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

Friday, 18 December 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Matthew Goldsbrough


Goldsbrough Consulting


Getting Ready for 2010

I don't think I'm alone in looking forward to 2010, and wanting to see 2009 disappear rapidly in my rear-view mirror. It's been a tough year for most, and a new year brings new hopes. But if we're not realistic about how to begin that New Year, we'll not be able to make the most of what it could bring.

The Christmas holiday period is not only a time to enjoy time with friends and family, it's also a time to reflect on the year past and think about what may follow. I'd like to dispel some false notions that we commonly have at this time of year: I think of them as 'The Business Myths of Christmas'.

'It's a short interruption in my business'

While your place of work may only close for a few days, in truth you and your colleagues have been distracted in the weeks beforehand, and won't instantly and automatically re-engage when you get back to work in January. To ensure that everyone gets back into the swing as early as possible, it's a good idea to plan some activity in the first week of January that will refocus everyone on the goals for the year ahead, and get the energy level in your business back up to where it should be.

'It's a happy time'

While most people will enjoy the Christmas holiday, there'll be some who won't. Because a year is ending, people get reflective, and consider their future. I have known many good people return to work in January with a resignation letter in their hands, because they'd reconsidered what they should be doing while they were away. That can be extremely damaging, if you lose a valued colleague at short notice. Are you doing all you can to look after your valued people? Are there pressures on them that will make their Christmas break a time of stress, rather than fun? Can you alleviate the pressure?

'I'll have time over Christmas to plan'

It's a cosy image, spending some quality thinking time by the fireside with a mince pie and a glass of sherry. But it doesn't work like that, does it? You'll be frantically engaged in all sorts of activities that will give you no time to reflect constructively on what your business should do next year. So don't try. Go and relax properly instead. If you haven't already got a crystal clear plan for 2010, ensure that your planning is scheduled to happen in early January. And make sure that everyone you need to involve in the exercise – whether internal or external – has it on their calendar and knows what will be needed from them.

'It's not worth doing X until at least the third week of January'

In this case, X can be marketing, customer surveys, new product development, or just about any other activity. Allegedly, people won't read and respond to a marketing campaign in early January, for example. I know this to be untrue: in fact, I've organised some very effective marketing in that 'quiet time'. So why waste 6% of your year by not being active in those first three weeks? Of course, you'll need to have planned that activity before the Christmas break. In business, it's all about being ahead of the other guys – being faster off the block, more active, more alive.

'December was a surprisingly bad month'

While B2C revenues can be peaking in December, B2B revenues can be down against plan. I've lost count of the salespeople who've said 'I had a bad month because I couldn't get hold of the decision makers'. What this really points to is poor planning for the entire year. Well, surprise, surprise, Christmas is going to happen in December again next year too. And your potential customers will be distracted again. When you can predict seasonal effects on your business with complete clarity, they should be laid into the plan. If not, you start January in recovery mode, trying to get over the 'shock' result in December.

A final thought

In encouraging you to be realistic about how you plan and operate your business in the New Year, I'd also like you to do one other thing. If you're still standing at the end of 2009, still providing value to your customers, still enjoying what you do, and you're excited by what 2010 can hold, do this: give yourself a very big pat on the back.


About the Author

Since setting up Goldsbrough Consulting in 2003, Matthew Goldsbrough has helped his clients to build stronger companies, with marketing at the core of their business strategies. Matthew previously spent more than twenty years in the software industry, leading teams that designed, built, marketed, sold and supported products and services. Matthew helps businesses to plan and use marketing effectively, using the experience developed in a variety of senior roles throughout Europe and the USA. Read Matthew's blog at www.goldsbrough.biz/blog.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday guest blog: The joy of networking


by Alan Salter CMILT
Editor and Managing Director of Transport Matters


I am a very busy man. I only have time to write this because my internet provider has let me down and I can’t get into my website to work on it.

It started when I decided to buy some expensive software to make the pages of my online magazine turn. So impressed was I that I thought I had better give the website a revamp to celebrate...so I upgraded my hosting package to a more sophisticated one. I’ve signed up, paid up, and so far I have a half built website online ruining my reputation and a Exchange email account which is bouncing back emails.

Oh, and after two long phone calls to support at 6p a minute to a country which sounds like it may be in South America, and three threatening emails (from my webmail account), I am left with this: “In this regard, we need to reescalate (sic) your case to our Administrators. Please wait for an update from them.”

I am a bit of pioneer in this computer lark. I still have, in my wardrobe, a Sinclair Spectrum. I upgraded proudly to one of the early IBM pc’s - and promptly deleted the operating system by mistake. Of course a computer without an operating system is as much use as a large stone. You need the software to switch it on.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law worked in software at the time and managed to reboot using a floppy disc (remember them?) I even wrote a humorous article for a computer magazine about the experience. They didn’t print it.

My interest in computers being known at work, I was invited to get involved in the early days of the Manchester Evening News website. I was conned.

This involved mainly the clerical duties of inputting stories of the day and going through an extremely flaky process of uploading to the web. If it worked OK, it took an hour and a half. If it went wrong it could take all day - and as the paper did not come out until lunchtime in those days, when it went wrong, I ended up staying late.

But now, having attended a course on convergence at the University of South Carolina I am as close to an IT expert as I can afford.

So, having set up my own business, I moved on to the joys of networking. There are two sorts of networking. One involves drinking wine and handing out business cards and there is wireless networking. The later is a joyless affair which involves inputting very long passwords over and over again and tearing your hair out.

And when it is down, it can feel like you have been put into solitary confinement. Having become so dependent on the internet, being deprived of it is like walking around blindfolded.

On the move, power management is the big issue. I took my laptop to Germany last week, complete with charger and continental adapter. But the adapter did not fit German plugs and my battery, as usual lasted 10 minutes. I ended up having to write out in longhand a feature about a new electric train being built by the Germans for Scottish railways. Once back in blighty, I found a plug, fired up the laptop, keyed in the text and emailed it off.

In the olden days, we would have found a phone box and dictated the story to a copy typist while members of the public banged on the door, impatient to use the telephone.

There, that’s off my chest and still no news on the website. I’ll have to find something else to do. Perhaps I’ll clear out the shed.





Tuesday, 8 December 2009

BRIEFED: The latest news from the website

BRIEFED: The latest news from the Chamber's website

Chamber News - Pre-Budget Report
Speaking ahead of this week's Pre-Budget Report, Chris Fletcher Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "We want the Chancellor to abandon plans to scrap the trade credit insurance top-up scheme. This scheme is vital for guaranteeing companies are not left with bad debts and we want to see it reinstated and expanded.

"We would like to see the Pension Protection Fund levy on businesses suspended for two years. The levy is proving to be a heavy burden on companies that are already weighed down by their own pension schemes.

Member news: First Innovation Zone building complete in Bolton
Construction of the first building in Bolton's £300m Innovation Zone has been completed, signalling that schemes are on track in Bolton despite the global recession.

The Deane Road multi-storey car park opened this week, built in a joint project by Bolton Council and National Car Parks.

Chamber News: Police Increase Patrols After Shooting
Police have stepped up patrols in the Longsight area to reassure the local business community following the shooting of a man on Thursday.

Mentoring Programme Available to Greater Manchester Businesses
Leaders and senior managers of small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Greater Manchester can access free mentoring to help them develop their leadership skills, following the launch of the Northwest Regional Development Agency’s (NWDA) new business mentoring programme

Chamber News: Digital Communities Event
A Digital Communities briefing will be held in Manchester on December 15th.

Member news: Regeneration Solutions - The Future Is Bright
The North West’s commercial property market will emerge from the global recession quicker and stronger than before, a panel of experts has predicted.

Chamber News: Employers Demand More Information
One hundred employers have signed up to attend an event tomorrow (December 3rd) explaining the latest education reforms.

Save money on Metrolink in the run up to Christmas
Metrolink is inviting passengers to bag a bargain over the festive period by taking advantage of Saver tickets.Passengers can enjoy unlimited travel anywhere on the tram network all weekend for only £5 with an Adult Saver, or two adults and up to three children can travel with a Family Saver for only £7.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Outsourcing? A solution for SMEs

by Maurice Scott, Regional Director - e-Financial Management Limited

The business environment is constantly inundated with countless dilemmas that challenge most business owners and in the current economic climate the issues facing most companies, regardless of size, are more daunting than ever.

For smaller companies, changes in economic activity are especially unwelcome as SMEs are more susceptible and have less control over their business environment than do bigger enterprises. Every action the company, its customers or suppliers take in an uncertain situation may create a risk to the very survival of its business.

In an economic climate such as our current one, the pressure on companies to reduce staff costs is overwhelming, especially as more companies face extinction. The first cutback business owners and managers tend to make will involve reducing payroll as that seems to have a more immediate effect than other measures. The danger however, is that in desperation, companies will make rash permanent decisions to save costs even when this results in such an unfortunate situation as under-resourcing. The consequence of this is that business opportunities from prospects or existing clients may be missed; administration gets behind, reporting gets delayed- all resulting in further unwelcome pressures on the business.

So why isn’t under-resourcing an option - or technically, not an acceptable option? There are many risks to having insufficient capacity to deal with current orders or potential increase in demand. The business opportunity that may be lost might well have provided the cashflow needed to eradicate the cut back in the first place. Also additional costs often arise through fines, penalties, uncollected debts and other results of not having enough manpower.

With this in mind, most businesses are in favor of an option that has become acceptable in today’s business world. Outsourcing and insourcing - entrusting another company with your finances and other strategic assets has become a viable lifeline, even an essential business model. The advantage is that companies can afford to plug the gap in staffing as and when required, usually on a flexible payment platform, and often at a lower cost than full time employment.

Many companies deciding to tread this path for the first time are faced with issues of trust, security of information and level of expertise and service. The main question remains ‘How do you know which companies you can trust?’ – and here trust encompasses every single element of the relationship, including reliability, flexibility, pricing and a true commitment to provide value.

How does one find the right partner or supplier? How do you vet a vetting company- if you decide to use one? Do references really give a true picture?

The truth is that there is nothing as effective as a personal, independent search; especially for high volume, long term contracts. Visit websites, speak with representatives from the company, get references and referrals from personal or professional networks, as well as the Chamber.

You should explore as many sources as possible until you are satisfied. Admittedly, you may well discover subjective information but it at least tells you something about the people you are thinking of trusting with your business. Find out who your competitors are using and that’s quite easy these days with close supplier networks and the internet. The most important point is not to depend on one single source, but when you decide to, make it subject to an ongoing review.

Maurice Scott is Regional Director, e-Financial Management Limited, the financial management outsourcing company that offers a wide range of expert financial management solutions on a pay – as – use basis.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

UK Corporate Games 2010 - Invitation to Chamber members

On 13-16 May 2010, Liverpool will be hosting the 17th UK Corporate Games which is a really prestigious event for the City. The fabulous Echo Arena will be the venue for the Celebrations, with the sports being played at carefully selected venues across the City of Liverpool.

Thousands of “Weekend Sports Warriors” representing hundreds of businesses from the locality and throughout the UK will be competing and this is your chance to be involved in the largest Corporate Multi-sport festival in Europe.

We would like to give you this opportunity to create your own team, tiny or tremendous, building confidence, loyalty and team spirit along the way!

The Corporate Games is the ultimate mix of sport, business and tourism and there are many ways that you can take part. I would like to invite you personally to one of the presentations on the UK Corporate Games which will take place on Thursday 10th December in Manchester at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, 303 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ.

You are invited to bring a colleague with you to find out how the Corporate Games can be a powerful catalyst for your business.

The Games flyer and website have all the details on the celebrations, official sports programme, entry fees, corporate benefits and how to enter.

There are 2 presentations at 11.30am & 2.30pm for just 30 – 40 minutes. If you would like to attend, just reply to my email stipulating when you would like to attend and the names of those attending from your company.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Yours sincerely
Gareth Clark
Marketing

Corporate Games
World Headquarters
T 44 (0) 1733 380888
E gareth@corporate-games.com

Top 10 Tips: For SME success through the recession

by Tony Wilson , MD Proofsouth Ltd,
twilson@proofsouth.co.uk http://www.proofsouth.co.uk/

These selected ten tips of practical advice that works will help Managing Director/Owners in all SME businesses to bring their companies through recession in the best possible shape.

1. Treat Cash as King
This is your first priority. Daily & weekly control are worthwhile over the next year of recession. Lack of cash is why business fails more than any other reason.

2. Monitor your business against a plan
A rough & ready plan is better than none for starters.
Monthly accounts are a good framework for reviewing actual v plan. Be clear what your key performance indicators (KPIs) are. Use 'variances' from plan to drive your corrective action.

3. Allocate your time so you are working ON your business as well as IN your business.
Beware the pressures of recession which tend to squeeze you further into the detail of business.

4. Choose experienced external advisers you can trust and build an ongoing relationship.
Use them as a virtual board or consultancy to help you work ON the business. The MDO role in an SME is lonely in comparison with the MD in a larger company with a Board of directors and management team. This investment is always worthwhile.

5. Prioritise team work – delegate to employees to work IN the business which will motivate them. This is more effective even if you could do everything better yourself. Spend your time with those things they cannot do and also control your delegation.

6. Set & monitor realistic objectives with your team
Feed these back through team meetings. Measure results and use KPIs where you can.

7. Use grant and soft loan assistance.
Your external advisors will help you access it & immediately reduce their cost to you– there is lots to help SMEs in training, business development & investment. This cost reduction should help justify your moving ahead.

8. Hold regular team meetings
These should be brief, results oriented and with clear purpose.
Use these as a tool of development, delegation and maintaining focus on business objectives.

9. Use advisors and employees together in teams.
Review but don’t be involved in everything. Control but don’t dominate. Bring the IN the business and ON the business together where helpful.

10. Review budgets and priorities using your team(s) but avoid an ill considered rush to cut.
Use advisors / team to help you get maximum value for every £ spent. Set & use targets to help match expenditure & results.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Shadow Business Minister meets with Chamber members


The Shadow Minister for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform John Penrose met with Chamber members yesterday to listen to their views and discuss his party’s plans to cut red tape.

Mr Penrose attended the meeting hosted by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, where he was quizzed over his plans on how the regulatory burden for business could be reduced.

He said: “We are at a stage where we are trying to recover from the biggest recession in living memory. Wouldn’t it be better to rebound from recession without all that dead weight dragging us down?”

Mr Penrose laid out his plans for reducing red tape, including introducing a system where government departments would be required to implement regulatory cost cuts at least equal to the new legislation they were proposing.

He said: “We want to apply this to every quango in the country. They will have to come before parliament and justify their existence.”

Mr Penrose informed the group that under his plans, every new law would be assessed after three or five years.

And he proposed that every year, groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce would be asked to propose the 10 most ineffective business laws, which would then be examined to see if they could be reformed.

Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director said: “It was a great opportunity for Chamber members to meet with the minister and make their views known.

“Much of what was proposed makes sense, and seemed to be welcomed by local businesses. However, the key will be whether the Conservatives can make these proposals a reality if they come into power.”

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

What issue is your business facing?

We'd like to hear from you about the day to day issues you face as you do business.…
  • Are you an expert on a subject that you’d like to share with the Greater Manchester business community through our blog?
  • What topics would you like to see us tackle on our blog?
  • Are there any current issues that you'd like some advice on or to know more about?
  • Is there a subject that you'd want to hear top tips on from an expert in that field?
  • What do you think about our magazine 53 Degrees? What improvements, or features would you like to see added?
Or is there a more pressing concern that you'd like to speak to a member of our Policy team about?

Please get in touch and let us know and we'll help in whatever way we can...

BRIEFED: The latest news from the Chamber website

Member News: PwC appoints property specialist in Manchester
Jonathan Haigh has joined PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) as a senior manager in the business recovery services real estate team.Based in the Manchester office, his role is to devise and execute real estate strategies in turnaround and insolvency situations and to develop PwC's wider real estate practice.

MEMBER NEWS: FRESH TOPS BIRTHDAY YEAR WITH MAJOR INDUSTRY WIN
Fresh Group - the creative communications agency - has topped another record-breaking year after being crowned at the inaugural Marketing Industry Network Awards 2009.
The awards - hosted by the Marketing Industry Network and supported by The Drum - were established to identify the best media, marketing and communication agencies and teams across the UK.

Stockport College Marketing Wins Multiple Industry Accolades
The Marketing department at Stockport College has swept the board at major national and regional industry awards recently by winning top gongs at the CIPR PRide Awards in Manchester and the FE First Awards in Coventry on the 18th and 23rd November. The department beat hundreds of top agencies within the PR and Marketing industry, and was judged as having some of the best marketing and communications campaigns and collateral in the UK Further Education sector.

Chamber Team Wins International Trade Award
Greater Manchester Chamber's International Trade Team have come top in the British Chambers of Commerce Awards.The team have now won the award for Excellence in International Trade Services for the third year running.

Waste management the subject of Chamber construction & engineering seminar
Waste management and its implications for local construction firms will be the next subject in a series of sector-specific seminars, being organised by Greater Manchester Chamber and Pinsent Masons on the 9 December.The event entitled "Brass in Muck - How waste management became sexy" will give local construction and engineering firms the chance to learn about the burgeoning waste management sector and its implications for their industry.

Cityco appoints new Chief Executive
Cityco announced today that Vaughan Allen (42), currently chief executive of Urbis, has been appointed chief executive of Cityco, Manchester's city centre management company.

Manchester City Council sign First Street Development Agreement
Manchester City Council's Executive has approved the final development agreement between Ask Property Developments and Manchester City Council for the First Street project. This gateway site is located on the southern edge of the city. Totalling 20 acres, First Street acts as a vital link between Manchester's central business district and the Oxford Road Corridor.

Member News: Local Company Provides Vehicle Access Steps For Delivery Giant City Link
Bolton-based Ladderstore has recently fulfilled a major contract to provide 45 bespoke Mobile Double Decker Vehicle Access Steps to City Link, the UK’s leading Premium Express Delivery Company.

Cross City Bus Transport Scheme
Cross city bus is one of fifteen transport schemes announced by AGMA in May. It is part of the Greater Manchester Transport Fund and an investment programme of £1.5 billion, incorporating prioritised transport schemes, based on delivering the maximum economic benefit to Greater Manchester.

Member News: 24/7 Uptime offer offsite data backup at less than £1 per Gb
No business can operate without data - contracts, sales records, proposals, accounting records, business contacts and emails, etc. Yet many small businesses only take occasional data backups, don't store their backups safely or don't backup at all!

Business Finance Solutions wins share of Barclays enterprise fund
Manchester based Business Finance Solutions have been awarded a £30,000 grant to help improve its services to small businesses. The company provides loans and support to companies that struggle to raise conventional bank finance, and was one of only five UK non-profit lenders to be awarded a share of the funds.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Tackling stress levels within the workplace

In Britain stress, depression or anxiety account for approximately 13.8 million reported lost working days per year with 530,000 individuals believing they are experiencing workplace stress at a level that is making them ill.*

St John Ambulance is offering businesses help to identify, prevent and treat the symptoms and effects of stress in the workplace.

Clive James, advisor on first aid and stress awareness at St John Ambulance, said: ‘The wellbeing of employees should be at the heart of any workplace ethos and should never be ignored. Our course will help you understand the causes of stress, in both the workplace and the home and show how sometimes they can be linked. In uncertain times, feelings of lack of control are often the root of stress, and anxiety can be a major factor in ill health and strains on personal and professional relationships. It’s vital people learn how to identify and manage stress.’

The three-hour Stress awareness course will teach students how to identify the early signs of stress and what measures to take to avoid it and includes valuable information for employers, employees and the general public. The course also covers techniques for managing stress such as exercise, relaxation, breathing and visualisation.

Also covered on the course:

· Defining stress· Causes of stress
· Risk assessment to identify the level of stress within the workplace
· Coping with stress
· Immediate and long-term solutions

Chris Bates, 34, from Leicester, said: ‘I suffered a great deal of stress when I used to work in the finance industry and had to be signed off work for nine months. Since then, I’ve taken St John Ambulance’s Stress awareness course, which has been hugely beneficial in learning how to cope with anxiety and its effects. What’s more, it recognises that people can suffer stress in a variety of settings, whether others consider certain environments to be stressful or not.’

St John Ambulance trains half a million people a year in first aid and health and safety and has branched into stress awareness to offer support to sufferers. For information about the Stress awareness course, priced £75 plus VAT per person visit www.sja.org.uk or call 0844 770 4800. Remember - Chamber of Commerce members are entitled to a 10% discount off St John Ambulance’s scheduled courses and on-site training in the North West.


*Figures from 2006/07, Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Free Web Surgery for Chamber Members

LAMP Digital, one of Manchester’s most innovative Web agencies, is holding a day of free ‘Web surgeries’ on Monday 7th December, aimed at helping Chamber members look forward and make the most of the opportunities the Web will offer over the next twelve months.

With over ten years in the sector, LAMP's MD Craig Taylor, will be able to answer all your questions and offer practical advice on the Web, social media, online business and ecommerce in a series of one hour, one to one Q&A sessions.
These are just some of the questions often asked:

What will social media be able to do for me over the next twelve months?
How can I maximise our ecommerce offering over the next six months for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter?
How do I know who visits our site?What is Adwords?
What is SEO and is our site search engine friendly?
What is Twitter for and how can I use it?
How do I get a mobile Web site for mobile device users?
What is an ‘iPhone app’ and what do they do?

The surgery will be held at the Chamber's headquarters, Churchgate House on Oxford Street, Manchester.
As we're offering hour-long appointments, places are limited so if you're interested in attending, please contact ben.lingard@gmchamber.co.uk as soon as you can to avoid disappointment. Once places have been filled, a reserve list will be kept should any more appointments become available.

The art and soul of presenting


Andrew Thorp is a business speaker and communications skills coach. He co-organises the Pecha Kucha events in Manchester, an innovative form of Powerpoint presentation to an invited audience.

Ask an audience if they’ve ever experienced ‘death by Powerpoint’ and you’re guaranteed to touch a nerve! It’s not so much a sudden, violent act but a slow strangulation.

I wanted to share a few ideas on what makes for a great presentation – and invite your comments and experiences too.

I subscribe to the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad Powerpoint (let’s call it PP), only bad PP presenters”. PP’s a fantastic communication tool, but becomes a WMD when in the wrong hands.

PP really isn’t a good medium for conveying lots of complex information. That’s the purpose of handouts, to be read in one’s own time and speed. But PP is a great tool for delivering a message, an insight or changing the way people think or feel.

Chances are you’re delivering a PP presentation to a group of people – and that’s a form of theatre. People don’t go to the theatre to be bored and unengaged. It’s not about shouting louder or giving them more data; it’s about connecting better.

Pictures work better than text. Put an image up on a screen and you’ll intrigue people. They’ll want to know what it means. They’re primed to listen. Lots of text and bullets switches people off, and of course reading out what’s up there splits people’s attention and REDUCES what they take in.

Tell a story through the slides. And by storytelling I don’t just mean the “once upon a time there was a beautiful princess…” variety. A story contains a message and it has a structure – beginning, middle and end. It’s rather like a meal and good presenters serve it up like this:

STARTER
Present the problem. Some coaches call this creating dissonance – in other words build up the pain. Explain what the issue is and how it affects those in the room. This establishes empathy – they’re with you on this and you’ve got their attention.

MAIN
Explore the problem. This is where you dig deeper and start to analyse the issue. It’s your chance to deliver insights, “ah-ha” moments and this establishes your credibility.

DESSERT
Give them hope. Provide the audience with some possible solutions, tools they can take away and employ to deal with the problem. Send them away in an optimistic frame of mind.

At the start their attention is at its height and the danger is you’ll lose them in the middle. Keep this section engaging, add colour through metaphor, anecdote and a nice style of delivery. If you’ve got to deliver statistical information, keep it simple and suggest what that figure might represent or mean to the audience.

Above all, remember that a presentation is your opportunity to make an audience think or feel differently about something. Be guided by the ‘less is more’ principle, make sure you have a clear message to deliver and give it some welly!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Friday Guest Blog: The collective power of LinkedIn

by Kat Shoa, Consultant

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn for years, and it’s become a basic part of my “doing business”, whether to tout my skills, or to check on the backgrounds of people I come in contact with, especially potential clients (yes, I do check).

It amazes me how many companies either don’t have a prominent presence on LinkedIn or simply don’t utilize it effectively. The compounded power of the network is mind boggling. For example, my network of almost 330 people gives me access to over 5.3 million users (the networks are set up to go 3 levels deep). Although not a direct sales tool, I think it’s a must in developing a presence, and for soft sales of services if done properly. It’s passive, non-intrusive, and very powerful.

The idea for individuals is pretty straight forward – a point of web presence and a network for providing services (or finding jobs). But for companies, the collective force of the networks of individuals can become even more powerful social media tool. Let’s say your company has 500 employees, and your marketing department is developing a webinar to discuss the changes in your market. Imagine if all your employees had a well developed network on LinkedIn, and each could bring 10 people to the webinar. Of course, a webinar with even 300 people is good enough for a company that size, so you get the idea. When each employee acts as a touch-point in a massive pool of professionals, the corporate image and messages can be exponentially magnified.

The problem becomes controlling that image. I know people who “tweak” their positions on LinkedIn for various reasons, or point blank lie. As a company, you have a little bit of control over your employees’ behavior on networking sites, but you have no way of changing their profile (unless LinkedIn changed their policies and forgot to announce it).

Given these drawbacks, I still think encouraging your employees to build a network on LinkedIn is a worthwhile effort. In fact, it’s best to proactively give them some guidelines to help them develop their image and their networks. Once they’re set up, make sure to use their collective networks in your social media. The results might surprise you.

Today I sent an email to a client’s sale/marketing teams and the executives with guidelines of how to develop their profiles and build up their LinkedIn networks. The idea is to roll it out to the rest of the company later. I’m repeating the guidelines here. The language is verbatim out of my email (except the company name and the markets it targets).

- Please develop a complete and professional profile on LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn profile acts as a public online professional bio for everyone to view, and it’s the first place a Google search of your name will land your potential contacts/clients.

- Include the title that shows up on your business cards, your work history, any special skills you may have, and any other appropriate information you can think of.

- Do not push XXX or YYY in your profile. We are positioning the company as a provider of ZZZ. It’s OK to talk about XXX/YYY but not as a main topic.

- Feel free to use keywords that are related to [company]’s business. People use them often in searches on LinkedIn, and you want to show up if they’re looking for experts in the field.

- Do NOT display or discuss confidential information about [company] in your profile. This includes ANY financial information (including revenues/profits/projections, etc), number of employees, plans for expansion, plans for partnerships, layoffs, new hiring, or anything of material importance.

- Start developing your network. Go through all your contacts, old colleagues, people you know from college, professional organizations, neighbors, relatives and friends who work in professional settings. The point is you want access to their network, even if they, themselves, don’t necessarily fit into a client profile. If you know people who have large networks, definitely connect to them. This will take time. Start soon.

- Do not hide your profile to limited groups (this is a LinkedIn option). Leave it open for everyone to see (except personal info like email, etc). You want everyone to be able to contact you if they’d like.

- Sign up with as many groups as is appropriate (max 50 allowed). This gives you access to a lot of discussions and newsboards in various industries.

- Feel free to participate in Q&As and group discussions. Show that you are an expert in the field and know what you’re talking about. Much of the time, people connect to you once they feel they trust you and enjoy your “conversations”.

- Do not spam the newsboards or the Q&A. You will be flagged and dropped from groups. And it’s unprofessional.

- Feel free to post a professional photo. People respond better to people with photos.

- Remember whatever you say/do on LinkedIn is public, and will reflect on you and [company]. Please keep it professional.

I don’t know if I’ve covered all the bases, but this is pretty comprehensive. Feel free to add other ideas of how to get your employees to build up their network, and especially on how to use their networks once they're built. I’m really interested to find out more about how companies use this forum.

You can read Kat's blog, The Directive, by clicking here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Top 10 Tips: For Online Reputation Management

By Simon Reader, a Digital Marketing consultant at MOOM. Follow @sireader on twitter here.

If you have the budget (and if your brand has enough conversations about it online for you to justify the expense) then an online listening platform like that offered by Radian6 allows you to track every mention of your brand across the social web – and monitor sentiment, detailed demographics and reach.

A good digital marketing agency can also run your Online Reputation Management (ORM) for you, if you feel that it’s too much for you to handle in-house.

However, if you’re only a relatively small consumer brand then it is possible to manage most aspects of your brand’s reputation online yourself and for free - all you need to invest is your time. Here are our top tips to help you do just that:

1. Compile a list of your brand keywords – including common misspellings and abbreviations. It’s worth bearing in mind that people do often shorten brand names when communicating via the social web, especially as sites like Twitter only allow a specific number of characters in each update.

2. Set-up a Google alert for your keywords – this service doesn’t capture everything but it’s a good start. Basically, whenever your chosen term is mentioned on a webpage, Google will send you a quick email to let you know.

3. Search Boardreader.com every day for your keywords – this website will search every forum out there for mentions of you and will provide a direct link to the thread where you are mentioned.

4. Use Google Blog Search – this is similar to the above but searches across blogs as opposed to forums.

5. Make the most of Twitter Search – as well as using Twitter to update your followers, there is a powerful live search engine there too, so search via the website at http://www.twitter.com/ or download Tweetdeck for free and add a search for each keyword – as long as you have the Tweetdeck application open you’ll receive an on-screen notification (and a beep) every time there is a new mention of one of your search terms.

Remember, this search feature is in real-time – so you can resolve any issues almost instantaneously. How’s that for quick customer service?!

6. Get involved! When something is said about your brand, don’t be shy – leave a reply! If it’s a compliment, a simple ‘thanks for your comments!’ will suffice – if it’s something that needs looking into then it’s best to post a quick reply to confirm that you’re looking into, to make it clear to anybody who visits the page in the meantime that you’re aware of the situation.

You don’t need to reply to every single positive or neutral remark though – after all, you don’t want to seem too big-brotherish to your customers!

7. Never Astroturf! This means that you should never respond to a forum thread, blog post or webpage with a comment that suggests that you’re not connected with the business that you’re talking about. When you do respond to something, always be open about who you are and which company you are from.

8. Be professional! It’s easy to slip into being more casual if you’re commenting on something on a social networking site (for example, you’re probably not used to being in ‘work-mode’ on Facebook) however you must remember that anything that you post will usually be visible to everybody - and furthermore will probably remain on the site for a long time.

9. Listen and learn – by engaging with your customers online you may be able to get feedback on things that otherwise would be unknown to you. That way, as well as resolving problems through social media channels you can also use them as a method of collecting free, live market research.

It’s also worth keeping a track of who you to talk to and what you say – for example, perhaps you have a customer database that allows you to enter notes against a customer’s record.

10. And finally, please remember that you’ve got to do these things at regular intervals! Depending on the volume of conversations surrounding your brand, you may only need to set aside fifteen minutes each day to perform the above tasks – a small price to pay for digital peace of mind.

MOOM specialise in online reputation management, viral marketing and social media engagement campaigns for businesses of all sizes.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Free web surgery for Chamber members

LAMP Digital, one of Manchester’s most innovative Web agencies, is holding a day of free ‘Web surgeries’ on Monday 7th December, aimed at helping Chamber members look forward and make the most of the opportunities the Web will offer over the next twelve months.

With over ten years in the sector, LAMP's MD Craig Taylor, will be able to answer all your questions and offer practical advice on the Web, social media, online business and ecommerce in a series of one hour, one to one Q&A sessions.

These are just some of the questions often asked:

  • What will social media be able to do for me over the next twelve months?
  • How can I maximise our ecommerce offering over the next six months for Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter?
  • How do I know who visits our site?What is Adwords?
  • What is SEO and is our site search engine friendly?
  • What is Twitter for and how can I use it?
  • How do I get a mobile Web site for mobile device users?
  • What is an ‘iPhone app’ and what do they do?

The surgery will be held at the Chamber's headquarters, Churchgate House on Oxford Street, Manchester. As we're offering hour-long appointments, places are limited so if you're interested in attending, please contact matthew.hall@gmchamber.co.uk as soon as you can to avoid disappointment. Once places have been filled, a reserve list will be kept should any more appointments become available.

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Member News: Record Month for Palace Hotel
October was a record month for Manchester's Palace Hotel (pictured right).

Little Orchard Productions is holding a webvideo open day to help businesses access the fast growing world of social media.

The leadership of GMPTE has been confirmed on a more permanent basis, with the current Interim Chief Executive staying in place for at least two more years. Councillor Keith Whitmore, Chair of Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) made the announcement at today’s meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee.

Greater Manchester Chamber has criticised plans to scrap the trade credit insurance cover top-up scheme.

Paver Smith Manchester has sponsored city networking group Pro Manchester’s Business Booster Breakfast with Britain’s Sales Trainer of the Year, Andy Bounds, at King Street West eaterie Bem Brasil

A special Christmas tram will be running on the Metrolink network from Thursday 19 November. Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) has arranged for the specially decorated tram, featuring snowflakes, holly and presents along its sides, to run on the network until 5 January.

Trevor Millen has been added to the MIDAS team as Strategic Account Director, in a non-executive role, to bolster MIDAS’ work with existing investors throughout the Manchester City Region.

Bruntwood today announced the appointment of a new Marketing Director to head up its ambitious brand development and marketing programme. Kate Harrison, (40) is just completing a term as interim chief executive at Cityco, Manchester’s city centre management company.

Mason Williams has won a three-way pitch for Henkel UK - manufacturers of Sellotape, Loctite, Pritt Stick and UniBond.

“I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!” fans can get closer to their favourite jungle action than ever before with a new free-to-play, ad-supported online game by Matmi

Cost and Expense Solutions have announced the acquisition of Bury based, Expenses 4 Less.

RAW 2010 will bring together the region's top 350 entrepreneurs with 15 of the world's best speakers. Open and frank discussion and debate will challenge received opinion on the issues that matter.

Chamber News: Chamber gives its reaction to today's Queen's Speech

Greater Manchester Chamber have joined forces with chambers across the UK to add their full backing to the creation of a high speed rail (HSR) network in a report published by the British Chambers of Commerce.

OZ Promotions have been tasked with promoting this year's Christmas campaign on behalf of the city of Manchester. The 2009 campaign is based on the theme of 'See what Manchester's made of' and is led by a number of city partners including Cityco, Manchester City Council, Marketing Manchester and GMPTE.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Motivating a team rocked by redundancy

by Nina Dar, Change Management Consultant

In times of recession it can be difficult to keep staff motivated, especially if your organisation is making redundancies.

For some sectors work is drying up, although most places haven’t seen a drop in the intensity of the workplace. In the boom, people worked hard on the understanding that they were making hay while the sun shone. Now, redundancies might mean that in some organisations one person is doing the work of two. Staff accept that because it’s what required for the business to survive.

It’s all too easy to generalise about the impact this might have had on personal happiness. Some people actually enjoy the Blitz atmosphere and the fact that the established rule book gets thrown out of the window.

There’s no doubt the recession is forcing companies to think differently. The playing field has changed and the entrepreneurs amongst us are considering new markets, new processes, new ways of working and new terms. Everything is up for grabs again. Positive or negative, it’s an adrenalin rush and people are thinking about basic business practice again.

One inspiring example is the Formula One team Brawn GP. In March 2009, Ross Brawn announced a last minute buy-out of Honda F1 under the new name of Brawn GP. Almost half the workforce was made redundant, Jenson Button took a significant pay cut and they didn’t have an engine until Mercedes stepped in. I have listened to CEO Nick Fry talk about this experience and it is clear that things got pretty desperate; they were a hair away from going down the tubes.

The success they are now enjoying following Button’s championship win is shared by all the people who put themselves out there getting a car ready in the shortest possible time ready for the first race. It is testament to characteristics like belief, courage and commitment.

Of course a number of elements have to come together, held together by sheer hard graft. A friend of mine works alongside the Brawn GP team and he confirms that there are half the people doing twice the work and it’s better because of people’s attitude.

The important thing about redundancy is that the ‘survivors’ are reassured about their own futures and their value to the organisation. Companies need to give full explanations about the changes where possible and explain what the next steps are for the business and their career development. A demoralised workforce, anxious about their prospects, will not give your business the strength it needs to survive. However, if managed properly, the team you are left with will be motivated and will have the desire and skills needed to provide the boost your company needs.


Nina can be contacted on 07837 536 979 or by email at: ninadar@wayofthemonkey.co.uk

Thursday, 19 November 2009

What issue is your business facing?

We'd like to hear about the day to day issues you face as you do business...

What topics would you like to see us tackle on our blog?

Are there any issues at the moment that you'd like some advice on or to know more about?

Is there a subject that you'd want to hear top tips on from an expert in that field?

Or is there a more pressing concern that you'd like to speak to a member of our Policy team about?

Please let us know and we'll help in whatever way we can...

Top 10 Tips: For new bloggers

by Phil Jones, Director, Brother UK
and Vice-President, Greater Manchester Chamber


I've been blogging for over a year now. Seems if you get over the 90 day hump then you'll stick with it. About 90% of people don't, they give up because they run out of ideas, time or energy.

Blogging is excellent for personal reputation, organic search, business leads or just sharing the things you know. I'm not an expert, however my blog now has readership in over 50 countries across the world, so something seems to be going right.

Here's what I've learned so far:

1. Keep it short. People are time strapped and have poor attention levels. Short and snappy is best.

2. Decide your genre. Don’t get too random. Specialise in something.

3. Convey a core idea in each of your posts. Simplify your message. Make it stand out.

4. Add pictures. It breaks up a boring layout and sharpens the point.

5. Don’t go overboard with bells and whistles. Clear, plain and simple works best. Loads of flashing adverts will distract your readers and they may not come back. Remember, people scan read in an “F” shape.

6. Ask questions in your blog. Stimulate your reader. Give them something to go away and think about (and a reason to return).

7. Blog regularly. Once a month is too little. Find a frequency that you are comfortable with, once a week is ideal. I blog every couple of days.

8. Add hyperlinks. The more you hyperlink, the better the quality of the blog (in googles eyes). But don’t go overboard. Also, try and encourage people to bookmark your blog, put it into an RSS feed or follow it, it puts you front of mind.

9. Install a blog tracking software so that you can see how visits are going. I use http://www.icerocket.com/ (it’s totally free) or you could use google analytics.

10. Put your blog URL on your business card and your e-mail footer. Promote it wherever you can. Trade links with others, it all helps to increase your visitors.

Search engine optimisation is an art in itself. These tips are just to get you started. If you want to turn pro or use blogging as part of a bigger or wider social media strategy, then get some help.

Read Phil's blog, The Corporate Bubble, here

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A few thoughts on today's Queen's Speech

by Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Exec.

The Queen's speech sets the legislative agenda for the year ahead. A few thoughts on some of today's announcements:

Businesses will welcome the plans to clamp down on bonuses for bankers who take too many risks. There needs to be more focus on lending to sound businesses and less on the so-called roulette side of the banking system.

The funding for universal broadband by 2012 is also welcome as the UK needs faster broadband speeds if we are to compete in the global economy in the years ahead. However it must be at an adequate speed for the needs of business not only now but in the future.

It was also good to hear support for high-speed rail, as improvements to the rail infrastructure are vital for future prosperity.

However as we are only months away from a General Election, the Government doesn’t have much time to get all of its legislative programme through.

Businesses facing water issues

by Richard Critchley, Policy Manager for Transport and Environment

The Consumer Council for Water represent business on any water issues they are facing in the North West. If you have any complaints on anything water-related, please let me know as we're really keen to hear about the issues you're experiencing.

If you would like to speak to them directly, Janine Shackleton leads the Complaints team and can be contacted on 0161 236 6112 or by email: Janine.Shackleton@ccwater.org.uk

I feel it is vital they become more informed on business needs and concerns.

Their website also a few hints and tips for reducing water use and reducing water bills: http://www.ccwater.org.uk/index.php

Quarterly Economic Survey - Q4 2009

by Holly Keogh, Assistant Policy Manager

Our Quarterly Economic Survey for Quarter 4 2009 is now online and we're urging all members to please respond.

In this unpredictable economic climate it is even more important that we are able to obtain a clear picture of the economy and represent your views to Government, the Bank of England and other key stakeholders.

The QES contributes to the national survey conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce and has a proven track record. Our aim is to ensure that it increases in relevance and your response helps us to help you.

We are sure you will agree that now more than ever your feedback is crucial in order that we can lobby on your behalf both locally and nationally.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey by clicking here

The deadline for responses is Monday 9th December.

All responses will remain totally anonymous and confidential. The survey software does not allow us to track individual responses.

As you will see there are some additional questions this quarter relating to some of the key issues our policy team is working on. Your responses will help them in their lobbying and consultation work in the coming months. Again all answers will remain anonymous.

You can read our previous reports here

Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Government says most North West businesses will see rates fall

The Government confirmed today that the majority of business rate bills in the North West – almost one hundred and fifty thousand – will fall next year as a result of revaluation.

The Government will not collect a penny more of extra revenue as a result of the 2010 revaluation. Regular revaluations ensure the rate each business pays is fair and reflects changes in the relative value of property over time.

The final arrangements for calculating new business rates bills are being published today. Most business properties in the North West (60 per cent) will see falls in their rate bills next year.

For the minority paying more, the Government is putting in place a £2 billion relief scheme self funded by businesses that will limit and phase in increases. The Government is today giving the go ahead for the relief scheme following a consultation.

Overall, as a result of revaluation and the relief arrangements, one million business properties will see an average decrease of £770 in 2010/11.

The Government recently announced that it will remove the requirement to reapply for small business rate relief at revaluation reducing bureaucracy for small businesses and billing authorities.

The Government is also encouraging small businesses to apply for small business rate relief, which can help provide up to 50 per cent off their bill.

Rateable values are only one part of the rates bill. The other is the ratings multiplier - which is applied to calculate final bills. Today the Government is announcing the multiplier has been reduced by 15 per cent - taking it to its lowest level for 17 years. This is designed to ensure the Government does not collect an extra penny from revaluation and that each business pays its fair contribution.

Job vacancy: Press & PR Officer, Greater Manchester Chamber

Salary: Subject to experience

Greater Manchester Chamber is the UK's largest Chamber of Commerce and we have ambitious plans to grow our influence, profile and membership.

To make this happen, we are looking for an experienced Press & PR Officer to join our busy Communications Team.

You will support Greater Manchester Chamber's communications activity with your outstanding writing skills, local media contacts and all-round PR skills. Ideally, you will be able to demonstrate strong experience and understanding of social media and online PR, with excellent past results to back up your experience.

Your aim is to play a key role helping to increase the profile of the Chamber, its partner organisation Manchester Solutions, and our shared members & customers. You will talk to businesses we work with and improve the amount and quality of media coverage they receive. You will also communicate the Chamber's work & role to the outside world and ensure that our members and other key audiences are kept fully informed about the benefits available to them and the services we offer.

In addition, you will provide copy for our monthly membership magazine, e-newsletters, website and other regular communications that we have.

To apply for this position, you must be able to show experience in a similar communications role, and have a background in either public relations or journalism. You must have the ability to dig out your own news stories and have a proven track record of being able to sell in your stories and ideas to a variety of media. Candidates will need a positive can-do attitude and will need to be flexible.

If you are interested in this role, please email sheena.henthorne@gmchamber.co.uk for a full application pack or contact Sheena Henthorne on 0161 237 4029 for an informal chat about the role.

The closing date for applications is Friday 27 November.
Interviews will be held week commencing 7 December.

Action needed on High Speed Rail

by Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Exec.

Greater Manchester Chamber have joined forces with chambers across the UK to add their full backing to the creation of a high speed rail (HSR) network in a report published by the British Chambers of Commerce.

The report, which is supported by Network Rail and Greengauge 21, argues that the business and environmental case for an HSR network has clearly been made, offering benefits to the UK economy worth almost £55 billion.

Businesses believe that funding solutions need to be found as soon as possible, so that construction can begin during the life of the next Parliament.

Despite a political consensus on the importance of HSR, the Chamber is urging all parties to go further and sign a binding agreement that commits the next government – from whatever party – to action the work already conducted by HS2 Ltd, the company established by the current government to consider the case for high-speed rail.

The business group argues that HS2’s work is vital to the future success of the UK economy, and it must not be unravelled or delayed after a General Election or because of tight spending constraints.

There are crucial elements which must be delivered on. Firstly, long term commitment and a guarantee to invest in the project must be given by all political parties before and after the election. The time is right in the economic cycle for this to happen; if we were to delay longer then the money will not be there when it is needed to start on actual construction. Secondly, Manchester must be an intrinsic part of the network. As the leading economy outside of London it is vital that we are included in the network to assist with economic development.The case has been proven as to why it must happen we must all now get stuck in to the decision maker to make it happen.

Jo Kaye, Network Rail's route director, said this:

"The benefits for Manchester are immense. The high speed line could deliver four trains every hour from and to London, each travelling at over 200mph. The current average journey time could be cut by about one hour, reducing the travelling time to 1hr 6 mins.

"But it isn't just about speed - there are other benefits for the whole community. With the numbers of passengers that we predict will switch from domestic air flights and from road travel, CO2 emissions will be reduced by hundreds of thousands of tonnes, and as many as 19 lives a year could be saved with people using the train rather than the car."

Jim Steer, Director of Greengauge 21, said:

“We know from opinion research that the public supports high-speed rail – 78% believe it is essential for our future – and this report reiterates the strong support from industry right across the country.

“Greengauge 21 backs the BCC call for political commitment to high-speed rail. The investment is needed to build the nation’s capacity for economic growth in a sustainable way.”

Monday, 16 November 2009

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Member News: OZ Promotions to lend festive hand for Manchester Christmas Campaign!
OZ Promotions have been tasked with promoting this year's Christmas campaign on behalf of the city of Manchester. The 2009 campaign is based on the theme of 'See what Manchester's made of' and is led by a number of city partners including Cityco, Manchester City Council, Marketing Manchester and GMPTE.

Ambitious plans that will see Manchester aiming to become a world leader in tackling climate change are being considered next week by Manchester City Council.

Law firm and GM Chamber member Pinsent Masons has further consolidated its position as the market leader for construction in the North West, by retaining its number one ranking in the latest Chambers & Partners Legal Directory.

Member News: GGR Group launches new website with the help of Cuckoo Design
GGR Group has enlisted the support of Cuckoo Design to create a new website to bring the six divisions of the company together online. The web design and development team at Cuckoo has created an easy to navigate site with one unified and consistent look for the construction equipment specialist.

With the Christmas party season just around the corner, the annual headache of how employees may behave at the office get together will start to raise its head for companies of all sizes across the region. So Clough and Willis is staging a seminar on Thursday 19th November 2009

Manchester web development agency CTI have developed a new website on behalf of international consulting firm Sensei. Sensei are specialists and authorities in the field of leadership development and change management and required a website which conveyed these very same values.

Unemployment has decreased across Greater Manchester, according to figures released by the ONS.

Manchester's coolest bar will open this Thursday (12th) alongside one of Manchester's most popular festive attractions, the Christmas ice rink at Spinningfields.

Leading Manchester-based PR agency, Tangerine PR, has taken a major step in its stated intention of grabbing the embattled 'space' that is social media, by acquiring Juice Digital.

A £146,191 Grant for Research and Development has been awarded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) to Reaxa Limited based in Blackley, Manchester.

Manchester has unveiled a comprehensive £600,000 Christmas marketing campaign which includes 48 sheet posters, press and radio advertising, a specially designed city centre map, an interactive website and, a TV commercial that will air on ITV 1 on 12 November to tie in with the City’s Christmas light switch-on.

NoChintz are showcasing the winner of the Box Project, a northwest wide design competition held over the summer and organised by NoChintz, at the former Nicky Oliver salon at Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, Courtesy of Argent group PLC from Wednesday 11 November until Friday 4 December.

Even ups and downs of the past year couldn't stop 300 of the great and good from Greater Manchester's Construction Sector, attending the Chamber's Building and Development Annual Dinner (pictured below) at the Hilton Manchester on 15 October...


CTI has helped Best4Amtico launch their brand new online store.

Member News: Another award for Clarke Nicklin
South Manchester based accountants Clarke Nicklin have picked up another award this month as office manager Margaret Meynell received the Supervisor of the Year award from Damar Training.

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) analysis of recent national corporate insolvency statistics found that the number of corporate insolvencies in quarter three of 2009 has shown a decrease of 7.2% in overall numbers since the last quarter, however the numbers are still an 11 % increase on the same quarter of last year and remain at a ten-year high.

South Manchester law firm Slater Heelis Collier Littler (SHCL) has announced two significant appointments at partner level in the corporate and employment departments . The appointments mark another step towards establishing SHCL as one of the North West’s leading innovative full-service law firms.

Police Mutual, the UK's largest affinity friendly society, has appointed leading Manchester design agency, Cuckoo Design, to spearhead a major review of its online presence.

Four Manchester-based specialists in high-tech strategic marketing and communication have formed an alliance named M460 to boost the marketability of the region's technology companies and help them compete more effectively for business.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday Guest Blog: Innovation through collaboration

by Matthew Goldsbrough, Goldsbrough Consulting

'Everybody keeps telling me I have to be innovative', complained a business owner I was talking to the other day, 'but innovation is such a lonely business.'

'But who said you had to innovate by yourself?', I replied.

In my experience, that's not how innovation works best, and I'll explain how business partners can help you in just a moment. But first, let's put some structure on innovation.

The purpose of innovation is, of course, to be more competitive, to beat your competitors, to build value in your company. And there are three dimensions in which you can do that – product, process and customer.

I've written before about those dimensions in No Business Is Too Small for Strategic Thinking. You can try to excel in product leadership, or operational excellence, or customer intimacy. And you can try to be innovative in small incremental steps, or by introducing much more dramatic changes.

But coming up with something new means you need 'a great idea', and introducing it successfully means you need to be able to deal with the risk involved.

And that's where partners can help.

I believe that most successful companies see themselves as part of an interconnected network, and put real effort into making their business alliances mutually beneficial. I wrote recently about how important it was to map out those alliances in a systematic way. It's in working with those partners that you get access to much greater creative resources than you've necessarily got in-house.

Partners can stimulate your thinking about how you can radically improve your products, processes, and customer interactions. They can highlight deficiencies that you might not be aware of. They can provide parts of your innovative solution, so that you don't have to do it all alone.

Thinking back to my own experience of partnering, and trying to stay ahead of competition, I've viewed innovation as a collaborative activity. As a result, I've got those 'great ideas' more quickly, and introduced them to the market much more successfully.

Go to www.goldsbrough.biz/innovation-through-collaboration for an extended version of this article.

About the Author
Since setting up Goldsbrough Consulting in 2003, Matthew Goldsbrough has helped his clients to build stronger companies, with marketing at the core of their business strategies. Matthew previously spent more than twenty years in the software industry, leading teams that designed, built, marketed, sold and supported products and services. Matthew helps businesses to plan and use marketing effectively, using the experience developed in a variety of senior roles throughout Europe and the USA.

Year of Innovation
New Chamber President, Moneeb Awan has pledged to promote real innovation amongst our membership in his Presidential year and as part of this, we're about to launch a new area of our website that is not just about new ideas but how they are put into practice to create new products and services, improve the way things are run or add value.

We're lucky to have some extremely innovative and forward-thinking businesses amongst our membership and here is where you can tap into that expertise.

To get the ball rolling, we're interested to hear your own examples of innovation. Please email: matthew.hall@gmchamber.co.uk if you have a great story and would like to be featured.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Did you know about the Chamber City Card?

Chamber City Cards are in the process of being issued to all members. Each member company will receive one card with the option to buy additional cards for employees.

Your Chamber City card offers you a wide range of discounts with up to 50% off at a selection of the city's best restaurants, bars, salons, spas, cinemas, theatres entertainment venues and more - every time you visit!

There are also some fantastic offers available on business services from local companies who are Greater Manchester Chamber members. New offers are being added all the time so be sure to check back regularly to see the latest benefits available to you and your business.

See the latest offers
Simply choose your offer and follow the simple instructions to get your discount - click here.

Not got a card yet?
Signing up for your Chamber City Card is quick and easy. If you are an employee of a company that is a member of the GM Chamber of Commerce, you can join online for a fantastic exclusive rate of just £10 per year. Click here to join.

Need more cards for your colleagues?
E mail gmchamber@citycardmanchester.co.uk for more details.

Want to put your business infront of over 5,300 of the region's company directors and senior managers? Speak to your Chamber Membership Advisor for more details on how to add your business to the offers directory.

Top 10 Tips: To keep your fleet safe and business moving

by Sean Joyce, Stephensons Solicitors LLP

Any business that has it's own vehicles on the road or expects employees to make work related journeys in their own vehicles (‘Grey Fleet’) must remember that they can be held criminally liable for ‘permitting’ their employees to commit offences behind the wheel.

1. Roadworthiness
Have a written driver defect reporting system for all vehicles. Train drivers on how to conduct visual walk round inspections of vehicles and make a written record of any defects they discover. This can be daily or weekly depending on the types of vehicles and the distances driven. Keep records of these driver defect records.

2. Rectification
If drivers find a defect, have a system that enables them to report it to you. Have a system to ensure that the defect is rectified and keep a record of the fact the defect was fixed. This can be a specific rectification report and copy of the invoice from the repairer, or it could be as simple as a handwritten confirmation and signature of the fact it was done, when and by whom.

3. Periodic safety inspections
As well as the daily or weekly visual, walk round checks by your drivers, consider periodic safety inspections by a qualified mechanic. This is a more detailed mechanical check of the vehicle which could be carried out quarterly or half yearly in between annual MOT inspections. An MOT simply confirms that the vehicle is roadworthy at the date of the check. All sorts can go wrong in between annual tests that might not be apparent to the driver but could still pose a serious hazard. Keep records of these periodic checks.

4. Plan key dates
Use forward planners or another diary system to ensure all vehicles are properly insured (including cover for business use), within MOT dates, properly taxed. This is especially important with the ‘Grey Fleet’. You cannot necessarily rely on your employees not to miss dates. Insist staff produce copies of these documents for retention by you.

5. Be organised
Keep vehicle specific files containing all maintenance records, insurance, registration and MOT documents etc. If one of your vehicles is involved in a serious incident, the investigating authority, be it the Police, Vehicle Operator Services Agency or Health and Safety Executive have extensive powers to visit your premises and seize documents. By having your records easily to hand in organised files will immediately show that you have robust and effective preventative maintenance systems in place, a culture of compliance and promoting road safety and it also means documents are less easily mislaid.

6. Membership of road side recovery organisations
Don't risk one of your vehicles breaking down and having your employee stranded on the hard shoulder of the motorway putting lives at risk.

7. Consider appointing a fleet or transport manager
Be it full or part time, a transport manager can effectively implement your preventative vehicle safety systems and retain your records for inspection if required.

8. Periodically train your drivers
Tell them regularly what your policies are in relation to mobile phone use, limits on drivers hours, weight restrictions of the vehicles they drive (there are individual axle limits as well as gross weight limits), how to properly and safely load a vehicle, what your procedures are in the event of an accident, and what standards you expect of them. Keep records of the training you have given them. Training helps promote a culture of compliance within your work force and will demonstrate to the authorities (should you ever need to) that your business is committed to road safety rather than just paying lip service.

9. Assess fitness to drive
Are your drivers fit and legally able to drive? Ask to see their driving licences every six months to ensure they are still valid and keep you informed of driving convictions. Keep photocopies of the paper counterpart. If you have suspicions about alcohol or drug abuse then insist on a medical assessment of their fitness to drive.

10. Introduce written time sheets
As a company you are required by law to keep records about who is driving a particular vehicle at a particular time in the event that the vehicle is, for example, caught on a speed camera. Failure to do so attracts a fine. You should also be able to demonstrate compliance with the Working Time Directive. Asking your staff, especially your drivers, to complete time sheets will enable you to do all of this as well as keeping a record of the number of hours each day and each week that they are actually driving as opposed to doing some other activity. This will enable you to ensure that your drivers are not suffering from fatigue behind the wheel, a common cause of crashes.

This list is not exhaustive and much will depend on the type of business and nature of journeys and vehicles involved.

The latest edition of Legal 500 ranks Stephensons as a top 60 UK law firm and the fifth largest legal practice in the North West. The firm has 26 partners and more than 350 staff in five locations; Manchester, Wigan, Bolton, Leigh and St Helens. For more information, visit www.stephensons.co.uk.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Unemployment down across Greater Manchester

by Samantha Barker, Policy Manager Employment & Skills

Unemployment has decreased across Greater Manchester, according to figures released by the ONS today. The total number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance last month stood at 82,060 compared with 82,591 the month before.
Unemployment levels have either decreased or stayed constant in every Greater Manchester borough apart from Salford.

According to the figures, claimant counts were reduced by 0.1% in Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside. Unemployment levels remained constant in Bolton, Manchester, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan. Salford was by far the worst affected borough with 7,766 people unemployed last month compared with 7,659 in September, a rise of 0.1%

This is certainly encouraging news for the local job market and the region. However people should be mindful about the figures, as it is still possible that we are in a W-Shaped recession.

Nonetheless a reduction in the claimant count can only be a good thing.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Looking for innovative businesses...

by Matthew Hall, Press & PR Officer

In today's competitive market, innovation can be the key to a successful business. New Chamber President, Moneeb Awan has pledged to promote real innovation amongst our membership in his Presidential year and as part of this, we're about to launch a new area of our website that is not just about new ideas but how they are put into practice to create new products and services, improve the way things are run or add value.

We're lucky to have some extremely innovative and forward-thinking businesses amongst our membership and here is where you can tap into that expertise.

To get the ball rolling, we're interested to hear your own examples of innovation. Please email: matthew.hall@gmchamber.co.uk if you would like your business to be featured.

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Member News: eSAy provide mobile solution for Dutch Postal Lottery
Chamber member eSAY Solutions Ltd have recently provided their InFormed mobile technology software for a high profile event organised by Boost Field Marketing, a Dutch Promotions company holds the remit to market the Netherlands Postcode lottery.

Chamber News: More Quantitative Easing
The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has decided to extend its policy of quantitative easing and hold interest rates at 0.5%.

CTI secure new contract with Setanta Insurance
The Manchester based technical web development agency CTI Support Network have teamed up with the fastest growing vehicle insurance company in Ireland, Setanta Insurance in a year long deal.

Member News: Pinsent Masons top legal adviser rankings
International law firm and GM Chamber member Pinsent Masons has been ranked number one in Hemscott's latest quarterly table of Law Firms by number of AIM Clients. Pinsent Masons was also ranked top legal advisers for FTSE AIM UK 50 clients, up from fourth place.

East Manchester housing schemes get £8m boost
New East Manchester and Manchester City Council have welcomed news that three east Manchester housing schemes have received a boost totalling nearly £8 million.

Diane Oxberry announced as host of CIPR Pride Awards 2009
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations' PRide Awards, which take place on Wednesday 18th November 2009 at Manchester's Hilton Hotel, will be hosted by BBC North West Tonight's Dianne Oxberry.

Metrolink services return to the city centre
Trams returned to Manchester city centre on schedule today, after a major project to replace all of the city centre tracks. Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) has overseen the project to replace the tracks and redevelop the St Peter’s Square and Piccadilly Gardens stops.