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

Monday, 20 April 2015

Member Blog: The importance of compliance with new waste regulations

Mick Ashall, Director at B&M Waste Services, warns Greater Manchester Chamber members of the importance of compliance with new waste regulations.

At B&M Waste Services, we are continually working to ensure the service we offer is at the cutting edge. 2014 saw the introduction of our new Refuse Derived Fuel facility, furthering our commitment to zero waste to landfill by generating energy from residual waste.

Our ethos is to always ensure that both cost efficiencies and the environment are at the forefront.

New legislation came into effect on 1st January 2015 whereby all businesses operating in the UK are required to introduce separate collections of recyclables (paper and card, metals, glass and plastic) when ‘technically, environmentally and economically practical’ (TEEP)*

The underlying principle of TEEP is to improve the quality of recyclable materials to continue to develop the resource recovery sector and progress the principles of a circular economy.

B&M already offer separate collections of paper, card, metal, glass, plastics and food in compliance with the waste hierarchy.

Our highly trained waste auditors can assess your waste, checking for both non-conforming items to ensure you do not breach your Duty of Care, and also looking for items that may be recoverable.
TEEP applies to all commercial businesses and at B&M, we are here to help you comply with this regulation.

Is it Technically Practicable? For example, you may have limited room for waste and recycling containers, therefore a mixed recycling container (of paper, card and plastic film) may be all that can be accommodated.

Is it Environmentally Practicable? Is there an added positive environmental benefit? An example: if you have a small amount of plastic bottles that are not separated at the moment but could be in a separate container, this would give a recycling benefit. However, this could be at the expense of virgin materials being used in making more containers and the fuel to undertake the separate collections. Therefore, the benefits need to be weighed up carefully.

Is it Economically Practicable? Would the segregation result in an excessive cost in comparison to a non-separated waste stream? There is normally a benefit in terms of cost per tonne on most recyclables over a general waste stream. However, this should be balanced against the cost of more containers and separate collection costs (i.e. fuel and wages).

Please bear in mind, this is not the kind of recycling you do at home. A lot of customers may have small volumes of canteen waste (e.g. yogurt pots, empty food tins) but often, these do not make up a substantial enough volume to pass any of the three tests noted above.

This is a general introduction to TEEP. If you feel that your waste streams, or type of waste, may warrant an audit please contact us on 0808 100 2434 or visit What’s more we aim to reduce your current waste bill by up to 10% if you decide to switch to B&M waste services for your business’ waste management.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Member Blog - Return On Investment: Still alive and well in events!

By Barry McTierney – Right Events

Events have played a key role in communications strategies, both internal and external, across virtually every facet of industry. Whether it be an exhibition, client focused incentive or a company sales conference; events have still delivered significant return on investment – when done right…

This seems fairly obvious, but the ROI associated with events has come under considerable scrutiny in recent years with the value of events to organisations being questioned. But the ability to generate revenue and engage staff and clients still lies at the heart of good communication and a well-developed event strategy can deliver results that are, not just tangible, but also rarely achievable through any other medium.

The principle concerns when considering your event ROI should not just centre on the cost of the events themselves, however, yes; events can come with a significant price tag, but the mistake is to assume that a high spend will achieve the results you require. With this in mind it is invaluable to consider the core message you wish to communicate and the goals you expect to achieve from running your events.

The mistake is to consider the event “delivery” without actually understanding what it is you want from the event itself. When you can outsource the delivery, take the time to consider what YOU as an organisation want achieve from your events. What is the goal, what do you want to communicate and what do you, inevitably want to achieve.

It is this consideration that should be taken into every company events strategy; whether it be an outward-facing client event or your staff Christmas party. The content, the image, the feel and outcome are important; not how much you spend (no matter how little), or how many meetings you had to get there.

Making your events pay for you and your organisation relies on a number of delivery methods as well as understanding and managing your expectations.

Events really can be the way forward for your communication needs but make sure you do them Right and with the Right people.

Barry McTierney
Right Events Ltd
t:  +44 (0) 7739 002 958

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Member Blog: Top ten tips for getting to grips with intellectual property

By Laura T West, Trade Mark Attorney at Mathys & Squire Intellectual Property

Getting a handle on intellectual property can avoid costly problems and deliver long-term financial benefits to your business. Here are my top ten tips on getting to grips with intellectual property:

1. Think of your intellectual property  as a business asset

Intellectual property is an important but usually underrated business tool.  It can be what differentiates your business proposition, why your customers buy from you, and how they recognise you. Intellectual property is an asset that can be bought, sold, traded or potentially borrowed against.

2. Take professional advice

Whether your business is just starting out or is growing and successful, cost-cutting is always a temptation, but usually a false economy. Taking advice from an IP expert will ensure your intellectual property is properly protected.  A good IP expert will also advise you on what not to invest in and why.

3. Keep your ideas to yourself

Think of your intellectual property as valuable secrets. The more people know about your ideas, the more difficult it becomes to prove who owns them. Secrecy is particularly important for inventions, as they can only be patented if there is no evidence of it already existing in the public domain or having been disclosed.

4. Do your research

There are a number of Government initiatives related to intellectual property that offer businesses funding, free advice and tax breaks, so a little research could go a long way.

5. Protect your identity

Many businesses mistakenly believe that because their business is registered at Companies House, they alone have the right to use all or part of that name as a brand.  Others think that as their business is small, or not related to consumer products, they do not require trade mark protection. Without a registered trade mark, it is possible for someone else to register your company name (or something similar) and take legal action against you for using it.

6. Don’t buy a lemon

When putting together a business deal, such as a merger or acquisition, most businesses scrutinise the physical assets of a company, but take intellectual property at face value. Get professional advice to clarify the validity, value and ownership of all intellectual property, so that its impact on the deal can be established.

7. Think global

Intellectual property rights are territorial, so if your business is expanding (or is likely to expand) its operation overseas, protection must be sought in all territories that form part of the international strategy.  If you are looking to export or import, conduct searches beforehand as the rights to your brand may already belong to someone else and you may be infringing other IP overseas.

8. Check the small print

Businesses will often outsource work that is not part of their core function, such as research and development or design work, but many do not check the small print regarding intellectual property on contracts.  Savvy sub-contractors will often state that they own the rights to any intellectual property they develop/create, and charge a licensing fee to the business that commissioned the work.

9. Treat all ideas (even the bad ones) as valuable

One person’s trash is another’s treasure, as they say.  Many ideas that end up ‘on the cutting room floor’ have value, perhaps in another sector or with a different application, but are often discarded during the development process.  An independent third party (particularly an experienced IP expert) may be able to identify value in rejected material that can be sold or licensed to others.

10. Spread the word

Mistakes regarding intellectual property are usually made through ignorance than by conscious decision. Businesses should educate their staff regarding brand protection and provide them with clear processes to avoid disclosing or discarding valuable ideas.

For more information contact:

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Member Blog: The social media journey that just keeps on giving

By Dylan Moore - Aqua Design Group
Going back to the start of my experience on social media I was more used to LinkedIn and never thought of Twitter as a tool for the business. Thanks to a conversation with a client, the fantastic Becs McNeill @becsmcneill, instilling some insight during a 1-2-1, I created a profile and went from there. Bit of a rocky start but these things take a bit of time. When the journey gets interesting was a year plus in - I was at a healthy 1,200 followers and heard about Theo Paphitis #SBS (Small Business Sunday), so decided to join in.

Many tweets and over four months later, I won on the 16th October 2011; email went on meltdown for a night and the week was spent responding and spending as much time getting to know those that had followed, fellow winners and lots of new glorious contacts. I'm a firm believer in grabbing opportunities and one win led to another and more time on Twitter led to getting to know more fellow winners. I saw that a few winners were offering #SBS badges to winners and thought I might offer an alternative.

The #SBS benefits started happening shortly after the new year in 2012, when a fellow winner wanted to talk about a re-brand and stationery. Others contacted me based on seeing my award badge styles and a few just wanted to chat. All benefits as it's not just about direct business where the business has come, it's come from fellow winners referring and pointing people towards me.

So my advice to anyone taking part in the variety of Twitter competitions is simple: be a business and not a 'diva'! Follow back all those that have spent time to do the same, communicate, get to know them and the benefits will come and might bring some unexpected surprises too.

The business has been fortunate to network with a variety of different businesses both in the UK and across the world, which has resulted in work from overseas. Being involved with a variety of other competitions and networking on Twitter has resulted in a variety of different award badges which bring daily exposure to the business.

Inspired by the activity on Twitter the business designed a range of #TwitterGeek and #TwitterGeekette graphics and promotional items, which in itself has opened some very interesting doors, and on a Sunday during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II, the business decided to start its own Twitter competition (started as a bit of fun and has grown from there). That has proven to be royally fruitful for both the business and the competition entrants.

The results of the #SBS win and other social media activity have been the following: being introduced to new contacts, some of which have become good friends and other clients; increased my Twitter followers which are now over 23,000 over the 3 business accounts; passed over 100k tweets; had the opportunity of working on internal communications projects for Ryman Stationery; general awareness of the business on social media has grown; moved in to an office and the business' website SEO has gone through the roof.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Member Blog: Energy Solutions for Business

By Ciara Taberner - Managing Director, Taberner Consultancy Company Ltd

We all look for ways to save money within our businesses but somehow energy saving does not seem to feature high in cost reduction programmes in UK business.

Studies have recently shown that a further £1.6 BILLION collective business savings could be made on energy bills through greater energy efficiency. Going Green is no longer seen as an overhead and businesses are increasingly realising that it’s now a way to make a profit.

“Making your business green is now a way to make profit"
There are lots of simple and cost effective ways your business can save money by reducing your energy consumption. Below are some of the examples; this is not an exhaustive list by any means but I hope some of this information will help you realise some of the potential savings that can be made by making a few changes.

“An industry building could be losing approximately 60% if its heat through the building fabric”

Payback Period

All energy efficiency improvements have an average payback period which is given in years. The payback period is a calculation worked out by taking the total cost of any improvements and dividing it by the estimated annual bill savings for that improvement.

The cost of installing any improvements will vary on any quotes you may receive, as an installer will tailor the quote to meet the needs for your particular building and every building is slightly different. As with any other business expenses, it is always worth shopping around for a few quotes to ensure best value.

You will receive information on your payback period within your energy assessment.

“Payback periods can be less than a year for some energy efficiency improvements”

Solar PV

There are lots of models on the market to help you install a Solar PV system for your building/s. The first and most important thing to understand is: Does my building face in the right direction? Simply get outside your building with a compass! Most smart phones have a compass on there or you could download a compass app onto your phone.

If one side of your building is South, South East, South West it is more than likely to be suitable for Solar. That is your starting point. There are other factors to take into account like the pitch of your roof, shading, your roof type and size, but that this is something that can be looked at during a survey.

There are two options available for Solar PV:

Fully funded model where the system is paid for by an installing company/investor
Purchase the system outright

These will depend on your own business circumstance but my advice from here would be to get a survey completed and ask the provider to detail out the different options that are available. Remember, not every company will be able to provide a paid and funded model so shop around to find the right solution for you.  

Fully installed and maintained system

This would consist of the panels being installed and maintained for 20/25 years free of charge and your company gets the savings on your electricity bill. The provider/investor would get the Feed in Tariff and they would make the profit out of the Feed in Tariff giving them a return on their investment over the agreed period. Savings on your electricity bill will depend on your roof orientation and size.

Purchase the system outright 

The alternative is you pay for the system up front and your business gets the reduction on the electricity bill and the return on investment from the Feed in Tariff

What is the Feed in Tariff? 

Feed-in tariffs (FiTs) make the business case for installing renewable energy for electricity generation more attractive. They were introduced to encourage the use of small scale electricity generation from renewables to help meet the Government's renewable energy generation targets.

The Feed in Tariff (FIT) provides three financial benefits for your business:

1. If you generate your own renewable electricity you are paid for the electricity you produce and the excess exported to the grid, you also don't have to buy as much electricity from a supplier.

2. A generation tariff pays for every kWh of electricity generated. The level of the tariff depends on the type and size of technology used, and when it was installed. You are "locked into" the tariff level that is current when the equipment is installed for the life of the installation or the life of the tariff (10 - 25 years).

3. An export tariff pays for any electricity exported to the grid. You can either accept a flat rate or try to negotiate a better rate with your electricity supplier.

To recap…. when you have the system installed for free you get the savings on your bill and the investor gets the Feed in Tariff.

When you pay for the system yourself – you get the savings plus the Feed in Tariff. As you have paid for the system up front it will take a few years for you to move into profit but once that original is paid off you will start to see your return on investment. How quickly you will start to see that return will depend on a number of factors such as the size and orientation of your roof but you will make a return on your investment!

I am not suggesting you take that option. It is obvious that for some businesses the free model will work better and you will still be receiving the big savings on your energy bill therefore whatever model you choose, if your roof is suitable, I would still encourage you to install as many energy saving technologies as you can.


I would encourage you to have a survey completed on your property to establish if your property is suitable for any kind of insulation measures such as solid wall insulation, cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, flat roof insulation.

Most of these measures are relatively low cost and provide huge bill savings.

LED Lighting

Again another simple, low cost solution that can save approximately two thirds of the cost of your lighting bills! Payback periods are normally as low as one year.

Other Energy Saving Tips and Advice 

Make sure your boiler is regularly serviced; every 12 months is a must to ensure it's working effectively and efficiently.
Draught Proofing - do the one pence test. If a one pence coin can slide between a window and its frame, draught proofing will be cost effective.
Draught proofing doors
If you do need to replace your boiler make sure you use a GASSAFE registered installer. Shop around for quotes and ensure your installer sizes the boiler correctly for your building size, usage and radiator numbers.
Keep windows and skylights clean to maximise daylight
Add loft insulation to any uninsulated roof space
Check internal wall insulation and consider upgrading
Take advantage of any refurbishment work to make energy saving improvements
Get online and check out British Board of Agrément Website. You can check your insulation installer on here to ensure they are accredited to install the different materials  
It is also good to check the National Insulation Association website. There is a public area where you can check out your installer.  It really important to select a good company as incorrect installation can lead to problems in the building later on:

What next?

Get an EPC or ESOS assessment completed on your property to establish which technologies are best for your building.  It’s important to choose a suitably qualified individual who can look at your building and advise the best possible ways for your business to save money and reduce energy consumption.  Make sure this is someone independent.

You should ask them to produce a report on your business, along with which technologies would be best suited to your building, payback periods on each measure and your energy usage.

Ask them to include an analysis on your gas and electricity tariff to see if you can make any savings on that too. You will then need quotations/funded models for each of the measures and you can make an informed decision the next course of actions.  You might decide to get one company or various companies to do this. Make sure you get a few quotes from different suppliers.

If you are a large undertaking you must carry out an ESOS assessment every four years. ESOS is the Energy Savings Opportunities scheme. ESOS is a mandatory energy assessment scheme for organisations in the UK that meet the qualification criteria. These assessments are audits of the energy used by their buildings, industrial processes and transport to identify cost-effective energy saving measures.

A large undertaking is an organisation that carries out a trade or business which either:

employs at least 250 people
employs less than 250 people but has an annual turnover in excess of 50 million euro (£38,937,777), and an annual balance sheet total in excess of 43 million euro (£33,486,489)

Helpful Links:

Contact Ciara at Taberner Consultancy Consultancy Ltd via

Friday, 6 March 2015

Member Blog: It is all About Building Your Brand

By David Wright, a Director at B2B marketing communication specialists BSA Marketing 

A number of things have conspired over the last week or so to make me think carefully about what digital marketing is all about, and the realities of SME marketing and growth in the digital age.

What got me thinking were discussions with three clients (all SMEs) about our work with them.

Each is focusing on a different priority:

  • Leads and short term business development
  • Analytics and measurement
  • Brand, and tone of voice in communications

Since the 1980s I have worked in marketing in both the corporate and SME worlds, through the birth and growth of the digital marketing age.

In my experience, corporates (successful ones at least) focus on building the brand, whilst SMEs tend to focus on generating leads and short term business development.

Perhaps this is not too surprising as traditionally, building the brand has been an expensive process that is beyond the resources of smaller companies, whilst taking the short term approach, many SMEs are able to build a reasonably successful and profitable business - up to a point.

However, to see real success and growth, maybe companies need to look longer term and think more about building their brand.

I believe this is where the real potential of digital marketing lies for SMEs.

Looking at how digital marketing services are often sold and it’s too often about the short term:

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Google/Social Media Advertising
  • Website Conversion Optimisation
  • Optimistation of the sales funnel

These are all sold (by some web marketers) as “magic wands”. They can be relatively easy to sell as they seem to offer highly measurable, short term benefits. However in my experience, they too often disappoint!

Now don’t get me wrong, they are all potentially vital elements of successful marketing programmes, but my suggestion is that by focusing on them as the ultimate goal you are focusing on the wrong thing.

Let’s face it, all really successful companies have one thing in common. They have a strong brand, and marketing is focused on maintaining and developing that brand as a platform. By telling their story in a way that is relevant and attractive to their target market, people see the benefit they can get so do business with them and, assuming their business model is sound, sales and profitability tend to follow. Within this context the elements described above become tools in the process of building a brand in a planned and measured way. But the ultimate goal is the development of the brand, not the optimisation of individual metrics.

“That’s great in the resource rich corporate world” I hear you say, “But how does that relate to me?”

I would suggest that through digital marketing, every micro and SME business now has the potential to build a brand and to deliver the successes associated with this that used to be only accessible to large, rich corporations. But by focusing on the short rather than long term they are missing out on this opportunity.

Let’s look at the process of building a brand. I see it as a simple four step process:

1. Understand what your business is about, and the value that you offer

2. Understand your market and how they will perceive this value

3. Use this to build your brand story

4. Engage with your market to tell your story using the tools offered by the digital age

I accept this is easy to say, but slightly more difficult to bring to reality!

Even so, developing a strong brand is well within the capacity of most business owners, and ultimately can deliver! However it does require a shift in mindset and the willingness and resources to commit to investing (and yes, it is an investment) in marketing communication.

The digital marketing tools now available mean that your investment need not be substantial, is not always purely financial, and is well within the reach of most micro and SME businesses.

BSA Marketing specialises in supporting businesses through this process, and helping clients to build their brand using digital marketing. Furthermore, we can access financial support to assist SME businesses who would like to explore the process of brand building as a route to profitable growth.

If this has inspired you to rethink you marketing and want to explore the possibilities, for your business, we would love to talk to you. Email 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Member Blog: How can an apprentice benefit your business?

By Adrian Bird - The Apprentice Finder

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week in the UK, so now is a good time to take a look at apprenticeships and how they could benefit your business in time for the summer influx of candidates seeking apprenticeship positions.

First of all, let's get the basics out of the way. The Oxford Dictionary definition of an apprentice is: A person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.

Breaking the definition down, the wage needs to be at least £2.73 per hour, the work needs to be for at least 30 hours per week (therefore classified as full-time) for a minimum of 12 months. Most industries have a form of structured apprenticeship scheme to offer these days so it is a viable way for businesses to introduce entry-level employees into their workforce and should see apprenticeships as part of a structured long-term succession plan to ensure that they have the skills needed within their organisation. Apprenticeships shouldn't be seen either as a short-term fix or a low-cost solution. To be effective, you need to ensure you have the resource to support, mentor and train your apprentice(s) so they go on to be successful for your business.

Apprenticeships were often seen as a second-class option for many educators, offered only to those who didn't have the capability to enter higher education. This is no longer the case. Professional organisations such as accountants, schools and solicitors are now turning to apprenticeships because many able young people are being put off by the high cost of attending University (the average debt a graduate can expect currently stands at £44,000). The benefit for the young person is clear, but what about the employer? Well, it gives the employer the chance to recruit someone with graduate potential before they want to command the graduate salary. They can mould the apprentice into the type of employee they're looking for at an age when people are at their most impressionable. Many employers will then subsidise and support their apprentice through higher levels of learning when it's appropriate because by that stage they know that they have a staff member worth investing in.

In some instances, apprenticeships can offer the same learning as a degree can. Take Digital Media for instance. I was recently discussing and comparing what apprentices learned on the Level 3 apprenticeship as opposed to a degree in the subject with a University lecturer. His response to me was: “If they learn how to update web pages, optimise them, write blog articles and manage social media accounts there's not much point in sending them to us as that's what we teach them.”

In order to recruit an apprentice, there are several paths an employer can take. Local further education colleges are one option, as are the wide range of private training providers that deliver the training. You might find that the ideal candidate makes a personal introduction or you could also use a specialist apprentice broker/ recruitment service such as ourselves to help you. Typically there won't be a recruitment fee to pay as the Skills Funding Agency factor recruitment costs into the funding amounts issued to the providers.

In order to give yourself the opportunity to find the most suitable candidate, as an employer you should expect the process to take a couple of months from start to finish. It might be that the agency you work with already has the talent you're looking for on their books. If so, the time frame will be shorter. At this time of year candidates that are still at school or college start making enquiries. Often these are the strongest candidates as they are working pro-actively to ensure they have their next step arranged before they tackle their exams in May and June.

If you think that apprenticeships could benefit your business, why not book an initial consultation with The Apprentice Finder? They work with a range of providers in the area to make apprenticeships happen. You can contact them on 08001444022 or by sending an email to:  

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.

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.

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.