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success on tap

Growing up in north London, Charlie Mullins would often find himself in hot water with teachers for bunking off school. Working as an apprentice changed his fortunes forever: he now owns and runs Pimlico Plumbers, which turns over ÂŁ18m



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16 “I believe apprenticeships are Pimlico Plumbers’ future” Charlie Mullins


32 The right revenue stream

Making money from your social service doesn’t have to be ad-based

38 Money-saving matters

Trimming back your overheads can be vital to your survival

VOLUME 03 ISSUE 01 / 2014 09 10 12 13 14 81 98

Editor’s letter Contributors News & events Talking point Book reviews Franchise news Start-up diaries

16 The Elite interview

Charlie Mullins has got more in the pipeline for Pimlico Plumbers

23 One to watch

Get a little taste of luxury with designer dress rental Girl Meets Dress

27 Back to the streets

There’s plenty of life left in the British high street yet

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40 Self-assessment schedule

The way they handle youth unemployment separates savvy employers from the competition

55 Cream of the crop

The Curve Group’s Lyndsey Simpson tell it how it is when it comes to talent

65 Tech for start-ups

ICAEW breaks down the steps to get ready for your tax return

The latest must-have gadgets, hardware and apps for forwardthinking small businesses

43 Blog eat blog

69 Digital divination

48 Video killed the commercial star

75 Something old, something new

It’s essential to make sure your blog stands out from the crowd

The time has come to drop the 30-second ad format for video content

52 An intimate affiliation

We take a close look at affiliate marketing in practice

55 Fraud squad

Tyrian is helping to clean up the business landscape

Our industry experts give us their forecasts for the year ahead

A Suit That Fits’ David Hathiramani reflects on tech past and future

84 Franchise in the spotlight

Anytime Fitness is shaping up nicely in the UK

93 The best defence

Choosing the right legal representation is key to keeping your business safe

59 Fresh faces

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EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 03 ISSUE 01 / 2014

Scan this QR Code to register for Elite Business Magazine SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager Adam Reynolds – Account Manager Darren Smith – Account Manager EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor Josh Russell – Feature Writer Adam Pescod – Feature Writer Helene Stokes – Chief Sub-editor

There’s no better time to start a business

DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Head Designer Clare Bradbury – Designer Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager Colin Munday - Management Accountant ADMINISTRATION Charlotte James – Administrator DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director

Circulation/subscription UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: CE Media Limited Elite Business Magazine is published 12 times a year by CE Media Solutions Limited, Fortis House, 160 London Road, Barking, IG11 8BB Call: 0208 214 1068 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved No part of Elite 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. Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but this is at the 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 CE Media Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

“It’s not curtains for the high street, but a change of direction”




Happy new year! We at Elite Business hope all of our readers are feeling suitably rested and raring to go. A new year frequently signals a time of change. There’s no better time for bored employees to start their own businesses, or seasoned entrepreneurs to begin plotting global dominance. 2014 certainly holds promise for this month’s cover star, Charlie Mullins. As his business, Pimlico Plumbers, continues to claim market share in the UK, he’s also looking further afield to supplement the business’s expansion, with a renewed focus on the firm’s smaller operation in Marbella, Spain. For Laban Roomes, cover star of this month’s Elite Franchise supplement, the new year will also bring growth as sales at Goldgenie, his gold-plating business, continue to ramp up in the UK and master franchises are snapped up around the globe. Hopefully, 2014 will also be a year of regeneration for the nation’s beleaguered high streets. This month’s analysis takes a look at retail in the UK and concludes that the picture is rosier than many expect. It’s not curtains for the high street, but a change of direction. And entrepreneurs have a key role to play in this evolution. So what are you lot waiting for? Get out there and make 2014 your year. HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR

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Adam Pescod Lyndsey Simpson


A new year has brought a new face to the hallowed pages of Elite Business. Having grown HR firm The Curve Group into a multi-million pound business in six years, Simpson is the ideal fit for our People section. However, HR hasn’t always been her bag. She had many trials and tribulations dealing with recruitment in her previous role at Barclays. Simpson saw the light though and now works tirelessly in making sure that every client is left feeling ‘Curved’; think Tango’d but more professional. After Xmas with the family, Simpson’s New Year’s resolution is to have a weekend where at least one day is free. It follows last year’s failure to keep to the same resolution.

With Elite Business settling into its new home, Pescod had to juggle his usual workload with a fairly lengthy commute this month. That’s what you get for living in Suffolk. But he still had time to attend the NatWest Everywoman Awards at the Dorchester – where he mingled with Britain’s best female entrepreneurs – and was even nominated for an award himself. MHP Communications longlisted him as one of the UK’s most promising 100 young journalists for its 30 To Watch 2014. His New Year’s Resolution? To win his first ever award, of course.

Anita Monteith Monteith was handed the editorial baton by our usual ICAEW columnist Clive Lewis this month. Technical manager for the body’s tax faculty, Monteith offers some timely advice on submitting your tax return in time for the looming January 31 deadline. Also a special adviser to the Treasury committee, Monteith spent Xmas with her family after a ‘taxing’ year – her pun, not ours. It would seem that a taxing start to 2014 beckons too: her New Year’s resolution is to break the two-hour mark in an upcoming half marathon.

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Helene Stokes We thought that subbing our near-faultless copy would be relaxing enough for Stokes. However, she has spent the past couple of months perfecting head stands, tree pose and core strength in her yoga practice. Meanwhile, relaxation over the festive period involved baking special treats for loved ones – including her now famous ‘Chocolami’ – before spending New Year’s Eve on a Brighton dancefloor. Not behind the decks, for once. You may be surprised to hear that her resolution is to take more selfies and spend less time in the kitchen. Or is that the other way around?

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It seems things have finally reached tipping point for BlackBerry, with the Canadian company gracefully bowing out of the handsets market. Announcing last month a loss of $4.4bn after revenues of just $1.2bn, the firm is finding the increasingly polarised market – divided as it is largely between competitors Apple and Samsung – a little too competitive. Instead, it has announced it will be focusing on providing services, with Foxconn, the manufacturer that produces the iPhone, taking over the responsibility of designing and holding BlackBerry handsets.


There was some bittersweet news for chancellor George Osborne in December. The UK has just managed to hang onto the AAA credit rating awarded by Standard & Poor, following on from its downgraded rating from rival Fitch and Moody earlier last year. However, despite signs of modest recovery, with a 0.8% growth in the economy twixt July and September, S&P laid down some severe concerns about the longevity of any recovery, seeing “risks to the sustainability of any UK recovery based on net lending growth and house-price inflation”. Poor George – some days it really isn’t worth getting out of bed. Elsewhere in the economy, research demonstrated that real wages dropped in 2013, increasing below the rate of inflation at a median of 2%. The research, conducted by pay specialists XpertHR, looked at 100 wage agreements during a three month period and revealed an eighth involved a wage freeze, whilst the average public sector increase was just 1%. And it’s not clear whether things are going to be much better this year: the report

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predicted the RPI inflation rate would be 3% next year, whilst pay increases in the private sector would rest between 2% and 3%. It seems we’ll be squeezing the pennies a little longer. Bank lending hasn’t exactly had the best reputation of late, with many accusing financial institutions of fuelling a housing bubble rather than lending to the small businesses that could drive economic recovery. Fortunately, this isn’t true across the board, with RBS/NatWest Group making £100m of funding available to small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the National Association for Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB). This also marks an

increased involvement on the part of brokerage in the small business space, with the number of NACFB lenders making funds available to SMEs growing by 45% in just two years. Owning your own business is far from an anxiety-free experience and technological advancements can often exacerbate this. Hosted desktop service provider

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WeWorkEverywhere has identified exactly what the prime worries around tech are for SMEs, with security, mobility, flexibility and reliability topping the list. Its research found 67% of SMEs feel security and data protection are the areas of highest concern, whilst 34% felt the ability to access files and documents could still pose a problem for those wanting to work remotely. Zero-hours contracts have certainly

proven to be a controversial subject over the last 18 months. And say what you like about Vince Cable, the secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills, but he hasn’t shied away from challenging attitudes in the business community towards the problematic agreements. In December, he announced that he has ruled out an outright ban on the contracts. However, he has launched a consultation over the legality of exclusivity clauses, insisting the contracts should favour both parties equally. The findings of the consultation are due in March this year; it’s going to be an interesting quarter.

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24/12/2013 16:31


Terminal atrocity? Has the Airports Commission missed the point with its recommendations to the government?


ast month, the Airports Commission revealed the options it had short-listed for expanding the UK’s airport capacity. These included new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow, and an extended runway at Heathrow. This provoked anger from those who had so vehemently campaigned against an expansion of Heathrow for as long as one can remember. The government had, after all, cancelled Labour’s plans for a third runway upon coming to power. But, by asking Sir Howard Davies to come up with an action plan for the UK’s airports, it had seemingly raised the possibility of a third runway being reconsidered. And the publication of the Commission’s report put it firmly back on the table. Among the opposition to the Commission’s recommendations was business secretary Vince Cable. In an interview with the BBC, he said that London “is becoming a giant suction machine draining the life out of the rest of the country”, adding that air capacity would be better served by giving more attention to the UK’s provincial airports. His words were met with outrage by, among others, Boris Johnson who branded Cable ‘stupefying and ridiculous’, whilst continuing to push the cause for a brand new airport in the Thames Estuary. Clearly, there are arguments on both sides of the coin. Equally, the outcome will be of much importance to the UK’s SMEs, whose global ambition cannot be overlooked. How, then, does the business community feel about the proposals?

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Adopt the German model I don’t always agree with Vince Cable but on this particular issue I think he makes a crucial and, to my mind, strangely overlooked point in the current debate about how the UK’s airports Matthew Marriott are improved. commercial director The UK is already horribly reliant on London of Hellmann Worldwide Logistics economics and surely the issue of UK our airports is an opportunity to address rather than indulge that disparity. It is airports like Manchester and Birmingham that really require further investment and expansion, particularly in light of the nationwide links that HS2 rail will eventually provide. It is here that manufacturing, which remains the key driver of the country’s economic health, is primarily based and where global infrastructure is most needed. 13 If you want an example of a country that has got this right, simply look to Germany. It uses Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich as major airport hubs with near-enough equal capacity. Is it a coincidence that its economy has been one of the most resilient in Europe over the last five years? The German model is one of enviable stability, and with the UK only just beginning to emerge from a serious recession, I think it’s incredibly important to put the issue of our airports within the context of long-term economic planning – not just for London, but for the whole of the country.

London is the engine of growth for UK Adding capacity to the London-area airports will not drain the life out of the rest of the country, as Vince Cable commented, any more than have the completion of the M1, A1(M) or A40, or the investment in science and technology resources in the Golden Triangle. Michael Luger, infrastructure expert London is the engine of growth for the UK and at Manchester needs to be well served by infrastructure. Business School The vast majority of leisure and business travellers from overseas seek to fly into London, and the growth and development of cities in emerging economies is adding to the demand for a London connection. When, or if, HS2 is completed, we can start to convince travellers to select Manchester and Birmingham as their originating and destination airports, which will be less than 90 minutes by train to central London – but that is 20 years away, and we can’t wait that long to get more capacity. But this is not an ‘either or’ issue; it is ‘both and’. As important as it is to ensure adequate capacity in the South-East, it is critical to shore up the infrastructure in the Midlands and the North and to work hard to get more businesses to locate there.

24/12/2013 16:32


Get Things Done – What stops smart people achieving more and how you can change Robert Kelsey

I 14

f you’re one of life’s great procrastinators, it’s likely that you’ve already embarked on your fair share of programmes to get your life in order; starting every one clear in the knowledge that this will be the system to turn things around. It’s also a fair bet that you failed. Repeatedly. One of the main drawbacks of these sorts of solutions is that they are written by productive people, individuals who have no concept of what it’s like to be full of ideas and motivation and yet consistently fail to turn this into real achievements. Get Things Done is perhaps the first text that cuts through this problem. Based on Kelsey’s own experience of four decades failing to follow through on his plans, Get Things Done takes a real look at the causes behind procrastination. Rather than putting it down to laziness or the lack of a system, the author uses his own insight of inconsistent motivation to present an emotional and psychological understanding of why it’s so hard for us to inject order into the chaos. His core insight, that poor productivity can be attributed to the way we feel about ourselves, is a true revelation and highlights why this may be the first productivity manual to get it right. Frankly, for a certain type of individual, Get Things Done is likely to be like the lightning out of the black that illuminates a concealed landscape, not only helping them understand how to introduce structure into their life but also explaining why this has always eluded them. If there’s one book you actually finish reading in 2014, make it this one. JR

Publisher: Capstone Out: March 2014 RRP: £10.99

Network advantage – How to unlock value from your alliances and partnerships Henrich Greve, Tim Rowley & Andrew Shipilov


o business gets anywhere by working alone. It is always going to have to find others to assist in its quest for glory. Nevertheless, evaluating the strength of one’s network of alliances and partnerships by sheer quantity is the wrong approach entirely. Having an array of suppliers, customers and partner firms is all well and good, but it will count for nothing if they are not utilised to their full extent. In Network Advantage, Messrs Greve, Rowley and Shipilov provide a masterclass in how to build a network of partners that are both complementary to, and compatible with, one’s enterprise. Yet the message that flows through the book is that a focus on individual partnerships will only get a firm so far. The maximum value can be achieved by honing in on the additional alliances and connections that your immediate partners have, whether that is with other partners of yours, or high-profile companies working in the same space. And just in case one isn’t convinced about the importance of being at the heart of a rapidly-expanding network of interlinked enterprises, the development of the Stealth Bomber and comparative achievements of Samsung and Sony are put forward as solid case studies. All-in-all, Network Advantage is an essential read for start-ups and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. AP Publisher: Wiley Out: Now RRP: £24.99



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the elite INTERVIEW

Unblocking potential 16

At the age of nine, Charlie Mullins would wag off school to help a local plumber with his rounds for “two bob a day”. Now dubbed the ‘plumber to the stars’, Mullins has a chauffeur-driven Bentley, an apartment in the exclusive Whitehouse complex at Waterloo and a business turning over £18m. From small seeds a mighty oak

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ending a hand to the local plumber wasn’t Charlie Mullins’ first job. He was an errand boy, a bag wash boy and also peeled potatoes at a local chip shop. But when he met the plumber, and saw the wealth he had accumulated thanks to his trade, Mullins knew he’d found his calling. “We were a pretty poor family – not that I want to bang on about that because everyone wants to be poorer than everyone else these days,” says Mullins. “That plumber was the only person I’d ever met that had money. He had money, he had a car, he had a motorbike, a nice house and nice things in his house. He had bundles of money,” he explains. “The seeds were sown then. Whatever he had done, I’d have wanted to do that. If he’d have been a bank robber...,” Mullins laughs. Still, he stuck with school for another few years, and eventually left at 15 with no qualifications. “That was a massive mistake – I should have left at 14,” he says. Living with his family in Elephant and Castle, south London, Mullins got an apprenticeship at a firm of plumbers in Raynes Park, near Wimbledon. Halfway through his four-year stint as an apprentice, Mullins had a disagreement with his bosses and was transferred to another plumbers’ yard in Loughborough Junction, nearer his home in south London. That’s the thing about apprenticeships, says Mullins. They’re not easy to walk away from. “I signed papers, so it wasn’t easy for them to get rid of me, they can’t just fuck you off, and you can’t just walk off. And thank God for that. I would have left a thousand times and they would have got rid of me a thousand times.” Mullins says the root cause of his dissatisfaction was lack of money. “All my mates were earning loads of money and I was broke. Well, I say ‘loads of money’ but they were probably getting 12 quid a week, and I was getting three quid a week.” But friends and family urged the teenager to be more patient. “I remember people saying to me, ‘what you don’t earn now you’ll earn later’ and that has come true. Another thing I say to the apprentices here, and what that local plumber I worked with as a youngster said, is if you become a plumber you’ll never be out of work and you’ll earn loads of money.” Still, as the bright lights of unblocking U-bends and fixing punters’ central heating beckoned,

“I came up with about 10 or 20 things that were bad about the image of plumbers and I just done the opposite”


24/12/2013 17:43

the elite INTERVIEW

“Most people go bust because people owe them money”


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Mullins turned his hand to all sorts of wheeling and dealing, even snapping up a sweet shop in Greenwich. But Mullins had an itch he was yearning to scratch. “When I finished my apprenticeship, I was pissed off with people knocking plumbers,” he says. “They’d say things like: ‘they’re late, they’re scruffy, they never finish the job, they never give you a price,’ all these things, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to change the image of plumbing’.” “I think Pimlico Plumbers has done that over the years by wearing a smart uniform, good vans, turning up on time, being transparent about cost, not ripping people off, finishing the job, and respecting people’s houses. All those types of things. I came up with about ten or 20 things that were bad about the image of plumbers and I just done the opposite.” And Mullins’ charm offensive certainly appears to have paid dividends: “plumbers are a lot more respected now. When I started out there were signs saying ‘Tradesmen: go round the back’. The difference is now customers will welcome you with open arms and offer you a cup of tea at the front. That’s how much it’s moved on.” It’s not just perception of industry that’s changed since then – Pimlico Plumbers is unrecognisable as the fledgling one-man-band that started out in the basement of an estate agent in Pimlico. “I started working around there and everybody started referring to me as the Pimlico Plumber. We’ll give the Pimlico Plumber a call. I’d love to say I thought of the name, but I didn’t really.” It was smooth sailing for a number of years: the business expanded, hiring more plumbers and one room in the basement became two, until eventually Mullins took over the lease for the entire basement. But then, unfortunately things began to unravel. “In the late 80s we nearly went bust,” admitted Mullins. The entrepreneur puts the company’s brush with failure down to a lack of forwardplanning. “I didn’t really have a proper plan in place. We were just working, but weren’t really organised and there was no strategy or structure in place,” he recalls. The final nail in the coffin was that debts had spiralled. “We used to run credit accounts with people then; I think we had about £80,000 owing us. And I owed all the suppliers, I owed tax people, I owed everybody. Then I had a poxy bank loan out for a building. So basically I owed half a million pound,” he says.

24/12/2013 17:44

the elite INTERVIEW

The solution? Sacking all of his advisors was Mullins’ first move. Having visited one liquidator who suggested he closed the company, losing his own house in the process, he visited another, who had much more prudent advice. “He said: ‘you’ll lose everything if you turn it all in, so you might as well fight’. And that’s what we did.” Pimlico Plumbers mark two runs a much tighter ship. The company is much more rigidly structured now, with an accounts department, an HR department and so on – in short, the mechanics of a larger, professional organisation. “If I’m honest, I think back in those early days I was trying to do everything and I thought I was good at everything,” admits Mullins. “You learn after a while, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it, you ain’t good at everything.” The entrepreneur attributes some of his success to his newfound powers of delegation. The other secret ingredient is keeping a much firmer grasp of finances. “I don’t let nobody owe me money no more, we don’t run up bills no more,” he explains. “Most people go bust because people owe them money, so whereas we used to invoice customers now it’s all payment on completion.” Even Pimlico Plumbers’ roster of celebrity customers has to pay by cash, cheque or credit card when the job’s done. “It’s the god’s honest truth that if the queen rang us tomorrow and said she needed a job doing she would

have to give us a cheque when we finished or she’s not getting us.” Whilst the firm may be unlikely to receive a call from Buckingham Palace, Pimlico Plumbers has accrued something of a reputation of being ‘plumbers to the stars’, and can count Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Eric Clapton and famous footballers amongst its fans. Even the Pimlico Plumbers officers are bathed in the glow of celebrity; the walls papered in photographs of Mullins rubbing shoulders with well-known faces at glitzy events. “We didn’t set out to go after celebrity customers,” claims Mullins. “But they’re the same as any normal customer – they’ve got plumbing problems too – and they started to use us because we had a good reputation. Them type of star people mix with other stars so word soon spreads,” he explains. And it’s not just TV stars and pop singers that Mullins shoots the breeze with these days. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and George Osborne, the chancellor, and a whole host of other politicians have visited the Pimlico Plumbers HQ in Lambeth to discuss Mullins’ ideas about apprentices – a subject very close to his heart. Pimlico Plumbers currently has 25 apprentices, which is rather impressive given the combined headcount only totals 220. “I’m a great believer in apprenticeships,” says Mullins. “For me, they’re Pimlico Plumbers’ future. I work with the government on apprentices too and I’m trying to get them to do a national apprenticeship scheme, so there’s just one scheme, which will make it less complicated. I want them to fully fund apprenticeships, too,” he adds. Two of the firm’s apprentices are Mullins’ grandsons, Ashley, 17, a heating apprentice, and Charlie, 16, a plumbing apprentice. And they’re not the only members of the Mullins clan who work within the business. It’s quite the family affair. “My wife, four children, two son-in-laws and two grandsons all work here,” says Mullins. “I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m a real believer in family businesses.” Indeed, Mullins attributes much of Pimlico Plumbers’ success to its employees – family or otherwise. “People often say to me what a great company I’ve got, but I haven’t done it all and I’d never claim to have done it all,” he says. “The company is only as good as the people who work for you. Many would do well to remember that.”


“I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m a real believer in family businesses”

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24/12/2013 17:44

National Conference Karren Brady

Small business adviser to the Conservative Party, pundit and entrepreneur

Two days. 20 top entrepreneurs & business leaders Addressing the barriers to growth and sharing the merits and shortcomings of business growth strategies in an open debate Reknowned speaker and presenter Mike Southon introduces Karren Brady, Lord Digby Jones, Jacqueline Gold and Michael Portillo and facilitates discussions with top business leaders and experts.

Lord Digby Jones

Business ambassador and former trade minister

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Rt Hon Michael Portillo

Broadcaster and former cabinet minister

Other conference guests include: Charlie Mullins, founder, Pimlico Plumbers; Andrew McCartney, CEO, Microsoft Ventures; Chris Dawson, founder, The Range; Renaud Visage, CTO & co-founder, Eventbrite; Carl-Olav Scheible, EVP, MoneyGram International; Duncan Cheatle, founder, Prelude Group; David Taylor, co-founder & director, First Point Group; Divinia Knowles, COO, Mind Candy; Clare Rayner, The Retail Champion; Colin Stanbridge, CEO, London Chamber of Commerce; Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurship, Smith & Williamson; Craig Donaldson, CEO, Metro Bank; Crispin Simon, managing director of trade development and strategic trade, UKTI

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29/11/2013 21:54

national conference & exhibition 10-11 April 2014


The Old Truman Brewery Shoreditch, London

Keynotes, Seminars, NETWORKING

Two days. 200 exhibitors. 60 keynote seminars by professional speakers

Will King

Founder, King of Shaves

Covering growth, sustainability, finance, technology, sales & marketing, law, accounting, hr & international expansion Obviously there’s a lot more to our event than top quality talks and diverse discussion. Getting a chance to meet and mix with fellow SMEs is core to our event’s culture and the Exhibition will feature no end of exhibitors, workshops, seminars and activities for you to sink your teeth into.


Ian Dormer

chairman, Institute of Directors

Michelle Mone OBE Founder, Ultimo Brands International

Click here to register now or go to *eligibility criteria apply Confirmed keynote seminar speakers are: Mark Artus, CEO, 1HQ; Mike Mindel, CEO & co-founder, Wordtracker; James McMaster, co-managing director, Ella’s Kitchen Europe; Renaud Visage, CTO & co-founder, Eventbrite; Darren Westlake, founder & CEO, Crowdcube; Rob Baines, co-founder, SNOG; Rupert Lee-Browne, CEO, Caxton FX; Charlie Green, co-founder & co-CEO, The Office Group; Matthew Jaffa, London FSB; Federico Pirzio-Biroli, founder & director, Playfair Capital; Zoe Jackson, founder, Living the Dream; Bryan Adams, managing director, Ph.Creative; Chris Andrew, managing director Europe, Hearsay Social

Mike Southon

Global business presenter

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29/11/2013 21:54

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24/12/2013 14:12[5/22/2013 12:21:44 PM]


In providing high-end dresses for rent, Girl Meets Dress may have irrevocably changed the way women interact with designer labels

Fashion a future D


Company CV Name: Girl Meets Dress Founded by: Anna Bance & Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise Founded in: 2009 Team: 15

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esigner clothing is one of those passions. Like building your own Grand Designs-style bespoke home or collecting art, it’s a nice hypothetical but, unless you’re planning to marry money or rob a stage coach, it seems destined to remain just out of reach. Or so you might think. Thankfully for all you flat-broke fashionistas there is a service that allows you to rent designer dresses without breaking the bank. Just think of Girl Meets Dress as your boutique on a reasonable budget. For co-founder Anna Bance, fashion has always been a big part of her life. “I studied fashion journalism and PR at The London College of Fashion,” she says. After completing her education, she began working for high-profile publications such as InStyle, The Telegraph and Harpers Bazaar. Before long, Bance switched sides to work as UK PR manager for French luxury fashion brand Hermes. I was here that she met co-founder Xavier de Lecaros-Aquise after hiring his company to cater an event she was organising. She continues: “It was a natural choice of industry in which to launch a company.” Some business plans take months of plotting and tweaking before they are really ready; others can almost pop out of the blue. “Xavier and I were both in full time roles when I had the idea,” says Bance. Renting of evening wear and fashionable formal dress for men had been long established and yet Bance was shocked to discover that no one had ever attempted to rent out designer clothing for women.


“We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online”

24/12/2013 13:57


By this stage, de Lecaros-Aquise was leading the UK digital media strategy for an investment bank and Bance was still working in fashion PR. This meant that, in the other, they each had the perfect complement to their own talents. “Our complimentary skill sets in the different areas of fashion, finance, tech and business meant that we could build the website, generate press attention and launch without needing to hire a full team on day one,” says Bance. “If you can split the main areas of the business between you, then you can launch with minimal cost and test the product at market.” And this has enabled the enterprise to grow in an incredibly organic manner. Up until the summer of 2013, Girl Meets Dress was entirely self-funded. For the enterprise to have grown to this extent by bootstrapping alone is remarkable, particularly if you take into account its most significant outlay: the dresses themselves. Obviously, a service like that of Girl Meets Dress requires a major stock holding, meaning the enterprise has to buy up designer clothing catalogues and sink significant capital into it. “The clothes are bought from the designers at the start of the season, and then rented out until the following season,” Bance comments. This allows the company to recoup its outlay and generate profit, whilst ensuring their catalogue remains as up-to-date as any outlet de rigueur. “At the end of the season, we sell the remaining dresses. Then the new season’s dresses are bought and the cycle repeats.” In part, it is its ability to represent the latest designer trends and extend its market penetration that has stood the company in such good stead. “Girl Meets Dress is very attractive to designers because many women will typically only have tried a few high-end brands in their lifetime,” says Bance. This opens up relationships between well-established designers and new markets that they may never have previously had access to; Bance reveals that 98% of Girl Meets Dress’s customers will try brands they have never previously worn. “That is a huge marketing opportunity for designers trying to reach new customers.” But it is, above all else, a customerfocused brand. “It is always first and foremost about the customer, and having a product they want,” Bance says. This means user experience is a vital consideration, something its founders feel is inextricably linked to the capabilities of modern technology. At the moment of purchasing intent, the user can access the responsively designed site on their mobile to see each and every one of Girl Meets

“The growth in rental highlights consumers’ growing preference for experience over ownership”


“When we looked into the market, we saw that no one was doing it,” she recalls. “We were the first company to rent luxury fashion online.” However, she was sure this was an idea that’s time had come, in part influenced by changing attitudes toward ownership and the way we shop. “Retail and consumer habits are changing significantly, both in terms of expectations but also in terms of value,” Bance explains. In part, the lower cost of clothes in relative terms and the increasing interest in celebrity culture has shifted women’s focus onto clothing as self-expression rather than possession. “The growth in rental highlights consumers’ growing preference for experience over ownership.” Bance feels Girl Meets Dress takes this a step further. “It means that not only does the concept of fast fashion remain – a woman can always be on trend and in a different dress for every event – but she can wear an exclusive designer she adores and perhaps cannot afford,” she says. “It’s the perfect combination, which the fashion industry has not been able to provide until now.”

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24/12/2013 13:57


“Every step of the process is tailored to our customers receiving a seamless and luxurious experience”

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Dress’s 4,000 outfits; those who favour a more leisurely browse can access it from their desktop and check out rental reviews or live chat with style advisors to get on-the-spot recommendations. As Bance explains: “Every step of the process is tailored to ensure our customers receive an entirely seamless and luxurious experience.” The slick execution of the rental service is perhaps how it has come to reinvent an industry that has seen little change in decades. Far from being dominated by the Moss Bros approach – suiting-and-booting men in-store on the rare occasion they need kit for a wedding or soirée – Girl Meets Dress has opened up the rental of clothes in the same way companies like Whipcar or Airbnb have for their own industries. “The idea of collaborative consumption is now making a big impact around the world, whether it is a car or somewhere to stay,” says Bance. “We’ve brought that to designer clothing.” And the reception it has garnered definitely sits more than just a few degrees north of lukewarm. “We have had an amazing response,” comments Bance. With write-ups across the spectrum, from The Times to Vogue, and celebrities like The One Show’s Alex Jones giving Girl Meets Dress garments plenty of airtime, the world seems to be clamouring to form relationships with the innovative start-up. “We often partner with all manner of different companies, not only in the fashion industry, but also sectors like food, theatre and sport.” Having completed an A-round funding scarcely more than a few months ago, it seems the meteoric rise of Girl Meets Dress is set only to continue. “The profile of our new investors mirrors our ambition to build a brand combining e-commerce and merchandising expertise with a deep sense of innovation and luxury,” Bance explains. “We have ambitious and exciting plans for the year ahead to expand our market-leading position in the UK.” However, perhaps the enterprise’s aims can be precised in a much simpler manner than this. As Bance summarises: “We just want to continue giving women access to the biggest closet in the world.”


24/12/2013 17:45

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01/11/2013 00:35

High street 2.0



The internet, recession and regulation have all had a telling impact on our high streets. But, far from being dead, Britain’s treasures are changing at a considerable pace. The entrepreneur’s task is simply to keep up



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t the economy’s lowest ebb in recent years, 32 shops were closing a day in Brighton alone. Without a doubt, boarded-up windows provided a stark visual reminder of how bad things had got. The sight of a Woolworths, Barratts or Blockbuster becoming nothing more than an empty shell will stick long in the memory. Of course, a lot of the heartache has been felt by the smallest of businesses – the local family-run enterprises that have struggled to survive the harsh trading conditions – but the demise of more established retailers has driven the reality home. And, alongside the recession is something that has triggered a changing of the tide. It will come as little surprise to learn that

e-commerce will soon account for more than 20% of British retail sales. Technology has advanced at such a rate in the last decade that some firms have been unable to keep up. “If you take a look at Blockbuster, there have been new companies coming into the marketplace who probably had lower start-up costs as a result of not having to have a high-street retail presence,” says Richard Jones, vice president of national accounts at Groupon UK & Ireland. “But equally, perhaps if Blockbuster had been more forward-thinking, it would have recognised that it needed to challenge these newcomers with its own online presence because at the end of the day, it had the database of customers, it had the brand, and it is clear that it failed to leverage that.” The high street, it is said, has suffered a double blow and an even more damning declaration has been heard in some quarters: the high street is dead. But the basis for such a conclusion depends heavily on one’s definition of the high street. Indeed, it appears that those who believe the high street to be on its last legs see it as the domain of retail; a place for window shopping, snaring a bargain and stocking up on essentials. Indeed, the disappearance of the retailers listed above may go some way to

24/12/2013 16:36


A tasty little niche Giggling Squid


“It is inevitable that we will see some movement away from the high street just being known as a retail space”

supporting their claim. However, the overwhelming feeling is that there is still a future for the high street – and a bright one at that. It may just be that retail isn’t as prominent there as it once was. “It is inevitable that we will see some movement away from the high street just being known as a retail space,” says Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at expert body Ipsos Retail Performance. “In the future, it will just be part of the mix.” Indeed, the rampant development of town centre residential spaces and leisure clubs show that this is already starting to take hold, and the food service and hospitality sector will only get stronger. Nevertheless, even where retail is concerned, the word on most people’s lips is evolution. The high street is not dying; it is changing. The factor that has probably caught many businesses off guard is quite simply the rate of that change. Still, it is becoming apparent that the opportunities for enterprise are nothing if not positive and online appears to be a key player in this, not a threat as many have suggested. From the multitude of mobile apps attempting to draw people towards the high street, and the rise of websites like Groupon, the internet looks set to revolutionise the way we operate in the offline world. “It is evolving but that evolution has come at a really rapid pace,” says Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Association of Town Centre Management. “But if you look at some of the rhetoric a year ago that said ‘the internet is going to kill the high street’, the same rhetoric now says ‘the smartphone is going to save the high street’.” Clearly, there is an onus on businesses of all size to match their high street presence with a compelling proposition online. “The most successful retailers of the future will be multi-channel businesses, those that do have stores and a credible online presence,” says Bryan Roberts, retail insights director for Kantar Retail EMEA. “It is no surprise that John Lewis for example has been so successful because it has succeeded tremendously at joining together its in-store and online offer in a very compelling fashion.” And a host of companies are looking to follow in John Lewis’s

(H)Analysis - High Street 2.0.indd 2

With retail slowly taking a step back from the high street, the food service sector continues to thrive. However, with the larger restaurant chains expanding at a rapid pace, new entrants to the market have to do something unique to stand out from the crowd. Thai tapas concept Giggling Squid is certainly making a name for itself in this regard. Launched in Hove, East Sussex in 2009, the company is set to open another seven to eight sites in 2014, to add to its existing portfolio of nine, and is looking to take the estate to between 50 and 70 sites in the next five to seven years. “There is a definitely a need for a high-quality, reasonably priced, more contemporary Thai restaurant operator which is what we are trying to be,” says co-owner Andy Laurilland. “A lot of Thai restaurants are quite traditional so we are trying to do something different in the sector.” Laurilland believes the future is bright for the high street but adds that businesses need a little extra help along the way. “I think there are huge opportunities on the high street for a brand or a concept. The things that are potentially getting in the way of it are councils just not catching up in time,” he says. “Entrepreneurs absolutely drive change and innovation in the high street and the spare capacity could only unleash a wave of new ideas of what can be done with the space.”

24/12/2013 16:36

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24/12/2013 14:14


Bucking the trend Barrhead Travel


Given how easy it is to book a holiday online nowadays, one could be forgiven for wondering what the future holds for the traditional high street travel agency. Nevertheless, as far as Glasgow-based Barrhead Travel is concerned, it still plays a very important role. The company has rolled out around 15 new high street stores in the last 18 months and upgraded several stores to larger premises, creating around 100 new jobs and investing more than £800,000 in 50 modern apprentices. “We decided about five or six years ago that although we have a strong presence online, we should really position the company to be selling products where people are not comfortable booking on the internet,” says Bill Munro, founder and chairman of Barrhead. “We are chasing a quality market where people want to be absolutely sure that where they are going will meet with all their requirements, and they are required to speak to somebody in order to get that.” Selecting the best sites has been no easy task for Barrhead, but Munro says there is plenty of opportunity to be had. “Some high street locations are unfortunately dying a death for a variety of reasons but the places that we have our shops include disused petrol stations to where people can actually drive and park free of charge,” says Munro. “We are operating through about 55 high street locations and to us, a shop in a good location is still extremely profitable and very worthwhile.” Barrhead also tries to set itself from the crowd with some imaginative interior designs, as demonstrated below. “Visually, it has got to be different,” adds Munro. “When people walk in, they have got to think ‘my goodness, is this a travel agent?’”

(H)Analysis - High Street 2.0.indd 3

footsteps. Argos, for instance, is starting to roll out a click-and-collect service to accompany and enhance its physical stores, of which there will be less. “What Argos did is accept that there are companies like Amazon, however there is a still a need for people to come onto the high street and spend,” says Emma Jones, founder of business network Enterprise Nation. “But it has also realised quite quickly that it should reduce its property portfolio. It blended improving the online experience with a reduced number of shops.” On the flipside, Amazon is beginning to see the value of having a presence in the real world, not least because Argos also aligned itself with eBay as part of its click-and-collect drive, if only on a trial basis. “The big weakness that Amazon has is that lack of physical presence and it is trying to remedy that through the opening of lockers and Connect Plus locations,” Roberts adds. Elsewhere, Holland & Barrett is set to double its store numbers over the course of the next year in a show of the support for the high street, whilst still giving consumers an option to shop online should they so wish. It’s not all doom and gloom then; there is still very much a place for the high street. Consumers in particular don’t want to see its demise, if a recent piece of research from Groupon and Kantar is anything to go by. Based on a survey of 2,000 shoppers, The Future of the Great British High Street: Voice of the Consumer report revealed that 42% of consumers do like the convenience of online shopping, but 58% still prefer the in-store experience. It adds that a more tailored customer service will continue to give high-street stores the edge over online, with a further 46% saying they would like high street businesses to know who they are and what they want.

24/12/2013 16:36


Of course, there is still room for considerable profits to be made in the offline world. Even if it was driven by an unprecedented wave of pre-Xmas sales, the £1bn spent by high street shoppers during the festive period was a very encouraging sign. The UK’s first ever Small Business Saturday also helped in this regard, with local businesses experiencing some much welcome footfall at a time that they needed it most. However, there is still a sense that the very role of the high street and its individual parts is undergoing a revolution. Experience and innovation are becoming an essential component of its offering, and it is also serving as a testing ground for aspiring entrepreneurs. The pop-up phenomenon cannot be ignored, and Jones is undeniably its biggest champion. “If anyone comes to me and says they want to launch a high-street brand, I always advise them to try a pop-up first because it is a great way to test the market, experiment, meet customers and do it on a low-cost, low-risk basis,” she says. “Out of the 320+ tenants we have had in our pop-up shop, just under 20% of them now are looking to go into full-time physical space which I think is fantastic.” Another trend has also emerged as a result of the steady rise of e-commerce. Aside from being mere testing grounds, firms are also going the extra mile to give people a reason to amble into their outlets. “For the successful businesses, the buzzword is ‘experiential’ and making it an experience to be in the store,” explains Dan Morgan, policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium. “So obviously a lot more investment is going into flagship stores. They look a lot better than they did a few years ago; they are a lot more exciting places to be, but obviously there are fewer of them, so the role of the store is definitely changing given that more and more sales are going online.” The change that is taking place is unavoidable and exciting in equal measure. However, the fact remains that empty premises act as a blot on the landscape and there is a lingering sentiment that more support is needed for entrepreneurs to have a realistic shot at high street success. The government has recognised this, taking on board the recommendations put forward by Mary Portas and establishing a Future High Streets Forum to take advice on

(H)Analysis - High Street 2.0.indd 4

how town centres can adapt and maintain their place in British society. But, whilst business rate hikes are to be capped at 2%, the system still doesn’t sit well with the majority. “Business rates are dependent on the property in which a business is trading; they don’t give any recognition to the turnover it is generating,” says Jones. “The government could go further in coming up with something that is a little bit more creative in how it rewards small businesses.” Local councils have also come under fire for the parking charges that have driven people away from high streets towards out-of-town retail parks and in some instances for their failure to come up with a real action plan for the future of town centres. Denison offers some practical advice in this regard. “If you have got

too many unused retail units, you need to create multi-purpose spaces,” he says. “That’s not just shops, but some offices, some housing, some social space – libraries, welfare offices, restaurants and coffee shops – so that it is a far more complex but rounded offer on the high street. It is happening in some places and not happening quite as the residents would have liked in others.” Our high streets may not be the pockets of individual treasures they once were but there is still considerable room for entrepreneurs to come and stamp their mark. To a large extent, they are the key ingredient when it comes to shaping and securing the future of one of Britain’s most cherished institutions. Denison concludes: “I think they are probably in the best place to make it happen.”


“For the successful businesses, the buzzword is ‘experiential’ and making it an experience to be in the store” Dan Morgan, British Retail


24/12/2013 16:36


Making money without losing friends

When you’ve spent a long time building up a popular, consumerfocused service, is monetising through advertising a rather roundabout route to profit?




f you look at the biggest tech firms to rise to prominence over the last decade, the vast majority share a single factor: they first built a loyal customer before monetising. Given Twitter recently followed in Facebook’s footsteps by rolling out ads across its platform, you’d be forgiven for thinking that advertising is simply the most effective way for these consumer-driven services to generate revenue. However, it may be the case that trying to build value for marketeers halfway through an enterprise’s lifecycle isn’t the only – or even the best – way to generate a profit. It’s important to recognise that the way consumer services approach their market has changed irrevocably. “If you look at organisations over the last five or even ten years that have come to market in the social side, they typically come to market in a freemium model,” says Kevin Kimber, vice president EMEA of commerce, billing and finance platform Zuora. “There’s been lots of examples: Facebook didn’t have any revenue in the early days, Twitter certainly didn’t, Spotify certainly didn’t.”

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24/12/2013 16:38

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24/12/2013 14:21



Perhaps, then, the first question that needs to be asked is why is there an increasing tendency for web-based services to leave it so late to monetise? “Primarily, it’s to see whether customers value the relationship and value the service that they provide,” explains Kimber. Taking into account the increasing complexity of the online marketplace, it’s rare that a product or service is on its final incarnation when it’s rolled out to the Kevin Kimber, vice public. Many significant adjustments are made president, Zuora during this period and free access allows services to build extensive networks of users whilst gradually increasing the value they offer. He continues: “From that point on they look to launch from a freemium into a premium or a dual-blend model to see if there are ways they can monetise that relationship.” There are plenty of household names that have benefitted from monetising later on in their lifecycles. “If you look at Spotify, which launched in 2008, that was a freemium model and they gained a huge market traction from it,” Kimber says. Frankly, it seems unlikely that the enterprise would have achieved such a momentous step in transforming the way we access and consume music if they hadn’t been able to quickly build a committed consumer base and turn them into staunch advocates. “They disrupted a very traditional market in which we’ve seen those types of offerings and obviously the economic climate has driven a very different interaction point between consumers and the music industry.” But even more important than building an audience is capitalising upon it. As previously mentioned, the examples that spring most immediately to mind – such as Facebook, Google, Twitter – have engaged in tactics to marry commercial interests with the interests of consumers. Kimber remarks: “The interesting thing about, for example, Twitter for Business is more and more companies are understanding the importance of it as an interaction point with their customers.” However, with companies that have staked a claim in a social space, advertising can be tricky to align with one’s core proposition. “The challenge of advertising – as we’ve seen in the print and publishing arena – is that it’s not the end customer,” says Kimber.

In Kimber’s eyes, some publications focused too heavily on advertising as their sole revenue stream and this ultimately only acted to their detriment. “As more and more technically savvy individuals, we’re much more likely to be turned off by mass advertising than perhaps we were in the past,” he explains. “So the requirement to drive that relationship direct with the customer is a fundamental one.” And there are plenty out there who seem to smell which way the wind is blowing. Kimber feels that Snapchat’s recent refusal of a $3bn offer from Facebook is evidence that the enterprise is aware if it wants to go the distance, it will need to firmly embed the user at the heart of its proposition. “They’re still testing the relationship with the customer and still don’t yet fully understand what the customer wants from them






“Primarily, it’s to see whether customers value the relationship and value the service that they provide”

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and therefore how they might be able to drive a monetisation strategy,” he comments. Without this being clearly enshrined in the core of the business, there is a good chance that, long-term, its value proposition could be undermined. But what are the options for enterprises who don’t feel serving ads up to their customer base is the best route to go down? “More and more organisations are looking at how they perhaps monetise by offering premium services customers are willing to pay for,” Kember says. Already many a service exists which successfully monetises on this basis; he points to the model upon which LinkedIn operates, which enables the service to successfully expand upon its existing revenue streams. “There are plenty of examples of organisations that initially launch as freemium and then gradually start to offer premium services, which, fundamentally, we as individuals want to consume.” This is something which has helped create a real subscription economy. “A subscription model enables us to get into those types of products and services much easier than the old one time purchase,” says Kember. From BMW’s i3 electric car to the US-based Dollar Shave Club – which delivers razors to men’s door for as little as $12 a year – there are no end of products and services now being sold under subscription. He continues: “All of these industries are asking ‘how do we pivot into a relationship with these customers that is ongoing?’” There is, of course, plenty of precedent for this; some of the most prominent industries making use of a freemium model such as the media and technology have had great success launching premium level products and services. However, this is not to say that there isn’t significant backlash against businesses which decimate their service to lock areas behind paywalls. As Kimber comments: “Just turning what is today a free service into a paid service tends not to work; clearly it’s about offering premium services over the top that people are willing to pay for.” Monetising relationships in this way requires an enterprise to understand the real value of what

(H)Making money without losing friends.indd 3



“It’s about offering premium services over the top that people are willing to pay for” it is offering, ensuring that the way it structures its subscriptions adds real value for those that pay, rather than removing it as punishment for those that don’t. Getting this right takes persistence, not to mention careful oversight. “The key is for any company looking to launch from a freemium to a premium is having an acceptance that you have to continually test,” Kimber says. A service like Netflix, which offers a free month before requiring customers to subscribe will need careful testing and tweaking to ensure details and price points are just right. “How do they convert from the first month to the second month?” he asks. “And as they start to scale their pricing up and add more valuable content, is that an amount people are willing to pay?” Ultimately, whether a consumer-driven service decides to monetise through ads or adding saleable value, it’s undeniable that whatever decisions you make must hold your customer in mind. “The consumer is driving and dictating the business models that organisations are offering,” concludes Kimber.

24/12/2013 16:38

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How to keep your costs down 38

The announcement of further price hikes from energy firms was met with the usual outrage last month. Whilst homeowners and entrepreneurs continue to struggle under the weight of even bigger gas and ‘leccy’ bills, the energy giants’ top brass are feeling the benefit of another cushy pay rise. The government is creditably trying to curb such excesses and make life a little easier for customers, but families and businesses are nonetheless preparing for the inevitable. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining, and there are still ways that firms can minimise their business costs in all areas – including energy – and make profitability seem less of a pipe dream


Secure the best deals possible A business owner that doesn’t possess an ample set of negotiation skills is ultimately going to be left out of pocket on a regular basis. Frequently steering things in one’s favour will therefore help no end when it comes to securing the right prices. “You will be surprised how much you can change something by negotiation,” says Stephen Fear, entrepreneur in residence at the British Library. “My advice to any business when negotiating a contract is to focus on the job in-hand. Don’t just look at the terms and think ‘oh well, that is it, we have got three quotes and that is the cheapest. Let’s pick that one’. It is important to read the paperwork, understand the contract and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.”

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Remember: location isn’t everything Being slap bang in the middle of a thriving city certainly gives an enterprise a degree of gravitas, but such locations come at considerable expense. Fortunately, improved transport links lessen the need to think big when picking a base. “We have looked at offices in Manchester and for the same space we have here in Stockport, we will be looking at three or four times the costs,” comments Ben Wilson, owner and managing director of e-cigarette firm Freshcig. “We don’t feel the need for our business to be city-centre based. You can be here in 21 minutes on the train. It just makes so much more sense.” The tax benefits are palpable too, especially as far as Wilson is concerned. “We also choose to go for offices which fall under the business rates relief scheme,” he adds “By choosing certain space, you can actually come under the rates threshold and that is a massive saving.”

Leave it to the robots One of the biggest costs a company incurs is labour. However, the need for additional staff is diminishing as the technology age continues apace. “Businesses increasingly look at technology to help cut overheads,” explains Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at professional chartered accountant organisation ICAEW. “That could be anything from simplifying your accounting procedures to much more simple data-processing.” Wilson is certainly an advocate of minimising unnecessary human cost wherever possible, revealing that he uses a cloud-based software solution to do his own accounts. “It is about looking for systems that do things that humans can do and that can do them better, more productively and in less time,” he says. “We always pay a high initial price for a system and reap the rewards as time goes on.”

“Businesses increasingly look at technology to help cut overheads” Clive Lewis, ICAEW

Stephen Fear,

entrepreneur in residence, British Library

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Ben Wilson, owner

and managing director, Freshcig

Clive Lewis, head of enterprise, ICAEW

Spread the load As far as energy bills are concerned, there is much to be said for throwing a bit of variety into the mix. Fear believes this can help save a great deal of hassle. “I always like to spread energy costs across different fuel types,” he comments. “If we have a factory, part of the factory would be electricity and part would be gas or oil. If you are suddenly in dispute with an electricity, gas or oil supplier, the very fact that you have different types of energy supply means that you can continue the business while that dispute is going on.” Looking at alternative sources of energy can also help with things on the cost side. “In the longer-term, buildings that are very sustainable, well-insulated and have Biomass boilers will be very cost-efficient,” comments Toby Parkins, co-founder and managing director of software development company Headforwards. “Biomass is about 3p per kilowatt compared to electricity which is 14p per kilowatt and oil which is about 6p for every kilowatt.”


Take care of transport Whether internally or externally, the price of transport to a business is something that can be reduced in a number of ways. A business that is reliant on imports, such as Freshcig, should always keeps a close eye on postage costs and use sea freight where possible. “You have got to weigh up how quickly you need your stuff,” says Wilson. “But as and when the time is right, it is best to convert to sea freight because the extended margins that you will make on the product are very beneficial.” And as for transportation within a company, Fear bangs the drum for leasing over buying. “Once you get to running a bigger fleet, it can often be more economical to lease because you have got a modern stock of vehicles that don’t have as many breakdowns,” he says. “It can be advantageous providing that you make sure you are happy with whatever is in the lease contract.”

Toby Parkins, co-

founder and managing director, Headforwards

24/12/2013 16:39


To help taxpayers avoid the January blues, Anita Monteith, ICAEW tax faculty manager, has some tips for filing tax returns online

The final countdown 40

“Late-filing penalties are completely avoidable if you file online and on-time”


or most businesspeople, the new year means one thing: tax returns. Those who fail to meet the January 31 deadline will incur a penalty, even if they don’t owe any tax.

You will need to complete a tax return if:

• You are self-employed • You are a company director • Your income is over £100,000 • You have more than £10,000 in savings and/or investment income • You have rental income • You have taxable income from overseas • You are an employee claiming expenses or professional subscriptions of £2,500 or more Late-filing penalties are completely avoidable if you file online and on-time. If you file after January 31 you will incur an automatic, fixed £100 penalty regardless of how much tax you owe. If none of these apply to you, to be taken out of self-assessment you must call HMRC using the number on your tax return and ask for their advice. However, if they do apply, you have just three Sundays left to get your tax return sorted. Here’s what you have to do: Sunday January 12: have all the necessary information to hand

You will need your accounts if you are selfemployed or an owner/operator, along with

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details of any property income if you have a buyto-let. You will also need details about anything you can deduct such as gift aid donations and pension contributions. It is worth checking your emails from websites such as If you’ve sponsored people, you can claim tax relief. Additional documents you might need include details about any employment income where applicable (P60 and P11D etc), interest statements and information on dividends from shares. Sunday January 19: compare the return with last year’s

If there are any significant changes between this year’s tax return on last year’s, you need to explain why on the form. There is white space where you can make notes which will help to avoid unnecessary queries from HMRC later. You should also begin the tedious process of sorting all your paperwork into date order. Taking the time to do this now will save a whole lot of stress and make the filing process smoother the following week. Once in order, we would recommend splitting the paperwork into threemonth blocks. Sunday January 26: set about submitting

The first thing to say here is that you needn’t do the whole thing at once. Just like a paper

submission, you can do it bit-by-bit when you have the time. The system can be paused and it will save your progress to allow completion over a period of time. Probably the best approach is to break down the day into four blocks, making sure to take a reasonable break in-between. You can then input the data for each quarter of the year in each of the four blocks, whilst saving your progress and reviewing what you’ve inputted at the end of each block. Thursday January 30: double-check and send

The final day for submission is Friday January 31. Double-checking now is the last chance you will get to ensure it is correct. Once you are satisfied with it, click ‘submit’. Finally, it is important to save a copy of your final return and print a copy of the receipt you receive when you submit it. You must keep records of all the information used to complete your tax returns for 22 months after the end of the tax year or for five years and ten months for those with a business or income from letting out property. There is a maximum penalty of up to £3,000 for each tax year for which records have not been kept. Further information can be found at or

24/12/2013 16:40

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Blog standard The number of businesses with their own blog nowadays is immeasurable. But a blog’s presence alone is no guarantee of success 43



logs were once thought of as the preserve of travel enthusiasts, fashionistas and aspiring arts critics. They gave individuals the chances to vent their frustrations and share their experiences with the world. Yet, whilst blogs of this nature are still commonplace, it is not just budding journalists and the opinionated souls among us that are utilising them nowadays. Businesses of all sizes have started to latch onto the potential offered by the humble blog and are taking full advantage of it. “Most savvy businesses have seen how personal blogs have evolved and cover so many diverse sectors now, so it is understandable that they want to get their foot in the door,” says Sarah Moore, blogging engagement manager at Strategy Internet Marketing, an online consultancy. “I think they have seen through individual blogs how valuable and how engaging that kind of content can be.” Nevertheless, this is by no means to suggest that a blog is essential for each and every enterprise. “There are some businesses where the audience doesn’t exist online,” explains Daniel Nolan, managing director of SEO and digital marketing agency theEword. “Procurement and higher level property deals aren’t struck by people googling or reading blogs. They are done in boardrooms. But there are a vast number of businesses where there is an online audience, and for those businesses I think a blog is something of a necessity.”

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24/12/2013 16:40


“Having a blog that is updated regularly with relevant content is a really important part of optimising your website”


Heather Baker, Topline


Indeed, any enterprise with its finger on the pulse will know that content has become Google’s new best friend. As a result, there is much to be gained from posting a regular stream of relevant business musings. “Having a blog that is updated regularly with relevant content is a really important part of optimising your website,” comments Heather Baker, managing director of digital agency TopLine Communications. “It tells Google that your website is active and fresh.” Moreover though, with social media compelling firms to be increasingly open and transparent, having a blog can enhance a business’s reputation in the eyes of both consumers and Google alike. “Google launched an update recently called Google Hummingbird which is designed to reward businesses that engage in a conversation with their audiences,” comments Nolan. “If a business uses its website as a mode of address to reach its audience, Google likes that and will increasingly favour that kind of stuff. The blog is just a great conduit for that relationship.” Naturally, there are more than a few instances of company blogs that have failed to deliver the expected rewards. For the most part, however, this is due to a misguided perception that merely having a blog will make all the difference. “If it’s going to be an afterthought or a case of jumping on the blogging bandwagon, then you may as well not bother,” adds Baker. “If you want people to read your blog, it has to do something new and it has to do it in a way that is interesting or entertaining to people.” As Moore succinctly puts it, “it shouldn’t just be a case of having a blog to tick a box.”

Sage and sound

Paul Lancaster,

content and social media specialist, Sage UK

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If ever evidence was needed of how a blog can bring tangible results, business software firm Sage has struck gold with the blog for its cloud accounting software Sage One. Its customer base has grown threefold – from 6,100 to 21,000 – over the past year, and the company’s content and social media specialist, Paul Lancaster, is of the opinion that the blog has played a significant part in that growth. “The blog has been very effective for SEO purposes but it also means we have got something we can share on almost a daily basis through social media,” he explains. “It is a great way of raising awareness of Sage One and once people are on the site, we can explain a bit more about the Sage One service and how it may be of benefit to them.” Indeed, going the extra mile and really getting to grips with its target audience has brought sizeable rewards for Sage One. Far from just pushing the product, a deeper understanding of consumer needs has simply provided potential and existing clients more reason to revisit the site. “We do talk a lot about the product but we also try

“It is all about bringing traffic to the site but also providing a deeper engagement with existing and potential customers”

to include a lot of what we think are genuinely useful tips and advice for start-ups and small businesses who are our target audience,” says Lancaster. “It is all about bringing traffic to the site but also providing a deeper engagement with existing and potential customers and it has been proven to work in the past 12 months or so that I’ve been here.” It certainly hasn’t been easy work for Lancaster, but he firmly believes that with the right people on board, a blog can do a power of good for any business. “I’m never short of things to write about or inspiration but that is just through practice because I have done it a lot in the past,” he says. “But I do think you need someone who is comfortable writing and has a deep and broad knowledge, not only of the products or services that you are selling, but also the world you are selling to as well.”

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“Entrusting the blog with one or two key members of staff but then inviting all members to submit guest posts can be quite rewarding”

46 Sarah Moore,

blogging engagement manager, Strategy Internet Marketing

Thus, to get the maximum return from a blog, a business must be willing to make a fairly sizeable commitment of both time and money. The amount of each will vary depending on whether a company chooses to keep a blog in-house or outsource it, but making the wrong decision on this front can certainly prove costly. “Lots of businesses favour writing the content themselves because they like the idea that it is basically free marketing,” says Nolan. “But typically we find that when the reality of deadlines, the day job and actual tasks come to the fore, corporate blogging is the first thing to go. That can be quite damaging because a blog without posts on it, or one that hasn’t been updated very recently, can actually be more damaging than no blog at all. It may look as though your website has closed down or your business has ceased operating.” Of course, should a company decide to take on the challenge of penning its own blog, due consideration should be given to the personnel that will be responsible for its upkeep. Delegating the task to somebody who knows the business inside-out is a good place to start, but Moore suggests that utilising a variety of voices can help engender a better reception

from the desired target audience. “Entrusting the blog with one or two key members of staff but then inviting all members to submit guest posts can be quite rewarding,” she says. “We do that and it works quite well because it means there is a great mix of opinion on a variety of topics that everybody has an authority in.” As with any form of marketing though, a blog is essentially a means to the same end: sales. However, so long as a company is consistently writing about subjects relevant to their own product, service or expertise – and sharing its blog on social media platforms – the fruits of its labour should start to show. For Nolan, the stats speak for themselves. “Research has shown that websites with a blog could attract up to 55% more traffic than websites that don’t have a blog,” he says. “So there are tangible commercial benefits to blogging as well.” Patience is most definitely a virtue when it comes to blogging. But as long as a blog is above the bog standard, the benefits should become clear eventually. “Running a blog is not very rewarding initially; you don’t get much back,” Baker concludes. “But you really have to be able to push through because it does build over time.”

Daniel Nolan,

managing director, theEword

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24/12/2013 16:41


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Trotting out the same old approach when it comes to video content online hardly makes for the best marketing

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ommenting recently at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) video conference in London, YouTube’s head of brand propositions Derek Scobie remarked that advertisers “must break free of the 30-second TV ad mindset when it comes to online video or risk mediocre results”. Since the dawn of the internet, advertising has been in a near perpetual state of upheaval but, even now it has found a stable home on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it seems there are more adjustments to be made. There can be little doubt that streaming online video content is a radically different medium to tuning into a TV channel. “If you’re still thinking TV advertising when you’re approaching the web, you’ve got it all wrong,” says Steven Lucker, creative director of media agency Ever After. “It’s a little bit like thinking ‘how am I writing this book?’ when you’re creating a website.” It’s true that the typical 30- or 60-second TV spot couldn’t be further from the channels for video content online. “Consider the move to services such as Snapchat, Instagram or Vine, which are sometimes six to ten seconds in terms of video content,” says Annabelle Spender, social media marketer at creative digital agency Bozboz. “It’s a completely different mindset.”

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“Advertisers must break free of the 30-second TV ad mindset when it comes to online video” Derek Scobie, YouTube

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“Where and when they see your content really changes what you should be producing with your video” Fergus Parker, Axonn Media

However, online video content obviously doesn’t just cater for those with the attention span of a hummingbird jacked up on e-numbers. “Other companies are finding success in using long complex videos,” says Spender. Whether it’s lush Rudimental-esque mini-films or videos on how to get the best out of a product, smart brands have also been catering to those wanting something a little more immersive in their visuals. But, irrespective of length, there are more fundamental factors that set online video content apart from traditional TV advertising. “The main difference is audience context,” says Fergus Parker, CEO of content marketing agency Axonn Media. “When you’re looking at TV ads, you can pretty much guarantee that person is sitting at home in front of their TV 90% of the time. With online, you’ve got to be a lot smarter.” Whilst traditional television advertising is a mechanical process with pre-booked slots that guarantee an advertiser a passive and contextually appropriate audience, the situation in which online content can be viewed is a rather more stochastic affair. “They could be looking at your video content on the way to work, they might be looking at it actually in work, or on holiday,” Parker explains. “There are hundreds of devices now that you can look at video content on: smartphones, iPads, laptops, to name but a few.

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With TV advertising, because of the nature of TV, you know they’re going to be looking at your advert during the 7pm late showing but with online you don’t. Where and when they see your content really changes what you should be producing with your video.” Essentially, wherever and whenever a consumer is viewing video material, it will be on their terms. And this touches on one of the cardinal factors separating TV ads from online video content. The vast majority of us have grown up with the idea that advertising dictates the TV schedules but, when it comes to streaming sites and social media, brands have to recognise that they are last to come to the party. “That’s the difference: before it was decided what people would like by ad agencies and now it’s decided by the individual,” says Spender. “It’s decided by the crowd.” This means consumers can be quite territorial over what they perceive is their space. “Once you go online with brands, you are trespassing on an area which is generally preserved for user-generated content,” explains Lucker. Perhaps the worst mistake an advertiser can make is assuming they have the same captive audience online they have during an ad break because consumers are well aware that the power is in their hands.

24/12/2013 16:43


“All you have to do is sit there and watch somebody who is about to watch a video and they’re clicking ‘skip ad! skip ad!’” says Lucker. “I don’t know anyone who sits and thinks ‘well actually, I was about to watch a Miley Cyrus video but instead I’m going to sit and watch this Audi ad for 30 seconds.’” This is why it can prove to be something of a cold bucket of water poured over proceedings when advertisers try use video content to hawk their wares. “The number one rule of content marketing is ‘don’t talk about your products’,” Parker says. Part of the benefit of content marketing is it creates a customer journey, increasing their relationship with a brand; moving from them from awareness, via interest to action and eventually encouraging them to become advocates of your brand and raising awareness of it to a whole new set of consumers. “That’s a virtuous circle,” he explains. “But if you’re talking about products, you’re pretty much nailing the lid closed on that relationship there and then and stopping it from happening.” All of this begs an important question: given the fact it’s fairly obvious that the tone of marketing on the internet has shifted, why are figureheads like Scobie still having to cajole enterprises into changing tack? “There are still many people out there who are very cautious when it comes to the world of online,” explains Spender. “They’re going ‘I can’t see the point of changing what’s worked for so many years. It’s worked for 60 - 70 years; why do we have to change it now?” However, many drop their recalcitrance when confronted with the bare facts. “You have to explain: ‘video content today is changing; this is how many people are on YouTube’,” she continues. “Their jaws drop.” It would be easy to infer from all of this that perhaps these forms of content marketing are ringing the death knell for traditional interruptive marketing. But, in reality, it seems this is unlikely. “It’s not going anywhere,” says Lucker. “TV advertising is going to be around for some time.” The fact that corporate giants like Apple and Coca-Cola invest huge amounts of capital in brand-building campaigns shows the TV ad spot still has an awesome power to capture our hearts and there’s no question that video content and TV ads can happily co-exist. “But,” he concludes, “don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re the same just because they both move and make sounds.”

“All you have to do is sit there and watch somebody who is about to watch a video and they’re clicking ‘skip ad! skip ad!’” Steven Lucker, Ever After.

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Dove – Real Beauty Sketches

picked by Steven Lucker, creative director of Ever After Created by international advertising, marketing and public relations agency Ogilvy and released in April 2013, Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches is a social experiment designed to prove a point to women: they are more beautiful than they think. In the film, a former FBI forensic artist listens to two descriptions of unseen women. One comes from the woman herself and the other from a stranger who has spent some short time in her company. “On each occasion the woman was far more beautiful in other people’s eyes than in their own,” relates Lucker. “There is this profound point that they’re making but they never mention skin, they never mention moisturiser or beauty products of any type.” Backed up with all manner of additional content, including interviews with the artist and the women involved, Real Beauty Sketches is perhaps the quintessential video content campaign, attracting more than 700,000 Facebook likes and over 60 million views. “It’s just brilliant,” Lucker explains. “They didn’t try and sell a product, they did it subtly. But they didn’t hide the fact it was Dove.”


24/12/2013 18:52


Affiliates in action


A core strand of any e-commerce solution’s marketing channels, affiliates have become particularly important to the world of fashion. We take a look at how this works in practice


radually, affiliate marketing has grown from being a nice sideline for bloggers looking to supplement their ad revenue and nebulous networks with shady reputations to a legitimate and widely recognised industry. Making the most of the efforts of publishers who are already out there advocating your products to help drive sales on your platform is something of a no-brainer. And there are few areas that pervade the blogosphere to quite the same extent as fashion. “When it comes to fashion, affiliate marketing really adds value,” says Lenka Gourdie, CEO and co-founder of fashion publisher and aggregator BagServant and affiliate marketing solution SaleServant. “Lots of different websites, including big players like ShopStyle or Motilo, have their own unique proposition and they have already built databases of clients and returning visitors.” Obviously, having a significant and loyal customer base means that these publishers can offer both meaningful fashion advice to their audience and help extend the reach of retailers who are looking for new audiences for their wares. Gourdie explains: “If you are a brand and you plug into these brands’ customer following you are increasing yours and engaging with more customers than you would have achieved on your own.” For an outsider, it may not be immediately obvious how quality relationships are formed between publishers and online outlets. Whilst there are plenty of big affiliate networks that can help form partnerships, these are often fairly indefinite and can prove too costly for smaller

brands. “This is how we came up with the idea of making a simple, affordable and really effective way to work with small- to mediumfashion brands and emerging designers,” Gourdie explains. Because of the focus on quality in the fashion world, trust is obviously of vital importance. However, certain areas of the affiliate marketing industry have attracted a reputation for disreputable practices and finding ways to address this is essential if publishers and brands are to have faith in the system. SaleServant have several failsafes in place to address this issue. Firstly, cookie-related fraud, where rogue affiliates install tracking cookies for various retailers to later pick up unconnected purchases are negated by the fact the platform focuses solely on click-throughs. “We do direct linking so we are not using third-party cookies,” says Gourdie. “Fraud is a little bit harder if it’s a click-through.” But there is also another measure the service is currently developing to boost the confidence publishers and outlets can place in their partners. “We want to create a rating system,” Gourdie says. For example, this would allow outlets to view the value contributed by each individual publisher using the system. She explains: “You can see the conversions and the sales rating.” Additionally, outlets trying to game the system by claiming high numbers of returns would also receive lower ratings, allowing publishers to inform each other of which stores to avoid. Whilst affiliate marketing can provide a safe and effective way for e-commerce outlets to boost traffic, Gourdie is keen to stress that this doesn’t mean they can afford to completely ignore the rest of the marketing mix. “If more people know about you and there’s more demand for your products then it’s much easier for the publishers,” she says. Any fashion brand looking to boost sales can’t just focus on getting more people through the door; they still need to focus on creating an effective customer journey. “Affiliate marketing would be beneficial to them but they still need to do all of the other things.”


“When it comes to fashion, affiliate marketing really adds value”

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29/11/2013 22:15


With firms more keen to clean up their inner workings than ever before, London start-up Tyrian is proving a useful first port of call



hilst few positives could be taken from the conduct of some banks in recent years, it has at least made companies from all sectors sit up and take note. If the financial crisis has taught UK industry anything, it is that the consequences of not keeping one’s house in order are potentially catastrophic. The introduction of new anti-bribery powers by the serious fraud office (SFO) in 2011 has also served as something of a wake-up call. Its director general, David Green, last month proclaimed that companies should be prepared to either self-report internal criminality or face the music. Suffice to say, it is not easy for a company to go public with such matters. The temptation is generally to brush them under the carpet and hope for the best. Yet, with the climate having changed as it has, businesses of all sizes now have every incentive to clean up their act. Fortunately enough, help is at hand for those that have been compromised financially or simply want some peace of mind. Founded last year by Brian Stapleton and Richard Abbey, fledgling London firm, Tyrian, is one source of such assistance. Specialising in forensic accounting and financial investigation, Tyrian’s day job is to gather facts, recover assets and minimise loss for its clients, which range from law firms to private equity houses, high net worth individuals to sovereign states. Yet, despite being established a matter of months ago, describing Tyrian as fledgling doesn’t seem all that appropriate. After all, Stapleton and Abbey had previously run the financial investigation team at global consultancy giant Kroll and were left to untangle the fallout from – among other events – the collapse of Barings Bank and a major fraud within Italian dairy group Parmalat Spa.

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Kicking the tyres 24/12/2013 16:45



With this experience behind them, the pair decided the time was ripe to put their skills – and those of their colleagues – to better use. “It became clear that a small targeted service of specialists looking at specific types of situations can sometimes suffer when it is part of a broader organisation,” explains Stapleton. “You get inevitable conflicts of interest in terms of clients.” There were other factors at play too, including a sense that there was money to be made. “We knew that whatever we were doing for our clients, they were liking it, there was a market for it,” Stapleton adds. “Even though they didn’t like us coming to see them because it meant they had a problem, we had a lot of repeat business and we felt sure we can carry this on for ourselves.” However, to suggest that personal rewards are the driving force behind Tyrian would be wide of the mark indeed. Underlying the enterprise’s existence is a recognition that times are changing. “Companies are realising that the concept of good corporate governance is now not-so-much thought of as a boring also-ran in business, but actually as an enhancer of value,” says Stapleton. “If businesses are able to show that they have got good corporate governance and are also prepared to invest in outside help if they feel that their good corporate governance is being compromised, they realise that actually adds value to their business in the eyes of shareholders and the market.” As uncomfortable as it may be for Tyrian’s clients to have to call upon their services, they can take considerable comfort from the independent eye the firm casts on proceedings. Whilst its aim is primarily to uncover the root cause of any damage and repair it, most clients crave and will ideally be left with knowledge of how to prevent it in the future. “It is going to be, quite rightly, a real wish for those clients to put into place systems and controls, and added checks and balances in order to try and avoid this happening again and we are very happy to offer advice on that,” says Stapleton.

(H)Picking up the pieces.indd 2

“We can produce a pretty good snapshot without being allowed in through the front door of a potential investment”

But it is not only companies with concerns about their own health that are getting Tyrian on board. The firm also works with investors in need of some peace of mind about their potential investments. “We call it ‘kicking the tyres,” remarks Stapleton. “It is actually becoming a much more prevalent part of our offering. We can produce a pretty good snapshot without being allowed in through the front door of a potential investment.” This is just scratching the surface of the work that Tyrian does. However, the fact that it is already competing with the world’s leading accountancy firms – as well as the likes of Kroll – is very impressive. As far as Stapleton is concerned, they are doing something that hasn’t been seen before. He explains: “We think we are creating a specific standalone industry in terms of financial investigations where you bring the best of intelligence-gathering and old school investigative techniques with all the technical rigour of forensic accounting.” Of course, one could easily assert that for each client that receives the ‘Tyrian treatment’, the world will be freer of the types of activity that only serve to tarnish the business landscape. However, Stapleton is nothing if not a realist. As much as he would probably like to think that this could be the start of a positive turning of the tide, things are likely to get worse before they begin to get better. “It’s a funny one because if we do a really good job, you could mathematically work down the line and say there will be no business left in the end,” comments Stapleton. “But that honestly does depend upon how much you believe in the philosophical argument of the triumph of good over evil.” It’s dirty work that’s for sure, but Tyrian is eager to make it as clean as possible. “We don’t feel like undertakers at the beginning of a battle rubbing our hands together with glee,” Stapleton stresses. “Of course, we are happy when a client is happy with what we have done and comes back and says ‘we have ironed that out’. But we are also confident that there will be a need for what we do long past the time that we have retired.”

24/12/2013 16:46

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24/12/2013 17:17


Given youth unemployment is reaching critical levels, what can we, as individual organisations, do to avert the coming crisis? Perhaps a good deal more than we think

Talent transfusion



(H)Talent transfusion.indd 1

conomic recovery definitely seems to be in full swing; late in December, it was announced unemployment had fallen to its lowest point since 2009 at a rate of 7.4% or 2.39 million people. However, this rosy picture rather ignores one key area of society: amongst young people, unemployment is still cripplingly high. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently revealed that almost a million young people are currently out of work, meaning that near half of the UK’s unemployed are under 25. The longer young people are barred from a career path, the more severe the ramifications for their earning potential – and therefore the UK’s GDP – will be. Therefore it isn’t too hard to see how our country may be sleepwalking into a crisis. “It is a genuine concern,” says Graham Wall, executive creative director at creative agency Table19, a staunch advocate of employing young talent. “It seems to me that it’s getting tougher and tougher to get into any industry at the moment.” With a paucity of talent going into entry-level roles and developing working experience of various industries, there’s a potential that mid-level roles could become increasingly difficult to fill. “There’s a very real chance that, in the future, it might not be a possibility to have those people coming through and then the industry is really in a lot of trouble.” Evidently, trying to reduce this problem to just one or two route causes would be somewhat misleading. However, there are certain areas over which enterprises have personal oversight and evidently the most obvious one is that of recruitment itself.


24/12/2013 16:47



“Whenever you hire anyone, unless you’ve actually worked with them before, it requires a slight leap of faith,” Wall comments. The more you know about a candidate, the more they have been tested and have demonstrated their skills, the less significant this leap becomes. This means that, given recent economic uncertainties, employers have been wary of taking any additional chances. “People are running leaner ships and every hire is under that much more scrutiny,” he continues. “It becomes harder and harder for people to actually make that leap of faith.” There has been a recent tendency within industry to reframe this problem and explain away this hesitancy by blaming the inexperience of graduates; it is not without coincidence that the rising level of youth unemployment has been accompanied by figureheads wringing their hands over the fact that young people don’t have the skills needed for the workplace. “I wouldn’t subscribe to that view,” says Wall. “The reality is that they’re not going to be completely grounded straight when they come in. They’re not even going to have the experience of how to go about working in a professional environment.”

those rules,” Wall explains. “People come in who can add that fresh mindset and shake things up.” This is really where a radical approach is required. Rather than looking solely for a homogeneity of experience, when building a forward-looking business, perhaps the most effective tool one can have is a diversity of talent. “Diversity within a creative agency and especially within a creative department is essential,” Wall comments. Of course, none of this means much without examples of how bringing young talent on board can benefit a business. Wall has always employed graduates at his agencies and, after joining Table19 a year ago, he put a graduate scheme in place. Upon finding six highly skilled individuals through speaking to universities and asking tutors to recommend talented students, Wall brought them into the fold and allowed them to demonstrate what they could do. At first, he had them supported by experienced team members but rapidly it became apparent that they more than had the abilities required to function without direct supervision. He explains: “Their ideas were being picked so much and were of such a high standard that we took the safety net away and started to give them real briefs.” You might think the best strategy with fresh faces in the company would be to limit them and ensure they were handling only bite-size briefs but Wall wanted to ensure his customers saw how seriously he took the new team, offering them the opportunity to bring their ideas to high profile execs. “They came in and presented amazingly to all of our senior clients on work that they’ve done,” he says. Not only were the campaigns well-received by major industry players but an unexpected benefit was how it affected the rest of the team, with established employees feeding back how much the new recruits’ attitudes were rubbing off on the rest of the agency. “The whole creative department was energised, literally on day one,” Wall recalls. “There was a massive burst of energy.” Cliche though it is, it may actually be easier to look at youth unemployment less as a crisis and more as an opportunity, allowing enterprise to really change its approach to young talent. “We genuinely believe that we have a duty to the industry as a whole,” concludes Wall. “But we also want people to help make us better. Diversity in the department is only going to help that.”

“Young people come in and bring things other people won’t have” And, of course, the sharp focus on experience means other benefits of utilising young talent are often allowed to fade into the background. “Young people come in and bring things other people won’t have,” Wall explains. Whilst it may be true that imparting additional professional skills in new recruits may come with an associated cost, they can often come equipped with skills that it will take a significant investment to educate existing employees in. A particular example Wall gives is that of the social space. “They think naturally socially because that’s been their whole lives,” he says. “It’s not something that’s had to be learnt or acquired.” Additionally, there is a benefit to having members of the team who haven’t spent a decade learning to colour within the lines. Given innovation has become so desirable in the world of modern business, having employees who are prejudiced toward only doing things according to conventional practices can stifle new approaches. “If you bring a new team onto an account, you get thinking which is really different, that breaks

(H)Talent transfusion.indd 2

24/12/2013 16:47

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01/11/2013 00:48


The trouble with talent is… identifying it In her first column for Elite Business, co-founder of The Curve Group, Lyndsey Simpson, explores how an employer can identify the talent required to take their business to the next level 62


et’s get something cleared up from the off. Why am I suggesting in the title of this column that talent is trouble? Well, honestly, it is. Talented individuals have spikes in their genius, highs and lows in their personalities and needs, and can sometimes be as easy to manage as nailing jelly to a wall. So why do we all talk about it, crave it in our businesses and, as the media will often suggest we are doing, actually enter into a ‘war for talent’? Simply put, having the right individuals in your business is the difference between mediocre and exceptional performance. So, starting with the obvious: how do you identify talent? That is a simple question, but not so simple an answer. In some large organisations, it is all about leadership. Talent is therefore defined as someone who still has a minimum of two vertical moves up the organisation in them – i.e. they haven’t reached their potential yet. In other companies, talent is all about the here and now and depicts top performers who are rated in the top 5% of the role they are doing. Others simply define it as ‘people with the right stuff’ or ‘a go-getter attitude’. They will say things like ‘you’ll know talent when you see it’. Personally, I believe only you, in the context of your business, in the even narrower context of specific roles, can define what talent means to you and your organisation.

“Having the right individuals in your business is the difference between mediocre and exceptional performance”

(H)Curve column.indd 1

Busting the myth

There are two components of talent: capability (which looks at future potential) and ability (which looks at current performance). You can define and measure them both, but the key word to consider when starting on this journey is context. Someone who is a talented singer does not necessarily make a talented pianist. However, in the world of offices and businesses, there is a misconception that someone who is rated as ‘talent’ in one organisation and role will be as effective in a different organisation and different role. This is simply not true. Context plays a massive part in both providing the conditions talent needs to thrive and the definition of what success looks like. So what could talent mean to you? If you are a B2B sales organisation, for your graduate recruitment, talent could be someone who has the potential to reach senior management within five years. They will have strong innate leadership and relationship skills to lead teams in the future and a bright commercial aptitude, which will put them on the path to managing some of your largest customer relationships. However, if you are a design company, your definition of graduate talent could be completely different. It may be someone who has advanced problem-solving skills, an ability to match a customer need with a physical and inventive product solution. They may also self-educate themselves around latest design theory and would have the ambition to build new products that create new markets. In this instance, their leadership skills, commercial aptitude and relationship skills do not feature in a wish list categorising what you would class as ‘talent’. So your first task as a business owner or leadership team is working through the key groups of roles in your business and defining what talent means to you. When you have this definition, it makes identifying talent and the

24/12/2013 16:47


places you are going to look for it a hundred times easier. It also means that when you do meet people, you have a clear framework and definition to assess against, removing the gut feeling and subjectivity that often surrounds hiring in the early stages of a start-up or fast growth business.

“Talent could be someone who has the potential to reach senior management within five years”

(H)Curve column.indd 2

Defining ‘potential’

Organisations often focus purely on identifying and hiring external talent rather than looking at current employees and assessing them against the same definitions or frameworks. If we go back to the two components of talent – capability and ability – ability is usually assessed and captured via performance appraisals but it’s rare that capability is focused on as routinely. The word ‘potential’ is used to suggest that the individual has the qualities required to perform and contribute in a larger or different role in the organisation in the future. These qualities could relate to their skills, motivation, commitment, experiences, personal characteristics, or abilities. It goes without saying that identifying the people – both internal and external to your organisation – who have the greatest potential will inevitably maximise your future organisational success. But, as always, the devil is in the detail. The question you need to ask yourself is ‘potential for what exactly’? Just as I believe you need to define what talent means to you in the context of your company and roles, you need to put the precisely same amount of effort into defining what potential means. And this again will not be one generic definition that applies to everyone. You are likely to end up with groups of talent pools. These could be based on seniority so, for example, ‘emerging talent’ would apply to more junior levels and ‘high potential talent’ would describe senior employees who are on the path to board positions. Alternatively, they could be functionbased talent pools: marketing talent, HR talent, finance talent, sales talent and so on and so forth. With talent loosely defined as someone having the ability and capability to do something well, it is up to you to take that loose criteria forward into a meaningful framework for the key parts of your business. If you are a business where people are your greatest asset, the focus and results you will receive from spending the time and energy defining what talent and potential mean to you will pay back exponentially.


24/12/2013 16:48



Diane Shawe CE


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he Academy of Vocational and Professional Training (AVPT) is pioneering a way for small businesses to help their staff to gain valuable new training with the focus on soft skills without them taking time off work. Individuals with these skills make themselves highly employable while working on their entrepreneurial side too which is vital to the profitability for small business owners. All AVPT’s training can be done through a mobile phone or tablet meaning it’s easy to study on-the-go. The tutor, course material and everything else can easily be accessed whenever is convenient. This drastically cuts down on the time it takes to qualify. Mobile learning is the way forward as 56% of all people on earth have a smart phone with 50% of those people using mobile as their primary gateway to the Internet (State of Mobile Survey 2013). Because most of us have a phone or tablet glued to our hands at all times, it makes sense to use that time wisely and invest in our own futures. This sort of learning allows people to gain new qualifications in a matter of days with

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AVPT’s Express Courses. Delegates can learn anything from leadership and project management skills to social media, sales & marketing. Furthermore each online student gets their own personal support live tutor to help them complete their course. AVPT is the only UK Globally Accredited online provider of over 390 Soft Skills courses using a cutting edge, proprietary online learning management system which means all delegates get a recognised certificate. With so few jobs around at the moment, people are starting to realise they need to take the future into their own hands. It’s not just about being employable because there are only so many jobs out there. It’s about building a skill set that allows you to manage your own

business, contracts and employability. Through its understanding of the competitive SMS market, growth of the internet virtual supply sector and the quest for knowledge, AVPT has created these courses to help people and businesses improve their skill set in the most efficient amount of time and cost possible. We think differently about the way people learn and are taught. Contact: Tel: 0203 551 2621 |

“Training can be done through a mobile phone or tablet meaning it’s easy to study on-the-go”

24/12/2013 14:36


Negative sentiment about their complicity in the widescale data capture of the NSA has had a significant impact on the perception of the world’s biggest tech brands. Well, they’ve finally fought back, launching the Global Government Surveillance Reform and laying out a five-point plan petitioning world governments to introduce stricter legislation around the monitoring of civilian data. Whilst it may take some time for this to have a positive effect, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of new tech out there to enjoy

Bushmills x Grado Labs Headphone

We’re not sure how we feel about celebrity endorsed headphones on the Elite Business tech team, given it seems unlikely slapping a famous name on some cans will make them a better competitor to the serious brands already on the market. However, we are prepared to make an exception here. Designed by audiophile Elijah Wood, the Bushmills x Grado Labs Headphone features a wood finish crafted from recycled whisky casks from the Bushmills Distillery, sports a leather headband and pumps out a balanced, high-end sound. Could have come in handy for that long walk across Middle Earth.


If you’re passionate about your enterprise, you probably live at a desk and even the most ergonomically designed chair breeds bad habits if you spend 23 hours a day in it. Staying mindful of your posture isn’t easy when your mind is elsewhere so a gadget like LUMOback could prove to be your back’s bestest buddy. When you slouch, it reminds you with a gentle vibration to sit up straight and also provides all manner of useful biometric information about your posture and activity through its synced app. Lumbar liberation at its best.


“LUMOback could prove to be your back’s bestest buddy”


(H)The hot list.indd 1

24/12/2013 16:49

“With iPads and iPhones seamlessly integrating into the workday, businesses are becoming quicker to say “i Can.” ShoreTel’s new business-grade docking station for the iPad and iPhone brings together Apple’s intuitive magic with ShoreTel’s brilliantly simple mobile UC application—creating something altogether more powerful. Call it supercharged collaboration, unleashed via effortless telephony, instant messaging and conferencing anytime, anywhere. See what your people can do when they’re left to their own devices. For more information contact Ami Glass on 01628 826 336.

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01/10/2013 03:07


Samsung Galaxy Round

Barring the purchase of a TV the price of your average hatchback, it seems likely smartphones will be the first chance any of us receives to get hands-on with a curved screen. The first to plant its flag – narrowly beating LG’s G Flex – the Samsung Galaxy Round definitely acts as proof of concept, its ergonomic curve sitting more happily in your hand than the average smartbrick, whilst still packing a 5.7 inch 1080p display, a Qualcomm’s quadcore Snapdragon 800 processor and a 13MP camera. Getting hold of one, however, might prove something of a problem, with no plans to release it outside of South Korea. Sad face.


Unless you’re running your business from the kitchen table, being an entrepreneur and a pet-owner can somewhat divide your loyalties. Leaving the wee pup all on his lonesome or entrusting that a sociopathic feline isn’t systematically destroying all of your possessions can be a big ask. Fortunately Petcube allows you to drop in on your domesticated beasties and check what they’re up to via your smartphone, reassure or admonish them as appropriate and even stir them up into a frenzy by making them chase the built-in laser pointer. Probably not one for meetings though.


littleBits Synth Kit

Anybody interested in hacking stuff about will be familiar with the way littleBits has opened up the field to the aspiring amateur. Well, thanks to this team-up with renowned synth-maker Korg, littleBits have brought circuit-bending to the masses, allowing anyone to use the kit’s modular sections to create and corrupt their own synths and instruments. Very much in keeping with the original spirit of electronic music, this clever little kit will have you tinkering and tweaking in no time.

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24/12/2013 16:49

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24/12/2013 14:40


Tech projections In the digital space, it can be hard to know where we’ll be in a week, let alone a year. But not for our silicon seers, whom we asked: what’s on the cards for 2014?



Jason Kingsley, CEO, Rebellion This year is going to be very big for gamers and games makers in general. At last we have the gaming hardcore returning to the fold with the two awesomely powerful consoles that are the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, whilst PC continues to thrive and grow. Meanwhile, digital delivery is becoming the main way people get new games and an expanding player base will continue to be driven by people who have secret gaming machines in their pockets disguised as smartphones and tablets. There is the solid possibility that the UK games industry will finally get a tax break boost similar to that given to the movie and TV industries. That will encourage investment and expansion in our export-driven business and benefit the UK economy. Lastly, the traditional TV media will begin to realise it is now only worthy of comment when someone hasn’t played games, rather than lazily thinking gaming is just for kids or is somehow an unusual or geeky pastime. And, hopefully, the professionals who run successful computer game developers and publishers will finally stop being called whizzkids, now that many of us are leaving our 40th decade on the planet.

(H)Tech projections.indd 1

“There is the solid possibility that the UK games industry will finally get a tax break boost”

24/12/2013 17:21


Online video

Steve Filler, CEO of tech and distribution, Europe, Rockabox


One of the big success stories of 2013 is programmatic pre-roll video. Many of the players in this space are seeing significant growth despite a lack of quality content to advertise on or around. This growth is likely to continue in 2014 as the market matures and brands feel more comfortable targeting audiences rather than well-known sites, although this sector will need to strike the perfect balance between targeting and environment. The sector where I expect to see the biggest shake-up in 2014 is the video content distribution market. Many agencies and clients currently seek greater control and transparency, as they are dissatisfied with the quality of sites where social, viral and branded content is distributed. The low cost-per-view model used by many players naturally excludes quality content sites from being part of these campaigns, which in turn impacts advertising confidence. Another area to watch is branded content production. More and more brands are seeing the value of creating unique, custom content to engage and entertain potential customers, as increasing numbers of users are avoiding standard digital advertising. At Rockabox, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of clients and agencies looking to create innovative, engaging branded content in 2014, rather than run the risk of being left behind.

Social media

Alice Driscoll, MD, pd3 As our love affair with the smartphone grows, so does our appetite for and dedication to social media innovation. The emergence of a number of key themes last year will come into sharper focus in 2014. Transient platforms including Snapchat have challenged the existing trend of online permanence in response to a consumer demand for increased privacy. Facebook’s relentless quest for personal information is, in part, responsible for its decline in users. The arrival in 2013 of Vine and Instavideo have shown that our seeming passion for constrained media is not on the wane. Real-time marketing – in its infancy last year – has delivered mixed results, but the allure of and desire for immediacy will see the continued experimentation and maturity of this approach in the year ahead. Finally, after a long period (in social terms at least) of consumer-focused innovation, could Twitter’s recent flotation result in a refocus on commercial rather than consumer needs? In social media terms, 2014 is at risk of being remembered for profit over performance.


Ed Weatherall, business development director, VisualDNA

“Psychographic data, combined with traditional metrics, will help brands understand their customers more deeply”

(H)Tech projections.indd 2

This is going to be a big year for personality in marketing. It will not be a year of listening and sentiment analysis, but using data to understand people more deeply and using it to dictate how the brand behaves. As advertising, customer services and social media converge and that data gets easier to use and understand, digital marketers are going to start getting to grips with what customers want. Marketers are surrounded by big data, and multiple dash boards full of numbers and statistics, and I think this focus

on the metrics has distracted us. Companies that matter have always used their brand attributes to connect with people on the basis of who they are; in 2014 those that move away from relying simply on the demographic box they inhabit and what their behavioural data says will grow market share. Psychographic data, combined with traditional metrics, will help brands understand their customers more deeply and create relevant experiences that engage and create cut-through. For me, it’s the year of personality and actionable data, helping companies to drive acquisition, personalisation and engagement.

24/12/2013 17:50

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The Techspert

Time to tech note With modern technology advancing at a rate of knots, David Hathiramani takes a look at what it is hot now and that which is sure to catch fire in the near future


he end of the year at A Suit That Fits is always quiet. Buying a tailored suit for yourself at Christmas just doesn’t seem in the spirit of giving. However, what the yearend does give us is an opportunity to stop and think about the past and prepare for the future. Therefore, I thought the time was ripe to round up the developments that I found interesting in 2013, as well as the big things on the horizon that I feel will make waves in the world of tech and business. Speaking as a retail technologist, the top three things that I think made real progress in 2013 were: Same day deliveries

As consumers, we seem to want things faster and faster. Next day used to be good enough but same day is the new next day. 2013 seemed to be the first year where retailers really started to embrace same day deliveries. This was epitomised when Shutl, a UK same day retail technology platform, was acquired by eBay. This move showed a clear intent and it looks like over the next few years, we will see same day deliveries become the new norm.

Order online, collect locally in a locker somewhere

Amazon, eBay and Waitrose have all started

(H)Davids column.indd 1

David Hathiramani He may be co-founder of trendy suit retailer A Suit That Fits, but Hathiramani is also something of a closet geek. And the Imperial College computing graduate is here to impart some of his wisdom about setting up an internet business.


services that combine online ordering with offline local collections. eBay has teamed up with Argos and Amazon with lots of different retailers including Co-op. For the retailers losing out to the online world for sales, it makes sense to be using their expensive offline footprints to create some form of income. However, in my view, this may well be the first step out to the high street for the big online retailers, and I would not be surprised to see them start their own offline retail outlets in 2014. For smaller online retailers wanting to offer a locker collection service, external services which offer a similar solution are popping up and we’ll no doubt see these grow next year. Lines blurred even more between different channels

There used to be a time when retailers thought in terms of offline and online sales. That’s just not how it is anymore. It will never be like that again. Smartphones are getting cheaper and cheaper. In fact, Google, with the purchase of Motorola, seems to have signalled its intent to make them as cheap as possible. The recently released Moto G is currently £139 on Amazon, so everyone in developed countries who doesn’t already have one will more than likely have one in 2014.

24/12/2013 17:39


I’m really excited about all the new things that we’re going to be seeing in the future. It feels like we are genuinely on the cusp of dramatic change in the world and if you like technology, it’s a really fun place to be. Here are the three developments that I am looking forward to the most: Drones and robots for delivery


Amazon recently started promoting its research into using drones that look like little helicopters for deliveries of its packages. It stated that 87% of its current deliveries would be the right size to get carried by a drone to an address. Of course, this sounds completely futuristic, but apparently the technology is there. Google soon realised that Amazon was stealing its thunder and whispers came from Google that it was planning to use robots together with its self-driving cars for deliveries. Google was quietly purchasing robotic companies throughout 2013 so it does seem like there could be some truth in it. Whether or not this is just an ego battle between two internet giants remains to be seen, but I’m certainly looking forward to the outcome. The rise of the smart watch

Early on in 2013, I spoke at a technology retail summit in Amsterdam. One of the other attendees there was being a little rude to me and kept looking at his watch. I soon realised that he had in fact been subtly glancing at who was calling him. I wanted one. I ordered my Pebble Smartwatch (which syncs up with my phone) and now I never miss a call and decline calls from numbers I don’t recognise just by a watchclick. The watch can have productivity apps on it and I have found that, even with the limited apps available currently, it has been really useful. Apple have recently recruited the ex-CEO of Burberry to run their retail offerings and many have speculated that a reason for this could be the development of an Apple watch which will sit somewhere in between technology and fashion. Google Glass

Google Glass doesn’t seem to have made a huge impact yet. It has been released to developers to try and come up with useful applications for it. However, I’ve not yet seen anything to convince me it is a game-changer. Even the UK’s Google CEO wearing them on stage didn’t convince me that they were useful. In fact, when I asked him afterwards, it turned out that they weren’t even on. However, let’s wait and see what applications come out. I have a feeling that some really amazing uses will emerge out of all of this development work that could once again change the way we live our lives. At A Suit That Fits, we’re really looking forward to seeing what new technologies we can incorporate in 2014. We’re all working hard towards ensuring that customers receive fabric samples to their office by drone and that they are measured up with Google Glass rather than with the aid of a tape measure.

(H)Davids column.indd 2

24/12/2013 17:40

Inventas IT Assure For Peace of Mind IT Support

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24/12/2013 14:50

Starting a Here’s one we Starting a business is no walk in the park, and unless you’re a multimillionaire with a crack team of experts at your disposal, it never will be. So why are so many people in the UK choosing to go it alone? Is having a boss starting to lose a little gloss? With redundancy figures hitting the roof and ever-stretching queues snaking around Job Centres, many are choosing to take the plunge into the unknown and start their own business. But with most of the brilliant money-spinning business ideas already taken, more and more budding business owners are taking an alternative route to self-employment – they’re buying franchises. Investing into a franchise model is the perfect fit for some; offering a ready-made business model with a loyal customer base; a tried and tested brand; relationships with suppliers; and a dominant online presence. It’s all there, boxed up and ready to go. If businesses came flatpacked, they’d probably look like franchises.

Of course, a franchise isn’t for everyone, but here are a few reasons why a franchise might be a smart move for you...


The security obtained with a franchise is second to none. You’ll be running a business with a tried and tested framework, a brand that is trusted, and with the ongoing support of the franchisor. The franchise industry has rarely been in a better, more profitable state than it is today.

franchise industry isn’t monopolised by fast food joints and coffee shops Choice The anymore; there’s now a broad range of franchises covering almost every area of business imaginable – from property investment to photography, comedy clubs to chocolate shops – so selecting the right brand could be your toughest decision in the whole process. every stage of the franchise process, you’ll benefit from support of the Support Atfranchisor and a network of franchisees. This support will enable you to get on top of potential problems quickly, and bounce ideas off others who’ve been in the same position. The franchise industry has seen significant growth in recent times and it’s now more diverse than ever before, with the UK proving fertile breeding ground for franchises of all shapes and sizes. The industry is now ripe with opportunities for franchise first-timers hoping to get a foot in the door, and even for hardened business owners looking to expand their business portfolio.

The Franchise Show will take place on 14/15 February, ExCeL London The Franchise Show dps.indd 1

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made earlier. Over the last four years, The Franchise Show has helped thousands of people to make their move into business, offering access to the very latest information and opportunities within this fast-moving industry.

The next show will take place at ExCeL, London on the 14th and 15th of February 2013. Tickets are free, simply register at or call 0800 1577 950 With much of the work already done for you – the brand building, the marketing strategy, the idea development – a huge part of getting started in franchising isn’t running the business itself, but researching and pinpointing a franchise model to suit your budget, character and ambition. The Franchise Show represents the industry’s diversity to its fullest, continually delivering an event that puts visitors at the heart of unmatched information, opportunities, and contacts, spanning every area of franchising conceivable. Whether you’re searching for the right franchise system, or you simply wish to find out more about the industry, The Franchise Show’s comprehensive conference schedule is a great place to start. You’ll discover seminars on everything from master franchise operations to retail franchises, and with the new Focus On seminar schedule, finding the right information has never been easier.


Focus On is a series of 30-minute seminars delivered by the most respected and experienced professionals in the industry, each seminar focusing on a different franchise sector. Starting with a brief introduction to franchising, the seminars look at the characteristics of the market, investment levels, expected return, skills needed, the common pitfalls and the day-today operations. These sessions cover the most up-to-date practical, legal, strategic, and financial issues, allowing visitors to get straight to the heart of what they want to know.

International Opportunities

We have a number of great brands from The United States and the rest of the world who are looking for UK master franchisors at the event. These brands offer an unique and exclusive opportunity to bring a globally successful brand into the UK. If you think you have want it takes to do this, you can arrange a one-to-one appointment, at the show, to discuss what’s involved – call 0800 1577 950 to do this. High investment, high return opportunities are also available at The Franchise Show, offering visitors the chance to meet people who have successfully established master franchises. Attend a series of seminars and workshops presented by leading experts in their field; and enjoy face-to-face meetings with organisations seeking to offer master franchise opportunities, many of whom will be promoting their concept for the first time in the UK. To complement the huge number of UK brands at the show, many international franchises will be present, all looking for willing franchisees to take the reins of concepts new to the UK. Visit in February and find out why The Franchise Show is regarded by many as the must-attend event for anyone looking to start a franchise business.

Tickets are completely free and available at or call 0800 1577 950 The Franchise Show dps.indd 2

24/12/2013 14:51

Celebrating 85 years in operation, there are currently almost 30 Harry Ramsden’s outlets operating across the UK from as far North as Inverness right down to the South in Bournemouth, with branches also trading successfully in Ireland.

Harry’s facts

• Fish and Chips remain the nation’s favourite cuisine with 382m portions sold annually. • Harry Ramsden’s is the brand most closely associated with Fish and Chips globally. • Brand awareness and recognition coupled with the popularity of the offering ensure Harry Ramsden’s outlets compete effectively with their competition from the outset.

Harry’s franchise options

With almost 30 branches across the UK and Ireland and big expansion plans in the next 12 months, we’re looking to increase our presence through the roll out of our two core offerings, Locals and Restaurants, both of which offer an amazing opportunity to become part of a great British Institution.

We’re expanding. Do you want to be part of something big? For more information call Chris on 0203 077 5880 or email Harry Ramsden's FP Jan14.indd 1

24/12/2013 14:52


Franchise news Oscar-winning appointment for bfa A new year has brought new faces to the board of the British Franchise Association (bfa), including a brand new chairman. After three years at the helm of the organisation, Michael Eyre has given way to Simon Bartholomew of Oscar Pet Foods. Bartholomew was confirmed as the new chairman at the bfa’s AGM in Birmingham on December 12 and is a hugely respected and popular figure within the franchise community, which is likely to have made the decision a relatively easy one. “It’s a real honour to have been selected by my peers to chair the bfa for the next three years,” said Bartholomew. “I’m hugely excited about the prospect of leading an association which represents so many dynamic and diverse companies led by innovative, forward-thinking business men and women.” The full list of 16 board members can be found on the bfa website. We wish them all the best.


Diamond seeks jewels to add to its crown With franchising often utilised as a means of getting a brand off the ground, how refreshing it is to hear of an already established firm deciding to open up its doors to franchisees. That’s exactly what 21-year-old courier and logistics company Diamond Logistics has done. Having already established five franchises in 2013, Diamond Logistics is planning to roll out a further 20 franchises this year. The business certainly has all the facets to achieve this, not least because its managing director is none other than Kate Lester, who was named Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 at the first ever National Entrepreneur Awards. Lester has already secured the necessary funding to take the Diamond Logistics brand across the country, with franchises in Sheffield, Birmingham and Derby already signed up and set to open at the end of January. The targets

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Franchise opportunities galore at the NEC

after that are London, the north east and north west where Lester is hoping entrepreneurs will come on board to add to the firm’s already strong presence in the south. “We really are driving a revolution in logistics – it’s groundbreaking and is creating a great deal of interest,” she said. “This is an exciting time to join our organisation.”

Roll up! Roll up! That’s right, a new year means a fresh season of franchise events is upon us and it all kicks off next month at the NEC in Birmingham. The National Franchise Exhibition, supported by the good folks at the British Franchise Association (bfa), looks like one not-to-be-missed, with the likes of McDonald’s, Cash Converters and Platinum Property Partners set to exhibit. Attendees will be presented with exciting business opportunities aplenty that’s for sure. Free features include a comprehensive seminar programme offering a series of panel seminars with expert consultants, solicitors, bankers and franchisors. Elsewhere, the Finance Clinic will provide advice on business plans and raising finance. It sounds well worth a look to us.

24/12/2013 17:34

Do you dream of being your own boss? Would you like to make a difference to other people? Franchise Fee £32,950 + VAT

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Rainbow International is the leading supplier of restoration and specialist cleaning services following fire, flood or accidental damage in domestic and commercial premises. These services are offered to many of the top insurance companies as well as large companies and private customers. Rainbow International provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life to own their own business, with the help and support of a trusted brand.


Investment includes: • Recession proof business • Recognised brand • Specialist equipment • Van deposit and livery • Uniforms • Personalised marketing literature • Protected territories • Personalised Rainbow website • Ongoing support from a team of experts at Head Office • Extensive 3 week training on-site at Head Office • State of the art ‘flood house’ for all your training needs • Bespoke technical claims handling system • 100 day support programme • Informative marketing tools And much more…..

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24/12/2013 14:53

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Green Square offers renewable energy solutions for both domestic and commercial use. Be part of this fastest growing subsector industry in the world with Green Square. • Exclusive product range • Fully recognised training and qualifications in renewable technology • Quality Management system for micro-generation technologies in place (MCS) • Bespoke software allowing full system design and calculations for complex installations • Full Marketing support: Website, launch event and marketing campaigns • Supported by legislation • Low overhead model • Turn-key business concept For more information about this amazing opportunity:

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24/12/2013 14:54



24-hour gym franchise Anytime Fitness has already firmly established itself on the world stage. And it is now flexing its muscles to great effect in the UK

Franchise in the spotlight:

Anytime Fitness WORDS: ADAM PESCOD


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any American brands have penetrated the United Kingdom over the course of the last thirty years. The obvious candidates here are the household names of McDonald’s, Subway, KFC and Burger King. With regards to the former two of these fast-food behemoths, they have enjoyed considerable growth on these shores, and worldwide, with the aid of franchising. Yet, there is one global franchise that has eclipsed them both in terms of its rate of expansion. Founded in 2002, 24-hour gym chain Anytime Fitness opened its 2,000th club on December 3 2012, a feat which it took

McDonalds 32 years to achieve. Subway, on other hand, had to wait 23 years to reach that particular milestone. What makes the growth of Anytime Fitness so compelling is the fact that it operates in a sector that can be regarded as both the polar opposite and best friend of the food service sector. As much as treating oneself to a meal out is a popular pastime for large swathes of the global population, keeping oneself fit and healthy has similarly universal appeal. Likewise, neither industry will ever come under any real threat from the internet and the inroads it is making into everyone’s daily lives.

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“If you go outside of the UK, 60% of gyms are 24-hour, so it is not a new concept globally”

The answer, it transpired, was franchising. “Within that first year, they had three clubs open and they very quickly realised that suddenly they had a product that they could franchise,” Dietrich continues. “And by franchising, they could maintain the model standard and maintain the brand standard for bringing very emotive, very motivated people on board who could make a real impact.” The world was soon going crazy for Anytime Fitness, with Australia taking the concept to heart more than any other country. Dietrich explains that 300 clubs opened Down Under in the space of four and a half years and it is now on the verge of saturation, with franchisees signed up in close to 500 territories. At present, the company is operating in 15 countries, and launched in the UK in 2010. However, Dietrich admits that the idea of a 24-hour gym was somewhat alien to the British public at the time. “If you go outside of the UK, 60% of gyms are 24-hour, so it is not a new concept globally,” he explains. “It is a relatively new concept in the UK. There are some budget gyms now that offer the 24-hour format, but what Anytime brings to the table is that we are smaller, local, and almost perceived as communitybased gyms so we become convenient to where we are located.” And if there was any doubt whatsoever about people’s desire to undertake exercise in the early hours, he adds that 10% of Anytime members worldwide currently make use of its service through the night. Considering the scale it has achieved thus far, that is proof enough of the demand for 24/7 fitness. Clearly, making what is at heart an American concept work overseas is no easy task. But Anytime Fitness has achieved this admirably, and its franchisees have been at the forefront of its success. “They are our biggest USP,” says Dietrich. “The franchisee has a vested interest in that gym being successful. Rather than being the general manager of a gym, who is just driven by targets, our franchisees also want to help local charities and get involved with the local community base.”


Nevertheless, it would be naïve to suggest that Anytime Fitness’s growth is purely a result of people’s constant need to keep in shape. There has to be something to set one gym concept apart from another and thus make it worthy of the everyday fitness freak’s attention. In the case of Anytime, the very notion of a local 24/7 gym that is open 365 days a year stands it in decent stead. Yet, it was only after taking on board the views of customers that the company’s co-founders – Jeff Klinger, Chuck Runyon, and Dave Mortensen – realised that there was demand for such a service. “They were listening to their members, listening to the stories, and listening to what they needed to do to try and adapt a business to support modern-day living,” explains Karl Dietrich, sales and marketing manager for Anytime Fitness UK. “They fell upon the 24-hour concept and asked themselves ‘how do we simplify the whole process of a 24-hour gym concept?’”

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Such an approach means the brand’s global presence is effectively fed down into the individual franchise territories within which it operates. Dietrich explains that Anytime Fitness has adopted the phrase ‘standardise when possible, localise when necessary’ to help drive this home. “We are standardising what the brand stands for, and what the heart and soul of the business is, but then localising it to make the local markets understand what the brand is about,” he comments. Although Anytime’s sheer global presence may give it the hallmarks of a multinational corporation, the franchise element of the business means that each club has its own unique personality. Members are thus left identifying closely with their local branch, enjoying a personalised experience upon every visit, yet all the while still having access to other Anytime gyms worldwide. And the size and location of each site merely serves to enhance this further. “The square footage of our clubs is anything from 3,500 to 6,000 square feet as an average, so our clubs are smaller, they are more intimate,” says Dietrich. “It is a friendlier atmosphere but obviously led by a very professional brand, so

“Our franchisees also want to help local charities and get involved with the local community base”

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it means we don’t need to go into the main town centres; we don’t want to go into the main town centres. We want to go into the local community area closer to where you live and where you shop.” Anytime Fitness definitely looks set to grow at a rapid rate in the UK. By the end of this year, there will be 29 gyms in operation, all of them franchised bar the company’s HQ site in Hemel Hempstead. Dietrich explains that the current target is 300 clubs, a milestone that it should be halfway to reaching by the end of the year. Indeed, there is probably scope to take it past the magic 300 mark but Dietrich isn’t getting too far ahead of himself just yet. “If you look at David Lloyd which is the largest health club group in the UK currently, it has about 420,000 members, and 300 clubs would give us approximately 350,000 members in the UK,” he says. “When you look at scale and proportion in the UK, 300 would make us quite a large entity as a brand. It is an achievable target but let’s see how the UK is set up when there is 300 open.” It certainly seems to be a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ as far as Anytime Fitness is concerned. Having firmly established itself as a major player in the international health and fitness stakes – and now ranked the world’s fastest-growing franchise by American magazine Entrepreneur – its success only looks like continuing on our shores. We suspect most people in the UK will probably soon find themselves a short jog from their nearest Anytime Fitness franchise.

24/12/2013 17:35

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24/12/2013 14:56


From Y–fronts to Yves Saint Laurent – customer service in WAG land

T 88

he ZipYard offers a professional tailoring and alterations service in a clean, purpose build environment. Our award-winning business is all about outstanding customer service. Whilst there’s no other specialist alterations and tailoring centre in the area, there’s numerous businesses offering similar services and competition is great. As the top performing ZipYard and 2012 Franchisee of the Year, we have raised a total of 22,500 invoices. Turnover in the first year was £174,500 from 9978 customers. In the 10 months to date of our second year we are at £238,000 from 12,675 customers and on track to hit our target of £274,000 by year end. Early Days

Richard McConnell, The ZipYard Altrincham

As a former driving instructor I was used to dealing with members of the pubic and took pride in my level of service, so when I decided on a career change I already had a very strong customer service ethos. When we first opened it was easy to turn jobs round incredibly quickly. But as word got around and our customer numbers soared, ensuring that customers were happy 100% of the time became more difficult. We soon expanded our team of seamstresses from two to five and now employ eight full-time. Working in Cheshire we are dealing with high end customers with high end expectations and it’s a great responsibility working on designer garments sometimes worth over £1,000. Famous

footballers and TV celebrities including Coronation Street actress Sally Dynevor and presenter Gordon Burns bring their garments to us. Everton player Marouane Fellaini is one of our regulars. We once stayed open to fix a black tie for an awards ceremony that evening and he turned up later with chocolates for the girls to say thank you. Added Value We want our customers to believe that nothing is too much trouble. We don’t charge any extra for the express service and often carry out additional minor repairs for free. If one of the seamstresses notices a button needs replacing whilst they are turning up a hem it takes very little additional time to do the complementary work – and customers are always surprised and delighted. Frequently people come in off the street with a button that’s just come off – we’ll fix it there and then – again for no charge, confident in the knowledge that he or she will regard us as a lifesaver and talk about The ZipYard to others. Systems The sophisticated till system included as part of the ZipYard package has a customer relationship management feature which tracks customers each time they come in and allows us to make notes. If a regular is getting ready to go on holiday I can input this into the system. Then I can wish them a happy holiday when they pick up the clothes and ask them about it the next time they’re in. Building relationships is paramount – and as a result the average repeat customer visits us about once a month. Some have used us over 200 times spending several thousand pounds.

“We want our customers to believe that nothing is too much trouble”

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One well-heeled man left a message on our answering machine to say his wife was bringing in a ball gown the next day so ‘please leave space on your machine’ for her. They expect a very fast service and we rarely disappoint. A regular moved out of the area but saves up his repairs until he comes back to visit friends – travelling over 160 miles for our quality of service. Grateful customers send flowers, wedding cake, thank you notes and gifts.

Richard McConnell being awarded Franchisee of the Year at the ZipYard Conference on Saturday 21st September 2013 Edwina Mitchell (Training and Support Director); Richard McConnell; Nigel Toplis (Managing Director)

Outstanding customer service means that we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes. Last year a groom and his entire male entourage turned up the day before the wedding in a panic because they had only just discovered their suits were ill fitting. We stayed open through the night to finish the work and to get the party to the church on time and looking their best.

“We stayed open through the night to finish the work and to get the party to the church on time and looking their best”

The Future Managing customer expectations isn’t easy and it has been a big challenge for us to be able to turn round work quickly as the volume increases. Recently we dealt with 90 paying customers in one day which is ten an hour! We already open seven days a week and are looking to employ another seamstress to focus full time on express work and have installed a second till to cope with the queues that had begun to form outside the door in busy periods. We are looking at ways to extend the range of services we offer including a paid for delivery and collection service which will appeal to our busier user clientele. At the moment I manage ZipYard with the help of one other but I will be recruiting additional customer facing staff to free me up to do more marketing and work on plans to open another ZipYard in the North West.


Customer stories “To Danuska with eternal thanks. You saved my day. It means so much more than words could ever say.” We frequently see brides who have bought a dress from the internet. On one occasion a woman came in to the centre in tears with a dress that fitted terribly – by the time we had finished she was parading up and down with a big smile on her face. Another customer spent over £400 altering her wardrobe after a successful diet, and an elderly lady brought in all of her clothes to be taken in - all bundled into storage boxes and carried up the high street to us. Nowadays very few people have the time or skill to mend their own clothes – and a lot of our work involves repairs - but even I was surprised when one of our regular customers brought in a pair of her son’s Y-fronts for us to fix a tear! For many of our customers we have become their personal tailors.

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24/12/2013 14:58

“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, Franchise Owner of Bournemouth

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30/09/2013 22:14

Income now Security for retirement More time, less stress

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24/12/2013 13:09

Practical Legal Advice to Business Buyers, Sellers and Movers We provide specialist commercial legal advice to SME and family business owners and entrepreneurs when buying, selling, growing or moving their company We add value to businesses owned by passionate people We do business law and restrict ourselves to buying, selling or moving businesses We don’t do divorce, personal injury or wills We do modern and not so formal We do fixed price and don’t charge by the minute or hour

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Ask us for our free guides 29/11/2013 18:29


A matter of trust

A business of any size will encounter its fair share of legal issues. Having the best possible support on-hand is therefore indispensable



s a business owner, the last thing you want on your plate is a potentially crippling lawsuit. Whilst most entrepreneurs will conduct their business within the parameters of the law, completely dismissing the possibility of legal action occurring somewhere down the line is a dangerous game indeed. Of course, it is a two-way street as far as legal matters are concerned. On the one hand, it is advisable to prepare for a person or organisation bringing a case against one’s enterprise, whether that be a supplier, customer or even an employee. On the other hand however, business owners may find themselves in a position where they have no option but to take a matter to the courts. It goes without saying that in each of these circumstances, having a quality lawyer on board is an absolute must.

(H)A matter of trust.indd 1


In fact, having access to solid legal advice from the very outset is nothing short of essential, despite the expense that it entails. “Sometimes entrepreneurs and business owners can fall into the trap of a false economy by not addressing legal issues properly and early enough,” explains Charles Glaskie, partner and head of the corporate group at law firm Gateley. “I recognise that, particularly for a start-up business, keeping constraints on any professional adviser fees is going to be important to begin with. But there will likely be legal issues to deal with and dealing with them properly will likely save money and improve the business in the future.” Essentially, everything that an enterprise does comes attached with legal ramifications. Acquiring the services of a seasoned practitioner of law early on will therefore pay significant dividends. “Right at the outset, before any business has really been done, you should be thinking about the key legal aspects of the general set-up,” Glaskie continues. “For example, if there are key contracts that

24/12/2013 17:52


the business is going to be entering into, they really should be taking legal advice and taking it proportionately according to the dynamics of the business at that time.” Lawyers are typically used to high-pressure courtroom battles so one could reasonably assume that an interview with a prospective client should be a walk in the park. However, an experienced practitioner will fully expect to have to give as good as they get in bidding to win the approval of an entrepreneur. That is not to suggest that probing questions are the order of the day though. As Glaskie asserts, the inquisitive lawyer is the one who deserves to be taken most seriously. “A lawyer who is simply intent on selling himself or herself and is quite happy to talk about themselves without much regard to the client’s business is probably not going to be a great bet,” he explains. “What the lawyer should be doing from the outset is asking lots of questions of the client to get that better understanding of his or her business. I think that is a very good indicator.” 94

“There is a big advantage in going to a large law firm that can provide that all-round commercial service” Charles Glaskie, partner and head of corporate, Gateley

Given the plethora of issues a business owner deals with on a daily basis, employing a lawyer with more than one string to their bow is advisable. Yet, Glaskie admits that a lawyer who specialises in more than a handful of fields is as rare as hen’s teeth. Therefore, in reality, it is not so much the individual, but the wider team of legal minds around that person, which is of significant interest. “It will be folly of me as a corporate lawyer to think I could give specialist service in relation to planning law if a client had a particular planning issue,” says Glaskie. “What we try to do is provide a service where the business will have a key relationship lawyer who they go to and will refer them to the various different specialist lawyers as and when required.” The alternative to the above is to employ different lawyers on a case-by-case basis. And while one could easily take Glaskie’s dismissal of this approach with a pinch of salt, it’s hard to deny the pitfalls it presents. “There is a big advantage in going to a large law firm that can provide that all-round commercial service,” he says. “You get the continuity and the consistency that you wouldn’t get if you were going to one individual for one aspect and engaging with another individual somewhere else. I don’t think that is a satisfactory arrangement, especially for a new and fledgling business.” Needless to say, there remains one last sticking-price: cost. The big guns certainly don’t come cheap, but as Glaskie reiterates, you get bang for your buck in this day and age. “To a certain extent, clients will get what they pay for,” he comments. “It is a very competitive marketplace and clients can play to that but at the same time they should want a quality service and I think lawyers are more likely to deliver that when there is a fair charging arrangement.” Like all appointments, the final decision will ultimately rest with the business owner. As appointments go though, this is certainly one not to be missed.

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Getting into bed with brands Sarah McVittie, co-founder, Dressipi

When it comes to scaling a business, partnerships are an attractive option, says Sarah McVittie, co-founder of Dressipi



(H)Start-up diary.indd 1

ne of the words you become familiar with very quickly when you enter the start-up community is ‘scale’. It’s the term used to describe the ability of a company to reach a vast number of consumers or users very quickly and is often the benchmark by which we measure the initial success of a start-up. For start-ups with venture capital-backing in particular, scale is the means by which you establish the leverage you need to turn your idea into revenue, whether that’s by advertising if you’re Facebook, subscriptions if you’re Spotify and so on. Yet there’s more than one way for a start-up to reach scale, and the one I want to talk about today is brand partnerships. These are incredibly important if, like us, you’re entering a mature market with lots of established brands who already have excellent relationships with their customer bases. It’s especially the case when your business model depends not so much on disrupting a market as solving a problem that limits its efficiency. In our case, that’s online fashion retailing. As we’ve explored in previous columns, Donna and I created Dressipi in order to solve a problem common to all women: finding the right thing to wear at the right time. We didn’t set out to change the fashion industry, but rather create a recommendation service that made locating and buying clothes from your favourite brand more efficient and personalised. To achieve this, we needed scale in the form of members who had completed our ‘fashion fingerprint’ and, to get them, we had to make a choice. We could either acquire them organically, which we knew would be a long and expensive process, or we could broker

“Dressipi had one thing from which we knew retailers would benefit: our recommendation service” partnerships with household name retailers that would give us access to the millions of women who used their websites every day. Happily, Dressipi had one thing from which we knew retailers would benefit: our recommendation service. Our technology’s ability to crunch whole inventories of clothes and compare them against the fashion fingerprint of individual shoppers to recommend suitable clothes for them offered retailers a powerful new tool for their websites. Instead of making shoppers scroll through pages and pages of garments looking for the right one for them, they could narrow down the selection to those that they could be sure would fit and flatter the wearer. Our response was to develop a version of Dressipi’s technology that could be seamlessly plugged into retailer websites, which is now on trial or in use on some of the UK’s biggest fashion retail websites. These are partnerships that have big benefits for the retailer and for us. The retailer gets vastly

improved recommendations on-site and can personalise the way it communicates with customers via regular email bulletins, leading to higher conversion rates, bigger basket sizes and lower return rates on online transactions. It also gets access to a wealth of data insight about its customer base (at an aggregate level). In return, Dressipi’s fashion fingerprint can be exposed to a significantly larger and wider range of consumers than we could reach organically. To give you an idea of the power of brand partnerships, at the start of 2013 we had the fashion fingerprints of around 250,000 women. Thanks to high profile partnerships with retailers such as eBay and M&S, we will start 2014 with close to a million.

24/12/2013 17:53

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