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

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.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Friday Guest Blog: File-sharing, crack down or back down?

Government’s Tough Stance On File-Sharing To Be Moderated
by Steve Kuncewicz, IP & Media Lawyer at Ralli Solicitors


In the latest twist in the ongoing battle between Musicians, the Entertainment Industry, Internet Service Providers, the Government and the General Public, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announcement that the Government’s highly controversial and heavily criticised initiative to tackle illegal downloading by cutting off internet access to file-sharers will be ‘moderated’ in the light of massive public opposition.

The Business Secretary Lord Mandelson announced a number of measures to deal with file-sharing in August this year, amongst which were proposals that ISPs should split the cost of protecting copyright on the web and, most controversially, to either slow down access or cut off persistent file-sharers from the internet as a 'weapon of last resort.' The new approach, however, confirms that a Court Order will be needed before the use of disconnection as a 'weapon of last resort,' which in itself would be made subject to a two-stage process, and emphasises a right to appeal so that web users are not disconnected on the basis of a 'mere accusation.'

This is a pretty big climb down for the Government on what looks as if it will become a major issue at the next election and this may well be what has forced their hand. A recent YouGov poll commissioned by the Open Rights Group showed that only 16% of those questioned supported cutting file-sharers off from the web and that over 70% would not support disconnection. This came after TalkTalk, one of the country’s biggest Internet Service Providers, successfully showed last week that a high percentage of household Wi-Fi broadband connections can be “hacked” by third parties to allow them to be used to illegally download without the owner’s knowledge and described the current proposals as “naïve” and “lacking a presumption of innocence.”

They have a point, and although many may view Talk Talk’s actions as a PR stunt, what they have done is highlight a very real problem with the previous approach – ISPs, if asked to hand over information on who is using their network to file-share, will not necessarily be able to tell exactly who is downloading – there is every possibility that several members of a household may use one connection to the Web, as well as hackers using their connection without their knowledge. This may mean that prosecutions or civil actions may be much more complicated and therefore more costly, especially as software tools to identify users are not a reliable as they could be. Virgin ran into this problem last year when they sent out letters to various users which they suspected of using peer-to-peer services only to be told that the recipients had no idea who was responsible. Not only that, but new methods of file-sharing, such as iPod ripping, don’t actually use an internet connection. The chances are that technology will simply be too slow to keep up with them.

File-sharing became an issue in mainstream politics after intense lobbying from the Entertainment Industry to do something about the problem, which is now having a huge impact upon CD and DVD sales, rather than being an excuse for the Government to regulate for the sake of it. It’s been estimated that there are over 7 million file-sharers in the UK and the Entertainment Industry, as well as some of the artists themselves, has been campaigning for either the Government or ISPs to intervene on their behalf to cut down the traffic in illegal files against claims that music piracy is severely limiting their ability to launch new artists and promote existing acts. ISPs say it isn’t their responsibility and the Government isn’t sure how to deal with theirs.

The black letter of the law remains the same: if you copy an MP3 from the web without permission from its owner, you will infringe copyright. Copyright is hugely important to the music industry as it is the main protection for an artist’s work and the main way in which record companies make money. It protects music as soon as it is recorded, and the copyright in a song or entire album belongs to either the Band or their label, giving them the right to control if and when their music is copied and made available to the public as well as allowing them to charge fees for doing so, which, so the theory goes, would encourage other artists to carry on making new music.

However, the law has not been able to keep up with the pace of technology. In the 80s, many LPs carried a piracy warning that 'Home Taping Is Killing Music' as cassette recorders allowed copies of albums to be made and handed out without any control by the Music Industry under the fear that LP sales would fall if people stopped buying LPs that their friends copied for them, which they did. We are in an even worse situation now as the Music Industry is terrified of the impact that illegal downloading is having upon CD sales.

The public seems genuinely confused over exactly what copyright protects. Not only that, but the law itself is confused – technically speaking, downloading a CD to your iPod is also an infringement of copyright, although the issue of 'format shifting' is being looked at in some detail. Ad campaigns for the iPod would probably be very different if they carried a health warning that using them could land you in court.

So, where next? Pretty much everyone seems to agree that the issue of file-sharing needs to be dealt with, but the issue is already fiercely dividing opinion. Even the artists whose music is being downloaded can’t seem to agree upon what the approach should be, with Radiohead suggesting that downloading is on the rise due to an absence of good music on the radio and giving away their 'In Rainbows' album via free download. On the other hand, Lily Allen took a very public stand against downloaders, claiming that she won’t make any more albums due to the problem and that new acts are no longer being signed in the same numbers due to a lack of being able to make money from them.

Even though Allen and other high-profile musicians such as Annie Lennox and the members of the Featured Artists Coalition have put the case against downloading very eloquently and very publicly, other artists such as Shakira claim that what we’re actually seeing is a “democratisation of music”. That’s an interesting word to use, as other attempts to implement a “three strikes” system of cutting off downloaders within the EU have been derailed on the basis that cutting off access to the internet is, in fact, unconstitutional. The Digital Britain Report, as well as the Prime Minister, recognised that public access to the internet will be vital to the development of the new “knowledge economy”. The main change in approach will now be that a Judge decides when to cut off users rather than a government body.

There is also a real issue of public perception of copyright infringement as a victimless crime. Lily Allen has taken a lot of abuse due to the fact that, not only did her website contain copies of material by other artists without their permission in “mixtape” form, but she also “cut and pasted” one of her Blog posts on the issue. Add to that the fact that French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a key supporter of the tougher approach, was recently accused of “pirating” over 400 DVDs and it’s easy for public opinion to turn against an industry which produces massive wealth for its members.

However, a key development this weekend saw the European Parliament give the go-ahead for member states to cut off persistent offenders. This came about after an amendment to forthcoming telecommunications legislation, which would make this difficult without a court order, was dropped. The British Government’s latest proposals on how to deal with the problem are expected over the next month or so, but whatever the outcome, this debate will run and run and it remains only a matter of time before the Entertainment Industry takes action. So far, they’ve been reluctant (at least in the UK) to take action against their customers, but even though it will probably be a very expensive case which may lead to a commercial loss for the record company which brings proceedings (as whoever they sue may not be able to pay the Label’s legal costs and damages remain limited to what the actual price for the downloaded material would be), it’s probably only so long before the first real deterrent cases appear before the UK Court.

Whatever the case, just because the proposals have been watered down, the issue isn’t going to go away. Although it will remain difficult to do so, the threat of being cut off is still very real and still a very real flashpoint of public opinion. The only real way to deal with the problem remains education of the public as to what can and can’t be downloaded and to make as much material available for legal download as possible. With a few tweaks to its business model, the Entertainment Industry could truly embrace the new technology available and open up brand new revenue streams for their artists. Otherwise, the current stand-off will only get worse.

From offices in the heart of Manchester, Ralli are Solicitors specialising in Business Law, Intellectual Property & Media, Employment, Property, Fraud and Personal Injury. Call Ralli today on 0161 832 6131 or visit www.ralli.co.uk

Read more blogs by Steve and the rest of the team at Ralli at http://www.ralli.co.uk/blog/

Thursday, 5 November 2009

MPC increase quantitative easing

by Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Exec.

The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has decided to extend its policy of quantitative easing by £25bn (to take the scale of the cash injection to £200bn) and hold interest rates at 0.5%.

There has been a drive for an increase in quantitative easing. This is the eighth month that interest rates have been held at 0.5%. There are increasing signs of optimism, but there still needs to be further action before we see the foundations of a real recovery.

The jury is still out on whether the medicine has worked. Businesses are still saying that there is a blockage in the credit system which is putting a major brake on financial stimulus. Therefore we are pleased that they have taken heed of what businesses have said and increased quantitative easing.

Top Ten Tips: To recruit better

by Paul Halliwell, The Urquhart Partnership

Firstly, what do we mean by ‘Recruit Better’? Is it just getting the right person? No, there is much more to it than that…

There are 3 ways in which a poor recruitment strategy can have a negative effect on your business:
  • Getting the wrong person
  • Taking too much time to get the person
  • Spending too much money getting the person

Below are 10 ways to reduce the risk of these 3 things happening…

1. Think of your recruitment as a project
Recruitment is a process with 4 distinct sections – Clarify, Source, Select and Start. Clarify who you need, work out where you will source potential candidates, define the selection techniques you will use and create a plan for the person to start. Build these 4 sections into a project plan, with milestones, owners and required resource and things will run far smoother.

2. Clarify who you are looking for
What skills, knowledge and experience do you need from the person and what type of person, in terms of behaviour, personality and culture fit are you looking for? Bear in mind that skills, knowledge and experience can be trained into a person, whereas the right behaviours and personality that a person displays are far harder to change. What are the goals and targets of the role? Have you got a job description and/or person specification? Do you actually need to recruit someone or is there another way? Answering these potentially challenging questions will make the rest of your project fit together better.

3. Work out your sourcing strategy
Sourcing is how you find your pool of potential candidates, the people who you will make the choice from. This could be agencies, advertisements, recommend a friend schemes, social media etc. If you are going to advertise, look closely at what media you will use, don’t just choose the ones you always have. Is there a specific publication for the area of your business that the role sits in? Remember you are writing an advert, not a notification, so you should be looking to ‘sell’ your company to potential candidates. Are there free sourcing strategies you can use – such as Twitter and LinkedIn? Do you know how to use these? And finally who do you and your current employees know? Are you motivating your people to ask around their own networks?
If you are thinking of using agencies, bear in mind that they are mainly just a part of your sourcing strategy, not your selection process. You’ll still be reviewing CVs and carrying out at least one interview, and the cost of their sourcing can be significant. Driving down an agency on their rate could lead to them choosing not to forward their best candidates, because if they have another client paying a higher rate, it’s commercially sensible for them to send the best candidates to them.

4. Define your selection techniques
Many companies rely purely on a read through of a CV and standard biographical interviews in their selection process and combine these with a large element of gut feel. Is this the wrong thing to do? Not necessarily but it certainly has significant risks involved. CVs are advertisements from candidates and therefore accentuate positives. Are you selecting someone on the basis of their suitability or their skill at writing a CV?


Interviewing is a skill and like most skills it gets better with training. If someone is an experienced interviewer, does that mean that they are a good interviewer? Have you or your nominated interviewers been trained in the skills required? Think about this… if you were to recruit someone on a £25k salary who you could reasonably expect to work for you for 3 years, you are looking at a £75k investment. Are you comfortable making such an investment based on what could be a mix of unskilled interviewing and gut feel?
The use of behavioural profiling, psychometric testing, assessment centres, competency based interviews and role plays can all significantly enhance the success of the selection process – which of these are you able to deliver?

5. Set your timescales
There are 2 reasons for doing this. Firstly, if you have to have someone in place by a given date, you can work backwards and check how feasible it is. You need to have defined the steps you are taking in sourcing and selection to be able to work out your timescales. The second benefit of having timescales is that you can start to check your resource capabilities. Can you actually carry out interviews at the time when you want to? Are you in the office? Is there an important conference to attend?
The impact of recruiting on your time is a key factor often missed by businesses. Once you start to calculate the time spent on sourcing (however you choose to do it), selection (planning interviews, arranging them, preparing for them, actually carrying out the interviews and then reviewing), plus all the other associated work involved, you could easily find a week's worth of time has gone. Can you afford that time?

6. Think Legal
Without being too clichéd, recruitment is a minefield. From the wording of your advertisements to the criteria you use to select and especially the questions you ask at interview. It pays to be aware of what you can and cannot do.

7. Keep people informed
As you start to receive applications and meet people, bear in mind that every candidate could be a potential future customer, rival or colleague. As well as common courtesy it could be beneficial to have a process which keeps people informed of where they are in your process. Firstly, it will reduce unwanted phone calls from them. Secondly, your applicants could be suitable for other roles you may have in the future.
If you have chosen to use agencies for your sourcing, it’s worthwhile to make it clear to them how you want to operate. They will chase you for feedback on CVs and interviews and you want this to be at your convenience, not theirs. This will help you manage the amount of time you spend on the recruitment project.

8. Get to know your shortlist
Once you are at the stage of having a final few candidates in mind, it’s always worthwhile to get to know them better. After all, if you only meet them at interview, it’s a formal environment where neither you nor they will be totally at ease. Think about bringing candidates in to meet the team or for an informal lunch. Getting a second opinion, either by having a co-interviewer or by having someone else carry out a second interview, allows a more rounded opinion of your candidate to be gained.

9. Plan your induction
Starting a new job would be in most people’s top 10 stressful occasions in life. Always put yourself in the shoes of the new starter when you are planning an induction. Even better, when you make them an offer and it is accepted, call them and ask them what they would like to be included in their induction. Once you have an outline, get the right people involved and make sure you have a clear goal for each session of the induction.

10. Ask yourself some honest questions
Once you have got a project plan in place, you then need to ask yourself some honest questions. In your business, do you have the time, skills and financial resources to carry out the plan you have designed? Does it make commercial sense for you to be involved in the recruitment process, or would it be better to bring in resource instead? What effect will taking on this project have on your day to day activities? If the answers cause you concern, seek advice…

The Urquhart Partnership is skilled in supporting companies of all sizes in achieving excellent recruitment results. We do this by creating a bespoke recruitment plan delivering ideal candidates, at lower rates than agencies, in a way which minimises the time impact on the client.

For further information please contact:
Paul Halliwell
ph@upwebsite.com or Stephen Seymour ss@upwebsite.com

Monday, 2 November 2009

Briefed: the latest news from the Chamber website

Member News: Top of the class for Salford
National commercial law firm Beachcroft LLP has been appointed as sole provider of employment law services to The University Of Salford. The five-year contract, which begins this month, was awarded to Beachcroft following a competitive tender process.

Member News: Matmi short listed for 2009 BIMA Awards
Matmi have been shortlisted for this year's BIMA Awards for the firm's first iPhone App.

Member News: Sale law firm warns public about the dangers of unregulated will writers
Sale based law firm Slater Heelis Collier Littler (SHCL) is highlighting the risks of using unregulated will writers as part of ‘Write a Will Week'.

Last Chance to attend the Liverpool Software City International event!
It is just over a week until Liverpool Software City International, held on the 5th November at the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre and places are nearly full.

Chamber News: Anti – Competitive activity subject of next Chamber and Pinsent Masons legal briefing
Local Construction firms will be able to find out about the effects of the recent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into anti –competitive activities in the construction sector in the second in our series of legal updates being organised in partnership with Pinsent Masons LLP and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Small firms can claim refund of "excessive" music fees, tribunal rules
Hospitality businesses are in line to save millions of pounds on licences to play music in public areas and could be entitled to refunds of fees that have already been paid.

Government support for small businesses must not be sacrificed in public spending cuts, says FPB
The Government must not sacrifice its support for small businesses as part of widely-anticipated spending cuts to plug the gap in public finances, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning.

New bus connections launched
Transport bosses have launched a collection of new and improved bus services in Greater Manchester, providing new and easier connections across the county.

Member News: Craig Bellamy to host Charity Dinner at City of Manchester Stadium 7 December
Join Craig Bellamy, along with a host of stars from the world of entertainment and football including the Manchester City squad, at a gala dinner, to help raise funds for The Craig Bellamy Foundation.

Member News: Property market upswing boosts recovery hopes
Research published today by national commercial property consultancy, Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), signals that the property market may be recovering from one of the sharpest downturns ever experienced.

£8million for National Indoor BMX Centre
The final £8million needed to build the National Indoor BMX Centre in Manchester has been invested by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA).