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

Friday, 28 May 2010

Friday Guest Blog - Is your business prepared for the World Cup?

Friday Guest Blog by Zara Niemand, from the Employment Law Team at Ralli

Is your business prepared for the World Cup?

World Cup fever is upon us and is starting to dominate the attention of our country. The prominent question your business ready for the 11th June 2010?

A number of World Cup games clash with normal business hours, including that of England v Slovenia on 23rd June, it is also likely that as England progress through the tournament, employers will be faced with various issues of unauthorised absences from employees either as a result of wanting to watch the game or to recover from the over indulgence in alcohol the night before.

In our experience the cause of much of the conflict for occasions such as these arises through lack of communication. Acas advise that line managers and employees are aware of how requests for leave can be made as well as the consequences of unauthorised absence.

Minimising unauthorised absences

There are a number of options for employers to minimise the number of unauthorised absences, these include:

• Emphasising the disciplinary consequences an employee may face for taking unauthorised time off work

• Encouraging employees to take annual leave either from the employees annual allowance or unpaid

• Hosting special screenings of matches at work premises

• Introducing ‘flexible working’, where employees can make up their time during a lunch hour, or before or after work to enable them to watch the key matches that are during work hours
It is also important that non-England supporters and non-football fans are given exactly the same flexibility to ensure no complaints of discrimination or unfair treatment arise.

Ways to avoid a business own goal

• Employers should review their absence management policy or ensure they put one in place if they do not have one

• Keep a diary of all games that may coincide with normal working hours (Please see our handy list at the bottom of this Blog)

• Remind employees that unauthorised absence will be dealt with according to your company’s disciplinary procedure

• Employers should look to monitor their employees patterns of absence and ensure that return to work interview are carried out where appropriate

• Employees are within their right to book annual leave to watch the football and employers should notify employees that requests will be considered where possible, however, employers should ensure that annual leave is granted fairly for example on a first come first served basis.

Dates for your diary

Friday 11th June
15:00 South Africa v Mexico

Monday 14th June
12:30 Netherlands v Denmark
15:00 Japan v Cameroon

Tuesday 15th June
12:30 New Zealand v Slovakia
15:00 Côte d'Ivoire v Portugal

Wednesday 16th June
12:30 Honduras v Chile
15:00 Spain v Switzerland

Thursday 17th June
15:00 Greece v Nigeria
12:30 Argentina v Korea Republic

Friday 18th June
15:00 Slovenia v USA
12:30 Germany v Serbia

Monday 21st June
15:00 Chile v Switzerland
12:30 Portugal v Korea DPR

Tuesday 22nd June
15:00 Mexico v Uruguay
15:00 France v South Africa

Wednesday 23rd June
15:00 Slovenia v England
15:00 USA v Algeria

Thursday 24th June
15:00 Slovakia v Italy
15:00 Paraguay v New Zealand

Friday 25th June
15:00 Portugal v Brazil
15:00 Korea DPR v Côte d'Ivoire

Last 16
Monday 28th June 16:00 1E v 2F
Tuesday 29th June 16:00 1F v 2E

Friday 2nd July 16:00 W53 v W54

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Queen's Speech

Commenting on the Queen’s speech, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “Today’s Queen’s Speech, outlining the legislative programme up to Autumn 2011, contains no surprises. Businesses will undoubtedly welcome the move to block the proposed increase in employers’ national insurance contributions.

"The programme also includes a number of opportunities for businesses to innovate and grow as the Government seeks to encourage low carbon energy production, investment in high-speed broadband and high-speed rail. These are important to ensure that the UK remains internationally competitive and develops a low carbon economy.

"For entrepreneurial businesses, this programme will be seen as one of opportunity. The full details will be released in time, but the Chamber will lobby hard to ensure that the interests of Greater Manchester are represented and that the best possible environment is created for businesses to innovate and create much needed private sector jobs.”

North West Rail Cuts

Commenting on the news that funding to revamp Manchester Victoria, Stockport and Wigan North Western Stations has been cut, Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "This is a devastating blow for the region. Victoria was named as one of the worst stations in the country and is in desperate need of a revamp. To have the money pulled in 24 hours is very worrying and I hope that this is not a sign of how this government will operate.

"As any commuter will tell you, the facilities at Victoria are simply not good enough for a modern city. Wigan and Stockport are not in as dire a state as Victoria, but both are major stations which badly need investment to bring them up to modern standards.

"All these stations needed was a relatively small amount of public money which would then draw in private sector investment. We will be writing to the new Secretary of State for Transport to voice our concern and call for a rethink."

Friday, 21 May 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Forming Effective Working Relationships is the Key to Productivity.

Nick Kettles, Marketing Director, The Coaches Training Institute, UK

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the economy is up or down, either way, over the last decade employees increasingly have been asked to do more with less, in less time, and perform consistently better than their competitors.

Collaboration clearly is the key to productivity and yet that is not always easy for chronically overwhelmed managers, charged with the responsibility to recognize and develop the talent potential in each of his or her direct reports.

In fast paced business environments, there is little time for meaningful manager-employee interaction and the tendency may still be for managers to view employees as transactional objects to get things done and tick the next ‘to do’ on the list. Even with management structures becoming flatter, the natural tendency of people to compete with one and other, even within the same workplace, can also prove to be counter productive.

However, the manager-employee relationship still presents an inherently rich, opportunity for inspiring transformational development throughout the organization, and increasing productivity, if businesses understand how to leverage it.

For example, coaching models such as the Co-active model, which help develop the individual’s emotional Intelligence – such as learning deep listening skills - can play a role in helping unlock the potential power in the employee-manager relationship. With such an approach, managers can shift modes from trying to control their staff, to one that enables employees to see themselves as fully resourceful in meeting the demands of the business.

Take the way managers use processes like 360 degree feedback tools for example. Traditionally they have been used to help fix people, mitigate risk and manage performance, but seen through the lens of Co-activity, managers can not only establish and measure people’s competencies, but deliver the feedback in a way which is compelling enough for them to want to get to the next level.

By creating a safe space, a coaching approach removes the fear of failure and permits people, to become more curious about what other directions are available to them, when things don’t work.
Perhaps more than technology, or strategy, unlocking the power of human relationships will prove to be the driver in helping businesses overcome the impact of recession, and return to full productivity.

CTI offer coach training courses for executives, managers and new career seekers, in Manchester and London, throughout the year. For more information.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

What’s got 36 sides, is blue and yellow and took a long weekend to make?

At last the Conservative and Lib Dem programme for government has been published.

In the scale of these type of documents it is rather slim at just 36 pages but boy, when you open it up you really do get a sense of the scale of change that both parties are eager to push through.

There are 399 separate issues that the Government has committed to look at, from the very ambitious such as “We will introduce a Freedom Bill” to the more specific “We will double the maximum fine for under-age alcohol sales to £20,000”. Some of you may have spotted a theme appearing here around the phrase “we will” and this is pasted liberally over the document. If you want to see for yourself then click here

It must also be said that there are a lot more broad issues raised than specifics and all underpinned by an ominous sounding caveat on the inside back page about the deficit reduction programme taking precedence over any of the other measures in the programme.

So, accepting that not all 399 issues are immediately relevant to business in Greater Manchester what are the themes that are coming through?

There will be effective proposals developed to ensure a flow of credit to SMEs; there is a definite flavour of a less regulatory type approach for business - promises to end “gold plating”, the bane of European legislation for years, and a move to a one-in one-out rule so that no new regulation is introduced without old regulation being cut.

There is a promise to automate small business rate relief; changes in local partnerships and how local authorities work and a promise of directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities of which Manchester is one. Confirmation of High Speed Rail, longer rail franchises and an easier process to start a business.

I could go on…. but I won’t. Instead I’ll borrow a familiar phrase from the document and say what the Chamber will be doing on your behalf.

We will monitor daily the output from government to highlight immediately when further details are announced to support the points in the document.

We will use our expertise to assess the implications and practicalities of the relevant sections.

We will then ask for your comment, help and feedback on the government's proposals and how they impact on you and if they could be improved.

We will make sure that your voice is heard as the genuine wealth creators and will represent your views locally, regionally and nationally. You can email your views to

We will keep you informed of progress and success.

Maybe 394 short but as I've always said, less is more.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Emergency Budget

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber.

The Chancellor has announced that the promised Emergency Budget to be held within 50 days of forming the new Government will be on 22nd June. However before that, this coming Monday he will announce the first £6bn of public sector spending cuts. Rumours are rife as to what will be included; though a brief list of likely areas was outlined in a Treasury press notice. Ken Clarke explained to the Chamber during his Election campaign visit that any cuts would be carefully thought through and timed to avoid undermining the recovery.

We hope that his colleagues are like minded and that the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ is not an early casualty of the deficit reduction plan. The construction industry as a sector re-entered recession in Quarter 1 this year and across Greater Manchester construction businesses are reliant on projects such as this to get through the downturn.

With the Emergency Budget in mind the Chamber is proposing to submit a letter outlining the policies that we want to see put in place. If implemented, how will a reduction in corporation tax rates impact on your business? Corporation tax rate reductions would be tax neutral so rates and reliefs would be abolished to pay for these. Would capital gains tax increases on non-business assets impact on other aspects of your business model? Would another change in VAT rates be a cost to your business or impact on your sales? Have your say by e-mailing me by clicking here before 28th May. We are here to represent the views of our members.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Friday Guest Blog - Carbon Reduction: A Growing Priority

By Dr Emma Gardner, Chair of Greater Manchester Chamber’s Carbon Reduction Group.

“For many of us, the realisation that we need to take action to reduce our carbon footprint has been steadily growing over the past few years. Whether this has been influenced by the media coverage, infiltrating our subconscious, or through a more deliberate study of our carbon emissions, the need for companies to tackle this issue has now become much more pressing and a growing priority for many.

With this in mind, the Chamber has established its own Carbon Reduction Group. There are a number of member companies who are directly involved in carbon reduction services and it was felt that a platform was needed in order to promote their expertise and resources to other organisations across Greater Manchester to develop their market offering. In order to establish what skills and services are provided by the Chamber’s members, a survey has been launched, which will draw together information on the organisations involved in this field, both in Greater Manchester and now incorporating Chambers across the North West.

Greater Manchester is now positioning itself as a low carbon economy. One of the aims of the Carbon Reduction Group will be to ensure that local firms will be able to compete and benefit from emerging opportunities. We hope to establish and share ‘best practice’ and enable joint working between members’ organisations of all sizes with the relevant expertise in this initiative.

The Manchester Independent Economic Review has identified Greater Manchester as having a “first mover advantage”, positioning us at the forefront of the global environmental industry. We want to act on this now and establish Greater Manchester as an international centre of expertise in carbon reduction. We know that the Chamber’s members have the skills to deliver this vision and capture and disseminate new information and technologies in the field.

Joining me in the Carbon Reduction Group are representatives from across Greater Manchester’s business community. Together we will be co-ordinating the activities of our members, and working to reduce the carbon emissions of companies in our region.”

Businesses involved in the carbon reduction field can find the survey on the Chamber’s website:

Thursday, 13 May 2010

How to Triumph with Technology

By Dave Martin – Business Development Manager, Business Finance Solutions

“The North West has an enviable reputation as an area of technical innovation. This has developed over many years with cutting edge achievements, such as the world’s first swing aqueduct that carried the Bridgewater canal over the Manchester Ship Canal in 1893; Rutherford’s discovery of how to split the atom at Manchester University in 1919; the first computer with a stored memory, developed at Manchester University in 1948; the world renowned radio telescope constructed at Jodrell Bank in the 1950s.

The list could go on and on and thankfully so does the technical innovation within the region.

The challenge for businesses within this sector, once they have developed an innovative business idea, is to market the product and to develop the ‘idea’ into an economically viable product or process, generating sales, profit and employment within the region.

This is where Business Finance Solutions (BFS) may be able to help. BFS is a not- for-profit, Government-backed organisation that can help provide existing and start-up businesses with loans of between £3,000 and £50,000.

We have recently obtained access to further funding aimed specifically at the technology sector. New ‘products’ must be ready for market, as we do not lend for research and development purposes. In addition to this, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have tried to obtain funding from traditional sources, such as a bank, but have been rejected. Finally, they must have a viable business plan for us to fully consider their application.

So far BFS has provided loans in excess of £4,800,000 and has recently passed the 1,400 mark for jobs created and protected in the region.

What we intend to do with this scheme, is make it easier for people to start or develop their enterprises. In time, this will result in job creation, which in turn will have a direct effect on the North West’s economy.

Anyone interested in finding out more about BFS and the services and products we offer, should contact us on 0161 245 4977 or e-mail

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Reaction to New Government

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “Given last week’s General Election result, yesterday’s formation of a coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats should start to provide some clarity for business.

“The economy is the most pressing issue for the new Government and agreeing a common ground between the two parties for addressing the deficit must be established and announced as soon as possible so that business confidence is restored.

“Addressing the deficit will inevitably mean a combination of tax rises and public sector spending cuts; this must be done in such a way as to promote business investment so that jobs and wealth are created, in turn further helping to narrow the deficit. The coalition must remain strong and committed to addressing the immediate challenges facing the country; any other path will unnerve the markets and undermine business confidence.”

Unemployment Falls Across Greater Manchester

Unemployment has fallen again across Greater Manchester according to figures released today.

The total number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance last month was 80,479 compared with 82,300 the month before.

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "Today’s unemployment figures indicate that the pace of job losses has continued to decline with a decrease in the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, though nationally the number of people unemployed longer term continues to increase.

“Private sector businesses are poised to invest and create jobs in the region, but the Election has created uncertainty and these plans have been delayed. The recovery, though weak, is underway and the new Government needs to take decisive action that supports business investment so that we get these people back into work.

“To achieve this, the Government should have a moratorium on new employment legislation and be clear on plans for taxation to give business the confidence to recruit in the coming months.”

Monday, 10 May 2010

PR Workshop

LEWIS PR Manchester is running a free PR Surgery on Thursday to advise North West businesses on how to make the most of media opportunities during the summer months and beyond.
Specialising in both B2B and B2C campaigns, LEWIS' small business experts can advise you on how to maximise opportunities and increase your company's profile across local, national and web outlets.
Consultants from the agency will be at the Chamber's offices in Churchgate House, Oxford Street, Manchester, on Thursday May 13. Hour-long sessions are available free of charge, to book a place email

Chamber reaction to today's interest rates decision

By Dr Brian Sloan

Commenting on the MPC’s decision to hold interest rates at 0.5%, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “The recovery remains weak and inflation, though above 3%, is within the Bank’s forecasts and expected to come down over the coming months, so today’s decision to hold rates at 0.5% is once again not unexpected and will be welcomed by businesses.

“This will give businesses some sense of stability given the uncertain outlook caused by the General Election result and the ongoing deliberations between the party leaders.”

Guest Blog

William Hanson of The English Manner

We live in a time-poor world; we expect everything instantly. Our Blackberries give us our email instantly; we can tweet our thoughts instantly; we can be telephoned instantly. It’s easy to see why we have started to forget about things like good manners, which appear to take up so much of our precious time. Why hold open that door for someone when we could be Blackberry Messaging a colleague with that new joke?

Manners are timeless. They don’t really take up too much of our time at all. It’s an excuse that the bone-idle have invented in order to excuse them from practising it. Everyone appreciates a bit of respect, and this is the key when doing business with other cultures.

So many business people wrongly assume that doing business in China will be exactly like doing business in Cheshire. We get so many people sent to us by employers, from companies of all sizes, asking us to do a rescue job on a newly promoted VP’s table manners, or their basic business protocol. The employer will brief us that the person has fantastic business acumen but has shockingly bad table manners and would discredit the company if they were sent to wine and dine a client.

Would you know how to receive a business card from a Chinese client without offending them? (There are eight possible ways in which you could cause offence.) Would you know which countries not to show the soles of your shoes when you sat down? How about the correct way to introduce senior colleagues to potential clients?

It’s a minefield, but like most things, once the basic building blocks are learned it becomes much easier. Sadly, fewer companies see the need to invest in training (of the protocol variety or any other) and this is where British business is starting to lose its edge. Other countries ‘get it’ more than we do. It is arrogant of us to think that we are naturally better than everyone else.

The English Manner is holding several business protocol seminars across the UK from June onwards. Our first is at The Radisson Edwardian Hotel in Manchester. Members of Greater Manchester Chamber are entitled to a discount of 10%. When booking at please quote the following code: MANCHESTERCC1

And the Uncertainty Continues…

After waking up on Friday to a hung parliament, the nation has been treated to a weekend of media hype and speculation over who will be the next Prime Minister. Whatever the outcome of the current discussions between the party leaders, the uncertainty is set to continue beyond the outcome of those deliberations.
Whilst a Conservative/Lib Dem pact may lead to agreement on some policies, it will inevitably struggle with others and a Lab/Lib Dem pact simply doesn’t add up to a majority. This uncertainty and delay is not good for business, it is damaging confidence and businesses are simply unable to plan for the future.

If we are heading for another election in the not too distant future, the outlook isn’t good for the new government that emerges in the next few days – tough decisions need to be made and a clear and credible plan to address the deficit announced soon, but how would the electorate respond in round two?

We’d like to hear your opinions on the current situation and what would be the best outcome? We have six tick box questions for you on the following survey. Election Poll

Friday, 7 May 2010

Election Reaction

Angie Robinson, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “As widely predicted the General Election has resulted in a hung parliament. The uncertainty surrounding the future of government policy in the UK has been a concern for businesses across the region and that uncertainty looks set to continue as the horse trading between the parties begins.

“The country needs a clear and decisive government to take the tough policy decisions facing us and this is a matter of urgency. All three parties have been unclear on the exact details of their manifestos and so this situation needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to ensure that our economic recovery is nurtured and protected.

"As we are still in the infancy of the recovery, businesses need confidence to invest and create much needed jobs. When the new government is formed the Chamber would like to see a number of detailed policy announcements made that incentivise business investment, boost our exports to help growth and protect investment in critical infrastructure projects and skills that will enable the UK to remain internationally competitive.

“The Chamber looks forward to continuing its relationship with all three parties and to putting forward the policies and arguments for a business led recovery. During the first 90 days after an election, the incoming government must make concrete proposals to reduce legislative and tax burdens on business, review how to move the economy away from an over reliance on consumption and the public sector, and commit to improving Britain’s energy, transport and digital infrastructure.”

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The BIG Election Question Results

By Brian Sloan

Last week we asked our business members who they will be voting for at this year’s General Election. The results are as follow-

Conservatives 72 %
Liberal Democrats 16 %
Labour 11 %

The business community in Greater Manchester has spoken, we will find out how accurate this reflection is of the actual election results very soon..

And They’re Off!

This is it, the polling stations are open and people all over the country are casting their votes. Greater Manchester will be one of those key areas that the media’s attention will focus on as an indication of whether Gordon Brown will emerge victorious after a gruelling campaign; was it really only four weeks? Will David Cameron triumph and return the Conservatives to power after 14 years in opposition? Or will those floating voters, still undecided at the last minute, tick that Lib Dem box and complete Nick Clegg’s meteoric rise from “the other guy” then “King maker”, to Prime Minister?

In all honesty it looks likely that it will be less than clear when the votes are finally counted. Polls continue to suggest that a hung parliament will be the most likely result and whatever that is on Friday morning, Gordon Brown will retain the keys to number 10 for just a while longer. In the event of a hung parliament the horse trading will begin, concessions will be made and a coalition government will be formed.

After a campaign that has had it all, TV debates, the economy, national insurance, immigration, the health service, that volcano in Iceland and evidence of the existence of black holes, no clear winner has emerged and the detail upon which to make a voting decision has been lacking. Greater Manchester Chamber stands ready to meet with any government to put forward the arguments for creating the right environment for businesses in the region to prosper. When businesses invest they create jobs and wealth, so above all we need the confidence in a clear and credible plan to address the deficit.

Current poll of polls indicate that the Conservative party will receive 35 per cent of the vote, Labour - 28 per cent, Liberal Democrats - 27 per cent and other parties 10 per cent. This translates into 278 seats for Conservative, 263 for Labour, 80 for Liberal Democrats and 29 seats for other parties.