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

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Guest Blog: All Credit To You!

By Professor John Sharp of OLC (Europe) Ltd

It’s a sobering reality but the combined debt of households and businesses in the UK is running at more than twice the Gross Domestic Product, which stands at £1,600 billion. This debt may be coming down, but there still remains a tremendous amount of credit for the UK economy to chase. How much credit has your company allowed? How much of this do you expect to retrieve?

“The deepest recession in living memory, accompanied as it was by a debt crisis." - David Cameron, UK Prime Minister, talking about recovery from the current recession (April 2012).

The eternal challenges of the credit manager are: How much credit should I allow? To whom? For how long? How much risk does this mean for my company? Getting the balance wrong could mean missing opportunities or even writing off contagious credit, as well as incurring substantial costs chasing credit owed. Get the balance right, however, and you maximise your order book with minimal risk of credit write off, thereby protecting or even better, growing your business and workforce.

This is a vital time to review the role of credit management in your company, taking advantage of the excellent professional support available for your people. Equipping your staff with professional qualifications will lead to greatly improved effectiveness, and where better to get them than The Institute of Credit Management (ICM)?

Here in the North West there is the Organisational Learning Centre: accredited ICM Credit Academy, providing ICM professional courses from level 2 through to level 5. The courses are held at the University of Salford, and include flexible options for modes of study. On successful completion, delegates will gain a nationally recognised professional qualification and have achieved necessary, relevant skills and knowledge to benefit your business. What’s more, upon completion your staff become members of the Institute of Credit Management (AICM for level 3, MICM for level 5) allowing access to the latest developments and thinking in credit management to further improve your organisation’s effectiveness.

The Organisational learning Centre (OLC) has established an excellent reputation, consistently recognised for outstanding results. Last year alone four OLC students won the highly acclaimed “ICM National Award for Highest Achiever” in their examinations. This, out of a total of 8 national awards, is a truly outstanding achievement for the Centre and for this region.

Both individual and corporate students attend OLC Credit Management courses, some from the furthest reaches of the North West and with fourteen years continuous experience delivering for ICM, OLC are very flexible and will always look at possible alternative arrangements such as work place delivery, if required. This has proved a very attractive alternative with a number of leading companies already.

If you want to find out more, why not come down to our next information and enrolment evening?

The next ICM student information and enrolment evening takes place at 6.30pm on Thursday, 6th September 2012 at University House, The University of Salford, Salford Crescent, M5 4WT. Further details can be had by emailing or calling 01706 343175. All credit to you!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Friday Guest Blog: David Hughes, Incom Business Systems

The hot topic in IT and telecommunications is the cloud. Everyone's talking about it - but what is it all about and why should you care? David Hughes, Managing Director of Manchester based Incom Business Systems, attempts to demystify cloud and help you to understand what it is and what it can do for your business.

In our industry, if you ask 20 different people about the cloud you will, undoubtedly, receive 20 different answers. The reason for this uncertainty, even amongst the experts, is largely to do with the scope of the available offerings, but it is also because of the buzz words and hype which surround the subject - so let's begin by saying that 'the cloud' is essentially a marketing term with little substance!

You may not think you know anything about it but, chances are, you are already utilising the cloud on a regular basis. Do you have a Social Media account, or use an email program like Hotmail or Gmail? These are cloud-based services. Applications like Dropbox and Google Drive are becoming an increasingly popular way of storing, accessing and sharing documents – again these are cloud services. It is also highly likely that cloud computing is already part of your business because, unless your website is physically stored on a server within your own building, it is being hosted by a third party - requiring server space and the ability for people to access it. You pay an amount per month for this service - a cloud service. Any clearer?

On the subject of hosting; we used to talk about 'hosted telephony' to describe the alternative to having a physical telephone system on your premises. 'Hosted' is a far less mystical term than 'the cloud' - but, essentially, the two amount to the same thing, which is – telecommunications, applications, switching and storage, hosted by a third-party and accessed remotely . Put another way, cloud is a service based (as opposed to a product based) delivery method for all your business communications.

There are, of course, some general considerations to address when adopting a Cloud strategy for your business including:

• The type of offering that best suits your business

• The logistics of getting your data into the cloud

• High quality connectivity to your data

• The security of your data in the cloud

Historically there have been concerns regarding data security and connectivity however, most cloud services are at least as secure, if not more secure than on-premise systems and the improvements in connectivity, particularly with the advent of FTTC (fibre to the cabinet), mean that apprehension surrounding these points has lessened. Cloud communications is attractive to businesses because it can provide the seamless integration of voice, data and video. It allows companies to access the most up to date resources, which can be up and running faster, and rapidly adjusted to meet fluctuating business demand.

The advantages of cloud computing heavily outweigh the disadvantages and the experienced team at Incom Business Systems would be happy to contextualise the benefits for your business and advise and guide you on the right decisions for cloud adoption. Contact Incom Business Systems on 0161 788 0000 or email David Hughes at

Friday, 13 July 2012

Guest Blog: Maintain Enthusiasm In Your Workforce During Economic Hardship

By Lee Parker of

You might think that during times of economic hardship that staff motivation should feature second – or even third – on your to-do list. But a recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development showed that many small to mid-sized businesses are under heavy strain to bridge the gap between salary and the cost of living for their employees. With this in mind, it’s not hard to understand why many workers in the current climate are finding it increasingly difficult to stay motivated at work; with many feeling undervalued, unenthused and unfocused within the workplace. And with staff ultimately driving the bottom line of your business, it’s never been more essential to play the part of Mr Motivator in order to keep your workforce on a high and maximise your employee’s efficiency. Remember, by losing employees, you may well end up losing your business too.

The Motivation Hit List

Okay, there will no doubt be a hundred and one ways to tackle low employee motivation, but in the end it all boils down to the root cause of the problem – in this case financial strain. In the mind of the employee, underpaid is synonymous with undervalued, and if you feel undervalued then you’re less likely to maintain focus or enthusiasm over your work. Obviously, stuffing more bank notes into pay packets (in this case) is not an option (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article), so instead we’ll look at other ways to strike each contributing factor off the motivation hit-list.

1. Make Employees Feel Valued

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re of no worth to a company – as if you’re just a cog in a machine that the business could replace on a whim. What’s more, if you have an employee who feels undervalued, you have an employee who’s not shining to their full, gleaming, potential. So, how do you tackle this problem and make them feel more like a pillar holding up the company, and less like a wheel going round and round?

The most obvious answer would be to include them in business discussions; ask their opinion on how the company should be run in certain areas; keep them informed as to business direction and, in a nutshell, make them feel like they’re making an active and beneficial contribution to the future of the company.

It’s also important to set aside some time to relate to your workforce on a personal level. By this I mean talk with them on a one-on-one basis not only regarding the business, but about other things too. By opening the door to this employer-employee relationship, you’ll break down all kinds of barriers that may have stopped your employees voicing their opinions and concerns in the past.

In short, communicate with your workforce regularly; make them the ones you go to for advice, opinions or just a friendly chat, and you’ll find yourself spearheading a team that feels much more appreciated and proud to work for you.

2. Keep Employees Enthused

It’s not easy to keep your staff brimming with enthusiasm when they’re faced with all kinds of financial difficulties (including job security!), but if you’ve already tackled the first step in making your employees feel valued (see above), then you’ve also taken a giant leap in rediscovering their passion for their jobs. The next rung in the ladder is to bring that passion right up to the surface – so it’s there for all to see. Passion is infectious; get one staff member beaming with enthusiasm, and you’ll probably find the rest start to shine too.

How to discover this hidden passion? For most people it’s already there, you just need to know how to fish for it. Imagine you’ve a customer service team; they’re on the phones from 9am until 5pm every day taking calls from disgruntled customers. It would be hard to maintain any kind of enthusiasm when you’re being dealt verbal blow after verbal blow from the other end of the earpiece. Why not, then, put a positive spin on this? Try running a competition, whereby the customer service employee who successfully solves the most complaints – turning angry customers into happy customers – within a week, wins a small prize. Or perhaps get the marketing team together once a week for a no-rules, crazy, creative, whacky workshop in an effort to come up with a great advertising campaign.

It’s things like this that gets people remembering why they love what they do, and will help to no end with employee enthusiasm.

3. Maintain Employee Focus

When you’re sat behind a computer desk all day, with money troubles on your mind, it can be hard for anyone to stay focused. However, there are little things you can do to help keep your staff productivity levels high, and apply all of their energy to their work.

1. Make work fun – I’m not saying blow up a bouncy castle and stick it in the middle of the office, but rather make every effort to ensure employees associate the workplace and work crowd with good times. Hold an office quiz every Friday afternoon, break up the days with off-topic discussions, or maybe even get everyone out of the office for twenty minutes in the afternoon for a coffee break. It may seem backwards logic, but keeping things fresh like this means employees don’t slip into other kinds of procrastination, and it also helps a lot with staff attitude and morale!

2. Hold frequent catch-up and career development meetings with employees. Showing them you like to keep up to date with what they’re doing will have a positive effect on their productivity.

To summarise, it’s not going to be easy turning around an unmotivated team, but just a little more effort in the right areas could make a huge difference.

Of course, it all starts at finding the right staff for your business – and no one can help you do that more than – check out our homepage for more information