The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Member Blog: The Pros and Cons of Social Media

By Ailsa Lorimer – Screening Manager, REED Screening & Compliance Services

In this day and age it’s hard to go a day without checking our various social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and so many others that it would take up this full article to mention them all. I can’t be the only one who breaks out into a cold sweat the minute I realise I’ve left my precious smart phone at home and now have to suffer through a day without those all important insights into what my friends, family, colleagues and various other people I don’t even know have had for their dinner.

Whilst the content of my Facebook page and Instagram keeps me more than entertained on a daily basis, working in the pre-employment vetting industry I can’t help but think about just how much information there is about an individual online. Information that can more often than not be incriminating and information that the majority of people wouldn’t want shared with prospective employers, particularly when they’ve put so much effort into a CV that paints them in the best light.

At REED Screening our aim is to vet potential employees to the best possible standard thus ensuring that our clients are getting quality workers who pose minimal risk. Our clients have very specific needs with regards to the checks we carry out on individuals. We complete a range of checks including credit, fraud, ID, referencing and criminal record checks, but, as times have moved on so have the needs of our clients and one area that has featured heavily this year is the increased use of social media checks. At the most basic level this is done in the form of a Google search, which in itself returns interesting results. If you’ve ever taken the time to Google yourself you’ll know that results include information about your Facebook account, your Instagram account, your LinkedIn profile and any news articles you may have been mentioned in and you’re only a click away from those pictures you wish you’d never taken.

Working in recruitment I know that it’s the news articles in particular  that are most relevant for any employer. Despite what information is held on your CV, it’s actually these results that can make the difference between your dream job and another week trawling through various job sites. News articles can be particularly damning. One recent example that springs to mind is a news article that featured a recruitment consultant based in Huddersfield working for a well known recruitment agency. Just a simple search on that worker's name calls up several articles on £8,000 fraud that he committed whilst in employment. Dependent on the other checks that have been run in conjunction with the media check, it’s very possible that this information would have cropped up elsewhere, however I think it’s safe to say that the media check alone is worth its weight, particularly if the appropriate actions haven’t been taken by the ex-employer in terms of full disclosure to future employers on the reference and adding that person to the relevant fraud databases.

There are a lot of clients who don’t conduct this check just yet so all is not lost for now, but with the increased number of us that now use social media and the freely available information I can’t imagine it will be too much time before other employers begin using the check as part of their pre-employment vetting.

So, in summary, and the very obvious moral of the story, for all those wishing to procure a new job in the near future, pay very close attention to exactly what it is you’re uploading to your various social media sites so that you can walk into that coveted interview with the knowledge that your potential employer is getting the best possible first impression.

ailsa.lorimer@reedglobal.com

https://www.reedglobal.com/en_GB/web/reedgb/employer/employment-screening

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Chamber Blog: A Night at the Museum

By Emma Antrobus, Transport Policy Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce


After working really closely with Alstom as a Chamber patron over the last two years, I was delighted to be invited to their annual dinner, being held at the Natural History Museum in London. It was my first visit to the museum and I was rendered speechless as I arrived. The architecture is stunning – designed by Alfred Waterhouse who also designed Manchester Town Hall – and beautifully lit against a clear winter’s evening.

More than 300 guests from the energy and transport sectors were gathered to celebrate Alstom’s partnerships and successes over the last year and to look forward to evolving over the coming year as the power business transfers to General Electric, and the high levels of investment in the transport industry start to offer increasing opportunities for engineering companies.

Dinner was held in the main hall of the museum, overseen by the Diplodocus who is soon to go on his travels. Compered by Alstom’s Communications Director, Mike Scott, there was a short introduction from Terence Watson, the UK President and Transport Managing Director. This was followed by an inspiring and humorous speech from Patrick Kron, Alstom’s Chairman and Chief Executive (Président-Directeur Général).

The keynote speaker was Maggie Aderin-Pocock, scientist and co-presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night. She spoke movingly about how visits to the Natural History and Science museums inspired her to want to work in space and that the logic of engineering helped her to overcome her dyslexia. As well as her enormous enthusiasm for engineering, she is passionate about inspiring the next generation to want to follow in her footsteps - a theme which resonates with so many of the Chamber’s activities.

Overall my night at the museum was entertaining and fascinating, and I can’t wait to visit again.

Emma.antrobus@gmchamber.co.uk

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

President's Blog: Neil Smith

Chamber President, Neil Smith, gives his views on what’s been happening in the Greater Manchester business community.

Momentum in the Manchester devolution agenda continued into the New Year with the Chamber hosting a visit to Manchester by Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. Held in the old Granada Studios building, with the site shortly to be renamed ‘the Factory’, the £80million home for theatre and performance and the new, permanent home of the hugely successful Manchester International Festival. The phrase “long-term economic plan” was restated, but it remains a concept with which no one can disagree. As a businessman I would argue that, yes, it needs to be long term, but it also should have sustainable competitive advantage as part of its mantra too.

The recent Chamber Assembly debated the impact of an elected mayor, as well as the delivery model of devolution. Currently the roles of all stakeholders in managing this are still unclear, but the model we will have to work with is now known. The Chamber has strong relationships with all parties and will continue to communicate with them and establish its position in supporting the process and, importantly, clarify not just how this will impact the business community in Greater Manchester, but also how its voice, needs and concerns can be clearly heard and truly influence this new development. This month, I was also invited to a session at the British Chambers of Commerce in London to further understand their strategy and to reinforce the link with their largest and most influential chamber – Greater Manchester. Our Chamber is very much leading in the way in strengthening the links between the Chamber network at the BCC: we’re currently hosting a number of BCC staff in our offices for short periods to increase the partnership and collaborative working between the two organisations, in the same way that our head of research is working closely with BCC and is leading the national network position on a number of subjects. The BCC has recently published its manifesto – “A Business Plan for Britain” – and this is the focus of their campaigning work in the run-up to, and beyond, the coming general election. Amongst the key areas of focus, two core campaigns were highlighted for 2015.

Firstly, internationalisation .There is a plan to further redevelop a worldwide model which will complement the current UKTI model of support. All of this is linked to a government target of £1 trillion of exports by 2020, a tough ask indeed, and one we have criticised for being unachievable: nothing is gained by setting policy on the back of big round numbers, much better to define a clear and tangible strategy. Worthy of note is that the UK is second in the world in exporting services, an area often ignored in our current export support initiatives. Many of those focus on manufacturing exports and on medium- and large-sized businesses, however far more needs to be done to engage with SMEs, and particularly the smaller ones. Greater Manchester Chamber is focusing on enhancing the model currently in place, and I’ll give an update on this key campaign and its delivery next month.

The second campaign is to further link and enhance the relationship between education and business. This is something the skills team within the Chamber has as a core priority, linked to the apprenticeships offering as a clear alternative to further education. Lots of energy is spent talking about apprenticeships and links with colleges and universities, but the BCC is rightly campaigning for greater engagement before this stage, strengthening the links between business and schools. The earlier we can engage, influence and guide our young people about the options available to them in the future world of work, the more successful both they and our companies will be.

On that note, the success of the Employer Ownership of Skills pilot led by the Chamber’s Employment and Skills team has been widely recognised and acknowledged by government – it has been the single most successful scheme in the whole of the UK. As this pilot comes to an end, it is critical that we continue to influence the future commissioning of employment and skills, so that further investment can be made into this model. It is only when a true intermediary like a Chamber of Commerce can be used that any successful penetration of the SME market will happen.

In many ways, the greatest event recently took place at the end of last year. Finally, in December, the Chamber relocated to Elliot House. It is a fantastic venue for staff and members alike, situated on Deansgate in the heart of the city. Such a relocation is no mean feat, but it was extremely well-executed and serves as a great venue to further the Chamber’s ambitions and its offering to members for the coming year ahead.

I look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible in our new location.

Neil

Friday, 20 February 2015

Member Blog: Forewarned is forearmed

By Dave Buston, Chief Executive Officer of Trident Operations Ltd


Going about our daily business, we would all like to think that the threat of a terrorist attack is a distant one. Most of us have more pressing matters to deal with, targets to meet and clients to keep happy.

But the recent attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris proved a sobering reminder of how swiftly that risk can become a reality.

The sheer range and scale of current threats means that our businesses must become more resilient, pro-actively putting in place measures to reduce the vulnerability of our people, assets, sites and critical activities.

Trident’s team of former military and police consultants have started running work shops to try and raise awareness among our fellow Manchester companies and help them prepare for any eventuality, ensure their staff are adequately protected and their business can bounce back quickly and efficiently.

Is there a threat to Greater Manchester?

The current UK threat level from international terrorism is set at severe, meaning a strike is “highly expected” and the British security services have warned of an increased likelihood of “mass casualty attacks”.

With Manchester having one of the busiest retail centres in the country, it then follows that it would be an attractive target. The outcome of a successful strike would, of course, create the high media profile ‘spectacular event’ that terrorists seek to exploit. These events have happened and unfortunately might happen again here.

Are we taking the threat seriously enough?

In my experience, some companies do a great job of managing risk well. This is often as a result of top management ownership and an effective governance and communications mechanism that is embedded throughout the organisation. However, most companies are challenged with the immediacy of improving or at least maintaining the bottom line for survival, so something has to give. Risk assessment has a subjective, perception-based component so inexperienced individuals can fail to properly determine the threat, leading to inaccurate metrics and the failure to put in place the appropriate preventative controls.

What makes a business vulnerable?

Not having effective, fit for purpose response and recovery contingency plans and procedures in place to mitigate the disruptive nature of a crisis and any adverse impact on an organisation's revenue, reputation and regulatory compliance. A lack of physical protection, security awareness and access control by staff could disrupt a company to the extent that it is unable to sustain the minimum level of operations it needs to survive. Meanwhile, failing to manage stakeholder expectations and the media will cause huge intangible damage. Furthermore, not protecting, training or briefing staff adequately could lead to non-compliance with H&S Law, the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act and also the Civil Contingencies Act (the latter if a public organisation, or Critical National Infrastructure).

What is the biggest mistake most companies make?

The key error is to put in place systems that simply tick the corporate governance, risk management and compliance box, but in reality are not fit for purpose, never tested, never properly trained throughout the normal turnover of staff and, therefore, leave a business exposed during a real event. Very few anticipate the threat, assess the impact and prepare so that they can respond and recover much more quickly. Even less continuously review the framework and learn from it so that they can be much more effective in their response.

What can Manchester firms do to prevent such an attack?

Speak to Greater Manchester Police Counter Terrorism Security Advisors (CTSAs) for free and up to date advice. Engage suitably qualified professionals to independently review and test out their incident/crisis management plans to ensure they are fit for purpose. This will bridge the gap between what the police can offer and the work of an internal risk manager or business continuity manager.

Regularly conduct a thorough business impact analysis and threat assessment to identify critical business activities, how they may be affected over time during a disruption and ensure simple, coherent plans are in place, staff are trained and alternative arrangements and resources are available.

Who can help?

Trident Operations Ltd offers consultants who draw on vast experience of working in counter terrorism, business continuity planning and audit and wider enterprise risk management. We offer a variety of crisis management services from devising contingency plans right through to handling physical and mental trauma risk management in staff, conducting comprehensive security vulnerability assessments of facilities or running full scale ‘live’ scenario-based exercises involving physical security penetration testing.

For more information, visit: http://www.tridentoperations.com/

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Member Blog: The Cyber Security Risk to SMEs

By Andy Long - Regional Partner at Stonehouse Logic Limited


One of the topics I always raise when visiting potential clients is what measures they have in place to protect their IT network and business from internet borne threats. Disappointingly, a lot of small business owners and directors will often either plead ignorance in this department or, more worryingly, not feel this is something that will effect an SME. A common response is that why would a cyber-criminal target my little business, surely they are after the big corporations? The fact is, most large corporations have extensive budgets for cyber security making them a very difficult nut to crack. This has resulted in hackers moving lower down the chain and specifically targeting smaller business with weaker systems.

It's important to understand that today's hackers are no longer the spotty 16 year old sat in his bedroom trying to cause a bit of havoc. Cyber-crime is big business and is carried out by advanced criminal organisations and even governments. So ask yourself, do you have anything that may be of interest to them? The simple answer is if you have money in the bank, have some intellectual property such as a blueprint or formula that is unique or even if you are in the supply chain to a larger organisation then then the answer is most definitely yes.


Here are some facts. In 2014, 60% of small business reported a security breach. The cost of the worst breaches on average ranged from £60k to £115k and this figure has increased year on year for the last three years. I personally helped a local business that had what the owner described as a "substantial amount of money" taken from their bank account due to a security breach.

Increasingly, security breaches are cleverly targeted at a specific company. It doesn't take much detective work to find the names of people within a business and at that point a criminal organisation can start to use a "social engineered" attack with personalised emails to an employee containing malware, quite often followed up by phone calls claiming to be from their bank. This was the method used against the company I mentioned earlier and within minutes two transactions had been taken from the account.

Another threat that businesses often forget about is that of employees. You trust your employees with access to sensitive data and systems, however a large proportion of security breaches are either maliciously or accidentally caused by staff members. This can be either stealing important data or information, sabotaging data or just plain and simple deleting data by accident.

So what basic steps can you take to help protect your business? Here is a checklist:-

* MALWARE PROTECTION - ensure up to date antivirus is installed on all systems and that Windows or Mac OS security patches are updated regularly. Running out of date operating systems (such as Windows XP) and internet browsers is an easy way to invite problems

* NETWORK SECURITY - use an effective firewall to protect your network at the boundary and ensure your wireless network is secure

* SECURE CONFIGURATION - keep an inventory of your IT equipment and software and use policies to ensure users have effective and difficult to crack passwords

* MANAGE USER PRIVILEGES - keep access for staff and third-parties to the minimum. Over-privileging users is a common way for data to be compromised or stolen.

* HOME AND MOBILE WORKING - where possible, encrypt sensitive data on mobile devices and ensure online transmission of data is via secure methods only.

* REMOVABLE MEDIA - restrict use of media such as USB drives and memory cards and ensure any sensitive data that needs to be stored on these is encrypted.

* TRAIN YOUR STAFF - this is possibly the most important area. Ensure your staff are aware of the risks and their role in keeping the business secure.

As you can see, some fairly basic steps will help protect your business and mitigate the risk posed by cyber threats. If you have concerns or would like some further advice then please contact StoneHouse Logic and we will happily discuss how you can improve your IT security.


The team at Stonehouse Logic is holding an event on 24th March about Office 365 and Sharepoint - The new way to work together. For more information, follow the link below:
  

http://www.stonehouselogic.com/new-way-work-together-office-365-sharepoint-24th-march-manchester/ 

www.stonehouselogic.com/

Friday, 13 February 2015

Member Blog: Pressure is the catalyst for results

Pressure is the catalyst for results, says Natalie Merrison, Head of Affiliates at Active Win Media. 

As a company expands, so does the workload. The incredible expansion that Active Win has undergone in its first year of business has resulted in vast opportunities for the team and an immense workload for all involved.

As Head of Affiliates, I am responsible for ensuring our affiliate programme is of the highest standard for our clients. I manage a team of ten and a budget in excess of £6M.

I firmly believe that pressure is the catalyst to getting results.

Being part of a fast- paced environment often puts substantial demands on people and requires well-honed organisational skills. Staying organised is key to everything I do. I employ basic strategies to keep on top of my job and ensure everything is done on time.

Good planning can help diminish stress levels. I develop logical (and realistic) plans that can be broken down into manageable tasks.  I write endless ‘to do’ lists and trust the ‘task’ bar on the computer to remind me what needs to be done from day to day. My inbox is colour co-ordinated so I know what I need to chase up, and from whom. In this respect it’s a great help having a structured set of departments.

As a team we try to go out socially regularly so we can relax around each other and have conversations about other areas of our lives. Team activities are always beneficial and can really bring the team together. I am currently planning our next team bonding day for summer.

My advice to anyone in this type of environment is to not take things to heart. When facing deadlines in any fast-paced industry, it’s easy to become stressed, especially when you’re spinning so many plates. But take a moment to stop and check that you’re spinning the right plates. Do they align with the company’s /clients vision and goals?

I find it helps to keep a level head when completing the task in hand.

Maintaining a healthy work and home life balance is also crucial. It’s important to not carry the weight of stress around with you. I often take my laptop home at weekends; however, I try to leave it in the office during the week. Remaining organised allows you to stay on top of things so that you don’t fall behind and create unnecessary stress.

Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond to get results, but don’t forget that having time to yourself is vital and results in consistency and happiness - as opposed to burning bright and burning fast!
Leaving work knowing you have done the best you can guarantees satisfaction and makes you look forward to continuing the next morning.

http://www.activewin.co.uk/

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Member Blog: Are you sitting comfortably?

By Dr George Ampat -  Ease The Spine
Those who regularly sit down for long hours are most at risk from problems with their back and spine. In an average working day you may spend 1.5 hours commuting, 7.5 hours sitting at your desk, an hour sat eating your dinner and a further three hours watching TV – that’s 13 hours of sitting in just one day! Sitting for long periods does not only affect your spine but it also affects your heart. In fact there is evidence to show that people who sit for more than 10 hours a day as compared to people who sit for less than 6 hours a day, have an increased risk of myocardial infarction and coronary artery disease.

Studies suggest that sitting for prolonged periods has an adverse effect on our bodies. But standing on our feet for hours on end is equally ineffective. The ideal working position for most people is a combination of sitting and standing. Keeping the body active is the best way to do this.

Modern and smart offices include flexible working space where employees’ desks can be raised and lowered at a touch of a button. This allows workers to simply switch between sitting and standing without disrupting their efficiency.

Ease The Spine has a full range of height-adjustable desks which are ideal for productive, pain-free working. It also has a variety of seating designed to encourage a more natural spine position. If you look at most chairs you own, the seat is at a 90-degree angle, but seating with a downwards curvature encourages you to sit straighter and improves posture.

Active seating, such as the HAG Capisco chair, simulates the actions of a horse rider and encourages movement in the spine which allows the discs in the spine to obtain the water and nutrients they need. Similar to the front of the eye (cornea) which does not have a blood supply, the discs of the spine also do not have a direct blood supply. Blinking helps to water and nourish the cornea in the eye.

Similarly movement helps to nourish and water the discs of the spine. Movement also keeps the muscles around the spine stronger and thereby improves core stability.

Ease The Spine is open Monday to Saturday, so make sure you pop in and take a closer look at the array of seating and office furniture on display.

Ease the Spine, 4-5, The Precinct, Station Road, Cheadle Hulme SK8 5BB
info@easethespine.com    0161 488 4491    www.easethespine.com

SAVE THE DATE - Thursday, 23 April 2015 between 12pm and 6pm
Free seminar: Well-being at Work
Ease the Spine - Active working and its benefits to your organisation.
Lectures and demonstrations by Dr. George Ampat, Consultant Spinal Surgeon, Royal Liverpool Hospitals.
Email info@easethespine.com to register your interest.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Member Blog: Office 365 in the Real World

By Andy Long - Regional Partner, StoneHouse Logic
At StoneHouse Logic, we are massive advocates of Microsoft's Cloud based office platform, Office 365. A quick look online will unearth pages upon pages of marketing spiel from the Redmond software giant, but I wanted to give a slightly different slant on things. It's easy to push the features of Office 365 and the benefits that these inevitably bring, but I want to give you my personal experience of using the product on a day to day basis.

A little bit about me first. In my professional life, I am what is often described as either a home worker or road warrior (amongst other things!). I plough a lone furrow from my home office near Oldham and spend a lot of time networking and attending meetings in Manchester. My head office is 26 miles away up the M66 in sunny Clayton-le-Moors where the majority of StoneHouse Logic's 30+ staff members are based. It would be easy to feel cut off and isolated or frustrated by having to spend the majority of my working day in my own company without the convenience of accessing the corporate systems. In an office, it's easy to lift your head up and see that a colleague is free. You never have to worry that the important presentation you have been working on is available when you need it or that the proposal you prepared last week was backed up.

Office 365 removes a lot of these problems, both from the head office users and the likes of me in a branch or home office. Let's have a look at the key features and how they can help.

Email/Calendars/Contacts

This is something we all take for granted, but when your in-house mail system falls over or your internet connection fails then it becomes all too apparent how reliant we are on it. With Office 365, Microsoft hosts your Exchange Server in their ultra-reliable datacentres which almost guarantees availability. This means that as long as I have an internet connection on my device, be it laptop, phone or tablet, then I will be able to receive my email and check my calendar. Couple this with a mailbox that can store 50Gb of email and you begin to realise why so many of our clients never replace an aging Exchange Server and instead migrate to Office 365. If you are on an old email platform such as POP then you will also enjoy having your email in sync across all devices with emails that you read on your laptop being instantly shown as read on your phone.

Presence and Communication

So what is presence I hear you ask? Well, when I mentioned being in an office and being able to see if your colleague is free, then that is in effect presence. At a glance you can tell whether someone is at their desk, busy or available. This might sound tricky when you are working 30 miles away at home, but Microsoft provides this via a product called Lync. The best way to describe Lync is Skype for Business and funnily enough this is exactly what Microsoft will be rebranding it as shortly. The presence comes as a coloured blob that shows next to a contacts name, whether it is within the Lync client, an email or a document. If someone is showing as green for available, I know I can click on the blob and start a quick IM message chat, a voice call, share my desktop or a full blown HD video conference. Likewise I can see if they are in a meeting, on holiday or simply away from their desk.

At StoneHouse Logic we use Lync heavily and it saves both time and money by removing the need for remote workers to drive into the office for meetings. We operate two other regional offices in West Yorkshire and Newcastle so the time and diesel saved is substantial. Our monthly marketing meeting for example is held between the four offices via Lync with the head office staff sharing their desktop and video conferencing the three remote offices in. With Lync I never feel cut off and I know I can call on a member of the team quickly and without having to hunt around for someone who is available.

File Storage and Collaboration

In the traditional IT world, your companies’ files would be stored on a fileserver in the head office. This is great if you are on the local network, however remote users would typically have to use a slow VPN connection or use the poor practice of copying files onto a pen drive or laptop to take home. Office 365 gets around this by storing your files in the Cloud. There are actually two areas to store your files. The first is OneDrive which I have discussed in my previous blog www.stonehouselogic.com/protect-digital-life/. This is a personal space that I can keep any files that are relevant to me. I use this to hold my expenses and mileage claims for example and share them with the relevant people when required. OneDrive for Business currently provides an enormous 1TB of storage per user which even I would struggle to fill. If that isn't enough for you then this limit is soon to be removed, allowing unlimited storage. Your OneDrive folder is synchronised down to your PC so you always have the latest version of the files to hand, plus you can access them from your phone or tablet. I will regularly sit on a tram heading to a meeting in Manchester and edit documents from my Android phone.

The second area that Office 365 provides file storage is SharePoint. I could write pages on this product alone, but the best way to describe it is as a cross between the company intranet site for keeping staff in touch with the latest news, announcements etc., plus your company server shared drives. Again, the data sits in the Cloud and you can give the people and teams access to the documents that are relevant to them or their department. This is similar to having a company shared drive, a sales drive and a finance drive on a server, however the data is all kept offsite, backed up and available from anywhere with an internet connection.

The biggest advantage of working on files in the Cloud is collaboration. It is now possible for several people to work on the same document at once. Versioning ensures that only the current relevant document is available and any changes are recorded and audited.

But What about Microsoft Office?

I personally think the naming of Office 365 has caused a lot of confusion. When most people hear the words "Microsoft" and "Office" they think of the desktop software which includes Word and Excel. Some of the subscription services (including the one StoneHouse Logic use) also include the option to install the latest version of Office on your desktop and up to 4 other devices. This ensures that I will always have the latest version of the software, even when a new suite is released. If you already have a relatively up to date licensed version of Office then you can save a few pounds a month and just buy the online services. These include a browser version of the most popular Office components (Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint) so you can work on your documents online.
This provides an integrated platform that includes both your desktop applications and a range of corporate level Cloud services as part of the monthly fee.

Sounds great, but what does it cost?

Let's start by saying what would these solutions have cost you 3 to 5 years ago. An Exchange server for 50 users including hardware, licensing and installation - probably in the region of £15-20k. Lync as an on-premise solution? You would be looking at £7k for the licensing alone.

If I told you that you could have Exchange, Lync, OneDrive, SharePoint running on one of the worlds most resilient and scalable solutions for the price of a cup of decent coffee per month then you might be surprised. Throw in the price of a cake and packet of crisps from the same high-street coffee shop and you can have the latest version of Microsoft Office to install on 5 of your devices.

What is most appealing to a lot of Financial Directors that I speak to is the fact that you are removing the large Capex costs and moving to a small, manageable and predictable monthly Op-Ex. There is an initial setup and migration service, but once Office 365 is up and running then it is easily managed either by your in-house IT team or StoneHouse Logic's helpdesk.

How do I get it?

If you are interested in Office 365 then speak to StoneHouse Logic. We are a Microsoft Gold and Cloud Accelerate Partner and have the experience of migrating hundreds of users from an on-premise solution to Office 365. Have a look at this short video that gives you a little more insight into a typical day with Office 365: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7Ysp3uUrEg

http://www.stonehouselogic.com/

Friday, 30 January 2015

Friday Guest Blog: Finance Options for Growth

By Conrad Ford, Managing Director of Funding Options 

One of the key symptoms of a booming economy, like Greater Manchester’s, is a liquid one that helps small and medium sized businesses to access finance for their many different requirements. The Chamber's Campaign for Business: Access to Finance message has this message at its core.

In fact, access to finance in Greater Manchester is massively improving, if you know where to look. Given the array of options available, I’ve taken a snapshot of the market and detailed those funding options below for businesses looking to pounce on upcoming growth opportunities.

1) Cash advances based on turnover

Now a core feature of the non-bank finance market, these loans are based on a percentage of your annual revenue and are much more suited to businesses in their growth stages. Your business pays back a percentage of what you make in turnover on an agreed repayment period. Your repayment eases in the quiet months and increases in the months that the business excels. We're finding that these facilities suit retail and seasonal businesses, and the Chamber's latest economic report showing the increase in retail activity is a clear indication of the thriving nature of this sector.

2) Finance to purchase goods that are pre-sold to the trade

Many businesses in Greater Manchester  export and import from overseas, particularly from the EU. There are various finance solutions to aid your trade operations but an interesting one that can boost your working capital reserves is to raise finance off your future purchases. This allows you to purchase large quantities of goods, providing any lender can track it from the purchase to the end client i.e. you sell to the trade or a business. 

3) Need new equipment and machinery to increase operations

Take the example of a brewery in Greater Manchester that can double its weekly canning capacity with the addition of a high-tech canning machine. If it doesn't have the cash up front to afford it - yet needs the machinery urgently to fulfil a large order from a major supermarket - the brewery can explore various asset finance options to get the machine without forking out a chunk of its capital for the purchase. If new equipment is a part of your plans to grow, make the equipment pay for itself.

4) Secured commercial loans

Unlike traditional lending markets, you can secure a term loan with your assets in a matter of weeks, rather than months. It makes this option ideal for quick growth, providing you have collateral with equity remaining in it. Lenders here will differ in what assets they prefer e.g. different types of property, different types of sites, and some lenders are happy to take security that has an existing charge on it from, say, your bank; a term known as second charge lending.

https://www.fundingoptions.com/

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Member Blog: The Importance of Taking Time Out

By Frances Taylor - Director at Sprout, The Personal Development Company (UK) Ltd


Last weekend I woke up to a bright snowy morning, prised my other half out from under the duvet and went for a long tramp over the Derbyshire moors.  Not a remarkable event you might think.

But midway through the week, I am still feeling the benefits of our eight mile tramp.

We had to apply ourselves on this walk. Navigation over the rough moorland tracks takes care. There are numerous gullies running off the high plateau, cutting deep, stony gorges through the peat, and it's easy to mistake one for another and end up completely lost. Then there was the snow and low cloud, erasing landmarks and reducing visibility to a few feet.

We'd never walked this path before and there was something hugely exciting and satisfying about it. An adventure. A personal challenge. Just us and the bleak wintry landscape.
 
It was a real time out. Refreshing. Different. Fun. And I'm still noticing the benefits today.

When was the last time you took time out?

When did you last spend a day doing something out of your normal routine? Away from work and home activities, away from visiting your usual haunts? Maybe a morning doing something just for you, or even an hour? Or maybe, if you are lucky (or rather, if you take your wellbeing seriously) you've taken yourself off for a weekend?

If you can't remember the last time and you're feeling bored or stuck or just fatigued then it will be useful for you to know that.

Time out improves your performance and wellbeing.

We are not designed on a physical or emotional level, to stay in the same gear 24/7. The body likes homeostasis- balance- where after a period of stress, intense focus or activity, there is rest and recuperation.  This way you avoid exhaustion, stagnation, loss of perspective and even burn out.

Time out doesn’t just relax you; it improves your ability to THINK!

Convincing research demonstrates that time out improves cognitive function - bringing greater agility and flexibility to your thinking, fuelling creativity and widening perspectives.  It also enhances your memory and ability to make sound judgements. A recent article in the New York Times neatly calls this process strategic renewal.

Major corporates have got the message. Deloitte offers a sabbatical programme to pursue personal or professional growth. And Google has introduced cosy sleep pods for staff to take a daytime nap.
Even if your company can’t offer such benefits, there is plenty that you can do yourself.

How to have time out every day

Time out needs to be part of your everyday life. It can be a moment, a few minutes, a lunch time or a longer experience. Try one or more of the following:

a 10 minute power walk outside
run or walk briskly up and down stairs for 5 minutes
5 minutes listening to a favourite piece of music
10 minutes learning something new and completely unrelated to your work: for example, how to order a beer in Greek or tie a useful knot
a visit to an art gallery for 30 minutes over lunch
enjoy the silence of a local church

These suggestions provide daily refreshment but they are not enough.

You also need regular more extended times to fully replenish your reserves. If you'd like to learn new ways to do this and improve your performance and wellbeing, join us in Manchester on 27 March for a day of inspiration, learning and fun. Click here for details.

http://sprout.today/