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

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

"What do you think of it so far?"

Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, updates us on the latest news from his visit to London.

Two firsts today: The first keynote speech by shadow business secretary, John Denham, at a meeting I was invited to at the British Academy in London; and the first on-the-road blog I've done to let you know what he said.

I have some further meetings lined up with BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) officials, but more of that later.

So, what did Mr. Denham have to say? Well, not a lot from a new policy angle as the Labour party currently is embarking on a whole-scale policy review so anyone expecting big announcements would have been disappointed. However, some themes did emerge, such as that the review would cover areas such as skills, focused sector growth, and what support for growth may look like in the post RDA world.

Looking back he felt that the previous government was on the right track with business, but didn't complete the job. With regard to the current government’s efforts, he expressed real concern at what he put as the "wrong decisions being made" that ultimately could "kick the ladder of opportunity away" from businesses and prevent what he acknowledged as the vital ingredient for recovery, namely private sector growth and job creation.

So, no new announcements, but a reasonably polished performance from a shadow minister who has a reasonable level of experience. I will be dropping Mr. Denham a line inviting him to the Chamber to make sure that whatever the future policy of the opposition looks like it has business interests at its heart.

Moving on from someone with aspirations to work at 1 Victoria Street (the home of BIS or the DTI for those people still pre-decimal), to the present incumbents.

A key part of my role, and that of my colleagues, is to make the links with key officials and politicians in order to keep up-to-speed with the latest issues affecting you as businesses, as well as keeping them in the loop with what you are struggling with. This is a core part of what we do on your behalf and whilst today it’s London, the next time it may be closer to home such as the recent event with the Prime Minister.

Armed with your feedback, input and views from meetings and surveys we can make sure that your voice counts. Link this with our emerging policy priorities (watch this space for further updates), and you get a very clear message backed up by real experiences that business matters and needs some help at present to get through the current turmoil.

I still think 2011 will see growth, but at what rate remains anybody’s guess. There are still many decisions to be taken at the top level of government that we can influence but we need the ammunition to fire.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Friday Guest Blog

Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director of UKTI North West

It’s that time of year again when we consider what we have been doing and plan how we can do things differently in the coming year. As we look ahead to 2011, we have some uncertain economic times ahead but we are constantly being told that we should export our way out of the difficulties. It is something that I would of course advocate myself, but is it a realistic aim?

Well, as ever, I have a five point plan that businesses should follow to get on the road to international success:

1. Take advantage of the competitive pound. We have benefited from this for a couple of years now. There is evidence that it is beginning to work its way through into increased exports and you should look to take advantage of it yourself. Not that long ago the Dollar was at nearly 2 to the pound, now it’s at 1.55. The Euro was around 1.40, now it’s 1.18. This puts you in a much better competitive position against your European and American counterparts.

2. Seek out the sectors of growth. There are some industries which have hardly noticed a downturn and the year ahead promises real growth in:
• Medical/Bio/Pharma
• Energy
• Environmental technologies
• Digital/Creative

3. Think about the European market on your doorstep. The last year has seen good growth in Germany, Sweden and Poland as well as some others. You will get the benefit of strengthening economies as well as the competitive pound.

4. You must look at the emerging markets of the world. Of course, you should look at Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC markets) but consider others such as Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia. Did you know that Qatar, Turkmenistan, Ethiopia and Mozambique featured in the top ten fastest growing economies of 2010? There is real growth in these economies and you need to have a strategy to capitalise upon the many opportunities there.
5. Use the New Year to sharpen your focus. Go back and revisit your strategy and value propositions. Identify opportunities for your business and hunt them down ruthlessly. If you don’t your competitors will

We are in a great position to achieve an export led recovery but it will not happen just by chance. Planning your business around emerging international opportunities is becoming ever more important. Consider my five point plan and see if you too can emerge at the end of 2011 as a growing successful international business.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Interest Rates Held

Reacting to the MPC's decision to hold interest rates, Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "The Bank of England has done the right thing today and held its nerve to keep the base rate at its current level. There is some concern though whether this is just a stay of execution as increasing numbers of businesses report concerns about prices rising.

"With inflation already high and with more price increases still to come through following the VAT change, the Bank is looking like it is running out of breathing space and a rate rise could be on the cards in the not too distant future. Businesses are already battling a number of major issues at present and a change in base rate at this time or in the near future would present a serious challenge."

Friday, 7 January 2011

Friday Guest Blog

Cheryl Jackson-Leafield, Marketing Manager at 4imprint

I’m sure it is a universal truth that everyone loves to receive a gift. No matter where you live and work in the world there can’t be many people who would deny the sheer pleasure of being given or sent something unexpectedly, or as a thank you.

At 4imprint we live and breathe branded promotional products and like nothing better than helping people to choose items that they can use as incentives, a give-away or special promotion. We get requests from all sorts of people for all sorts of things and every one of the 2,250 items available on our website can be personalised with a company logo or other details to suit the occasion.

We also enjoy it when customers think creatively about the promotional products they choose and were delighted recently when Lynn from Dougal’s Den, an innovative on-line store for dogs, cats and their owners, contacted us about our range of Fun Bookmarks. “We like to send our customers a small gift with their order” explains Lynn “and decided that the animal bookmarks, personalised with our company logo, were fun and colourful and the perfect gift”. No more dog-eared books for Dougal’s Den customers!

Choosing the right promotional item can be a matter of considerable debate and discussion to make sure that the product is in-keeping with the company ethos and quality and matches the occasion where it is being used. Over the years we’ve collected some great testimonials from satisfied customers as well as people who have been the recipient of some of the items we’ve supplied.

Many customers have a specific objective in mind when they order items for their campaign, promotion or event and we’d love to hear about how you have used promotional items to boost sales, launch a product or website or just to create a buzz. Tell us your story and why it was so memorable, by the end of January and the story deemed the best/funniest by the 4imprint marketing team will receive a £250 Credit Note to spend on any of the printed products featured on our UK website.