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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Member Blog: The Jumping Off Point

By Kieron Hill – Owner, Kieron Hill Employment Services Limited
There comes a time in the life of a company where the owner has to make a clear choice. Are they self-employed or do they turn the company into a business? The trigger for the decision usually comes when the business owner finds that they are working long hours but still not earning as much as when they were employed. The dilemma is this, they need more work to earn more money but they don’t have enough time in the day to service their customers.

If you are that business owner, the first question that you need to ask yourself is “Do I like doing the work that my company does or do I want to run the business?” The two are not the same. If you are a plumber that enjoys plumbing then you like doing the work your company does and that is what you should do. Therefore if you are not earning enough money you have only a limited number of options, either charge more or do more.

If you are a plumber who likes to research new markets, try new products and services and expand your business then you want to run a business. There is no moral issue here both options are equally valid the choice you make is based on your aspirations. Anyone who tells you that one way is better than the other is what my daughter would call a “butinski” and should spend more time with their family!

In many cases however the business owner decides that they want the adventure of creating a business and working on it, not in it.

So the process begins. First you need to define your aspirations, in terms of what you like doing for a living and what you want to do with your life. For those with the joy and pain of family commitments there is also the cold wind of financial reality that needs to be considered.

Having got your aspirations nailed down you then need to analyse what jobs needed doing in order to achieve those aspirations. You then have to allocate those jobs, whether by outsourcing, investing in IT, purchasing machinery or employing staff. Finally (and this is often the hardest part) you have to take action.

So it’s aspiration, analysis, allocation and action. Suddenly a horrible thought strikes me, I’ve just invented one of those awful management clichés like “the 10 steps to business success” or “the four S’s to marketing excellence” (or the 6 Z’s to a boring business lecture!)

But cliché or not it’s my firm belief that it’s a decision every company has to make sooner or later and then revisit on a regular basis, because the priorities you have when you are in your 30’s will be quite different from those you have when you are 56.

I made my choice a few years ago and decided to build a business but I’d love to find out what other people have decided to do when they reached their “jumping off point”, or was the whole process too much trouble and you decided to carry on as you are?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Member Blog: How to Use Content Marketing to Grow Your Business

By Nadia Latif, Content Marketing Manager at Banc Media

The internet can be a frustrating place for businesses. Imagine a room containing 99% of your potential customers, but they’re all distracted by pictures of cats on the walls and what their friends are eating. How do you draw their attention away from the fluff and to your good stuff?

Content marketing is, in its essence, the creation and distribution of quality, relevant content. This content engages with your audience, lets them know what your brand is about, and ultimately converts them into loyal customers and brand advocates.

Here are the essentials if you want to use content marketing to grow your business:

Create Excellent Content

The clue’s in the name: it’s content marketing.

This content needs to be relevant to your business; just because listicles work for BuzzFeed doesn’t mean that they are right for your brand. The aim here is to produce blog posts, articles, infographics, videos, etc. that people want to share and that resonate with what you do.

Give Your Excellent Content a Good Home

You could write the most incredible articles known to humankind, but without a well-designed website/blog with a clean layout, your efforts will likely come to nothing.

People’s attention span online is minimal; you have to capture their attention with the look of your site, not just the formatting and readability of your content.

Additionally, get to grips with SEO best practise so that your content is visible to Google and can be found by your audience – this guide from Google is a great place to start.

Engage with Your Audience

Your content marketing efforts will come to nothing without great content. But it’s also about how you use that content and find appropriate channels to connect with your audience.

Brands have the ability to develop a fluid personality through social media thanks to constant communication with followers and other brands. Tesco Mobile’s social media team has been widely lauded for raising the brand’s profile by entering into lively debates with fellow brands and customers.

Proactive social media engagement can help build your brand’s authority, and it’ll cost nothing more than the time you invest into it.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Guest Post

A great way to reach new audiences and add great content to your blog is to diversify with guest posts. Think about who would bring value to your blog; you should only invite people who have something useful and relevant to say.

Invest Your Time

There are no short cuts; quality content marketing takes dedication. Sure, you can churn out blog posts and set up automatic updates on your social channels, but the real value can be found in taking the time to find, listen to, create content for, and interact with, your audience.

We’ve put together a round-up of 50 content marketing ideas you can use on your website and blog – check them out here.

About Banc Media
Banc Media is a search engine marketing company, specialising in SEO and PPC. Based in Manchester, they are comprised of operational specialists including a dedicated content marketing team.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Medical Specialists Pharmacy enters the online jungle of Amazon!

By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists Pharmacy

Medical Specialists® Pharmacy are delighted to announce they are joining forces with international e-commerce colossus Amazon, by far one of the most successful internet retailers to ever be involved in the buying and selling of products, boasting an almost unparalleled capability of reaching millions of potential buyers.

Some might say the move to Amazon has been long overdue for a pharmacy giant such as Medical Specialists®, particularly after being pioneers themselves in expanding to an ever-growing customer base that are now choosing the internet as their preferred means of purchasing over-the-counter pharmacy products.

After all, it is convenient and hassle-free to buy online and have products delivered to your doorstep, saving any possible embarrassment of actually walking into your local pharmacy and asking for products to treat conditions like halitosis (bad breath), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and many more troublesome health issues.

Medical Specialists® already have an impressive history spanning almost three decades, with its origins in private clinics in the late 1980s, at the time being one of the leaders in the move to computerisation for patients and medication.

However, the company has always looked for ways to way to increase its accessibility and efficacy for patients and by 2001, Medical Specialists Company Ltd (as they were then known), became the first legal online clinic in the UK supplying a range of medication via online consultation – to be quickly and poorly imitated as other clinics soon copied their ideas.

This expansion was far from over though and in 2011 Medical Specialists® grew even further to become a fully-registered online pharmacy, becoming the first ‘One Stop Pharmacy and Doctors’ in the UK. Part of this evolution meant that Medical Specialists® could dispense NHS prescriptions, with GP’s able to use the rapid Electronic Prescription Service (EPS), an easy and convenient way for patients to receive medicines, being sent by post to their home, place of work or any other suitable address.

The move to EPS as the name states, meant Medical Specialists® could provide an electronic/paperless, supremely fast and efficient way of dispensing and shipping prescription medication, negating the need for patients to even leave their house and have to go out of their way to get to a pharmacy for their medicines.
At the same time, Medical Specialists® also decided to boost their chemist shop – a side of the business that now incorporates an impressively huge range of over-the-counter non-prescription products, i.e. these items can just be quickly purchased outright without the requirement of an online consultation or private prescription from the customer’s own GP.

So why the move to Amazon now after all this time? Well, Medical Specialists® cater to tens of thousands of patients from around the world, but Amazon has an estimated 130 million customers globally. This is more than double the UK’s population! Information released by shows Amazon having an incredible 16 million visitors from the UK for May 2014 – the most visited online retailer and having more views than eBay, Tesco, Argos and Asda, the other online retailers that make up the top 5.

Therefore, it is safe to say if you are a business that wants to get its products listed and out there, Amazon is the way to go. All businesses simply need to do is decide on a fixed price, note the condition, and the listing will be live within about 15 minutes – a less complex and time consuming procedure than many other ecommerce and auction websites.

Medical Specialists’® Amazon page already has several products listed but the company will be looking to add much, much more in the coming months to further boost brand awareness – a key component of any major successful pharmacy or business. Or alternatively, there is always the Medical Specialists® website for a more extensive over-the-counter product range for health issues such as hay fever and allergies, holiday and travel, sexual health, and more.

It is now 13 years and counting that Medical Specialists® have been at the forefront of sexual health, trying to break down the taboos and worries that many people used to have about seeking help. In this time, Medical Specialists® have had thousands of patients coming forward to request treatment from them for sexual dysfunction problems, and they are confident the move to Amazon will enable their chemist shop over-the-counter product range to similarly flourish.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Guest Blog: Into Autumn - Are you ready for the latest legislation changes?

By Peter Mooney - Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS)

As the leaves – and the temperatures – start to fall, it’s the perfect time of year for a good spruce-up to make sure your business is up-to-date and in good shape.

So here’s a timely reminder for you of the key changes to areas such as Employment Law and Health and Safety legislation, for the rest of the year and into 2015.

From 1st October, 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 gives employees and agency workers who are in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman the statutory right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments. This new right applies from the very first day of employment (i.e. no continuous period of employment is required).

Those in a “qualifying relationship” include:
A pregnant woman’s husband, partner or civil partner (if she is in a same-sex relationship)
The father of the child
The parent of the child; and
Intended parents in a surrogacy situation who meet specified conditions.

It is possible that a woman’s partner may qualify for time off even if he is not the child’s natural father.
Those who qualify for time off only have the right to attend TWO antenatal appointments (not all of them) and they can’t take more than 6 ½ hours for each one.

The appointment must have been made on the advice of the registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Pregnant employees have a statutory right to reasonable time off work with pay to attend their antenatal appointments.  However, those in a qualifying relationship do not have a right to be paid.

Employers have the right to request the employee (or agency worker) to make a written declaration stating that they are in qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child, that they are taking some off specifically to attend the antenatal appointment with her and that the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse giving the date and time of the appointment.

The Children and Families Act also increases the amount of the award for an unreasonable refusal of time off for antenatal care.

Also from 1st October, Employment Tribunals will be given the power to order equal pay audits, where the employer has breached the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010, except in prescribed circumstances.

On the same date (it’s a busy time!) the National Minimum Wage increases:
£6.50 for workers 21 and over
£5.13 for workers 18-20 yrs
£3.79 for 16-17 yrs olds
£2.73 for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over who are in the first year of apprenticeship

On 1st December 2014, the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 come into force.
These rule that an employee cannot take paternity leave in relation to a child where he or she has already taken shared parental leave in relation to that child or has taken paid time off to attend an adoption appointment in respect of that child.

From the 10th December, the right to take unpaid parental leave will be extended to include children up to the age of 18. Currently this right applies to parents of children under five (or 18 if the child is disabled).
From 6th April, 2015 provisions for Shared Parental Leave take effect, for parents of children born or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.

Under this new system, parents will be able to choose how they share the care of their child during the first year after birth. Mothers will still take at least the initial two weeks following the birth; but following that they can choose to end the maternity leave – and the parents can OPT to share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave.

And on the same date, the Children and Families Act 2014 brings statutory adoption pay into line with statutory maternity pay by setting it at 90% of normal earnings for the first six weeks of the adoption pay period.

Also in April, employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 are to be abolished. In his autumn statement last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 who earn up to £42,285 are abolished.

It is expected that April will also see the introduction of new rights for employees who are reservists. If the proposals are confirmed, they will be exempted from the two year qualifying period for bring an unfair dismissal claim where the reason for dismissal is the employee’s reservist’s service.

A proposed change that reflects our increased life expectancy (and longer working lives) is that the upper age limit for jury service should increase from 70 to 75, in England and Wales. This is expected to be ratified in the early part of next year.

Be assured, ELAS will be on hand to warn you of any forthcoming changes and their implications – and will also be here to offer guidance on all aspects of the laws that affect your business.

ELAS is a leading provider of a full range of business support services such as HR, employment law advice, occupational health and safety, food safety, payroll services and training to businesses both in the North West and nationally.

For further information, visit

Friday, 3 October 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Beyond the new frontier - Automatic enrolment and support for businesses

By Rob Hawthorne - Chartered Financial Planner at Rowanmoor Consultancy Limited

On 25 August  2012, the Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first man-made object to leave the boundaries of the solar system and enter interstellar space.  The probe has now been operating for almost 37 years and continues to explore the interstellar medium, transmitting valuable data back to Earth.

The probe, along with its sister Voyager 2, represented the very pinnacle of planetary science and with Voyager 1 having only just entered the vast arena of interstellar space, the journey is very literally just beginning.

Back on earth, or to be more specific, the UK, the programme for employers to start automatically enrolling employees into workplace pension schemes is now in full swing, a journey that started in 2012.

At the time of writing, over 4,000,000 workers have been automatically enrolled representing some 21,000 employers, many of whom had no existing pension provision and no experience or technical know-how administering a complex financial product for their employees.  Where Voyager represented one of the biggest challenges for mission planners, calculating gravitational slingshots around the outer planets, one of the biggest challenges facing employers is the implementation and ongoing demands of one of the biggest changes to UK pension legislation in over a generation.

Over the next four years, small to medium-sized employers in the UK will start their journey and will be required to comply with the automatic enrolment regime.  Many companies have only a sketchy knowledge at best, of their new legal duties, and those that believe a “one size fits all” payroll system will meet their needs in full, are very much heading towards disaster.  Experience so far has shown that to achieve full compliance employers really do need to get the bull by the horns and in true mission control style, plan ahead, task by task, step by step.  Failure is not an option.

In outer space, the margin for error is slim.   Back on Earth, those employers that find themselves in breach of their new regulatory responsibilities could face disciplinary action or even prosecution.  To safeguard employee interests, an enforcement regime has been established.  Employers will be required to register with The Pensions Regulator to declare compliance.  Furthermore, employers will be required to comply with new statutory employment rights and contributions will be monitored to ensure that all are meeting the new financial obligations.

When Voyager was envisaged, decisions were taken to determine objectives, experiments and destinations well in advance of the launch dates.  In preparation for automatic enrolment it is essential that employers consider what type of pension will suit their needs.  Employers will need to update their payroll and HR systems (assuming of course they have them) to meet the new administrative burden, familiarise themselves with their new duties and they will need to consider the financial impact of the compulsory contributions on the company accounts.

Regular duties include self certifying compliance, providing scheme information to employees, automatically enrolling employees, making contributions on their behalf and keeping accurate scheme records, to list but a few.   The impact of these reforms will be nothing short of significant on the day to day operations of your typical small to medium-sized employer.

Advice on how to plan ahead is fundamental if businesses are to survive the journey. The final destination might not be known, but those who would challenge the credibility of independent financial advice and planning in the context of automatic enrolment have not fully understood the wider challenges faced by employers.  Although automatic enrolment started in 2012, the journey for UK workplace pension provision is only just beginning.

Our corporate clients are provided with a clear automatic enrolment strategy. If you would like to find out more about how the new legislation will affect your business please contact our Consultancy Support Team on 08445 440 747 or email  We look forward to hearing from you.

Rob Hawthorne is a Chartered Financial Planner at Rowanmoor Consultancy Limited, Independent Financial Advisers, Bolton.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Landlords and Property Owners Urged To Comply With New Legionella Legislation Or Face Prosecution

By Jamie Tranter, Legionella Risk Management Specialist and Head of Legionella Control International’s North West team

Landlords and property owners now face hefty fines if they fail to comply with the latest legionella legislation recently updated by the Health & Safety Executive. The revised legislation deals with the control of risks associated with legionella, a water-borne bacteria, which although rare, can have serious and often fatal consequences if it develops into Legionnaire’s disease. With the help of specially designed tools from Legionella Control International, landlords and property owners can now take appropriate steps to mitigate the risks and ensure the safety of their tenants.

As legionella experts, we offer a series of free guides and check-lists to assist landlords, property owners and managing agents control these risks.  Our ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’ is one such tool which is free for landlords and available to utilise on request.

Legionella is typically found within aquatic environments and is especially dangerous where specific conditions enable the micro-organisms to propagate speedily. Legionnaires’ disease itself is rare but 359 reported cases were diagnosed during 2010 in England and Wales alone. Landlords, property owners and managing agents are encouraged to implement risk assessments and water management systems to ensure that impending risks are minimised or eliminated altogether. Landlords have been urged to watch for especially vulnerable individuals who may be further susceptible to contracting the disease when exposed to contaminated water systems.

Although outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are rare, the ramifications are real and can be devastating to those involved. It is essential that landlords, property owners and managing agents satisfy their legal obligations to ensure that legionella is not ignored and left unmanaged within their properties. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to implement appropriate risk management strategies to ensure that the bacteria does not get a hold. UK tenants and businesses require complete compliance in this area which is why those that fail to comply with the law can face hefty fines.

The HSE issued a revised addition of the Approved Code of Practice entitled, ‘Legionnaire’s Disease: The Control of legionella bacteria in water systems’ to ensure that property owners manage any risks appropriately. The scheme must be enforced by all within the property sphere regardless of the size and complexity of their water systems.

Legionella Control International ensures world class solutions are implemented to minimise, control and prevent the risk of legionella outbreaks in private and commercial properties. Offering independent, impartial advice, we offer landlords and property owners an extensive range of legionella risk management services including risk assessments, compliance audits, training, assessment of water systems, crisis management, and laboratory testing as well as an array of other essential options all designed to safeguard against legionella.

To find out more about Legionella Control International and how to safeguard your property to comply with the legislation, visit:

To access the ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’, click here.

About Legionella Control International: Legionella Control International is a UK based company specialising in offering world class solutions from risk management experts to help landlords and businesses safeguard against the risks of legionella. Their independent, impartial advice enables people to control, manage and prevent the likelihood of outbreaks.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Unsubscribes – An Opportunity Not a Problem

By David Wright, Chartered Marketer at BSA Marketing

When I’m talking to clients about using e-mail marketing and e-mail newsletters, there is one question that comes up more than any other….

Will I annoy people?
I don't want to alienate my contacts

You may be surprised that the short answer is an emphatic –
NO! Unsubscribes are good

Unsubscribes are a fact of life in e-mail marketing and not something to be afraid of.

They are another point of engagement between you and your markets. The feedback you get through unsubscribes can help you improve and refine your offer and make your business better.

Don’t forget the basics

People read newspapers and magazines because they are interested in the content. Not necessarily every article but they do have an interest. E-newsletters should be exactly the same. Content should be relevant to the target audience. We receive many more positive comments about our Marketing Matters e-newsletter than we do unsubscribes.

Realistically there will always be someone who simply objects to everything but when you look at the statistics, the power and benefit of well targeted, relevant e-mail far outweighs any negative impact.

Naturally, every e-newsletter we send includes an option to unsubscribe and if someone takes that option, we respect it, because unsubscribes are good…..

Unsubscribes are good

The essence of marketing is to communicate a relevant message to an audience that will recognise the relevance of the message (and consequently a ‘fit’ with the company that sent it)

E-mail marketing is no different, and if someone chooses to unsubscribe that is normally because they don’t see the relevance of the message so it makes sense they don’t receive it.

As a consequence of unsubscribes, the target list becomes ever better qualified!

Use your common sense

As with most things, common sense is a valuable tool and should be used in your marketing.

It’s true that some unsubscribes can be a good thing, but you do want your list to grow as you add new (well qualified!) contacts. Adding qualified contacts tends to be a steady, rather than fast, process so getting too many unsubscribes can make your list go backwards – and if you do see a lot of unsubscribes, perhaps you need to ask your self whether your content really does engage your market? Alternatively, consider just how well qualified are your contacts in the first place?

Watch the stats

As a general rule, you may well see a few more unsubscribes the first time you run a list (maybe 3-5%) and this can be OK on the first ‘send’ but after this, unsubscribes should be much lower – typically well under 1%

Make sure you are adding contacts too

Unsubscribes are part of e-mail marketing so if you aren’t adding contacts to your target list, it will shrink.
Having a sign-up form on your website can be a way of growing your list and it can work well if you operate in a B2C or wide B2B market with a lot of traffic to your site. For B2B businesses working in niche sectors (i.e. most of BSA’s clients!), a more proactive approach to list development is normally required but don’t forget:

Contact quality is more important the contact quantity
Remember, you should be communicating good quality, relevant content to well qualified contacts. If you do this, unsubscribes will be minimal and maintaining/growing your list should not be a problem.

Sometimes an unsubscribe may be worth a follow-up

If you only see small numbers of unsubscribes (and you should!) it is worth keeping any eye on who is unsubscribing.

If it is someone you know personally, it might be worth giving them a call to find out why they have unsubscribed. This shows (at least) that you are on the ball and take a joined-up approach and your conversation may give you valuable feedback which you can use to improve your marketing.

I have even had the experience of finding that someone had unsubscribed inadvertently and my call not only resurrected the contact but resulted in a business enquiry!

Be positive and use your common sense, but remember: unsubscribes are an opportunity, not a problem.

If you want to see how e-newsletters can help you grow your business, call me on 01457 851111 or email

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Member Blog: How a migraine can do everyone’s head in at work

By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists

Are you a migraine sufferer? Or, are you an employer with employees that you are aware regularly suffer with them? If so, you will be delighted to hear that Medical Specialists® Pharmacy have gone to great lengths to make migraine treatment available for the thousands of people that need it after being inundated with requests for help from your fellow sufferers, and this help could enable you to get on with your day-to-day activities without the pain and stress associated with the condition.

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world. It is something much more intense and painful than a common headache, even though many people confuse the two. With an estimated one in four women and one in 12 men in the UK affected by migraines on a regular basis, this means around 15% of adults in the UK are suffering. Although sufferers may feel alone and isolated, migraine is a health problem even more prevalent than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined.

Despite this, it can be still misunderstood and underestimated in the workplace. Statistics indicate that over a third (34.3%) of sufferers are experiencing difficulty or discrimination in the workplace due to their condition. (The Migraine Trust, 2004).

Firstly, let’s look at some hard facts about migraine:

* Each year migraine causes a loss of over 25 million working days at a cost of around £2.25 billion to the economy.
* Migraine and chronic headache are the second most common reasons given for short term absence from work.
* A recent YouGov poll involving 2,105 people saw 15% of workers who pulled a ‘sickie’ used migraine as their excuse for a day off work.
* A survey conducted by The Migraine Trust in 2012 found that almost half (46.3%) of workers with migraine say they are unfairly untreated because of illness-related absence, over a third (40.5%) felt unsupported by their bosses and colleagues, and three in ten (30.5%) had received disciplinary action due to their health condition.

The main obstacle between fellow employees and the employer and their employees, is simply lack of awareness about migraines. Migraine pain can be excruciating for those afflicted, but an attack is often disregarded as ‘just a headache’. In addition, many employers are lacking understanding and not providing sufficient support for staff with migraines due to non-sufferers commonly using migraine as an excuse when they have a ‘sickie’ from work.

It is partly this reason why migraine sufferers feel isolated and unsupported, and employers should do their best to communicate with these particular employees, as even with the severe pain experienced during an attack, many sufferers will still continue to either attend or stay in work despite their productivity levels being negatively impacted.  This could have major implications for employers, both financially and with the subsequent drop in staff morale and productivity.

It is called ‘presenteeism’ when an employee still goes to work despite being unwell, and is rife amongst those with regular migraines and headaches because of the fear of reprisals from bosses.  Employers should have a fair and open communication policy with all employees – not just those with migraines – to reduce the risk of presenteeism, which can be problematic for everybody concerned.

The issue of presenteeism could be down to the fact some employers utilise strict absence record systems that focus on performance monitoring after a certain number of sick days have been reached. Some empathy needs to be shown though from the employer – otherwise stress and anxiety can be caused and exacerbate migraine attacks by acting as a trigger.

You as an employer should be aware that depending on the circumstances, migraine sufferers could be classed as having a ‘disability’ according to The Equality Act 2010.  It is employers’ responsibility to put into place appropriate conditions that make it easier for employees that suffer with migraines to actually do their job to a good standard and stop them being unfairly discriminated against.

Some helpful adjustments that employers can introduce for migraine sufferers may include: make sure employees have frequent breaks where possible, offer flexible working hours, amending shift patterns, carry out necessary improvements to the working environment (lighting, computer screens, work station), and make sure there is easy access to drinking water for all employees.

As well as being flexible with working hours, employers should also consider being flexible with regards to sickness policies to prevent migraine sufferer’s absence (which is highly likely to be only short term) resulting in strict/unfair punishments being handed out to them. Remember that the aforementioned changes do not cost much to introduce, and often have benefits to the wider team. A happier working environment will inevitably lead to increased productivity, and a happy employer!

For anybody still worried about the impact of migraine on their working life or indeed any day-to-day activities, Medical Specialists® offer a fantastic range of migraine prevention and migraine relief treatment ( which, for UK patients, can be obtained within 24 hours following an online consultation with one of Medical Specialists’® GMC-registered doctors.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Member Blog: 10 steps to make your business more valuable and saleable

By Richard Wright - Prepare to Sell Ltd

Step 1: Make sure the business can function properly without you

•If you want to sell the whole of your business, its valuation is based on what’s left after you’ve gone. So the ideal solution is to transfer your skills and expertise to your management team. Let them deal with your customers, under your guidance.

•Make sure customer loyalty is increasingly with the company, not with you.

•Enable and empower your management team to operate the business without you. If you’re not doing this already, start small until everybody is more confident with this process, including you. With the right management and financial information systems, this delegation does not mean loss of control.

•Passing decision-making responsibilities is a cultural change for most owner-managed businesses. It’s no quick-fix and often needs some outside guidance to make it work. But it is key to growth whether you are selling your business or not.

•By passing day to day responsibility to others, you can concentrate on the direction of the business, and often find a better work/life balance.

Step 2: Demonstrate a track record of growing sales, profits & cash with good projections

•You are selling what you’re doing now and what you’ve done in the past. But a potential buyer is interested in your future earnings and growth potential.

•It’s therefore much easier to sell a business which is already growing and can demonstrate a good performance track-record.

•It is important to show that sales, profits and cash are growing sustainably. But growing sales by cutting margin is not a good story.

•Obviously all this is much easier said than done. If it’s not possible, do you have a good story about the current resilience of the business, and the means by which a new owner can create growth?

•You have to show confidence in the future of your business, even though you won’t be there. So you need a good explanation for selling.

•Place yourself in the position where selling is an ‘option’, not a financial necessity.

•Good, ambitious projections are important for a successful sale, but they must be achievable. They may require the capital investment, skills and contacts the buyers have and you don’t, in order to achieve -but if explained clearly, that’s ok.

Step 3: Reduce dependency on just a few customers, suppliers & staff

•A buyer is looking to build on what you’ve got, not fill the gap created by the business transfer.

•A change of business ownership will put stress on relationships with customers, suppliers and your staff.
Buyers are reluctant to buy if there is a high risk of losing a major customer, critical supplier or key employee. So it’s important that you are not over-dependent.

•Can you survive if you lose your biggest customer or your best employee? You need to ask that question of yourself, because the buyer certainly will.

•It is helpful to demonstrate, as far as possible, a broad spread of customers, old and new, some stable, some growing.

•Your largest customer should on average be no more than 10-15% of your sales. It’s not uncommon for 80% of sales to come from the top 20% of customers. But do those 20% provide 80% of your profits?

•Look at ways to reduce the chances of losing them: through incentives, contracts, future loyalty bonuses, etc. Get key staff to train others to cover for them and transfer those skills and that knowledge.

Step 4: Make sure your business’s brand values are clear, attractive & resilient

•Your business is your brand. It’s a complex mixture of experiences customers have of your products, services, people and attitudes. It includes your premises, website and everything people see, hear and feel.

•Make sure your vision of the value of your brand is properly understood and shared by all your customers, employees and suppliers.

•Why not test to make sure the reasons customers are loyal to you are the same reasons you think they are? If you’re not sure, ask them.

•The benefit of your brand is what you are really selling. It’s the ongoing revenue stream that your brand promises to deliver.

•So how strong is your brand? Can you explain its unique benefits to a buyer?

•How easily customers would switch from you to your competitors is an indication of the strength of your brand. Do you command a price premium? How long have your customers been loyal?

•How will customers perceive your company brand if you, the owner, are not there?

•Your ‘brand’ and what you stand for must be clear, attractive and resilient.

Step 5: Build & reinforce strong loyalty from customers, suppliers & employees

•We’ve said that transferring your business to new owners can test the commitment of your customers, employees and suppliers. So how can you increase that commitment?

•You could offer customers incremental rebates for future business (maybe a 2-3 year deal), or long-term contracts with customers and suppliers, for example.

•Look at staff loyalty bonuses that are paid if they stay for the next 2-3 years, linked to success and targets.

•Get your management teams closer to customers. Spend time understanding in depth your customers’ worries and their wishes. Lead the process of changes they would like to see.

•Make sure every aspect of your package of products, services, innovations, designs etcare as strong as your customers want.

•Ensure your customers and suppliers are close to the teams that actually deliver that package.

•Show customers a breadth and depth of the talent in your business that is not just yours. Your employees will be motivated by it because they feel valued, and your customers will like the feeling of being able to get answers from a team of well-informed and committed respondents.

Step 6: Make your products & services easy to scale-up and difficult to copy

•A buyer who sees your business as a useful addition to their own range of products and services is bound to ask the question: Do we need to buy a whole company or can we buy key assets and poach some good people?

•Your business is worth a lot more if its operations are very difficult to replicate.

•The key is the uniqueness of your expertise, the appeal of your product and service mix versus your competitors, and the level of product and process innovation. Do you have valuable patents and registered designs? Do you have a large capital base that would be expensive to set up in competition?

•If you’re happy that you’ve done everything to make it hard for existing or new competitors to take business from you, how easy is it to expand your business? A buyer will want to grow what you have.

•A high level of expertise and in-depth knowledge that a bespoke service provider can offer to customers is a good way to command a price premium and keep customers locked in. But scope to expand is restrained by the number of employees with these skill sets.

•If every customer is given its own product or service built around its specific needs, that’s very time-consuming and resource-hungry, and difficult to roll out.

•Providers of bespoke products and services may benefit from exploring a more standardised range of packaged services which are then tailored to customer needs. This can be understood by a sales team with a broader skills base, under careful guidelines for implementation, and therefore expanded much more rapidly.

Step 7: Make sure your management & financial information & reporting is good, complete and reliable

•If you don’t delegate many of your management functions already, doing so is a bit scary, but essential for growth or sale. It’s less scary if you know you are still fully aware and informed of everything that’s going on.

•The key to that is putting in place management & financial information systems that keep you fed with accurate information when you need it.

•If you have empowered your management teams sufficiently to effectively operate the business on a day-to-day basis, this information is vital for them to make good management decisions.

•A key indicator of the business’s dependence on you is to see who is in charge of setting and measuring your company’s key performance indicators.

•A buyer will need to see there is a good history of complete, accurate and reliable information, covering all aspects of the company’s performance.

•It would be helpful to make full audited and consolidated company accounts available to prospective buyers, showing your performance over several years.

Step 8: Run the business as though selling is an option not a necessity

•The ideal selling position is to have numerous potential buyers bidding for your business. If you haven’t, that may show if you don’t have ready answers to the questions other bidders would ask.

•Either way, it’s preferable if you can show that, for you, selling is an option not a necessity.

•It is vital that you demonstrate your ongoing commitment to the business (particularly as you may have to work with or in the business for a period after the sale has gone through).

•Your enthusiasm –or lack of it –will show.

•The buyer(s) will look at whether you have continued to invest in your business, replacing capital items when due. Have you continued with new product development, training, process innovation, updated website and promotional material?

•Continued investment shows a buyer you still believe in the business, so they can too.

Step 9: Tackle problems that may lead to legal disputes or compensation claims later. Make sure you are fully compliant.

•Many business sales fail at a late stage because of lots of seemingly ‘minor’ details which add together to create a higher overall risk for the buyer.

•A higher risk for the buyer means a lower deal price for you.

•The details which come out of the legal & financial due diligence can mean that the deal price you agree in principle early on is lowered later.

•The sorts of items we are talking about here are things left unresolved that could become a compensation claim or legal dispute in future years for the buyer.

•For example, are all your shareholder agreements as they should be? Are you compliant on all legislation such as Health & Safety, the Environment, Data Protection, Copyrights?

•Have you any employee disputes looming or outstanding, or potential claims from customers or the public? Are all your contracts of employment correct and up to date? Are your trading terms & conditions robust?

•Has the business any future pension liabilities or potential claims for unpaid taxes?

•If these can be addressed before putting your business on the market, you are more likely to sell, and less likely to face a warranty claw-back in the future.

Step 10: Make sure first impressions of your business are positive, professional & appealing

•This is step number 10 because ideally you will want to tackle steps 1 to 9 before you meet a potential buyer.

•The very first impression a potential buyer has of your business is critical. That may be existing knowledge, an Information Memorandum sent out by a sale broker, your website, or your first meeting.

•Your website, brochures, office décor, call-handling reception, your operations and your people will all influence that first impression.

•A disorganised and undisciplined operation will show straight away.

•A good atmosphere created by happy and engaged staff will also show straight away.

•‘Window dressing’ will not work. A buyer will study every aspect of your operation. Everything you state or imply must be verifiable. If your business has structural weaknesses, address them as far as you can but be honest about them and disclose them. This will help to build trust and reduce the chances of warranty claims later.

•Buyers are more concerned about unknown quantities, and their valuation will reflect the risks they perceive.

Why you should take the 10-step plan

All 10 steps are easy to talk about but harder to do. They take a lot of time and effort, and you may well need some outside help.

But here are 5 reasons why you should take the 10-step plan:

1.Everything you can do in these areas will add value to your business.
2.You need to if you are planning to sell, or want the option to sell at some future stage.
3.They will ensure you are in good shape if you are approached unexpectedly by a potential buyer.
4.They are helpful if you wish to grow by acquiring other businesses.
5.You will also probably discover a shorter working week and less stress, from the reduced dependency of the business on you.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog - Business Success: The Right People in the Right Places

By Andrew White – Director, Dream Move Relocation

In an age where technological advances are readily affordable to many businesses, employee attraction and retention is even more critical to business success.

Business success is largely dependent on attracting the right people to the right posts and ensuring employee retention once achieved.  To ensure this, businesses need to be creative in both their employee recruitment and retention strategies.

Whilst recruitment can be difficult, it is often employee retention which proves more difficult. The first three months of employment are critical for both the employee and employer, especially in cases where the employee has to relocate.

Employers should be thinking of creative ways to attract and retain the talent required to ensure the business succeeds. Options such as a variation of relocation packages and comprehensive inductions into the business are just a few elements that need to be considered. For those employees who do have to relocate, the relocation package offered by their employer is often a deciding factor in their eventual decision.

As each employee has different needs and circumstances, there are a multitude of elements for employers to consider. From suitable accommodation, transport arrangements and spousal support, each employee relocation has to be tailored to their respective needs.

Whereas some employees may prefer city centre living others may wish to live in the country. Meeting these relocation demands is often difficult for in house HR teams and outsourcing to relocation professionals can have huge benefits.  Just some of the benefits of outsourcing employee relocation are reduced housing costs, improved operational efficiencies and local expertise. In many cases, HR teams struggle to offer this due to their office location and the stressful demands of having a range of other HR responsibilities.

For further details and information relating to the range of relocation services Dream Move Relocation provide, please feel to contact Dream Move Relocation via email at or phone  +44 (0)161 282 5558.