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

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe

By Chris Fletcher – Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

“It may well be a child’s rhyme, but there can be no doubt that last Wednesday brought with it some disappointing economic news. For the second quarter in succession, growth in the UK was negative, which as we all know, meant that according to the technical definition, the UK slipped back into recession.

I’m not one of those people that wriggles around definitions and is selective about which facts to use – the UK is technically in recession…..again - but does it feel like we really are?

If you’d tuned into any news channel on Wednesday, you could have been forgiven for thinking the world was about to end. Phrases such as, ‘the country has lurched into another recession’, were bandied around, and questions asked about how we were all going to cope.
We’ve been clear in our message at the Chamber that we would not enter a double dip, and our last QES results showed increasing confidence and resilience in most sectors – construction still being doggedly immune to pick up the slow growth in other sectors. So have things gone completely awry, and are we totally out of sync with reality? Absolutely not.

Let’s look at things in more detail. Firstly -0.2% is not a huge amount – this is only an estimate and I’m convinced that when figures are revised, this will creep up. From the information and feedback we get from our members, we have said for some time that we are in the middle of a low/no growth environment - there will naturally be periods of small negative results. This most recent occurrence just happens to fit within the definition of a recession. Things will bounce back.
Secondly, are the figures robust and accurate? More than ever before, huge scorn has been directed at the ONS about the figures used, and serious questions asked about how accurate they are. Hence the fact that this is a first estimate and as we all know, revisions are made at a later date; in this case 24th May is the date to watch.

But what happens if the figures stay the same or slightly worsen? Well to be honest, not a great deal. Did the world change on Wednesday? To be honest, the main impact tended to be political rather than economic, as Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls took maximum opportunity afforded to him by the figures. Most people I know simply shrugged and got on with things, as difficult as that is at present.

The media played their part too in ramping things up with ridiculous pieces on: ‘how are people going to cope with a recession?’ ...errr pretty much like they have been for the last four years really.

This doesn't mean to say that everything is rosy in the garden, far from it. I honestly think the Government needs to start to understand that growth doesn't just come from cuts. It isn't about wildly splashing the cash and the deficit has to come down, but what money there is, has to be used better and more intelligently than at present on the sort of things that add value, such as infrastructure.

Growth will return; the private sector will pick up the pace once again. Some sectors and some businesses have ploughed on through the last few years regardless of what economic conditions have been like. Others haven't, and there will no doubt be more bad news in the future, but please can we have a reality check on this and get more balance in the argument and reporting?

Lastly, this week on Wednesday, I went to visit the Chamber in Doncaster and whilst on the platform at Piccadilly, the London train pulled in. This was just about the time that the ONS figures were released and looking up from my e-mails on my Blackberry, an individual just caught my eye walking along the platform full of travellers. It was non other than Stephen Hester, the RBS CEO. It just amused me that on the day that the economy stuttered again, that someone who, lets be honest, has not enjoyed a great public image and has had the economic ills of the world placed at his feet, was walking completely unnoticed through Piccadilly station and not pursued by an angry mob waving flaming torches and pitchforks. Maybe they just didn't know who he was, or if they did, just chose to ignore him. Maybe, when the gloom and doom-mongers rule the airwaves, we should perhaps do the same and just get on with it.”

Friday, 20 April 2012

Legislation and the Olympics - Feel good, but don't fall foul

By Christian Mancier, Partner at Gorvins Solicitors

The Olympics (and Paralympics) will create a massive feel-good factor and many businesses may be considering products or services or advertising of some description that implies an association with the Olympics.

Corporate sponsors invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the Olympics and in return want a degree of exclusivity. Consequently there is some specific legislation that prevents businesses who are not official sponsors creating a form of association with the Olympics.

This legislation firstly prevents businesses in the course of their trade using certain words (e.g. Olympics or Paralympics), symbols (the Olympic rings) or mottos (e.g. “faster, higher, stronger”).

Secondly the legislation prevents a business, in the course of its trade, making any representation in relation to its goods or services (which includes advertising) that suggests to the public that there is an association between the London Olympics and the goods or services provided by the business concerned.

The legislation sets out “listed expressions” that if used can be taken into account by the court determining whether a business has fallen foul of this legislation. These include certain combinations of the following words: Games, 2012, gold, silver, bronze, London, medals, sponsors and summer.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The True Value of Networking

By David Reeves - The Children's Air Ambulance

So here’s the opening statement – working for a charity opens up the true value behind networking.

Surely it’s the same for anyone networking? Maybe, but hear me out.

You see so many blogs, articles, tweets, and books about networking. Most of it focuses on changing people’s opinions on networking, especially those that think it’s a quick win. It’s not. It never is. And if it seems like a quick win, the chances are it will peeter out to nothing.
I’ve been to many networking meets, including BforB, 4N,Chamber of Commerce, BGS, Business Plus, and Business with Pleasure which is soon to be added to the list. I’ve met countless numbers of people and never have I had an instant result.

I recently read an article passed to me by a friend (check her blog out) about how people should be connectors, not networkers. My interpretation of this fits perfectly with how I believe charities should “network”.

The great thing about any charity is the extensive and varied network of warm contacts. These are people that are naturally philanthropic and understand the values of helping, supporting and encouraging. This leaves us charity workers with a distinct advantage – we are connectors.

What better way to gain the support of a “cold” company than to appeal to their entrepreneurial mind. Companies are always looking to network and find business through referrals, so let’s start sharing our networks.

When I meet with a company representative, I will always ask what they are looking for. Usually they misunderstand the question and answer “well I’m looking to support a local charity”. Great. I know that. I want to know what your business needs to function at a higher level, I want to know who you want to talk to and how I can help you do more in return for the generosity they have offered.

The penny drops and they open up.

“Well, we need a photographer for a PR exercise” great – Terry Mc.

“I want a lead into schools to promote our service” Even better – Support our world record attempt.

“we want a team building event with a fundraising element” – Jackpot –Espionage

“I’m looking for a marketing agency to help with our latest product” – WhaleMarketing

My point? Always scratch beneath the surface. People have expectations and stereotypes of charities, not realising that we have a wealth of knowledge, contacts and experience beyond shaking buckets and packing bags.

Networking is about building relationships, sharing contacts and linking business. It’s not about “me me me”. Take on this attitude and the direct result for any organisation is income.

Don’t believe me? Get in touch and I will show you how working with me and The Children’s Air Ambulance can help you. Call us on 0845 413 0999 or email me on

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Guest Blog

First Internet’s Creative Director, Graham Robinson, believes that Apps may well soon become a technology of the past, here he describes the benefits of responsive web design for Greater Manchester businesses.

“Mobile app” has been the buzz phrase in digital development ever since the arrival of the iphone; however a much more practical concept has now arrived on the scene.

The significant increase in the use of smart phones and tablets to view websites has made it essential for them to be compatible across all platforms.

For today’s time strapped business community, responsive web design is the answer. This new solution means that sites are built to adapt to whatever platform they are viewed on, whether that’s a tablet, smart phone or desktop.

For the techno savvy, responsive web design blends HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript to create fluid site designs that can expand, contract, rearrange or remove content based on the user’s screen size.

Knowing that this new technology is available, could be the key to saving money in the long run for Greater Manchester firms when developing their web presence, as they would only have to pay for a single site rather than multiple versions to suit different technology. Not only would they avoid the expense of designing multiple sites, they will also cut costs in marketing multiple sites via Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Responsive web design also has significant SEO benefits. With responsive web design comes improved usability for your visitors, which will inevitably lead to a decrease in bounce rates and an increase in conversions.

Having one site as opposed to multiple sites also makes the search engine’s life a little easier. A search engine won’t have much interest in trying to figure out which sites should receive search enquiries on particular devices. It’s up to the site to redirect visitors to the right version of the site. SEO credits such as links and rankings will also be built up using one site and not split between several.

Of course mobile apps aren’t completely redundant as there will always be a need for a solution that can run offline which apps can do. However, responsive website design can provide you with a cost efficient, SEO friendly solution to enable your website to look its best for as many potential customers as possible.