive walnut, pictured), it deserves a place in your home or office. PRICE: £129.99 AVAILABLE FROM:

JAM TRANSIT MICRO SPORT WIRELESS EARBUDS Whether you’re a budding gymgoer, adrenaline-seeking cyclist, or just a casual jogger, JAM has the solution to your audio woes. No matter what you’re doing, JAM’s Transit Micro Sport Bud Bluetooth Headphones are designed to stay in place comfortably, alleviating the annoyance of having your earphones constantly fall out. (Seriously, go ahead and do a backflip!). Multiple accessories allow you to create a custom fit, while the reflective strap enhances safety. They’re also sweat resistant, making them perfect for even the toughest workouts. And to get you started on your fitness journey, they arrive packaged in a matching, BPA-free water bottle. PRICE: £49.99 AVAILABLE FROM:

FUGOO TOUGH XL SPEAKER Roaring, intrepid, and virtually indestructible, this is FUGOO Tough XL. Featuring eight acoustic drivers for true 360-degree sound, it is dust proof, with up to 40 hours battery life, and a USB port to quick charge your phone or tablet. Protected in a polymer jacket with aluminium plating, and stainless steel grills, the Fugoo Tough XL is built to work and play as hard as your active lifestyle. The Fugoo Tough XL boasts a range of up to 97dB, 8 symmetrically placed drivers, which crank out clean highs, midrange punches, and deep, roaring lows, and it contains four tweeters, two mid/sub drivers, two passive radiators, and a 97 db sound pressure level. This means it can fill large rooms and outdoor adventures with rich, immersive audio. Fully equipped to withstand the elements, it is mudproof, waterproof, snowproof, and even shockproof from a height of six feet. Additionally, iPhone users can connect via Bluetooth and enjoy Siri compatibility. PRICE: £189.99 AVAILABLE FROM: 77


Let it snow It might be getting later in the season, but it’s never too late to get away from it all, and hit the slopes. Here we check out some of the best items you can buy to help you conquer the piste, and look great while doing so

Super-sleek and agile, these shaped Fantasy Ski Pants from Salomon blend around-town, après ski style with excellent technical performance. Cut from a denim-like fabric, these trousers have a feminine silhouette for the perfect fit, and use Advanced Skin technology to keep you warm and dry as you ski. SALOMON ICON 4D CUSTOM AIR HELMET £115 Having fun on the slopes starts with staying safe, and the lightweight and low profile Icon 4D Custom Air is the perfect choice for the safety and style conscious. It boasts a slim air pad that sits around the back and sides of the head with a small built-in pump which, once inflated, cradles your head comfortably and provides an excellent fit, while meeting the standard safety norms so you can wear it with confidence. Music lovers will be pleased too, as it is audio system compatible so you can listen to your favourite hits on the hillside, while a clip on the back of the helmet helps to keep your goggles attached.

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HELLY HANSEN W MOTION STRETCH JACKET £260 Staying warm, dry and comfortable are often the three biggest priorities for the average skier and the W Motion Stretch Jacket doesn’t disappoint. Altitude and speed inspire this performance insulated ski jacket which features waterproof breathable Helly Tech Performance stretch fabric, combined with PrimaLoft insulation, and their innovative H2Flow system for turbocharged mechanical venting, to provide ultimate temperature regulation. Wrist gaitors, inside stash pocket, and a ski pass pocket round out this stylish alpine look. Available in five different colours to suit any style, it packs a whole host of great features, including the famous RECCO® Advanced Rescue system technology, enabling rescue teams to locate you should an emergency occur.



To paraphrase Meghan Trainor, it’s all about that base layer, when it comes to staying warm and dry on the mountains. That’s why the clever two-layer construction, combining Lifa Stay Dry Technology and 100% pure merino wool, makes the Helly Hansen Warm Flow base layer top and pants the ideal choice for all activities in cold weather.

Staying warm starts with your you our feet, styl ye so make sure it’s only yourr st style h these the ese that remains ice cold with ki socks cushioned merino wool ski erino wool from Teko. The luxury merino ure away insulates and wicks moisture osy y, and to keep your feet dry and co cosy, thos th ose e provides extra warmth forr those astt, edgeedg dgee ewho put comfort before fast, to-edge performance.

The only glare you’ll receive while wearing these fantastic frames from premium Hawaiian polarised sunglasses brand, Maui Jim, will be the jealous glares from other skiers. Featuring a full wrap strap for ultimate stability as you speed down the mountainside, the patented, colour-infused lens technology wipes out 99.9% of glare, 100% of harmful UV, and boosts colour via specially designed lens treatments, so your view is clearer, with crisper contrast and aamazing am maz a in ingg brilliance. brill


Whether you’re just starting out or are getting your heartrate pumping on some exhilarating off-piste adventures, Lifa Flow technology delivers super quick drying, which moves moisture away from your skin faster than other base layer technologies on the market and allows you to get on with doing what you do best – carving up the snow!



Conquer the slopes in pure Massimo Dutti style with these exclusive personalised skis. The successful and internationally award-winning Rossignol Experience 84 skis are aimed at the advanced or expert skier, and are designed for 60% on-piste and 40% off-piste use. Revolutionary Air Tip technology, the most versatile rocker and camber combination, plus a lightweight and resistant paulownia and carbon sandwich, make for high-performance skis in all terrains and snow conditions. 79



Despite having dropped a belt size, the new Q7 is more commodious, with a truly cavernous interior

80 February 2016

By the end of our Lake District road trip, I’d well and truly forgotten about my duvet



Gear changes from the silky smooth 8-speed transmission are largely imperceptible, and the supercharged V6 diesel engine is uncannily quiet, almost silent at times; the combined experience compensating nicely for my surrendered duvet. Producing a peak of 600Nm and 272PS, the beefy Q7 wafts effortlessly. It feels light, having shed 325kg, but perceived pace doesn’t quite match its 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds. Like Maggie, this lady may not be for turning either, steering lacking ultimate crispness. Still, she steamrollers roads into submission, adaptive air suspension delivering a bewilderingly impressive, creamy ride, embarrassing the sometimes bone-jarring Range Rover Sport. The new Q7 still feels commanding despite sitting lower than its predecessor. The rearmost seats accommodate two average adults comfortably enough on modest journeys, and boot space with seven seats occupied is an impressive 295 litres, matching a Ford Focus. Flatten the third row electrically and boot space becomes an immense 890 litres, plus there’s hardly any loading lip. There’s nowhere to put the parcel shelf, but the plethora of nets, straps, hooks, and compartments make the boot highly practical, and the electric tow bar and ‘kneeling’ suspension are welcome touches. Averaging 37mpg after a few hundred miles’ very mixed driving, compares well to 45.6mpg on paper, and 136g/km CO2 emissions means it’s greener than most similarlyspecified rivals. Priced at £63,025 as tested, the new Q7 S line 272 is good value alongside the competition, and by the end of our Lake District road trip, I’d well and truly forgotten about my duvet. In fact, I didn’t want to get out of the Audi – ever.

Each month motoring expert, Oliver Hammond checks out the latest executive and business vehicles on offer, to help you to make the right choice for whatever the road may throw at you


Interior photograph: Audi

Exterior photography: Isabel Carter

ordsworth country beckoned, with its resplendent orchestra of autumnal colours, breath-taking vistas, and moody, mist-draped mountains. The slight snag was that November had ushered in unrelenting rainfall, heightening the allure of my warm duvet. Still, our Lake District-bound chariot was the new Audi Q7, which would hopefully obviate any reluctance. Any apathy I’d felt in perceiving its styling as an inflated and stretched Q3 melted away with the test car’s arrival. The new Q7’s aesthetics are effective in the flesh, its gaping grille, lights with double arrow signatures, various curves and lines working cohesively. The forerunner’s perhaps rap star image has morphed into a sophisticated one. The new model loses 37mm in length and 15mm in width and looks elegant, including in sporty S line trim with colossal 21-inch wheels. Despite having dropped a belt size, the new Q7 is more commodious, with a truly cavernous interior, but never feels intimidating to drive, except down particularly narrow lanes and streets. The cockpit wraps engagingly around the driver and the exquisite interior is a lesson in masterly craftsmanship, comfort and luxuriousness in abundance, with elegant shapes, materials, and beautifully machined aluminium controls. There isn’t a dual view screen like in a Range Rover, and the latest MMI system somehow seems slightly fiddlier, but the Q7’s LED lighting, Virtual Cockpit TFT instrumentation, and superb Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system cap the butter-soft interior off splendidly, and the utterly brilliant Matrix LED lights synthesise daylight in pitch darkness. 81


Nick Stuart-Miller, founder of SEO and digital marketing agency, Seed Publicity, helps get your SEO strategy sorted

10 signs your SEO needs fixing


hether you’re managing your website’s SEO yourself, inhouse at the company you work for, working with a freelancer, or outsourcing to an agency, it’s important to be able to identify if it isn’t working. Whatever your situation, you need to be able to identify the sure-fire signs that your SEO needs fixing. The secret to good SEO is there’s no secret at all. You’ll get to the top by following the best practice guidelines set by Google, and focusing your SEO efforts on logical reasons why they should rank your site at the top.Before you read on, ask yourself the following: 1 What are your goals? 2 What are your expectations with SEO? 3 What are you currently achieving? 4 How are you measuring your results? So, how do you know if your SEO needs fixing?


YOUR TRAFFIC FROM ORGANIC SEARCH IS STEADILY DECREASING Go to Google Analytics and do a six-month comparison. Check the acquisition of your traffic from organic search and group it into weeks/months. If the amount of traffic from organic search is on the decline, then you may have a problem. Here are some of the most common reasons for a slow loss of organic traffic:

82 February 2016

• Your site was recently hit by a penalty from Google. • Your competitors are ramping up their search marketing efforts and overtaking your site. • Your keyword positions are decreasing naturally. • Your site has too many indexing errors, making it difficult for Google to crawl your site. • A change in the seasonality or search trend of your industry. • An algorithm update from Google has resulted in loss of rankings for your site. • Your website has a security issue (malware or spam), causing Google to drop rankings. • Your website isn’t targeting the right customers, and therefore isn’t engaging users.


YOU EXPERIENCE A SIGNIFICANT LOSS IN ORGANIC TRAFFIC OVERNIGHT If this happens, your SEO strategy needs a serious re-think. I’ve worked with many brands that have experienced huge drops in traffic from Google, and the number one suspect is usually dodgy tactics catching up with them. Stop anything Black Hat or unnatural right now. It just isn’t worth getting caught out, and the consequences are not worth risking. Eliminate underhand tactics like buying links, hiding content in code, stuffing your site with keywords, link farming with PBNs (private blog networks), doorway pages, cloaking, spinning content, comment spamming, etc. from your SEO strategy now.


YOUR KEYWORD RANKINGS ARE DROPPING A drop in keyword rankings usually correlates with a loss of organic traffic, and vice-versa. If you’re tracking your keywords, make sure you keep an eye on your primary keyword positions. Daily fluctuations in rankings are common, but any major position drop is a good indication that your SEO strategy needs work.


YOU’RE NOT SHOWING UP FOR THE ‘RIGHT’ KEYWORDS IN GOOGLE Whether you’re working with an agency or executing your SEO strategy yourself, you should have a comprehensive grasp of the keywords you should be targeting. There are plenty of great keyword tracking tools out there, so it’s easy to keep track of what your site shows up for.


YOUR WEBSITE ISN’T CONVERTING VISITORS INTO CUSTOMERS Realistically, how many of your visitors from search engines convert into customers? Different industries have different standards for conversion rates, but you should be aiming to convert at least 6 - 8% of your search engine traffic into customers. Search traffic is different because visitors should have intent to buy from you if you’re targeting the right keywords.


YOUR WEBSITE’S CONTENT IS THIN AND USELESS In recent years, SEO has put huge emphasis into content marketing.


'DLO\ ƭXFWXDWLRQV LQ UDQNLQJV DUH FRPPRQ EXW DQ\ PDMRU SRVLWLRQ GURS LV D JRRG LQGLFDWLRQ WKDW \RXU 6(2 VWUDWHJ\ QHHGV ZRUN SEO cannot exist without content, and content is nowhere near as effective without SEO. Review your website’s content. Does it help and inform your audience? Thin content is on Google’s hit list. If your website is keywordstuffed with useless, ineffective content, then you’re going to miss out on engaging your customers, and risk losing out on authority with Google.


YOUR WEBSITE HAS POOR BEHAVIOURAL METRICS Check your website’s behavioural metrics on Google Analytics. Low average time on site, less than one page per session, visits from unnatural locations, high bounce rates, and lots of spam traffic are all indications that your SEO strategy isn’t working for you. Although not an official ranking factor with Google, reviewing your behavioural metrics will help you identify whether or not your SEO strategy needs fixing.


YOU HAVE POOR QUALITY BACKLINKS - AND LOTS OF THEM Any SEO knows that you should earn your backlinks, rather than build them. There are plenty of creative, honest ways to earn quality, relevant links to your site - but we’re not here to talk about that. Use Webmaster Tools (or any other quality backlink tool) to get a list of all the sites linking to yours. What do they look like? Are they from relevant, quality sites? Or are they spammy and irrelevant? If it’s the latter, then it’s time to change how you earn those juicy links.


YOU’RE NOT CONSIDERING OTHER DIGITAL MARKETING CHANNELS AS PART OF YOUR MARKETING MIX SEO cannot exist on its own. Quite simply, it’s not enough to drive digital growth alone. Make sure you incorporate other

aspects of digital marketing; creating valuable content, delivering it to your audience via social media and email marketing, reaching out and developing a relationship with influential people within your marketplace, etc. NOT TRACKING 10 YOU’RE YOUR EFFORTS Without knowing where you started, how can you measure how far you’ve come? Measuring growth in SEO is key to knowing not only where you’re going next, but how you’re going to get there. If you’re not measuring your site’s growth on Google Analytics, tracking your targeted keywords, or even evaluating how effective your content marketing efforts are, then it’s time to fix your SEO. Contact: 83














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Wi-Fight the future?


ireless connectivity has become critical to the running of small to medium size businesses from an operational and a commercial standpoint. Wi-Fi has reached commodity status for SMEs. No longer a niche technology used to provide internet access in a conference room, it has become a strategic solution for organisations large and small, as more and more wireless devices flood into the workplace. It has become second nature for staff, customers, and partners to connect their smartphones, tablets, or laptops to a reliable wireless connection once they are on the premises, regardless of the type of SME – be it a shop, legal firm, or a design agency. In order to power the mobile workplace,

Steve Johnson, regional director, Northern Europe at Ruckus Wireless, explains why SMEs need better Wi-Fi than they already have

SMEs require Wi-Fi solutions that can reliably connect a large number of devices simultaneously, are easy to manage, have high performance, and do not break the bank. Yet many SMEs find that the options available to them do not fit these demands. Most SMEs naturally assume they must use consumer-grade Wi-Fi access points (APs), which are more

suited to the residential market. These solutions appear financially attractive; they are also appealing because they can be installed by a service provider, ideal for many businesses that may not have the necessary IT skills needed to install and maintain a Wi-Fi network. However, their limitations soon become apparent. Designed for use in the home, these solutions do not have the required coverage and capacity to connect multiple devices simultaneously. Consumer grade Wi-Fi technology cannot perform under the demands of various mobile devices that are being used for data intensive activities. Networks can frequently crash as one device monopolises bandwidth, leaving others technically impaired. As organic growth takes place within businesses, and networks 85


need to be scaled up, the limitations of consumer grade Wi-Fi are further realised. When businesses expand or take on more staff, they typically install additional consumer grade APs to extend coverage and capacity, but these are standalone solutions – they are not designed to work in tandem. These APs tend to use the same radio channel to transmit and receive Wi-Fi signals, which creates interference, affecting the Wi-Fi signal and the performance of the wireless network. Management becomes a burden, and businesses too small to warrant dedicated IT managers are unable to maintain anything near a stable Wi-Fi network infrastructure. These off-the-shelf Wi-Fi solutions also lack additional features, such as setting-up guest access or bring your own device (BYOD) policies, that are important from a security and usability standpoint, especially for retail and hospitality environments. If small businesses want these features, it requires them to buy a

86 February 2016

As organic growth takes place within businesses and networks need to be scaledup, the limitations of consumer grade Wi-Fi are further realised separate Wi-Fi controller that can be expensive and complex to operate. Large enterprises overcome the limitations of consumer grade solutions by deploying sophisticated, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi systems. The cost and complexity of installing and maintaining a similar Wi-Fi system can be daunting for the budgetconscious SME. What the small business market craves is a system that bridges this growing gap – Wi-Fi with enterprise-class reliability and

pervasive performance, but easy to deploy and manage, and available at a reasonable price. Fortunately Wi-Fi that is specifically designed for the SME market is now available. Businesses can adopt off-the-shelf solutions that can be deployed within minutes by non-tech savvy users, and configured even faster. They are designed to handle a large volume of users and can be seamlessly scaled to match the growth of a business. Furthermore they do not require separate controllers for additional functionality, with such features built into the APs already. Business owners need to seek out low cost, high performance Wi-Fi solutions that don’t break the bank, or cause management issues – as well as deliver an optimal wireless experience to their staff and customers. Contact:





LOCATIONS OF UPCOMING SHOWS 2016 Worcester Sixways Stadium, Worcester WR3 8ZE Taunton Somerset County Cricket Club, Taunton TA1 1JT Gloucester Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester GL1 3AX

At Sterling Business Shows we love helping businesses grow and this is what you tell us... “Exhibiting at any Sterling Business Shows event is not only a pleasure, but gives a great ROI. Sterling have the knack of attracting the right attendees in the right numbers at the right time and we will continue to exploit these opportunities.” Duncan Laker. Welcome Telecom.




“Worcester was my 5th show with Sterling Business Shows, and as always I had a brilliant day. I came away from the show with 4 genuine leads and countless interesting conversations and new business connections. I decided to exhibit with Sterling in order to expand my business into new areas. I have found the shows to be a great return on investment, which is why after the initial 3 show bookings I continue to exhibit with Sterling Business Shows.” Graham Abbey. Factotum Ltd – Exhibitor, Coventry, Birmingham, Solihull, Oxford & Worcester.

Please contact Neil on 01452 222676 or go to

BUSINESS JUNCTION, LONDON’S PREMIER BUSINESS NETWORK, INVITES YOU TO A FREE NETWORKING EVENT Business Junction is offering all Talk Business readers a complimentary invitation to one of our February networking events in London which are all listed below (and on our website). 4th Feb 2016 12.30-2.30pm

Networking lunch in Mayfair Benares Restaurant & Bar, 12a Berkeley Square House, London, W1J 6BS Nearest tube: Green Park More information and booking:

10th Feb 2016 12.00-2.30pm

Chinese New Year networking lunch in Chinatown Dumplings Legend, 15 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE Nearest tube: Leicester Square More information and booking:

18th Feb 2016 8.00-10.00am

Champagne breakfast in Mayfair No. 4 Hamilton Place, 4 Hamilton Place, London, W1J 7BQ Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner More information and booking:

25th Feb 2016 12.30-2.30pm

Networking lunch in Liverpool Street Darbaar, 1 Snowden Street, Broadgate West, London, EC2A 2DQ Nearest tube: Moorgate More information and booking:

Please email with the event you would like to attend and quoting the reference: Talkbusiness02/16 Now in its 15th year and with over 550 member companies, Business Junction is London’s leading independent business network. We run 80+ pan-London networking events each year including a weekly lunch, a monthly Philippe Brugnon Champagne breakfast and 6 evening events, all at different high quality central London venues.

020 3667 6776


The greatest threat to your business security may be lurking within

The danger within Richard Walters, general manager and VP of identity and access management, Intermedia, looks at four ways to protect your data from dastards and disasters


ore than ever, businesses are assessing their vulnerabilities in order to mitigate future breaches and cyber-attacks. As we’ve seen from recent incidents, cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on both reputation and customer trust. However, as a recent survey has shown, the greatest threat to your business security may be lurking within. 97% of employees have access to some form of sensitive or confidential information, and one in three employees said they would access, download, share, delete, or alter company information after leaving a job. While insider risks aren’t new, they rarely receive the attention they deserve. Security concerns for businesses now encompass threats ranging from sophisticated ransomware taking over a user’s computer, to employees going rogue with sensitive information. While risk management can be a very long process, and results may not appear for months or even years, it can yield tangible results in keeping the business safe in the long run.

88 February 2016

So how can businesses streamline employee productivity, and also improve their data protection, all without breaking the bank? Here are a few tools to help achieve this: PASSWORDS DON’T CAUSE BREACHES, EMPLOYEES DO When employees are forced to remember multiple and complex passwords, they get sloppy. When they get sloppy, your business becomes vulnerable to cyber attack. Even employees who should know better have lapse; 65% of IT professionals admit to sharing log in credentials with multiple users. By integrating an inexpensive Identity and Access Management (IAM) solution with dynamic password management, your employees only need one portal and one password to log in to their web applications. In fact, dynamic password management automates the selection and changing of passwords to help ensure they’re both complex and unique across all accounts. So your users will never need to remember, or have to regularly change the passwords to their web applications again.

DEPLOY A CLOUD FILE SHARING SERVICE THAT’S EASY TO USE Paraphrasing Sun Tzu: “If you know your opponent and know yourself, you will not be defeated in a hundred battles.” So, the best way to avoid users uploading their files to consumer-grade services (e.g. Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.) is to understand why they gravitate toward those services in the first place. Millennials, for example, are now the largest generation in the workforce, and 28% of millennials admitted to saving company files to personal cloud storage. That’s because these services make uploading and sharing files simple. Therefore, when selecting a file sharing service, pick a business-grade product that’s intuitive and reliable. When you find one that’s easy, start off small with a limited number of users, and once the service has been positively received, you can easily scale it up since it’s cloud-based. But remember - don’t be a dictator. Forcing something on users that they don’t want will just waste time and money.


28% of millennials admitted to saving FRPSDQ\ ƬOHV to personal cloud storage

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, JOIN ‘EM: SELECT A FILE SHARING SERVICE THAT OFFERS BACKUP File sharing services traditionally aren’t recommended to be used as reliable backup services. Vendors in tune with their users however, will have realised that employees can also often be the honey badgers of the IT world, and ignore this recommendation completely. Rather than fighting, or trying to change user habits, look for a file sync and share service that offers a comprehensive backup component, which captures all the changes you make to your files in real time. This enables your employees to restore files in the event of a disaster. It also makes all files

instantly available via web and mobile devices, improving collaboration across your company, and increasing the flexibility of your workforce. EASE YOUR EMAIL MANAGING WOES WITH ARCHIVING FIT FOR INDIANA JONES To the best of my knowledge, no one enjoys exploring the depths of archived and/or deleted emails, but it’s something you might be faced with one day. For example, many well intentioned employees spend their final day at a company clearing out their computers. But what happens if, in a week or more, you realise you’re missing some critical files? Email archiving is a great service to have because all user data is stored

in a central repository to allow IT administrators to perform a single search across every mailbox in your account. In fact, even the full text of all attachments is searchable. Companies need to approach security as though they are going to suffer a breach or cyber attack in the next six months. While it’s important to have a plan in place, that’s just not enough. By investing in the inexpensive tools outlined above, you can severely mitigate your risk, and keep your business safe in the long run - all without tanking your IT budget. Contact: 89


I’ve got an app for that Each month we bring you a selection of our favourite apps for business or pleasure. This month we look at a photo editing app by Aviary, and job search app, Indeed



PRICE: Free COMPATABILITY: Android, iOS THE GIST: Design is one of the most underrated aspects of a successful business. Just look at all the well established and well known brands in the world; they are all instantly recognisable by their brands. Couple this with amazing and original advertising campaigns; design tends to be the unsung hero leading brands to success. However, we know that not all businesses have millions to go into marketing campaigns, sometimes nothing at all. So this is where Photo Editing by Aviary comes in. Your business needs a clean, professional, yet expressive appearance, and any content you produce needs to give you the presence that only an edited photo can give. Features include one tap auto enhance, photo effects and frames, colour balance, crop, rotate, straighten photos, adjust brightness, contrast, colour temperature, and saturation, sharpen or blur images, and many, many more. This fantastic app seems to have it all, and with 75 million active users, Aviary must be doing something right. So enhance your images to professional standard and make your business a household name. DOWNLOADABLE FROM:

PRICE: Free COMPATABILITY: Android, iOS THE GIST: With January gone and the new year starting to build some momentum, a lot of workers start to consider a new position to go with the new year. One of the biggest job sites online is Indeed, and it has produced one of the best mobile apps to go with its position. More than 100 million job seekers use Indeed each month, and this simple, effective app enables you to search for jobs in your area using your device’s GPS, and filter the results to your preferred job. Upload your CV to the Indeed site and easily apply wherever you are, as well as being able to add an individual cover note to any application. You can read reviews of potential employers, and save any jobs you visited to apply later. Indeed is an easy-to-use job search app that anyone thinking of their future should consider to develop their career in any profession. DOWNLOADABLE FROM: 91

Buy a sandwich

franchise with

Why buy a sandwich franchise? Ŕ The British ‘on the go’ sandwich market is currently valued at £3 billion Ŕ 1.8 billion sandwiches are bought in the UK every year Ŕ A healthier fast food option

Visit to find out about buying a sandwich franchise – and more!



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ith more than 50 new stores and major international sporting events, including the UEFA Euro Football Championship and the Rio Olympics scheduled for 2016, Domino’s Pizza UK has announced that it is looking for 5,000 new team members in the UK and Ireland over the next year. Having recently celebrated its 30th birthday in the UK with the opening of its 900th store at Ashford in Surrey, Domino’s plans to build on the 50-plus new store openings it made in 2015. Jobs will be available in roles ranging from delivery drivers and store team members to pizza makers and franchise managers. New starters will be supported by the company’s online induction programme and management training system, which is due to

Domino’s aims to create 5,000 new jobs in 2016 UK’s biggest pizza company gears up for Euro’s, the Olympics and 50 new stores launch later this year. “Our digital ordering now represents 77% of our delivered sales, with nearly 50% made on our app. There are some exciting innovations coming in the next few months to make ordering even easier as we are gearing up for a strong 2016,” said Scott McLeod, operations director, Domino’s Pizza UK. Now teams from England, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland have qualified, Domino’s expects a peak in orders around UEFA Euro 2016, which

will feature 24 teams and 51 games between June 10 and July 10. During the last World Cup in Brazil, Domino’s saw an average game day sales uplift of almost 10%, peaking at a 23% lift for England’s game against Uruguay. The combination of store growth and unprecedented home interest could mean orders exceed seven million pizzas during the Euro’s. Contact:

From etyres to free tyres for millionth customer Lucky one millionth customer gets wheely big surprise


tyres has marked its milestone millionth customer order with a nice surprise for the buyer: a personal visit from the company’s managing director, and news that her brand new tyres would be on the house. The delighted customer, Mrs Miller, said: “This was the first time I had used etyres, and I was already very happy to place my order, because

their price was all inclusive and they were able to come to my home at the weekend and fit the tyres. To then find out they were free made the whole experience even better!” Mrs Miller was also presented with a bouquet of flowers by Tony Bowman, managing director of the nationwide online mobile tyre fitting company, after having tyres fitted at her home by

etyres Bishops Stortford. Tony said, “This is a great landmark for etyres. We have reached this milestone working closely with our franchise owners and offering firstclass customer service, which enables us to continue growing our business.” Contact: 93


Spring clean your franchise Dynamis’ Nickey Tatley warns of the danger signs that show your franchise network could be heading for trouble, and how to fix them

94 February 2016



his time of year is perfect for giving your business a good spring clean. Of course, a premises must be kept in the best possible condition, but the kind of sprucing up that makes a real difference is the reviewing and, if necessary, updating of everyday practices. While this process is important for self-contained businesses, it’s equally vital for franchises. Here, we look at five problems that a franchise can suffer from, and how to clear them up: 1 LACK OF GROWTH There’s very little as limiting to a new franchise as under-capitalisation; opportunities slip away if not acted upon swiftly, and the costs incurred while establishing an infrastructure capable of supporting enough franchisees are substantial. However, this can also be a long-term problem, particularly if lack of capital has prevented the franchisor from adequately marketing the opportunity, or gaining enough franchisees to sustain and promote the brand. If, on assessment, you recognise this problem, it may be necessary to borrow money, find new investment, or redirect funds in order to give the franchise that all-important expansive capability. 2 WEAK INFRASTRUCTURE When a franchisor fails to establish an effective infrastructure, it’s likely that problems will arise on a regular basis. Neglecting to ensure business practices and procedures are efficient and appropriate is generally at the heart of such failure, and leaves the core of the business vulnerable, and the franchisees feeling unsupported. Of course replicating the success of the systems in place in the original model is the ideal, but if things slip, it’s never too late to re-educate franchisees. Once problems are identified, it is far better to shoulder the immediate cost and inconvenience of making necessary systemic changes than to allow inefficiency and dissatisfaction to continue - or worse, increase.

3 UNINSPIRED FRANCHISEES Regardless of its root cause, franchisee dissatisfaction is disastrous for the potential success of the whole network as it creates difficulties in communication, time-wasting conflict resolution, and can damage the brand image. A common problem that arises when franchisees lack confidence in the franchise structure is that they divert from the original business model. It’s unlikely that franchisee dissatisfaction could have gone unnoticed, but when you carry out your franchise spring clean, you should examine this aspect carefully. Changing the way you communicate with franchisees can be a springboard to a more satisfactory relationship for all

has a negative effect on profits must be identified and addressed. As a franchisor, you should have created a business model that is readily transferable to your franchisees; if a franchisee’s sales figures are poor, it’s vital to ensure that this isn’t due to the franchise model, otherwise the same problem is likely to occur throughout the brand. Lack of attention to the size and demographic of the customer base can lead to financial turgidity, and something as relatively simple as targeted marketing can impact significantly on profits. Implementing effective training for franchisees can address many of the potential difficulties that they may experience.

5 UNHAPPY FRANCHISE FAMILY One such difficulty can be a problematic relationship with other franchisees – particularly those operating in the same area. While creating franchises within a relatively small geographical diameter can be useful in terms of keeping expenses down and ensuring you understand the customer base, it can lead to territorial disputes. As in the case of the franchisor/franchisee relationship, good communication is key. Encouraging information and ideasharing schemes, along with regular inter-franchisee engagement, is likely to improve outcomes for everyone. Corporate spring cleaning can uncover some worrying situations, but not doing it allows those same situations to undermine the stability of your franchise and, like rot in a structure, concerned; this allows you to ascertain can destroy what you’ve worked hard what the franchisee wants, what incentives and rewards would be likely to to build. Putting regular monitoring in place prevents problems from becoming increase productivity, and in what areas insurmountable. they would appreciate greater support. By unearthing those aspects of Engaging in a deeper dialogue allows the network that are failing, and you to engender a better level of trust replacing them with more efficient in both you and your business model, making it more likely that the franchisee options, you will give your franchise the best opportunity to go from will adhere to the franchise structure strength to strength, and that can only you have created. be good for you, your franchisees, and the customers. 4 POOR SALES While relationships are at the heart of a successful franchise, that success is Contact: measured financially, so anything that

A common problem that arises when franchisees ODFN FRQƬGHQFH in the franchise structure LV WKDW WKH\ GLYHUW from the original EXVLQHVV PRGHO 95


Dynamic and recession-proof high-street franchise The ZipYard is the fastest growing garment alteration franchise in the UK. With distinctive branding and a well-planned shopfit to minimise square footage for maximum profit, the opportunity provides owners with a business that is welcome in any high street


fficially launched in Britain by The Bardon Group in 2011 growth has been very strong and the company is well on the way to achieving its first target of opening 50 centres in the UK. The business provides a much-needed service and has a real role to play in the rejuvenation of the UK’s high streets. New openings are well supported by local dignitaries including mayors and MPs notably the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne who officially opened the Wilmslow ZipYard in 2013. The Bardon Group runs three other wellknown franchise brands – Recognition Express (est. 1979), ComputerXplorers (since 2005) and Kall Kwik (first franchised in 1979) and has a management team that is long established in the franchise industry. Specifically designed to project a stylish, high quality image, the ZipYard offers a wide range of alteration and tailoring services, all done on site by trained professionals in purpose-built, beautifully shopfitted centres, branded in the ZipYard’s signature eyecatching yellow and black colours. From dress re-styling and taking in or letting out to bridal-wear fitting or formal wear alterations, the ZipYard provides convenient, speedy and cost effective clothing alterations and repairs. The ZipYard franchise package is a total turnkey operation, comprising a complete shop fit, state of the art machinery, computer systems and a comprehensive marketing package which includes regional PR activity. The package includes industrial sewing machines, specialist alteration and repair machinery, a computer, software, EPOS

28 elitefranchise Winter 2015

system, signage, fixtures and fittings, various consumables, starting stock, plus training and ongoing support from the franchisor, and a marketing and PR campaign to launch each centre.

Why choose The ZipYard? Former driving instructor Richard McConnell, 34, opened England’s first ZipYard franchise in Altrincham in 2011, which was followed by a second centre in Wilmslow in 2013. “We did lots of research in the franchise press and online, and looked into a wide variety of franchises,” said McConnell. “The Altrincham ZipYard has exceeded

all of our expectations, and the model is so well thought out that it was easy to replicate in Wilmslow. Our reputation went before us and the customer base in the new ZipYard is building very nicely. “Initially it was my wife who noticed the ZipYard advert and she thought it was a fantastic idea. We did some research and quickly realised that there was no real competition in our area. Most of the time clothing repairs are done as a bolt-on service at dry cleaners. The turn-around time isn’t very good and they don’t offer a very wide range of services. “We went to meet Nigel Toplis, the franchisor, and we visited a centre in Wales.


“Being your own boss is hard work but very gratifying. Having the opportunity to make your own decisions is very satisfying but knowing you can rely on the franchise group gives you the confidence to approach situations with ease and a shared experience” Kevin Old, The ZipYard in Bournemouth

limb. It’s been teamwork from day one.” “I would definitely recommend the ZipYard to other potential franchisees. I’m learning all the time and it’s such a sociable business. I really enjoy talking to the customers and I get such a feeling of satisfaction from seeing how happy they are when their clothes fit properly,” she added.

Marketing Head office provides a wide range of marketing support to the network including email marketing, a comprehensive range of promotional collateral and window posters that are supplied free of charge throughout the year to each centre. All franchisees also have access to a retained PR agency that carries out regular regional seasonal activity on behalf of the ZipYard to raise awareness and generate footfall to the centres.

We were impressed by the professionalism of the franchise. The brand is very strong and the shop fit is amazing, from the fitting rooms to the equipment and layout. They really know what they are doing and can cater for every kind of alteration and repair on site.”

Training & Support All franchise owners have a two-week comprehensive induction programme that covers business practices, computer systems, running a centre, marketing and promotions, and recruitment. Part of the training takes place in an existing centre that is up and running to provide a proper hands-on

experience. Every aspect of the set-up from finding premises to launching and promoting the centre is fully supported by the franchisor. Once up and running the support continues with additional training, business and product development work, on-going business advice and planning, marketing and PR. Jill Phillips, 46, set up the ZipYard in Basingstoke in May 2012 after being made redundant 8 months previously. “The whole team has been fantastic,” said Phillips. “From the training, which was very hands-on, to the huge level of support I’ve had, it’s all been great. Although it’s my business and the buck stops with me, I’ve never felt alone or out on a

Contact: Emma Downes t: 01530 513307 e: Total Cost: £38,500 + VAT plus shop fit

Winter 2015 elitefranchise 29


Franchise spotlight FA C T F I L E

Each month, Paul Stafford, public relations manager at the British Franchise Association (bfa), shines the spotlight on a franchise, and delves into what makes it a success FRANCHISE: SERVICEMASTER ESTABLISHED: 1959 TYPICAL START-UP COST: £19,995 NUMBER OF FRANCHISEES: approx. 350 WEBSITE: INTERVIEWEE: ALAN LEWIN, MANAGING DIRECTOR


ne of the longest established franchisors in the UK, ServiceMaster celebrates its 57th year in business in 2016. It is home to four different franchise brands offering seven franchise opportunities – ServiceMaster Clean (residential, commercial, and disaster restoration cleaning and contract services), TruGreen (professional lawn care), Furniture Medic (furniture repair and restoration), and Merry Maids (domestic cleaning). Multiple brands and a lot of franchisees – how do you ensure that each of them is properly supported to be successful in their business? Is it an operational challenge? Yes, it does present challenges, but also the scale helps with our ability to provide resources that are beyond the reach of many other franchisors. Each brand has a brand leader who is supported by dedicated resources within ServiceMaster for marketing, business development, technical, financial, and IT support. We also engage strategic partners to provide our franchisees with access to legal, HR, and other specialist professional services, to deliver a complete support and development

98 February 2016

service to a wide range of franchises at different stages of maturity and size. Are there advantages to franchisees in being part of such a large combined network? Do you encourage them to share their experiences? In addition to regular one-to-one franchise planning and review meetings, we hold regular regional network workshops and national conferences to bring franchisees together, to share ideas and encourage one another, which is a core part of successful franchising. Each brand also has regional representatives from within the network, which we call the ‘Ideas Review Council’, who get together with the franchisor at least twice a year to discuss network and service development ideas. Is it difficult to blend modern business operations and technology with the enviable heritage and track record enjoyed by ServiceMaster? Evolution is the secret to our longevity; our history and heritage is important, but it’s essential that the business continues to move forward to remain modern and relevant in its franchise offering, and the value

proposition of the services in the markets our franchisees serve. What kind of marketing support do you offer your franchisees to help them grow? We’ve made some significant investment into our marketing support in recent years, and are now seeing record level results in return for our franchisees. We have highly-trained, field-based marketing executives, who provide one-to-one support to franchisees, an experienced in-house PR team, social and digital marketing executives – all under the direction and leadership of our head of marketing. What are the company’s values and how do you filter them through to your franchisees? In mid-2014, as part of our evolution, we launched the ServiceMaster ‘North Star’; our vision to bring a focus to the whole of our business. Our four pillars of ‘Growth, People, Customers and Invest’ provide direction to achieving success in every aspect of our work. The North Star is a one-page document that articulates our aims and how we intend to achieve them. Name three attributes you look for in your franchisees? There’s only two: attitude and aptitude – a great attitude is essential. As a franchisor we believe that, if the attitude is right, we can work with the aptitude and – given time and the right level of support – anything is possible. Contact:


Our history and heritage is important, but it’s essential that the business continues to move forward to remain modern and relevant 99

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The Sales DOCTOR Each month, Tony Morris – aka The Sales Doctor – answers your questions and dilemmas to help you succeed in sales. This month, he explains how to overcome a bad reputation

Dear Sales Doctor, I’ve just started a job at a new company, which has a bad reputation. How can I overcome this when speaking to clients – old and new?


had this exact scenario when delivering sales training to a hotel client of mine. The hotel was acquiring old hotels that had poor reputations, and then investing in them, both aesthetically and in the staff, in order to improve standards. The way I taught the sales team to deal with the bad reputation is a great technique, however everyone has a different perception of ‘a bad reputation’, therefore the key is to understand what the prospect or existing customer has heard or experienced about the company, and then to deal with it. People are persuaded by other people; it’s called third party proof. It’s a little bit like if you were shopping for clothes with your friends, and all of your friends agreed you looked great in a particular outfit, you’d be more inclined to purchase it. The technique can be best remembered by using the three F’s: feel, felt, found. As I mentioned, to begin with, the key is to understand and empathise with the customer about what their take is on the bad reputation. Once you

understand that, you can then provide a solution to appease them. Let me illustrate: imagine the customer says, “The customer service is awful at your company, staff are always rude, and never get back to you when they promise.” Your answer must show empathy, and then demonstrate how the company has changed. For example, you could say, “I completely understand how you feel, and we have had other clients in the past that felt exactly the same as you. What they have now found is all our staff have been through rigorous customer services training to raise our standards across the board, and the feedback we have received has been incredible. I’m really looking forward to gaining your valued thoughts and opinions on how we now operate as a business.” Note I explained that the team has been through customer services training – if that is not true, then you cannot state it; you must ensure your answer is accurate and solves their concerns. You should always be able to find an angle, you’ve just got to look for it.

NEED A DIAGNOSIS? Send your sales problems to the editor, marked ’FAO the sales doctor’: editor@talk

People are persuaded by other people; it’s called ‘third party proof’

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Banish your career fears The experts at CV-Library explain how your employees can overcome their career worries and excel in the workplace

W As a business owner, you should make a point to ensure that you too are constantly growing and developing alongside your business

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ith a New Year comes a list of resolutions and aspirations for the coming months. While most resolutions will likely have fallen by the wayside already, it’s worth noting that a large proportion of UK professionals have set themselves an entirely different set of goals this year; to overcome their career fears. Recent research from CVLibrary details the most common employee fears, ranking ‘public speaking’ as the most common issue among the nation’s workers; 15.7% gave this as their biggest workplace anxiety. The data from the job site points to a general lack of confidence amongst Britain’s workforce; ‘presenting’ took second place with 12.2%, whereas ‘cold calling’ and ‘leading meetings’ took third and fourth place, with 11.5% and 7.3% respectively. With January gone and businesses running as normal after the holiday period, now is also the ideal time for entrepreneurs and business owners to look at the year ahead, and consider their own career fears, and how to tackle them. It’s no secret that confident staff tend to perform better, and engage more with their work. In

fact, the message is actually fairly simple; to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your staff, and ultimately your business, you should aid workers in embracing their workplace fears. While workers and business owners should feel a healthy amount of nerves towards their jobs, it’s important that this doesn’t escalate to the point where it’s troubling or all-consuming. Sadly, over a quarter (26.2%) of the country’s workforce have actually chosen their career paths to avoid dealing with their workplace issues altogether, meaning that businesses across the UK could be missing out on talented professionals to fill their roles. Essentially, the focus this year should be on encouraging professionals to overcome their worries, and enabling them to grow, both personally and professionally. When it comes to dealing with their work-based anxieties, the positive news is that many professionals are choosing to deal with their worries in a proactive and confident way. While 1 in 4 workers are actively avoiding their career fears with their job choices, it seems that those who do want to overcome the problem actually prefer to do so by tackling the situation head on.


The job site’s research actually revealed that 26.6% of those with career-based anxieties are choosing to handle their fears head-on, showing that over a quarter of the nation’s worried workers aren’t shying away from their anxieties. This is ultimately good news for business owners across the nation; in choosing to open up to and embrace these fears, workers are affording themselves more opportunity for career progression, which will inevitably benefit businesses. Furthermore, 15.6% of employees dealing with career fears actually use their worries as an opportunity to grow; ideal for business owners who are looking to take on adaptable and focused individuals. It should go without saying that not all employees fall into the same category; unfortunately some staff

are choosing to deal with their workplace issues in unsustainable ways, such as avoiding the situation or simply ignoring the problem. However, in positive news for business owners, over half (51.7%) of workers confessed that training opportunities and managerial support would be the most helpful option for them to overcome their workplace fears. Business owners need to be mindful of the challenges that their employees face, and work to provide them with the tools necessary to overcome these issues. By providing extra training or mentoring programmes to help employees, business owners can be assured that their staff are focusing on the task at hand, and not worrying about their next meeting, or planning how to get out of answering the phones. These training and mentoring programmes don’t have to be formal, and can certainly be run internally; simply pairing

junior staff with more senior colleagues is an effective way for worried workers to gain more knowledge and understanding from those with more experience. Furthermore, encouraging staff to open up communication channels and to support and rely on each other when overcoming their workplace fears, should enable employees to feel happier and more confident in their roles. However, it’s important not to fall into the trap of assuming that these goals should only apply to your staff. As a business owner, you should make a point to ensure that you too are constantly growing and developing alongside your business. In addition, while businesses should be working to support and encourage their staff to overcome their workbased fears, it’s important that workers also realise that they have a responsibility towards this too. Through a combination of employee determination and resilience, and business owners providing the support and training necessary, businesses throughout the country could soon be filled with calm, confident staff. Contact:

It’s no secret that FRQƏGHQW VWDƍ WHQG WR SHUIRUP EHWWHU DQG engage more with their work 103

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It’s a match Leigh Ashton, co-founder of Sasudi, reflects on the subtler arts of successful sales people, and how matching and mirroring can be your secret weapons in the quest to sell more


n selling, the X factor – that special quality that makes the difference between a yes and a no – is an elusive thing. Too often, I see people get turned down, only to tweak one component of their offer (such as price) then go back and try again. And again. And again. And just as often, it’s not the offer that’s the problem – it’s the rapport between the salesperson and the customer. Or lack of it. Why is this? The simple answer is, it’s complicated. Most of the time, a buying decision arises from a combination of winning factors played out in the correct sequence. We go through a series of thought processes – conscious and subconscious – until we reach a decision we’re comfortable with. Whether we realise it or not, these decisions are affected by a wide range of emotional triggers. The biggest influence over these triggers is not your product, your service, or your pricing – it’s you.

TECHNIQUE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH People who focus purely on oldfashioned sales skills get mixed results. On the other hand, those who use rapport-building skills and technique get outstanding results every time. That’s because, when you have a rapport with your prospect, your sensory acuity is increased. You’ll pick up on subtle distinctions, and these can alter the way you apply your technique. Rapport building is about getting people to buy into you, and achieving that satisfying sense that you’ve clicked. HOW TO BUILD RAPPORT Believe it or not, you’re already an old hand at rapport building. You’ve been doing it all your life, through techniques such as matching and mirroring. Doing precisely the same as the person you’re engaging with is matching. This can be accomplished by simply holding your drink in your right hand if they’re doing the same at a networking event, for instance.

Mirroring your prospect’s voice speed is another great way to build rapport When you mirror someone, you assume the body shape the person would see if you were their exact mirror reflection. So, if your customer crosses his or her left leg over their right, you would cross your right leg over your left to create a mirror reflection. In speech, you would use their exact words when summing up your understanding of their view. MATCHING AND MIRRORING Matching and mirroring help us to develop rapport subconsciously. They work because we connect with people we perceive as being similar to ourselves. Similarities create a state of harmony, which in turn make us relax in the company of like-minded people. So, by developing our matching and mirroring skills, we can improve our 105


rapport with just about anyone through conscious effort. As babies, we learn to emulate the people we’re close to. As we grow up and form friendships and relationships, we continue to develop our matching and mirroring skills. It comes naturally, so we’re not conscious of it. It has a powerful effect on relationships. Something as simple as matching someone’s sitting or standing position helps them relax and feel comfortable with you. This is because, by matching or mirroring them, you’ve validated that person’s place in the world. You’ve laid a foundation, on which trust, understanding, and meaningful dialogue can prosper. You can develop your matching and mirroring in three main ways: 1 BODY LANGUAGE If your prospect is sitting in a certain way, say with their legs crossed or arms folded, see if it’s possible to replicate that body shape. If they change their position at any point, try to do the same. Warning – don’t do this at the exact same time, leave it a while. For matching and mirroring to work, it has to be subtle! If you’re in a standing situation with a prospect, aim to stand at a right angle to them, rather than directly opposite. This will allow you to make eye contact without appearing confrontational or aggressive. 2 VOICE Mirroring your prospect’s voice speed is another great way to build rapport. If you’re naturally a slow talker but your prospect is speaking quickly, you may need to speed up a little so that they feel that you’re on their wavelength. The same applies to volume. Of course, what you won’t be able to match perfectly every time is tone. However, by experimenting with your vocal range, you will find variations in your tone that work for you without sounding unnatural. 3 LANGUAGE Listen carefully to the words your prospect uses and match your vocabulary to theirs. Feeding back information to people in their own words demonstrates real depth of understanding. Matching and mirroring is the psychological art of adopting someone’s behaviour and mannerisms without realising you’re doing it. You

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Believe it or not, you’re already an old hand at rapport building. You’ve been doing it all your life, through techniques such as matching and mirroring

can apply matching and mirroring to body language, speech, and choice of language. The chances are it already happens subconsciously when you get together with family and friends. Making the conscious effort to match and mirror will help you build rapport with your sales prospects – and that makes it a powerful secret weapon in your sales armoury. With time and practice, you’ll soon be matching and mirroring your sales prospect without being obvious or insincere.

Mirroring is an unconscious art, so literally copying your prospects hand movements or body language will be far too obvious. If he or she realises what you’re doing, it will give the game away and you’ll look silly. Anything unauthentic in a sales meeting will ruin your efforts to build a rapport. You don’t have to mirror every gesture or voice pattern. Try picking one thing to mirror every now and then. Minor elements of body language or speed of speech can be easy, and undetectable places to start.

STAY AUTHENTIC Remember, you have to be subtle.



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f your business imports/exports goods or supplies, or receives foreign services, exchange rate movements can affect its profitability significantly. The exchange rate your business is able to secure for its currency transfers will have a notable impact on its bottom line so you need to be aware of just how volatile exchange rates can be, and what events could cause fluctuations in the currency market. 2015 was particularly dramatic in terms of surprising exchange rate movement, with events – ranging from the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) scrapping of its cap with the Euro to the crisis in Greece – triggering all manner of shifts. To look at a specific example, the GBP/EUR exchange rate hit a low of 1.2772 and a high of 1.4407 during the course of the year. That disparity of almost 17 cents would

economic crisis in 2008, the only way for US interest rates was down, so the prospect of the benchmark rate rising from around 0% saw the US Dollar steadily increase in value against several of its peers. While some areas of the US economy weren’t performing at a capacity policymakers were comfortable with (with consumer price pressures remaining extremely low), the Fed nevertheless took the plunge and increased the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points in December 2015. In the weeks following the move, the GBP/USD exchange rate fell to a five-year low of around 1.4364. Originally, the Fed had implied that rates would rise a further four times during the course of 2016. While a concerning downturn in China,

However, signs are pointing to the decisive vote taking place this year. As some industry experts have voiced concern that a UK exit would result in foreign investment being pulled out of the nation, tight opinion polls in the run up to the vote are likely to cause extensive sterling volatility. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS IN CHINA In August 2015 the Chinese stock market crashed on a day that would later be dubbed ‘Black Monday’. With the rate of domestic expansion causing concern, and some industry experts foreseeing a crisis in the world’s second largest economy, China remained in the spotlight for the rest of the year. Things took a decided turn for the worse in January, as poor Chinese manufacturing and inflation data prompted a succession of sharp drops in the Shanghai Composite Index, and widespread losses in global equities. While the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) took action to try and stabilise the situation, the world superpower is likely to be a major cause for concern for the rest of the year. If Chinese eco-stats don’t pick up, the Yuan exchange rate starts to cause issues, or the local stock market experiences any more rollercoaster movement, commodity-correlated currencies, like the Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar and Canadian dollar are likely to come under sustained selling pressure.

Money matters

The experts at currency broker, TorFX take a look at the four major events your business needs to be aware of in 2016 have meant the difference of thousands on larger currency transfers. Keeping abreast of exchange rate swings is a key part of mitigating your company’s exposure to currency risk. In 2016 there are several high-profile situations with the potential to inspire intense movement. While unforeseen events could also affect the exchange rate you’re targeting in the year ahead, having an awareness of definite issues on the horizon can help you plan any upcoming currency transfers more effectively, and safeguard them from potential dips in the market. US INTEREST RATE HIKES For much of 2015, investors were bracing themselves for the long awaited first adjustment to US borrowing costs. Since the onset of the global

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and crashing commodity prices later prompted a return to dovish sentiment from some policymakers, at least two more positive adjustments are still expected to occur in the next few months. Depending on the size of the hikes, and the tone of any commentary surrounding them, the US dollar’s up-trend could continue, and we may see the GBP/USD exchange rate hit fresh lows. UK REFERENDUM NEWS In terms of UK events, the biggest is likely to be the UK’s in-out European Union referendum. One of the Conservative Party’s campaign promises was to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU membership if they were re-elected. After their victory, Prime Minister, David Cameron intimated that the referendum would be held before the end of 2017.

US GENERAL ELECTION Another big event to look out for this year is the US general election. President, Barack Obama will be bowing out after two terms in office in November, and the direction the US dollar takes in the aftermath will depend on


who secures the top job in the world’s largest economy. A victor who would be likely to keep the US on the path laid out by Obama, would trigger much less market movement than one liable to make a lot of changes to international policies. The main candidates for the Democratic Party include Hillary Clinton, and former Governor, Martin O’Malley, while the Republican name on everybody’s lips is Donald Trump. As the vote draws closer we can expect exchange rates to start jittering. Clearly, 2016 has the potential to be just as dramatic, in terms of currency movement, as last year. If your company has regular foreign currency transfer requirements, and you’re concerned about defending them from exposure to currency risk, you may want to discuss your options with a currency broker. Some currency brokers offer free services, like regular market updates and rate alerts, keeping you informed of the latest developments, and ensuring that you can target a specific exchange rate. They also tend to offer a wider range of risk management options than most banks, with order types like ‘Limit’ and ‘Stop Loss orders’ keeping transfers within a pre-set range and ‘Forward Contracts’ allowing you to fix an exchange rate up to two years in advance of a transfer – particularly useful if you’ve got budgets to adhere to. So as you can see, keeping an eye on these four big events, and getting a little help from the industry experts, could prove invaluable.

Clearly, 2016 has the potential to be just as dramatic, in terms of currency movement, as last year

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Legally speaking Rebecca Harmer, solicitor with Wright Hassall LLP, explains how to let a co-worker or employee, who has amorous feelings, down gently


I received a Valentine card from an anonymous employee, though I have my suspicions as to who it was. How do I let them down gently, without opening myself up to a sexual discrimination claim, or other legal issues? This is certainly a matter that needs to be handled very delicately, not only because you are not certain who sent the card, and therefore speaking to the wrong person could cause a lot of tension, but it could also give rise to claims, such as harassment. Harassment involves unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity, or creating an offensive, intimidating, or hostile environment. It is discriminatory if it is related to ‘protected characteristics’, which include sex. Bearing this in mind, I would certainly read the company’s antiharassment policy (if it has one), and I would suggest speaking with HR and ask for their assistance, as they can handle the situation on your behalf. It would also be worthwhile for HR to facilitate anti-harassment training so that the employee knows what it is, and how they should conduct themselves, but also appreciates that harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace. In the event the person’s conduct towards you becomes even more unwanted, you should consider speaking

with HR again in order for them to request directly that the employee stops their behaviour or they could face disciplinary action. You could also consider raising a grievance. If this does not work, you could contact ACAS in order to commence the mandatory early conciliation process, and issue employment tribunal proceedings against the individual. If successful, an employment tribunal would award you compensation, called injury to feelings, and the range of compensation (from ÂŁ600 to ÂŁ30,000) is based on the severity of the conduct, its impact on you, and how long it has been going on. Furthermore, in the event the situation is not handled well by the company, you could make it a party to the proceedings, and if your position is untenable, you may also consider resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. If you believe the employee and/ or company treated you less favourably because of your sex, you could also pursue a claim of sex discrimination. It is not advisable for you to approach the person who you think sent the card, because

Harassment involves unwanted conduct that violates a person’s dignity, or FUHDWHV DQ RĆŤHQVLYH intimidating, or hostile environment this may give rise to a claim of harassment against you. HR should support you during this difficult time, and mediation between you and the employee would be advisable, so that your working relationship is not adversely impacted. Of course, this is all very extreme, and I hope that by initiating contact with HR early on about this matter, it will not escalate any further, and the employee will be dealt with accordingly. Contact: Got a question you want answered by the legal team? Email editor@ talkbusinessmagazine. with the subject line “Legally speakingâ€? 111

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43% of UK small businesses fall short of having adequate storm insurance cover in place

Flood for thought Phil Morgan, co-founder of Morgan Clark, explains how you can prepare your business for extreme weather conditions


ecent storms have left many businesses across the country under water, without power, and unable to trade. Such stories serve as a stark reminder of just how unforgiving and unpredictable the British weather can be, and reinforce the need for small business owners to plan for such eventualities accordingly. Outlined below are some key considerations for small business owners located in, or around, high risk flood zones: CHECK YOUR INSURANCE POLICIES An estimated 43% of UK small businesses fall short of having adequate storm insurance cover in place. If you’re unsure about the level of cover your current policy offers, you should

speak to your insurer immediately. It is also worth investing in a flood mitigation survey, to generate a risk profile and pinpoint exactly what your business needs to do in order to minimise flood risk, which could help reduce your premium. As well as plant and machinery, trade contents, stock, and fixtures and fittings insurance, it is important to consider business interruption. In the event of a flood or disaster, business interruption will enable you to recover the loss of gross profits, as well as cover any additional costs incurred during the disaster recovery process. KEEPING FLOOD WATER AT BAY There are a number of practical measures that business owners can implement to reduce damage to their

property, as well as other physical assets, such as furnishings and stock. • Use air brick covers and flood barriers to prevent water from entering the premises. • Fit flood skirts to protect buildings at foundation level. • Board up doors and windows where possible. • Block entry points with sandbags. • Use pallets to raise stock off the ground. • Fix sturdy plastic bags or binliners around the legs of furniture. CALLING ON A PROFESSIONAL Dealing with a flood insurance claim can be both time consuming and complicated, generating unnecessary additional pressures at an already stressful time. Calling on a loss assessor to manage the claim on your behalf will speed up the process, and ease the burdens that come with it. 113


For businesses located LQ Ć­RRG ULVN DUHDV JRRG preparation is essential

A loss assessor will be able to: • Carry out emergency repairs. • Organise temporary premises, equipment, and vehicles as required. • Negotiate interim payments to cover the costs of stock, equipment, and staff wages. • Communicate with insurers and loss adjusters on your behalf. • Oversee building works. Loss assessors will typically provide these services at minimal cost to your business, from the moment you first initiate contact right through to the day you return to the premises. Involving a loss assessor’s skills and expertise in your claim will allow you to focus on getting your business back up and running as quickly as possible. USEFUL CONTACTS AND RESOURCES While British weather is generally unpredictable in nature, a little advance planning and preparation can go a long way. The following resources are all useful for staying

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abreast of weather conditions and the associated level of risk to your business: MET OFFICE Stay up to date with changes in the weather and surrounding water levels. ENVIRONMENT AGENCY app/olr/home Sign up for live weather updates and flood warnings via text or email. FLOOD INFORMATION SERVICE www.flood-warning-information. Check the flooding risk associated with your business’ post code. NATIONAL FLOOD FORUM Get guidance and advice on a wide range of flooding topics.

HIGHWAYS AGENCY Find out about road blockages and closures. The following phone numbers should also be kept on hand should you lose power or access to a computer: • Insurance company – make a note of your policy claims line, and any out-ofhours contact details. • Staff, suppliers, customers – it’s important to communicate key information to those who may be affected by the problem. • Environment Agency Floodline – accessible 24/7 (0845 988 1188). • Loss assessor. • Trusted tradesmen. • Emergency services. • Local authority. For businesses located in flood risk areas, good preparation is essential. By following the advice above, the damage – both physical and financial – can be reduced significantly. Contact:


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Hot topics

? Q

Should the Government reconsider HS2?



60% NO


Each month, we ask a selection of business leaders for their views on an aspect of business. This month, we want to know your thoughts on the controversial HS2 train line project

CHRIS WOOD CEO OF DEVELOP TRAINING No, I don’t think they should. The Government should move ahead swiftly and decisively. Not only do I think that HS2 will improve the UK’s transport infrastructure, but I believe it will also drive the necessary development of associated construction and building skills. Both of these aspects are integral to the UK’s continued positioning as a global economic force.

ASKAR SHEIBANI CEO AND FOUNDER OF THE COMTEK GROUP The UK Government should absolutely reconsider HS2; it is nothing but a vanity project, and is preventing local communities from stabilising their economic futures. The money that’s being wasted on costly projects such as HS2 should be going towards smaller rail infrastructure projects. An example of this would be the electrification of the Wrexham to Bidston rail line – linking the University town of Wrexham to Broughton (home of Airbus), Deeside Enterprise Zone, Wirral Enterprise zone, and Liverpool City regions, and its international airport. The cost of this project would be miniscule compared to that of HS2, but the return on investment would be huge due to the dramatic revitalisation of the local region. Improving regional rail infrastructures and connecting enterprise zones, which have been created to boost jobs and business across the UK, could make a huge difference to local communities by injecting cash into the regions, and allowing them to prosper from access to more affluent economies in bigger cities. To put it simply, the UK Government should be investing in projects to benefit local communities, rather than ploughing even more money into city-to-city connections.

ADAM GORE FOUNDER OF FIND ME A GIFT Although my Southam-based business, and the area close to my home, will be affected by HS2, I think it’s crucial that it goes ahead, and the Government shouldn’t reconsider HS2. We have to invest in the country’s transport network because, without it, our overloaded roads and rail network will grind to a halt, and we will become more reliant on London as the centre of commerce.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON TWITTER @TALKBUSINESSMAG *Talk Business magazine does not necessarily condone or agree with any opinions expressed in this article. Opinions are solely those of the named individuals.

118 February 2016

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