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DECEMBER 2012

Room with a view

How workplace design can inspire employees

CAPITAL PURSUIT

Catch the eye of investors

Eco enterprise

Cleantech’s myriad opportunities

Long live the King After two decades at the helm of the company he founded, Will King continues to reign supreme over his global, multi-million pound business

DECEMBER 2012 ÂŁ4.50

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CONTENTS

Inside this month... ISSUE 05 DECEMBER 2012

16 The Elite interview Where there’s a Will there’s a way

09 Editor’s letter 10 Contributors 12 News in brief 13 Talking point 14 Book reviews 21 One to watch

Success story Unruly Media on creating top trends in the digital space

37 Paying it forward

More of the UK’s public services are paid for by the taxes of entrepreneurs than you might think

25 The creative space Bring a touch of magic to the workplace

43 In the bag

Clever packaging can help seal the deal among consumers spoilt for choice

48 A TH_NKing man

Digital marketing agency TH_NK and its effervescent founder Tarek Nseir

07

52 A bitter conflict

Resolving disputes swiftly can prevent them spiralling out of control

55 Talking talent

Deploying new technology gives access to unexplored areas of the global skills market

60 December distractions

32 Question time

How to respond to the queries of the capitalists

Instead of focusing on poor productivity, Christmas is an excellent time to take stock

65 Tech for start-ups

In a bumper Christmas special, we highlight the best consumer gadgets and business tech tools

70 Insider threat

Rather than just defending your perimeters, keep an eye on what’s happening internally too

77 Bringing your own problems? The consumerisation of IT is proving a headache for small firms to manage

82 Franchise in the spotlight

73 Green shoots

The recovery is bringing opportunities for cleantech

Danish audio experts Bang & Olufsen have cornered the home entertainment market

85 Stories from the coalface

Sarah Jackson of Extra Help on lending a helping hand to franchisees

91 The first defence

Outlining a clear policy around data protection is vital to survival

94 Classifieds 98 Start-up diary

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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08/08/2012 07/08/2012 10:28 18:06


EDITOR’S COMMENT

Scan this QR Code to register for your free copy of Elite Business Magazine

ISSUE 05 DECEMBER 2012 SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager E: harrison.bloor@cemedia.co.uk T: 01206 266843 Richard Smith – Account Manager E: richard.smith@cemedia.co.uk T: 01206 266844 EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor E: hannah.prevett@cemedia.co.uk Josh Russell – Feature Writer E: josh.russell@cemedia.co.uk Jon Card – Feature Writer E: jon.card@cemedia.co.uk Lindsey McWhinnie – Chief Sub-editor E: lindsey.mcwhinnie@cemedia.co.uk DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Designer E: leona.connor@cemedia.co.uk T: 01206 266845 Clare Bradbury – Designer E: clare.bradbury@cemedia.co.uk T: 01206 266845 Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager E: dan@cemedia.co.uk T: 01245 905805 CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager E: malcolm.coleman@cemedia.co.uk ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager E: sally.stoker@cemedia.co.uk T: 01206 266846 DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director E: scott.english@cemedia.co.uk 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

Entrepreneurs may not be awarded medals – but perhaps they should be As 2012 draws to a close, it’ll be to a collective sigh of relief from Britain’s business owners. It’s been another testing year for the nation’s entrepreneurs, for, while the green shoots of recovery have begun to emerge, difficulties accessing finance, complexities around the supply chain and a slump in consumer activity mean we’re not quite out of the woods just yet. But at Elite Business we just watch in awe and amazement at the way businesses continue to plough on regardless. The wheels of commerce continue to turn. And the sheer bloody-mindedness of those at the helm is precisely the attitude we need if we are to return our economy to good health.

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One entrepreneur who has this drive and resilience in abundance is this month’s cover star Will King (p16). Having been made redundant in the recession of the early 1990s, he set up his men’s grooming business King of Shaves in 1993. And while there have been setbacks along the way – not to mention the fact he chose to go into a fiercely competitive marketplace – the business continues to thrive, while others have fallen by the wayside. And King is not the only one to have embodied this wonderful Dunkirk spirit. All around us we see armies of entrepreneurs and changemakers sticking their stakes in the ground and declaring ‘we’re here to stay’ – whether it’s our one to watch, Unruly Media (p21), or the eco-entrepreneurs of our feature on the thriving cleantech sector (p73). This year, we’ve had many reasons to be proud to be British. But that doesn’t end with the Jubilee or the Olympics. Business owners may not be awarded medals for all they do for this country, but perhaps they should be. So, as we get stuck into our mince pies and whisky, let’s raise a glass to the unsung heroes of the nation. Cheers.

Copyright 2012. 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.

HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR

Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but is at owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore CE Media Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

www.cemedia.co.uk

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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CONTRIBUTORS

Contributors Josh Russell

If the hat fits, wear it, as the old adage goes. If anything fits Russell it’s journalism. Our features writer is a vociferous Leeds graduate who has a romantic relationship with his laptop. Whether writing about the workplace or packaging, he’s something of a design aesthete – which is how he created the fetching creation upon his noggin.

Martin Reed

This month, EB’s people expert and Thomas International CEO Reed explores how to keep employees productive during December – even when they’d rather be Christmas shopping. When Christmas does arrive, Reed will be letting his hair down by skiing in Les Arcs. He’ll be hoping it turns out differently from last year’s trip when he got stuck on a mountain for seven hours and had to sleep in a gymnasium with 200 French tourists.

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Sarah Jackson

This month, Jackson penned us a column about starting her franchise Extra Help in 2008, a service providing domestic assistance to the elderly and working parents. When not working, writing or looking after her five children, Jackson enjoys finding solace in lakeside walks in Milton Keynes. “It’s bliss,” she says.

Nik Butler

Our guest tech columnist Butler has been at the coalface of where SMEs and technology meet for more than 20 years. Although we’re thrilled for his expertise on what the consumerisation of IT means for small businesses, Butler is really Tesco’s discovery: he can currently be found starring in the retailer’s Christmas ad for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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News IN BRIEF

The CBI has put pressure on the government to use windfall money to boost economic growth. The business group says the UK has additional resources at its disposal after it underspent by £7.8bn last year and will be boosted by a further £4bn from the 4G phone network sell-off. It says £1.5bn of this should be spent bolstering “short-term, high-impact measures”. This could include capping business rates at 2% in 2013, and scrapping stamp duty on AIM shares to incentivise investment in mid-sized firms, said CBI director-general John Cridland.

Fresh blood has been drawn in the smartphone patent wars. Nokia is pushing for a temporary ban of the sale of Blackberrys, following the court ruling last month that manufacturer Research In Motion (RIM) was in breach of patent agreements between the two companies. The breach concerns technology that helps the handset connect to the wireless internet. This poses a significant threat to the company and could potentially knock its chances of reviving the ailing brand.

sgm / Shutterstock.com

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Beleaguered electrical retailer Comet has finally hit the runners. Both the economic downturn and the increased popularity of internet shopping for big-ticket items has been blamed for its demise, announced in early November. More than 1,000 redundancies have been announced and more are expected, with 166 stores due to close.

policy and cuts to careers advice and work experience in schools. “The priority now is to look ahead and to agree on measures for accelerating the recovery,” said Green.

Recruitment industry body REC has told the government it needs to do more to boost employment in the UK. In the REC’s mid-term report, CEO Kevin Green said the “pace of delivery is letting business down”. While he lauded schemes such as offering fiscal alternatives for employers to take on young people, he criticised immigration

The Business Network December 6 Old Hall Street, Liverpool L3 9BD London Connections December 6 Regus, 68 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9LJ The Aviva Christmas Special December 6 Norwich City, Carrow Road, Norwich NR1 1JE Speed Networking Events December 7 MWB Canary Wharf 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5LB Speed Networking Events December 7 Hook Heath Road, Woking, Surrey GU22 0QH

The legal wrangle between HP and Autonomy rumbles on. HP announced it was writing off $8.8bn of the $11.1bn it paid for Autonomy in August 2011 after it claimed that the British tech company had ‘inflated’ its value. Autonomy founder and ex-CEO Mike Lynch, who grew the company to become one of the largest software companies in the UK, has flatly denied all the allegations. Small businesses are shunning banks. Just 40% of companies with fewer than 250 employees reported using any form of external finance in the three months to September – the lowest level in nearly three years, a Business Monitor survey revealed. What’s more, the research showed that just one in three firms of those planning to apply for a loan or overdraft are confident their bank will agree to the request. This is down from more than half at the start of 2012, and a record low for the quarterly survey.

EVENTs

The Business Growth Show Swindon December 11 Menzies Hotel, Fleming Way, Swindon SN1 1TN Opening Doors Closing Sales December 12 Regus, 68 Lombard Street, London EC3V 9LJ

If you’ve ever received spam texts about PPI miss-selling refunds, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that two of the worst offenders, from Manchester-based firm Tetrus Telecoms, have just been handed a massive £440,000 fine from the information commissioner for breaching data protection laws. The pair broke legislation about the sale of personal data for marketing after promising to send out 800,000 spam texts a day to consumers’ devices.

Running a Successful Business December 17 34 Dalston Lane, London E8 3AZ

A full event listing is available on our website: elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk/events

Serviced-office provider Regus has opened its first three motorway business centres in Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire in a bid to seize the opportunity created by the increasing popularity of virtual businesses and flexible working. This could mark the start of a change in direction for Regus: a series of road and rail work hubs are planned for the next year.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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Talking Point

Is it time we kissed goodbye the idea of full-time work as the norm? Unless you’ve been walking around with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you’ll be aware of the recent figures from the ONS showing that over three million people in Britain are now officially ‘underemployed’. But is this just the evolution of a new labour market?

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

G

iven that the recession has begun to ebb and that unemployment figures are gradually starting to improve, you would think that we’d seen the last of the bad news. But the much publicised figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), announcing that the number of people who cannot work as many hours as they’d like has increased by one million since the onset of the downturn, have been the first peal of thunder in another storm of doom and gloom among the nation’s media. It’s perfectly understandable that people are concerned by the news. Despite the fact that unemployment never reached expected levels, a lot of people are still out of work and the idea they might struggle to find

YES says Kevin Green Chief exec of Recruitment and Employment Confederation I think in some ways this is a good news story. If it wasn’t for our flexible labour market and people working freelance, self-employed, part-time or in temporary contracts, we would see a million more people unemployed in the current environment. Is that a better solution? There has been huge structural change in the labour market. Obviously, it doesn’t matter what type of organisation you are, you need to keep your cost base lean but you also need the talent and capability. Additionally, many people want to work in different ways. Last week, Timewise Jobs identified the top 50 power parttimers. I think that’s a great example of people who are in quite big jobs – chief executives, MDs, finance directors – who have made a choice to work part time. What’s happening is the flexibility that we traditionally had at the front end or the bottom of the labour market is now operating across the professional and managerial fields of employment. You’ll find more people being self-employed or freelance; they might work for three or four different people to make up their living. There’s absolutely no doubt this is the way the market is heading.

enough hours to pay their way is hardly going to be a welcome one. So, on the one hand the majority of people will be wanting to see a return to the status quo as soon as possible. But it is also an undeniable fact that in the wake of the recession, the way we work is changing. More people are working from home, entrepreneurialism is rising and an increasing value is being placed on flexibility. In light of this, it seems there’s a reasonable chance that the way we make our money is changing. Ultimately, what we all want is for the labour market to stabilise and there to be enough work so people can make ends meet. But are the days of earning a living through the traditional nine-to-five coming to an end?

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No says Rob Holtsworth senior campaigns officer of Trades Union Congress A lot of the rise in underemployment was actually a reaction to recession, so, although it was very tough for people moving onto shorter hours, it was a pragmatic response to recession and it was actually quite a good reaction. It’s better than kicking people out of work altogether because that has a long-term impact. The economy is supposedly starting to recover, but, although unemployment has been falling over the last six months, underemployment is still going up. This is due to the labour market being very weak and pay growth low. If people were able to move into full-time work, hours would increase and we’d have stronger wage growth. Clearly the government has a key role to play overall. It needs to prioritise a proper growth strategy, because that is ultimately going to be the best way to deal with underemployment and low wage growth. Welfare-to-work, the news of the farce of the work programme – none of these things are helping the labour market. They need to do more on that and a proper industrial strategy encouraging jobs growth in higher-skilled sectors – those are the skilled, decently paid full-time jobs that we need.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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BOOK REVIEWS

The Elite read how: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything Dov Seidman

Any book endorsed by Bill Clinton has to be worth a look. And how doesn’t disappoint. Across its pages, moral philosopher and LRN founder Seidman argues that in our hyperconnected world, how we do things matters more than ever. Instead of measuring the how much – metrics such as revenue, profit, market share, debt and so on – we need to be measuring the how, argues Seidman. This means looking at and measuring everything from how we behave, lead, govern and operate to how we consume, engender trust in our relationships, and relate to others. The first version of how came out in 2007, but an updated version was recently released on the basis that its teachings are now even more applicable in a postrecession age. Seidman argues that the global downturn demonstrated the interconnectedness of the modern world in a way that we previously couldn’t have

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begun to fathom, and the need to understand that the way we behave has ramifications for others – near and far. “Moral interdependence is inescapable in a world where mortgage transactions in California can wipe out pension plans in rural Norway, and where global consumer demand for cell phones and videogame consoles fuels genocide in Central Africa,” he says. For large institutionalised organisations that have been knocking around for decades, transforming a mindset takes time. Paul Polman of Unilever, for example, acknowledged that it will take many years to effect change at the consumer goods giant. The advantage for start-ups and small enterprises is that they can embed these values from the outset. So what are you waiting for? HP how: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything, pulished by Wiley, is out now and retails at £18.99

Improve Your Global Business English Fiona Talbot and Sudakshina Bhattacharjee Improve Your Global Business English makes a clear and rarely discussed point: the fact that you can convey your point to your marketing manager down the hall doesn’t necessarily mean that a prospective partner in China will immediately understand. Working with English as a global language takes tact, understanding and finesse, which is why Talbot and Bhattacharjee’s text is such a useful tool in learning to express yourself in any culture. Whether considering how reserved a culture’s expectations of communication might be or learning to produce an impact

on your reader that has a truly international reach, Improve Your Global Business English is a useful read. As you would expect from a text on clear and effective communication, this book manages to be very readable while simultaneously proving hugely instructive for both the non-native speaker wanting to get to grips with the global business language, and the native speaker who just needs to brush up on technique. JR Improve Your Global Business English, published by Kogan Page, is out now and retails at £14.99

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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11/6/2012 11:43:16 AM 27/11/2012 19:54


THE ELITE INTERVIEW

Still standing 16

The year 2013 will mark King of Shaves’ 20th birthday. The past two decades have been anything but smooth sailing, but with founder Will King’s firm hand on the tiller, the business has survived and thrived – becoming one of the UK’s favourite home-grown brands

WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT PHOTOGRAPHY: EMILIE SANDY

W

hat doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or so the old adage goes. Having founded King of Shaves in a recession, and survived another, it’s fair to say entrepreneur Will King has grit and determination in spades. He also has staying power. Whereas many of his contemporaries starting out in the early 90s have either sold up or gone bust, King is still at the helm of the company he founded. And his enthusiasm shows no sign of waning, as his business – now two separate companies – is all grown up with a combined revenue of £22m. As a child himself, King wasn’t quite so cool. Born to teacher parents, King was the

“This was the late 1980s, so there was nothing like Google or social media. All you had was a rollerdex and a phone” eldest of three boys. He attended Kirkley High in Lowestoft – where his father was the head of the sports department. “I didn’t have much fun as a teacher’s child,” confides King. “I was bullied a bit.” Then, when he was in his mid-teens, he

discovered more of a sense of purpose after his father introduced him to sailing. King went on to become a instructor and won a national sailing title in 1983 in a laser – an Olympic-class dinghy. Having fluffed his A-levels, King attended Portsmouth Polytechnic (now Portsmouth University) to study mechanical engineering. “It was hard work,” he recalls. “We had 39-hour weeks and half a day off on Wednesday when I went sailing.” It wasn’t an easy transition for him. “In the first year, I hated it. I tried to run away on Simon Le Bon’s around-the-world yacht that my mates were building in Cowes in 1984.” He missed the boat on that occasion – a crew had already been selected – so he returned to university until his graduation in 1987. At this point, his parents were eager for him to get a job: “They said, ‘Get off our payroll’,” he recalls. “I knew I wouldn’t be an engineer because my maths wasn’t good enough and I didn’t really have a passion for it. And there weren’t many career options around sailing, unless you were good enough to compete professionally.” King’s parents gave him their Media section of the Guardian newspaper where there was a listing for a job selling advertising space on Marketing magazine, a Haymarket publication.

So he moved from Lowestoft to Tooting Broadway in south London, travelling to work in west London every day. “This was the late 1980s, so there was nothing like Google or social media. All you had was a rollerdex and a phone,” he recalls. The learnings from his first sales job were invaluable, he says. “It taught me how to speak to people over the phone. That stood me in good stead for when I came to found King of Shaves and needed to pick up the phone to then-Harrods owner Mr Al Fayed.” After seven months selling advertising on Marketing for £409 a month, King was headhunted to work for a small conference and event production company. He stayed there for a year, learning the ropes, before he was poached again in 1989 to work for a larger company operating in the same field.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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the elite INTERVIEW

17

“I decided to be the master of my own destiny, but also to make things because it felt to me the tangibility of creating something was a little surer and more secure” This meant bigger events, bigger clients – and a bigger paycheck. King had gone from earning £7,000 a year in his first role, to £23,000 at Hedges Wright Creative. “I had a Peugeot 205 GTi and a big wage for my age. I bought myself a flat in Streatham. Things were good.” But the good times can only last so long. The recession of the early 1990s began to bite as companies scaled back conferences and glitzy product launches. “The company I worked

for employed 120 people, had a lot of company cars and a lot of overheads – and suddenly the work dried up.” King ended up being the last man standing at the company, and was handed the reins to make decisions with people’s futures – a level of responsibility the 26-year old felt uncomfortable with. “I ended up being the de facto managing director and had to make people twice my age redundant who had

kids at private school.” Eventually, the management consultants came in and closed the business down altogether. As the lights went off at Hedges Wright Creative, King was already thinking about how running his own business could offer more security. He decided his future wasn’t going to be in advertising or marketing and began considering product ideas. “I decided to be the master of my own destiny, but also to make things because it felt to me the tangibility of creating something was a little surer, a little more secure.” He came up with two ideas. His first business was to be called Animal Republic Survival Gear, which sold T-shirts screen-printed with an animal skin via a process out of LA. The idea failed when the supplier proved to be too flaky. The second idea was to create a shaving oil to be applied underneath traditional foam. This was to become King of Shaves’ first product. Having designed the oil and hand-filled the bottles, King was all but decided on the product name ‘Sunrise’ – the rationale being that men usually shave in the mornings. But as he played cards with his father one afternoon, King senior devised a far superior name. “He turned over the king of spades and suggested that perhaps I should call it King of Shaves instead,” recalls

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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the elite INTERVIEW

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King. “So it’s really my dad I’ve got to thank.” The product grew in popularity, slowly but surely. It was launched into upmarket department stores Harrods and Bentalls in 1993, Boots in 1994, Tesco in 1995, Sainsbury’s in 1996 and Asda at 1998. “It gradually grew at a time when men’s grooming was really a very hot topic,” says King. It was when dealing with large retailers that his confidence in speaking to senior decisionmakers paid dividends. “I knew the value of persistence and that you just had to get on and do it.” His doggedness paid off: with just his fox terriers to keep him company, he grew his men’s grooming business from a spare bedroom. As his business grew, so too did his family. He married his long-term partner in 1997, and two years later they welcomed son Cameron

into the fold. By this point, the business was looking fairly solid: the year of the nuptials King of Shaves turned over £1.25m. “By the time Cameron was born, the business was doing really well – we were able to take regular holidays and enjoy our time together,” he says. “I was lucky enough to be offered some land in Grenada in the Caribbean, so I built a villa there.” Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t grow as solidly as the business and the couple were divorced in 2008. King went on to meet advertising mogul Tiger Savage (co-creator of the Lynx effect, no less) and they married in the spring of this year. The business too has gone through a few substantial structural changes since its induction. Aside from the King of Shaves

“So many businesses I’ve seen set up since the mid- or late-1990s and 2006 have gone to the wall because they only ever saw the good times. And that’s not reality”

range, parent group KMI also designed and launched other brands. Its first was launching Ted Baker fragrances in 1998. And it didn’t limit itself to fragrances either – in 2001 it launched a haircare range called Fish and in 1993 bought bodycare brand Naked. But as the two arms of the company grew and grew, it was decided to separate the businesses entirely, with King heading up the King of Shaves business and partner (and early investor) Herbie Dayal taking the reins at KMI. With King of Shaves accounting for £10.2m revenue and KMI more than £11m, “it was about a £22m business when we demerged King of Shaves”, says King. No small feat for a company that started out just flogging shaving oil. But although the company began with just oil, it soon diversified into other shaving ‘software’ in 1996 with a skincare range and shaving gel. In 2001, a women’s range was launched and in 2008 the real landmark moment came with the release of its Azor: a razor featuring what King calls ‘bendology technology’, or ‘car suspension for a razor’. This was another way for King to take on what he refers to as the shaving ‘duopoly’ – the stranglehold that Gillette and Wilkinson Sword have on the shaving market. He has been very keen over the years to express his disapproval of the mark-ups by the grooming behemoths. He once even appeared in a YouTube video standing on a soapbox at Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park, delivering a tongue-in-cheek pun-laden speech about “stealth shaving taxes”. “If you’re making a refill cartridge for 10p and then the consumer is being asked to pay £3.50 for it in Sainsbury’s, even taking into account VAT and the retailer margin, there is an extraordinary profit being made,” King explains. “In 1993, we launched our shaving oil at £2.99. It’s still at £2.99.” He compares this with his competitor’s elevation of prices. “In 1992, Gillette sold a Sensor Excel cartridge for 49p. It’s now £3.50. That’s very margin rich but it’s also extraordinarily costly for consumers.” It’s safe to say that King of Shaves has always been the underdog of the shaving market – and is likely to continue to be so for the foreseeable future. But this means that King and his team have to be increasingly innovative around their marketing and branding strategies. Just last year, the company posted a video of King in a parody of the King’s Speech. While some could describe it as cringeworthy, it certainly stays true to the company’s values and certain brand of humour. “Of course I’m poking fun at myself a bit. It’s quite self-deprecating,” acknowledges King. “But hopefully it does allow me to get

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the elite INTERVIEW

the brand across to consumers in a way that my competitors can’t,” he explains. “Besides, I think humour has never been needed more than now, what with everything the world is going through.” King is searingly frank about the impact of the global recession on his business and consumer markets. The company is growing well, but unlike many business leaders, who wax lyrical about their ‘optimism’, King is refreshingly honest about the impact of the recession. “The retailers are incredibly tough to deal with at the moment,” he admits. The market has changed irrevocably as a result of the limp economic climate of the past few years, he argues. “Just look at the discounts that are being offered to consumers in fashion, or the pre-Christmas sales – we never used to have those.” And while the customer may think they’ve struck gold with these mega-sales and deals, they take their toll on the suppliers, King says. “If you see a 50% off deal, or a buy one get one free offer, that costs suppliers a lot of money,” he explains. “You’ve got to play games, or you won’t be on the shelf. That just doesn’t do much for the profitability of the business at this moment in time.” One advantage that King of Shaves has is that it is a business born in the recession of the early 1990s. It was set up on a shoestring. King knows what it means to bootstrap and to hunker down and tough it out. “So many businesses I’ve seen set up since the mid- or late-1990s and 2006 have gone to the wall because they only ever saw the good times. And that’s not reality.” But he’s also looking to the future with the next stage in the company’s development – the launch of the business’s second razor early next year. King is tight-lipped about what exactly it’ll look like, but he is comparing its release to “what the iPhone did to phones with buttons”. Watch this space indeed. When not standing on soapboxes philosophising about about shaving or coming up with new products, King spends a significant portion of his life helping young entrepreneurs realise their ambitions. One of his current mentees is Stuart Jolley, founder of face and body wipe maker Wingman. “I’m young at heart and I enjoy hanging out with young people and seeing what they’re getting up to,” he says. Business and mentoring aside, King’s social life is also getting a bit of boost since he moved back to the Big Smoke after 20 years in the countryside. “I’m just enjoying life with my gorgeous wife,” he says, happily. “We go to lots of events together in London and have lots of fun together. Just enjoying life, really.”

“You’ve got to play games, or you won’t be on the shelf. That just doesn’t do much for the profitability of the business at this moment in time”

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December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ONE TO WATCH

z Company CV

Name: Unruly Media Founded by: Sarah Wood, Scott Button, Matthew Cooke Founded in: 2006 Team: 120+

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Ruling the world WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

With offices across three continents, it’s fair to say that Unruly Media is fast becoming a global success story

U

nruly Media is taking the world by storm. The video advertising innovator has quickly become one of the UK’s fastest growing tech companies, recently ranked tenth on the 2012 Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100. Co-founder Sarah Wood is also no stranger to accolades. Last year she netted the coveted UK Female Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Fast

Growth Business Awards and was also named one of Inc. Magazine’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech in 2012. But what is it that has made her one of the UK’s hottest tech faces? “I’ve always been keen to learn new stuff and I’m really interested in new ideas and making stuff happen,” says Wood. When she was a child, it was rare for her not to be involved in some sort of business, whether that was walking a pack of neighbourhood dogs, babysitting in the evenings or using her weekends to wash cars. “I’ve always enjoyed working and I’ve always enjoyed ideas and being creative,” she explains. But, while her co-founders Scott Button and Matthew Cooke could often be found fiddling with their Acorn Computers and Commodore 64s in

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ONE TO WATCH

“Starting up a business is like bringing up a family and the ‘parents’ need to be aligned in terms of values and a sense of trajectory” Sarah Wood, co-founder Unruly

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their youth, Wood has always been a little less tech-obsessed. “Technology is interesting for what it can help us do, rather than as an end in itself,” she says. Something that has formed a large part of Wood’s life is academia. In total, the PhD holder spent 10 years in higher education studying literature, and has subsequently dedicated herself to giving lectures and passing her knowledge on to others. “Academia was great because it gave me the freedom to come up with new ideas and the platform to get those ideas heard,” she says. “That’s not to mention the peer group and the student group, which help develop those ideas further.” It was also academia that introduced her to Button; she met her future husband and co-founder when the two of them were studying for their bachelor’s degrees at the University of Cambridge. These elements would both become vital in the Unruly journey. “Having high integrity co-founders and having co-founders who you trust is so important,” she says. Without a strong relationship and trust between partners, she feels success will always be hard to come by. “Starting up a business is like bringing up a family and the ‘parents’ need to be aligned

in terms of values and a sense of trajectory.” After gaining her PhD, it wasn’t long before Wood was lecturing at the University of Sussex and, although she enjoyed her time there, she found she wanted more. “Ultimately, the impact you can have in academia is quite limited,” she relates. “You know that it’s time to move on when in the evenings, rather than thinking about literature, you’re thinking about the latest business idea.” At the time, Button had been the CEO of ad serving and online analytics firm Connextra. While there he met Cooke, who held a senior position at the company, and he led the firm to its trade sale in 2005. This provided the start-up capital the trio would need to embark on their new venture. “We’d always known we were going to build software because Matt was a techie, and Scott, although not a computer scientist, was also very techie,” Wood says. “That’s where the barriers had come down and we could see there were lots of tools we could plug into.” While YouTube was only just beginning to build up steam and Facebook was still catering solely to universities, services such as Digg and Delicious were already starting to attract a lot of attention. “That was the year when the information

Sarah Wood at the Fast Growth Business Awards

web was dying away and the social web was rising,” she says. “In a sense that was where the action was.” Unruly Media was founded in 2006 and very quickly thronged with ideas. The first that really began to make waves in the marketplace was its Viral Video Chart; the software was designed to search the web for links and embed codes for videos on YouTube and then ranked them in the order of which were the most popular. It also looked at how people shared the content and how influential they were. Wood remarks, “That’s what got us thinking about a sustainable solution, so brands could reach a global audience with their branded content and find a way

Some examples of content that has used Unruly’s platform

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ONE TO WATCH

of doing that at speed and scale.” And this is what gave birth to MEME – the media engagement and measurement engine. “Think of it as part content management system (CMS), part ad server and part social analytics dashboard,” explains Wood. Clients send Unruly their video files and MEME ingests the video files, loading them into their systems and tagging them with digital tracking that allows agencies to carefully monitor whether the content is reaching the right audiences. It also provides optional plug-ins and social annotations. “You can run a video alone but, nowadays, brands also want to layer over additional functionality – be that data capture, polls, competitions, all kinds of interactive features,” says Wood. “Video is such an opportunity.” While ideas such as the Viral Video Chart and MEME were generating a lot of interest in Unruly, the three co-founders were hardly living on easy street. “For the first three years we were bootstrapped – we didn’t take salaries, Scott and I sold our flat, our kids didn’t have any new clothes,” says Wood. They had had no small amount of interest from investors, so it made very sound business sense to hold out for as long as they could. “We really wanted to wait until we’d proven the business model, grown the revenues and at that point it felt like a much better time to take on capital.” But their time eventually came. By 2011 Unruly had opened its first international office in New York, and the United States quickly cottoned on to how valuable its tools could be. “There was a real desire for the product and we were very keen to open in Chicago and

San Francisco,” Wood says. “We realised we would need additional capital to really grow our geographical reach and diversify our product set.” The threesome embarked on their first round of funding and closed it in January of this year, having secured a $25m investment from Amadeus Capital Partners. And in the last 10 months the company has hardly rested on its laurels. Unruly now operates in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, LA, London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Sydney, and the team has been developing its latest tools. Released only at the beginning of this month are two exciting projects. The first,

the Share Rank predictor, is designed to help brands better understand how their content works. “We take content, run it through biometric tests across social panels and then we can advise brands on how much social traction the particular piece of content is going to get,” Wood explains. Perhaps more exciting, however, is Unruly Hive. “We’re launching an international start-up hive, where other companies working in the same space as us, or

23

“For the first three years we were bootstrapped – we didn’t take salaries, Scott and I sold our flat, our kids didn’t have any clothes” somewhere similar, are going to be taking space in our office and become part of the ecosystem,” says Wood. Given the huge number of events that are carried out at Unruly – from book launches to its social media week – the next logical step was to allow tech-orientated entrepreneurs make the most of the resources Unruly has at its disposal. Wood remarks, “Part of the long-term legacy that we want to leave behind is helping to boost the tech start-up echo system in London and to give companies that are just starting out access to the facilities we didn’t have when we began.” December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ANALYSIS

A change of place

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Our environment can shape the way we think – nowhere is that truer than in the office. And sometimes improving the workplace can kick your business into its highest gear

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

O

ur surroundings can have a huge effect on the way we work. “YouGov actually did a study at the end of last year and found 61% of workers feel they are more productive in an office with a view, state-of-the-art technology and nice surroundings,” says Jessica Cox, marketing manager at serviced office developer Orega. Undoubtedly, we all have memories of the alternative to verify this. Endless seas of desks. Colour palettes that felt more like an attempt at crowd control in monochrome than a decorative touch. It hardly acts as the best motivation. “You’re at work 15.5% of your life, your surroundings are really crucial because you’re staring at them all day,” Cox says.

Part of making the best of your office space is down to understanding the effect it can have on staff. “There are a lot of offices which are just four white walls with desks and some computers in them,” Cox says. “And what happens is people just feel caged in; they’ve got nothing to look at, no fresh air.” Something that is often forgotten with regard to office design is that when we’re comfortable, we’re much more inclined to remain in that space. This means staff are happier to spend more time in the building, investing more time in the task at hand. As Cox continues: “If you feel blocked in and uncomfortable, you’ll be watching the clock and wanting to leave.”

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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ANALYSIS

Office space design by Orega

When first thinking about how to redesign an office, there’s a lot to consider. Not only is it important to think about an individual taste but different sectors might have different expectations in terms of what they want from their workplace. “Financial companies might typically have a uniform layout with perhaps banks of four desks, and then the CEO or the CFO would be in an adjoining office,” explains Geraint Evans, sales and marketing director at workplace provider Avanta. In contrast, there may be other areas of work that have radically different expectations. Evans continues: “We’ve worked with some media companies, for example, who are very keen on open-plan layouts and they’ve even changed the colours of the walls to suit what they feel is better for creativity.” However, before you get too worried about flinging paint around, there is a lot of practical planning involved. As an office is also about functionality and being able to work done, how does a business ensure that its workspace is best suited to its needs?

“If you feel blocked in and uncomfortable, you’ll be watching the clock and wanting to leave” Jessica Cox, marketing manager, Orega

Office space design by Avanta

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A brief history of space In developmental terms, over the last hundred years office space became increasingly rigid and formalised in its structure, until recently when it gradually started giving way to something much more organic. The idea of an office being intentionally designed, rather than just arising haphazardly, began in 1904. Engineer Frederick Taylor began toying with workplace designs that would allow a manager a clear view of the workplace floor from their private office. Desks tended to be lined up like tables in a classroom and allowed about as much privacy or individuality, although it did allow for a greater efficiency than more erratic layouts. Then, in the 1950s, the German idea of Bürolandschaft – or ‘office landscape’ – began to gain in popularity. It was something of a revolution, bringing the boss out of the boardroom and for the first time varying layout of workstations by their function. This had a more fluid feel and lent itself to its natural ‘landscape’ moniker. By the late 1960s this had mutated somewhat, aided by another American, Herman Miller. His ‘Action Office’ and subsequent ‘Action Office 2’ were attempts to create flexible but mass-produced office furniture that allowed some privacy with the introduction of built-in walls. Those of

you with any foresight will see where this is headed – the much-maligned cubicle. Few will remember the 1980s for its striking, innovative design and the ‘cube farm’ was perhaps the epitome of lacklustre office layouts. The sea of square pens, while allowing for greater privacy, is synonymous in most people’s minds with enforced and faceless order. Additionally, this rigid layout entirely ignored practicality for the sake of uniformity – which is a mistake more modern offices have been keen to redress. So how have modern enterprises broken free of working in a geometric nightmare? Essentially the byword in laying out the modern office is ‘activity-driven design’. Rather than letting order suppress function, the way an office is laid out should be tailored to enabling your staff to carry out their daily work in the most effective way. Endless rows of desks may seem like the neatest way to lay out your workplace but when this comes at the cost of having to take a two-minute detour to the nearest printer then you have some issues. Ultimately, the focus in the modern office will be to allow your staff to work in a way that feels most natural and leaving overly structured, awkward solutions where they belong – the past.

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ANALYSIS

“We have a team of people who sit down with directors – they put it all in this big spreadsheet and calculate the optimum productivity that building would then have” Jessica Cox, marketing manager, Orega

“There is a science behind it,” explains Cox. “You don’t just take a floor plan and go ‘It’d be nice to have a break-out area here because there’s a pretty window’.” With all the variables involved it can take some careful planning to work out the best ways to strike a balance between practical office space, desks, break-out spaces and often this means seeking specialist advice. “We have a team of people who sit down with directors – they put it all in this big spreadsheet and calculate the optimum productivity that building would then have.” Only once the best solution has been found does consideration of other factors come into the equation. Given the trend in modern workplaces towards more social forms of working, including active spaces and break-out areas, you need to find a way of striking a balance between louder team-based areas and more

quiet, reflective areas. “We give our buildings a mix,” says Evans. Balanced consideration to the various needs of your employees can be a huge help and trying to divide the space evenly ensures the best blend. “We have a client in Hammersmith who has a third of the floor as a break-out space where it has table football, a pool table, there is some really nice seating, some beanbags,” he says. “But it also has another room off that which is a library where people have brought in books and you can literally get away from it all.” Obviously, a vital step for any company is being able to make an office their own, even when settling into a serviced space. Evans explains that often at Avanta, they will only actually fit about a third of the space before a client has signed up. “It allows them to come in and say: ‘What I’d like is that wall put up there, all glass so I can see what’s going on

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Office space design by Avanta

Office space design by Avanta

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ANALYSIS

Office space design by Avanta

At its best, a well-designed office will be there to facilitate work in a natural and organic way

Office space design by Orega

with my team’ or put specific artwork up.’” Sometimes these touches may have a practical function and some of them may just be there to show what the enterprise is about. “One of our clients has a whiteboard in their meeting room where they can write from ceiling to floor. To the left of that, the wall is covered by an image of an infinity pool,” he says. “It’s about being able to put their own stamp on the place in terms of look, feel, smell, noise.” And a part of a branded workspace is a sense of creativity and uniqueness. Whether it’s Mind Candy’s unique tree house or Christian Pottgiesser’s elaborate ficus and bubble-domed creation for the PONS + HUOT office in Paris, creative touches to an office can supply much needed inspiration for staff. “Once we’ve checked on the location and the size of a potential office, we say: ‘What can we do to this? Has it got a feature?’” says Cox. “We’ve got a building that’s triangular, we’ve got one that’s an old airport, we’ve got one with a Cotswold wall down the middle of it.”

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Which is all very well. But neither the way your office is made up nor the bare bones of its foundation are as important as its central nervous system. These days, technology forms the basis of almost every enterprise, be they a fashion designer or a law firm, and flexibility has become the foundation of any approach to infrastructure. “All our buildings have WiFi throughout, so people will always have the ability to connect and get online,” says Evans. “Also, we provide terminals so if people don’t have their own tablets or iPads they’re able to just pitch up, grab a coffee and use one of the terminals in the break-out area.” Additionally, enabling staff to function as effectively at home as they can in the office can result in much a more streamlined working experience. “We have homeworker packages where people who at home can just VPN through,” he says. “It’s as if they’re sitting at their desk in the office.” Defining your space is an important part of establishing a business and can, ultimately, have significant rewards in terms of how workers feel about their work. It doesn’t just help staff identify more strongly with a brand or give them novel ways to spend their lunch break – at its best, a well-designed office will be there to facilitate work in a natural and organic way. Taken this way, your workplace can become one of your business’s strongest assets, making it much more than just four walls.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FINANCE

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You’ve got the business as far as possible using cash loaned by friends and family, but now the cupboards are bare. What’s the best way to approach investors and what can you do to prepare for their interrogations?

Million dollar questions www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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FINANCE

“What entrepreneurs often do is they put so much information on the front page of the business plan that it becomes cluttered, and the thinking becomes congested” Dale Murray, Angel Investor of the Year in 2011

that’s on paper or in person. Murray reads around 10 business plans a week – on top of the 10 face-to-face pitches she endures over the same period. The key is simplicity, she says. “What entrepreneurs often do is they put so much information on the front page of the business plan that it becomes cluttered, and the thinking becomes congested.” One of the ways to eradicate such errors is to do away with the business plan entirely. Max Niederhofer, a VP at tech-focused VC firm Accel Partners, says that while it’s important for founders to write down their ideas, this document should not be sent to investors. “Most savvy venture capital investors no longer want the traditional business plan,” he says. Make the job easier for the potential investor, Niederhofer advises. “Remember, entrepreneurship is thriving around the world and we see thousands of companies a year. A long, written document is difficult and lengthy to consume. It’s best is to come up with a 10-to-30-slide PowerPoint deck that delves into the most important points: the market opportunity, your product, the go-to-market plan, your team, the financials, how much money are you raising and what for.” Alliott Cole, a principal in the early-stage investment team at VC firm Octopus, also believes face-to-face pitches are the most useful way of delivering an investment opportunity. “We try to recognise that we’re part of an ecosystem and a community. One element of that is we run an open office every week – it’s an environment where anyone can come and see us. We don’t screen and we don’t make any

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WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT

M

ost people think they know how the investment process works. Thanks to the media saturation of shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den, many aspiring Richard Bransons think all it takes to woo investors is the honing of a presentation and learning key facts and figures. But they’d be wrong. The line between entrepreneur and investor is often slightly blurred. It’s not unusual for investors to have had experience in starting and scaling businesses and are therefore rather picky when it comes to investment opportunities. Dale Murray is a successful entrepreneur in her own right, having started and grown a business in the mobile telecoms space to £7m revenue in its first three years. Now working on the other side of the fence, she was voted Angel Investor of the Year in 2011. Murray says the path from business founder to investor is a well-trodden one. “That’s how it normally works: you build a business and when you get an exit, you want to reinvest some of those proceeds into other entrepreneurial businesses.” As a result, she has a clear idea of the kinds of businesses she wants to be involved with. “First of all, the idea has to grab me. And it has to be in a sector I’m interested in. Someone pursued me yesterday – literally stalked me out of the building and along the street – because he was desperate for me to have a look at his sports business,” Murray recalls. “But I really have no interest in sports businesses, so he could have had the best sports business on the planet, but it’s not something I’m interested in.” Secondly, the entrepreneur needs to express themselves clearly and articulately – whether

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FINANCE

The dos and don’ts of approaching investors

“It’s important there’s a good fit between investor and entrepreneur and that there is an open and honest relationship”

DO Do concentrate on building the relationship first. Hang out where you know investors are likely to be. Even if you won’t be pitching for investment for a while, it’s never too soon to start networking. Do be concise. Investors hear hundreds of pitches a month. No matter how revolutionary you think your product or service is, no VC or angel has the time – or the inclination – to read a 50-page document or listen to a two-hour presentation. Do ask around. Speak to entrepreneurs in your sector who have secured investment and find out who they partnered with and why. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

DON’T Don’t underplay the competition. It is unlikely that you have reinvented the wheel, so there will be competitors. And if there aren’t, you are facing the unenviable task of creating a market from scratch. Don’t push it if it’s clear that you and your chosen investor don’t have the right chemistry. If you don’t see eye to eye at this early stage, it’s best not to pursue it. There will be other investors who are a better match for you and your business. Don’t tell the story you think you ‘ought’ to tell. An experienced investor will be able to see through the bullshit and you’ll be out on your ear. Be as open and honest as possible.

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Alliott Cole, principal in the early-stage investment team at VC firm Octopus

selection as to who can come and see us,” explains Cole. “One of the investment managers will meet an entrepreneur for half an hour to 40 minutes; we tend to see nine to 10 people each week and it’s an opportunity for people to ask us questions, present their business, or just to take the first towards steps building a relationship with us,” Cole says. Cole’s last point about relationships is a vital one: the importance of a healthy relationship between investor and investee cannot be underestimated. Ten Management founder Alex Cheatle says that many of the early investors in his business were people who already knew and trusted him. “Almost all of our founder investors either knew me from university, knew me from my previous employer, Procter & Gamble, or were members of the service – this meant they had the trust.” Cole says that trust has to be a two-way thing. “It is very much a partnership,” he says. “It’s important that there’s a good fit between investor and entrepreneur and that there is an open and honest relationship.” The best way to do this is to spend lots of time together, he explains. “The way we form that relationship is to meet the entrepreneur on several occasions in the run-up to the investment. It gives the entrepreneur the opportunity to see how we operate and

ask several members of the team the same questions to see the consistency of the responses.” Niederhofer agrees that trust is built over time. “Trust is usually built through long conversations with the entrepreneur, diving into their plans and current metrics, testing their knowledge of the market, and exposing them to some of our key industry contacts.” So, financial tables, business plans and P&Ls aside, how much does the founder’s likability count? A lot, says Murray. “Within an hour in the company of an entrepreneur you get a great sense of what kind of person they are and whether or not you want to do business with them,” explains Murray. “I think to myself: ‘Do I like this person sufficiently to want to carry on seeing them?’ It’s like dating.” The business angel says she’s happy to rely on her gut. “I’ve been in business for a couple of decades, and I think my instinct is pretty good now,” she says. “One of the wonderful things about being an angel investor is that I can choose what to do. I have complete choice over my life. I choose to get involved with entrepreneurial businesses and, more than that, I choose to spend my money on them. So I’m not going to spend my money and spend my time on something unless it really ticks all of my boxes.”

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FINANCE

A helping hand WORDS: HANNAH PREVETT

A new report has revealed just how much cash fast-growth businesses generate for the government coffers – with startling results

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here is no denying that 2012 has very much been the year of the entrepreneur. Politicians and business leaders alike have been lining up to tell us that those people who are starting and growing their own businesses are the antidote to the worst recession in living memory. But much of this attention has focused on the job creation element. We are constantly bombarded with figures concentrating on how many jobs are created thanks to SMEs. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), for example, says that small and medium-sized companies account for 47% of private sector employment, while other estimates put it a lot higher. But, actually, what a lot of people – both politicians and the public – don’t take into account is the amount of tax revenue that is generated by fast-growth businesses, says Duncan Cheatle, founder of Prelude Group who commissioned the research conducted

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by PwC. “The bit of the story I’ve never seen written about before is the total amount of tax these founders and businesses produce over a period of time and what that equates to in terms of pubic sector services and jobs.” It goes without saying that corporate tax is a hot topic right now. Recent discussions about Starbucks’ tax practices have caused a lot of heated debate in the business community, with competitors arguing that because other companies pays less tax they have more cash to reinvest into the company, thereby giving a competitive advantage. A fair argument, says Rob Hamilton, founder of serviced office company Instant Offices, one of the participants in the Prelude report. In fact, the importance of transparency around tax practices is one of the main reasons he became involved in the research. “We’ve always paid a lot of money in tax and so when high-profile, equity-owned businesses don’t pay their tax properly it does feel pretty

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FINANCE

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Instant Offices paid a total of £19.5m in tax in the last five years – equivalent to 920 nurses

Health Management paid £24.8m tax in five years = 1,170 nurses

unfair,” explains Hamilton. “The government needs to work harder to create a more level playing field where we’re all in the same boat” he argues. “At the moment, I feel disadvantaged against businesses that for one reason or another have managed not to pay tax.” Hamilton’s resentment is understandable, for SMEs pay a huge amount of money in tax in the UK. One of the aims of the research was to show in real, tangible terms just what the money pays for. So it took the amount paid in total tax and worked out the number of NHS nurses that would pay for. This highlighted, for example, that Instant Offices paid a total of £19.5m in tax in the last five years – equivalent to 920 nurses. These days, around 30% of Instant Offices’ turnover goes to HMRC – though for other businesses it can be higher still. Among the seven fast-growth companies who had their books pored over by PwC for the research, on average, 44% goes out in salaries to staff and 41% in taxes to the government: only 15% is retained or distributed to shareholders. This goes against popular sentiment, which seems to suggest that all businesses are looking for handouts, says Cheatle. “I think there’s a bit of a misnomer here about businesses being on

“The reality is that the large majority of people who start and run businesses are doing it out of a passion to change the world, or to do something better” Duncan Cheatle, founder of Prelude Group

the take. The reality is that the large majority of people who start and run businesses are doing it out of a passion to change the world, or to do something better,” he argues. “There is an assumption that far more of the profits of companies go in the pockets of these ‘greedy’ business people. And that’s so disingenuous. We wanted to highlight that this isn’t the case.”

Duncan Cheatle, founder of Prelude Group

For Andrew Noble, founder of occupational healthcare provider Health Management, starting a business wasn’t for financial gain. In fact, Noble abandoned a lucrative career in the City to launch his company. “You have to ask why people run businesses,” he ponders. “And the answer is often for reasons related to independence, doing something creative, creating a team, doing something you’re proud of and being able to give back.” Just because an organisation doesn’t operate a not-for-profit model, this does not mean that there isn’t an element of altruism, argues Noble. “In a world inhabited by a lot of takers, it’s nice to be able to be a bit of a giver,” he says. And Health Management has certainly given back to the UK over its decade-long lifespan. In the last five years alone, it has paid £24.8m in tax – equivalent to paying the wages of some 1,170 nurses. Despite public perceptions, neither Noble nor Hamilton founded their businesses with the sole aim of making money. Yet in the process of scaling their extraordinary businesses, they have generated jobs and much-needed income for government coffers. And it’s about time we recognised them for this contribution, says Cheatle. “We thank our public servants, like our nurses – and quite rightly too. But how about thanking the people who pay their salaries?”

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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FINANCE

The time is now 40

Starting a business in the midst of a recession may seem counter-intuitive. But – according to Clive Lewis, the ICAEW’s head of enterprise – there’s actually never been a better time

Why a downturn may be a good time to start a new business Customers appreciate value and good customer service more

During a recession customers will think hard about what products to buy. They will search for value and if you give them a good customer experience they will remember you when the economy starts to improve.

office supplies. Other out-of-work people may be prepared to work on a sub-contract basis thereby reducing your business’s fixed costs. Recessions can help toughen up new businesses

Potential competitors are not only weakened but perhaps even closing down. There could be an opportunity for you to close a gap in the market

If a new company can survive when market conditions are especially tough, it can take the lessons it learns to turn itself into an even more successful business when the economy improves. Businesses that survive starting in the bad times have usually mastered how to keep costs to a minimum.

Quality talent becomes more available

Is this the right time for you?

Competitors may be weaker and some may even go out of business

Due to redundancies and failing businesses, talented staff are more easily available and although employing staff may be daunting it can mean you are able to get someone who already knows about the market you are aiming for. Some goods and services are more cost effective

Prices often drop when the economy is static. Office and shop space is cheaper, although starting your small business out of a home office may be the best idea. You should be able to get reduced products both on components and

Although there can be opportunities, you should ask if this is the right time for you personally to set up a new venture. If you are risk-averse or need a regular income, starting a new business may not be for you. This should also apply to setting up a business in a period of growth. The ICAEW’s Business Advice Service (BAS) offers a free, straightforward discussion with an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. Find your local ICAEW firm offering the service at www.businessadviceservice.com

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lthough the UK technically came out of recession in the last quarter, many are fearful about stagnant economic growth, poor retail sales and the continued Eurozone crisis. It may not seem like the best time to start a business but you shouldn’t let it put you off if you have a good idea. Setting up a new company is always daunting but some of the most successful businesses started during a recession. The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are just some of the companies that took the risk during an economic downturn. It can be hard to believe, but periods of poor growth can be one of the best times to start a small business. Some of the reasons for that may be out of necessity. If you have been made redundant, you may have no choice but to go out on your own. You could have had an idea for a small business for a long time, but now that you are out of work, you actually have time to work on the concept. Established businesses may also see opportunities for expansion into new areas.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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TALK TO US ABOUT WHAT’S HOLDING YOUR BUSINESS BACK From cash flow and financing to tax and regulation, your business can now get expert advice from a local ICAEW Chartered Accountant to keep it moving forward.

Visit businessadviceservice.com today and book your free consultation.

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We’re all raised to believe you shouldn’t judge on appearances. But, given that packaging is often the first point of contact for your customer, appearance is, in fact, everything

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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

n the surface, shopping may seem like a rather humdrum, everyday activity, but that view really does belittle the thousands of split-second choices we make as we browse the shelves. JKR Global is one of the UK’s premier packaging design agencies, working with prominent brands such as Guinness, Hovis and Charles Worthington. “In a very crowded store, people get snow-blinded by the volume of things they’re looking at,” explains JKR’s chairman and co-founder Andy Knowles.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Packaging for Rare Tea Company by Studio h

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“Tea is not a new product to most people, but Rare Tea – the idea of a special tea – is possibly a new one” Nicky Hall business partner, Studio h

“What you’re trying to do is help them shop without having to think and work too hard at decoding all of the thousands of things that are on the shop shelves.” Not too much to ask, then. But there are ways in which a careful consideration of your nearest neighbours can prove invaluable. “The first thing I’d say is that the context is critical,” says Knowles. Nothing effective can be designed in a vacuum; when designing product packaging, an enterprise needs to be able to defend against all of its competitors’ strengths and to learn from its weaknesses. However, even this might not be sufficient – to impart something of real value, packaging needs to be able to communicate something of the idea or ethos behind it. “In our view, what packaging design does best is it makes it distinctive in a way that’s relevant to the brand, the brand ethos and what it is attempting to achieve,” he continues. “We try to do something that is distinctive and true.” Studio h is also no stranger to this idea. Nicky and Rob Hall – business and creative partner respectively – have a long experience

of teasing out the inherent aesthetic value of a brand. “Some things consumers just buy into,” Rob says. He points to Apple as an example and how its brand value has come from following through its ethos in its design. “Anyone you rate out there, it will all be down to how brave they are, how strong that vision was,” he explains. Studio h’s knowledge of the market helps develop the brand based upon the aesthetic values of the enterprise. “We’ll look at what’s in the marketplace, who’s doing it well, and how we can achieve those results, but after you come up with your ideas it really comes down to the strength and the vision of the client.” Ensuring each product dwells in its own unique space is always going to heavily depend on the ideas the brand represents. “Hopefully, the client has focused on their product – they know it and they love it,” explains Nicky. An excellent example is the Rare Tea Company. “Tea is not a new product to most people, but Rare Tea – the idea of special tea – is possibly a new one.” Prior to commissioning Studio h,

the Rare Tea Company only sold its tea in Selfridges in unbranded bags. But it had a clear vision of its market and the direction it would like to move in. “The company wanted to expand and particularly to get into Waitrose, because it was a very suitable market,” she says. This combination of a clear brand identity and a precise vision of its future gave the agency some clear cues to follow, resulting a very striking design. “Part of the ability and talent of a designer is to spot the potential in the seemingly mundane,” comments Knowles. Being able to identify where hidden strengths lay is important enough when working with a new product, but when working with a well-established brand it becomes essential. “Obviously, you have to pay respect to the legacy,” he says. “You wouldn’t suddenly take Guinness into an orange can, for instance.” He refers to their work rebranding Hovis. “It’s what I call a retro-progressive brand; it manages to blend the old with the new.” And this was the real strength of the direction in which JKR took the household bread brand. Drawing on all manner of traditional elements, the agency hinted at the history of the brand, employing elements such as traditional typography for the smaller ‘o’, as well as the yellow of its original wax-paper packaging and a symbol of a little brown loaf. However, it also utilised a modern aesthetic in these motifs, creating something fresh and original. “Often with an established brand, such as Hovis or Guinness, that’s what you’re doing,” Knowles comments. “It allows people to recognise the brand from afar, which is always very helpful in a crowded store, yet somehow it feels very fresh and interesting.” On occasion, it can in fact be easier to have cues like this to work with. “When it’s a completely blank canvas, it can be tougher,” says Rob. With so much choice, the boundaries provided by existing brand choices can actually give a stable base to work from. “The hardest thing is to rein the whole thing Hovis by JKR

“It’s what I call a retro-progressive brand; it manages to blend the old with the new” Andy Knowles

chairman and co-founder of JKR, speaking on the rebranding of Hovis

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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design . advertising . packaging . get noticed . stand out . be seen

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SALES & MARKETING

Sometimes though, with a clear enough idea behind it, a new brand can enter the market with a very distinct identity. Vardo is one of Studio h’s most striking designs. “The client wanted it to make clear that it was made in Georgia, rather than coming from some global faceless big detergent brand,” Nicky explains. The team played off this national identity. As ‘vardo’ in Georgian means rose – the country’s national flower – this was a key feature of the design, while maintaining a vibrant colour palette. “It was bold and bright and completely shouting on the shelf, so it stood out among all the other brands,” she says. “Also, it had simplicity – lots of the brands are shouting and have lots of colours and swirls.” Vardo detergent packaging by Studio h

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“The client wanted to make it clear that it was made in Georgia, rather than coming from some global faceless big detergent brand” Ultimately, good packaging design will always be about making the most of the resources that your brand identity provides. As Knowles concludes: “You’re always looking for the opportunity. You’re always looking for the thing that allows you to transcend the generic and do something distinctive and eye-catching.”

Outside the box Tomtom Coffee House branding and packaging by Studio h

It’s rare that design stops at waxed card or an aluminium can, and often your brand is going to be informing all levels of your business, from your website to your own branded premises. “I think designers, even if they’re just working on a mark, are always bearing in mind that this mark might have to go across all sorts of things from websites to menus,” remarks Nicky. Particularly if a brand is going to grow with an enterprise and meet new needs as they arise, it’s important to know how to make it more than just an empty wrapper. “In a sense, it isn’t that different,” Rob explains. “But instead of four sides, you’re looking at different dimensions or a different environment.” With existing brands there are often threads that can be carried through to other aspects of the design – even if they’re as simple as a colour scheme or the implications of a name. And this is something that spreads from a letterhead to a fully branded retail outlet. “It is tricky but within an environment space retail designers or interior designers will pick up how can they parallel the visual communication that’s there,” he

“Every part of the design carries through the features suggested by the brand mark, informing the consumer of everything they need to know about the chic café” continues. “The process is still the same.” An excellent example is the Belgravia-born enterprise Tomtom Coffee House. Studio h was commissioned to provide a cohesive style throughout the outlet, providing branding on everything from the beans to the web banner. Every part of the design carries through the features suggested by the brand mark, informing the consumer of everything they need to know about the chic café. “That’s the artistry of the thing,” Rob explains. “Most clients would think it’s a science. It’s not a science; the science is in the application of the whole thing.”

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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Forward TH_NKing Building a leading digital agency such as TH_NK takes confidence, endurance and planning. Not to mention a lot of luck 48

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

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t’s not always easy to recall where the earliest inspirations for an enterprise spring from but that’s not an amnesia that has struck TH_NK founder Tarek Nseir. His mother brought her four children over from Lebanon when he was a child, raising them alone at the same time as running her own business. “I was brought up watching an entrepreneurial mother go to work every day and earn a hard living,” Nseir says. Another major influence came into his life by way of the clunky Amstrad his mother brought home for them when he was 12. “It had one of those horrible little command lines,” he recalls. “None of us kids ever quite understood what the big deal was about this computer that blinked at you.” But one fateful day he gritted his teeth and decided to master its mystical power; before long he was building PCs and troubleshooting network problems for pocket money. It wasn’t surprising therefore when Nseir decided to study IT at the University of Newcastle. “But after starting I quickly decided two things,” he says. “The first was I was bloody bored at uni and the second thing was that I knew I didn’t want to go into a corporate environment.” By chance, the opportunity came up to build a website for a metal trading association, an opportunity hindered slightly by one simple fact. “I had no idea how to put a website together and I certainly didn’t have any design skills,” he comments. Not one to be held back by such trivial limitations, Nseir headed to Northumbria University and put up posters advertising a vacancy for designers that paid £30ph. It was only when he had 15 people lined up outside his student accommodation that he admitted he had no money. “I broke it to them that I could only afford to pay them if we won the pitch,” he says. “Fortunately, we won the pitch and really it all kicked off from there.”

“None of us kids ever quite understood what the big deal was about this computer that blinked at you”

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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“I grew up in a household where my mum was fighting for our future constantly and I guess I had it deeply ingrained in me that when your back’s up against a wall you need to stand up and respond”

From this inauspicious start, Nseir’s first start-up, Revelation Design, began to grow. Unfortunately, in the early days it didn’t receive much support from those around him. “The university didn’t like the idea of me running a business while doing their course,” he recalls. “And my mum wanted me to get a proper job and was worried sick that I was taking too much risk.” But things began to change and, by the time he finished university, Nseir and his colleagues felt they had more than enough to formalise the business. “We had enough clients and enough momentum,” he says. “We just thought: ‘You know what – let’s give this a go.’” And in 2004, TH_NK was born. Early growth isn’t always easy to achieve but sometimes, with a mixture of luck and confidence, the right opportunities present themselves. “It’s all about having that big break,” Nseir remarks. “You establish a relationship with a customer, they grow very quickly, and their need for you also grows rapidly.” It was one of these customers that helped build TH_NK into what it is now and that between 2004 and 2008 formed more than half of their total business. That customer was Northern Rock. “We knew that we were overly reliant on a single customer but the customer needed us,” Nseir explains. “It’s the same old adage you’ll hear all the time.” Suddenly, in 2008 TH_NK got the call that its biggest client wasn’t going to be a client any more. During the chaos that marked the beginning of the banking crisis, many small firms started going under – and they weren’t relying on one of the downed institutions for their livelihood. But TH_NK didn’t go down, instead cutting its cost base and making the most of its reserves, not to mention netting MT Rainey – the advertising guru who helped Steve Jobs launch Apple – as a director. “I grew up in a household where my mum was fighting for our future constantly and I guess I had it deeply ingrained in me that when your back’s up against a wall you need to stand up and respond,” he says. “That’s what we did.” And the agency has been standing tall ever since. TH_NK now works with high-profile clients such as Sony and Warner, and helps large enterprises tackle their digital

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strategies. “Clients ask us: ‘What should the future of our business be in digital?’, ‘What opportunity is there to launch new digital products?’ or ‘How can we completely revolutionise our customer experience?’” Given the role that digital technologies have come to play in our lives, Nseir feels that having a coherent digital strategy is as vital as the business strategy. “That’s actually what makes our space and particularly the role that TH_NK plays in the market extremely interesting.” Perhaps one of TH_NK’s most unique projects was Pottermore, the interactive online reading experience for fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. “The thing that makes Pottermore unique was the opportunity to conceive something very different but also to have a huge audience who are going to use it the moment you launch it,” Nseir comments. He feels that whilst working with an unprecedented concept like Pottermore presents more than its fair share of challenges it also forms a really exciting journey. “Knowing you’re entertaining millions of fans across the globe is probably one of the best feelings that you could have.” TH_NK is still going from strength to strength. During a tough year for UK plc, the agency has grown by nearly 150% and signed a major deal with online clothes retailer ASOS. And it has no intention of slowing down. “We’ve got grand plans; we’re exploring an office in New York, we’re exploring an office offshore.” Additionally, at a time when many other digital agencies are in the process of selling up to bigger networks, TH_NK is proud to be master of its own destiny. “There’s never been a more exciting time for TH_NK,” he concludes.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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Dealing with conflict can be difficult. But when an argument between two staff members threatens to damage your business, you can’t avoid getting involved

To every argument

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ccording to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the number of organisations needing to rely on disciplinary action, grievance procedures and external mediation has increased during a two-year period. It can be inferred from this that during times of hardship, the ability to manage disagreements between employees has become more crucial than ever. Clearly burying one’s head in the sand when faced with a spiralling conflict between two employees isn’t the smartest move, but sometimes it can be

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

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difficult to know when is the appropriate time to involve oneself in an employee dispute. According to David Webb, a key member of the ACAS team communicating workplace advice, there’s no time like the present. “We always promote that a line manager needs to encourage open communication between themselves and their staff,” he says. “That way any problems or potential problems can be spotted early. And if they’re spotted early they should be dealt with early – in essence, nipped in the bud.” While often it can be tempting to assume these problems will

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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“Any problems or potential problems can be spotted early. And if they’re spotted early they should be dealt with early – in essence, nipped in the bud” resolve themselves, this is rarely the case and they usually end up becoming more serious, resulting in much more far-reaching issues. “If you let problems drift or you think the problem’s going to go away, usually it doesn’t go away,” he argues. “Usually it grows and gets worse. It might even spread to other people and then becomes more difficult to deal with.” All of us are aware what it’s like blundering into the middle of an argument. All too quickly you find that, rather than helping to diffuse the situation, you end up exacerbating things. This is why Webb would always emphasise handling things with a light

touch. “The line manager, if they’re in touch with their staff, might become aware of something and might think: ‘I’m just going to have a quiet word,’” he explains. “Completely informal, nothing on record, with the people involved. Probably do it separately and ask, ‘What’s all this about so and so?’” By allowing members of staff to feel they’re being listened to, a tactful manager can get grievances aired in a manner that helps to vent the pressure which has built up. Obviously, this is a best-case scenario and not every conflict will be so easily resolved. “Sometimes the situation might be a little more testing,” acknowledges Webb. “Those circumstances might require a difficult conversation with the parties involved, again to see if there is any common ground.” While you may like to keep these situations seeming light and informal, they will require a good deal of preparation. Planning will always pay dividends in difficult situations like these and a manager should be very clear on how they will approach the issue and the resolution they would like to achieve. Sometimes though, even this won’t be an option. If the individuals’ positions have become more entrenched, even getting them to sit in the same room may be a hard sell.

This is where the help of a professional mediator can be invaluable. “Mediation is really when somebody independent – it might just be another manager in the organisation who has nothing to do with the matter – would look into the situation,” Webb explains. “They would try to understand what’s going on between two people who have fallen out and then try to find a way that the individuals can agree to work together again.” However, a mediator is not there to tell people what they ‘should’ do or how they’re meant to behave. “He would just try to get the two people to understand one another a little better and find a way forward that they would agree on.” There are cases where things, for one reason or another, are far more volatile and nuclear in nature. One such example is where a dispute is between an employee and their line manager – such cases can pose huge problems as they can potentially lead to tribunals or the loss of one or both members of staff. Largely, it comes down to having the right frameworks in place ahead of time. “A company needs clear policies on what it’s going to do if it feels an employee has been insubordinate and how it’s going to handle that,” Webb states. But there is a flipside to every argument and there needs to be measures to protect employees with legitimate grievances. “You also have to have a system for dealing with serious complaints,” he explains. “If the employee feels that their manager is bullying them, you need a grievance procedure whereby the employee would know who they could lodge a complaint with and then a procedure that follows to actually deal with that complaint.” Any framework needs to outline who will investigate complaints and act as intermediary to ensure both parties get an unbiased hearing. Finally, as with any disciplinary measure, both employees and managers need to be aware of what the potential actions taken will be. “If these frameworks are clearly set out so they’re easy to understand, then it can help because it prevents misunderstandings and any sort of feeling of injustice or unfairness.” However, having a practical conflictresolution framework in place should prevent things ever reaching this point, and open communication as a part of the organisational culture can help reduce potential disputes or misunderstandings. As Webb concludes: “If an organisation communicates well and consults with its staff on changes in the workplace and what policies it has, then you’ve got a better chance of disagreements either being limited or entirely eradicated and not happening in the first place.”

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December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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Recruiting for the future It’s clear that modern technologies are changing the way we work. But how are they changing the way we recruit?

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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

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lready, technology is proving vital to give businesses the edge when recruiting, whether that be existing social networks or video tools such as Skype. “In the very near future, businesses that fail to embrace new ways of recruiting talent will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” explains Gary Stewart, CEO of online workplace oDesk. A recent survey of those hiring on oDesk revealed almost two-thirds of businesses were actively seeking a new way to hire. “Many [smaller businesses] aren’t able to compete for talent using traditional recruiting but now have the ability to access talent on-demand via the internet,” says Stewart. Charlie Walker, founder and managing

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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“Skype, in terms of occupational ability and enabling us to get these placements done and make revenue, has been a massive tool” Charlie Walker, founder and managing director of Vivid Resourcing

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director of Vivid Resourcing says that the tools already available are proving to be massively helpful. Given the slow growth of the UK personnel market, many businesses are looking internationally to fill vacancies and the tools that are currently available are helping to facilitate this. “Skype, in terms of occupational ability and enabling us to get these placements done and make revenue, has been a massive tool,” he explains. “It’s obviously great for helping UK candidates find work abroad too.” However, a question remains as to whether these solutions, which weren’t designed with recruitment in mind, are fit for purpose. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it locally or virtually – you still have to validate someone’s competence and you still have to do the chemistry check,” comments John Ferguson, senior consultant at producer of talent and career management workforce solutions Right Management. “You cannot do that unless they’ve either got the sophisticated online tools or you’ve actually got to meet them.” And this highlights some of the areas perhaps where existing solutions, that aren’t designed for purpose, are unable to provide integrated recruitment solutions that cover all bases. But the industry is far from lacking in solutions. “We’re getting pitched twice

a fortnight by new companies that seem to be developing solutions related to this,” comments Walker. Right Management’s Ferguson also points to specialist recruitment providers aimed at reducing the hassle of recruitment for employers. “These specialists have ways of using social networks and special search engine processes that can do all the selection of CVs and networks.’” Of course, one of the most important things about the technological solutions available is not just how they are changing the way we are recruiting but how they are changing the way we are able to work. “One of the biggest benefits of online work is the ability to overcome local skills gaps by tapping into a larger talent pool via the internet,” says oDesk’s Stewart. “With online work, businesses can find the best worker, even for difficult-to-find skills, regardless of where the worker happens to be.” Additionally, with technology making it increasingly easy for employees to work wherever they are located, this is having a reciprocal effect on recruitment. As Vivid Resourcing’s Walker explains: “We’re finding it’s great in terms of being able to find skills – we’re able to now able to place candidates that live three and a half hours outside of London because clients are open to letting them work from home a few days a week.”

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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30/11/2012 13:59


PEOPLE

The right tool TrafficLight

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TrafficLight is a professional networking site with a difference. “I was noticing more and more the use of social networking sites, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, for recruitment purposes,” explains Adam King, creator of TrafficLight. “It didn’t strike me as a very natural progression in terms of how we use social media and how we interact on the internet.” Making a social networking site that better supported recruitment, King wanted to create something that was tailored to specific industries, allowing professionals to keep track of the contacts they’d made but with an eye on future recruitment possibilities. Thus far, the first incarnation of TrafficLight, TrafficLight TV, deals with people working within the television industry. Drop-down menus allow users to indicate the line of work they’re in, list their skills and experience, and then there is a space to upload a showreel. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the introduction of a calendar and the use of

‘traffic lights’ to indicate availability for work; red indicating busy, amber showing they’re available soon and green showing right away. “This is especially useful in the freelance world where people have sporadic dates that they need filling, whether these are weeks, months or in the case of a cameraperson days,” says King. “People are able to then perhaps map the course of your career with a little more precision.” TrafficLight will likely find its proponents in industries where networking is particularly vital. “You may have met them at a networking event or drinks party or at any other occasion and all you’ve done is connect, very much like on LinkedIn, you’ve got that professional point of contact with someone,” comments King. “But you know in the back of your mind, should you ever want their services or they want yours, then you’ve got that bond.” TrafficLight Media, TrafficLight’s most recent incarnation, is currently in beta.

“I was noticing more and more the use of social networking sites, especially Facebook and LinkedIn, for recruitment purposes”

PowerRecruiter, the latest output of Simon Campbell’s The Sandpit, is designed to streamline video-interviewing and offers an integrated solution for interviewing candidates remotely. “We’ve seen a lot of companies dabbling into a little bit of consumer video for that, the Skypes of the world,” explains Måns Gårdfeldt, head of PowerRecruiter. “But it’s not branded, it’s a bit clunky, you need to download it, you need to add each other’s usernames and it’s not made for this kind of process.” Addressing the fact that so few solutions currently being used were designed for purpose, the team developed PowerRecruiter from the perspective of those within the recruitment industry. “Instead of just building something we thought was cool, we started off building something that was actually relevant,” says Gårdfeldt. This means the end result was an intentionally stripped-down and clean process. “It’s all about being able

to very easily and efficiently schedule an interview, send out any invites and then conduct it in your browser.” The software isn’t intended to interfere with how recruiters are already working. “We just want to enable them to do what they already do more efficiently.” However, it does have some neat additional features. Not only are third parties able to sit in on interviews and observe, but the interview can be shared with other members of the team and reviewed at a later date. “Of course, a key part of this is that the whole experience is branded,” comments Gårdfeldt. “Everybody is focusing in on employer brands so it’s going to be a big part of the experience.” And while this is the first mention of PowerRecruiter in print, it is set to make some very big waves in the industry. We cannot reveal any details ahead of the PR drive in January but there are some very big names already signed up to implement the software. Watch this space.

Adam King, creator of TrafficLight

PowerRecruiter

“Instead of just building something we thought was cool, we started off building something that was actually relevant” Måns Gårdfeldt, head of PowerRecruiter

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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30/11/2012 13:59


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29/11/2012 16:09


PEOPLE

TEAM TRANSFORMER Martin Reed CEO

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

Staying focused during the festive season

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The end of the year isn’t just an opportunity for a good knees-up – it’s a chance to catch up with employees and find out what makes them tick, says Martin Reed

‘H

ave yourself a merry little Christmas’ the song implores us, but for managers and employees that might mean very different things. For business owners and managers, meeting end-of-year targets and preparing for the Christmas shutdown tends to become the focus during December, whereas employees may favour a less productive approach to the festive season, focusing instead on online Christmas shopping, planning social events or begrudging the fact they may not have received the financial bonus other institutions seem to be dishing out. For small business owners where 12 months of staff productivity is essential to staying afloat, watching your workforce lose motivation from mid-November onwards can be disheartening to say the least and critical at worst. The good news is that there are plenty

of ways for SMEs to make sure staff feel valued and motivated and maintain levels of productivity during the ‘seasonal slowdown’ and into the New Year. Keeping staff motivation high is the best route to ‘getting the job done’, so understanding what motivates your employees is absolutely key. Herzberg’s famous ‘two factor’ theory on motivation states that man has two sets of needs – one, as an animal to avoid pain (known as ‘hygiene factors’) and two, as human beings to grow psychologically (known as ‘motivational factors’). Hygiene factors in the workplace might relate to things such as policy, work conditions, salary, status and security. Failure to meet these needs will lead the employee to become dissatisfied and uncooperative. Fulfilling these needs prevents dissatisfaction and paves the way for a more motivated individual to emerge. Once you

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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PEOPLE

“Christmas can be a great opportunity, as regular schedules become more fluid, to have conversations with your employees that encourage open discussion”

have the ‘hygiene’ needs covered you can start to look at the ‘motivational’ factors affecting the individual, which will be things such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement and personal growth. The difficulty in working out what motivates each employee comes from the fact that different people are motivated by different things. If you can pinpoint what best motivates an individual, you have the best chance of getting them to perform to their potential. If you feel that your employees might struggle to articulate what motivates them, even when asked, another way of accessing this information is through psychometric assessment. These assessments can help you understand an individual’s key motivators and is an excellent way to uncover motivations that individuals may otherwise find difficult to express.

However, if you feel your staff are able to communicate their own motivational needs, take the time to just to ask them. Christmas can be a great opportunity, as regular schedules become more fluid, to have conversations with your employees that encourage open discussion. You may well find the results aren’t what you would expect – for many people (assuming they are fairly paid for their work), monetary incentives are not a significant motivator, but public recognition of a job well done might be. So, while a Christmas bonus is always nice, showing appreciation and publicly and specifically acknowledging hard work can be just as valuable in motivational terms. At a time of year when gathering your team together to celebrate is standard practice, expanding the festivities to not only be about Christmas but also a celebration and public

recognition of good work, attained results and individual employee achievements can be an incredibly powerful way to make employees feel valued and enthusiastic. Another key facet of workplace motivation is often a sense of career advancement and a feeling of personal growth. As the festive season heads towards the New Year, many employees will be starting to think about their career goals for the year ahead and may find themselves feeling apathetic if they can’t see how they will move forward in concrete terms. People need opportunities to learn new skills through their work and to be rewarded for the effort they put in. This needn’t mean paying for the whole company to go on expensive training courses but, more simply, it’s about capitalising on the Christmas and New Year atmosphere of celebration to discuss with employees where they see their career going and reconciling this with the needs of the business. Training can be expensive and, even if done ‘in-house’, can be a resource drain for a small business, so it makes sense to pinpoint exactly where employee development is necessary and, once completed, measure whether it has been effective. Psychometric assessments can help you target your training to make sure you’re giving the right support in the right areas to the right people, increasing motivation and efficiency and giving employees a real sense that they are moving towards their goals. No-one would deny that Christmas poses its own unique set of difficulties for businesses, which, poorly handled, can result in a stressful end-of-year countdown for managers and employees alike, but get it right and Christmas is a tremendous time to build relationships within the company and create a springboard for success in 2013.

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December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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30/11/2012 18:44


TECHNOLOGY

Christmas is always a mad dash. Even for the most organised online shoppers, the holiday season can mean some crippling repetitive strain injury thanks to clicking through endless search results. Which is why, to lend a helping hand, in addition to our usual rundown of the hottest business and commercial tech available, we’ve also handpicked some of our favourite Yuletide goodies in our bumper festive special

Summly The product of 17-year-old Londoner Nick D’Aloisio and coded from his bedroom, Summly is an excellent example of British technological entrepreneurialism. It’s a rather pretty news aggregator with a difference: its algorithm summarises the day’s most important news stories and provides beautifully presented précis for your delectation. The number of stories trawled thus far is relatively limited, but support from influential backers such as Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry means Summly is an app with a rather bright future.

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WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

Microsoft Surface There has been a lot of attention paid to devices treading the boundary between tablets and smartphones lately. However, a less frequently addressed gap in the market is that twixt tablet and laptop. The Microsoft Surface boldly roams into this territory and actually does a pretty good job of planting its flag. While it shares no compatibility with Windows 7 software, meaning you’ll be buying apps afresh, it has an impressive design and its Touch Cover keyboard is a rather novel solution to the issue of bulky tablet peripherals.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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TECHNOLOGY

Christmas gift ideas Timetastic 66

Managing the leave of your whole team can be something of a headache. Well, think of Timetastic as your dose of aspirin. Enabling your staff to submit leave requests digitally by simply plugging their chosen dates into a calendar, Timetastic simply sends you an email notification when a leave request has been made. You can view the holiday year, see where others have already booked leave and issue responses direct to staff from the comfort of your desk. Who said line management ain’t no holiday?

The miniko is an exc mat way to p ellent re your mo sent treasurest memori d es

Cue In theory, using your calendar helps you to better plan the weeks ahead. But, in practice, things fall through the cracks: you know you have a call with someone but don’t have their number. Or your meeting is clearly labelled but you’re completely lacking the figures you’re supposed to discuss. Cue takes some grout to traditional organiser software, trawling your calendars, social networks and file storage to make sure your daily schedule keeps you in touch with everything you need. Take that, Filofax.

Minikomat The product of Berlin-based former carpenter Matthias Kothe, the minikomat is an excellent way to present your most treasured memories. Anything can be placed between its plexiglass panels and backlit by the device, whether it be a favourite photograph, a scrap of a song lyric or anything else that takes your fancy. And its minimalist and modern style means it is perfectly at home as a part of the chicest décor.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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TECHNOLOGY

Sennheiser Momentum Momentum is a set of on-ear headphones, which, as well as sounding great, look absolutely

For a true audiophile, you can’t go wrong with Sennheiser. Its products are invariably high quality and rarely ever disappoint, giving listeners a clean but rich sound experience. So how do you improve on a great catalogue? Deliver something like Momentum – a set of on-ear headphones, which, as well as sounding great, look absolutely stunning. Due to make quite a few music lovers happy this Christmas.

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Sphero

Nomad Brush is a great gift for any art lover

Sphero may have passed you by. If you’ve been entombed in liquid carbonite. Otherwise, you’ll already be intimately familiar with the smartphone-controlled rolling robot that has to be one of the year’s most desirable gadgets. Whether treating it like an über-serious (albeit cute) espionage-bot with its built-in camera or a spherical augmented-reality pawn in the packaged smartphone games, Sphero is one of the hottest toys available.

Nomad Brush One of the great things about tablets is that they put creativity back in the hands of the user. But finger painting gets old pretty quick, which is why the Nomad Brush is a great gift for any art lover – and handily comes in both adult and kids versions (pictured). Its conductive bristles make for a realistic painting experience on your tablet, allowing you to get a much wider variety of effects out of your software. Your loved one will be producing like a digital Degas before you know it.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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30/11/2012 14:08


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30/11/2012 17:51


TECHNOLOGY

W

hen it comes to data security, a lot of attention is paid to keeping a company – and especially its website – secure from external threats. Whether they’re cases of industrial espionage or just a probe from a bored hacker, cases where companies’ external security measures are compromised tend to draw big headlines. However, a much more immediate threat to companies sometimes comes from within – after all, no amount of guarding the perimeter will prevent the threat of internal leaks. “Defending against external attack is generally accepted as not being the sole defence,” says Jon Penney, CEO of data security firm Intellect. While external threats to data security are very real, they are no more significant than the internal threats that can affect any company. Penney refers to the Verizon data breach investigations

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this isn’t a problem in itself, the data is often then saved in an encrypted form in an unprotected area of the network. “So you’ve gone from well-protected environment of potential database to storing it somewhere outside of that protected zone,” he remarks. “All of a sudden, you’ve really compromised any effort to effectively protect the data in the first place by extracting it and leaving it somewhere else.” The other end of the spectrum is often someone with a high level of clearance who intentionally compromises data for their own ends. “This is the privileged user, the database administrator, who has either been compromised externally and is being paid to collect this information or who is disgruntled and decides to take a dump of the entire database,” Penney says. Potential threats can come from anywhere between

own device to work’ policies. “You go to any business meeting and there’s always a few people with iPads,” comments Davis. “People are tapping away because they want to type their notes straight in and you know that’s going to be uploaded somewhere.” StarBase tends to focus on working with Fortune 500 companies and he’s noticed it’s become a real trend that many of the senior managers and directors are wanting to use their own devices. “A genuine security issue is how you can ensure people have appropriate security levels on their own devices.” And Intellect’s Penney feels this is the problem. “We live in this borderless digital world now,” he remarks. “The data is no longer contained within the confines of our four walls if we’re a typical organisation.” This is why security policies that focus on building a wall around the edge of a company’s network

The danger within

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

Organisations spend a lot of time making sure they are safe from external attack. However, this security isn’t worth much if their data isn’t protected against attacks from within

report (DBIR), an annual study which the telecommunications company produces on leaked data. This year, the survey identified 855 incidents, which entailed the leakage of 174m records. However, of all of this leaked data 94% originated from secured file servers; only 1% originated from data kept on unsecured laptops and peripherals. Despite this 75% of the average company’s IT spend goes on securing their perimeter. “Clearly when you look at these metrics and statistics from Verizon, when 94% of data being compromised involve servers inside the perimeter, that expenditure is out of kilter,” he explains. “It’s not protecting them from these threats.” Internal threats to companies’ data generally come in two forms: benign and malicious. “Certainly with the well-meaning insider compromising large quantities of data, it’s usually somebody within the business unit requesting a report of some sorts,” says Penney. Sometimes the information that is outputted contains confidential data and while

these two extremes and, while an organisation can do its best to introduce an organisational culture that discourages either of these scenarios, it’s impossible to entirely guarantee that neither scenario will occur. At first it’s hard to see why organisations are struggling to cope with these issues without taking a look at how the environment of data security has changed. For a company such as StarBase, the performance testing consultancy, the security of their clients’ data is of utmost importance to their core business, and yet they find a lot of their customers still don’t understand the security issues raised by new technologies such as cloud hosting. “People are not considering the security aspects of it,” comments Stephen Davis, managing director at StarBase. “If you’re trying to transact business, hosting private and personal data, people haven’t really thought through the ramifications of having that data on servers they don’t own and servers they haven’t built.” Another issue he has found his clients encounter is the move towards ‘bring your

are failing to prevent threats to their data; the boundaries have shifted to the extent that there are many ways the data can leave the traditional network. “Putting a moat around the castle is no longer effective because the data, the assets, sit outside of that environment,” Penney explains. Which poses something of a problem. If you can’t guard the gates then what chance do you have of protecting all of your valuables? “For an organisation’s security posture to be positive, it’s got to follow the lifecycle of the data,” Penney comments. “Data typically doesn’t stay in one place.” While organisations still need security measures focused on protecting the perimeter, security also depends upon using protection that is fluid and there are plenty of security organisations such as Intellect that utilise the various packages needed to keep data safe, no matter where it travels in your network. As Penney concludes: “In essence, an organisation has to focus on protecting and securing the data – wherever it may be.”

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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TECHNOLOGY

“No amount of guarding the perimeter will prevent the threat of internal leaks� Cus apid que nima sed ea qui asit qui arum si blaut que et autet eturi to blabo. Itam vel int ducia corunt di odita dolo mo optat odictatur autemquia

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Protecting your data from iternal threats is essentialin any workplace

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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30/11/2012 14:10


WEBSITE? TWITTER? eMARKETING? CRM? FACEBOOK? GRAPHIC DESIGN? eCOMMERCE? SEO? www.topdrawmedia.com www.twitter.com/topdrawmedia www.facebook/tdm.webdesign

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29/09/2012 12:12


TECHNOLOGY

A cleaner future The recession hampered plans of both governments and businesses to tackle climate change. However, high energy prices, legislation and widespread acceptance that carbon emissions must be cut mean there’s much to occupy cleantech entrepreneurs and investors

O

solar retroactively, leaving investors furious and the lawyers called in. In the UK, the government had too been in court, although it finally got its way and cut feed-in tariffs paid to consumers who have solar photovoltaic installed on their roofs. This left solar companies and consumers disgruntled and future business plans redundant. While the Eurozone crisis continues to rage, the UK economy is tentatively rising from the ashes and, in doing so, proving there is still plenty of life left in the cleantech sector yet. Key drivers such as rising energy costs, uncertainty in oil-producing countries, outdated infrastructure, not to mention concern over climate change mean that

WORDS: JON CARD

Both consumers and businesses are more interested than ever in products and services that can lower their carbon footprints while at the same time reducing energy costs

nce the realities of the credit crunch and global recession had hit home, it seemed likely for a while that the admirable environmental aims of European governments to tackle climate change and reduce emissions, would be discarded. The messages were to gain growth, investment and jobs rather than look for efficiencies, emission reductions and conservation. European governments discovered they had enormous fiscal issues to deal with and could no longer afford to spend money on generous subsidies and grants to renewable energy suppliers, or to assist the public who want to ‘green up’ their homes. For instance, the Spanish government axed tariffs on

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TECHNOLOGY

“This time last year we were doing a lot of solar projects – right now, insulation and energy-efficiency products are big”

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Adrian Pike managing director, Anesco

cleantech is serious and, in many cases, a perfectly sane solution to a range of large and uncomfortable problems. Yet not everything in this sphere is being dictated by central governments. Both consumers and businesses are more interested than ever in products and services that can lower their carbon footprints while at the same time reducing energy costs. Indeed, there are many perfectly workable standalone products that are being sold every day. Adrian Pike is the managing director of Anesco, which helps businesses and individuals cut carbon emissions and lower power bills through the installation of clean technologies, insulation, smart technology and other products that make buildings more energy efficient. The Reading-based company is carrying out work for local

councils, businesses and individuals nationwide, and is growing very rapidly. Despite only starting to trade in November 2010, it already has 82 staff and achieved revenues of £60m in its second year and is aiming to hit £89m in 2013/14. And it was looking positive right from day one. “The first thing we did when we set up was to ensure there was enough liquidity. I got two investors from day one and we had £6m in the bank,” explains Pike. But that does not mean the company can afford to rest on its laurels – even in the short space of time Anesco has been operating there has been a momentous shift in the market, says Pike. “This time last year we were doing a lot of solar projects, but right now insulation and energy efficiency products are big.” While consumers and businesses are searching out solutions to high energy prices, the UK government is struggling to find the right policies to meet the country’s future power needs. Part of this is fuelled by the fact that the nation’s energy infrastructure is rapidly becoming out of date; some of its nuclear power stations will have to be decommissioned and its coal-fired units are in danger of falling foul of European regulations on emissions. Britain also lags behind its European counterparts on gas storage, home insulation and renewables. For several years, analysts have been talking about the UK’s ‘energy gap’ – where the country simply won’t be producing enough power to meet its needs – and some predict a shortfall by as much as 20% by 2015. Successive energy ministers have tried and failed to straighten out the UK’s policy, instead ordering countless reviews. Meanwhile, respected energy expert Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at the University of Oxford, has said there could be a crisis before government is likely to get a handle on things. But while governments and large power providers grapple over infrastructure, entrepreneurs can at least look at ways to help reduce bills and improve efficiencies

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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TECHNOLOGY

in an energy market that is getting ever more expensive. One of the government’s partial remedies to the impending energy crisis is the Green Deal. Under the plan, which starts in 2013, individuals and businesses will be encouraged to insulate their properties and install green technologies through low-cost loans provided by the energy companies. The government wants 14 million households to have signed up by 2020, and to have created a £100bn industry and 65,000 jobs. Critics say the scheme could falter, as the public is distrustful of the Big Six energy companies offering the loans. Also, fears over miss-selling and the hard-balling of customers could undermine its success, they say. However, Pike, whose company has recently qualified as one of the providers of the Green

Deal, is both enthusiastic about its benefits and adamant it can succeed. “A lot of people knock the Green Deal but I think it’s a visionary scheme. It’s an opportunity to create new products and companies and for people to live in better homes. Why wouldn’t the public want triple glazing and better insulation? Why wouldn’t they want better boilers?” Anesco is well positioned to take advantage of any boom in the sector. And if the government’s plans succeed this is exactly what will happen. However, Pike’s company brought in investors early to ensure it could grow fast and take advantage of opportunities. But are investors ready to get behind firms looking to tap into this market, or have past failures dented their confidence? (See our chat with Ian Thomas below, to find out.)

The credit crunch put paid to some schemes and ideas, particularly those involving heavy government subsidy. However, the messages of reducing carbon emissions, improving efficiency and lowering dependence on fossil fuels are being spoken loudly in businesses, organisations and to a certain extent among the general public. This means there is still much impetus in this sector and there are clearly gaps in the market for entrepreneurs to fill. Bank finance, or the lack of it, will hamper some plans and venture capital cannot step in to carry the burden. However, the reluctance of central governments to shoulder the entire burden might be a boon for the private sector in the long run. Cleantech entrepreneurs should not delay their plans, but look to execute them – and the sooner the better.

The investor perspective 75

“Because capital has been scarce, people have been looking for investments that involve smaller numbers” Ian Thomas managing director, Turquoise International

Ian Thomas is the managing director of Turquoise International, which helps cleantech businesses gain funding, and is responsible for the Low Carbon Innovation Fund. He says venture capital investment in renewables dropped about a year after the credit crunch occurred. The behaviour of VCs isn’t governed by macro-economic data, says Thomas, but the credit crunch did affect deals. He says the lack of bank funding for entrepreneurial ventures has meant that some investors have instead been seeking out deals that don’t involve capital investment. “Cleantech investors have moved away from the asset end of the business, such as wind, solar and hydro and things that involve large equipment, as usually these involved bank finance and that hasn’t been there. Because capital has been scarce people have been looking for investments that involve smaller numbers.” Such businesses might just be the types that can offer services and products that fit under the Green Deal or simply sell directly to those looking to cut costs. “Investors like businesses that can help other businesses be more efficient and cut energy costs, where there’s a clear commercial payback,” adds Thomas.

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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TECHNOLOGY

Feeling the effects of BYOD Unwrapped with giddy excitement by its new owner on Christmas day, that iPad or iPhone may not receive as rapturous a reception by the IT department, says guest columnist Nik Butler

A

that sentence: “I got this for Christmas, can you put it on the network and make it work?” Bring your own device (BYOD), or as some are trying to suggest ‘bring your own technology’, is no new phenomenon in the workplace. Those whose years in service predate the arrival of browser and mail client will remember the pains of trying to export valuable sales information onto a floppy

WORDS: NIK BUTLER URL:www.loudmouthman.com twitter: @loudmouthman

n iPhone is for life, not just for Christmas. And don’t IT departments know it. This season of giving and joy will mask the sense of dread that sits in the belly of every support technician. As holidays end and we all return to work, that thoughtful gift from a loved one will become the subject of mumbled annoyances as the happy recipient walks towards the support team and utters

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December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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TECHNOLOGY

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“The internet and increasing popularity of cloud services has reduced the workload for support staff, as the only application required is a browser; thus making it the single biggest marketplace app on the planet”

disk so that the top sales guy can get it imported into his rather dubious copy of Lotus 123, thus ensuring that reports can be massaged by sales rather than waiting on management information to produce the hard facts. Decades later and the intrusions into the ordered and calm world of technical support no longer stop at unwanted devices; as unwanted internet services and new cloud services push on the edges of the corporate firewall policy and flood into the corporate networks. There should be a sense of delight and opportunity that staff are feeling confident enough to jump in and make improvements to their own work by using the devices that best suit them, but speaking as a seasoned veteran

of supporting ‘good ideas’, I can see how there are usually consequences and pitfalls. Let’s face it, BYOD is the monkey paw of modern life: granting the wishes of its owner while delivering an ironic twist in its delivery. It begins with the simple things such as user authentication. Most businesses have inherited corporate networks built around Microsoft’s active directory services and internally hosted exchange servers. Meanwhile, internet services exist as a multitude of separate authentication services each delivering access to their own one. Those old authentication systems rarely want to talk to the younger members of the authentication generation. It is all very well integrating a web sign-up with Twitter or Facebook, but there is currently no way

to link that to a user’s corporate identity. Recent moves by Microsoft to integrate Windows8 logins with their LiveID service will only exacerbate this, as many of those Live IDs exist to support Hotmail, Xbox Live, Zune or Developers network accounts and are rarely the same email address and password combination; leaving the poor tech support member to explain that “no, you can’t have it all on one login; no, I can’t make it work that way”. Google services are equally as guilty in this regard as its Google Apps for your domain product was late to the Google+ party, resulting in many Google+ and Google Play accounts using older ‘@gmail.com’ addresses with no way to streamline or integrate one or more accounts into a single login. As for Apple, let’s just say Apple will continue to play with their own toys with no regard for the fact that senior management might all be trying to work with iPads and iPhones. Filesharing then rears its ugly head, as staff seek a simpler answer to storing and sharing files for project work with other team members, who may be geographically dispersed. It is likely to be a huge relief to the administrator of the mail server that people have stopped trying to add that 2.4Gb PowerPoint slide to the sales mailing list. But now they have their Dropbox, Box.net, Spideroak and Pogoplug services all requiring installation on their iPads along with, you guessed it, the mix of personal email accounts and corporate information. This makes worse the perennial question that keeps every chief technical officer awake: “Do I know where my data is?” Meanwhile, middle-management is banging on the door of the CTO saying: “Never mind all that, though, it’s a useful tool and marketing need to get new information to sales who are out at the next fundraising meeting, so if you can just make it work that would be awesome.” In many ways, the ubiquity of the internet and increasing popularity of cloud services has reduced the workload for support staff, as the only application required is a browser; thus making it the single biggest marketplace app on the planet. Users access services through their browsers and in doing so reduce their stress in sharing files, file formats and out-of-date installed applications. The app store concept, from a user’s perspective, is a simpler proposition – they understand how to purchase, install and upgrade applications. What is lacking are corporate branded app stores allowing businesses to control software costs, upgrades and installations. Microsoft, if they move fast enough, may just fill that spot.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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Ever had your e-commerce website go down, and spent a frantic few hours trying to get it fixed? It could be your host, your developer or even your designer who is best placed to fix the problem, but they may all point the finger elsewhere. DSIS specialise in fully managed Linux based hosting, web development and support, providing complete service from the ground up. Active management of our servers with 24/7 monitoring allows us to detect and resolve issues quickly, before you, or your customers, realise there is a problem. Give us a call and see how we can take the stress out of running your online store now.

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Paul & Linda Cronin A franchise offering a better quality of life After 30 years building an impressive corporate career in the IT world, Paul Cronin felt the urge to get out of the rat race and run his own business. His career culminated in the role of VP of Sales for a telecommunications software company. With his three children now young adults, Paul began to reassess his options. Paul and his wife Linda decided they wanted a business they could run together and, having already invested in property during the boom years, it presented an attractive option. Paul explains their thinking at the time saying; “When we first ventured into the world of property investment, the benefits were fairly intangible. Buying and selling was risky because we were assuming there would be short term captial growth. Before setting out on our own again, we recognised that we needed a more certain return on investment in respect to both our time and money. “We were struggling to choose between six excellent franchises, until I realised that

Paul & Linda

Platinum Property Partners had two features that set it apart. Firstly, the other franchises required continuous selling - fail to sell sufficiently and the business fails to exist – PPP offers the attraction of passive income after some initial hard work, without the sales slog I was trying to get away from. Secondly, where most other franchises leave you with just good will, with PPP we are accumulating tangible, appreciating assets in bricks and mortar. These were the key reasons we selected PPP.”

THE FIGURES

Paul and Linda joined the PPP franchise in April 2010, through which they are building Total Portfolio Value:

a highly cash-positive property portfolio. They now have four HMOs up and running,

circa £1.6 million

a fifth in refurbishment and a sixth in the pipeline. The four properties produce nearly £70,000 annual operating profit. That’s after paying all costs including mortgage, bills and

Annual Rental Income:

£143,935

maintenance and allowing for voids and PPP’s management service fees.

Annual Operating Profit:

“A large part of our decision to join PPP was down to the integrity of Steve Bolton and

£69,996

quality of the network – both professional advisors and the other Franchise Partners” says Paul. “We are now working with some truly great people who approach life with a

Number of Properties:

very giving attitude and a philosophy of sharing their time and skills freely. The focus is on

4

achieving financial freedom and thus being able to choose how and with whom we spend our time. Being part of such a community has already had an incredibly positive impact on our lives. Linda and I are enjoying more time together while giving something back;

Where most other franchises leave you with just good will, with PPP I am accumulating tangible, appreciating assets in bricks and mortar.

we’ve found a way to address the balance between input and return and are enjoying all the personal and financial rewards of running our own business.” Paul and Linda observed the pressures associated with sales-dominated franchises, which can shatter attempts at a profitable work-life balance and leave you with little to show for your efforts. PPP offer a very different solution to standard franchise options, one founded on support, not dependent on trading your time for money, which offers a valuable and tangible asset base as well as a regular income.

BE MORE - DO MORE - HAVE MORE - GIVE MORE Head Office: 5 Lansdowne Place, 17 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth, BH8 8EW T: 01202 652100 F: 01202 559419 E: info@platinumpropertypartners.co.uk www.platinumpropertypartners.co.uk

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FRANCHISING

82

I

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

Franchise in the spotlight:

Bang Olufsen Whether it be that sleek wall-mounted flatscreen or the perfectly balanced speakers of your hi-fi, we all love our home entertainment gadgets. And Bang & Olufsen is the church at which we pray

f you have even the vaguest inkling about audio and home entertainment equipment then you’ll be familiar with Bang & Olufsen. It has one of those odd brand identities that doesn’t come along all that often: like Apple, it retains a chic design direction that is uncommon among the majority of high-street brands. The company also holds a special place in many audiophiles’ hearts, functioning as a part of hi-fi history as well as forming one of Europe’s best known home-entertainment brands. As the name suggests, Bang & Olufsen hails from Denmark (a town called Struer, to be specific) and has been innovating from the get-go. After founding the company in 1925, its creators, young engineers Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, were the first manufacturers to build a radio that ran off alternating current (AC) rather than batteries, as had been standard. It was the beginning of a very eventful venture. Not only did the firm produce roof-mounted loud-speakers, recording equipment for the film industry and the first of its now highly collectible bakelite radios, it also faced its fair share of adversity. During the height of the Second World War, the company’s refusal to cooperate with

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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FRANCHISING

Extensive training is provided in the form of a five-week induction for the manager and their team and features a trip to the Bang & Olufsen international head office in Struer

83

The brand has managed to succeed where many other high-street retailers have failed – by refocusing its product range on its traditional offering of home solutions

German forces resulted in Nazi sympathisers burning down the factory in Gimsing. Perhaps its most significant contribution to the history books, however, was its decision that all of its products should be capable of Ærlig musikgengivelse – or ‘honest music reproduction’ – effectively inventing the concept of high fidelity in audio equipment. And this is a commitment that has led the company for nearly 90 years. Employing detailed psychoacoustics, B&O takes pride in producing a high standard of sound reproduction and detailed digital displays.

But the B&O brand was built on more than this alone. Visual design has also always played a vital part in its product development. Rather than using an in-house design team, B&O makes use of external designers to develop a distinctive, rather than off-the-peg, design aesthetic. In fact, 15 of the company’s products now feature in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s permanent design exhibit, which shows the level of consideration the manufacturer gives to the design of its equipment. B&O’s transition into retail and its shift away from third-party stockists came in the 1990s, some 30 years after its products were first introduced to the UK. This move has spelled a significant shift in terms of its revenue generation – 82% of the company’s €370m turnover now comes from its B&O retail outlets. Additionally, the brand has managed to succeed where many other high-street retailers have failed – by refocusing its product range on its traditional offering of home solutions it has weathered the financial storm of the last five years. Its franchising wing offers the chance for those with a passion for technology to bring the brand into new territories and show their

passion for aspirational home entertainment products. Franchisees have every element of the B&O brand backing them up; the outlets carry through the Danish firm’s experience of design, showing the products in their natural environment and displaying just what it is that sets them apart from the competition. In terms of what the company brings to the deal, extensive training is provided in the form of a five-week induction for the manager and their team and features a trip to the Bang & Olufsen International Head Office in Struer, allowing the franchisee to find out everything they need to know about the retailer’s range of high-end products. It also gives them measured product guidance throughout their relationship, meaning the franchisee will have everything they need to manage new launches. B&O is a franchising experience with serious potential. For an individual interested in electronics, getting to work with a beautifully designed product catalogue and a well-respected brand can be a winning retail opportunity. And getting to be a small part of audio-visual history is, frankly, just the icing on the cake. Minimum investment: £92,000

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FRANCHISING

Leap of faith Having previously been a franchisee herself, when Sarah Jackson set her franchise up she had a unique perspective on what the business should look like

WORDS: SARAH JACKSON URL: www.extra-help.co.uk

T

he old adage says you can never understand a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. As a franchisee turned franchisor, the importance of truly understanding the business from both perspectives can’t be underestimated. I launched Extra Help four years ago when I decided to make the leap and set up my own business with my close friend Claire Robinson. Having experienced life as franchisee, I started the company with a clear idea of how I would do it differently, based on the mistakes and successes I had witnessed first-hand. With that in mind, we developed our business model focusing on core values of quality, support, openness and flexibility.

85

Quality

We’ve always believed that the quality of our franchise and our franchisees is of the utmost importance. Our ultimate aim from day one was to create a strong brand people know they can rely on, so we ensure that each franchisee is handpicked to make sure that they fit the Extra Help service. To offer our clients a quality service it’s essential that we have the right people for

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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FRANCHISING

the job, and to take the money and run – as some franchisors do – is damaging to the brand, the business and to the client. There have been occasions where we felt that franchisees just weren’t the right fit for the company – even with the cash on offer, we trusted our instincts and our values and turned them away. Running our franchise is about the long-term gain, and taking on a franchisee who may damage the reputation and brand would affect all franchisees negatively. We wouldn’t risk that. Support

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One of the things I was adamant about when we developed our business model was to ensure that our franchisees are fully supported. Many of them will not have run a business before so we’ve implemented an ongoing training programme, which helps them to run their businesses properly and also give them the reassurance that there is support available should they need it. In addition to training, we also offer guidance in running the business. My experience as a franchisee has taught me that knowing you have access to the support you need is invaluable. When my baby son had health issues, I spent a lot of time in hospital with him and, naturally, my business was affected. With Extra Help, we’ve deliberately factored that support into the business model. We have a virtual answering service that passes on messages by email so franchisees don’t need to be by their phones constantly and all databases are stored in the ‘cloud’ so that, with permission, head office can access a franchisee’s customer information and take over the running of the business until they are back on their feet. Whereas myself and Claire have felt unsupported by bosses and companies in the past, we’re determined that our franchisees know that support, guidance, advice and information is always on hand. We don’t just sell the franchises and wash our hands of responsibility – we’ve built our business model on continued support and helping to make them a success. Openness

Some franchise operations can be quite closed-minded and won’t deviate from their original business model, refusing to listen to feedback from the franchisees themselves.

We strongly believe that a franchise like ours needs to consistently move with market forces and adapt to what customers are requesting. Extra Help was originally intended to provide regular or ad-hoc domestic help for elderly people – tasks such as meal preparation, shopping, gardening or cleaning – but the feedback we were receiving was that other people were also interested in assistance at home. As a result, we developed two new profitable parts to the business: catering to professionals and mothers. I think it’s essential for a franchise to be flexible enough to adapt to market changes and to listen to what their franchisees are saying. Our business model makes sure our franchisees know their feedback will be listened to and acted upon where appropriate. Our franchisees give us input on the marketing material and we’ve established an online group where they can support each other as well as communicate with us directly, vote on issues that affect them and have their say on how the business should be run.

“There have been occasions where we felt that franchisees just weren’t the right fit for the company and, even with the cash on offer, we trusted our instincts and our values and turned them away”

Flexibility

As the recession continues to bite, we believe it’s important to take franchisees’ economic circumstances into account. One of the ways which this manifests itself is we require a lot less money upfront than other franchises, and have built close links with our bank, meaning that potential franchisees to be able to borrow 60-70% of the money they need to set up. Management fees are on a sliding scale until franchisees reach a certain level of income a year, so while the business is building up, the costs remain low. We’ve also made arrangements for franchisees to run their business without leaving full-time employment until their client base has built up sufficiently to be their main source of income. My experience of having been on both sides of the fence has given me valuable insight into how I want to run my own franchise and an in-depth understanding of what my franchisees need from me. Claire and I both still run our own Extra Help franchises and see on a daily basis how we can help our franchisees. It’s because we‘re dealing with the same challenges, as all our other franchisees that I can confidently say this is exactly the kind of franchise I want to be involved with – both as a franchisee and a franchisor – and I’m very proud that I am.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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Franchise master 59555:Franchise master 59555

13/1/11

17:11

Page 1

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

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

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08/08/2012 10:57


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23/11/2012 14:45


A winning partnership... ...your entrepreneurial spirit and our experience as a trusted adviser is a catalyst for growth Entrepreneurs face many legal challenges when starting a business. Stevens & Bolton LLP is a leading full service law firm, with many years of experience advising start-ups and SME businesses both nationally and internationally. Our experienced team of lawyers provide advice on the full range of legal issues facing SMEs, including:

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LEGAL

Protection tactics 91

When it comes to data protection, a clear policy should be your first line of defence

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

D

ata protection legislation is one of those subjects. Like quantum physics, most people have a vague understanding of what the words mean yet if you ask them to wrap their heads around string theory they go pale and start to whimper. Fortunately, when you have on hand the legal equivalent of Dr Brian Cox, things suddenly look a good deal less intimidating – Beverley Flynn, commercial partner at Stevens & Bolton, is here to help us wade through the facts and figures.

“Businesses need to be compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998,” she says. Right out of the gate enterprises dealing with this sort of data need to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) at a cost of £35 per year. They also need to be aware that they have an obligation to keep the ICO abreast of any changes in their circumstances. “That means updating it if they change address or they start to use data for a different purpose,” Flynn remarks. Having a clear understanding of what you are working with can often be the first step in understanding how to mitigate any risks it might pose. “The Data Protection Act deals with personal data, information concerning individuals rather than organisations,” Flynn comments. But it isn’t quite as straightforward as all that. This data can be placed in one of

two categories: personal data and sensitive personal data. Sensitive personal data refers to things such as trade union membership, health conditions or political opinions – but doesn’t apply to things such as credit card details. “That’s something that people fail to realise,” she explains. “They always imagine that their financial data is sensitive personal data –meriting more stringent looking after – but in fact it isn’t.” When considering your enterprise’s compliancy, there are certain things you need to do. Having your privacy policy clearly outlined on your website is an important first step but there are other obligations that you need to consider. It’s worth bearing in mind that a company holds some responsibility for businesses that process secure data on their behalf and it’s worth ensuring this is backed

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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LEGAL

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up by a formal agreement. “If they’re appointing, for example, an IT company, a software company or a payroll firm to undertake the processing of personal data on their behalf, then they need to enter written contracts that comply with the Data Protection Act,” Flynn says. Data protection is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain and so a company needs to be able to guarantee that those they are working with have the same meticulous security standards as they themselves. “Doing due diligence of any providers and ensuring that they use appropriate measures of security is absolutely essential,” she explains. Making sure that they’ve got appropriate encryption techniques, security requirements, password requirements and data security policies in place help to secure the data the consumer has trusted you with and makes it much harder for human error to catch you out. On top of this the rules may change depending on where an enterprise is sending data. “A business needs to be aware that if it’s transmitting personal data outside the European Economonic Area (EEA) there are special rules which apply,” she comments. For moving data outside of the EEA there are much stricter regulations so an enterprise needs to pay this careful consideration. It’s also worth being aware that data should really have a best-before affixed. You can’t just keep someone’s information on file for decades without a justifiable reason to preserve it on your records. “All businesses should ideally have a data retention policy,” says Flynn. “They need to look at each category of data they hold and make sure it’s not held for longer than necessary.” Companies need to have a clear retention and archiving plan for their data and ensure that once it has served its legal purpose that they are not hanging onto information without sufficient cause. There are several obvious ramifications of failing to take data protection seriously. “The main one is that the Information Commissioner – which is the body responsible for enforcing data protection legislation – is entitled to impose fines of up to £500,000,” comments Flynn. Plenty of local authorities and NHS bodies have fallen foul of these fines in recent months and while, up until recently, fewer private businesses have attracted fines,

“A business needs to be aware if it’s transmitting personal data outside the European Economonic Area (EEA) there are special rules that apply” Beverley Flynn, commercial partner at

Stevens & Bolton

this is beginning to change. There is also another significant risk to breaching data protection regulations. “Businesses also shouldn’t fail to bear in mind that of course reputational risk is key when doing data protection,” she remarks. “We’re all familiar with the high-profile cases where things have gone wrong.” There’s a huge value in familiarising yourself with data protection legislation but it’s still not worth getting complacent – things are still evolving all the time and it’s important to keep up-to-date. “There are going to be some changes to the rules and the EU are currently looking at some new regulations that will be directly affecting the UK,” says Flynn. “They will have massive ramifications for businesses of whatever size, large or small.” However, there are plenty of places that will help you stay one step ahead of the legislation – not least of them Elite Business. As Flynn concludes: “You just need to be aware that there are changes on the horizon.”

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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It’s not what we print that makes us different...

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Untitled-8 1

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For those times when there never seems to be enough hours in the day, e-SupportMe is here to help take the stress out of your day. We provide expert online support to businesses and individuals thereby freeing them up to focus on other priorities. We support SMEs by providing Office and Event Administration, basic Book-Keeping and bespoke Project Management services. We support individuals lifestyle by providing Personal Assistance and Home Management services. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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 07968 937 000  info@e-supportme.com  www.e-supportme.com

Creative Design

Our start-up services are personalised and practical because we understand that your Business Idea is as unique as you. Let Business First Steps navigate you from idea to marketplace with the Business Start-up Navigator, Topic specific Launchpad sessions, ongoing support and resources. Just starting out? Our Monthly Brainstorming Sessions will help you grow.

Infinite Brush: We pride ourselves on spending time

 0845 838 7912  ask@businessfirststeps.co.uk  www.businessfirststeps.co.uk

 01753 251 241  Studio@infinitebrush.com  www.infinitebrush.com

with the client and understanding what it is they require. We believe that sales are the backbone of every business and we have employed one very important philosophy that will set us apart from our competitors. We consider every design that we create to be a sales tool and its purpose is to sell the products and services of our clients’. Our clients understand the value of creative design combined with technology.

Web Design • Logo and Brand Design • Brochure Design • Packaging • Exhibition Graphics InSync Creative offers a wide range of design services that can be specifically tailored to your requirements and budget. We are a friendly bunch with the knowledge and expertise to deliver creative solutions that give your business a competitive edge.

 0845 468 0982  info@insynccreative.co.uk  www.insynccreative.co.uk

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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classifieds

So Wicked Designs: Our aim is to impress you!

At So Wicked Designs we offer affordable graphic design solutions for your business. Along with logo design and Stationery; including wedding stationery.

Special Offer for December - Logos £30 only pay if you use! 0161 4282733   manda@so-wicked.co.uk  www.so-wicked.co.uk

LacosteRoss Creative Services: LacosteRoss

Creative Services is passionate about building meaningful resources to help you do the same. Specialising in Business Information Solutions, we provide expert management of all digital information a business shares with its internal and external audiences.

 0191 447 2171  lacoste@lrcs.co  www.LacosteRoss.com

Distribution

Franchise Opportunity

NIMBLE JACK: We are an independent Advertising and Design agency, run and managed by creatives. From brand strategy and advertising to design solutions for print, packaging, websites and digital communications, at Nimble Jack, you’ll always get fresh, original and inclusive ideas that work.

Dor-2-Dor (Aylesbury): Reliable leaflet, menu, magazine distribution in Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Aylesbury. A local business who are committed to enable local business owners to market effectively and directly to prospective customers. Let us help you to create a new sales pipeline, repeat business and customer referrals. Contact us for special offers.

County Hog Roasts Limited: With over 14 years of experience and having cooked over 1000 Hog Roasts, we have a proven track-record to guide you through the various stages of owning your own successful catering business with this exciting opportunity. With a growing market where “Your Customers Just Love What You Do” taste the difference with this exciting franchise opportunity. To book your place on one of our FREE Seminars and for your FREE Hog Roast Lunch. Contact:

 020 7240 5757  info@nimblejack.co.uk  www.nimblejack.co.uk

 0843 289 1953  aylesbury@dor2dor.com  www.aylesbury.dor2dor.com

 01472 485 981  goodfood@countyhogroasts.co.uk  www.countyhogroasts.co.uk

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IT Support

ARDYSS INTERNATIONAL: Run your own weight loss business - Ardyss International 90 day weight loss challenge Month 1 - Help the client to Reshape Month 2 - Help the client to Renew Month 3 - Help the client to Transform For more information call Elizabeth on:  07838 155275  eliza.mills1@gmail.com  www.ardysslife.com/elizabethmills

BCM IT: Based in Essex, we provide a wide range of Heliocentrix: Heliocentrix provides genuine solutions for all of your IT needs whether it’s support, web, development or training. Talk to us today to see how our IT expertise can help your business succeed.

 01732 373013  info@heliocentrix.co.uk  www.heliocentrix.co.uk

services to suit companies of all sizes including network management, application support, helpdesk and server operations. In addition, we offer data backup, cloud hosted services, disaster recovery and software development. Contact us now to find out how BCM IT can take control of all your IT needs , leaving you to get on with growing your business.

 01245 451916  info@bcmit.co.uk  www.bcmit.co.uk

December 2012 www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk

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classifieds

Labels

PRI-CHEN: is a leading Middle Eastern producer of a wide variety of processed, pickled, and canned vegetables. PRI-CHEN offers a wide range of authentic products including over eight types of pickled cucumbers, six types of processed olives, pickled eggplant, canned peppers, sauerkraut, tomato paste/concentrate, and more. PRI-CHEN also offers private label services.  075 7952 5341  jabraeil.pri-chan@hotmail.co.uk  www.pri-chen.com

Market Research

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SHOPPER ANONYMOUS: Solicitors, Accountants,

Legal

Marketing

network for young entrepreneurs seeking legal support and unique networking opportunities. Covering the main legal issues relevant to start-ups, we provide members with comprehensive legal guides and access to affordable legal advice. Using our unique LE-card, members are given a platform to advertise their skills and network with other entrepreneurs and legal professionals.

ROYAL MAIL: Royal Mail can help by delivering your message with the daily post, putting you in front of the people most likely to become new customers – all for less than 5p* per prospect. To make sure your message really hits home, we can do all the hard work – from pinpointing the best place for you to find new customers, to designing, printing and dispatching your leaflets and even monitoring your responses – a true one stop shop!

 ???  info@lawandenterprise.co.uk  lawandenterprise.co.uk

 0845 611 2666  doortodoor@royalmail.com  www.royalmail.com

Law and Enterprise: Law and Enterprise is a free online

Merchant Services

Relocate

Retailers, Attractions or any business that wants to Improve its customer service skills ! By delivering the most comprehensive and tailored Mystery Shopping feedback in the world Shopper Anonymous can help increase your profitability by improving your customer service experience. Call Paul on 07801 236122 to see how we can help you. www.shopperanonymous.co.uk paul.nutter@shopperanonymous.co.uk

Chip & PIN Solutions: Welcome to the UK’s leading card payment supplier. Here at Chip & PIN Solutions, we supply businesses with everything they need to start accepting card payments, including technology, merchant services and customer service. We are the proud supplier to more than 400 Toni & Guy, Dominos and Pizza Express franchises and work withbusinesses of all sizes. Whatever you sell, sell it with Chip & PIN Solutions

Dacorum: Dacorum is a thriving business and residential

 07801 236122  paul.nutter@shopperanonymous.co.uk  www.shopperanonymous.co.uk

 +44 (0) 1279 712912  info@chipandpinsolutions.com  www.chipandpinsolutions.com

 01442 867808  business@dacorum.gov.uk  www.dacorumlooknofurther.co.uk

Web Design

Training

Cazideo: provides the opportunity for companies

and individuals to engage directly with experienced professionals from all backgrounds. Whether you are looking to learn a new skill or utilize an expert you are sure to find them via Cazideo. We use up-to-date video conferencing technology to ensure the best communication for both parties. VISIT and Register today www.cazideo.com

 0203 397 3932  cs@cazideo.com (Client Services)  www.cazideo.com

community located off Jct 8 of the M1 and Jct 20 of the M25. It is home to one of the largest and fastest growing business centres in the UK and embraces the new town of Hemel Hempstead and the historic market towns of Berkhamsted and Tring. So whether it is for a great place to work, to live or to enjoy Dacorum: Look no further

Governance Training: is due to launch a range of e-learning solutions for limited company directors and charity trustees which will be freely available on our website. Topics include directors’ and trustees’ duties, responsibilities and liabilities; and introductions to business start-up, data protection rules and risk management. Email us to register your interest and receive our introductory offers.

BIZFISH: Make sure your business is ready to hit the

 07976 800918  cihassociates@aol.co.uk  www.cihassociates.co.uk

 020 8123 8866  hello@bizfish.co.uk  bizfish.co.uk

ground running in 2013 with a professional website from just £49. Everything you need to get your business online including professional design, 50+ themes, free domain name e.g. yourbusiness.co.uk, personalised emails e.g. you@yourbusiness.co.uk, expert search engine optimisation, large capacity web storage, pro photo and video gallery, blog and more. Call 020 8123 8866 or go to bizfish.co.uk

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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30/11/2012 18:15


the START-UP DIARies

Will it be lonely this Christmas? Nicola Barron Founder of Homemade London

It’s hard to know if the festive season will be full of Christmas cheer or if it’ll turn out to be a bit of a turkey, says Nicola Barron

www.homemadelondon.com

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f the secret of success in business is who you know, then I have to work on my little black book. While Smythson’s can call on the Sam Cam effect and Mahiki can rely on a steady stream of royals to boost its profile, the only celebrity connection in my family is my sister’s boyfriend, who’s the keyboard player for 70s chart-toppers Mud. They can still fill arenas across Europe, but they won’t capture many column inches in Glamour if they make a surprise appearance at my shop. Thanks to their hit “Lonely This Christmas”, December is a great time to be in Mud, except maybe when he comes to dinner and the whole family treats him to a drunken rendition. I’m sure that joke never gets old for him. In the early days of Homemade London, the lyrics took on extra meaning. In my former working life, the Christmas party season would start in mid-November, and sheer adrenaline and stories of various colleagues’ escapades would see me through the party season. I’d often take much of January off to recover. Needless to say, for three months of the year, I probably wasn’t a very productive employee. When you run your own business, however, all this changes: you’re unlikely to get invited to many Christmas parties (embarrassingly, I haven’t been invited to one in over five years), and it’s my job to organise one for my team. Last year, we were so frazzled from running parties for other people that we didn’t feel like having one of our own. We managed a pizza and champagne evening but everyone was home in bed by 9.30pm. Or maybe they all went somewhere better for an after-party while I locked up. Either way, it wasn’t exactly rock and roll. Being responsible for the party is one thing,

but being responsible for the finances is what can make Christmas feel really lonely. For a lot of businesses that lease their premises – like we do – Christmas Day itself carries an extra sting, as it’s a ‘quarter day’ when rent is due. This is apparently an old tradition – but one that could easily have been dreamed up by Ebeneezer Scrooge himself. Not so much of an issue for an established business that’s making a profit, but when you’re first starting out and cash flow needs to be tightly monitored, it’s a day to be dreaded. My first Christmas as an entrepreneur was particularly dark. Worried about whether the business would be viable, I just wanted the ghost of Homemade London future to visit and tell me everything was going to be alright – or at least let me know if I was wasting my time. Christmas brings everything into

the most effective ways of building your brand. For example, the designer of the Olympic cauldron Thomas Heatherwick’s cards have become so well-loved, the media begin talking about them in the summer and they have become collectors’ items in their own right. For an experiential business like mine, the ways people spend their time changes completely in the build up to Christmas. Our mainstay – the hen party market – falls away and we rely on other events to stop it becoming a lonely Christmas. Ironically, that means I now spend my Decembers organising other companies’ Christmas parties. Every corporate booking we take is looking for a tailored experience, but ultimately they all want the same thing – a bonding experience that lets their team show a little creativity. The secret to a good party, in my experience,

“I just wanted the ghost of Homemade London future to visit me and tell me everything was going to be alright” sharp relief because it’s supposed to be a time of plenty and a time for family. Neither of these things is true when you’re a start-up. Christmas also brings a lot of pressure because the normal patterns of customer behaviour go haywire and the stakes are raised for many businesses. For some retailers, their success in attracting Christmas footfall determines whether they end the year in profit or loss. Competition for custom is at its most intense, with every business investing and innovating to get people through their doors. Christmas cards are still one of

is to keep it simple. Too fussy and people don’t relax. The food has to be great and the drinks need to keep flowing. Throw in a few little surprises throughout the proceedings to get people talking and you can’t fail. Great parties needn’t cost a lot; it really is the thought you put into them that counts. This Christmas, I’m going to make sure I take some time off. There will be an email curfew for at least 24 hours, during which I’ll be spending time with my family and singing Mud classics to my beleaguered relatives. That never gets old.

www.elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk December 2012

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SOFT MESSAGE

PLAYING MUSIC? MAKE SURE YOU’RE LICENSED.

Music creates a better working atmosphere 77% of businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and creates a better working environment.* If you play music in your business, it is a legal requirement to obtain the correct music licences. In most instances, a licence is required from both PPL and PRS for Music. PPL and PRS for Music are two separate companies. PPL collects and distributes money for the use of recorded music on behalf of record companies and performers. PRS for Music collects

and distributes money for the use of the musical composition and lyrics on behalf of authors, songwriters, composers and publishers. A PPL licence can cost your business as little as 19p per day. For more information on how to obtain your PPL licence visit ppluk.com or call 020 7534 1095. To ďŹ nd out more about how music can work for your business visit musicworksforyou.com. *MusicWorks survey of 1000 people, conducted May 2012.

ppluk.com

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Elite Business Mag Dec 2012