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OCTOBER 2013

The new tech city

Dublin is now home to a slew of start-ups

Mass appeal

Crowdfunding: handing power to the people

Into the mix

Fever-Tree is shaking up the soft drinks market

Ahead of the game With new company Hope Construction Materials on track to turn over £300m this year, it’s safe to say serial entrepreneur and QPR co-owner Amit Bhatia is bang on form

OCTOBER 2013

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CONTENTS VOLUME 02 ISSUE 10 / 2013 09 10 12 13 14 81 98

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

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16

NEW! Check out our franchise supplement

16 The Elite interview

There is a lot more to Amit Bhatia than meets the eye

23 One to watch

Fever-Tree is injecting much-needed effervescence into the mixer market

Digital Dublin

The tech start-up movement gathers apace in Ireland’s cultural capital

34 Better together

Crowdfunding has rocked the world of investment

40 Banking on success

There are five simple steps to getting a ‘yes’ from the bank

27

07

“I’ve always had a desire to try to succeed, to stand on my own two feet and have my own identity” Amit Bathia

42 Two-way street

64 Motherly love

45 Breaking the ice

67 Tech for start-ups

UK plc and the government can together help restore trust in business A regular spot of networking can go a long way for a start-up

50 Front of the queue

Attracting traffic to your website is about more than just pay-per-click

54 A helping hand

Employing an ad agency is often the most sensible way forward

57 Between a rock and a hard place Life isn’t always that easy for middle managers

61 The price of performance

Bonus schemes are still a key component of an employer’s toolkit

(H)Contents.indd 1

An employer can help pave the way for a safe return from maternity leave In recognition of the release of the Galaxy Gear, we run down the hottest wearable widgets and gizmos

71 The future’s bright

Businesses are starting to harness the power of 4G

77 Tailoring your offering

A Suit That Fits founder David Hathiramani talks user experience

84 Franchise in the spotlight

Music Bugs is changing up the tempo in the way kids learn

91 Paying your way

Taking on an intern should always be done within the law

01/10/2013 03:37


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01/10/2013 01:29


EDITOR’S letter VOLUME 02 ISSUE 10 / 2013

Scan this QR Code to register for Elite Business Magazine SALES Harrison Bloor – Account Manager harrison.bloor@cemedia.co.uk Adam Reynolds – Account Manager adam.reynolds@cemedia.co.uk Shapla Begum – Account Manager shapla.begum@cemedia.co.uk EDITORIAL Hannah Prevett – Editor hannah.prevett@cemedia.co.uk Josh Russell – Feature Writer josh.russell@cemedia.co.uk Adam Pescod – Feature Writer adam.pescod@cemedia.co.uk Helene Stokes – Chief Sub-editor helene.stokes@cemedia.co.uk DESIGN/PRODUCTION Leona Connor – Designer leona.connor@cemedia.co.uk Clare Bradbury – Designer clare.bradbury@cemedia.co.uk Dan Lecount – Web Development Manager dan@cemedia.co.uk CIRCULATION Malcolm Coleman – Circulation Manager malcolm.coleman@cemedia.co.uk ACCOUNTS Sally Stoker – Finance Manager sally.stoker@cemedia.co.uk Colin Munday - Management Accountant colin.munday@cemedia.co.uk ADMINISTRATION Charlotte James – Administrator charlotte.james@cemedia.co.uk DIRECTOR Scott English – Managing Director scott.english@cemedia.co.uk Circulation/subscription UK £40, EUROPE £60, REST OF WORLD £95 Circulation enquiries: CE Media Limited Call: 01206 266 842 Elite Business Magazine is published 12 times a year by CE Media Solutions Limited, Weston Business Centre, Hawkins Road Colchester, Essex, CO2 8JX T: 01206 266 849 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved No part of Elite Business may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the editor. Elite Business magazine will make every effort to return picture material, but this is at the owner’s risk. Due to the nature of the printing process, images can be subject to a variation of up to 15 per cent, therefore CE Media Limited cannot be held responsible for such variation.

Every entrepreneur must be evaluated on their own merits By this point I’m sure the most eagle-eyed of readers among you would have noticed that there are patterns in the behaviour of the individuals we feature across these pages. Stories of teenage rebellion and hare-brained money-making schemes abound. For example, Amit Bhatia, this month’s cover star, is, in many ways, different to Chris Dawson, our August profile. But lots of the stories they share of earlier entrepreneurial stirrings are not dissimilar. Just as Dawson flogged watches out of suitcases on Plymouth seafront, Bhatia sold snaps on the steps of the prestigious Cornell University. Different place, same instincts. Same drive. Still, people are very quick to judge. Amit Bhatia is best known for his football interests and his week-long wedding celebrations. Observers forget that he has had to carve out his own destiny in exactly the same way as the aforementioned working class chancer from the West Country. They conveniently forget that he didn’t get a full night’s sleep in ten years. People like to have a hook upon which to hang you. But the reality is we shouldn’t pigeonhole “We shouldn’t business owners because they hail from a certain background, industry, or corner of pigeonhole business the country. Every single one should be owners because evaluated on their own merits – not on the basis of what their nuptials cost or how they hail from a much money their parents have. For certain background, regardless of the route, the best and the industry, or corner brightest will reach their eventual goals. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously put it: “You of the country” have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”

09

HANNAH PREVETT EDITOR

www.cemedia.co.uk

(H)Editor's comment.indd 1

01/10/2013 00:05


CONTRIBUTORS

Nicola Barron Helene Stokes

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Our new sub – and easily the coolest member of our team – Stokes is a career DJ and fashion editor over at DJ Mag, having been with the publication since its inception. When she’s not involved in subbing, writing, licensing music or interviewing the world’s Top 100 DJs, she’s looking after a menagerie of pets – including royal python Frankie – or delivering nutritious meals to HIV sufferers. No wonder she occasionally has to take a bit of downtime and kick back with The Archers.

It fills us with sadness to say that Barron’s column this month will be her last for Elite Business - at least for the time being. Tempting though it is for entrepreneurs to try to be all things to all people, Barron has sagely decided – as noted in her column – to ‘remember why she decided to do it in the first place’; creating a professional business as a legacy for her family. That’s not to say she hasn’t gotten anything from the last 15 months; the ability to take stock and reflect on her progress during her time here has been invaluable. Every one of us will miss her excellent columns and we wish her all the best.

Josh Russell Martin Reed This month, our resident people expert columnist Martin Reed, CEO and chairman of Thomas International, is discussing how businesses can best welcome back employees from maternity leave and ensure that the transition back into the workplace is handled properly. We can only assume that Reed’s own team have been sufficiently welcoming upon his recent return from the US, where he’s been exploring new business opportunities for Thomas International with the help of UKTI.

(H)Contributors.indd 1

Writer Russell has had a busy old time of late, judging the Digital Business of the Year category at the National Business Awards 2013 and getting to be an honorary Glasshole, albeit only for a few minutes, after borrowing a Glass from a Google exec. Nevertheless, he still had time to pen a cracking feature about crowdfunding; a rather sore point for Russell all told, given that since its UK launch, Kickstarter has nigh-on bankrupted him. On the plus-side, in 12 months time he won’t be wanting for gadgets, knickknacks and coffee table books.

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NEWS & EVENTS Consumer data breaches are big news right now, particularly in light of the NSA and Prism news over the summer, but the Information Commissioner’s Office

(ICO) is keen to remind small businesses that failing to keep a lid on your customers’ data is bad news indeed. After Wembley-based loans Jala Transport Ltd mislaid a hard drive containing financial details of 250 customers, it was slapped with a £5,000 fine. But the ICO is keen to stress that this is unusually low; being careless could cost a small business up to £70,000. It’s worth keeping a tight grasp on your data, then.

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The government hasn’t had a great run with awarding franchise rights over the last couple of years. After the West Coast rail franchise fiasco in 2012, the coalition have stumbled into another PR quagmire as plans to award BT all 26 of the rural contracts for rolling out broadband connections came under fire, with the figures once again failing to add up. Given the current administration’s faith in the private sector, comments from the Commons Public Accounts Committee

that, because of yet more budgetary gaffes, “BT will ultimately benefit from £1.2bn of public funding” must prove particularly embarrassing.

It’s a bit of a cliche that to get ahead in business you have to be a little unethical. And whilst, in the most part, it’s entirely untrue, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has revealed that managers more often feel they need to leave their morals at the door than regular staff, at 29.4% and 13.3% respectively. Their motivations also differ. Managers are more likely to act this way because career progression is viewed as being more important than an ethical standpoint; conversely front-line staff were more likely to go against their conscience because of external pressures.

UPCOMING EVENTS Angels Den – Funding Clinics October 9 & 23 British Library 96 Euston Rd London, NW1 2DB

Business Junction – Networking Lunch October 10 5 Kingly Street London, W1B 5PF

(H)News and events.indd 1

The Big Friendly Giant is a rather misleading allegory, if research from the blur Group is anything to go by. Conducting a survey with 141 small businesses, the service provider exchange has shown that 70% of small enterprises have struggled to secure work with large companies and 69% had been denied a chance to participate in tenders because they were considered too small. It seems a good deal of cronyism is at play, with four in five small firms seeing contracts awarded to companies that had existing relations with the large enterprise. Not too many BFGs looking to befriend our SMEs right now.

With SMEs having to tighten to their purse strings more than ever, the importance of keeping a close eye on customers can’t be overstated. Suffice to say, new findings from global information services company Experian should come with a warning sign attached. In its survey of 600 SMEs, 76% of respondents admitted to losing money as a result of customer insolvencies, with 35% of these waving goodbye to more than £10,000 over five years. Most telling, though, is the fact that 68% of SME owners said they didn’t check their customers’ and suppliers’ credit ratings at least once a year. Which would explain a lot.

A new set of figures from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is usually worthy of our attention, and its latest Voice of Small Business Index doesn’t disappoint. It reveals that the number of SMEs taking on new staff is at its highest level since 2010, with 15% of firms having increased staff numbers in Q3. The FSB predicts that next year’s introduction of the ‘Employment Allowance’ – granting small firms a £2,000 National Insurance holiday – will only improve the situation further. SMEs are expected to use the allowance to boost staff wages (29%), employ additional staff (28%) and invest in resources (24%).

There’s plenty of life left in the high-street yet if the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey is anything to go by. And there can be little doubt where the biggest bump is being felt. Every single respondent from the furniture and carpets sector reported that they had experienced higher business volumes this month – the strongest, in fact, since 1996. Maybe it’s because people are starting to spend more time inside the house again after what has been a positively balmy summer, but this is one example of an industry successfully batting off competition from online competitors.

Business Scene – Reading Connections October 15

SyncDevelopHER Kickoff Event October 22

Prelude Group – Twitter Masterclass October 25

Manchester South Flagship Business Expo October 18

Kent 20:20 Vision Live October 23

Halton & Warrington Business Fair October 31

Regus, Green Park Reading, RG2 6UB

Holiday Inn Manchester Airport, Altrincham Road Manchester, SK9 4LR

City College Startup Lounge, City College Norwich, NR2 2LJ

Kent Event Centre, Detling Maidstone, ME14 3JF

15 Stratton Street London, W1J 8LQ

Halton Select Security Stadium Widnes, WA8 7DZ A full event listing is available on our website: elitebusinessmagazine.co.uk /events

01/10/2013 00:24


TALKING POINT

“MPs should have experience of entrepreneurship” The main flaw for any political party suggesting that it is a ‘party of small business’ is that very few, if any, of its members have ever worked in a small business or taken the risk of Sam Parton co-founder of starting their own. As such, someone like Ed OpenPlay Miliband cannot begin to understand the pains and emotions that any founder of a small business goes through when starting out. His latest statement about freezing energy prizes or business rates suggests that he fundamentally does not understand economics – the country cannot pay for itself as it has clearly shown. Instead, innovation should be rewarded in all industries and barriers to SME innovation and growth such as red tape should be tackled. At the moment, most SMEs see political parties as blasting hot air and this boils down to their lack of experience working in SMEs. Any party with at least a couple of members who are entrepreneurs, with credible reputations and opinions, might just be able to justify the label of a party of small business. 13

Standing up for start-ups What must a political party do to merit the tag of a ‘party of small business’?

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

F

or those of you who missed it, Ed Miliband boldly declared last week that Labour would be the ‘party of small business’ should they emerge triumphant from the next general election. In his keynote speech at the Labour party conference in Brighton, Miliband outlined a range of policy proposals purportedly designed with the small business owner in mind – and he took a swipe at the current government’s track record in the process. Among the announcements was a declaration that Labour would cut business rates to the level of the previous year, before freezing them in 2016. By applying this cut to properties valued at less than £50,000, Labour estimated that ‘hundreds of thousands’ of companies would benefit. Meanwhile, Miliband revealed that Labour would also scrap the Coalition’s proposed cut in corporation tax for larger firms from 21% to 20%, scheduled for 2015. And energy firms were a further target of Miliband’s ire, as he promised a 20-month price freeze, along with a new tougher regulator to give households and businesses a ‘fairer deal’ on their rates. However, the question remains as to whether the delivery of these promises would genuinely reveal Labour to be the party of small business. Needless to say, our country’s small business owners have their own thoughts as to what such a party would look like.

(H)Talking point.indd 1

“Parties must understand how business models have changed” Battling for the title of the ‘party for small business’ has become a recurring political Amanda Boyle theme; however, it’s a battle with much founder of posturing and little progress. Headline BloomVC.com grabbing policies are thrown around in the run up to elections, then watered down for implementation. Bright ideas from the current government provide a perfect example: the Funding for Lending Scheme hasn’t helped small businesses, nor has the Business Bank. Ed Miliband’s hopes for frozen business rates and energy bills would be welcomed by small business owners, but they are a fantasy, and hardly the most pressing concerns. I meet countless entrepreneurs who are trying to turn their part-time ventures into businesses, then their fledgling businesses into successful, sustainable enterprises. The odds are stacked against them in our current economic environment. Therefore, any party for small business must firstly make more money accessible to new businesses and pre-revenue businesses, which are ultimately the future of our economy. Secondly, it is essential that both enterprise and business are built into the education system to give young people an entrepreneurial mindset as well as employable skills. Finally, business models have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and assets are more likely to be intangible, so support, funding and rates must reflect the changing face of British business.

01/10/2013 00:25


BOOK REVIEWS

Without their permission: how the 21st Century will be made, not managed Alexis Ohanian

Sylvia Ann Hewlett

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lexis Ohanian is a pretty remarkable man. For starters, he sold a company to publishing giants Condé Nast at the tender age of 23. That in itself makes him worthy of considerable attention. Reddit – the self-proclaimed ‘front page of the Internet’, founded in 2005 by Ohanian and university roommate Steve Huffman – is now valued at an estimated $240m. Whilst some may argue that they sold too soon, what cannot be disputed is that Ohanian and Huffman managed something that any aspiring entrepreneur nowadays must do to stand any chance of success. They mastered the web. That very achievement ultimately forms the backbone of Without their permission, as Ohanian presents the Internet to the reader in its most literal form. It is, in his words, a “democratic network where all links are created equal”, meaning that “any idea that’s good enough can flourish without having to ask anyone’s permission”. Needless to say, Ohanian prides himself on being one of the people who is rigorously campaigning to ensure that the World Wide Web continues to offer us all a fair shot at glory. Readers should count themselves fortunate that Ohanian had both the time and inclination to impart his wisdom on how to make it as a tech entrepreneur in this day and age. Part autobiography and part manual for success, he lets us relive some of the more personal moments of his journey – both amusing and heartwrenching – before leaving us not only aspiring, but feeling prepared, to follow in his footsteps. AP

 Without their permission: how the 21st Century will be made, not managed, published by Business Plus, is out now and retails at £15.00

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(Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor – The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career

Ohanian leaves us aspiring to follow in his footsteps

T

The value a sponsor adds is a personal investment

here’s been a lot of buzz in the last few years around mentorship in the workplace. Which means that some may be surprised to come across a book that advocates another path entirely. Almost certainly the first question on your lips will be ‘what’s a sponsor?’; the second will be ‘does it really warrant its own distinct definition?’ Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book makes short work of both of these questions; the latter is an unqualified ‘yes’. The sponsor relationship is like ‘mentoring 2.0’. Far from providing advice from a remote distance, the value a sponsor adds is a personal investment, putting their protege forward for opportunities and having their back in times of difficulty. Whilst it’s unarguably a risky position for senior professional to take, (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor is packed with real life examples where CEOs have taken a personal stake in elevating a junior staff member and played a part in creating some of the world’s most promising executives. But fervent as her belief in sponsorship is, Hewlett equally doesn’t shy away from discussing the potential hazards of such relationships and perhaps it is this even-handed approach that makes such a strong case for sponsorship and this, its manifesto. JR

 (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor – The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career, published by Harvard Business Review Press, is out now and retails at £13.99

01/10/2013 00:26


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30/09/2013 14:31


the elite INTERVIEW

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“I don’t think life would be very fun if you set yourself tiny goals”

A league apart (H)Elite interview Amit Bhatia.indd 1

Amit Bhatia may not be immediately recognisable to most. And to those who do know his face, that’s likely to be due to his involvement with Queens Park Rangers Football Club. His business credentials, however, often go unnoticed. Hannah Prevett explains why this is a gross oversight

01/10/2013 00:27


the elite INTERVIEW

A

mit Bhatia appears to have it all. He owns a large stake in a well-known London football club. In 2004 he married Vanisha Mittal, daughter of Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian-born steel tycoon who Forbes estimated earlier this year to have a net worth of $16.5bn. The wedding is rumoured to have cost around £60m, included a performance by popstrel Kylie Minogue and a firework display over the Eiffel Tower. But amid the intrigue about his football interests, lavish wedding and his in-laws, it’s often overlooked that he’s a successful businessman and shrewd investor in his own right. Let’s not forget that Bhatia’s own family are entrepreneurial royalty too. His father, a successful real estate entrepreneur, also runs Telestra Tradeplace, an aerospace company and, along with Bhatia’s older brother, Aneesh, bought a 21% stake in Air Asia India earlier this year. But the notion that Bhatia may have been handed success on a solid silver platter is well wide of the mark, he says. “It wasn’t like that at all. I had a great upbringing, and I have the most incredible parents and the most amazing family. But we were taught the value of money from a super young age. There was a strict allocation on what the food expense was, what the telephone expense was, the fuel allocation when I eventually got a car in my junior year.” He quickly adds: “I bought the car myself.” As a freshman at Ivy League university Cornell, he was bright and highly ambitious. But experiencing prudency at home just added fuel to the fire. “My parents gave me just enough to make sure that I was comfortable, but not so much that I didn’t have a desire to try to work a little bit harder.” Successful business people often tell tales of their early entrepreneurial stirrings; selling sweets at school and undercutting the tuck shop, washing cars and trimming the neighbours’ hedges. Bhatia was no different. As a freshman at Cornell, he took photos of fellow newcomers to sell to parents who had forgotten to bring a camera. “I’d sell them for $10 a pop, which was a ton of money. My total pocket money was $200 a month at the time,” he recalls. Another brainwave was selling refreshments to students and visitors who’d come to watch concerts held on the campus. “Adam Sandler was very popular, weirdly,” says Bhatia. “He used to come with a guitar and people would line up for a long time. So I used to stand outside and sell coffee and t-shirts.” Whilst there wasn’t so much as a sniff of nepotism, Bhatia happily acknowledges that being surrounded by people with an entrepreneurial drive and passion for business helped guide him forward in all of his ambitions. “I was always entrepreneurial, as were my family. And when I married my wife, her family is extraordinarily entrepreneurial. I’ve had forces around me that, combined with my own spirit, have really helped shape the way things progressed.” Upon finishing his studies in economics and investment management at Cornell, Bhatia went to work for banks Merrill Lynch and then Morgan Stanley. After a couple of years on Wall Street, he decided to take a year out in South America to do some social work. He claims this social responsibility was imbued by his grandmother, a former chairman of charity Red Cross. During his year in Ecuador, the 9/11 attacks rocked New York. With subsequent changes to immigration policy, London-born Bhatia found it difficult to obtain a work visa.

(H)Elite interview Amit Bhatia.indd 2

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01/10/2013 00:28


the elite INTERVIEW

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He returned to London where he continued his career in investment banking mergers and acquisitions, during which time he began dating Vanisha Mittal. “By the time my visa came through, I loved London and didn’t want to leave, and I’d started seeing the girl who then became my wife. And so at the ripe old age of 24, my wife and I got engaged.” Changes were afoot in his professional life too. Tired of the rat race, Bhatia decided to set up his own fund. Friends and family backed him as he founded Swordfish, an entrepreneurial fund so named because the entrepreneur was regularly told he resembled actor John Travolta who had starred in the movie of the same name. He got started with $1m under management, $5m in year two followed by a rapid acceleration. And it’s now reputed to run at just under $1bn. But it’s fair to say Bhatia earned the success he experienced with the fund. “Vanisha will tell you that I probably gave her more sleepless nights than she’s had with the children because I ran a fund that meant I never slept more than two hours in a night. I would trade Asia when it opened at midnight, India when it opened at 4am, Europe when it opened at 8 o’clock, the US when it opened at 2pm, then the US would close at 9 and we’d start again at midnight. I did that for ten years.” The hard graft paid off. One of Swordfish’s investments, Supercell, was recently named the fastest growing gaming company in the world. “They do $2.5m of sales a day,” explains Bhatia. Supercell is indeed flying high: the Finnish startup raised $130m at a whopping $770m valuation this spring. Still, the long hours and erratic working patterns were taking a toll on Bhatia’s personal life. He and his wife have welcomed three children in the past four years and he wanted a role whereby he could spend more time with his family. “Eventually I said it’s time now to have a more structured life where I go to the office in the morning, come back in the evenings and spend time with the children and so on.” Having a happy home life is an important part of success, he says. “I don’t think people who are professionally successful but are unhappy personally are happy people.” Perhaps this is the reason he names new business Hope his biggest success to date. The company is comprised of two business units bought by Bhatia and his shareholders, fused together to form the largest independent provider of building materials in the UK. “This is very personal for me. Right from the beginning, we put these assets together, we’ve named the business, we’ve given the business its

“I always believe in partnering with people who know more than you and are smarter than you”

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01/10/2013 00:28


the elite INTERVIEW

own values; one of which is entrepreneurialism, the others are being responsible, reliable and understanding.” Bhatia is bringing his own unique blend of entrepreneurial skills to shake up the sometimes staid world of construction. “Our corporate colour is purple because purple doesn’t exist. Most building materials are yellow or green. We’ve chosen purple because we want to stand out, we want to be different. We want to be innovative and dynamic. People say to me, ‘considering what you did, this is a really old industry’. To some degree, it is. It’s the oldest of industries. But you can still find ways to be really dynamic and entrepreneurial in old industries,” he says. And with this he rolls up his trouser leg. “I wear purple socks every day,” he says. “I think with most businesses you love the business with your head; you haven’t got an emotional attachment. This is different: I love Hope.” It’s fair to assume that the other passion in Bhatia’s life, aside from family and business, is football. He represents his and the Mittal family’s investment in West London football club QPR and has been its vice-chairman since 2007, apart from a brief hiatus, following his resignation in protest at ticket price hikes. At that time, the other two owners were Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Italian businessman Flavio Briatore. “We wanted to be involved in football, we loved QPR, but one of the main reasons was that Bernie is from Formula 1, he knows sport. Flavio comes from sport. I always believe in partnering with people who know more than you and are smarter than you,” says Bhatia. On this particular occasion, his approach to ‘back the jockey, not the horse’ didn’t necessarily go to plan. “We had this incredible man in Bernie Ecclestone who built Formula 1. He’s a genius. Flavio is a force unto himself and had his own way that he wanted to run a business. And then there was myself, and I said if I’m going to be part of a board, I need to make sure that I believe what we’re doing is right. I can’t just fall in line if I don’t agree with something.” The real sticking point was on ticket prices. Ecclestone and Briatore wanted to hike ticket prices, whereas Bhatia was vehemently against the move. “I said if they did it I could not put my name behind the increase because I didn’t think it was right. So they did and I resigned.” But Bhatia recognises this as being symptomatic of the trio’s inability to work around the same board table, not a personal vendetta. He speaks of his former partners with unquestionable respect and admiration and says he learned a lot during the four years of co-ownership. “In retrospect, at the age of 27 I

was sharing a board table for four years with Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone. It was an awesome opportunity to learn.” In 2011, when Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes bought Ecclestone and Briatore’s shares in the club, he reduced ticket prices and reinstated Bhatia as vice-chair. His love of football is shared by his father-inlaw. Whilst one cannot quite imagine them in a London boozer sharing a pint of London Pride during the match, Bhatia says his relationship with Mittal is just like any other. “He’s extremely entertaining and very funny, so we spend a lot of time together. I see him pretty much every

certain level of pressure. “It’s not pressure that comes from anybody else but me,” he says. “I’ve always had a desire to try to succeed, to stand on my own two feet and have my own identity. It’s something my wife wants for me. It’s something my father-in-law wants for me. It’s something I want for myself. But I guess in life, if there’s ever a good pressure and a bad pressure, this is good pressure because it makes me want to get up and come to work, and work hard. It’s my desire to be better as a person that I think drives me more than any pressure that others put on me.” Certainly, Bhatia is more in the limelight than ever. His stellar business credentials are rightfully beginning to be acknowledged. He was awarded the title of Asian Business Young Entrepreneur of the Year in March at the Asian Business Awards. He also won the award for the Outstanding Young Executive at the Global Business Excellence Awards. Gongs aside, what does success look like to Amit Bhatia? “Success is doing better tomorrow than you did today, doing better the next day than you did the day before that. It’s to improve continually, to have big goals, and then try to achieve them. I don’t think life would be very fun if you set yourself tiny goals,” he smiles.

“Success is doing better tomorrow than you did today, doing better the next day than you did the day before that”

(H)Elite interview Amit Bhatia.indd 4

day, if not in the office, he’s on the seventh floor of this building, then he’ll come over to see the children on his way home from work. It’s really a very normal family. I know it’s a cliche to say it, but he’s the most normal, chilled out and funniest guy in the world.” Still, one wonders if being married to the daughter of one of the most successful businessmen on the planet lends itself to a

19

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01/10/2013 01:37


ONE TO WATCH

Premium mixer brand FeverTree is stirring up a longneglected industry

P

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

remium food and drinks entrants are now ten-a-penny. With a wealth of first-rate fruit juices, pukka pastries and choice confectionery hitting the market, it’d be a surprise if there was anything left that hadn’t been given a facelift. But in bringing top quality mixers to the market, Fever-Tree has almost single-handedly reinvented the way we accompany our aperitifs. Neither of Fever-Tree’s co-founders, Tim Warrillow and Charles Rolls, were strangers to premium brands. Having cut his teeth in the promotion of high-end foods, Warrillow decided the time was right to start his own business. After he mentioned to some leading figures in the drinks industry that he was interested in the premium gin market, he was told that he should get in contact with Rolls, who had not long before revived the Plymouth Gin brand, generating much acclaim and securing a sale to the Absolut Vodka producer V&S Group in the process. “We met for coffee,” says Warrillow. “Our conversation turned straight away from gin to tonic.” Rolls had engaged in a high profile gin tasting in New York a couple of years previously; the intended focus was to educate the palette of the assembled journalists to the various nuances and subtleties of a variety of premium gins, as well as allowing them to pair each spirit with a suitable tonic water.

23

Perfect tonic

(H)One to watch.indd 1

01/10/2013 00:30


ONE TO WATCH

24

However, there was something of a drawback to this. “It was universally agreed that by the time you poured this rather overpowering, rather unofficial tonic water on to their gin, all you could taste was the tonic.” Obviously, the duo’s first port of call was to carry out extensive tasting and ingredientanalysis upon the competition – what little there was of it. “Schweppes had a monopoly,” Warrillow comments. “A branded monopoly. Its market was not growing so to return shareholder value, it had been looking at cutting its costs.” Essentially, this meant introducing preservatives like sodium benzoate to increase shelf-life, cheap additives such as the orange aromatic decanal and, perhaps worst of all, saccharin. “Saccharin is the oldest, cheapest and – famously in the food and drink industry – the worst-tasting sweetener,” he explains. “No one would ever choose to put that in if flavour was their priority.” Given that the drinks market was increasingly dominated by high-end spirits, it seemed counter-intuitive that these should be coupled together with cheap ingredients destined only to ruin the drinking experience. Warrillow continues: “Our big adage has always been that given three-quarters of your gin and tonic is tonic, it should command as much interest and attention as the gin that you are drinking.” This sparked the co-founders’ staunch commitment to use the genuine article wherever possible. “We decided to return – quite literally – to the root of tonic water,”

(H)One to watch.indd 2

“We decided to return – quite literally – to the root of tonic water”

quips Warrillow. Core to their concept was the importance of using the genuine article and finding the highest quality ingredients. “We approached it in a totally different way to anyone else in the soft drinks industry,” he explains. “We source the best botanical flavours. We source the best sugars. We didn’t compromise on anything.” This is perhaps evinced by the lengths they went to in order to obtain first-rate quinine, one of tonic water’s key ingredients. Warrillow’s research into natural sources of quinine led him to the cinchona tree and a plantation in the eastern Congo, which he insisted on visiting personally – not without some misgivings. “As you probably know it’s pretty much the most lawless place on the planet,” he says. “But one thing they have there is this fantastic source of quinine.” Ultimately, it was the importance of this natural source of quinine that helped the entrepreneurs make perhaps their most important brand decision. Because of quinine’s use as an antimalarial and fever-reducing treatment, for centuries the cinchona tree has been referred to under a very different name: ‘fever tree’. “As a name, Fever-Tree got right to the heart of our proposition, of quinine, of quality and also denoted natural with the tree association,” says Warrillow. “It’s true to its roots.” Although one would like to think doing things naturally would be a walk in the park, making use of their meticulously sourced ingredients took much longer than either Warrillow or Rolls had imagined. “When you start using natural flavours, they are harder to use because the flavour migrates; it changes over time,” Warrilow explains. “This is why so often people use artificial flavours.” In part as a result of their commitment to keeping their ingredients kosher, it was a full 18 months before they had a finished product rolling off the production line.

01/10/2013 00:30


ONE TO WATCH

“Tonic should command as much interest and attention as the gin that you’re drinking” Fortunately, Fever-Tree quickly won over some very big clients by taking the fight right to the front line. “We went knocking on doors, going to get the Ritz and Claridge’s and some of these places to sample the product,” says Warrillow. Their simple approach quickly made converts of those they visited, encouraging clients to engage in side-by-side tastings comparing Fever-Tree to existing mixers – a tactic that they still use today. “Every time we travel anywhere, we’re the real travelling salesmen with a bag full of our products versus the competition,” he says. Fever-Tree had more in its corner than its superior taste however – there were some advocates that played an essential role in putting the brand on the map. The first came when the Waitrose buyer happened to stumble across an article on Fever-Tree in The Times whilst on a train to Wales. Clipping out the feature, she put it in her pocket and called the team at the next opportunity. “She said ‘we have been waiting for a product like this’,” he recalls. “‘We’re well aware of what’s happened to mainstream mixers and that the premium spirit market’s growing. How quickly can you get it on the shelf?’” And no sooner had they done so than it began flying straight off again, proving a huge hit with the store’s customers. The second was, if anything, even more serendipitous. Coming across the product in a Waitrose store, the late British artist Richard Hamilton quickly became a Fever-Tree convert and decided to send a sample to Spain for his friend and fellow G&T fan, world-renowned chef Ferran Adria. Adria was suitably impressed. “He said ‘fantastic, at last someone

(H)One to watch.indd 3

Company CV Name: Fever-Tree Founded by: Tim Warrillow and Charles Rolls Founded in: 2005 Team: 14

is taking this category seriously’,” relates Warrillow. “He got his sommelier to find out who produced it and how he could get more of it. Then he made it into a dish on his world famous tasting menu.” Adria’s ‘Sopa de Fever-Tree tonica’ put the product on the map in Spain. Before long Fever-Tree products were being stored in a variety of locations including Majestic, Oddbins, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, not to mention securing shelf space in both Sainsbury’s and Tesco. But perhaps more significant is the way the products have been received by producers of high quality spirits. “Premium spirit businesses are all about, as they say, elevating their customers’ experience,” says Warrillow. “Giving them better quality mixers means that their customer gets a better experience of their spirits.” Because of this, Fever-Tree has been approached by a lot of the big brands, securing promotional partnerships with household names such as Bombay Sapphire, as well as more boutique offerings such as Sipsmith. It’s fair to say, then, that Fever-Tree have entered the market with a splash. “We’ve started to make people sit up and think about the importance of the mixer, which has been so long forgotten,” comments Warrillow. However, the Fever-Tree team is still swinging for the fences. Despite in-roads to plenty of markets and their product in seven out of ten of Restaurant Magazine’s top eateries in the world, the enterprise isn’t just willing to rest on its laurels. “We have done the really hard work of getting ourselves understood and established; now we’ve got to push forward in the markets we’re in,” he concludes. “We are the David taking on the Goliath of the mass-market brands.”

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ANALYSIS

Bartkowski / Shutterstock.com

Rebooting Ireland Dublin’s booming tech scene is slowly but surely getting Irish eyes smiling again

27

“The large multinationals that are here and maturing are starting to see people spin off and set up their own companies” Michael Culligan,

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

business manager at Dublin Business Innovation Centre

(H)Analysis Dublin.indd 1

T

he rapid growth of the tech start-up community in recent years has changed the face of global entrepreneurialism. From Silicon Valley in sunny San Fran to Silicon Roundabout much closer to home, a new wave of entrepreneurs are tapping into the digital treats on offer and taking them to even more incredible heights. Nevertheless, far from being the only hotspots of this tech earthquake, there is a place between London and the American West Coast that is slowly but surely becoming its epicentre. Whilst it may have gone unnoticed to the more casual observer, there has been a reciprocal increase in interest occurring in Dublin of late. What definitely hasn’t gone undetected is the damage that the global financial crisis has caused to the Irish economy, which is only just starting to claw its way out of recession. It’s fair to say that the IMF-EU bailout of November 2010 – necessitated by the collapse of the country’s banking system – has grabbed many a headline, with the collapse of Ireland’s property market casting an equally dark cloud. But there is another story being written that deserves to be told, not least because it shines a ray of sunshine across an otherwise gloomy landscape. It is now ten years since Google opened its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, and the tech giant is in good company. The likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn and PayPal – to name but a few – also have dedicated bases in the Irish capital, and they have been followed en masse by a host of innovative tech start-ups from near and far looking to emulate their more established peers. You could almost

say that the ‘Silicon Docks’ – as Dublin’s tech community has been fittingly labelled – is bursting at the seams. And whilst that may not be the case just yet, it certainly isn’t for want of trying. What is clear, however, is that the rampant development of Dublin’s start-up ecosystem is unhindered by the recession. In fact, the opposite appears to hold true. “The strange thing about what is happening in the start-up system is that it is a wonderful time to set up a business,” says Michael Culligan, business manager at enterprise support organisation Dublin Business Innovation Centre. “That is not looking through rose-tinted glasses, it is more to do with the reality that costs have come down and there is more availability of labour.”

01/10/2013 00:32


ANALYSIS

The pick of the crop

28

“There is a very strong level of trust in cross-industry collaboration with the colleges and universities”

The average age of Ireland’s population – the youngest in Europe – also presents tech firms with a sizeable advantage, especially when Barry O’Dowd, accompanied by a national government senior vice president of IDA Ireland that is pro-enterprise and proeducation. “There is a very strong level of trust in cross-industry collaboration with the colleges and universities,” explains Barry O’Dowd, senior vice president of foreign direct investment agency IDA Ireland. “When they come back in for second rounds of funding, they won’t be considered for approval unless they have got enterprise partners with them. That was already there as an idea but I think the recession has brought it to the fore. It is now more fine-tuned and working much better for us.” The abundance of talent on offer in Dublin certainly offers a major advantage – and it runs a lot deeper than the calibre of people graduating from the city’s higher education institutes. The migration of the corporate giants to Ireland has brought with it a rich pool of tech experts which, on top of Dublin’s home-grown IT graduates, all adds up to a very attractive picture indeed. “Because we have got such a real strong embedded base of overseas industry giants, what they have done is generate a whole cadre of middle and upper management that has been available for some of the younger companies,” explains O’Dowd. “We are beginning to see a lot more participation in some of the incubators with people coming out of the Googles and going into some of these projects. They are coming with experience having worked with some of the big names in the past, and that is a big plus.” What this means in practice for the city’s start-up ecosystem is therefore particularly interesting, and is put in further perspective by Culligan. “The large multinationals that are here and maturing are starting to see people spin off and set up their own companies,” he says. Partly as a result of the work done by agencies like the IDA – which tries to attract start-ups from overseas – and Enterprise Ireland, whose focus is primarily on Ireland’s own start-ups, there is now a strong and fluid start-up community based on a sense of shared purpose.

(H)Analysis Dublin.indd 2

The wealth of talent on offer in Dublin certainly influenced UK start-up BlikBook’s decision to move its headquarters from London to the Irish capital. Co-founded by four graduates in 2010, BlikBook offers an online platform for students to share learning with Barnaby Voss, commercial director of their peers and tutors. “It is basically a BlikBook student engagement tool that manages the interactions between students and lecturers,” says commercial director Barnaby Voss. “Lecturers use it for class management, and students use it for getting academic help outside of the lecture theatre.” Voss explains that BlikBook was designed in part to accommodate the needs of less confident students who would often shy away from approaching their tutor for face-to-face help. The platform is free-to-use but it is monetised by reading lists – with the company taking commission on book sales – as well as by sales of student behaviour data, which is collated by the company for use by universities and other interested parties. With a third of UK universities now on board with BlikBook, the move to Dublin has been accompanied by a $1.3m funding round involving the likes of Enterprise Ireland. It is now looking to roll the platform out across Ireland – before looking Stateside – and Voss believes that the quantity and quality of young workers in Dublin helps it trump London in the talent stakes.

“Lecturers use it for class management, and students use it for getting academic help outside of the lecture theatre”

“Dublin has got the highest proportion of graduates in the western workforce, he says. “There are a lot of great institutions here with a lot of prestige and they are not only pumping out great graduates; they have got strong international links as well.” Working in very close proximity to other like-minded firms is also helping BlikBook gather pace. “Somebody once described Dublin to me as a global village,” says Voss. “Rather than there being six degrees of separation, there are two degrees of separation, and that is what you find in the tech scene here.”

01/10/2013 00:32


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01/10/2013 01:38


ANALYSIS

30

“Everybody helps everybody out, be it with recruitment, be it looking for investment, be it looking for access to new markets” Gary Leyden, director of NDRC Launchpad

Patrick King, policy

and communications manager at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce

Michael Culligan,

business manager at Dublin Business Innovation Centre

(H)Analysis Dublin.indd 3

“It is a really well-connected ecosystem and I think that is something that gives Dublin a huge advantage over some other cities” says Gary Leyden, director of tech entrepreneur accelerator NDRC Launchpad. “Everybody helps everybody out, be it with recruitment, be it looking for investment, be it looking for access to new markets.” And Dublin’s size only adds to the close-knit feel of the city’s start-up scene. “I think one of the benefits that Dublin has compared to other cities is that it is a city of scale in terms of being in that one million bracket, but not being too big that people don’t know each other,” says Patrick King, policy and communications manager at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. “There are a few coffee shops where you know there are going to be some guys from the venture capital world, and they are approachable. So I think that existing ecosystem is a good thing and the size does help in that respect.” Indeed, the size factor also sheds light on another aspect of the ‘recession argument’. At the end of the day, the very nature of technology-driven enterprises means that their focus is normally global as opposed to local. Therefore, a desire to crack Ireland’s domestic market is not top of the agenda for a number of the tech start-ups flocking to Dublin, or even emanating from Ireland themselves. “Because the Irish market is so small, you have to look abroad and so people build start-ups with a global mentality or at least a regional mentality,” says Gaston Irigoyen, the co-founder and CEO behind DIY and craft mobile application Guidecentral, itself a home-grown Irish start-up. “That is very different from any start-up in the US where they typically focus on the US market for four, five or six years before they expand to Europe or any other parts of the world.” In this sense then, what is it that makes Dublin such an attractive option for the export-driven tech entrepreneur? Well, its very position on the map certainly seems to have some credence. “I think it is a great gateway between Europe and the US,” Irigoyen adds. “It is a five-hour flight to the East Coast, it is a two or three hour flight to anywhere in the

Continent. I think it is a place that connects both regions very well; depending on the nature of your business, you may want to go one way or the other, but either direction is easy.” And the city centre’s proximity to Dublin Airport is something of an added bonus in this regard. It is not only budding entrepreneurs who are jumping on Boeings and taking off for the Emerald Isle, however. The happenings in Dublin have also caught the eye of foreign angel investors and venture capital firms, all of them eager to get a slice of the action and keep the ecosystem’s wheels turning. “You have got mentors and investors from Silicon Valley who have previously been here setting up multinational companies and operations become angel investors in their own right,” says David Scanlon, development adviser at Enterprise Ireland. “There are not many places in the world where that sort of activity happens and I think when you mix it with the level of seed capital that is available here, it makes for an incredibly good environment.”

01/10/2013 00:33


ANALYSIS

The amount of seed capital available for start-ups in Dublin is indeed a big draw and, intriguingly, is yet another inadvertent result of the recession. “Every cloud has a silver lining and when the banks were recapitalised, one of the small side effects was a certain amount of money was put into seed venture capital funds to invest in young start-up companies,” says O’Dowd. “So ironically, there is more seed venture capital money around now than there has ever been, which might seem counter-intuitive but that is the case.” Evidently, the government in Ireland is very much on the side of start-ups, and this is reflected in a range of financial measures designed to make their life all the easier. One of these is a favourable tax regime which offers benefits to the younger companies and multinationals alike. Whilst a 12.5% rate of corporation tax is generally more relevant to the established firms, total relief is available to Irish start-ups for the first three years up to a profit level of €40,000. R&D tax credits are also incredibly handy for tech entrepreneurs in the development stage. Nevertheless, despite the attention the tax situation often gets in the press, it has become the elephant in the room in certain respects. Yet, when one considers the richness of the entrepreneurial scene in Dublin, the abundance of talent on offer and the fact that Dublin is such a vibrant cultural hub, the tax issue probably deserves to be left untouched, at least as far as being the ‘silver bullet’ is concerned. “There are other islands in Europe that have lower taxes than us, like Malta,” says Scanlon. “So if you want a 10% corporate tax rate and nice sunshine, but nobody to do business with, Malta is a good bet.” There is still a long way to go before Dublin’s ecosystem is able to stand on its own two feet. But that is by no means a slight on what is a brilliant example of how cross-collaboration between government, big business, education and young enterprise can create something so exciting, not only for Ireland but for the international tech community. “I think in one sense, our end goal is to talk ourselves David Scanlon, out of a job,” Scanlon smiles. “And I think development adviser at Enterprise Ireland it is definitely moving in that direction.”

(H)Analysis Dublin.indd 4

Going it alone It’s fair to say that Guidecentral’s CEO and co-founder Gaston Irigoyen has every right to bang the drum for the Dublin tech scene. Having previously worked for Google and YouTube in his native Argentina, he was introduced to life in the Silicon Docks when Google Gaston Irigoyen, chose Dublin as its European base. And, CEO and co-founder of as is commonplace among members of Guidecentral the ecosystem, he took the skills and experiences he had built up with the big boys and applied them to something of his own making, which is fitting given the nature of his new venture. Essentially, Guidecentral is a mobile phone application for DIY and craft enthusiasts which allows them to create their own ‘how to’ guides, as well as access those uploaded by fellow members. Irigoyen operates his enterprise out of Dogpatch Labs, a dynamic co-working space established in Dublin by San Francisco-based venture capital firm Polaris Partners. “Dogpatch is great in terms of connecting us with the start-up ecosystem,” he says. However, whilst Irigoyen admits there is something unique about the tech environment in Dublin, he believes that more collaboration is necessary before it can begin to really compete on the “Because the Irish global stage. He says, “From market is so small, you my point of view, although I do see a lot of people leaving have to look abroad the big corporations and and so people build starting their own businesses, believe that there is still start-ups with a global Ia do lot of work to be done in mentality or at least a terms of the start-ups and more established companies regional mentality” working together.” However, having been identified as an investment-worthy High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) by Enterprise Ireland, Guidecentral looks set for big things. And Irigoyen is particularly praising of the Irish authorities for their commitment to the start-up cause. He explains that through a combination of the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), the HPSU scheme, and a stint at one of the many esteemed tech accelerators in Dublin, a solid start-up stands to receive €300,000 from the government to help it on its way. “There is a very good programme and progression in place to help start-ups through the first couple of years, which are usually the most difficult ones,” Irigoyen concludes.

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01/10/2013 00:33


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aylands Business Centre is at the heart of the support available to help businesses get started within Dacorum. The centre provides virtual office facilities as well as offices and light industrial units to start up ventures and also to businesses looking to move into their first commercial premises. Since it opened in June 2011, Maylands Business Centre has been instrumental in helping new local businesses flourish. Several have reported growth as a result of moving to the centre, one by as much as 80%, and many have now taken on their first employees. The centre serves to ‘fast forward’ small businesses in their crucial first years, providing support and flexible premises in which to develop and grow. Cllr Andrew Williams, Leader of Dacorum Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regeneration, said: “We opened Maylands Business Centre in order to support our local economy during tough economic times, and grow our own local businesses for future growth in the area. “There is no doubt that the Centre is a real success story, having been instrumental in enabling fledgling businesses to get on the commercial ladder and not only survive, but to positively thrive. A number of businesses have already moved on to bigger premises. Galaxy Numbers Ltd recently moved out of Maylands Business Centre having outgrown the start up premises. Managing Director Chris Arscott said: “We were sorry to leave the office at Maylands Business Centre, however

Dacorum advertorial October.indd 1

our business has really taken off and we simply needed bigger premises! “When we became a tenant in September 2011 we were a new business with two full time and one part time staff. We are now a team of six with a further two new recruits starting. Maylands Business Centre definitely contributed to our success by providing the right environment for growth and at the right price.”

“We often discover from businesses that among their reasons for coming here is that the council are seen as people to do business with. We’re seen as finding a way to make things happen, not as a block to progress” Cllr Andrew Williams, Leader of Dacorum

Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regeneration

The Maylands Partnership

The Maylands Partnership represents the combined interests of over 400 local businesses and has played a key consultative role in identifying and addressing the needs of businesses in Dacorum. Cllr Williams describes the Maylands Partnership as “a combination of businesses and the public sector working together to help improve the area”. Frances Stickley, Kodak UK representative on the Maylands Partnership, said: “One of the major reasons why Kodak has enjoyed such a long and successful association with Dacorum

is being able to access a skilled workforce. With such a wide variety of businesses here it is vital that they can recruit people with the appropriate skills. “An Employment and Skills Partnership has been established with representatives from local businesses, key stakeholders and the Council to ensure that young people in the area are trained and equipped with the skills and abilities that local businesses need both now and in the future.” Working together

Different businesses cite different benefits to locating in the area. Kodak UK and digital imaging company FFEI value the access to smart, well-educated staff and RH Hall likes the access to motorway links and airports. Andy Cook, Managing Director, FFEI, said: “Location is extremely important to FFEI as 98% of our business is for export. Dacorum is an ideal location due to its proximity to Luton and Heathrow and the M1 and M25 motorway networks. “Our business is high technology design and manufacture so it’s essential that we can easily recruit smart, well educated people. Dacorum is ideally situated as it offers a good choice of commutable living areas and a wealth of talent to choose from.” For free advice and guidance on how to grow your business in Dacorum call 01442 228000 or email business@dacorum.gov.uk www.dacorumlooknofurther.co.uk/elite

01/10/2013 01:40


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In it together There has been one positive outcome of the shortfall of bank lending to SMEs: it has paved the way for crowdfunding to flourish

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t can’t have escaped many people’s attention that crowdfunding has revolutionised the way we view funding projects and new ideas. But with consumer, reward-driven solutions like Kickstarter dominating mainstream conversation, it’s sometimes easy to forget that crowdfunding has also entirely reformed the worlds of equity and debt funding. The increased interest in the crowdfunding model was a by-product of the recession. “There are five main high street banks and they account for about 90% of all lending,” says David de Koning, head of communications at the peer-to-peer lending solution Funding Circle.

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

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FINANCE

Whilst this doesn’t pose much of an issue when the economy is healthy and confidence is high, when these few institutions are hit by turmoil it quickly brings lending to a grinding halt. “Additionally, as a result of greater regulation, they had to hold more capital, which essentially makes it far less attractive to lend to businesses.” The slowdown in lending can’t just be placed at the doors of the big banks. Other traditional mainstays that businesses have relied on to get off the ground have also found themselves unable to lend a hand. “Traditional business angels have been more reticent to part with their cash as their investments remained tied up so there has been fewer exits, which is how an angel would typically get liquidity,” comments Luke Lang, marketing director and co-founder of equity crowdfunder Crowdcube. “And grant funding has obviously been reduced by the government as well, so that has affected a number of businesses.” It is hardly surprising then that some people started to look at different methods trying to get money moving again. “A new approach was needed,” Lang says. “A democratised version of angel investing was required to enable more people to access investment opportunities.” Thus the idea of crowdfunding was sown.

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The crowd in action Caspar Craven, cofounder and director of customer intelligence consultancy Trovus, Casper Craven, is no stranger to co-founder and director raising funds via more of Trovus traditional routes. “I was an investment banker for five years,” he explains. “I specialised in raising funds for other people. A lot of private equity funding, a lot of bank funding, deals anywhere from £1m - £20m; that was the area I used to work in.” Having ruled out equity routes because of his desire to avoid diluting ownership, when Craven was seeking funds for Trovus he approached the high street banks. “I went and spoke to our bank about getting bank financing,” he says. “Even getting an overdraft had very high fees and I would have had to give my kidneys away to do it.” After advice from a few individuals, one of whom was a finance director that had previously raised money from the peer-to-peer lender, Craven decided to apply for debt-finance through Funding Circle. “We put our profile together on the website and literally we raised all the money within an “We put hour,” he recalls. “Compared to our profile other funding things I’ve been in, it was the most painless together on funding I’ve been through.” the website And this has had a very palpable impact upon the business in the and literally three months since their successful raised all the funding pitch. “Our profits so money within far this year have really soared as has our revenue, which is in no an hour” small part due to the investments we’ve been making, freeing us up to make more investment decisions,” says Craven. Given the fact that the funding has enabled them to so effectively capitalise on business opportunities, Craven confirms he is already considering a second round to enable the enterprise to secure further growth. Obviously for firms like Trovus, crowdfunding is radically shaking up the way funding is viewed. “Fundamentally, they’re disruptive business models; they’re challenging the banks where there’s a lot of process and fear,” Craven comments. Because the lending confidence amongst crowdfunders seems to be much higher and the process is much more immediate than the lengthy application periods at the banks, he feels it’s an excellent option for start-ups. “If anyone’s looking at funding it’s an absolute no-brainer.”

01/10/2013 00:35


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Essentially, the beauty of crowdfunding’s emergence onto the market was that it was just bringing together two parties that were, at the time, poorly served by what was on offer. “What we realised when the business launched was actually you have this incredible group of hardworking, fascinating businesses looking for capital and on the other side you’ve got millions of people who are earning next to nothing in their savings accounts,” says de Koning. “Surely there was a way of bringing these two disaffected groups together?” And as a technique, crowdfunding hasn’t just addressed a need, but actively improved on the existing services. “We haven’t created a project which is that different from what a bank loan is but what we’ve done is make it much better,” de Koning explains. Rather than a decision taking weeks, lending decisions can take place in under a day – case study Trovus received funding in just one hour. “That’s really appealed to business owners as they’re using a product now that’s better suited to their needs,” de Koning adds. But it isn’t just enterprises looking for funding that stand to benefit. Crowdfunding has also made the process of lending and investing much more egalitarian and significantly lowered the barrier to entry. Lang comments: “It’s transformed angel investing in the UK and has proven to be a catalyst for the birth of a new breed of angel investor, what we’ve dubbed the ‘armchair Dragon’.” There has been a huge shift in terms of public attitudes toward earlier stage businesses and investment, partly in the wake of shows like

(H)In it together.indd 3

“The idea that you can become your own angel is proving to be appealing for a lot of people”

Dragons’ Den. “The idea that you can become your own angel is proving to be appealing for a lot of people,” says Lang. But one element that may have previously barred individuals from getting involved was the amount of money one would have to invest to be a part of a traditional angel network. Luke Lang, marketing director and co-founder of Crowdcube “Traditionally, you’d need to have £20,000; that would be the smallest investment realistically that you would make,” he comments. “Our average amount is around £2,800 so it’s much more accessible.” Additionally, the fact that individuals can opt for lower individual investments in each project means that they are more in a position to spread their funds across multiple projects, somewhat mitigating some of the risks involved in a relatively high risk field. “If you have one business that fails then hopefully you’ve got two or three others that are looking positive and looking like they’re going to deliver a return in the next year or two,” Lang says. “That’s really important.” But, obviously, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Crowdfunding’s success can only really be measured against the degree it has helped to get money moving. “They’re still fairly nascent industries,” says de Koning. “We’ll probably push through £200m lend in the next six months or so, which is fantastic for us but we probably represent less then 3.1% of the whole small business lending industry.” However, one thing is clear; whilst crowdfunding is still establishing it’s foothold in the lending landscape, it has certainly broadened the options of the entrepreneurial community and this even in itself is an admirable achievement. “I certainly think if you are a younger business now, getting started, you’re probably not thinking ‘the only place I can go to for lending are banks’,” concludes de Koning. “So the opportunities are great.”

01/10/2013 01:03


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01/10/2013 01:44


FINANCE

Five-minute money masterclass

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

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How to get the bank on board

Much has been said about the reluctance of banks to lend to small businesses over the last few years. In the eyes of some business leaders, the government’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) is yet to fulfil its potential as our nation’s ambitious entrepreneurs struggle to secure a loan, overdraft or other financial support package from the bank. Of course, the other side of the argument is that in such an age of austerity, many businesses simply have no interest in taking on any debt at the moment. Regardless of what one believes though, a fair proportion of start-ups do often need a helping hand at some point in their journey. What, then, will convince the bank to give them the big thumbs up?

“The most important part is that they approach us as early as possible and talk to us about the funding that they will require” Thorsten Seeger

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Make a credible request Whilst a bank is generally happy to assist a small business where possible, it won’t be prepared to part with significant sums of money for no good reason. “The worst thing you can do is go to a bank and say ‘I have got this new start-up venture – how much will you lend me?’” says Mike Conroy, a senior manager in the business management unit at HSBC. “You have to demonstrate that you have got that clarity about why you want it, because that breeds confidence and allows somebody in the bank to think ‘this is a good customer, they have got a good idea, it has been well thought through, I think this is quite a reasonable risk for the bank to accept’.” Conroy also suggests that the business owner should not hold back from asking for big bucks, if that is what is required. “It is probably a good idea not to underestimate the amount you request,” he says. “What you don’t want to do is ask for a sum of money and then come to the bank two months later to ask for some more.”

01/10/2013 00:36


FINANCE

Present a solid financial picture As strong as an entrepreneur’s business proposition may be, their financial credentials will also come under the microscope in that crucial meeting with the bank manager. “What a lot of business owners don’t understand is that from the moment they open a bank account, their credit score is being assessed,” says Conroy. “So even though you are not borrowing any money, an assessment of the viability of the business and your financial worthiness is being calculated.” Indeed, this can have a significant bearing on one’s chances of securing finance further down the line. “What sometimes happens is people open up a start-up account and they don’t borrow for 12 months,” Conroy adds. “They don’t pay a great deal of attention to financial matters, so they might inadvertently let a payment slip or perhaps the account goes overdrawn without arrangement, or they do something that is not what you and I would recognise as ideal behaviour by a customer. So it is important for people to realise that even when you’re not borrowing, paying attention to financial affairs is actually an important determinant on whether they would get the money 12 months on.”

“It is probably a good idea not to underestimate the amount you request” Mike Conroy Have a fool-proof business plan If there is one thing a business owner should be prepared for upon sitting down with the bank, it is questions – and lots of them. Ideally though, the majority of these will be answered with a well-formed business plan. “In terms of formally applying for the credit, you need to make sure you have a robust and sensible business plan which not only looks at the positive features of why you want to make the investment, but also what are the contingencies you put in place,” Anthony Davies, head of SME markets at Lloyds TSB. “For example if you are trading overseas, what tolerance have you put in there for movements in exchange rates?” And it is generally a matter of quality over quantity in this regard. “Some people think that more information is better and in a way, that is correct, but it has to be relevant information,” says Thorsten Seeger, head of business banking at Barclays. “So what we really like to see from businesses is that they have got some sort of management accounting in place, that they know their KPIs, and are doing some forward planning.”

(H)Money masterclass-Getting the banks on board.indd 2

Thorsten Seeger, head of business banking at Barclays

Mike Conroy, a senior

manager in the business management unit at HSBC

Anthony Davies,

41

head of SME markets at Lloyds TSB

Demonstrate your ability to repay All said and done, a bank will be reluctant to lend if an applicant can’t clearly show how he or she intends to return the money they have borrowed. “Everything may look very good on paper but the bank is going to look at it and ask ‘can this business afford £500 a month?’ or ‘how does that overdraft get cleared?’” says Conroy. He goes on to suggest one way of tackling such awkward questions. “You can often do that by including a cashflow forecast in your business plan,” he explains. “That way, you can evidence the bank and say ‘I have given this a lot of thought and this is definitely the sum of money I need and it will repaid over the next 12, 18, or 24 months’. It is easy for a business to do some homework beforehand and get some idea as to what those levels of repayments are. It is all about being prepared.”

Don’t leave it too late The most successful entrepreneurs are generally those who identify an obstacle well in advance of it occurring, and put a contingency plan in place to help evade it when the time comes. This is certainly worth bearing in mind when you’re a shiny new start-up. “We sometimes get people come to us and say ‘I’ve got a problem, I am out of money – I need £200,000 very quickly’,” says Seeger. “That puts us in a much more difficult situation than somebody who comes to us and says ‘based on my management information and my forward planning, I know that in three or four weeks’ time, I will have some cash flow shortages and I need an overdraft in place’. It is pretty much an open discussion but the most important part is that they approach us as early as possible and talk to us about the funding that they will require.”

01/10/2013 00:36


FINANCE

T

The global age has evolved much faster than the legislation governing it

Keeping the faith

Restoring trust in business is an essential part of our economic future, says the ICAEW’s head of enterprise Clive Lewis

(H)ICAEW.indd 1

Support the emerging OECD recommendations on tax

Since the financial crisis, government and public expectations on tax have shifted dramatically. To tackle confusion and unfairness in the taxation of multinational businesses, governments must update and simplify tax rules. The OECD has provided a road map for G20 nations to shape tax rules in a way that reflects the realities of modern technology and cross border trade. Implementing this will demand strong national and international leadership, but the prize of a fair and efficient international tax system is well worth the effort. Because of the key role they play in making tax systems work, chartered accountants are part of the solution on tax avoidance. Our profession is ready to work with G20 nations and the OECD to ensure the success of international tax reforms. Use a single set of high quality financial reporting standards

Growing global growth and trade is crucial to tackling poverty and boosting living standards. As well as progressing free trade agreements, G20 governments should help businesses speak a common global financial language, making them more transparent and boosting trade and investment. This means a strong commitment is needed to a single set of high quality financial reporting standards, known as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Governments could also benefit from committing to similar standards of reporting in public sector finances.

Encourage businesses to behave in a socially acceptable way

Restoring trust will require greater transparency and cultural change in the way that business works. Business needs more transparent finances and better risk management. The focus of business cannot simply be about profits for shareholders. Companies must consider their responsibilities to consumers, employees, investors and wider society. People expect businesses to have a purpose and to act in socially responsible ways, as well as within the law. G20 leaders have a right to expect responsible behaviour from business leaders. They also have an obligation to create an environment in which responsible businesses succeed in the future. By working together, we can restore trust in business and build a fairer society.

More info at businessadviceservice.com

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ax reform has rarely been off the agenda in the last year with the likes of Starbucks and Google being criticised over their tax practices. Of course, one of the advantages big companies have over their smaller counterparts is that they are able to more easily take advantage of legal tax-saving measures. For example, global companies are often seen as having the upper hand when competing in local markets with smaller operators because they can base themselves in countries with lower tax rates. However, what is different is where the sale is made. Do you, as the online consumer, make your purchase in the UK or do you ‘virtually’ go to Ireland, the Netherlands or wherever and make the purchase there? The global age has evolved faster than the legislation governing it. At a Prospect roundtable, arranged in partnership with the ICAEW and held in the run-up to the G20 meeting in St Petersburg, many called the current global business environment toxic. Sorting it demands strong national and G20 leadership, but the prize of a fair and efficient tax system is well worth the effort. The greatest challenge for the G20 this year will be working to restore trust in business with new measures on tax, trade and transparency. Trust is an essential part of a working economy and it is needed to help create jobs and build fair societies. But tax avoidance, excessive pay at the top, and allegations of corruption have all helped create a toxic environment for business over the past few years. So how could the G20 go about improving trust and business behaviour?

01/10/2013 00:37


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01/10/2013 01:46


SALES & MARKETING

Far from being a lost art, networking is evolving with the times and becoming even more relevant as a result

Getting 45

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uch has been said about technology’s potential to transform business in ways that were, up until recently, unimaginable. The amount of column inches that we at EB dedicate to the power of social media as a marketing tool certainly won’t have gone unnoticed to our most astute readers. However, where differences of opinion begin to emerge is over the extent to which technology has replaced – or will replace – tried and tested formulas. Nowhere is this more pertinent than in relation to the practice of networking, which has been a staple part of any businessperson’s repertoire for as long as most of us can remember. One can’t simply ignore the value of a spot of ‘meet and greet’ as a means of attracting interest in the early stages of an enterprise. Nevertheless, if there is one thing that digital marketing has on its side that an entrepreneur often doesn’t, it is time. For many a small business owner, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Time is money after all – or so it is said – thus any time spent Adele Woodthorpe out of the office has to be fully justified. And given the instantaneous nature of some contemporary communication and advertising channels, an entrepreneur may be forgiven for politely declining an invitation to an evening of canapés and cocktails. Yet, there is still something unique about networking that merits the time it entails setting aside.

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

“You have got to identify what kind of people you want to be networking with”

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01/10/2013 00:38


SALES & MARKETING

Brad Burton,

managing director of 4Networking

Adele Woodthorpe,

owner of Woodthorpe Communications

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Warren Cass,

managing director of Business Scene

Stuart Russell,

founder of Find NetworkingEvents.com

“The most difficult thing about running your own business is getting appointments,” explains Brad Burton, managing director of business networking community 4Networking. “The thing about networking is that it allows you to meet people. It offers opportunities to get you out of the house, keep your brain working, meet people, build up your contact base and get business.” Burton stresses though that in order to really see the returns from networking, people may need to slightly alter their mindset. “Business networking is nothing to do with business – that is the fallacy that has been perpetuated out there,” he says. “Business networking is to do with people. If I don’t like you and you don’t like me, it is going nowhere, and I think that is the bit that people actually need to get their head around.” Automatic success is not guaranteed when it comes to networking. Securing new business isn’t going to happen at the drop of a hat, and this is often what irks the less patient entrepreneurs. However, with sufficient levels of dedication, the rewards will start to come. “Networking takes time, and if you have not got time for your networking to work, it isn’t going to work,” Burton adds. A business owner may also be overwhelmed by the wealth of networking opportunities now on offer, so much so that they don’t even know where to start. This is put into perspective by Warren Cass, managing director of business support network Business Scene.

“Business networking is to do with people. If I don’t like you and you don’t like me, it is going nowhere” Brad Burton

“Twenty years ago, networking wouldn’t even be a chapter in a marketing book,” he says. “It is now a multi-million pound industry in pretty much most countries and, from all of the research we have done, it is considered the number one marketing strategy for small businesses in the UK.” How then, can one go about selecting the best events to attend, and thus give themselves a fighting chance of success from the outset? It would appear that laying down some goals is a decent place to start. “I think you need to know what you’re hoping to achieve,” says Stuart Russell, founder of business networking events website FindNetworkingEvents.com. “If you’re purely trying to get sales, then one type of event might be better than another. If you are looking for something social, then you can maybe look towards those more casual events.” Ascertaining the individuals you want to be meeting can also make attendance more worthwhile. “We launched a new product earlier this year which was targeting start-ups so I looked at going to a lot of start-up networking events,” explains Adele Woodthorpe, owner of the PR agency Woodthorpe Communications.

(H)Getting connected.indd 2

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“You have got to identify what kind of people you want to be networking with first and just research where you can get involved with that.” And technology has certainly helped in this regard – of that there can be little doubt. “It has given people the chance to engage before they meet face-to-face so there is already a familiarity when they get together,” says Cass. “The positive thing about that is it means that building rapport and relationship is an accelerated process as a result.” Needless to say, the more groundwork somebody puts in before an event, the less difficult it should make achieving one’s objectives upon arrival. That is not to say however that one should take a new online friendship for granted. Personality is everything when it comes to networking, so it pays to enter a room with confidence, both in yourself and in your business. “The two biggest things that I find as a problem are people who don’t know the etiquette of networking and people who don’t have emotional intelligence and therefore can’t read how they are being reacted to in the room,” says Cass. “And if you have got the etiquette wrong and zero emotional intelligence, networking may not be for you.”

“The whole of the networking experience is a waste of time unless you are then going on to develop the relationship” Warren Cass

Ultimately though, the crux of any networking encounter is to work it towards the goals you set yourself. Even if that means scheduling further correspondence following an initial conversation, the priority must be to get something solid out of the experience which is going to benefit your business and justify the investment of time and energy. “The most important part of any networking strategy is to make sure that the casual encounters at the event are followed up and turned into proper relationships,” Cass continues. “The whole of the networking experience is a waste of time unless you are then going on to develop the relationship.” Indeed, a sense of achievement can be heightened if those initial objectives are realistic, and take into account the very nature of networking. Burton explains that, far from expecting miracles, a business owner should aim to leave an event feeling fulfilled, and satisfied that there is the potential for further gains in the future. “The key to understanding

(H)Getting connected.indd 3

that networking is working is to feel that you have gained something in terms of knowledge about yourself, knowledge about your business, and contacts,” he says. “Small incremental gains are what people need to come away with. And eventually, what happens is the more and more people you know, the deeper your network becomes, the wider your base becomes, and the more opportunity that comes your way.” Luck also plays its part in business and Cass is keen to stress that networking is not purely about the plethora of events geared specifically towards the needs of entrepreneurs. “For most people, networking is about going to an event, and I think that as a strategy needs to change,” he says. “I myself have picked up business on an Easyjet flight, on a train coming back from Euro Disney and from all sorts of other random places. That is because I understand it is not just about selling – it is about having conversations with people and being interested in people, and from those things come opportunities.” This goes some way toward explaining Cass’s stance on technology’s place in the networking equation: it is a helpful assistant, but by no means a replacement. “The internet has made the world a much smaller place and transactions are happening without people having even met, but I don’t believe they are significant transactions,” he says. “I think the vast majority of deals still need to see whites of eyes and business owners still need to have that confidence and trust in the person they are dealing with.”

01/10/2013 00:39


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01/10/2013 01:47


SALES & MARKETING

50

Life in the fast lane WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

W

(H)Life in the fast lane.indd 1

ith the wealth of analytics and metrics available, making the most of the traffic running through your site would now appear to be easier than it has ever been. Enterprises are in possession of more information than ever about users’ passage through their websites and the efficacy of their various marketing streams. But having more data at one’s disposal isn’t necessarily the only resource needed to effectively optimise multi-channel marketing. Out of the gate it needs to be recognised that, despite what metrics might lead you to believe, healthy traffic isn’t purely about quantity. “I think the number one rule of analysing the performance of any website is to understand which traffic sources you’ve got and what the quality of those traffic sources are,” explains

Making sure you’ve got balanced and optimised traffic coming into your site isn’t just a case of upping conversions – you need a long-term road map to point the way Chloë Thomas, marketing expert, founder of indiumonline.co.uk and author of eCommerce Marketing: How to Drive Traffic that Buys to your Website. “It’s really important to understand what traffic you need and therefore optimise your traffic sources.” However, it is true that analytics should always be the first port of call to begin to understand the health of traffic flow to your site. Thomas feels Google Analytics is an excellent place to start the journey. “If you go to the ‘source medium report’ then you can see how traffic reacts when it gets to your website; you can see what’s driving the most traffic and what it’s doing.” But even here, it’s important to know what to focus on. For example, low bounce rates are preferable but Thomas is keen to stress

01/10/2013 00:41


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01/10/2013 01:49


SALES & MARKETING

52

that’s not the metric to get hung up on. “In e-commerce, you want to be measuring it against the conversion rate and the value of those sales,” she comments. “If you’re having very high conversion rates but those people are only spending £5, that’s not as good as if your conversion rate is a bit lower and they’re spending £20.” Keeping a close eye on conversions and ascertaining which traffic sources are driving those conversions forms a vital launch point from which to start optimising your spend. Of course, when trying to draw people to your business online, this is very much the name of the game. “Getting the traffic to the website is all about optimising,” Thomas says. Whether you’re trying to garner new traffic or ensure a healthy volume of previous buyers return to your site, increase your pay per click or boost the effectiveness of free channels, the essential focus should be to ensure you are maximising on your investment. “It’s about optimising your headline marketing mix.” It is this blend of marketing methods that is so fundamental to a healthy range of traffic sources. In eCommerce Marketing, Thomas identifies nine fundamental marketing methods that companies will utilise to bring in balanced, multi-channel traffic: search marketing, pay per click, email marketing, offline marketing, partnerships, social media,

(H)Life in the fast lane.indd 2

“You’ve got to be optimising all the time”

brand awareness, remarketing and content marketing. “With any of the marketing methods, the worst thing you can do is to turn on the tap and then ignore it, because that will cost you money that you don’t need to be spending,” she says. “You’ve got to be optimising all the time.” For a majority of online businesses and e-commerce sites, there are almost certainly some marketing strategies that they feel more comfortable optimising. These tend to be shorter term methods, on which an entrepreneur can quickly tell if they are getting a reasonable return on investment (ROI). “For most businesses, that short term method is going to be good old Google Adwords, which is pay per click,” comments Thomas. “Thankfully, that now has lots of new methods which enable it to have a better ROI than it did six months ago.” But just because you can quickly monitor its success, that doesn’t mean focusing solely on pay per click will actually give you the best bang for your buck. “Short term methods tend to be very expensive, compared to the long-term options which will build your business’s growth and stability,” explains Thomas. Methods like content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media can actually have a more significant effect on the momentum of your business than pay per click – it’s just not something that will give you nice investor-friendly figures overnight. “Not all marketing should be about getting the immediate sale,” comments Thomas. “There needs to be a balance between the amount that’s helping build awareness of your business as well as the amount that’s helping bringing the sales directly in. You need to have a mix, otherwise you are not going to have the margins you should at the top level of the business.” Given the fact we are talking about tracking and optimising your marketing, however, how easy is it to monitor the returns that this longer term marketing is providing? “It’s infinitely complicated,” Thomas laughs. The world of real time tracking has left us with rather skewed expectations of our marketing spends, in which if we can’t see an immediate payoff we incorrectly assume that a method isn’t offering a valuable return. “You’ve got to look at the trends on a quarterly or six-monthly basis, looking at traffic increase, Twitter increase, engagement with the brand and the sorts of reviews you’re getting back into the site.” Ultimately, the worst thing an enterprise can do is invest time and spend in an area but abandon it because they don’t see an immediate payoff. “You have to take a bit of a longer term view than ‘this month Twitter bought us no sales, Pinterest bought us three and email 100; we’ll spend all our time on our email’,” Thomas explains. The key to any traffic-boosting strategy is having a rounded, multichannel goal and standing by it for a fixed term. She concludes: “Sticking to your guns and having a plan is probably the most critical part of it, making sure you’re going to give what you’re testing enough time to prove itself.”

01/10/2013 00:41


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29/09/2013 13:30


SALES & MARKETING

The perfect match?

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

54

Handing over advertising duties to an external agency is fairly commonplace, but it pays to invest time in picking the ideal partner

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01/10/2013 00:42


SALES & MARKETING

T

Laura Kennedy,

strategy account director at Mindshare

Dan Maudhub,

managing director of Wonderful

Robin Jaffray,

chief strategy officer of Inferno

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here is no doubt that the world of committing to a decision, there are a number of other key questions a advertising has undergone something small business owner may be inclined to ask. “I think as a small agency, of a seismic shift of late. Long gone are you really need to buy into the people,” says Laura Kennedy, strategy the days when the only option available to a account director at media agency Mindshare. “Making sure you ask to business owner was placing a classified in their meet the team that will work on your business is really important local rag and hoping for the best. Indeed, because you need to feel you can place an element of your business technology and consumer behaviours have model in somebody else’s hands.” now evolved to the extent that some of the Furthermore, a small business owner may want to know where they more established enterprises are struggling to would expect to sit in an agency’s list of priorities, especially if it has keep up. some more established clients on its books. “The question I would ask is One could argue that contemporary start-ups ‘if this is the value of my business to you as an agency, where does it fit in are in a very fortunate position in this regard terms of your other clients?’” says Jaffray. “‘Am I going to be a small fish – far from having to adapt to the reality of the in a big pond or the opposite?’ I think that is quite important because as digital age, they have been born into it. And a client, you want to know that you are going to get attention, you are the opportunities they are presented with are going to get the service, you are going to get the senior people in an endless. Nevertheless, that is by no means to agency paying attention to your business and involved where necessary.” say they have the ability to exploit all that is at Moreover, it pays to get a flavour of an agency’s overall attitude their fingertips. When it comes to advertising, towards start-ups, if only to ensure you are both on the same page. “A they may still lack the creative spark and business owner will need to understand the agency’s motivation for expertise that is essential if talking to a small or start-up business,” Jaffray consumers are going to buy into continues. “On the other hand, an agency their brand. needs to feel comfortable that it is the right sort However, the volume of external of client to be working with, because it may agencies that can successfully present a risk, particularly for a bigger agency.” showcase your brand can be And even if it has been established that an overwhelming. As a result, selecting agency is fully committed to early-stage the right partner may often prove a enterprises, analysing the types of small lengthy process, because one’s brand businesses they have worked with can also – not to mention a sizeable financial prove fruitful. “I think having a look at new commitment – is at stake. business wins is important,” explains Kennedy. “I think the owner of a small or “Has that agency won much new business this Dan Maudhub growing business needs to know year? If they have, what are the sorts of that they are going to invest their hard-earned businesses that they have gone after? If your small business is digitalmoney with the right agency that is going to based, are there other clients that are solely based online, or do they go generate the right results,” says Dan Maudhub, after big bricks and mortar clients? That is quite an interesting way of managing director of creative agency deducing whether you fit nicely.” Wonderful. “It is not just a case of placing Of course, aside from just asking the right questions, the onus is on a advertising, it is being able to place advertising business owner to demonstrate that their enterprise has all the attributes intelligently, so they need to work with an an agency is looking for. “What we don’t want are clients who aren’t agency that understands their brand, willing to be challenged and just want us to be transactional,” explains understands their target audience, and Kennedy. “We would want smaller business clients to allow us to help understands how to connect the two together.” them consider areas that they might not have before, and then achieve In this sense, relying solely on an agency’s that together.” reputation isn’t as safe a bet as it may seem. “It That ‘togetherness’ factor certainly shouldn’t be understated – in fact, has to be a kind of philosophical fit,” suggests it is the very basis of the relationship between client and agency once a Robin Jaffray, chief strategy officer of creative deal has been struck. “What the client has got to do is work in agency Inferno. “You are looking for a sense of partnership with the agency to make sure they are giving them the right shared ambition, you are looking for an agency information, the right analysis, the right data,” says Maudhub. that can help the business grow and thereby There is a caveat, though. When all is said and done, a small business grow itself at the same time. So it might not be owner mustn’t lose sight of the reasons it took on an agency’s services in a massive agency in the first instance, but the first place. “I think the client still needs to be part of the process but instead one that really understands how you they also need to respect that the ad agency are experts in what they do,” feel and what you want to achieve.” he says. A failure to accept this reality could mean your brand never Simple as that, one may surmise. Yet, before receives the treatment it deserves.

55

“It is not just a case of placing advertising, it is being able to place advertising intelligently”

01/10/2013 00:42


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01/10/2013 01:51


PEOPLE

57

Stuck in the middle Being a good manager may seem simple on paper but, when faced by the day-to-day demands of a business, it’s much harder in practice

L

eadership and effective management are some of the most thoroughly analysed subjects in the whole business ecosystem. You can safely bet that a cursory glance on a business website or even in a rather meagrely stocked book shop will turn up some wordage on the honing of these skillsets. “There is so much published, there are so many consultants, books, you name it,” comments Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research associate at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). This would appear to be good news for any small- to medium-sized enterprise; as an owner is increasingly having to delegate they, of course, want to know the individuals have the skills they need.

(H)Stuck in the middle.indd 1

And yet, despite the huge amount of time invested in dissecting the subject, a little investigation shows that this knowledge still isn’t necessarily leading to real organisational change on the frontline. A new piece of research, ‘Real-life leaders: closing the knowledge-doing gap’, published in September by the CIPD and conducted in connection with YouGov, had two specific areas of focus. The first centred around a survey of 2,000 professionals, 800 of which were managers and the rest frontline staff. One of the most immediate findings of the research was that there was a clear disparity between the way managers perceived their abilities and the way they were viewed by those working

01/10/2013 00:43


PEOPLE

58

for them. “Managers think they’re far better managers than employees rate them,” explains Zheltoukhova. “Most managers say ‘I think I’m pretty good’ but most employees would not rate them as highly.” Given the sheer amount of learning materials available, one has to wonder what lies behind this incongruence. It might be easy to dismiss it as a bias of perspective, that individuals may be more likely to praise their own performance than others but it is worth probing the data a little deeper. Zheltoukhova feels a more revealing – not to mention concerning – insight comes when looking at what managers feel stands in the way of their ability to represent employees. “They say one of the barriers is they have other business priorities or they have to achieve tasks,” she says. Rather than an integrated approach of empowering staff to achieve objectives, it seems many middle-managers are feeling they have a split in their loyalties. “They’re not quite sure what their job description is,” she explains. “Is it to care for people, is it to support them or is it to meet the team objectives?” As already stated, this issue isn’t down to a lack of information or learning, because many people are aware on paper what good leadership entails. “Theoretically you build your business approach in such a way that you meet the interests and the needs of people, you care about their wellbeing and then they’re engaged and motivated to achieve their goals,” Zheltoukhova says. However, there is a clear sense from this research that the issue isn’t down to managers not knowing the expectations placed on them; instead it may be that they are struggling to implement this learnt knowledge in a real-world environment. Zheltoukhova explains: “If you keep coming at them with conflicting messages, saying ‘you need a quick win here, you can’t manage people; you really don’t have time,’ then it is likely that they’re not going to demonstrate leadership and management behaviours.” This is further exacerbated by an issue identified in the report’s second survey. Conducted exclusively with HR professionals, this was intended to investigate what the organisational context was and the quality of leadership training. But given the weight leadership qualities are often given in business, very little is being delivered in terms of practical, integrated training. “We still find that quite a few organisations don’t even provide training for leaders and managers,” says Zheltoukhova. “Even when they do, they don’t monitor what the quality of training was and what was really needed by the business strategy.” This has a knock-on effect. Ultimately a lack of overlap between the business strategy and the training provided often means that managers will know what good leadership looks like but will be unable to deliver it in the actual business environment. “There is a gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’,” Zheltoukhova comments. “That’s what people told us in the survey: regardless of how much training you receive, you go out into your team and immediately when you have a difficult conversation or conflict you don’t have the experience of dealing with that in real life.”

(H)Stuck in the middle.indd 2

“The number one reason managers are not being good leaders is because they don’t feel that they have the time”

Ksenia Zheltoukhova,

research associate at CIPD

As already mentioned, this can, in part, be attributed to the fact that day-to-day pressures often drive out longer-term, more nuanced business concerns such as staff wellbeing. “The number one reason managers are not being good leaders is because they don’t feel that they have the time,” explains Zheltoukhova. “Now we need to understand why they don’t have time.” The second stage of the CIPD’s research is intended to investigate this issue and whilst there are still plenty of avenues to investigate, the organisation does have a gut feeling about where it springs from. “The hypothesis is that these conflicts of what is expected of you mean their role is unclear.” But in the meantime, how can an enterprise begin to address some of these issues? Once it has decided on its expectation of its managers, then the key is to stick to this and use it to inform every element of the business, from training and incentivisation to job descriptions and how managers are assessed. “Consider the wider organisational context,” Zheltoukhova advises. “Identify whether the organisation is actually committed to leadership or whether you continue to communicate to line managers the bottom line mentality.” Obviously, leaving your managers torn between their loyalties to your strategies and loyalties to your staff isn’t an ideal situation. Which is why it’s important to resolve the conflict and ensure they can be doing their best for all involved.

01/10/2013 00:44


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01/10/2013 01:56


PEOPLE

Reasonable rewards An open and honest bonus scheme can still have a positive impact on employee performance in this day and age

(L)Reasonable rewards.indd 1

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

I

t’s fair to say there’s been some disgruntlement around the subject of bonuses over the last five years or so. Naturally, it is difficult to blame average members of the public for taking issue with the size of the financial rewards handed out to city bankers, many of whom are perceived as being responsible for the economic quagmire we are only now starting to recover from. It is not only the banking industry that has come under fire, though. The series of episodes that has tarnished some of our previously trusted institutions has also cast considerable doubt on the value of bonus schemes across the wider business landscape. Whilst the importance of a well-motivated workforce cannot be overstated, questions have been raised about the future of financial incentivisation. Yet, one only has to look at John Lewis as an example of how a bonus scheme can be operated with relative success. In that sense, it seems there is still a place for the bonus, but due consideration must still be given to a scheme’s implementation beforehand, especially for a start-up. “Very commonly a bonus scheme will be based on a percentage of company profit,” explains Caroline Griffiths, managing director of HR consultancy company, Bradfield. “I think that the construction of such a scheme does need to be approached with a degree of caution, because it is very easy to raise expectations and lead individuals to “Companies believe that they are going to receive a sum of money which then may not be forthcoming.” should only put Griffiths has certainly encountered her fair together bonus share of disastrous bonus schemes, and is schemes if they therefore pretty vehement in her belief of when a company should introduce one. “I have seen are profitable over the years a number of organisations very and that they enthusiastically putting together schemes of genuinely believe this nature, only to find that they don’t make profit and there is nothing to pay out,” she says. that payments “And I think it is that kind of scenario that will result” puts bonus schemes in disrepute. So I think companies should only put together bonus Caroline Griffiths schemes if they are profitable and that they

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01/10/2013 00:45


Charles Cotton,

performance and reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

managing director of Bradfield

got to be correct and they have got to stack up as well.” Indeed, the very process of instigating a bonus scheme can give staff a clearer idea of what is expected of them, but more pertinently what the performance levels are that are required to merit financial reward. “It can quite strongly communicate to employees what behaviours and performance the organisation needs to be successful,” says Charles Cotton, Charles Cotton performance and reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). “Employers have to be pretty confident and able to define what performance is, how they are going to measure and assess it, how they are going to manage it, and how they are going to communicate it to employees.” On the flipside, due consideration should be given to the more unintended behavioural changes that could emanate from the introduction of a bonus scheme. “There have been examples of individual sales incentives that may mitigate against team working or customer service,” adds Cotton. “If you perhaps give a bonus that is too large, it may crowd out other required behaviours because employees just focus on this particular aspect, while a bonus that is seen as too little may fail to motivate or may be seen as derisory.” Ultimately, the best bonus structures are those where employees’ focus is kept firmly on the task at hand, as opposed to their minds straying towards monetary matters. And it is up to the employer to keep a good handle on this. “I think that it is down to good management,” says Griffiths. “If staff are properly managed, then the quality angle shouldn’t suffer. In all of the organisations that we work with, we try to encourage a strong system of regular one-to-one sessions between managers and their reporting staff – and regular performance appraisals – so that quality of performance doesn’t suffer.” Last but by no means least, transparency is everything with a bonus scheme, and for good reason. “I think you need to be clear about what performances and behaviour you are rewarding and why,” says Cotton. “You have also got to have some way of regularly reviewing the bonus scheme as well, so you can look at the overall bonus awards to make sure they are not inadvertently favouring certain groups of people, and that they are aligned to what the organisation is trying to achieve.” When all is said and done, the implementation of a bonus scheme should send out a positive message about one’s enterprise. If it is a last ditch attempt to keep staff on board, there are probably other issues at play that require closer, and more urgent, attention.

“Employers have to be pretty confident and able to define what performance is, and how they are going to measure and assess it”

62

genuinely believe that payments will result.” Of course, the fundamental purpose of a bonus scheme is motivation. But Griffiths is quick to distance traditional bonus schemes from a commission scheme, which is very specific in its design. She explains, “A commission scheme with a properly set target is, to my mind, the right way to remunerate a sales executive, because most sales executives are primarily motivated by money.” The setting of clear objectives is also crucial to the construction of a viable bonus scheme, but the difficulty lies in gearing them to the needs and abilities of each and every employee. “You have got to base it on standards and objectives that must be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic,” says Griffiths. “If the individuals don’t really feel that they can have a bearing on the performance of the company, then they won’t feel that they can have a bearing on their own bonus.” It almost goes without saying that, should an employer feel the time is ripe to implement a bonus scheme, the money that’s on offer must be of a sufficient level to stimulate the performance of their team. “The output must have the correct value to make it worth putting in the effort,” Griffiths continues. “For example, if I say to you your bonus is going to be £100 for the whole year, that doesn’t really have sufficient value to make you feel that you want to put in the effort. So the numbers have

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Caroline Griffiths,

01/10/2013 00:45


s:

HP Ad Place RHP.indd 1

01/10/2013 02:27


PEOPLE

TEAM TRANSFORMER

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

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28% of mothers returning to work are concerned about their ability to be a good employee

(H)Thomas Intl.indd 1

Welcome Female employees often have trouble reintegrating into the workforce after maternity leave, so the onus is on an employer to make the process as comfortable as possible for all involved

R

eturning to work after maternity leave can be a big adjustment for new mothers. Similarly, for the employer and the rest of the team, welcoming a member of staff back to work can also present a few challenges. While some women are returning to a familiar environment, some might find that there have been significant changes in their absence and the adjustment period can mean adapting to new colleagues, new clients or even a new manager. Statistics from the NCT show that 28% of mothers returning to work are concerned about their ability to be a good employee, 21% experience doubts about their ability to do the job and 33% are worried about the attitude of their boss and/or colleagues on their return to work. It is important for both the employer and the employee to stay in contact over the maternity leave period to keep the lines of communication open. The government introduced Keeping in Touch or KIT days where women can work for up to 10 days over their maternity leave without losing their Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). KIT days can be useful for staff training, team events and for keeping up with changes within the company, but employers and employees also really need to consider how to manage the full transition from maternity leave back into the workplace. Going back to work after maternity leave will affect women in different ways and it’s essential for managers to consider how the employee is reacting to the transition and to adjust their approach accordingly. Some women returning to work relish the opportunity to return to the workplace and ensuring they are supported without being micro-managed could be the best approach to take. There are studies which have shown that many mothers returning to work believe that their relationship with their boss deteriorated after they returned to work. Many also felt isolated and lonely. All of these are things that an employer needs to take into account. If an employee is finding being back at work stressful as they learn to cope with the dual demands of motherhood and work, then it’s worth finding out what can be done to support them during the process of settling back into the role. Having regular meetings with them to find out what their concerns are and how you can work with them to address

“Going back to work after maternity leave will affect women in different ways”

01/10/2013 00:46


back them will demonstrate your interest in their well-being and help them feel that you are taking the challenges they face seriously. Employers need to welcome returning employees back personally to show that they are valued and are an integral part of the team. Some employers implement a structured approach to women returning from maternity leave, which could mean an induction period, a handover or work shadowing to ensure that returning employees are fully up to date with developments in the company and with projects or campaigns. This demonstrates that the employee still has a valuable role within the company and that they aren’t simply left to fend for themselves. Taking steps to help returning mothers will be valuable for their wellbeing and happiness, but also benefit the company by inspiring loyalty. As we all know, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers, and keeping staff engaged and motivated will help ensure organisations can increase staff retention. Psychometric assessments are a recognised HR tool to help employers find the right person for a specific role within their company. However, increasing numbers of employers are using the process throughout the lifespan of an employee to ensure staff morale and motivation is maintained. Using these assessments when an employee returns to work, whether from maternity leave or other reasons, can be also give a valuable insight into how an employee is adjusting to life back in the workplace and how you can support them during the transition. Having a baby is a massive life change and it is possible that the profile of the employee may have altered, so introducing psychometric assessments can give both the employer and the employee an understanding of any changes in working style or attitude whilst supporting both parties to accommodate them. Implementing a proper process to welcome employees back from maternity leave will give you as an employer the tools to handle the process confidently and will also provide your employee reassurance that they are appreciated, thus truly welcoming them back into the workplace.

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01/10/2013 00:46


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www.xltelecom.co.uk info@xltelecom.co.uk 28/03/2013 20:48


TECHNOLOGY

Given this is the month that sees the launch of the first smartwatch contender from a large corporate, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, we felt it was time we took a proper in-depth look at all the wearable tech currently hitting the market. Whilst, for some, wearable technology provokes some privacy concerns, it’s hard to deny that it has captured the imagination of the tech-minded worldwide

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Ring Clock It’s fair to say that if you’re a fully fledged wearable-tech disciple, you’re gonna run out of spare wrists pretty fast. So where does that leave the humble (non-smart) timepiece? On your pinky. Ring Clock is an LED-lit, finger-mounted horological wonder. Give it a little twist and its numbers light up, displaying the correct time whilst leaving your forearms free for chatting, snapping and tracking.

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

Galaxy Gear

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Well here it is. The first smartwatch to market from one of the big smartphone brands. Whilst lacking some of the persistent sci-fi rumours that have attached themselves to the smartwatch market from day one – there are no flexible displays here – the Galaxy Gear has plenty of neat features to make it an interesting proposition. A built-in camera, speaker and stereo microphones allow you to shoot 720p movies as well as make and receive calls via a paired Samsung phone. Throw in standard features such as notifications and controlling music playback and the Gear looks like a pretty impressive piece of kit.

01/10/2013 00:47


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01/10/2013 03:07


TECHNOLOGY

Sigmo Ever since seeing Star Trek characters don uniforms affixed with Universal Translators, we dreamed of the days a simple accessory could allow us to converse eloquently across international or intergalactic language barriers. Sigmo has brought us a step closer, allowing you to both talk to and understand others in more than 25 languages by merely speaking into the unit, which can be mounted on clothing, wrist or necklace alike. Whilst Klingon isn’t yet one of the tongues covered, we’re sure it’s only a matter of time.

Kapture Sometimes in life you might hear something that tickles you just right. Whether it’s an off-the-cuff witticism from a friend or your niece’s adorable non sequitur, by the time you’ve loaded up your phone’s recorder app it’s already far too late. Kapture is a quirky contrivance which perpetually records a loop of sound; hear something you wish you’d caught, you just press the button and it saves the last 60 seconds to your phone. Preserving conversational gaffes for posterity has never been easier.

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Nymi Wearable security solutions have one glaringly obvious flaw: they take but a moment’s work to steal, compromising at once all of your devices. Which is what makes Nymi from Bionym such an innovative solution – the wristband is coded to something that cannot be taken: your heartbeat. Coming with gesture recognition and aiming to replace everything from smartphone passwords, secure payment solutions and even your keys, wearing your heart on your sleeve with Nymi really could become the security solution we’ve all been looking for.

(H)The hot list.indd 2

01/10/2013 00:48


FP AD PLACE.indd 1

30/09/2013 14:28


TECHNOLOGY

4Ging the future

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL (H)4Ging the future.indd 1

I

t’s undeniable that the world we’re living in is changing at an unprecedented rate. Technological leaps that previously may have taken years now seem to take place on an almost daily basis. And whilst this is exciting for the consumer, that’s nothing compared to the possibilities it raises for businesses. With increasing network speeds and the softwareas-service trend gathering pace, the relationship between enterprise and cuttingedge tech is becoming ever more intimate. Whilst we’ve gotten fairly used to having our entire professional lives on our hips, it is worth noting that thus far the experience hasn’t been entirely seamless. “Even though on-the-move communication is essential for business, it should be noted that many UK organisations still rely on a slow 3G data connection,” comments Jay Karsandas, head of digital at Mobiles.co.uk, a division of Carphone Warehouse. Fortunately, with O2 and Vodaphone at last able to roll out their 4G networks and finally begin to catch up with the lead built by the network EE, this is set to change in a big way. “The current leaders in 4G, EE, state an average 4G download speed of between 24-30mbps, outpacing a 3G connection by up to 10 times,” Karsandas explains. This might not necessarily seem to mean much on the face of things but the actual ramifications in terms of day-to-day business are stark. “[It] means 4G users can dive straight into the documents they need without the painful wait. Upload speeds are also enhanced, allowing users on the go to attach documents and transfer larger files than ever before.” First of all, this means we are no longer tethered to our desks and with the latest generation of smartphones, even having to consciously copy files from your desktop to a cloud server before leaving for the day seems rather archaic. “There are a variety of desktop-sharing solutions to help you log into your office computer when on the move,” says Karsandas. “Rather than waiting for a Wi-Fi signal to access your office documents, the faster 4G speeds will let you connect your smartphone, tablet or laptop up to your work station over a mobile data connection.”

With the constant influx of new technologies, it’s sometimes hard to see how innovations will affect enterprise. But one thing is certain – 4G is set to revolutionise the business world

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01/10/2013 00:49


TECHNOLOGY

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There are plenty of tools of benefit to a business owner that also require the more stable, constant connectivity of 4G. “Services such as Google Analytics are mobile responsive and offer valuable insight into online traffic,” Karsandas says. This means an entrepreneur can carry out even fairly intensive tasks without being shackled to a Wi-Fi network. “With 4G, users can look forward to a better workflow and enhanced productivity on the move.” Most of us are familiar with video calling, whether your poison is Skype, FaceTime or one of many third-party apps; probably at some stage we’ve all called our kids or an old friend when a Wi-Fi connection has allowed. However hitherto, when truly out and about, video calling wasn’t quite up to the demands of a formal business meeting. “This is where 4G really comes into play,” says Karsandas. “With faster speeds and seamless connectivity, apps such as Skype are perfect for business meetings and allow you to communicate with your client face-to-face.” And all of this is changing the tech landscape within businesses as well as outside their walls. “4G and some of Jay Karsandas, head of digital the developments within handheld devices and at Mobiles.co.uk smartphones and the different types of services that can be accessed, these are just all driving consumerisation of IT,” explains Shirley O’Sullivan, VP marketing of EMEA for international security technology company Blue Coat Systems. This consumerisation is having a massive impact, inevitably shifting decisions around device ownership and choices of apps into the hands of employees. She says, “Employees are much more knowledgeable now; they know a lot more about devices and applications.” This means businesses are inevitably having to look at adopting more relaxed policies around the tech and apps their employees use when

“With 4G, users can look forward to a better workflow and enhanced productivity on the move”

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carrying out their work. A recent global survey commissioned by Blue Coat Systems and carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit looked into the subject of tech autonomy for employees. Unsurprisingly, eight out of ten executives spoken to felt that greater tech autonomy was critical for their business. Clearly, the changing climate is having a significant impact. All in all, technology such as 4G is making a seamlessly connected working experience a much more viable prospect. But how are IT departments coping with these changes? Stereotype would have us see them as the grim gatekeepers of their private kingdom, set against changes that will see it compromised, but does this hold up to scrutiny? “Only 4% globally of those surveyed felt that IT really merited the reputation as the ‘department of no’,” comments O’Sullivan. “Instead, IT was cited as being a real genuine partner in the business.” The boundary-less culture that comes as part and parcel of the fourth generation of tech was perceived as having some drawbacks, however. “Three-quarters of those in the UK that were surveyed considered security as a barrier to tech autonomy,” comments O’Sullivan. Obviously certain security methods can go some way toward addressing these concerns but that does require certain compliance issues amongst users to be addressed, especially when beginning to look at where individuals are storing data. She continues: “Certainly here in the EU there’s a lot of strict data protection in place, which was raising some issues about how we move data within the cloud, for example external hosting of personal data.” However, O’Sullivan is keen to stress that policies shouldn’t be about obstructing what is, essentially, a positive and inevitable process. “It’s about ensuring that they have a policy in place that’s secure but that doesn’t hinder users,” she says. “It empowers them.” As 4G rolls out to even wider audiences, it’s evident that it will have some rather significant effects on enterprises and entrepreneurs. Fortunately, the majority of these are very positive. And with a little planning and effective communication, it shouldn’t be too hard to sidestep the few negatives.

01/10/2013 01:17


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26/07/2013 18:59 7/26/13 11:53 AM


TECHNOLOGY

Risk and reward

The Techspert

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

Keeping online customers happy is important but sometimes a bit of perspective is required, says David Hathiramani

T

he whole point of starting A Suit That Fits was that we loved the idea of creating the perfect suit for ourselves. I saw Warren wearing a three-button suit – because he is taller – but I wanted a two-button suit. On the other hand, he had this olive green fabric but I would have wanted something more plain because I’m a little bit more conservative than him. So the idea of creating something where you could customise and create an individually tailored suit online came about. At the moment, there stands to be about 40 billion different combinations on our website, so we have gradually changed the curation process. When we started, we only allowed customers to choose the number of buttons, the trouser leg style and a few other different options. But now we have about 20 different steps and we have 300 different fabrics to choose from. Therefore, we have had to constantly adapt our website to be able to accommodate the huge range we have, but still give the customers a very quick way of getting to the result they wanted.

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“We have had to constantly adapt our website to be able to accommodate the huge range we have” Rather than having to start from scratch, customers can now use shortcuts to create their perfect two or three-piece. For example, we have pack shots of our suits so that when you click on one of the products, it takes you to the final stage of the customisation. It is almost democratic in the sense that other customers have made these suits and we allow the user to see what other customers have done and customise the bits that they want to change.

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TECHNOLOGY

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From a technology point of view, the biggest challenge to us was that the tools which customised things in the way that we needed them to didn’t exist at the time. So we had to build it all ourselves. We didn’t have the option that lots of companies do, which is to have an off-the-shelf offering. We could only have a bespoke system. However, that has given us the flexibility to be able to change things as we see fit so we are not tied into a business model just because a third-party has supplied something to us. That said, there are so many things in the technology world that you have to keep up with. You have to keep up with the way Google changes its algorithms and you have to keep up with different customer expectations of your website. And as there is nobody to do all of that for you, you have to do it all yourself. That means we have had to have a full-time technology department from the outset, whereas other tailors in our space wouldn’t have had to do that. Of course, there are always things that customers would love to have and that we would love to present them. But I think equally, we weigh things up in terms of what effect we think they are going to have on our business and how useful they really are going to be. For example, there are niche little ideas that other online tailors have done, such as building a 3D model of a suit as the customer is designing it. We haven’t gone to that level of detail because we offer such a huge array of options and it would be very difficult for us to do that. There would be too much rendering involved. Ultimately, when we consider any of these opportunities, we know that we are still a small business that needs a return on what we spend. If something is nice to have but you

(H)David's Column.indd 2

can’t actually see it showing a return, then our customers aren’t going to want us to sacrifice that in exchange for us increasing the prices. We offer a great product at great value and we don’t want to take any risks to sacrifice the value that we can pass to our customers. However, we have made some big leaps forward in the last six years in terms of how we present suits. Our strength lies in the fact that we deliver a lot of tailored suits now, and that gives us options that other tailors just don’t have. As mentioned, we can actually take lots of photographs of our suits and present them as pack shots on our website. That still gives a visual representation and is actually even better than a 3D model because it is a real thing. Granted, we can’t have every permutation, but we can have two or three different representations that can really help the customer visualise what a suit will be like. Meanwhile, lots of the innovations that we have done actually mean that they are not even necessarily visible to our customers on our website. Our phone system is a good example of this. When you call in and you have an appointment booked up, it will recognise that you have an appointment booked in and it will give you options on what you want to do with that appointment. Similarly, if you have an order outstanding, it will give you the deadline of that order so you understand when the due date is without having to speak to an operator. So we have tried to do all of those things to make it really convenient for customers and make every touch point in tailoring more efficient. However, the speculative stuff that we are not sure is going to add to the top line is the stuff that we are much more guarded on, and we are very careful not to jeopardise the value that we can give our customers.

“The biggest challenge to us was that the tools which customised things in the way that we needed them to didn’t exist at the time”

01/10/2013 00:51


Webwax FP.indd 1

28/06/2013 19:27


Mike Anderson Escaped the corporate rat race and found a pension alternative It was a long overdue review of his pension plans that started Mike Anderson’s journey towards building a property portfolio. Following his departure from a high profile role in an American Automotive corporation, Mike took stock of his financial position as part of the process to determine the direction of his next career move. The results shocked him. When he analysed his pension statements, it transpired that after twenty years of contributions, it was worth exactly what he had paid into it. By contrast, Mike had his home valued for re-mortgage purposes around the same time and it became apparent that the amount it had appreciated over the last eight years was double the amount of his pension investments. “It made me realise that I had to do something different. And quickly,” says Mike.

Mike Anderson

Another driver for pursuing an opportunity in property and not going back into the corporate environment was a conversation with one of his children. When Mike explained to his eleven year old that he was looking for a new job, his son asked, “Dad, is this the job where you stay at home? I miss you.” Having spent the previous twenty years working eighty hour weeks and spending a considerable amount of time away from home, Mike realised that not only did his pension provisions have to change, but his whole lifestyle too. “I came to the conclusion that starting my own business would give me more freedom.

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Given that I’d also realised property was a viable option, I decided to combine the two.”

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Mike started to research the opportunities available. Thinking that buying into a franchise

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property sector. At this point, he discovered Platinum Property Partners.

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£103,200

Within months of joining, Mike had completed his first property in Stockport, and a

Annual Operating Profit:

second seven months later. With two properties renovated and fully tenanted, Mike

£55,800

bought his third in September 2011. Reflecting on the amount of equity he has acquired since becoming a Franchise Partner

I wanted to be able to do simple things, such as collect my children from school. I felt that if I didn’t get off the corporate merry-go-round and actively pursue a different route, then I would just be existing, rather than enjoying life.

with PPP, Mike says, “I would never have achieved this level of financial security if I had stayed within the corporate environment, paying each month into an under-performing pension. Now, not only do I have a healthy monthly income, I am also building significant capital by redeveloping properties.” He continues, “But the best thing is that I now have a lifestyle I could never have achieved previously. My wife and I now have the time to nip for a coffee whenever we want, and if the family want to go on holiday, these days it’s a question of how long would we like to be away for, rather than can I get the time off.”

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 FP AD PLACE.indd 11 Mike Anderson.indd

01/10/2013 23/05/2013 02:48 15:53


FRANCHISING

Franchise news Kout causes stir with Costa acquisition

One of the UK’s most popular coffee chains Costa Coffee is starting to attract significant interest from overseas. In a move that has been welcomed in all quarters, a company which owns eight of the firm’s franchises in the south-west was been acquired by Kuwaitibased Kout Food Group in a multi-million pound deal. South West Coffee Ltd – headed by Stuart and Lynn Montgomery – first became Costa franchisees in 2008 and have described the deal as “a landmark transaction in the Costa brand, not just an important deal for us personally”. One thing that can’t be questioned is Kout’s experience in the UK food and drink market, after it recently acquired roadside restaurant chain Little Chef in a deal worth a reported £15m. The Costa purchase takes its total number of dining outlets in Blighty to 160, a portfolio which includes Burger King, KFC and Maison Blanc. “This transaction is ground-breaking in that it represents the first significant arms-length sale of a Costa franchise business in the UK,” said John Farnsworth, partner for SCCF corporate finance, who advised on the deal. “We spotted the maturing of this brand some time ago and expect the sales trend to sustain now.”

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

Blast from the past for BFA Fresh faces were the order of the day at the British Franchise Association (bfa) last month with the appointment of Emily Embra as business development manager and Kelly Blackmore-Lee as head of compliance. However, for Embra, it’s been a case of treading familiar ground. Having worked for the bfa in another life, she will have responsibility for member recruitment, retention and

(L)Franchise news.indd 1

engagement at the helm, and will work alongside the bfa’s head of operations Pip Wilkins. Embra brings with her a healthy dose of business acumen after plying her trade at Barclaycard and healthcare supplier iSoft in the interim. She succeeds previous BDM Kerry Bhella, who took up a senior role in Burger King’s franchising arm earlier this year. We wish her the best of luck settling back in.

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RED revs up for rapid growth RED Driving School – the largest driving instructor in the UK – is targeting further growth to the tune of 600 new franchises in the next 18 months. In an exclusive interview with Elite Business, CEO Ian McIntosh said he is keen to expand the company’s pool of instructors across the UK, and is striving to reach a total of 2,000 franchisees in time for early 2015. “We are very pleased with the way things are going and have plans and aspirations for a fair amount of growth over the next two years in terms of the number of franchisees on our books,” said McIntosh. Commenting on the target of 2,000 franchisees, he added: “That would be a reasonable target and one for which we already have plans in place.” McIntosh believes the company’s dedication to high quality training will be key to this projected growth. “We have put a lot of effort into restructuring our training programme to make it attractive to people wishing to come into the industry and learn to be a driving instructor, with the promise and guarantee of a franchise at the end of it.” It’s certainly safe to say that it is full speed ahead for RED.

01/10/2013 00:52


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29/09/2013 13:42


FRANCHISING

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01/10/2013 00:53


FRANCHISING

Franchise in the spotlight:

Music Bugs For too long, the focus has been on imposing boundaries and limits on how kids learn. Fortunately, the franchise Music Bugs is here to rewrite the score on helping children grow their minds

WORDS: JOSH RUSSELL

F

inding pre-school activities for your children can be a tricky business. With pressure on parents to kickstart their kiddies’ learning early, you can feel like you’re letting the side down if you’re not signing up your toddler for classes in conversational french or buying them a My Little Monet set. We seem ever more committed to driving our children toward achievement at the expense of supporting their natural inquisitiveness and creativity. Desiring to buck this trend, Music Bugs is a franchise putting the fun back into pre-school learning. Like all great businesses, the idea behind Music Bugs first sprouted when founder Claire Bennett spotted a gap in the market. “I was particularly keen to develop a pre-school business that focused on informal play rather than some of the stricter options I had personally encountered when my own children were of pre-school age and which I’d found fairly limiting,” she explains. Finding that it wasn’t an approach that had been attempted elsewhere, she ran the concept past family and friends and this helped her see just how strong a demand there was for a pre-school enterprise that encouraged play through music. Bennett launched the first classes in her hometown of Swindon, sure that the sessions’ original approach would win over parents and toddlers alike. “I was confident that Music

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Bugs could offer something quite different in terms of its approach to play-based and interactive development,” she says. To say her confidence was well-founded would be an understatement. “The response was incredible, far beyond my expectations.” This doesn’t mean she allowed herself to get complacent; Bennett wanted to ensure every inch of her model had been tested. “I was careful to use those first few years wisely before pursuing a franchise model for the business,” she explains. Testing and working through every element of the enterprise, she began developing the branding, business structure and the content of the classes, putting her every decision to the litmus test by taking on board the opinions of her customers. “Feedback from parents in those early days was crucial and I was spurred on by their positive feedback and input.” During this period, the entrepreneur bootstrapped her business, meaning she didn’t have to rely on debt funding from the banks. Smart use of the enterprise’s income also helped it secure healthy growth. As Bennett comments: “We reinvested most of our profit back into the business in the early days to drive both our expansion plans and ensure we had the best operational infrastructure in place to support the growth of the business.” Whilst she’d always been considering franchising to help spread the Music Bugs name, when it came down to it, it was one of her customers that finally encouraged her to take the plunge. “A mum who attended our classes had to relocate due to her husband’s work commitments and asked whether there were any Music Bugs classes in other areas of the UK,” Bennett recalls. “I had been thinking about franchising as a route to market for some time and attended a seminar with the British Franchise Association to assess whether this was the right direction to take my business.” The time she’d put in she’d put in working through the model evidently paid off, as Music Bugs took to

“The response was incredible, far beyond my expectations”

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FRANCHISING

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range of classes to suit. “Our classes are aimed at children from birth to five years of age, so we have divided classes into three different age ranges which means we can adapt classes to the developmental stage of the children,” says Bennett. And not only can parents attend a class one-on-one with their child but there are also ‘Family Bugs’ classes that cater to mixed age groups. You might imagine it would be hard to choose franchisees that you know will have the skills and charms to capture the attention of a room of small children but Music Bugs is able to work with people from a huge range of backgrounds. “Our application process, which includes attending a Discovery Day and meeting existing franchisees, gives us the opportunity to assess the suitability of prospective candidates and conversely, for them to assess us,” explains Bennett. “Once we have assessed a prospective franchisee, we can then tailor an individual package of training and mentoring for them.” Music Bugs hasn’t just proved a hit with the wee ones, parents and franchisees. It has also garnered some well-deserved accolades, netting nominations for both Best Training & Support and Best Mid-size Franchisor categories at the Best Franchise Awards in 2012. “We were shortlisted against larger and more established franchise brands and although we didn’t win, it was a nod of recognition from our industry peers for our achievement,” says Bennett. They experienced an increased franchise uptake following the awards, increasing their target by 25%, and have once again received a nomination for Best Training & Support this year. There is definitely a mellifluous future for Music Bugs. Not only is it experiencing high demand for its classes and promising numbers of enquiries from potential franchisees, but they are also about to engage on an ambitious project this November – the launch of National Nursery Week, the first event in the UK to celebrate the role nursery rhymes play in children’s development. “It’s an initiative that we feel very passionate about and over 2,500 primary schools, parents, early years settings, libraries and childminders have signed up to participate,” says Bennett. “We are expecting over 50,000 children to take part in the event, which for our inaugural year is a truly incredible response.” Given Music Bugs was built around a premise of freeform learning and individuality, it’s clear that marching to the beat of its own drum has allowed it to change the way we approach pre-school learning.

“Our ethos has always been ‘letting kids be kids’ and parents have responded to this very positively with several of them taking up a Music Bugs franchise of their own” franchising like a duck to water and has gone on to build up a network of 25 franchisees around the country. But what is it that has helped Music Bugs become such a hit with its young customers? In part, it’s down to the huge benefits its classes and activities can have for developing minds. “Recent research by the University of West London concluded that music may improve behaviour in young children,” explains Bennett “And there has been widespread research over the years that has explored the positive impact music brings across all areas of learning development in young children.” However, it’s not solely the combo of children and tunes that has made Music Bugs unique. Instead, that comes down to its insistence on play-based learning, free from the restrictions of a classroom-style environment. “Music Bugs were one of the first pre-school music franchises to move away from this structure towards a format that encourages children to learn through play,” Bennett explains. “Our ethos has always been ‘letting kids be kids’ and parents have responded to this very positively with several of them taking up a Music Bugs franchise of their own, which, for any business, is about the best endorsement you can get.” Obviously there is a huge difference between a toddler that has just found its feet and a child just a few months from that first exciting step through the school gate, so Music Bugs has a

(L)Franchise spotlight - Music Bugs.indd 3

01/10/2013 00:54


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29/09/2013 13:55


ADVERTISING FEATURE

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

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

Richard McConnell, The ZipYard Altrincham

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

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

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

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FRANCHISING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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01/10/2013 02:51


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01/10/2013 02:52


LEGAL

An honest return 91

With companies under the spotlight for their use of unpaid interns, employers would be wise to brush up on the legalities of such arrangements

WORDS: ADAM PESCOD

U

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npaid internships are a thorny issue at the best of times, but they have been the subject of fairly close scrutiny of late. Back in April, employment minister Jo Swinson handed the names of 100 companies to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), all of whom were accused of using unpaid interns in paid roles. This came shortly after a major retailer attracted criticism for taking on a significant volume of work experience staff at one of its outlets, but denied they were a replacement for paid workers. And only last month, technology giant Sony forked out £4,600 to an intern who claimed that the work he had performed for the firm merited payment. Whilst it didn’t end up at tribunal, Sony’s decision to part with the money before the case was heard was quite telling. Aside from revealing apparent

malpractice, it also raised some important points about the legalities surrounding unpaid work placements and internships. Indeed, if one is to take the law on internships down to its most basic level, an intern’s entitlement to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) hinges on whether he or she can be legally classed as a ‘worker’. Michelle Last, senior associate at law firm Stevens & Bolton, offers some clarity on this. “Whether somebody is a ‘worker’ or not is subject to a statutory test,” she explains. “You are essentially looking at whether somebody has committed to perform work personally for a business or organisation and they are not operating a business themselves. It is therefore a fairly low test.” In this sense, the nature of the work undertaken by an unpaid intern should not be akin to that typically performed by an employee. “The types of activity you would expect an unpaid intern to perform are sitting in on meetings, observing and learning, reading files; that kind of thing,” explains Last. “But in contrast, if the employer needs to engage interns to perform tasks that they would otherwise have to be paid for, then that person is likely to be a worker who is entitled to be paid the NMW.”

01/10/2013 00:55


LEGAL

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Why, then, did Sony end up paying Chris Jarvis, the 25-year-old game art and design graduate from the Norfolk University of Arts? “That is an extreme case where you have an individual who is working set hours and is performing work that clearly should be done by a paid employee,” says Last. “It involved a graduate in video games design who was engaged in an on-going unpaid internship. He was expected to turn up for work from 9.30am to 6pm and do the work that should have been performed by a full-time fully paid employee testing 3D artwork for games.” Last also highlights an episode involving the chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, as an example of when the lines can become blurred. “An advert was posted by a member of Sandberg’s team for an unpaid intern to work alongside her, and naturally candidates would be attracted to the position as she has such a high profile,” Last explains. “However, the position was unpaid and the intern was asked to have things like design and web skills, and be able to commit to a regular schedule. That was a US case, but in the UK it is likely that such a person would be classed as a ‘worker’ and that person would be entitled to the National Minimum Wage.”

Michelle Last, senior associate at Stevens & Bolton

“When looking to fulfil the legal requirements, it may be useful for employers to focus on the reason for taking on the intern in the first place” Of course, taking on an unpaid intern can be of great value to an employer. On the one hand, it provides an opportunity to tap into the rich pool of talent emerging from our universities, and at no additional cost. Graduates may bring fresh ideas to the table and reinvigorate a workforce currently struggling for creative spark. In addition, a well-intentioned internship programme can shed positive light on a company’s approach, notably if it is seen to be acting as a stepping stone for the career of aspiring business leaders. Nevertheless, this could all count for nothing if the terms of the internship aren’t laid out clearly from the outset, and adhered to. “When looking to fulfil the legal requirements, it may be useful for employers to focus on the reason for taking on the intern in the first

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place,” says Last. “Does it derive from an altruistic desire to afford young people the opportunity to experience their first foray into the employer’s area of business?” Understandably, Last suggests it often pays to put everything in writing, but adds that this will ultimately be redundant if words aren’t matched with action. “Whilst it is useful to have a contract, you have to be clear and sure that the contract reflects reality,” she says. And the same applies to the hours of work, which should serve as a guideline to the intern as opposed to an obligation. This was particularly relevant in the Sony case, according to Last, who adds that such sticky situations can be evaded by making it clear – again in writing – that the hours are not binding. “I think that is probably the safest way of dealing with that particular issue,” she says. Recent events could certainly lead one to speculate whether abuse of the law governing internships is more widespread than first thought. However, Last believes that the Sony case demonstrates that interns are now more in tune with the legalities, and employers should be extra vigilant as a result. “National Minimum Wage legislation has been around for over a decade, but with the recession, the issue of young workers being exploited by UK businesses has really come to the fore,” says Last. “With the press targeting issues such as the abuse of zero-hour contracts and internships, there is more of a risk that individuals are more aware of their rights, and where they have to go to pursue those rights.”

01/10/2013 00:55


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01/10/2013 01:15


the START-UP DIARies

Home truths A little delegation goes a long way when an entrepreneur has other priorities, as Nicola Barron has discovered

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“I

’m really envious of your glamorous life-style,” declared one of the mums as I dropped my children off at school last week. Maybe she could see the remnants of the previous day’s mascara round my eyes, because I definitely didn’t feel glamorous. I’d arrived home from work at 11pm the night before only to find my eight-year-old wide awake and fairly inconsolable because he’d lost out in his student council elections. The other boy had undertaken to install a giant trampoline in the school playground whereas my son had only offered to respect everyone’s views – a life lesson learnt the difficult way.

www.homemadelondon.com

“I dread to think how much I wasted my spare time in the days when I was child-free” One of the hardest things I find about running a business is that I feel (rightly or wrongly) that I’m on duty the whole time. At Homemade London, our busiest periods are evenings and weekends when the majority of our events happen, but most of the organisation takes place during office hours. And as much as I tell myself that it’s ok not to check my inbox for a couple of hours, it’s really tricky to resist as the email count steadily mounts up. Couple this with trying to maintain a family life, and I often feel like I’m about to explode. After three and a half years of juggling business and family life, I can safely say that it’s not easy but there are some things I’ve learnt along the way:

(H)Start-up diary.indd 1

Nicola Barron Founder of Homemade London Don’t be too hard on yourself

Whereas some spouses check each other’s emails to make sure they’re not cheating, my husband’s addicted to logging on to my work emails. “You start too many of your emails with the word ‘sorry’,” he noted the other day. “If you’re doing things wrong that often, you really need to sort it out, otherwise stop apologising unnecessarily – it makes you look bad.” When you’re constantly worried about your growing to-do list, it’s hard not to feel guilty about the things you’ve missed out and it’s easy, and very British, to find yourself apologising for all the things you haven’t done. Recently I’ve rediscovered the joys of the out-of-office reply which at least buys you some time to get on top of your to-do list or spend some time with your family. Establish some sort of routine

It’s not news to any parent that children love a routine – Crisps Monday and Kinder Egg Friday are particular favourites in our household. But I’ve come to realise that it’s reassuring to have a routine as an adult too. I’m quite strict about not scheduling meetings first thing in the morning so that I get to drop my children at school and I make sure that I’m there to collect them from school on a Friday. It may not sound like much but it’s surprisingly hard to maintain because clients may only be in town on certain days or at certain times – but if this is the case, I delegate these clients to another team member. The control freak in me wants to be part of everything but the mum in me is happy that I get to pour the Cheerios in the morning. Support is everything

This applies to both home and work life. The past month has demanded juggling qualities worthy of a Billy Smart act. We’ve been in-between nannies, my solitary full-time employee has been housebound recovering from an operation and we’re right in the middle of buying and selling a house in the midst of a crazy London property market. My daily to-do list is like a work of fiction and when every email I write starts with an apology, they’re completely justified. Remember why you’re doing it in the first place

Some people call children ambition killers – for myself and my husband, it was the opposite. Personally, I dread to think how much I wasted my spare time in the days when I was child-free. But when the work-life balance tips the wrong way, I try to take a step back and remind myself what my priorities really are.

01/10/2013 00:56


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Elite Business October 2013  

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