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

Friday, 26 November 2010

Why Should I Export?

Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director of UKTI North West

This is one of the commonest questions I am asked when I'm out and about talking of the opportunities overseas in mature or emerging markets. I often answer “because you will increase your UK sales as well.” Why should this be so?

Well, I suppose I could have trotted out a battery of statistics about firms’ increasing their productivity by an average of 34% in the first year of exporting and that firms that export are 12% more likely to survive through difficult times. I could have emphasised the benefits of spreading your risk – if one market dips another can take up the slack; increased capacity utilisation, higher levels of growth, extending the commercial lifespan of your products are all important factors too. I could even mention that revenues are generally higher in export markets and you will dramatically improve your credibility by competing against the best the world has to offer. All powerful benefits and all facts based on an array of academic research on the subject.

If, however, I mention absorptive capacity, would it mean anything to you? In a nutshell, it’s the ability that a company has to adapt and change to different circumstances whatever they may be. Different styles or colour schemes in different markets, even simple voltage differences all need to be taken into account. Adapting to different cultures, ways of negotiating, having to use widely different market entry methods with different payment methods, often planning for different currencies are all things that exporters learn to take in their stride.

The best news of all is that you will use all these lessons in the UK market as well. Anybody who walks the streets of Manchester or London on a regular basis knows that it’s not just the accent that is different, the styles are different, the way of doing business is different; they could almost be in different countries. Firms that have learned how to adapt by dipping their toes into export markets will instinctively recognise this, will differentiate their product or service offer accordingly and see their home sales grow as well. To use a bit of a cliché, exporting is a win (overseas) win (at home) situation.

To read more of Clive’s blogs go

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Transport Announcement

Commenting on the announcement this morning by Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond of further investment in the UK’s rail infrastructure, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Deputy Chief Executive, Chris Fletcher said: "This is great news and could provide a real boost for the local business community but we will have to wait to find out exactly how much of this extra investment will be coming to Greater Manchester.

"The Chamber on behalf of its members, has been campaigning at a national level for extra capacity for a number of years. Rail travel in Greater Manchester is reaching the point where overcrowding is seriously hampering the economy and without extra capacity it would only get worse.”

He added:” Whilst this is a step in the right direction it is just one part of what is needed to make the rail system truly fit for purpose for the local economy. The second element that we have been campaigning for is the long overdue works needed to unclog the bottleneck at Piccadilly station – the Northern Hub – which affects rail traffic right across the north of England. It is no use having extra carriages if the rail network grinds to a halt through congestion. The decision to proceed with this is still some way off and we will carry on campaigning for this until it gets the green light.”

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Inflation Figures.

Commenting on the latest inflation figures, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "A slight increase in CPI inflation to 3.2% is perhaps not unexpected given the fuel duty increase from October 1, and along with the upward pressure due to food and alcohol prices there will be little to cheer consumers as we move towards the festive period.

"Another tax increase, the VAT increase in January, will further increase prices so consumer demand will weaken. Our Quarterly Economic Survey is underway and will report on the latest economic conditions affecting the region in mid-December. Fortunately the Bank of England is likely to ignore inflation for some time yet and hold down interest rates, though this will mean we will be stuck with well above target inflation for some time. At present this is the lesser of the two evils, an interest rate rise at this time would make a double-dip recession a certainty."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Say YES to the Chamber’s QES

Quarter 4 of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is now underway with the Chamber urging you, our members, to help us to represent the region and ensure that we get our voice heard.

But do you really know what happens to the results? Why is it considered one of the most influential surveys in the UK? And what impact will the results have on your business?

Well here are the answers to your questions!

The QES is a regular assessment of the economic situation in the Greater Manchester region. The results from our survey help us to identify local economic conditions, critical for putting your case to local and national government so that the right environment is created for you.

The results from our regional survey are fed into a national survey which is sent to key decision makers including the Bank of England, HM Treasury, Ministers and local MPs.
The survey is highly influential which is clearly shown by the fact that it is one of three surveys regularly reviewed by the Bank of England when setting monetary policy and is also credited in the Bank of England Inflation Report!

Why should you spend the next 3 minutes filling it in?

We need to know what is going on in the real economy and what challenges your business faces. Without a fair assessment of the conditions in our region we cannot influence Government policy. We urge you, to use this opportunity to give your opinion on the economic situation. We need to ensure that as many businesses in the Greater Manchester region fill it in to ensure that our area is represented when the Bank of England and key Government Ministers are making decisions that will impact on our area.

The survey is not technical and will only take a couple of minutes of your time.
If you would like to review the results from previous surveys then please click here

Finally if you want government to hear how economic conditions are affecting the productivity of your business then say YES to the QES and click here.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday Guest Blog

By Sue Hamilton - Director of Modus, a Bolton-based foster care company working with children from across the region.

It’s amazing how many business people, at all levels, I speak to who have incredible jobs but still feel like they are missing out on something in their life.

Greater numbers than ever are coming forward to ask us about becoming foster carers, either as a short career break, or in addition to their regular day job.

The profile of the average foster carer has definitely changed in recent years. Once the domain of middle class empty-nesters, fostering now attracts people from all walks of life – and that includes business men and women who have succeeded in their chosen career, but want to give themselves a different type of exciting and rewarding challenge.

Fostering certainly isn’t an easy job, but it’s definitely satisfying. I think that’s the major appeal. Some people know that they can cope in a board room full of top level executives, but feel excited about the prospect of testing themselves when it comes to providing a stable, caring home for young people in desperate need of love.

Unfortunately, recent figures have shown a real crisis in the world of fostering, with the number of children and young people needing care far outweighing the number of foster parents available in the North West.

I started modus in 2002 as I had a passion that every child deserved a home, and I still firmly believe that today.

People who have worked in the world of business are often perfectly equipped with the skills needed to be employed as a great foster parent – patience, ability to juggle several priorities at once, people management, and even administration all come into play in a foster home.

The support package offered means it really is a viable option for people wanting a break from the day to day world of business, but the ultimate reward is to take on such a challenge, and see the real difference that it can make to the lives of children and young people.

For more information about modus, visit:

Monday, 8 November 2010

I’m Dreaming of a White….Paper

By Chris Fletcher - Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Since the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 20 October, there has been a blizzard of government white papers.

The pre-CSR landscape was dominated by all manner of speculation, estimates and forecasts. Since the Chancellor’s announcement, however, the environment has become a lot clearer, particularly in relation to the key policies that will impact massively on businesses.

So, what should we be on the look out for, what should we be concerned about, and what are we going to do to make sure businesses benefit?

Firstly, the Spending Review itself: This really did lay out the boundaries of what the government spending plans will look like over the next four years. However, in amongst the very detailed calculations, there are still quite a few gaps in the specifics. Take transport, for example, which will retain its capital spending, but we are yet to see details about key projects such as the Northern Hub, which is as important to Greater Manchester, and indeed the North West, as Crossrail is to London. This is just one example of many.

Hot on the heels of the CSR came the ‘Local Growth’ white paper: This was released on the same day that the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Greater Manchester was given the go ahead. The ‘Local Growth’ white paper contains all manner of extremely interesting suggestions as to how local funds can be raised to fund capital spending in the future. For example, the paper looks at the retention and pooling of locally raised business rates, business growth bonuses and tax increment financing. A further review on this is due for the New Year when the ‘Local Government Resource Review’ gets underway. ‘Local Growth’ also covers the transition from the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to LEPs, housing and planning issues, and also sets out what the new Regional Growth Fund will deliver.

By itself the above would be enough to be getting on with, but it doesn’t stop there.

Next up were two more papers: ‘Financing Business Growth’ and ‘Backing Small Business’ . These were released on the same day that Lord Young was announced as the new Enterprise Tsar, a position held previously by Lord Sugar. In a nutshell, these papers get to the heart of some of the fundamental issues we have been raising with government for some time now, on behalf of members. These issues include: access to finance, help for exporters, better terms to help firms access government procurement opportunities and, linked with Lord Young’s other job for government, a realistic approach to cutting red tape and freeing business to get on with its job.

So, there we have it; a truly comprehensive list of policies and mechanisms designed to give business the environment and tools to grow, recruit and lead the recovery.

What next though? The next few weeks promise to be extremely busy for us. With our local councils and specialist committees we will be finalising our top priority issues themed around growth for the next 12 months. We will also be assessing, in detail, how the contents of the various papers will impact or affect these issues.

Once this has been done, we will let you, our members, know how you can get involved with this activity. We will also give some very clear messages to the decision-makers about what businesses want to see happen.

Whether you agree or disagree with the government, one thing is sure: they are reliant on business to get the UK economy back on track and are willing to listen. We need to make the most of this opportunity. You need to tell us what you want and we will be visible and vocal on your behalf.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Interest Rates Held.

Commenting on today's decision to hold interest rates, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "Today's decision was not unexpected. Higher than expected growth figures will have weakened the argument for a further round of quantitative easing, though this may still be needed in the New Year. The argument for higher interest rates is not yet sufficiently strong as inflation, though over target, is stable."