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

Monday, 18 April 2016

Member Blog: 6 tips for making your business presentation more interactive

By Richard Barnes, Founder and Creative Director at Buffalo7

What if we told you that your audience’s attention level will normally plummet within the first ten minutes of your business presentation? That’s a scary thought – especially if your most important messages come later on – but it’s absolutely true according to Prof. John Medina in his book Brain Rules.

The brain needs a break from focusing on one thing. So if you want to keep your audience engaged, you need to be introducing new components that regain and retain their attention.

You can achieve this by making your presentation more interactive; try incorporating some of the following tips into your presentation to keep eyes off smartphone screens and on you.

1) Hook Your Audience In

‘Hooking’ is often used by teachers to generate learners’ interest in a topic by feeding them snippets of information that capture their imagination and precipitates the desire to learn more.

When your presentation arrives at an important part, deliver a hook statement or question that immediately creates interest. Then dive into your content to explain how you arrived at your key conclusions.

2) Always Tell a Story

Stories have always been a huge part of human culture since our earliest beginnings, and for good reason: when listening to a story, multiple parts of the brain are activated, increasing attention and retention.

Stories are much more effective than dull recitations of facts, so give your business presentation a clear narrative structure with a beginning, middle and end. Introduce conflict and provide a powerful resolution that reinforces your key messages.

3) Focus on Visuals 

We’ve all suffered through speakers reading from slides containing 12-point black text against a white background. Don’t be one of those presenters.

Instead, make visuals the forefront of your presentation. Our brains process visual information thousands of times faster than text alone, making it much easier to communicate difficult ideas and concepts using imagery. And support these with smooth, subtle animation that helps your message flow.

4) Involve Your Audience Directly

Getting your audience involved in your presentation makes it interactive in its truest sense.

Ditch the one-way conversation by asking your audience questions, taking live polls, and splitting them into groups to complete short tasks. These kind of activities work especially well with a ‘hook’, enabling your audience to become invested in your topic. You can then discuss audience responses and feed them back into your key presentation points.

5) Try Non-Linear Presenting

It won’t suit every setting – like if your presentation is very focused on a single topic and set of messages – but non-linear presenting can bring with it some distinct advantages.

Instead of putting off questions and promising topics will be covered later, you’ll be able to respond to your audience’s interests and needs in a very immediate and interactive way. Try dividing your presentation content under a few topics and create a PowerPoint navigation that allows you to jump between them – you can then take a more collaborative approach to presenting.

6) Use Body Language to Your Advantage

Non-verbal communication forms an important part of how we construct meaning, but you don’t need politician-style media coaching to make your body language work in service of your presentation.

Simply make things more interesting for your audience using gestures to enhance what you’re saying. For example, use dynamic movements to motivate your audience when delivering key points and calls to action. Or take advantage of calm, deliberate motions to remove barriers and focus attention on specific information. Above all, mix things up to appear natural and credible.

Buffalo7 is the UK’s leading PowerPoint Presentation Design Agency, creating premium presentations for some of the world’s leading brands. Its recent clients include Sony PlayStation, the Guardian, Unilever, Budweiser Budvar and UEFA Champions League.

For more information, visit:

Friday, 8 April 2016

Member Blog: Is content at the heart of your marketing? It should be!

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

I have written previously about website development often having too much focus on design and the look of a site. I believe at least as much focus should be on good content, and once a site is published, the focus on regular, new content marches on....

Marketing needs content - and content can be hard work to produce!

In my experience, lack of content it is the single biggest reason why website projects die before completion. I have even heard of clients paying for websites that never actually get published due to a lack of content!
Is your website at the heart of your marketing?

It is certainly true that good content needs to be the heart of an effective website. Regularly adding new material keeps your site fresh and relevant to your business. Once you have created your content there are great opportunities to leverage your hard work!

The internet, and the wider world, offer numerous options to publish (and re-publish) your work:

Social Media
Guest Blogs
Magazines, both on and off-line

Just like you, social media platforms, external blogs, magazines etc. all need quality content and if you are producing relevant articles, there are often opportunities to get your work published by others. Your work is seen by a wider audience but there is an issue; these external media are all transient. Pretty quickly, your content gets overtaken by new stuff and disappears into the depths of the archives. This is why (IMHO) it is inefficient to write your content purely to be published on a platform where you don't have influence over the flow of new content.

Don't waste your work - always use it first to build your own, managed archive on your website. Your content is then all available for your visitors for as long as you choose.

It is also a great resource when talking to prospective clients. You can link them to relevant articles, case studies etc. reinforcing your credentials and demonstrating how you can help them.

An added bonus

New content also keeps your site fresh and up to date meaning it reflects your business as it is now, not just how it was when you launched your site. Even better, search engines love new content!

Many of you will know I am not a fan of too much focus on 'classical' search engine optimisation but there is no question that regularly adding well written, relevant content to your site can have a significant positive impact on search rankings.

No need to wait for people to find your content

Just because you publish great content on your website doesn't mean people will see it! Let people know what you are up to and invite them to your site.

E-newsletters are a great option to engage with your existing contacts. By linking to content on your website you can keep your e-newsletters short and easy to scan. When a reader clicks from your e-newsletter through to your website, they also have opportunity to take a look around and get to know you better.

A limitation of e-newsletters is that you can only send them to the people you know. This is where social media, guest blogs etc. come into the picture. Your can reach out beyond your own contacts and engage with a wider audience - though you should always try to find an audience where there is a 'fit' with your business.

Simply trying to spread the word to as many people as possible starts to sound like spam!

Top Tips...

Here are my top tips for keeping your website at the heart of your marketing:

1. Be proud of your website. Make sure it tells your story. Want people to visit and browse
2. Regularly write/create new content and always add it to your website
3. Make sure all your content is properly categorised. Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for.
4. Build a network of relevant external publishers and keep delivering quality content to spread your word even wider
5. As always - stick at it!

To finish off, here is a great post from professional services marketing specialist, Ian Brodie, which adds another angle by suggesting that published content can also be effectively integrated with 'performed' content such as seminars and presentations.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Member Blog: Workplace Relationships - What happens if things go wrong?

By Zee Hussain - Partner, Simpson Millar Solicitors LLP

Office relationships often present employers with a headache. It is a sensitive area, and requires the employer to strike a careful balance between respecting the personal affairs of the individuals concerned, and managing any potential issues from a business perspective.

1. Why should employers care about workplace romances?

The mere fact that two employees have a romantic relationship is not an issue for employers – but the potential consequences in the workplace can be a valid concern. One of the employees might be in a management position over the other, creating conflicts of interest. The couple might engage in inappropriate behaviour in the office. And, if the relationship breaks down acrimoniously, it’s possible that the employer might face a claim of sexual harassment by the aggrieved party. Sensible employers will seek to guard against these eventualities.

2. Does a romantic relationship exist?

There is no legal obligation for employees to inform their employer of their office romance; though conscientious employees may decide to do so, many couples will want to keep the fact of the relationship private. There’s nothing to stop employers asking about a suspected relationship, but – in the interests of good workforce relations – this should be done sensitively. For example, employers should avoid quizzing individuals collectively, or being intrusive about the details of the relationship. Overall, the employer will have to take a view on whether or not it is worth raising the subject, bearing in mind the particular circumstances and facts.

3. What action, if any, can the employer take?
Short of introducing a policy on workplace relationships, or requiring the employees to sign a ‘love contract’ (see below), employers are entitled to point out the standard of conduct they expect from their employees. It would be acceptable to remind employees that any personal relationship should not impact on their professional conduct, such as on business trips. For example, the employer is entitled to ask employees to refrain from inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Employers should be wary of taking any form of disciplinary action, unless the employees’ behaviour essentially amounts to misconduct or a breach of contract. If one employee in a couple manages the other, it may be possible for the employer to change reporting lines, or even job functions, to avoid the conflict of interest – though this must be done carefully and with due process.

4. Can an employer ban workplace relationships?

An outright ban on workplace relationships is extremely likely to be seen by the workforce as draconian and excessive. Even if a ban were imposed, and an employee acted in breach of it, the employer may well be acting unreasonably in taking disciplinary action.

5. How about a policy or ‘love contract’?

‘Love contracts’ – agreements where the couple agrees contractually with their employer that the relationship is consensual – are often used in the US, as a guard against sexual harassment claims. They are far less common in the UK, due to the difference in harassment laws. Employers are, however, well advised to introduce a sensible policy on workplace relationships. This should spell out what is expected of such employees. Where an employee breaches the policy, the employer is more likely to be able demonstrate that they have acted reasonably in taking action.

6. What happens if things go wrong?

Where a break-up impacts detrimentally on the workplace environment, employers are entitled to respond – though they should so proportionately, and only after giving due consideration to all available options. Rarely will an employer be able to fairly dismiss an employee following a break-up, unless there are other factors involved – for example, where an employee commits misconduct as a consequence. Where dismissal is an option, this should only follow an appropriate investigation or review process. Employers should always consider practical alternatives, such as redeployment, or negotiating a settlement for departure.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Member Blog: What is trade finance and how can it help your business?

By Vince Tovey - Davenham Trade Finance 

In simple terms, trade finance can benefit any business sourcing goods from overseas, and let’s face it, there is no getting away from the fact that we are a nation of importers and are likely to remain so for some time. Right now it is a cost effective time to be dealing with certain parts of the world, as the cost of freight and the appetite of some overseas manufacturers to work with the UK at very competitive prices has not been this positive for quite some time – especially in the Far East.

Closer to home, there continue to be opportunities with our European neighbours, where the majority of goods imported into the UK originate from, with the added benefit that goods can arrive into the UK within a matter of days (rather than weeks when dealing with farther flung shores). This allows deals to turn quickly and a trade finance facility to be particularly cost effective.

At Davenham Trade Finance, we look to assist such businesses dealing in finished goods with good margins that are required to fulfil a forward order book or are regular lines sold to regular customers. With the increasing difficulty in SMEs obtaining the more traditional types of funding they have previously been able to access, alternative sources of funding, particularly trade finance, have become essential. This is even more prevalent in the much smaller SMEs – from a new start-up to a £2m turnover business – and these are the businesses that we are particularly focused on helping.

So, what are the key triggers that would suggest a trade finance facility might help your business?

A rapidly growing order book requiring an increase in supplier purchases.
Seasonality within a business that causes spikes in the cash flow at certain times of the year or the trading cycle.
Short term cash flow “holes” created by the pressure to make supplier payments.
Winning a one-off deal that is larger than the traditional orders the business writes or bringing on board a significant new customer.

We know that SMEs put a lot of work into winning orders and into attracting new customers, so it is essential that this hard work does not go to waste through an inability to then fulfil these orders, and a trade finance facility can ensure that this is avoided and that orders can be successfully fulfilled. If a business feels it is restricted by the lack of available cash flow or working capital then it is possible a small trade finance facility may provide a solution that will allow the cash flow to become more liquid, helping the business to take on additional orders and therefore eventually increase both its turnover and profits – which is what everybody wants, isn’t it?

After reading this, we hope you have gained a more in-depth understanding of what trade finance is and how it works, and if you believe your business could benefit from a trade finance facility, please get in touch for an initial discussion and to explore whether this may be of benefit to your business.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Member Blog: A Little March Madness

By Andonette Wilkinson - Creative Director at CreativJam Limited

There has been a little March Madness for the team at Manchester Digital Agency, CreativJam. A couple of weeks ago, inside the Rise at Grindsmith Coffee House (incidentally a really great venue) in Manchester, we collaborated with The Business Growth Hub and representatives from Google UK to advise Manchester business owners on their digital marketing strategy.

Although we work with digital marketing across several social media channels, this session along with our guests looked into the whys and whats of Google AdWords. I started the event by explaining why advertising is beneficial to a business, and took everyone on a bit of a journey about Americana, pop culture and the Burma Shave Company as an example of why we need to move with advertising trends.

Back in those days signs along the road were a great way to advertise and even capture their ideal audience for their shaving product. Disruption came via the interstate and faster vehicles, and by the time the second world war ended, the signs had all but disappeared and the company vanished into obscurity, being swallowed up by one of its competitors.

Today the disruption is digital and more recently the huge trend towards mobile. 2014 was the year that mobile browsing surpassed desktop. In 2015, 74% of UK consumers owned a smartphone and used it to shop. 40% of us went to a competitor if the site was not mobile friendly. With trends like these, it makes sense that savvy business owners everywhere are turning to digital to make sure they don't get left behind.

Google continued the session by explaining their range of marketing products. Most of us are familiar with the search ads we all see when we type in a Google search, but what about the display network? What about re-marketing? YouTube? GMail Ads? These are all things many businesses have not considered. Many look at ways to find new clients without consideration of the ones right under their noses, and are unaware of the power of re-marketing, which, in layman's terms is using your existing company data, whether that be your client list, your mailing list or visitors to your website, and making it work for you.

I then demonstrated comparatively how little digital advertising can cost in comparison to traditional and offline forms of advertising, and just how measurable the process is. Imagine if like the almost all male drivers down American Highways of the Burma Shave era, you knew that all the passing traffic to you were your exact target audience? Not only can we do that today, but we can tell, from hobo to hipster, whether said male is likely to want to groom his beard or not!

If you would like to know more about how Google and CreativJam can help grow your brand then you can call us on 01706 507267 or email

Friday, 18 March 2016

Member Blog: What does 2016 have in store for private equity?

By Syd Hussain, PwC's North West private equity leader
2015 was a great year for private equity, with a number of high profile exits and investments across the region. Exit activity in particular, was strong, driven by an active IPO market, good overseas investor appetite and plenty of private equity dry powder to put to work. We saw some headline grabbing floats such as Auto Trader and On The Beach here in the North West.

From an investment perspective, the market remains highly competitive, with demand for quality assets outstripping supply, contributing to high investment multiples. Arguably, TDR’s investment in Euro Garages was the stand-out transaction in 2015. So what does 2016 have in store for private equity?

Given the present political, economic and market uncertainty, predictions are challenging - I doubt many of us saw oil prices falling to $30 barrel 12 months ago. Despite this, 2016 has started promisingly with a number of hotly contested processes; the supply of private equity capital remains strong reflecting both new entrants and excellent fund raising by a number of our regional private equity houses.

Moreover, we are also seeing alternative finance providers establishing themselves in the North West, together with London based debt funds, increasing their focus on our region as they look to support midmarket businesses. There remains a very strong appetite to do deals and overall I remain positive about UK and North West growth.

Undoubtedly, it may continue to feel like a seller’s market, which could make private equity more cautious on the prices being sought and the processes being run.

In addition, the private equity landscape is changing, regulatory pressure, calls for further transparency, and increased competition means that private equity funds may cast their net wider to find untapped sources of value; increased emphasis on deal origination may be required to find those offmarket gems.

The North West is home to a number of leading private equity houses, which should be celebrated. That’s why we are including private equity supported companies in this year’s UK Private Business Awards.

Private businesses are the foundation of the British economy, and indeed the North West has a great reputation for entrepreneurship, and these awards give them the opportunity to share their successes and gain recognition for their innovative work on a national stage, and pitch themselves rightly alongside some of the UK’s leading brands.

PwC has an established Private Equity Group that brings together a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to serving private equity and their portfolio companies. The Group has a proven track including recently supporting transactions involving Euro Garages, Travel Counsellors, Mobica, Sambro and On the Beach. Our advice covers fund structuring, through to deal origination, deal execution and post deal services.

We work with our private equity clients to help them to refinance and exit from their investments. Our taxation advice fund inception and ongoing compliance includes tax due diligence, structuring and exit planning.

PwC is uniquely placed to provide a partnership across the private equity lifecycle.

For more information about how our team of specialists can help you, or details on the Private Business Awards, please contact me on /0771 406 4876.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Member Blog: A tale of 2 trains (of thought about marketing!)

By David Wright - BSA Marketing
I don’t know whether you saw this video that was posted on YouTube then rapidly went viral.

Steam enthusiast Ryan Allen had positioned himself in (he thought!) the ideal spot to get close up video of the iconic Flying Scotsman on its first inter-city run in 10 years – then it happened – thank you Virgin Trains!

Hopefully he saw the funny side…..

But what about the marketing?

This story neatly demonstrates 2 different marketing approaches:

1. The instant-win quick fix

Undoubtedly Mr Allen wanted the video for his own interest rather than having any commercial motive; however, the fact that he got the movie he did and then published it on line, means it went viral, got picked up by national news and so caught the attention of Virgin Trains themselves.

Feeling a little sorry for Mr Allen, they have generously offered him 2 return flights to New York.
Not a bad quick return but next time he wants to fly to the States I’m not sure he will be so lucky – he is back at square one!

Many SME businesses see marketing as a direct extension of their sales process. Whenever they do anything they focus on a quick win so tend to be more interested in short term results rather than any longer term benefit.

As a consequence, while they may get some immediate sales, there is little or no longer term benefit. Next time they are looking for business, they have to start again and hope that their next ‘campaign’ produces more results.

2. Making the most of opportunities for long term engagement – Real Marketing?

OK, Virgin is a big and successful brand but as soon as they got wind of the Virgin east Coast photobomb, their marketing operation swung into action with Sir Richard Branson being interviewed on the BBC News making the offer of the free transatlantic flights which, while having great value to Ryan Allen, will cost Virgin virtually nothing to deliver yet the goodwill shown by the company is a great reinforcement of their brand values. Even the likes of me are writing about it!

My guess is that Virgin aren’t going to see a spike in bookings on either trains or planes as a result of this story so there isn’t much of a quick-win sales hike – but I suggest the benefit in terms of ongoing promotion and support of one of the strongest brands in the UK is significant – and at remarkably little cost to the company.

And my point is….

In my experience, most SME marketing looks for short term sales results. Money and resources are put into campaigns that often don’t deliver quite as much as the business owner might have wished.

If a little more focus was given to building longer term engagement with a market, awareness of a company and its brand values and propositions will grow creating ever more likelihood that when a potential customer has a need they will think of that company first – the sales will come!

Even better, in terms of overall sales and marketing budgets, additional focus on market engagement, making the most of skills and resources already available in a company, can normally be achieved at a remarkably modest cost in terms of time or money.

It just takes a bit of commitment and anyone can do it.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Member Blog: Why are record-low interest rates still here?

The end of record-low interest rates is becoming a bit like TV series, Walking Dead, in the way that every time that we think it’s coming to an end, something happens to keep it going.
Lisa Berrido of Mortgage Advice Bureau explains:

After spending most of last year claiming that the Bank of England is preparing for a rate rise in the early months of 2016, experts are now saying that rates will continue to remain low well into 2017.

Every month, nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meet up and vote on whether to increase the Rate, and this month they voted 9-0 to keep it at its record-low of 0.5%.

Why the sudden change in opinion?

There are numerous factors but one of the main ones is the current price of oil as, following last year’s trends, it has continued to slump, meaning that it is costing you less to do things like heat homes, drive cars or buy goods, and all of this means that inflation sits at just 0.2%, way below the government’s, admittedly loose target, of 2%.

And there lies the reason for the opinion shift - inflation.

Why does inflation affect interest rates?

It’s a simple cause and effect relationship.

The government classes 2% as a healthy target – low enough to encourage spending but high enough for businesses to continue to make money. Sounds like a happy medium, right?

However, last year, we fell into minus figures (-0.1%) for the first time in 55 years, and to try and boost inflation, economists predicted that the government would increase rates to encourage consumer spending.

Why would increasing rates encourage me to spend money?

We fell into minus figures, known as deflation, because people were spending less. Think of this analogy: you go to your local superstore to see that a new TV is £300 and realise that it was £350 the month before. Because of this, you decide to leave the TV, in anticipation that it will go down again next month.

Now apply this to a wider scale in terms of weekly shopping across the country and you’ll see how people not spending could cause problems for the economy.

To rectify this, increasing rates encourages buyers to buy because they want to get their goods before they get too expensive.

So why didn’t they just put the rates up?

There was a huge chain reaction. The price of gold in China plummeted and their stock markets suffered a sudden blip in the ‘Black Monday’ incident, oil prices suddenly slumped in Russia and the Eurozone was extremely delicate due to the ongoing Euro debt crisis.

The global economy suddenly became extremely fragile overnight and increasing interest rates in such a hostile environment would have been a very risky move – and still is to this day.

What does this all mean for my mortgage?

For the time being, mortgage rates will continue to remain at their record lows, and if you are considering remortgaging or getting a mortgage, now could be the time to do it before the economy outlook changes again.

However, if there’s anything that this story shows it’s that, unlike Walking Dead, the economy is extremely unpredictable so contacting a professional mortgage adviser to guide you through your next steps is extremely important.

Lisa Berrido is Business Principal from Mortgage Advice Bureau – for further information please call: 01942 526228, email: or visit:

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Member Blog: This as a Service (TaaS), What as a Service (WaaS)???

By Craig Robinson - Director, Cloud53

It seems in IT everything is as a Service (aaS) yet given the amount of questions we at Cloud53 receive about this element of managed services, clearly it is a much misunderstood way of doing things to those non IT people.

The diagram below should hopefully make this much simpler to understand using something as a service that we all understand:

If interested in any IT services as a Service (aaS) then please do give Cloud53 a call.
Visit Cloud53: 
Call Cloud53: 0845 557 8687
Follow Cloud53:  @cloud53ltd

There is a 10% discount for all Chamber members on Cloud53 services.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

EU Referendum: Round the table with the 'In' crowd

The third in a series of blogs on the EU Referendum - By Alex Davies, Research Analyst at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
With the news today that British officials have entered the final phase of negotiations to reform the UK’s relationship with EU, an early referendum date is looking more and more likely. June 23rd is the date hot on everybody’s lips, and will become an even safer bet if Mr Cameron is successful in sealing the deal at this weekend’s European Summit in Brussels.  It seems apt then, that this week saw the Chamber’s engagement with this issue become more active, as we hosted the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign (BSIE) for a round-table discussion with our members. Headed by former CEO of Marks and Spencer’s, Lord Stuart Rose, BSIE is currently pushing to become the officially recognised “In” campaign, and this week launched their campaign across the North of England.

BSIE outlines three key areas in which they feel we benefit from being an EU member: the economy, security and influence. They make their view very clear that the best outcome is for the UK to remain a member of a reformed EU. The worthiness and intentions of the proposed reforms was the first point of slight contention in an otherwise uncharacteristically civilised discussion, given the topic. The main concerns seemed to be around the general public’s views rather than that of business, and about how the campaign plans to engage with those for whom the sticking points in the debate may seem to have little relevance in day-to-day life.

Overall, there was an obvious pro-Europe air in the room. This was perhaps to be expected, as a recent poll of members by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) showed that 60% of senior business people surveyed would vote to remain. 34% said they would reconsider based on the Prime Minister's reform negotiations, but it was the nature of the discussion after turning to the tactics of the “leave” side that was perhaps most indicative of the failures within the wider debate.

BSIE have the advantage of supporting the status quo, and are opposing a number of squabbling “leave” campaigns that share no unified voice. All the “remain” campaigns have to do is show that the prospect of leaving the EU is a risk, that it entails uncertainty, which at this point is no effort at all. Many options would be available to us should we leave, so people inevitably want to leave for a multitude of different reasons and wish to achieve a multitude of different things if we do so. Bundling this wide array of potential economic and political pathways under the “NO” on the ballot paper could be viewed as counterproductive if we are really striving to have a serious and fair discussion. There cannot be a unified voice within the “leave” campaigns or the “leave” side of the public simply because one does not exist. We will hopefully soon know exactly what a vote to remain is a vote for, this won’t happen for their opposition (If we leave we would have a pro-EU Prime Minister and government involved in the negotiating – a bizarre thought), so the temperament of the business community is unsurprising and entirely reasonable. It is tough to imagine that 34% of them will see anything significant enough to be swayed. This does mean however, that as and when we can arrange one, a similar event with a “leave” campaign should be quite exciting, and seeing both sides in the same room at this year’s BCC conference should not be missed.

Are you interested in us doing more events similar to this? Do you plan to engage your workforce concerning the referendum? Still unable to make up your mind? Get in touch!