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JUNE 2013


Hubs are transforming the way we work


Laban Roomes goes from zero to hero with Goldgenie


Temporary stores may save our high streets



There’s never been any doubting Julie Deane’s fierce intelligence or unfaltering work ethic. But the transformation from full-time mum of two children and boxer dog Rupert to fashion entrepreneur and industry doyenne is one that took everyone by surprise – including her

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Inside this month... VOLUME 02 ISSUE 06 JUNE 2013

16 The Elite interview

Sudden stardom came as a shock to Julie Deane

09 Editor’s letter 10 Contributors 12 News in brief 13 Talking point 14 Book reviews 34 Covering your assets

Why business insurance is a worthwhile consideration for start-ups

38 Cash is king

The importance of effective cashflow management cannot be ignored

48 Beating the boycott

23 One to watch

TrialReach closes the gap twixt patients and new treatments

A calm and considered approach is key when faced with consumer protest

52 Temporary treasures

We profile the pop-ups that are revolutionising high-street retail

55 Refilling your skills

The problem of managing talent extends far beyond the upper echelons

59 One person, one vote

Democratising a workplace can ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction

62 The times they are a-changin’

27 Better connected

Innovation hubs are altering the business mindset

Being able to proactively court change is vital for any business

65 Tech for start-ups

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

71 Welcome to my domain

Drawing users into your lair doesn’t have to be a battle of wills

77 Tailor-made traffic

Making effective use of social media requires a smart strategy, says David Hathiramani

82 Paved with gold

43 The right deal?

Repeat trade is key when using a voucher website

Goldgenie founder Laban Roomes on his journey from homeless to household name

91 Forgotten friend

Health and safety is often used and abused at the expense of an employer

81 Franchise news 94 Classifieds 98 Start-up diary

June 2013



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VOLUME 02 ISSUE 06 JUNE 2013 SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager E: T: 01206 266859 Adam Reynolds – Account Manager E: T: 01206 266843 Richard Smith – Account Manager E: T: 01206 266844 EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor E: Adam Pescod– Feature Writer E: Josh Russell – Feature Writer E: Jon Card – Feature Writer E: Lindsey McWhinnie – Chief Sub-editor E: DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Designer E: T: 01206 266845 Clare Bradbury – Designer E: T: 01206 266845 Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager E: T: 01245 905805 CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager E: ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager E: T: 01206 266846 DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director E: Circulation/subscription UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: CE Media Limited T: 01206 266 842 Elite Business Magazine is published 12 times a year by CE Media Solutions Limited, Weston Business Centre, Hawkins Road, Colchester, Essex. CO2 8JX T: 01206 266 849 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 is at owner’s risk.

UK business needs more Julie Deanes Last September, I wrote a feature about the trend of onshoring manufacturing. UK firms were bringing operations back to Britain in swathes, leading to employment opportunities in factories and other industrial facilities. The Made in Britain brand had currency once more. One of British manufacturing’s most fervent supporters is this month’s cover star Julie Deane, founder of Cambridge Satchel Company. Ever since deciding that selling school satchels was the best way to raise money for school fees, Deane instinctively knew that she wanted to support UK industry. But her staunch support was truly tested when a Midlands-based manufacturer stole her ideas, her designs and even her material, and began making its own satchels. Despite this horrific breach of trust, Deane remains stoic, and Cambridge Satchel Company continues to outsource to five factories in Blighty as well as operating its own operation in Leicester. What’s more, the company’s newest factory will have space for apprentices and trainees to be coached and taught in the delicate art of bag making – an industry that could have quite easily died out with the dodo. UK business needs more Julie Deanes. Hell, the UK in general could do with more Julie Deanes. Ambitious, bright, warm, passionate and, importantly, ethical, Deane embodies all of the characteristics that go into building a great British brand. But above all else, Deane has continued to support the UK manufacturing industry despite experiences that could have made her want to build a fortress around her IP. She continues to battle on because, as she says, though her ideas can be copied, the passion and love behind the brand cannot. Amen to that.


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.

June 2013



Contributors JOSH RUSSELL

Elite Business’s answer to William Shakespeare gathered his quill and parchment this month to write us the analysis on business hubs, give us his pick of the UK’s top pop-ups and much more besides. All that writing means Russell works up a bit of an appetite. The sandwich enthusiast eats enough carbs to make the rest of the team feel fat by osmosis.


Aside from sharing his name with best-selling Narnia author CS Lewis, our talking head and regular columnist is the ICAEW’s head of enterprise, as well as being a contributor to publications such as the Daily Telegraph Business Club. This issue, Lewis tells us the six questions any respectable entrepreneur should be able to answer before getting started. On your marks, get set...



Given she’s on the brink of opening her second venue, Barron is taking the chance to draw breath while she can with a muchneeded family holiday. Her goals don’t end there though: this month she runs us through her plans to become a business mentor. If her sterling EB columns are anything to go by, her new mentees will be in very safe hands indeed.


Having achieved commercial success with his suit-selling business, Hathiramani has shown his philanthropic side by launching the A Suit For Success campaign. The scheme asks the public to donate suits that are then reused by people looking for work and has been patronised by celebs such as actor Allen Leech, style guru Gok Wan and DJ Scott Mills. As a thank you, A Suit That Fits is giving £50 vouchers to anyone who donates. What’s not to like? June 2013

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It’s hardly news to hear the ‘big four’ banks have had a difficult time of it since the financial crisis hit in 2008. But the full extent of quite how much trimming Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC have had to carry out has been revealed with the announcement that the firms have shed a combined 189,000 jobs in five years – 25% of their total workforce. Despite this, overall staffing costs, including salaries, bonuses and pensions, have fallen just 1%. Now, we’re hardly maths experts here, but…


Considering the current climate around financial services, it’s inevitable that there has been an increase in complaints of late. But news from the financial ombudsman service has revealed that the number of new cases it has taken on over the last year has leapt by 92% – with PPI mis-selling making up nearly three-quarters of complaints. Given that 508,881 new cases were opened in the last year, a record number for the service, it seems consumer trust is at an all-time low. It’s not a great time to graduate right now, as a survey by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit and shows that just three-fifths of graduates find employment within the first year of completing their degree. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Just 8.6% of those not in traditional employment are unemployed, as the number of graduates starting their own businesses climbed to 5%. Apparently we don’t work hard enough – at least according to a new survey from sock subscription service The June 2013

The Business Show June 6 – 7 ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock London E16 1XL

Given we’re living in a time of increased environmental awareness, statistics published published by waste and recycling experts that reveal four-fifths of UK businesses have no green policy in place and don’t make an effort to recycle. Given the weighty landfill tax of £72 per ton of waste, it’s surprising enterprises avoid making rudimentary changes that will quickly offer a very tangible ROI. It’s good sense, both ecologically and economically.

Business Junction – Networking Lunch June 13 Cinnamon Kitchen, 9 Devonshire Square London EC2M 4YL

Love Business Expo June 13 Harefield Manor Hotel, Main Road Romford RM1 3DL

Thames Valley Expo June 13 Royal Windsor Racecourse Maidenhead Road Windsor, SL4 5JJ

Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs are launching businesses from their bedrooms. A survey from freelance directory Freelancer. has reported a 34% increase in the number of businesses set up in the founder’s spare time. More than half of these were based in a bedroom; almost a quarter kicked off in a kitchen. It seems as though the entrepreneurial

Business Growth Show East Midlands Business Exhibition June 17 The National Space Centre Exploration Drive Leicester, LE4 5NS

Annette Shaff /

Payday lenders have come under fire from Citizens Advice for their lending practices, after a six-month survey conducted by the charity revealed that three-quarters of borrowers found it hard to repay the loans. Anecdotal cases of lending to under 18s, people with mental health issues or who were under the influence of alcohol has also earned the lenders flack. Already under severe pressure from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) – itself drawing criticism from MPs for its slow reactions – 50 payday lenders are facing an ultimatum: prove they’re practicing ethically or hit the road.


research found that British office workers are wasting years – and millions of pounds in lost productivity – on long lunches, chatting to friends and browsing the internet. We haven’t had a chance to verify this, however: we’ve been too busy playing Candy Crush.

bug is biting more people than ever and enterprise, like charity, begins at home. Google has become so intimately involved in defining the frontiers of the internet that it hardly comes as a surprise that the multinational giant has expressed an interest in widening the web’s reach. However, more astonishing are the methods they intend to employ. Aiming to connect another billion people in emerging markets such as Africa and southeast Asia, the corporation is teaming up with telecoms firms and equipment-providers to develop masts, satellites and remotecontrolled blimps.

Greater Manchester Business Fair June 18 Salford City Stadium, 1 Stadium Way Eccles M30 7EY Business Scene – Birmingham Connections June 19 7 Canon Street Birmingham, B2 5EP Prelude Group – LinkedIn Workshop June 20 Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square London EC1V 4JJ Speed Networking Events June 21 Level 33 Citigroup Building, 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5LB Business Junction – Networking Lunch June 26 The University Women’s Club, 2 Audley Square, London W1K 1DB Prelude Group – Scaling Your Business By Stepping Back & Succession Planning June 27 Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square London EC1V 4JJ

A full event listing is available on our website:


HIGH STREET SOS Some are predicting the death knell for high streets. Do Britain’s entrepreneurs have a part to play in ensuring their survival?


here is little denying that the traditional high street is slowly becoming a thing of the past, with some established retailers struggling to stay afloat amid changing consumer habits intrinsically linked to the growth of the online marketplace, as well as ever-increasing cost pressures. Indeed, a recent study from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) offered

some rather worrying estimates, namely that the total number of store numbers will fall by 22% over the course of the next five years, from 281,930 today to 220,000 in 2018. It went on to suggest that by that time job losses could hit 316,000, with 164 major or mediumsized companies going into administration, involving the loss of 22,600 stores and 140,000 employees. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is to


“Innovation is key” says Soula Zavacopoulos founder and creative director of The London Studio What online doesn’t have that the high street does, but doesn’t really embrace that well, is the opportunity to see people face-to-face. High-street retailers could really do a lot more than they are doing, mainly by holding events to draw people in. There are websites such as that are giving designers a place to sell their products and are a really good example of a popular online destination for people looking for something a little different. High-street shops should be doing that – they should be hunting out the cool new designers, because what often happens is that they are sticking to the big brands and trying to play it safe. But if they experimented a little and tried to differentiate themselves by having a different offering, they could do really great things. So, if the entrepreneur is a designer, coming out with innovative products is the key because people are looking for something a little bit different nowadays. If the entrepreneur is the shop-owner, they need to be hunting out those cool innovative products.

coincide with a predicted rise in the share of online retail sales from 12.7% to 21.5% in the same period. And, while the CRR has called for an injection of capital to the tune of £322m to help pave the way to a revitalised high street, we can’t help but feel that our business tycoons have a role to play as well. To that end, what can our entrepreneurs do to help save our struggling high streets?

“Harness creativity” says Jean Walker SME business services partner at SAS Daniels LLP Entrepreneurs need to work with what’s already there – for most high streets this means larger organisations, both public and private sector. The great thing about start-ups and entrepreneurs is that they are agile, and can cut through red tape. By partnering with bigger operations, whether that’s chain retailers, local education providers, the NHS or councils, entrepreneurs can help make trading easier. Entrepreneurs need to harness their creativity – the high street of old has gone as people shop out of town or online – so we need to be thinking more about how the high street can be a destination in its own right, and thinking less about keeping it a poor copy of big out-of-town developments or Amazon. That could be seasonally focused pop-up shops, such as school uniforms in June to September to more festive retailers in the run up to Christmas, local reward schemes tied in to independent businesses, or encouraging local organisations.

June 2013



The Elite read Ten Types of Innovation; the discipline of building breakthroughs Larry Keeley, Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn and Helen Waters


Innovation is one of those phrases – it’s become something akin to cliched business-stock, like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘synergy’. In part, this is because it’s something more often talked about than understood, as though it’s an incantation that if uttered enough will come to pass. Fortunately, Ten Types of Innovation helps remove the witch-doctory from the pursuit of innovation and gives a clear schema for understanding how to practically approach it in modern enterprise. Building from their definitions of the ten types of innovation – profit model, network, structure, process, product performance, product system, service, channel, brand, customer engagement – the authors detail working examples of brands and businesses that have employed combinations of these factors to turn their respective industries upside down.

Other nice touches include the ‘innovation playbook’ that dissects different approaches and the forms of innovation that drive them. However, perhaps appropriately for a book on innovation, the most pleasing thing about Ten Types of Innovation is the fresh way it presents its subject. The artwork is beautiful throughout, the simple infographics and visual information forming an excellent companion to the subject matter. It crowns an effective and engaging approach to the subject. JR Ten Types of Innovation; the discipline of building breakthroughs, published by Wiley, is out now and retails at £19.99

Business Behaving Well; social responsibility, from learning to doing Edited by Ron Elsdon

It is widely accepted that far from being mere profit-making machines, contemporary businesses have more widely engaged with the social responsibility agenda. While return on investment remains top of the agenda for company shareholders, a changing global landscape driven by social media and ethical values has put broader stakeholder needs in the spotlight. To that end, Business Behaving Well is a fairly timely piece of literature, with editor Ron Elsdon leading from the front in his assertion that organisations of all guises have a role to play in narrowing the societal equality gap, particularly in his own American homeland. June 2013

Naturally, though, Elsdon is quick to assert that his recommendations, and those of fellow contributors, hold as much credence for other countries as they do the United States. And from Richard Vicenzi’s essay on understanding and assessing corporate social responsibility (CSR) to Deborah LeVeen’s reflections on the role of healthcare in this domain, Business Behaving Well serves as a useful and digestible how-to CSR guide for the modern entrepreneur. AP Business behaving well; social responsibility, from learning to doing, published by Potomac Books, is out now and retails at £18.99

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Julie Deane started selling satchels as a means of making schools fees. Much to her amazement, six years later she is the owner of a multi-million pound business and is a new addition to the fashion world’s inner circle



ashion was never really my thing,” admits Julie Deane, founder of Cambridge Satchel Company. “I always liked a classic look – I’m not a crazy out-there fashionista type of person.” Yet, last year Deane was named as one of the fashion elite after making it on to the highly prestigious Drapers’ Power List, and her bags have been coveted by TV presenters, models and actresses alike – on both sides of the Atlantic. Deane didn’t exactly follow the career trajectory of your average fashionista, either. Growing up as an only child in Llanelli, on the south-west coast of Wales, Deane buried her head in books to achieve her ultimate goal of securing a place at an Oxbridge university. She passed her A-levels with flying colours – a year ahead of schedule, no less – and took her place at Gonville and Caius College, the University of Cambridge, in 1983 to read natural sciences. While Deane tried to immerse herself into academic life, there was trouble brewing back home. Her father was seriously ill, and in her first year of university he underwent a triple heart bypass. She left two years later with a second class degree – a disappointment the ever-ambitious Deane attributes to the stress of her father’s illness. A glittering career in consultancy beckoned and Deane worked at Deloitte, initially in Swansea to stay close to her parents. A stint in the US followed after Deane met her husband, an American, on his inaugural European visit. “I was worried afterwards when he went on business trips and always said to him, ‘On your first business trip outside of the US, you found a wife. You’ve got to stop that habit,’” she laughs. Despite enjoying her career and carving out friendships in Rockford, near Chicago, Deane missed the motherland. Her father’s health continued to deteriorate and after two years the couple returned to the UK. “It was very difficult and I did get incredibly homesick. That’s why we ended up coming back.” June 2013


“Every time I’d phone, if nobody answered the phone I wouldn’t just assume they’d gone out to supermarket or something. I’d think something was wrong with my dad. And I was so far away that I didn’t know what was going on. It was too much of a strain.” Deane and husband Kevin began looking for jobs in the UK and, to her delight, Deane saw a role advertised at Gonville and Caius, her college at Cambridge. “It was establishing the development office, setting up alumni relations and also a college appeal,” she explains. Much to her surprise, she was offered the job, and the couple relocated back to Cambridge. Deane got stuck in immediately: initiating an entirely new function meant she was able to flex both her creative and entrepreneurial muscles. She had to devise innovative ways of raising money for the college and one scheme involved making casts of the gargoyles at the college that were then sold as garden ornaments and book-ends. After five years at the university, Deane became pregnant with her daughter, Emily, who is now 14, and she took the decision to be a full-time mum. Emily was followed by Max, now 11, three years later, and Deane looks back on her children’s formative years with a great amount of affection. As the children became older and increasingly independent, Deane began considering going back to work. “But I didn’t have a deadline at all, so it wasn’t something I immediately pursued or did anything about,” she says. But then she was given the impetus she needed when she discovered Emily was being bullied.

“When things go a bit pear-shaped, you have to find the grit to work through it, because there will be something fantastic waiting for you”

June 2013




“There had been a situation at school where she hadn’t known who the characters in Eastenders were because we don’t watch much TV. Or, because, as a family, we enjoy gardening, and she’d talk about it at school. They were just stupid things but they made her a little bit different and these girls picked up on this.” The situation came to a head after a particularly aggressive encounter with the bullies. “She had been chased until she fell over and then she had been kicked on the floor by a group of children,” Deane recalls. “She hadn’t fought back, and she hadn’t done anything about it because she was frightened it would make things worse.” For Deane, this was the point of no return. She informed her daughter she wouldn’t return to that school after the summer holidays and found a local private school she felt would suit Emily perfectly. But that meant she would need to find two sets of school fees. “I couldn’t send her and not Max because if you’ve got children you treat them all the same and give them the same chances and opportunities.” Procuring £24,000 a year for tuition fees was going to be no mean feat, so Deane drew up a list entitled ‘Things Julie can do to make school fees’. She had her incentive at last. One of the items on the list was selling school satchels. “I had tried to find satchels about four or five months before that when it was a birthday time, because I don’t like things that wear out, look shabby or have some kind of motif on them,” she explains. “I don’t like the whole faddy thing.” The style of the satchel also coincided well with the huge popularity of Harry Potter, so Deane felt she would have a captive audience. She located a factory in the north of England which had been a one-time manufacturer of satchels, but the owner had become convinced that they were no longer popular items. Deane put it an order for just three as she was working to a very strict budget of £600 – the fee she’d earned organising a medical conference. Once the first three ‘perfect’ satchels arrived, Deane snapped her children using the bags, and used the photographs on marketing material. But Deane realised she would have to reach a larger audience if she were to make a big success of the company – and most importantly,

“My mum said, ‘I don’t have the money for school fees, but I’m fit and healthy and I’ll work on this every single day to make sure it succeeds’” June 2013

raise enough money for fees. She would have to flog her satchels online. “I’d never built a website, but now it’s so easy. You can buy all of these templates to help, though I don’t think they existed when I started five years ago.” Once more, the aspiring entrepreneur buried her head in the books and completed a free Microsoft course on website building over the course of two evenings. On the third, once the children were tucked up in bed, she set to building the website. And so it began. Orders started to trickle through but Deane continued to run the business from her kitchen table with the aid of her beloved mother. “Any time there was a new colour or a new size, we’d take the product shots with my mum holding a white sheet on a garden table outside,” she smiles. “Then I’d go inside and crop out the background and replace it with a completely white background, and then load it up on to the website.” Deane’s relationship with her mother, Freda, has been fundamental to the business’s success, she says. “From the start, when I was making my list of ten things, my mum said, ‘I don’t have the money for school fees but I’m fit and healthy and I’ll work on this every single day to make sure it succeeds and do whatever needs to be done.’” And she’s been true to her word. Every day of the week, despite her advancing years, Deane’s mother is at Cambridge Satchel Company mucking in, turning her hand to various tasks.


It’s only right, therefore, that Freda has been able to share in the company’s success. When Deane was invited to Downing Street for tea with Samantha Cameron (as part of a prize for winning the accolade of becoming one of Red magazine’s Red Hot Women of the Year in 2011), her mother was the obvious candidate to accompany her. “And she’ll be coming with me to Buckingham Palace to get our Queen’s Award this summer, too,” beams Deane. There is no doubting Deane and Freda’s remarkable work ethic has got the business to where it is today. Now a veritable empire, the business has over 90 employees and turns over more than £1m a month. The company opened its first brick and mortar store in Covent Garden in February this year, with another planned this summer. In order to keep pace with demand, 900 bags are made every day of

“It’s hard… maybe I just expect people to be more honest and ethical than they really are” the week for Cambridge Satchel Company, either within its own Leicester-based factory, or at one of the five other UK manufacturers Deane continues to outsource to. Deane believes it’s very important to support UK manufacturing – even if her patience has been truly tested in the past. Last year, Cambridge Satchel Company (CSC) finally settled a long-running dispute with a former manufacturer after Deane discovered its directors had stolen designs, and even material, from CSC and begun making its own bags. “We unearthed the ultimate in rotten apples when we came across that company,” said Deane. “It shook me and it shook everybody in the business because we didn’t think this man was any different from the others who we had worked with. There were no telltale signs, there were no warning lights.” The case was eventually settled out of court, which came as an enormous relief to the entrepreneur, who struggled to come to terms with what had happened. Still, the old adage about silver linings rang true here, too: having once worked with partners on the basis of a handshake, Cambridge Satchel Company now has absolutely watertight agreements in place with all of the factories it works with to ensure the same cannot happen again. Yet, this is one instance where the ‘proverb’ imitation is the greatest form of flattery’ doesn’t stand up. Deane is constantly battling against the rising tide of rip-off satchel companies. “Just last week, I found out that a director of one of

our manufacturers has gone off to incorporate a bag brand and has hired a former member of our trade staff.” “It is hard,” she admits. “Maybe I just expect people to be more honest and ethical than they really are.” It’s not just the imitation bag businesses that have sprung up in CSC’s wake, either. There are also other dodgy websites claiming to be selling satchels that pop up for a few months, and then disappear before fulfilling orders – leaving behind angry, bagless consumers. “Last September, there were 311 fake Cambridge Satchel Company websites on the internet,” Deane says, stoically. And the entrepreneur is taking a stand. CSC has teamed up with US technology provider MarkMonitor to take down these fake websites. “I don’t want people who are looking for the real thing to fall foul of some fraudulent website,” she says. Not that policing the internet should necessarily be her job. “The internet needs proper policing. They wouldn’t let a shop open up on Oxford Street and call itself Gucci and sell Gucci knock-offs. That’s not something they’d allow to happen. But on the internet people can do it so easily.” Still, Deane remains steadfast in her belief in the power of the brand. It’s certainly true that CSC loyal followers – fashion bloggers, editors and the like – have remained unwaveringly by the side of the company that Deane conjured from her kitchen table. Her bags are now sold in 120 countries and are

stocked by the global retailing elite, including Bloomingdales in New York, Harvey Nichols in Dubai, and Harrods and Selfridges in London. Deane says consumers have an affinity with the brand. This was, of course, helped by the Google Chrome advert that first aired on TV during last year’s X-Factor. “They did such an amazing job,” she gushes. “Cambridge Satchels is like my third child; it just means so much to me and I couldn’t see any of what the advert was going to look like until a week before it actually aired. “I’d go and talk to them about the brand and they came to the kitchen and I gave them the footage and so on. I just kept thinking, ‘I really hope they get it’. Because we’re not a big corporate, and it’s a story with so much heart.” She was not disappointed. “When I actually saw the advert, I was sitting there with Jeff, who works in our office, and both of us had tears running down our faces. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the advertising agency behind it, totally got it.” The Google Chrome advert certainly signalled a seachange in Cambridge Satchel Company’s fortunes. With the court case behind them, Deane could look forward to a brighter and bag-filled future. But it’s not always been easy, she says. “There are so many points at which it would have been easier to give up. It’s not the very smooth, exciting, easy ride it looks in our one-minute Google Chrome advert.” “There have been huge struggles along the way,” she says. “But it’s not about what bad things happen to you, it’s how you bounce back from those things. It’s like the darkness before the dawn: when things go a bit pear-shaped, you have to find the grit to work through it, because there will be something fantastic waiting for you.”

June 2013



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The clinical trialling of medicines can represent a huge stall in their journey to market. Fortunately, clinical trial search engine TrialReach has stepped in to suture up the gap



z Company CV

Name: TrialReach Founded by: Pablo Graiver, Dr Jessica Mann, Dr Eithan Ephrati Founded in: 2009 Team: 15

June 2013



rialReach’s co-founder and CEO Pablo Graiver is certainly no stranger to the world of medicine. “In another life, I think I would have been a doctor or a genetic engineer,” he says. His interest in healthcare began at a young age; during high school in his home country of Argentina, he would visit TrialReach’s other founder and Pablo Graiver, CEO, TrialReach lifelong friend Dr Jessica Mann at her place of work. “I used to go to the hospital and hang out with the resident doctors with her,” Graiver recalls. This interest even motivated him to study biology at university, although it wasn’t long before he realised his talents were more entrepreneurial than Aesculapian, and he quickly switched to a business degree. After he graduated, Graiver spent several years working at an international trading company but he quickly found he had entrepreneurial stirrings that couldn’t be satisfied by his position there. “I started thinking of these ideas and projects, even without having any funding, training or network,” he explains. “I had to research and work on my own; there was no Wikipedia and off-theshelf software that you could use.” The hard work clearly paid off, however. Graiver’s first product Codium – which he describes as “a kind of precursor to Google Checkout” – began to attract some significant attention, including a commitment of €3.5m from one of Spain’s biggest banks and a prospective deal with US-based First Data Corporation. While the deal didn’t come to fruition, the product – and Graiver – eventually became a part of a much wider offering: the internet business incubator NetJuice.



It was in his role as the firm’s e-commerce expert that first brought the entrepreneur into contact with his next big project, an e-commerce directory. “I started managing a project called Donde Comprar – which translates to something like ‘where to buy’,” says Graiver. Before long, Graiver began to look to boost growth through mergers and acquisitions and struck a deal with new enterprise Kelkoo in March 2001. At which point, the dotcom bubble burst. Fortunately, joint-venture Kelkoo – operating under the smaller firm’s name – bucked the trend of businesses going under and, by June of that year, had netted €35m of funding to help it to achieve its aim of becoming the biggest shopping site in Europe. “After a year and a half, we were a company with 150 people in 12 countries,” he says. Eventually, Kelkoo itself was acquired by Yahoo for $575m in 2004, leaving Graiver room to draw breath and consider his options. The entrepreneur’s family were very keen to relocate and it became clear that New York or London would be the best fit. “Both my wife and I are from Argentina but we’re more Anglo-Saxon in mentality, I think,” laughs Graiver. After visiting Richmond and falling in love with it, the entrepreneur moved to the London borough, where he and his family remain to this day.

Kayak retook the reigns, feeling that it could continue to manage the relationships Graiver had initiated. “I think, as friend of mine says, I kind of sold myself out of a job on that one,” he jokes. After leaving Kayak and a brief – but ill-advised – flirtation with corporate life, Graiver began looking to new entrepreneurial ideas. And among a glut of different concepts, one stood head and shoulders above the rest: the venture that would become TrialReach. Given his background and interest in medicine, you would be forgiven for thinking that maybe a venture in the digital healthcare sector was inevitable. However, the entrepreneur admits it wasn’t something that had previously crossed his mind. “I was always very interested in healthcare and science in general but never thought I could have done anything in this space,” he comments. It was in fact co-founder Mann, knowing of his lifelong interest in the medical sector, who suggested he look into it. However, given Graiver was neither scientist nor doctor, he felt he wasn’t particularly well-placed to contribute much to the field – until his friend pointed out that many of the problems that needed to be addressed weren’t scientific in nature: they were logistical. He explains, “Very candidly, Jessica said that the biggest problem in the pharmaceutical industry was not medical: it was actually finding people for clinical trials.” This sparked something for both of them. The first step the pair took was to establish what would be required from a service that put patients in contact with drugs trials. “We spent 12 months with stakeholders and people from the industry,” says Graiver. “Anyone from nurses, doctors, CEOs of biotech companies, project managers, advocacy groups, regulators and, of course, patients: everybody who had a stake in clinical research.” Running these consultancy sessions helped the entrepreneurs ensure that their solution truly catered to the needs of the community they were representing. Ultimately, community forms the core of TrialReach. The tech solution enables individual patients to seek out trials near them and approach a heavily regulated and clinical process in a much more open

“I was always very interested in healthcare and science in general, but never thought I could do anything in this space” It wasn’t long before Graiver found a new pet project. A productive year working in partnership with Accel Partners brought the US flight comparison site Kayak to Graiver’s attention. “Kayak was looking to set up offices in the UK and find somebody to lead that international expansion,” he explains. After meeting with the founders, Graiver was chosen as the right person for the job. Graiver has fond memories of his time with the enterprise. “The rollout was an amazing experience,” he says. Closing deals with all of the major airlines and making Kayak the first price comparison site to sign a deal with EasyJet, Graiver did such an effective job he in fact engineered his own obsolescence. June 2013


“IT’S ABOUT HELPING NORMAL PEOPLE FIND, UNDERSTAND AND EVENTUALLY ACCESS TREATMENTS THAT ARE UNDER DEVELOPMENT” and human way. Rather than replicating the jargon-heavy approach that often surrounds pharmaceutical development, TrialReach is about bridging the gap between new treatments and the public that needs them. “It’s about helping normal people find, understand and eventually access treatments under development,” Graiver explains. And this has a knock-on effect for the healthcare community as a whole. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Graiver. “The more companies that use the platform to reach patients, the more patients can benefit from that and the more patients come into the pool.” The process has a mutual benefit for all involved; not only does it help pharmaceutical firms speed up slower trial processes by addressing the shortfall of patients, but it also means the successful treatments can be accessed sooner by the general populace. Which is reflected in the fact that it’s not just big pharma firms that are eager to support the growing enterprise, despite the fact it’s a difficult time for securing series A funding. “Companies who have seed funding are struggling very much to raise the second round that’s so critical,” says Graiver. “But we saw that all of our metrics and key performance indicators were going in the right direction.” And they clearly weren’t the only ones that noticed; a new round led by Octopus Investments in May this year netted the enterprise an additional £2m of funding. So where will this round of funding take TrialReach? Is it in the process of trialling any of its own experimental new solutions? According to Graiver, it’s less about reinventing the wheel and more about building on the business’s already rude health. “This is about optimising everything and growing,” says Graiver. “We are starting to dedicate a lot more time to close partnerships, strategic alliances, with other websites that basically deal with health issues and patients.” The future is definitely bright for the tech firm. Opening up clinical trialling to a wider community of patients is changing the way we approach pharmaceutical development. Not to mention guaranteeing TrialReach a robust market position for many a year to come.

June 2013




INNOVATION ECOLOGY ClubRooms Warnford Court

Coworking and innovation hubs are rapidly changing the way entrepreneurs work together. But the really interesting thing is how they are altering the way we view the business environment as a whole



t’s undeniable that our approach to working environments is changing. You only have to look at employers like Google or Silicon Roundabout success story Mind Candy to see that employers are attempting to approach space and innovation in a different manner. While, at points in the last decade, home working was touted as being the future of how we would work, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this isolated, asocial method of working is somewhat counterintuitive. “Caged animals are not very healthy – why are we any different?” asks Olly Olsen, co-CEO of office provider The Office Group and shared working space ClubRooms. “Why aren’t we in a big social environment with lots of other animals and seeing what else is happening on this planet?” Coworking spaces and innovation hubs have sprung up to help us do this, keeping us in contact with each other and connected with the ideas. Olsen believes that, in part,

what sparked the coworking movement was a desire to regain the value of this natural social connection. Additionally, tech firms in cities such as New York were finding they had over-expanded and had additional real estate they weren’t making use of. “What did they do with their space?” asks Olsen. “They let it to their friends: they all decided to work together and make salads together, calling it coworking.” Since then, and with the help of offerings such as eOffice, the HUB and Central Working, the coworking scene has exploded. From small, creative-focused outlets and fashion workshops right through to internationally networked business centres, coworking environments are radically changing the way we work. But given our existing business structures seem to have pottered along just fine for the best part of a century, it may seem hard to imagine why the last decade has suddenly seen such an epic shift.

June 2013



Jenni Lloyd,

strategy director at NixonMcInnes


“It’s a representation of a way in which work needs to change in order to address the wider forces of the world outside,” explains Jenni Lloyd, strategy director at social business, innovation and digital culture agency NixonMcInnes. Originally coined by the American Military in the 1990s, the acronym VUCA was intended to describe the increasingly capricious forces affecting organisations in the modern world: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Lloyd feels this provides an excellent framework to understand why, suddenly, confidence in the old way of doing things has begun to evaporate. She continues, “In that environment, the structures that we’ve had in place for work generally aren’t best placed to perform effectively.” And this is perhaps business’s worst kept secret. “The World Economic Forum four years ago said that growth for growth’s sake was done,” comments Araceli Camargo, qualified neuroscientist and co-founder of innovation and coworking space The Cube London. Given that unequivocal growth has had its day, a lot of businesses are starting to find themselves with problems they aren’t entirely sure how to solve. “We’re starting to get a lot of businesses that are coming to us asking for us to answer those questions because they’re facing problems that they don’t even know yet how to identify.” Perhaps this is why coworking spaces and innovation hubs have so firmly caught the imagination of the corporate world. The lines

“It’s a representation of a way in which work needs to change in order to address the wider forces of the world outside” Jenni Lloyd, NixonMcInnes

The Cube London June 2013

The Cube London

between coworking environments and incubators are becoming increasingly blurred as the corporate world recognises the value of collaborative working; some of the brightest examples of the UK’s tech incubators are those that embrace and make the most of coworking. And this attitude is what keeps the heart of London’s tech scene, Silicon Roundabout, beating. Built into the DNA of hubs such as Wayra and Google Campus London is a belief in the power of collaboration and coworking for driving innovation and supporting a new generation of building. “I’ve worked in very large organisations in the past and lived in silos,” comments Brian Taylor, CEO and founder at PixelPin, the cyber-security company that allows users to use personal pictures to replace passwords. “What I’ve found out having to moved to London is that within this tech scene people are very happy to provide feedback, help, support or point you in the right direction.” PixelPin is just one of the many organisations that has passed through the doors of Telefonica’s Wayra. Another, Qudini, has learned first hand how invaluable this sort of collaborative environment can be. “It was really helpful to be next to people who all seemed to be going through the same things at the same time,” says Imogen Wethered, the virtual queue management start-up’s co-founder. “That was great; you can always just turn around and ask someone a question.” But it would be misguided to assume coworking’s only function is to serve as a stepping stone on the way to creating a new generation of isolated, incommunicative businesses. Indeed, some of the recent poor health of UK enterprise can be attributed to excessive siloisation and the creation of overly isolated, incestuous communities.


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“This isn’t about solving a problem with real estate or even necessarily the way people work,” says Camargo. “This is solving a problem about how we go back anthropologically to the beginning and create communities that are healthy.” A natural approach is what is needed and places such as members’ club Adam Street are about much more than creating a space for corporate types to bat around a few ideas. “Most innovation comes from mixing people with different skills,” says James Minter, founder and general manager of Adam Street. “Although it’s an amazing melting pot of different ideas, professions, races and all sorts of things, most people in London seem to hang out where they’re surrounded by people who are exactly the same as them.” The opportunity to rub shoulders with people from different walks of life and with different ways of addressing problems is what makes coworking spaces so effective for innovating and creating new solutions to problems. “There are a lot of people who come into that environment and end up meeting people that they wouldn’t have met before or being introduced to ideas that they wouldn’t have had before,” says Lloyd. And

this helps create a much more well-rounded approach to innovation. “Diversity brings strength to what they’re doing.” Coworking spaces, more than anything else, are about bringing this sense of diversity of community. The HUB – one of the world’s largest communities, innovation lab and business incubator with some 43 HUBs in 37 cities around the globe – has community built into its very core. “When people want to open a HUB, we always make sure they have a community behind them,” says Maria Trindade, general manager of the HUB Kings Cross. Internationally, the HUBs are networked; members can cross collaborate and support each other no matter what their location. But the seed from which each HUB grows is a pool of individuals innovating and working as a collective. “We get the community to animate themselves,” she explains. “That’s the way we grow.” Perhaps the most interesting thing, however, is what happens next. Although most HUBs begin with the same genesis, they have the autonomy to develop in the manner that best suits the needs of the projects and innovators operating within them. “They

“These communities are now turning into ecosystems. They are almost going through a biological evolution – and that is what’s really interesting” Araceli Camargo, co-founder of The Cube London.

ClubRooms Warnford Court June 2013

ClubRooms Euston

have different approaches according to the needs of the different community,” comments Trindade. Ultimately, each HUB is shaped over time by the people within it. “The environment you work in becomes a reflection of the community.” And this is a vital metaphor for understanding the coworking movement. It’s not a product of economic forces but a product of ecological ones. When a diverse range of individual innovators and entrepreneurs are able to act freely within a larger, self-regulating system, they are free to develop, not as dictated by external regulation, but by the requirements and needs of their environment. “These communities are now turning into ecosystems,” reveals Camargo. “They are almost going through a biological evolution – and that is what’s really interesting.” Given the aformentioned VUCA criteria, it isn’t hard to understand why an international economic model led by ecological diversity might be a useful development. And because they aren’t subject to the same risks as some of the bigger organisations, the individuals working in these environments can innovate without being hampered by risk aversion. “The diversity of these communities, the diversity of skills and the camaraderie of these communities are allowing for that type of cognition to happen because there’s no competition,” says Camargo. “It’s all about how you work at it together.” Particularly when entrepreneurs and innovators are acting as individual and autonomous cells, adapting and dealing


“You’re surrounded by people, your problemsolving process is a bit quicker, because you swap theories” Maria Trindade, general manager of the

HUB Kings Cross

with the requirements of their environment becomes much more immediate and intuitive. “You’re surrounded by people; your problemsolving process is a bit quicker, because you swap theories,” explains Trindade. “You can avoid making the same mistakes people have already made.” There are, of course, inevitable questions that have been raised around this movement. Monetisation is one such area that, for some individuals, is something of a question mark. “Until we can prove that this is a viable business model, I’m not convinced that everyone in this sector is making money from it,” comments The Office Group’s Olsen. However, it does seem inevitable, with crowdfunding and crowdsourcing seeing an increasing engagement of the public with enterprise, that finding revenue to support these projects may become less reliant on traditional capital models. But perhaps a bigger question is, with such a proliferation of highly adaptive micro-organisms, should some of the bigger beasts be feeling somewhat worried that their ecological niche is being eroded? There may be some cause for worry. NixonMcInnes’s Lloyd refers to an infographic that has been circulated recently, demonstrating how the lifespan of a Fortune 500 company has decreased over the last 100 years, with the corporations having far less time in the sun. “Those bigger companies don’t have the tenure that they used to,” she says. “Presumably because you can have smaller, newer, more flexible and more organic

entrants into the market and they can grow and challenge at speeds that would have been unthought of some time ago.” Camargo agrees that we’ve seen the popularity of high-inertia enterprises wane. “No one’s building monolithic structures anymore,” she says. Even among the traditional incubators there is a recognition that building weighty organisations isn’t the best model for sustainable growth. “They’re saying they’re no longer wanting to set up these big VCs because the money has run out,” she explains. “They want to start incubating small businesses and really make them sustainable.” However, viewing things in apocalyptic terms really isn’t appropriate. While coworking spaces are handling talent and innovation in ways that can easily out-adapt the megafauna of our economic ecosystem, their purpose is not necessarily to compete with other entities. In ecological terms, the phrase that sums up the relationship between these smaller organisms and their larger brethren isn’t competition: it’s mutualism. Mutualism is a form of symbiosis in which both organisms mutually benefit from their relationship. It has held some currency in economic and social circles ever since the explosion of mutual funds and cooperatives in the 19th century, but, with the recent rise of socially driven marketplaces, peer-to-peer lending and skills-pooling websites, interest in these ideas has exploded. This new tech-driven movement has been dubbed by Sara Horowitz, MacArthur Fellowship recipient and founder


ClubRooms Marylebone

and executive director of US-based Freelancers Union, as ‘new mutualism’. And this is the phenomenon driving the changing attitudes embodied by the coworking movement. There is a dawning realisation that, because all enterprises and individuals are affected by the health of the economy, what is in the interest of individual innovators, enterprises or projects is also in the interest of the ecosystem as whole. “That’s what’s interesting about these communities in working with businesses,” explains Camargo. “Essentially, I think we’re all starting to realise that with these problems we’re all in it together.” Ultimately, this is the point we’re at. While individual organisations may have to compete for a niche, the more evolutionary diversity we have in our business ecosystem, the better placed we are to survive. And, as with any microorganisms, the networked entrepreneurs of coworking and innovation spaces are able to diversify in ways unimaginable by their larger cousins. The health of our ecosystem has never looked stronger.

June 2013



A PRICE WORTH PAYING Business insurance may not always rank highly on a startup’s checklist, but leaving it on the back burner is a dangerous game indeed



uilding one’s own enterprise from scratch is a risky business, but that risk is generally mitigated by the anticipation of seeing your grand idea come to fruition. However, it may still come as a surprise that when an entrepreneur invests everything they have into simply getting their new business off the ground, he or she often overlooks the thing that could one day save them from a potentially crippling law suit. Indeed, even those who work in the vast insurance sector admit that business insurance is not top of the agenda for the majority of start-ups whose ultimate interest is ploughing money into the components required to engender a successful launch, and keep the numbers ticking over in the early stages. June 2013


“Insurance is not the most exciting part of setting up a new business,” concedes Deborah Reid, commercial director of business insurance price comparison supplier Simply Business. “When people are starting a business, they are thinking of lots of different things: how they can get customers, sell their products, whatever it may be, and insurance is just one of those things that features a bit too far down the list for a lot of new businesses.” Given that employers’ liability insurance is the only type of cover a business owner is legally obliged to have from the offset, perhaps we could forgive our average Joe start-up for not looking beyond the essential when it comes to insurance. But the more clued-up entrepreneur will – or should – recognise that as much faith as they may have in their project, it is probably worth setting aside a little bit more capital to protect it in the event of an unforeseen or unfortunate occurrence. While the types of insurance required essentially depend to some extent on the specific nature of one’s business, there are two that appear to be of particular relevance and importance to the majority of SMEs. “Most small businesses will buy public liability insurance,” explains Reid. “The risks that it will protect against will vary depending on the type of business you are, but in essence public liability insurance protects you in case someone sues you if they have been injured or had their property damaged because of your business.” Essentially then, it covers any business that comes into contact with third parties at any point in time. Granted, there are not many businesses for whom public liability insurance would not be a consideration, and it would seem a venture has more to lose than it has to gain by not taking out this type of cover. “Let’s imagine somebody has been injured as a result of the work the business has done,” says

“The potential financial consequences of not having insurance can be quite severe”


Deborah Reid, Simply Business

Reid. “The risk it is taking is that it would be personally responsible or liable for the compensation that was due to that person. It is rare but we have seen instances where, even for very small businesses, the injured party makes claims that go into the millions, so the potential financial consequences of not having insurance can be quite severe.” The same applies to our service-providing start-ups, with professional indemnity insurance identified as a “very strong should-have” by Chris Lennon, head of the Bristol office for the privately owned global brokering firm Lockton Companies. Lennon explains that, while not a legal requirement, SMEs will often be contractually obliged to have the necessary level of both professional indemnity or public liability cover in place, with the former protecting against claims of negligence with regards to advice given or services rendered. “Wherever you have an SME that is dealing with a larger organisation or a government body, or indeed a local authority, their own insurances require every sub-contractor that works for them to carry the same level of cover,” he says. Beyond the two ‘biggies’, however, there is a plethora of other investment-worthy insurances available to SMEs, subject to what assets an enterprise has at its disposal, and how riskaverse a personality is at the company’s helm.

Deborah Reid,

commercial director of Simply Business

Chris Lennon, head of the Bristol office of Lockton Companies

June 2013


“Having the appropriate insurance effectively gives them access to a team of experts – because that is what they are really buying when they buy an insurance policy” Deepak Soni, Hiscox


Deepak Soni, head of Direct Commercial at Hiscox UK

Buildings and contents insurance sit atop a list that could also include directors and officers liability insurance, key man insurance, business interruption cover and more besides. It is all starting to stack up, you may think, but the value of an insurance policy doesn’t simply lie in the protection it offers. Fundamentally, it also provides access to a welcome pool of support, suggests Deepak Soni, head of Direct Commercial at Hiscox UK. “If you think of a business that starts up, they are not going to have infinite resources, from a financial perspective, but they are also going to have finite resources in terms of people they can turn to. Having the appropriate insurance effectively gives them access to a team of experts – because that is what they are really buying when they buy an insurance policy – to help guide them through that process [a claim] and take away some of that pain.” This is by no means to suggest an SME shouldn’t sneer at the additional cost that business insurance imposes on the business, but there are facilities available to ensure they are not left feeling too hard done by when shopping around for a quote. Whether it’s taking on the expertise of an insurance broker, trawling a price comparison website, or directly approaching a trusted insurer, an SME can generally rest assured that their own interests are catered for. “I think there are businesses out there today that feel they need a broker’s expertise to place their insurance, as they may have some form of complex needs or the products they need to purchase are not catered for by their direct market,” reflects Soni. “However, equally, I know many small businesses who feel there is readily available information online, they have an accountant who has also perhaps given them a steer of the type of covers they need to consider, and, therefore, they are able to go online and make a bit more of an informed purchase directly with an insurer.” And, while a comparison website is regarded by some as a sanctuary for the price-conscious June 2013

business owner, the attraction of portals such as Simply Business appears to lie in the range and breadth of service they offer the entrepreneur. “We have a bit of a halfway house in that we have a contact centre as well, so, for those customers who come to Simply Business who aren’t comfortable about making these decisions online, we are able to offer them a more supportive service,” explains Reid. “I like to think that is the best of both worlds but, in essence, customers have choice and whatever avenue they go down that’s great; they can find the one that works for them and is best for them.” Essentially then, there is always somebody on hand to advise an SME on their insurance needs, whether that counsel extends to merely identifying the type of insurance they require, explaining why it pays to insure at a level of cover greater than the value of an enterprise or product, or negotiating the right deal at the right price. Indeed, if we are to interpret business as a game of risk and reward, a solid set of insurance policies can go some way to making it a safer game in which to partake or, more pertinently, ensure that a grave misjudgement doesn’t result in a catastrophic or fatal defeat.



Peter Trimm, product

manager for online accountancy software service Sage One Accounts UK and Ireland


Ian Lomas, client and collateral management director at Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance

How to keep on top of your cashflow As proverbs go, ‘cash is king’ appears a solid contender for the title of greatest business idiom. While the average start-up may have its eyes set on the holy grail of making a profit simply by launching a product it is certain will fly into the hands of consumers, such grand plans can all but collapse if an ambitious entrepreneur doesn’t keep an effective handle on the asset that matters most: their money. Constantly monitoring your business’s incomes and outgoings, and acting upon those figures promptly and positively, can be the difference between confidently strutting down the path to glory, or stumbling down the rocky road to economic ruin. Here’s our five-step guide to ensuring that you end up treading the more favourable former route

Simon Webster,


managing director of financial planning firm Facts & Figures

Warren Shute,

founder and managing director of financial planners Lexington Wealth Management June 2013

Plan ahead Regardless of what stage your business is at, a well-conceived and comprehensive strategy should reveal where an injection of cash, whether from your own reserve or an external source, will be required. “I think it is well worth understanding your projected cashflow position – looking into the future, what liabilities do you have?” says Peter Trimm, product manager for online accountancy software service Sage One Accounts UK and Ireland. “If you look forward, you can predict what cash you are going to have coming in and going out. Then you need to manage that so you can cover off all of your liabilities, in order to pay people, including staff and the one that concerns most of our users – the taxman.”


Seek favourable terms Sensible negotiation with your suppliers and customers on payment terms can ensure that you aren’t left facing a cash shortfall at a time of the month when you could do with it least. “It is worth asking if suppliers offer discounts for early settlement and if annual costs can be split into monthly payments,” explains Ian Lomas, client and collateral management director at Lloyds TSB Commercial Finance. “This will regulate cashflow and eliminate a hefty bill at the end of the year.” A close inspection of potential customers will also help mitigate any danger, says Trimm. “Make sure you understand who they are, what they are about, and be sure that when you are giving credit, you have understood all the risks involved.”

Monitor figures regularly It almost goes without saying that not keeping an eye on the figures at every available opportunity may allow something quite significant to slip through the net. Especially in the early days of a burgeoning enterprise, having readily available data is nigh on indispensable. “If you are starting up and there is a lot happening, you need to look at your cash every day,” advises Simon Webster, managing director of chartered financial planning firm Facts & Figures. “Go online every morning and look at your bank accounts, see what cheques have cleared, what cheques have come in and what money has been paid directly into “GO ONLINE EVERY MORNING your bank accounts. AND LOOK AT YOUR BANK And maybe look at getting a bookkeeping ACCOUNTS, SEE WHAT CHEQUES system that will HAVE CLEARED, WHAT CHEQUES integrate with your bank account – there HAVE COME IN AND WHAT MONEY are a number of these HAS BEEN PAID DIRECTLY INTO out there and it is quite a useful thing.” YOUR BANK ACCOUNTS”

Keep reserves While it may seem a pipe dream to some start-ups, keeping some cash back for emergencies is achievable if you really put your mind to it, whether it be by cutting unnecessary costs or investing a little bit more in the first place. “The thing I have noticed between more successful companies and less successful ones is that the more successful are obviously well capitalised at the beginning,” explains Warren Shute, founder and managing director of financial planners Lexington Wealth Management. “So they go in with their eyes open knowing what costs they are likely to achieve – they are not trying to deceive themselves and set up on a shoestring.” Lomas adds: “Ensure all your processes are as efficient as possible. For example, turning off one PC overnight can save over £50 a year. Also, ensure you shop around for the best product and energy prices.”

Give sufficient notice As much as you may wish to avoid it, borrowing a bit of cash can often be the only way to fund an essential project, but your chances of landing that loan or overdraft will fall by the wayside if you don’t inform the lender of your plans in advance. “If you do need an overdraft, you need to make sure it is all pre-agreed with the providers of the capital,” says Trimm. “It’s about making sure they’re on board with what investment they are making with you, because they are lending money to you to cover a period of time, so they need to understand and you need to be clear what that return is going to give.” He continues: “Although it is a short-term cashflow issue you need to make sure that – like any investment – the returns are adequate to take account of the cost of that capital while you are maybe going into an overdrawn situation.”

June 2013




There are six questions entrepreneurs need to have in the front of their minds when starting a business, says Clive Lewis, head of enterprise at the ICAEW

to yours. Most start-ups try to undercut the competition but sometimes your product or service has plus points for which customers would be willing to pay more. 4. What do the numbers look like for the first two years?

Plan ahead and try to identify any tough times or seasonal variations. Cashflow may be great for ice-cream sellers in the summer, but profitability for the whole year is what tells the true picture of the business. I am often astounded by entrepreneurs who fail to consider both cashflow and profitability, but it’s easily done if you’re new to running a business. If you need others to invest in your business ensure you get them to invest the right amount. That means not just enough to buy the fixed assets required (premises, vehicles or stock) but also to ensure you have enough working capital. Projecting £100,000 profit in year ten is of no value if you don’t plan to handle the £10,000 loss in the first year. You’ll be out of business before you get there.


5. What finance will you require in this period and where is it planned to come from?


e’ve all heard of the so-called five Ps of success – proper preparation prevents poor performance. But how can entrepreneurs ensure they have prepared properly for the start-up journey? A good place to start would be for them to ask themselves these six questions. 1. Where do you expect the business to be after the critical first two years?

More than a quarter of all new businesses don’t live to see their second birthday. Setting up a business is a bit like windsurfing. The hardest bit is the start. Getting balanced and holding the sail up is so hard it puts most people off. Then there’s the direction. Because staying upright is so tough, the under-prepared will just cling on and go wherever the wind takes them. Often, that will be out to choppy waters where larger vessels dominate. The petrified surfer often falls or jumps off before danger, or June 2013

runs right into it and gets hurt. It’s crucial that you know where you want to go. The wind will always blow, but being in control with a clear destination in mind will help a great deal in getting there. 2. What are your business’s unique selling points (USPs) that will deliver the required business growth?

There are literally millions of businesses out there. Be very clear on what distinguishes you from all the others. 3. Who are your business competitors?

Good old market research. While in this global age it isn’t just a case of walking down your high street any more, taking the time to establish what’s out there is well worth it. Find out where your competitors are located – your location may be a USP for some customers. Ask how competitors’ prices compare

Seed capital or any other start-up finance may be necessary not only to get you moving but also to fund future growth or to replace plant or machinery. You should be clear what your forecasts say is the total amount of finance you require. Flag up from the outset all the milestones for expansion and how much and when each new capital injection will need to be. 6. What preparation have you done and what in your business plan will give confidence to key stakeholders – finance providers, customers, suppliers and so on?

The ‘About us’ section of your website needs to say more than “er, well, um, you see…” And so should you when asked about this in person. People buy people and you need to instil confidence in your stakeholders by being able to articulate what you have done, and will be doing, to ensure your business will not just survive but flourish.

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Deal or no deal?

Partnering with a voucher or deal website could provide a welcome boost for your business, but it certainly doesn’t reduce the need for hard graft


hether it’s because we’re in the clutches of a recession or we just want to save money for a rainy day, the rise of deal and voucher websites in recent year has been nothing short of meteoric. One of the most high-profile of these sites, Groupon, has managed to weave itself into our lives to the extent it has almost become a synonym for the verb ‘bargain-hunt’ – much as Google has for the search engine. While consumers are usually too wrapped up in the excitement of a deal to question why companies are flogging their wares on the cheap, it is difficult to ignore the fact that an increasing number of start-up businesses are utilising the services of a deal or voucher website to attract much needed footfall in the quieter parts of the week or for the launch of their enterprise and the crucial months that follow. Alternatively, an established company may simply have a new product or service it wants to bring to people’s attention. 43

June 2013


national sales manager for Dealcloud


Juan Camilo Bernal /

Andy Nelson,

When all is said and done though, making a discount or add-on service available to the public through a third-party site is merely an alternative means of advertising – isn’t it? Perhaps, but as some of the pioneers behind these sites are very eager to point out, it is a far more efficient and effective advertising channel for a business looking to keep costs low and constantly monitor its customer base. Indeed, given that the performance-based nature of the contract between the SME and deal site generally excludes any up-front payment, the initial financial gamble for the small business owner doesn’t appear quite as sizeable. “We have all seen it where companies have gone out and spent thousands of pounds on

“I am happy to pay Groupon because I am only paying them when I teach the lesson and that gets the guy in the yard” Paul Piddington, Vale of York Polo Club

Paul Piddington,

owner and managing director of the Vale of York Polo Club

advertising up front, without necessarily knowing if that is going to work for them,” comments Andy Nelson, national sales manager for daily deals website Dealcloud. “If it does work, can they track it and tell how many customers it brought through? Working with a deal site, they can see exactly how many customers it’s brought them and they are only going to pay for those customers they have actually gained, as well.” And such an arrangement has endorsements straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were, with Paul Piddington, owner and managing director of the Vale of York Polo Club, offering a fairly lucid reflection on the partnership he has enjoyed with Groupon since 2011. “I am happy to pay Groupon because I am only paying them when I teach the lesson and that gets the guy in the yard, yet previously I had to pay the money for nobody in my yard.” Remarking on his past experience of placing print adverts in June 2013

a specialist equine magazine, he adds: “You were talking about £2,000 worth of advertising, not knowing what you were going to get back.” Given the niche market in which Piddington operates, the value of the Groupon offer essentially lies in the fact it lets people know ‘I’m here’. It opens their eyes – and wallets – to an activity they may previously have dismissed as being in the sole preserve of royalty and millionaires. “It is this percentage game – if I can get one or two out of 100 to take up polo, then I am in business.” Indeed, Piddington admits that while the vast majority of people who secure the Groupon deal thoroughly enjoy their experience, they probably wouldn’t return and pay the standard fare. But for him, a 1-2% rate of repeat custom is sufficient, whereas targets will be set considerably higher for SMEs in more mainstream and competitive markets.

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Richard Jones,


director of partner management at Groupon UK

Chieu Cao, cofounder of small business deals provider Huddlebuy

Charles Eklund,

head of product and business operations at LivingSocial UK and Ireland

Undoubtedly, it is here that the dynamics of the performance-based payment really begin to reveal themselves. For, as passionate as the deal site may be about assisting the growth and success of its clients, its raison d’être remains the same as any business, including the ones it treats as partners. It should thus not come as too much of a revelation that the deal site is rewarded handsomely in commission for every sale the SME makes from a deal or voucher redemption. And, while this may be a gripe for some start-ups, the majority enter into the partnership fully aware of the incentive it places on them to accept the odd knock to their margins and transform the deal user into a regular customer. Needless to say, this is only achieved by providing them with the same level of service as a full-paying patron. “There are multiple reasons to give people a good experience but I think businesses often sell themselves short by thinking ‘I have just given out a voucher and I am trying to gain back the amount that I have spent on it’, when in reality that is not the way to look at it,” remarks Charles Eklund, head of product and business operations at LivingSocial UK and Ireland. “The reality is you have a directed audience, a footpath to your door, and we will do everything in our power to get them to your door, but once they walk through the responsibility then shifts to you, and for the same reason that you open up the business for the love of doing what you do, if you share that love with the consumer, there is a greater likelihood that they will indeed come back.” Of course, delivering a consistent of level of service should be a staple of any successful business, but it can be tested to the full by a sudden surge in footfall, which a business will often face with the initiation of a particularly popular short-term deal. Giving your team sufficient notice of the impending rush is thus fairly fundamental, according to Richard Jones, director of partner management at Groupon UK. “One of the most important things I would say to every merchant is June 2013

“One of the most important things I would say to every merchant is ‘preparation, preparation, preparation’” Richard Jones, Groupon UK

‘preparation, preparation, preparation’. The nature of the Groupon promotion is very exciting – it is on the platform for a few days and it generates a great deal of interest through our website, on the merchant’s website, and through their Facebook page.” It would appear then that employing the services of a deal site is a relatively attractive proposition for an SME, so long as they have the will and resources to make it a success. Indeed, as Jones attests, the opportunity isn’t one that any business should completely overlook. “I think it is relevant to everybody – there is one thing that every single business has in common: we are all looking for new people and more footfall because that is the way you generate loyalty, you generate custom, you generate cashflow.” However, it is by no means an automatic path to glory, and every deal site is ultimately only interested in those clients that are dedicated to the cause. “It is not supposed to be a simple ‘here’s a load of traffic and you will be profitable without any effort’,” warns Chieu Cao, co-founder of small business deals provider Huddlebuy. “That is not how we message it to our partners. It is a lot of effort on our side to sell your offers to our community but the supplier needs to be ready for what happens afterwards and have the marketing know-how and capabilities to make the most of it. It’s a limited window, so if you don’t make the most of that window, you are going to lose out.”



PROTEST Viewing a consumer boycott through the lens of opportunity can be the first step to not only protecting your brand’s reputation, but enhancing it




s much value as a business may place on its physical assets, there is something slightly less concrete it must keep a handle on at all times: its reputation. Showcasing practices in the mould of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical trade can greatly enhance a company’s position in the eyes of consumers, and set it apart from the competition. Nevertheless, when a venture doesn’t openly disclose its fundamental values and the nature of its core working practices, it may leave itself more susceptible to the possibility of consumer protest, occasionally in the form of a boycott. Of course, a coordinated refusal to buy a certain product or cooperate with a specific organisation is normally sparked by an unsavoury event or information leak, exposing what the campaigners would regard as some ‘home truths’ about the alleged guilty party. One only has to look to the horsemeat scandal, Bangladeshi factory collapse and ongoing tax controversy for some particularly relevant and topical examples that have served to thrust the very notion of consumer protest back into the spotlight. June 2013


Rebecca Gudgeon,

business development executive at Grayling


“People power and consumers’ ability to change an organisation by voting with their feet or their purses is probably one of the most powerful drivers of commercial change”

Yet, far from having been brushed under the carpet prior to recent events, the threat of action is always simmering just below the surface, and is therefore dismissed at a business owner’s peril. “People power and consumers’ ability to change an organisation by voting with their feet or their purses is probably one of the most powerful drivers of commercial change and of organisations looking at the way in which they deal with their business and arrange their affairs,” says Rebecca Gudgeon, business development executive of communications consultancy Grayling UK. In that sense, treating an impending or developing crisis as a positive wake-up call, as opposed to a threat, is a logical first step towards dousing the flames, and can help turn the tide in your favour. “I think organisations can use that sort of situation as an opportunity not only to repair their reputation, but also to take a market-leading positioning,” comments Gudgeon. “If one brand that has been at the heart of the issue – or any brand in the industry – can actually take a market-leading positioning by setting a standard or benchmark, or calling for an industry approach or charter that others will then buy into and follow, that can allow an organisation to position itself at the front of the ethical charge, and will give them a competitive advantage.” Such an approach does appear to have become the norm over the last decade, with companies putting solid systems in place to identify any imminent campaigns at an early stage, and come out the other side with their reputation intact. Much of this stems from a realisation that the breadth of an organisation’s stakeholder base can quite easily be underestimated, namely by failing to factor consumers into the equation. “Customers are actually a stakeholder group. And customers who are giving you feedback, even if it is not the feedback you want to hear, are often friends of the business,” explains Richard Harrison, co-founder of the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA). “Ultimately, there are people around you who feel they are affected by what you’re doing, and they are making a point.” Engaging with campaigners as soon as you get a sniff of their intentions is a very advisable tactic. Yet, more than just being a simple recommendation, such behaviour has become engrained in the crisis-management strategy of many a corporate giant. “From your brand or organisation’s point June 2013

of view, it is all about understanding whether there is an opportunity for you to engage before the actual boycott takes place,” comments Duncan Gallagher, the UK and EMEA crisis practice lead at international PR firm Edelman. “The recommendation is always to try and take these conversations offline. If it is a social media platform, don’t have the conversations in public. Enter into a Duncan Gallagher, UK and EMEA crisis dialogue either via email or over the phone, practice lead at but look to get your point of view across. If Edelman that looks like it is not going to work, you just need to put together your position, because you will be asked to comment.” Depending on the reason for the boycott, this comment could either take the form of an admission of responsibility followed by a plan of action, or a reiteration of a company’s values and explanation of a particular mode of operation. Harrison identifies Primark as a model example here, highlighting the chain’s swift reply to its critics in the wake of the tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which cost the lives of more than 1,100 factory workers. “Primark was particularly singled out following the collapse but everybody has to some degree praised its response,” he suggests.

“From your brand or organisation’s point of view, it is all about understanding if there is an opportunity for you to engage before the actual boycott takes place” Duncan Gallagher, Edelman

Meanwhile, the furore surrounding the tax arrangements of Google, Amazon and Starbucks presents a rather different challenge. “They are absolutely legally entitled to arrange their tax affairs as they have,” says Gudgeon. “If they feel that goes against the swell of public opinion, it is then incumbent upon the organisation to decide whether that is going to have such an impact on their business that they are going to have to realign their tax arrangement. If they don’t feel that is necessary, there is a really strong case, from a reputational point of view, to say an organisation has to set out its stall very clearly.” All said and done though, boycotts have become a rarer breed in recent years. “Our broad narrative is that boycotting is to some degree being replaced by third-party assurance on labels,” explains Harrison. “We know that people don’t necessarily believe companies when they try and defend themselves, which is why third-party accreditation can give consumers confidence that a company is doing the right thing.” And acquiring such accreditation shouldn’t be too hard if you operate your business transparently and ethically at every step of the way.


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The pop-up phenomenon has turned our high streets from nigh-on ghost towns to the place to be, with tons of hot new products and outlets waiting to be unearthed by the astute consumer. Given some of our favourite retailers cut their teeth on the streets of Blighty, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share them with you and give them a chance to tell you how the pop-up experience has helped make them some of the country’s hottest burgeoning brands


Maria Allen Jewellery Maria Allen Jewellery certainly stands out from your average high-street offering. Allen’s refined creations, made from etched cherry wood, silver-plate and brass, play with images of nature, typography and envelopes. Given Allen’s work has featured in Style Magazine and she recouped her pop-up costs inside a day – making £800 profit in her first week – we clearly aren’t the only ones who love her work.


Maria Allen Founder

“A lot of people just called in when they saw the shop, but didn’t have time to buy there and then, so it was easier for them to go home or back to the office and go online”

The scarves made by NANUKK are truly things of beauty. Intended to stir up female customers’ imaginations, designer and founder Sarah McLeod’s creations are often influenced by natural forms – for example, the Wood Nymph pattern (pictured above) draws inspiration from the giant wood nymph butterfly. NANUKK’s silk is very much a jewel in the crown of our high street. “Being involved in the PopUp Britain store in the Department for Communities and Local Government building was the perfect ‘next step’ for NANUKK to take as a business. Being able to spend time listening to what customers thought face-to-face in the pop-up allowed me to develop further plans. I was so encouraged to see people’s reactions to the design story and inspiration behind each print.” Sarah McLeod Founder June 2013


The *TeaShed The *TeaShed is a blend of luxury tea retailer and design collective, suffusing Britain’s favourite beverage with smart design and branding. Tasty teas such as cardamom-, cinnamon - and gingerinfused ‘Baby, it’s Cold Outside *Tea’ and the ‘Proper Mint *Tea’ mingle wonderfully with aesthetic design flourishes. And understandably, with its unique rebrand of our nation’s lifeblood, The *TeaShed is taking the country by storm.

The Chapar Most men would probably think having their own stylist might be a little on the extravagant side. However, the Chapar is anything but, providing a convenient – and free – stylist service. The only thing better than having their digital, directto-door service inject a little life into your attire would be getting some handson time with their team.

“Our concept will change the way men shop. Our time in the pop-up store is exciting and unique as we are going to use a high-street space to build a non-high-street proposition.” Sam Middleton Founder


“Pop-ups are undoubtably a fantastic way of showcasing your brand. Last month, we launched our first ever in-store *TeaShed pop-up in Fenwick Food Hall, Newcastle. It is already proving a huge success, allowing customers to try our different teas in a café setting and then purchase the ones they like afterwards. Our aim is to get as many people as possible to taste our teas as, once they do, they become a *TeaShed fan.” Jules Quinn

Founder & director

The Cocoa Mistress Finding luxury chocolates, even on the high street, isn’t too hard. But white chocolate hand-painted with lime-infused green cocoa butter? Dark chocolate filled with raspberry and rose ganache and raspberry coulis? The Cocoa Mistress’s chocolates are in a league of their own and alone make a visit to the new Richmond PopUp Britain store very worthwhile. “The great benefit of being in a pop-up is seeing how your company is received on the high street. The Cocoa Mistress has been able to reach customers who would normally be out of her area – we had built a following in Kent but being in the Richmond shop has enabled us to gain a whole new set of followers from south-west London.” Claire Izzard Founder

June 2013

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TAPPING TALENT Talent management isn’t just about creating thought leaders and senior managers. It’s about letting your stores of skills pour forth



“They really do have to develop the talent and the capabilities of the entire workforce if they’re to be as successful as an entire organisation”

raditionally, talent management has been concerned more with shortfalls in leadership than skill vacuums further down the organisation. “I think there has been a tendency to focus on what I would call ‘elite talent management’,” comments Dr John McGurk, adviser in learning and talent development at HR and development professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Planning for succession or high-level promotions may be a vital part of futureproofing an enterprise but that isn’t any good if a skill shortage ends up causing some major subsidence. “They really do have to develop the talent and the capabilities of the entire workforce if they’re to be as successful as an entire organisation,” adds McGurk. Fortunately, this is an attitude that’s gradually shifting. In the recent report McGurk authored for the CIPD, the annual Learning and Talent Development survey 2013, it was demonstrated that the gap between the number of ‘high potential’ staff and the number of staff from across the business involved in talent management schemes was gradually narrowing. On average 39% of high potential staff were actively engaged in skills development, just 2% more than the 37% for staff company-wide.

June 2013


“A lot of that is about bringing people across in transitions from other parts of the organisation”


“You can see quite a convergence on talent management being a universal issue for organisations,” says McGurk. And understandably so, given the fact that, because Dr John McGurk, adviser in learning and talent development, CIPD more firms are looking to hire new staff, the glut of talent on the market is starting to clear. The days of talent on any terms are very much a thing of the past. “Organisations are also recognising that they’re having to be more resourceful in how they hire people,” says McGurk. “A lot of that is about bringing employees across in transitions from different parts of the organisation.” The time invested in training staff may seem like a lot to stump up, especially given it’s easy to assume that the skill set you require must already exist out on the market, but McGurk believes businesses need to be wary of creating these false economies. He makes reference to an everyday example: colleges must employ people to manage and evaluate apprenticeships, something that requires a good deal of audit training as well as a lot of knowledge of the inner mechanisms of the environment in which they’re working. “It’s very difficult to recruit without getting people in who don’t understand the organisation enough and have a steep learning curve,” McGurk says. In these cases, it’s preferable to allow staff who may already have a knowledge of these areas to move sideways, and introduce measures to ensure there is a path in place that supports that. He continues: “If you put a career path in place that allows secretarial, support and some instructor staff who don’t want to be in the classroom to go into that, then you can hopefully have a talent pipeline for that particular skill.” But what are the most effective ways of managing and maintaining talent? According to the findings of McGurk’s report, coaching is by far and away the most prevalent training option. However, if you’re trying to do something more practical than instil ‘blue sky thinking’, then it might not be the most practical option. “Coaching quite often will be very much about the possibilities and how we can go forward in the future, but it won’t often provide staff with the capability to do so,” he explains. Mentoring isn’t quite as widely used as coaching but for certain applications, particularly imparting on-the-job skills, it can prove to be more efficacious than a coaching programme. McGurk draws a comparison to the BBC Two show The Chef ’s Protege, where established chefs take a fresh face under their wing and give handson knowledge. “Mentoring on that basis is all about skills and sponsorship and my view is that if you’re looking at talent programmes, apprenticeships, development programmes, that’s the kind of supportive programme you should have,” he says. It’s obvious mentoring won’t be right in every circumstance, however. Particularly with large-scale skill management, there are more practicable ways to train up specific skill-sets. E-learning can divide opinion in training circles. “People can end up sitting dulled June 2013

at their desktop,” comments McGurk. “It’s part of their normal day job, they work at a call centre, they have to do some e-learning on financial services warnings and they just switch on and switch off.” And he feels this ultimately leads to poor compliance behaviours. However, as a part of a wider integrated approach to training and talent management, its value cannot be overlooked. “The answer is to blend it properly, make sure it’s stimulating and ensure it’s supported by mentoring and discussions,” McGurk comments. Not only does it allow a cost-effective method of reviewing and refining skills but it comes packaged with other benefits usually attached to digital media. Something that a lean and limber SME cannot afford to ignore. “E-learning can encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing,” says McGurk. “And it allows people to do that across the nation.” He admits in this area, e-learning is still in its infancy but it has the potential to open up skills-sharing and make talent management a more integrated part of a business. The use of the real-time data and integrated analytics that have become the norm in things like social networks can also allow a more granular picture. “It’s going to get us away from this fixation on ROI without a baseline and capture the real value of learning.” Ultimately, investing in and nurturing the talent you have at your disposal can be the best form of economy. Making sure you have the skills you require ahead of time adds a value that cannot be underestimated.

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Given that the democratic motto e pluribus unum – ‘out of many, one’ – appears so visibly on the almighty dollar, it’s ironic the ideal isn’t more deeply engrained within the world of business

Out of many, one WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL


t’s fair to say that being treated as an automaton by your employer hardly breeds the most inspiring working environment. “I have worked for people where you’re just a cog,” says Steve Lowy, founder of umi Digital and CEO and founder of umi Hotels. He relays a story of a job he took at an upmarket Manchester restaurant prior to attending university. “After five days, I had some ideas and told them,” he says. “Basically, after the meeting, the manager called me into his office and said, ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be giving you the job: you’re overqualified’.” While it’s unlikely many businesses will be setting employees adrift simply for engaging their brains, not every enterprise makes the most of the resources at their disposal. And this is a mistake Lowy refuses to make. “In a hotel, often the receptionist or the housekeeper will have more direct contact than I do with all of the guests and will come up with ideas that are more innovative,” he says. Being open to employee contributions can actually lead to some of a company’s most revolutionary ideas. Lowy explains how one of their most successful campaigns emerged from a chance remark in a meeting, as he discussed with a colleague the best way to address the pinch the hospitality industry was feeling after the financial crash. “She said: ‘Why don’t we sell rooms for £1?’,” he recalls. Although intended as a sarcastic comment,

June 2013




the team quickly got excited by the idea and it ended up seeing umi Hotels featured on CNN International. “Some of these offthe-cuff ideas can actually be the most successful,” he remarks. But democracy isn’t only about the free exchange of ideas. Social business, innovation and digital culture agency NixonMcInnes takes democracy very seriously, to the extent that it informs its entire structure. “Our two founders felt that it was the right way to do business, that it made sense at every level,” says Max St John, strategist for the agency and its head of not-for-profit and public sector. And they do mean at every level. Some of their steps are truly radical, redressing some of the root assumptions about the way organisations should be structured. “We have completely open book accounting,” says St John. “All of the financials are shared each month by the finance director and everybody knows what everybody else earns; that’s on our company wiki.” Even their salary decisions are undertaken democratically, with salary changes at every level going in front of an elected rewards team. “They review every salary proposal across the whole business, including the managing director’s and any board members.” Perhaps the most interesting area, however, is how they address company direction. “This year, the business plan has come off the back off of a strategy that the whole team has co-created,” St John comments. All NixonMcInnes employees attended a workshop where they looked at their priorities for the next three years, the things that mattered to them and how they would go about making this a reality. Fairly standard fare for employee reviews, perhaps, but enshrining this in the overarching business plan ultimately means that employees know their priorities are the self-same ones guiding the business forward. “It creates a particular bond and relationship between the individual and the company,” explains St John. “People generally feel like they have a true stake in the business because they have a stake in most of the important decisions that are made.” June 2013


Again for umi’s Lowy, increasing a sense of ownership is vital – and that doesn’t stop just at employees. Umi Hotels operates various schemes for young people, from GCSE placements to year-long internships. One of the main focuses of these schemes is to put the young person in charge of a project, allowing them to work on something they care about and come up with new ideas. Not only can these ideas have a huge benefit Steve Lowy, founder for the organisation involved but they also of umi Digital and create a workforce that, by dint of having true CEO and founder of ownership over their efforts, are far more umi Hotels engaged. “By having that culture where everyone’s got a voice, it means that when an intern works for us they don’t feel like an intern,” says Lowy. “I think that’s really important.” However, it’s not so much of a stretch to see why some organisations may balk at making such overarching changes to the way they are structured – especially when the political democracy has hardly set the best example. In a lot of people’s minds, democratic process is inextricably tied to increasing levels of bureaucracy but this is only a problem when people aren’t also given a degree of autonomy. NixonMcInnes thinks democracy needn’t come at the price of streamlined decision-making. “Anyone can call a vote on an issue if it’s important enough but we also empower people to make as many decisions on their own,” St John explains. And, by virtue of the fact that employees are often behind decisions right from the get-go, there is little inertia as result of having to sell that decision to the people on the ground. He continues, “What we’ve found is that it doesn’t take much longer to make important decisions and when you do make those decisions, everybody has completely bought into them.” In terms of social structures, democracy is one of the oldest. But, in fact, at a time when crowd-movements and financial crises are undermining tried and tested business models, it may be that our aged friend has plenty to teach us yet.

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Reed has been at the helm of psychometric testing company Thomas International since 2007, having been appointed chairman two years earlier. As well as penning this regular column for Elite Business, he is also a founding member of Buckingham Business First and a fellow of the Institute of Directors.




A change is as good as a rest, right? Except that a recent survey showed when businesses try to implement company-wide adjustments – whether it’s introducing new products in a shifting market or tweaking the culture of the workplace – more than a third of them fail. But, says Martin Reed, there is a way to make change a success


heard it said the other day that change is the biggest challenge facing every business today. I believe it will also be the biggest challenge you face next year, the year after that… and the year after that. For any business owner, ‘change’ has become the hottest buzzword of late and justifiably so. All businesses, whether they realise it or not, are in a constant state of change, continually making adjustments to refine products or services in response to market changes, trading conditions, customer pressure and economic downturns. As the wisdom goes, nothing endures but change. However, bigger changes can be problematic. When a business needs to make a conscious change to its company culture – perhaps with the realisation that it needs to become more responsive to shifting markets; a growing awareness that it’s essential for the company to work more cohesively as a team or a desire to become more customer focused

as a result of feedback or falling sales – most attempts at change fail. A CIPD survey shows that more than 40% of attempts at implementing change failed to meet their objectives or improve the company’s bottom line. Failure to change the culture of a business isn’t just disappointing because objectives aren’t met, but also because the process of trying and failing can have some serious, negative side effects from loss of credibility and damage to the brand, to reduced employee commitment. Managing the change process, then, is clearly a high risk task, so how do you ensure you get it right? From our experience of helping companies through the metamorphosis of cultural change, the key problem we see is that very few companies take the time to clearly define what they mean by ‘company culture’. Forbes defines culture as “a group of norms of behaviour and the underlying shared values that keep those norms in place”. In other words, how


your employees behave and the principles that guide that behaviour. Cultural changes, then, need to be reflected in the behaviours of the employees and for that to happen managers need to be clear about what competencies they are expecting from their teams and then communicate those expectations in a clear and quantifiable way. Most people resist change because of uncertainty, a loss of control and a lack of understanding about why change is required, so to help employees embrace the change in company culture, managers need to make sure that employees know what they, as individuals, are supposed to be doing and what the business as a whole is aiming to achieve. While creating a mission statement to encapsulate what a company is trying to achieve is certainly a step in the right direction, inspiring words to rally the troops are only half the picture – pontificating about the ‘shared values’ without digging deeper to


“Most people resist change because of uncertainty, a loss of control and a lack of understanding about why change is required” change the ‘norms of behaviour’ that really make up a company culture doesn’t address the root of the issue. The best way to rejuvenate or change a company culture is to give employees a set of driving principles they can embrace, and a substantial, quantifiable way for them to engage with them. To inspire employees to change, what is expected of them needs to be clearly articulated. Companies we’ve worked with have found assessment tools to be invaluable in helping to add structure to the nebulous process of cultural change. In what can be a confusing and overwhelming process, using a structured method helps you to focus on what it is you’re trying to achieve. It also gives you an objective way to see where the gaps lie between the company’s ideals and an employee’s behaviour. With our 360 assessment you select a set of competencies designed to reflect the change you want to manifest – for example, if you’re embarking on a period of growth, competencies you may need could include decision-making, innovation, drive for sales and collaborative team working – and then

measure to what degree each employee is fulfilling these criteria by taking feedback from the people they work with. Employees with lower scores in particular competencies will appreciate having a goal to work towards that feels constructive and achievable; it helps focus training and development initiatives and their progress can be measured as they develop – a far more constructive approach than simply telling them that they don’t measure up to the new company culture. In fact, any method of putting guidelines and goalposts into the change process will result in less employee disenchantment, reduce resistance and will negate the loss of control many will feel at the changes. Instead, it will give your teams a feeling that the whole company is moving in the same direction together – the crux of any successful cultural change. Employee behaviour is the key to successfully changing a company’s culture. By pinpointing exactly how you need their behaviour to change, communicating your expectations effectively, giving staff concrete and achievable goals to work towards and measuring their progress as they develop, you’ll give your business the very best chance of successfully changing, helping you achieve more efficient practices, improved margins, a great reputation, a happy and productive workforce and, ultimately, what we all want – an improved bottom line.

June 2013

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With Google’s developer conference I/O 2013 still a warm memory and – at time of print – the countdown to Apple’s own WWDC being better measured in hours rather than days, there are no end of prospective gadgets lined up for the future. But in the here and now, there’s still plenty of exciting tech to get your teeth into



VUE When we first heard about Apple’s iWatch, EB swore off analogue for good. Fortunately, Issey Miyake’s VUE brought us to our senses. The Japanese firm brought in Ouya designer Yves Behar to produce this beautiful timepiece, which only reveals the hour you’re in, letting us – in the manufacturer’s words – “feel time’s appearance and disappearance in our lives”. We’re not sure about all that but it definitely does dirty things to our brains.

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THE NAME GAME For an SME looking to master the web, selecting a memorable domain name is a good place to start




ou don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that having a strong online presence in this day and age is nothing short of indispensable for a business hoping to go places. However, it is dangerous indeed to think that just being listed on the world wide web is sufficient. A welldesigned and user-friendly website is one thing, but it won’t be of much value if it becomes lost in the digital vacuum. Up until recently, a popular means of drawing eyes towards the virtual version of one’s brand was anticipating somebody’s needs and reflecting that in a domain name. Keywords were king and they still are, but to an apparently dwindling extent. The use of so-called ‘black hat’ search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics has certainly not gone unnoticed by the folks at Google, with ‘keyword stuffing’ in a website’s meta description, and in hidden content on the site itself, being consistently targeted by our web overlords. The purpose of these muchmaligned ‘unfair’ tactics is to get a website ranked, almost instantaneously, on the Holy Grail that is the first page of a Google search.

June 2013



Needless to say, it seems that Google is altering its approach accordingly, by responding to complaints about keywordladen domain names. While this could serve to have a notable impact on a number of our SMEs, a new emphasis on branded domain names – or alternatively a shift away from keyword-laden domains – appears to present a tangible opportunity to our web-hungry start-ups for whom unique, accessible and trusted content is very much the name of the game. “There are still a lot of websites out there that do rank well for their keywords and have the keywords in their domain name – but it is more based on the fact that they actually offer a good service and they have high-quality online content,” explains Tom Roberts, founder of search marketing agency So What? Media.

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founder of So What? Media

Matt Mansell, head of domain strategy for the Host Europe Group, owners of 123-reg June 2013

“If you have a UK business and you are selling to UK companies, it makes no difference whether you have .com or” Matthew Slinn, founder and CEO of

Perceptant 101

In addition to a mere focus on brand identity, Google is placing more credence on any business that, through ‘white hat’ SEO practice, singles itself out to be what could be regarded as an ‘authority’ on a specific subject, or in a particular market. For many in the tech world, this has just served to further underline the ethical approach an SME should be taking when it comes to nurturing its brand online. “You must use ‘white hat’ SEO techniques,” affirms Matthew Slinn, founder and CEO of web development and SEO firm Perceptant 101. “These days, they centre around content, and unique content is the key to getting a website recognised on Google. The more unique content Google sees linking to your site, the happier it is.” Indeed, according to Roberts, this fresh campaign centred on ‘authority’ really opens the door for businesses to make a domain name an extension of their brand – or, more pertinently, a brand in itself – without having to worry about a competitor underhandedly diminishing their concrete web credentials. “It is very strange when people talk about a natural links profile, but the general consensus is that if people are linking to your website in your brand name rather than keywords that you are specifically trying to rank for, it does look more natural – it looks more natural to the Google algorithm and it looks more natural to a Google quality search team.” He continues: “If you have a brandable name, or it’s a name that people can trust and recognise, and it is not keyword rich with about three or

four hyphens in it, then people are going to trust you in the offline world as a bit of an authority as well. What Google is trying to do in the next two or three years is to replicate offline trust in their online algorithm.” Of course, selecting the exact domain name you believe will stand you in the best stead is a relatively pain-free process, but acquiring it can sometimes be a bit more challenging. That said, while the comparative values of a .com, a and a .net can often be a topic of heated debate, each has their own relevance and attraction, depending on the nature and ambitions of a business. “If you have a UK business and you are selling to UK companies, it makes no difference whether you have .com or,” says Slinn. “In fact, I would go further and say when I look for help in the UK, I am more interested in domain names that end” Nevertheless, for companies seeking a global presence, the .com is nigh on critical, or so it would seem. “With .com having over 100 million domain names registered versus the closest competitor which is about 14 million domain names, it is almost essential to tie-up the .com nowadays because availability of the domains is so short,” comments Matt Mansell, head of domain strategy for the Host Europe Group, owners of domain-name registrar 123-reg. Yet, while admitting that for a start-up not everything is possible from the word ‘go’, he offers some comfort in the assertion that a business shouldn’t regard .com as a straight-out panic-buy. “With every brand I have ever launched, we haven’t had the .com to start with, we have always launched it under a .net or a, or another available domain, and then we have at one point or another acquired the .com domain.” And with domain names ranging in price – according to demand – the chances of securing the best fit for your start-up will be greatly enhanced through a carefully measured, ethical and ultimately lucrative approach to online brand-building, with an initial domain name that reflects the values and nature of your business. Easier said than done, you may think, but nobody ever said running a business was simple, did they?

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Social service 77

Facebook, Twitter et al are an invaluable way for brands to engage with their customers, says David Hathiramani


THE TECHSPERT 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.

s a business owner, I look at IT in terms of what it delivers for the business. Social media is another way to drive traffic, get interested people on your website and hopefully convert them into shoppers. Conversion rates on a website are an important indicator but, in many cases, pretty meaningless. When you break down conversion rates into different types of people browsing, you realise that the headline number doesn’t show a true picture. For example, our style advisors are passionate about tailoring, and as such contribute to our blog. We have content there that covers almost all topics related to suiting. Let’s take the example of someone who searched for ‘Boardwalk Empire suits’ in Google, and came across an article that our team had written. That browser would be less likely to convert into a sale than someone who had read an article about A Suit That Fits, and

came to our site wanting to purchase. In fact, driving this less converting traffic to our website lowers our conversion rate and makes our IT team look worse. But, obviously, we want this traffic. It gets more awareness for our brand, and will hopefully make all of our other marketing activity more effective.

“SOCIAL MEDIA IS ANOTHER WAY TO DRIVE TRAFFIC, GET INTERESTED PEOPLE ON YOUR WEBSITE AND HOPEFULLY CONVERT THEM INTO SHOPPERS” So, that brings me on to social media. I have had numerous discussions with other retailers on this topic, and there are lots of different views on how effective it is and can be. The consensus among all of us is that it’s not a hugely effective sales driver.

June 2013


Five top tips on social media from A Suit That Fits 1) Be yourself Authenticity is essential when it comes to social media. Your company’s Facebook page or Twitter profile must accurately reflect what the brand is all about. For example, as mentioned, every style advisor at A Suit That Fits has their own Twitter handle, and the friendliness of the brand is brought through by the nature and level of engagement with its Facebook followers.


“If social media is used well, then it can be a great channel to show off a brand’s personality” One of the people at a roundtable discussion I attended the other day summed it up quite well, and said that it’s almost like approaching someone in a pub and trying to sell them something. In fact, the traffic we drive from social media that comes directly to our website does not convert into a sale at the same level of other forms of traffic. This doesn’t really help the conversion rate metric. Yet, at A Suit That Fits, we feel that social media is incredibly valuable. Your website and marketing materials represent what you do and how you want to be perceived. All of your social media represents who you are when you scratch beneath the surface. At our company, I feel that we’re a pretty friendly bunch and we are making tailoring accessible. We believe when people really understand who we are, then, although they may not come and purchase right away, they will think fondly of us in the future. That’s why each of our style advisors have their own branded Twitter handle – so their customers can easily engage with them, and they can share lots of different hints and tips. It used to be that the only public aspect of a brand’s personality came from the charismatic CEO’s television appearance or perhaps an expensive celebrity endorsement. Now there are lots of different ways for businesses of all sizes to show off their personality, and if social media is used well, then it can be a great channel to do just this in a cost-effective way. June 2013

2) Consistency and regularity There is no point having a handle and not using it. Giving your subscribers regular updates will obviously keep you front of mind but also make them realise they are getting some kind of value from their social media commitment to you. It is always good to give something back. 3) Know what works A Suit That Fits has

found that people engage well with the product shots it publishes on Facebook, with the most popular posts being photos of the different suits it offers. You don’t have to be too clever; you can just keep it quite simple in what you are giving to customers.

4) Campaigns To really drive engagement

via social media, a well-intentioned campaign can often go a long way. A Suit That Fits has attracted a lot of welcome attention with its second Suit For Success scheme, urging people to donate unwanted suits to charitable organisations Amber, Centrepoint and Right Futures, for the sake of giving the country’s young homeless and unemployed greater work opportunities. Social media can work as a strong channel for customer involvement in such positive schemes.

5) Don’t hold back Taking the social media

plunge is only worth it if it is relevant to your customer base. However, any commitment must be wholehearted. You either do it well or not at all.

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FRANCHISE NEWS Serving up some good news 80

Nottingham firm S&G Enterprise has opened its fourth Pizza Hut Delivery franchise, creating 30 new jobs, with funding from NatWest provided through the government’s Funding for Lending scheme. The company, founded by former Pizza Hut delivery boy Lee Humphries, has launched the new store in Ilkeston and is refurbishing its existing branch in Mansfield with a NatWest loan of £188,000. The company also took advantage of Pizza Hut’s new franchise incentive scheme, which offers existing and new franchisees up to £65,000 to support new store openings. Humphries and his wife Sara opened their first delivery franchise in Mansfield in 2003. They also have stores in Sutton-inAshfield and Hucknall. “This is important funding for us,” said Humphries, who hopes to open a further site in Chesterfield later this year. “It has allowed us to take our business forward and with the new shop we will have a much wider customer base.”


Fabulous franchisees sought for annual awards Entries are being taken for the 2013 British Franchise Association (bfa) HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards, now in its 24th year. The format of the prestigious awards has been revamped this year with five new national award categories: long-serving franchisee, young franchisee of the year, micro-business of the year, customer service franchisee and female franchisee of the year. The bfa June 2013

is calling on franchisors to nominate their chosen franchisees by July 12, and finalists will be grilled by a judging panel on August 21 and 22, with the winner announced at the ICC in Birmingham on October 3. Brian Smart, director general of the bfa, said, “The bfa champions best business practice and we look forward to highlighting and praising the UK’s most impressive success stories.”

Subway and Euro Garages in job drive

Global sandwich brand Subway and petrol forecourt operator Euro Garages look set to create 700 new jobs across the UK in the next three years. A further 69 Subway stores are planned for Euro Garages’ 120-strong estate, bringing the total number of Euro Garages sites with a Subway outlet to 100. The new openings will be located in areas of high unemployment and deprivation across northern England and the Midlands. Euro Garages was launched in 2001 by brothers Moshin and Zuber Issa with the acquisition of a single petrol filling station in Bury, Greater Manchester. It has since become known for its innovative approach to forecourt retailing, striking up other high-profile partnerships with Starbucks and Burger King. Trevor Haynes, area development manager for Subway UK and Ireland, said, “Working with companies such as Euro Garages, the Subway brand can take a collaborative approach that delivers a flexible business model, real partner benefits, including increased footfall, on-going marketing support, sustainable sales and excellent business growth opportunities.”

Andrew Borrill Felt he was seeking the impossible Andrew Borrill After years seeking working for the the same company, Andrew Borrill from Weybridge Felttwenty-two he was impossible in Surrey decided to make 2010 the year for change. As the New Business Development After twenty-two years working for supplies the same company, Andrew Borrill from Weybridge Director for a leading national office company Andrew frequently worked 70-hour in Surrey to make 2010 year fortravelling change. As the New Businessgiving Development weeks. Hisdecided role meant that he wasthe constantly around the country him little Director for a leading supplies company Andrew frequently worked 70-hour time to spend with hisnational wife andoffice stepson. weeks. His role meant that he was constantly travelling around the country giving him little time to spend withowners his wifethrough and stepson. Meeting business the course of his job gave Andrew the idea of working for himself. But nagging doubts about whether he could build a profitable business on Meeting business through thethe course job gave Andrew the ideathat of working his own that wouldowners provide him with levelof ofhis income he required meant Andrew for himself. Butthe nagging doubtsand about whether he couldtobuild profitable business on needed to find confidence, the right opportunity, takeathe next step. his own that would provide him with the level of income he required meant that Andrew needed to about find the confidence, and the right opportunity, takeSunday the nextTimes step. prompted An article Platinum Property Partners appearing into the Andrew to get in touch to understand more about how a franchise works and if it could An article Platinum Property Partners appearing in the Sunday Times be right forabout him. Andrew recalls, “I needed to find something I could initially run prompted alongside Andrew to as geta in touch toopportunity understanduntil more about how a the franchise andwas if it there, could my day job part-time I was confident incomeworks I needed be right for him. Andrew recalls, “I needed to find something I could initially run alongside

Andrew Borrill Andrew Borrill

my day job as a part-time opportunity until I was confident the income needed was giving me the Isecurity to bethere, able to walk away from my current position. I didn’t want the new venture to be a huge drain on my time either, so it felt that I was seeking the giving me the security to be able to walk away from my current position. I didn’t want impossible.” the new venture to be a huge drain on my time either, so it felt that I was seeking the impossible.” Following a PPP Discovery Day and copious amounts of due diligence and research (“I


read everything I could lay my hands on whenever I had a spare moment, which meant Following a PPP Discovery Day waiting and copious amounts ofthe duemove!” diligence andAndrew) researchthe (“I I learned all I know now whilst for trains and on laughs

THE FIGURES Total Portfolio Value:

read everything I could lay my onyounger whenever I had spare moment, whichsecurity meant decision made itself. “I saw howhands people than me ahad achieved financial I learned all Icredible know now waiting for trains on the move!” laughs the and built up andwhilst profitable businesses in and a relatively short period of Andrew) time, simply

circa £650,000

Total Portfolio Value: Annual Rental Income:

decision made itself. saw how people younger hadtoachieved security by following the PPP“Imethodology to the letter. than I wasme able speak tofinancial those Franchise and built and up credible and profitable businesses a relatively period of time, simply Partners ask them first-hand how they hadindone it, and short they all explained that they

circa £650,000 £102,000

by the PPP methodology the letter.advice.” I was able to speak to those Franchise hadfollowing just followed PPP’s tried, testedto and proven Partners and ask them first-hand how they had done it, and they all explained that they

Annual Rental Income: Annual Operating Profit:

£102,000 £47,244

had just followed PPP’s tried,and tested andsix proven advice.” Andrew joined PPP in 2010 within months had purchased and refurbished two

Annual Operating Profit:

properties, which he quickly fully let. Having clearly tapped into an area of high demand Andrew joined Andrew PPP in 2010 andtowithin sixthat months had purchased and refurbished two in Lincolnshire, proved himself the strategy was the right one.


I totally attribute my success to the fact that I had the support of the PPP team,my which gave I totally attribute success to me the right start. Without PPP the fact that I had the support Iof would have achieved the PPPnot team, which gave the exceptional results me the right start. Without I’ve PPP managed in such a short time. I would not have achieved the exceptional results I’ve managed in such a short time.

properties, which he quickly fully let. Having clearly tapped into an area of high demand in Lincolnshire, proved to himself that the strategy wasproperty the rightproved one. successful Following PPP’s Andrew proven systems, further investment into a third and within a few weeks’ of finishing the refurbishment that too was let. But what does Following PPP’s proven systems, further into “Always a third property successful Andrew feel is the most valuable lessoninvestment he’s learned? listen toproved the experts and and withinyourself a few weeks’ of finishing the refurbishment that tooyou was let. Butawhat does surround with specialist knowledge. You may think that can build profitable Andrew feel is the most valuable lesson he’s learned? “Always listen to the experts and property portfolio yourself, and PPP do make it look easy, but property is an expensive surround You may think you can build a profitable asset classyourself and youwith canspecialist lose yourknowledge. shirt, and everything else,that if you get it wrong.” property portfolio yourself, and PPP do make it look easy, but property is an expensive asset class and you can lose your shirt, and everything else, if you get it wrong.”


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The phrase ‘all that glitters is not gold’ contains a kernel of truth. But the founder of goldplating business and franchise Goldgenie, Laban Roomes, is very much the genuine article



Franchise in the spotlight:



he streets certainly haven’t always been paved with gold for Goldgenie founder Laban Roomes. “I grew up in abject poverty,” he says. “My parents separated when I was around four years of age and my mum struggled to keep a roof over our heads.” Roomes’ mother wrestled with mental health problems and, while she earned a decent wage, it was still difficult for her to make ends meet. “I made a conscious decision that I was going to make my own money,” Roomes adds. Many a young entrepreneur has cut their teeth trimming their neighbours’ hedges and Roomes is no exception. However, even then, the Leyton-born entrepreneur wasn’t content with sitting at the head of a smalltime operation. “I had a team of people working for me,” says Roomes. “And I actually started to make more money than my mother who worked at the local factory.” He was, at that time, just 11 years old. By the time he was 18, Roomes was exporting cars to Jamaica and making ten times what he was paying for them. Ever the dutiful son, Roomes used his success to support his mother. “At the age of 19, I paid off the home that we lived in,” he says. “If there’s been a high point of my life, it was paying off my mum’s mortgage.” However, the real test of the entrepreneur was just around the corner. After spending some time travelling to various countries, he went to Jamaica to visit family and help out with that side of his import/export business. Unfortunately, he was greeted by something of a shock.


“The business that I had trusted with my in-laws had been completely sold,” he explains. And, in addition to discovering that his business had been ruined, his mother suffered a real dip in her mental health. Roomes returned with £80 in his pocket to find all the locks had been changed on the house. For most people, finding themselves homeless wouldn’t appear to be the ideal time to start a business. But Roomes wasn’t easily beaten. He recalled something he’d seen on his travels in America that had piqued his curiosity: a portable gold-plating machine. “I drew a picture of this gold-plating system, found someone to make it for me, borrowed money from an ex-girlfriend and got the prototype made,” he says. “I literally knocked on people’s doors and asked them if they had items they wanted gold-plated.” His first sale was an order of ten nipple rings for Unusual Skin, a piercing store in Tottenham, London. He made £10 for the whole order. Going from nipple rings to a deal with Lexus may seem like a huge leap but Roomes was nothing if not persistent. Finding that


the car manufacturer wouldn’t respond to his letters or calls, he decided to take direct action, heading to a dealership that once stood in Barbican and insisting they let him demo the product. “They dared me to gold-plate an emblem on the car without messing up the paintwork,” he says. “And I did so, to their amazement.” From the off, seven dealerships signed on the dotted line. However, Goldgenie’s big ticket item isn’t Lexus emblems: it’s mobile phones. The idea initially came from a purchaser of one of the company’s business options; it took off so quickly that Roomes was soon picking up the overflow. Then, when the idea’s originator was forced to retire for personal reasons, the phones became a mainstay of Goldgenie’s business. At this stage, Roomes was still running a humble operation out of a tent in his back garden. So it came as something of a shock in 2007 when he got a call from the organisers of American television industry awards the Emmys. “They said, ‘We’ve got 55 phones that we need gold-plating’,” he recalls. “They were going to Helen Mirren, Denzel Washington – literally every single person who’d been nominated for an Emmy Award.” And, of course, that wasn’t his only brush with celebrity during 2007: the entrepreneur was also invited to appear on Dragons’ Den. Three times. When he was first asked to appear, he went to the studio and, after demonstrating what he did, the show was eager to book him in.


Gold-plated Wii

June 2013


“They can set up a company in their own name and become a Goldgenie-certified professional”


They gave him a date and time and arranged a limo. But in the intervening time, doubts had begun to creep in, largely thanks to the negative advice of some of the people around him. “When they came down, I said, ‘Look, I’ve made a terrible mistake. I’m not going on the programme. I’m very sorry,’” says Roomes. This happened a second time and, had it not been for an acquaintance putting him forward for the show, Goldgenie’s path might have been very different. The show’s producers were understandably wary but something had changed for the entrepreneur. One of Roomes closest friends, Mark Mackenzie, had tragically died. “He was a very talented, good-looking guy,” says Roomes. “He could sing, he could act, he could model. But he was always too scared to step up his game.” The fact that he passed away without ever being able to make the most of his talents hit Roomes deeply and he vowed fear wouldn’t hold him back. When he was offered another shot at going on the show, he took the chance. As experiences go, it was pretty dramatic. Roomes remembers standing at the bottom of the Den’s stairs and another contestant asking him why he seemed so calm and collected. He began to explain about the death of his friend. “As I was telling the story I started to cry a river of tears,” he says. “The clock was counting down, ‘59, 58, 57…’ and I was June 2013

crying like a baby at the bottom of the stairs.” Roomes managed to pull himself together just in time and used the energy of his story to win over the investors. “I went into all of that spiel and they just felt it,” he says. “I came alive and Mark Mackenzie was one of the triggers.” His story and business won over James Caan, who invested, and Goldgenie’s profile exploded. “Excuse the pun, but it says in the Bible, ‘A good name is better than silver and gold’,” says Roomes. “And I think just having James Caan’s name attached to the business was incredible.” Roomes has since bought back all of Caan’s shares – meaning he still retains 100% of the enterprise’s share holdings – but the pair remain in close contact. One of the lynchpins of Goldgenie’s growth has been its franchising system. The selling of master franchises has helped spread the brand around the world, enabling people to run Goldgenie in their own country. However, perhaps more interesting is the Goldgenie business option. “They can set up a company in their own name and become a Goldgeniecertified professional,” Roomes explains. This entitles them to act as resellers as well as gold-plating for themselves.

It isn’t just about boosting brand profile though. Most important for Roomes is knowing he is offering people opportunities to build their own success stories. “I started this business literally from a friend’s floor, because of what happened in Jamaica and losing everything,” he says. Which is why Goldgenie is in the process of setting up its own mentoring and incubator scheme, dubbed ‘Online Dragons’. Packaged with access to web design, marketing resources and space in the Goldgenie offices, the intention is to help other entrepreneurs with the same passion as Roomes himself. More than just a case of a glittering finish on a well-thumbed product, Goldgenie is an example of 24-carat entrepreneurialism. And it’s helping to galvanise a whole new generation of budding business ventures.

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The ZipYard – A Recession Proof High Street Franchise The Zip Yard is the fastest growing garment alteration franchise in the UK.

E 88

stablished in 2005 in Belfast The ZipYard was officially launched in Britain by The Bardon Group in early 2011. Since then eight centres have opened with eight in the pipeline for 2012 and a further dozen planned for 2013. The ZipYard offers a wide range of alteration and tailoring services, all done on site by trained professionals in purpose-built, beautifully refurbished centres, branded in the ZipYard’s signature eye-catching yellow and black colours. From dress re-styling and taking in or letting out to bridal-wear fitting or formal wear alterations, the ZipYard provides convenient, speedy and cost effective clothing alterations and repairs. The ZipYard franchise package is a total turnkey operation, comprising a complete shop fit, state of the art machinery, computer systems and a comprehensive marketing package. The package includes industrial sewing machines, specialist alteration and repair machinery, a computer, software, EPOS system, signage, fixtures and fittings, various consumables, starting stock, plus training and ongoing support from the franchisor, and a marketing and PR campaign to launch each centre.

Basingstoke in May 2012 after being made redundant 8 months previously: “The whole team has been fantastic. From the training, which was very hands-on, to the huge level of support I’ve had, it’s all been great. Although it’s my business and the buck stops with me, I’ve never felt alone or out on a limb. It’s been teamwork from day one.” “I would definitely recommend the ZipYard to other potential franchisees. I’m learning all the time and it’s such a sociable business. I really enjoy talking to the customers and I get such a feeling of satisfaction from seeing how happy they are when their clothes fit properly.” Training & Support

All Franchise Owners have a two-week comprehensive induction programme that covers business practices, computer systems, running a centre, marketing and promotions, and recruitment. Part of the training takes place in an existing centre that is up and running to provide proper handson experience. Every aspect of the set-up from finding premises to launching and promoting the centre is fully supported by the franchisor. Once up and running the support continues with additional training, business and product development work, on-going business advice and planning, and marketing.

“I would definitely recommend the ZipYard to other potential franchisees. I’m learning all the time and it’s such a sociable business”

Why choose The ZipYard?

Some existing franchise owners explain why they chose the ZipYard over and above other franchises. Jill Phillips, 46, set up the ZipYard in June 2013

Contact Janet Matthews t: 01530 513307 e: Total Cost: Approx. £33,000 + VAT plus shop fit

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Duty of care

With health and safety legislation in the midst of change, employers’ obligations have been put back under the spotlight 91

W Denham Bell,


consultant solicitor at Keystone Law

Sandra Moore,

commercial director of Perry Scott Nash

hile regarded a relatively mundane subject in a number of quarters, health and safety remains something that SMEs can ill afford to let drop to the lowermost end of their priorities. Indeed, for those of us who keep a close eye on the daily news churn, there have been a few snippets of coverage regarding the health and safety domain in recent weeks. The most notable of these revolved around the ‘strict liability’ placed on employers for workplace incidents resulting in loss or injury to an employee. The implications of this liability were evaluated by Professor Ragnar E Löfstedt, director of King’s College’s Centre for Risk Management, in his extensive report to the government in November 2011, Reclaiming health and safety for all: an independent review of health and safety legislation. In it, he outlined the following state-of-play: “There are cases where employees have been awarded compensation despite employers doing everything that is reasonably practicable and foreseeable. This is because certain regulations impose a strict liability on employers that makes them legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by their acts and omissions regardless of their culpability.” Löfstedt thus put forward a recommendation that “regulatory provisions that impose strict liability should be reviewed by June 2013 and either qualified with ‘reasonably practicable’ where strict liability is not absolutely necessary or amended to prevent civil liability from attaching to a breach of those provisions”.

June 2013



Denham Bell, consultant solicitor at Londonbased legal firm Keystone Law. “Yes, it reduces it, but employers have got to be aware that if an accident happens at work, and they haven’t taken all the necessary steps, they will still face a legal action from an injured employee. And there is still a potential for criminal liability on the part of an employer.” To that end, the same basic rules continue to apply in the health and safety realm and it essentially stems, at the outset, from an The intention here was ultimately to prevent application of practicality. “A lot of health and safety is common sense,” diligent employers feeling the brunt of the explains Sandra Moore, commercial director of environmental health UK’s escalating ‘compensation culture’ and consultants Perry Scott Nash. “The first thing is to carry out a risk going beyond what regulations require simply assessment of any hazardous activities that are going on in the to avoid being sued. Nevertheless, as much workplace.” She adds: “Employers do have to take a sensible approach and as the government welcomed Löfstedt’s they have also got to take positive steps towards a safety culture. If there recommendations, its response to them has is a safety culture coming from the top-down, you get fewer accidents been shrouded in controversy, with the because everyone has a positive attitude towards health and safety.” professor himself admitting it appears to And although this may not seem the most revolutionary of observations, go further than he envisaged. A tweak a little bit of education never goes amiss. In fact, it is a fairly key to the Enterprise and component for a Regulatory Reform Bill “If there is a safety culture coming from the top- business in its drive has removed employers’ towards a reputable down, you get fewer accidents because everyone safety philosophy. strict liability in some areas, meaning the onus “Employees also have has a positive attitude towards health and safety” a general duty under is now placed on the employee to prove the Health & Safety Sandra Moore, commercial director of Perry Scott Nash negligence on behalf of at Work Act to their superior when pursuing a civil claim. ensure their health and safety, as well as that of their work colleagues,” “The approach being taken is more farMoore remarks. “So employers have got to provide sufficient levels of reaching than I anticipated in my information, instruction and training and that can take a variety of recommendation,” Löfstedt remarks in his methods. It doesn’t have to be sit-down-in-the-classroom-style; it could be follow-up report, published this February. a toolbox talk that lasts for 15 minutes to half an hour on a particular “I hope that the government will carefully subject at a team meeting. But they have to instil confidence in their monitor the impact to ensure that there are employees so that they can go to them with any health and safety or no unforeseen consequences.” welfare issues – there has got to be that communication in place.” Others who are uncomfortable with the Of course, the imperative to maintain a safe place of work also extends change have naturally voiced concerns about to the relationship an SME has with the general public, whether that such ‘consequences’, with some worried that be a customer, contractor or other third party. “It is quite explicit in the compensation culture among employees the legislation – employers have a general duty, so they’ve got to make may transform into one of complacency on the sure there are measures in place that will protect whoever is using the employer front. However, for at least one legal workplace,” says Moore. What is one to make then of the Health and mind, there is an insistence that the new Safety Executive’s (HSE) recently released list of ‘bogus’ health and position will not, and indeed should not, safety excuses used by employers to justify certain decisions to impact on the duty of care an employer still customers? Bell laughs when recalling some of the incidents, labelling has to his or her employees when it comes to them ‘bizarre’, but stresses that they are thankfully few and far between. health and safety. “I don’t think in all honesty “In my experience, most employers are pretty responsive it is going to make that much difference to the about health and safety,” he says. Yet, with changes afoot, the need to potential liability of employers,” comments keep your eye on the ball has probably never been greater. June 2013

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Judo’s secure mobile payment solution lets you accept credit and debit cards using any mobile phone. Paying with Judo is fast, easy and hassle free. All you need is any mobile phone and any debit or credit card. Elite Business readers get an additional 15% off setup costs using promotional code A1625.

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DMS Exhibition Specialists We ensure that the continuity of the customers corporate branding is followed through every stage of the print process, whether it is a business card or an exterior sign to an exhibition banner. Our services include stand build/graphics and systems, roller banners, pop ups, bespoke modular systems, shell scheme panels, posters and banners including all your printed literature requirements.

t: 01622 607966 e: w:




Pick and Pack


Access Fulfilment is a leading provider of fulfilment, logistics and shipping services for the UK, Europe and International community. With our fully integrated location and stock management system we can track any order from receipt to dispatch. We can meet any volume/product type or requirement through our wide range of experience in diverse clients from commercial and educational to printed and medical products. Essential additional services include pack make up, after-sales customer service, collection and replacement, labelling, hand finishing and client returns.

t: 08700 601563 e: w:

Virtual Administration

It’s simple: video is the most powerful way to boost traffic and conversion rates. Wagon Media creates original, targeted video for web and TV. Broadcast expertise for your online budget. commercials | corporate | explainer | training | exhibitions Contact Rebecca on June 2013

t: +44 (0) 1252 850058 m: 07789 773985 w: e:


37 million UK customers viewed video online in March 2013*

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There when you need me - communicative and responsive Free one hour consultation Fixed cost where possible, and transparency on fees Value for money expertise

Mobile Payment Device

Practical and flexible legal support for your business needs We can help you with setting up corporate arrangements and agreements; reviewing and drafting commercial contracts; providing assistance with employment and HR related matters. We offer: •Fixed fees (where possible) •£175 off first instruction (new clients) •Free complimentary support on general legal queries by phone and email (existing clients).

Printing Services

Timely, effective advice in a language that won’t baffle. With over 12 years experience advising owners, directors, and shareholders, Legal Services for Business offers companies a fresh approach to law.

*comScore, May 2013

We save businesses time and money by providing flexible, efficient and cost-effective Virtual Assistance either on an ad-hoc or retainer basis.

Services include: •Digital Media Branding •Marketing /Design •Copywriting •Secretarial

•Social Media Management •C.R.M. •Research •Administration

t: +44 1383 728188/ +44 7906 806261 e: w:

We are a UK–based business who can provide your company with as much or as little office support as you need. ✓ Book-keeping and payroll ✓ Virtual PA ✓ Travel & accommodation arrangements ✓ Visa applications ✓ UK company registration ✓ Assistance with IOM & BVI registration

t: +44 (0)1322 305016 e: w:

CLASSIFIEDS Virtual Assistance

Business office address, mail forwarding & telephone call answering services in Canary Wharf, London VIRTUAL OFFICE FEATURES Your London virtual office agent • Canary Wharf office address • Local branch office in Docklands • Ready to go virtual office services • Fully staffed reception team • No staff management issues • Telephone call answering services • Mail receipt & forwarding • A place to meet clients in London • Complete London office outsourcing • Cost management / easy budgeting • No long term commitments

t: 02078 637500 e: w:

VOIP Systems

Virtual Lilly provides secretarial and administrative services to both businesses and individuals. Specialising in high quality secretarial, administrative support for a variety of clients. Virtual Lilly can provide a flexible and efficient service as and when is needed, whether it be on an ad-hoc or regular, long term basis. The advantages of using a virtual assistant are extremely cost effective. You will no longer need the additional expense of training, hiring a temp or the day-to-day costs of employing somebody new.

t: 01353 658245 or 07803421526 e: w:

An award-winning Internet telephony specialist with one of the largest VoIP networks in the UK. • Business VoIP solutions • Hosted ‘cloud’ phone systems • Business telephone numbers • SIP trunking (VoIP phone lines) • Unified communications • VoIP hardware Reduce your phone bills and increase your productivity. Contact us for a FREE trial.

t: 0800 012 4420 e: w:

Web Design

We are a web design agency who specialize in bespoke web design projects and start up packages for small businesses. Our web design, and on-line marketing services include E-commerce, Logo Design, Web Site Re-Design & Web Hosting. Specialists in CMS systems such as Joomla, Drupal and WordPress we can design, support, upgrade, and expand all these great open-source solutions.

Grow your business online We are a full service design agency, but our services don’t just stop at creative design. We deliver powerful Search Engine Marketing strategies to empower your business. Mega Mind are your essential companion for all things online

t: 07582 963619 w:

t: 01664 850 898 w:

We offer a huge range of design solutions from start-up businesses to SME’s. We cover all aspects of web, design and marketing solutions ranging from: • Corporate Identity/Logo Design • Business Stationery Design • Brochure & Leaflet Design • Website Design • Search Engine Optimisation • Email Marketing• Social Media Presence PLUS MUCH MORE t: 01359 240408 e: w:

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Call us today on: 0120 6266 846 OR VISIT

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June 2013




Paying it forward and helping others to benefit from your experience is one of the best bits of being an entrepreneur, says Nicola Barron


Nicola Barron Founder of Homemade London


his month, we’re feeling really positive at Homemade London; we’re about to open a second venue, exciting new projects are in the pipeline and we’ve had a recent flurry of feedback from happy clients. The things I’m perhaps most proud of are my team of designers, who are also achieving things in their own right, and one of our favourite customers, who has just launched her interiors business partly developed through the skills and contacts she gained with us. All this new success has made me feel like sharing the love, so this week I’ve signed up to a mentorship programme for creatives. I don’t claim to have the answers (if you’ve read any of my previous columns this will be pretty self-evident), but I do recognise the importance of business support – and I’ve been lucky enough to have had lots of help along the way. But lately, as my role at Homemade London has developed from one where I do absolutely everything to more of a managerial one, it’s one of my most terrible bosses to date who has been an unlikely source of inspiration. When I left university in 1995, during a period of recession, I ended up taking the first job I was offered. This happened to be at the recruitment agency I visited to find the job in the first place – they were impressed by my enthusiasm (or perhaps desperation), and I was flattered. Alarm bells rang from the start – although the business had been going for more than 15 years, I would be the sole employee and my June 2013

experience of recruitment to date had been limited to interviewing flatmates. I wasn’t to be on my own for long though, as the first few weeks were spent looking for a team of graduate trainees to join me and I had great fun devising a convoluted interview process that even Alan Sugar would have considered extreme. By the time my first month had passed, I hadn’t picked up the phone to a client once (it never rang and I wasn’t asked to), but I thought this was OK because the owner was busy tucked away in his office ‘doing business’. Six weeks into the job and we became a team of three bright young recruiters – without an ounce of industry experience between us and, unfortunately, as it turned out, no

a part-time book-keeper in a small shoe firm. But we knew this triumph was tainted – largely due to the fact that the candidate was massively overqualified for the job as the former financial director of a major oil firm – so, all for one and one for all, we decided to turn our talents to finding new jobs of our own. There’s nothing worse than working for a failing business and I put myself in the position of my poor boss who had to watch his firm disintegrate before his eyes – what was he thinking shutting himself away in his office when he must have realised that he wasn’t going to be able to rely upon his team to make his millions for him? Luckily, the inspiration I’ve taken from this source has been ‘what not to do’. And, while I hope Homemade London bears little resemblance to that particular ailing company, both businesses are service-driven and rely upon effective and engaging staff. So, the experience of being a rubbish employee does tap into my fear of possibly also being a rubbish boss. The key thing this has taught me is that your team is an extension of you – and you need to find the best way for them to represent you appropriately. Even if you don’t have all the answers, mentoring and talking to your team will help you as much as it helps them.

“I recognise the importance of business support – and I’ve been lucky enough to have had lots of help along the way” clients and no leads. But we were definitely keen and we picked up our phones with gusto and started to call HR departments all over London; and a few other cities largely by mistake. Some took pity on us and sent us their job descriptions but the only candidates on our books were the desperate ones who couldn’t get placed with the proper agencies. Three months into the job and the team finally celebrated our first success: I managed to place

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Elite Business Magazine June 2013  

The Unlikely Icon: There’s never been any doubting Julie Deane’s fierce intelligence or unfaltering work ethic.

Elite Business Magazine June 2013  

The Unlikely Icon: There’s never been any doubting Julie Deane’s fierce intelligence or unfaltering work ethic.