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

Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Intellectual Property – Can You Afford Not to Protect it?




By Ben Appleton, Senior Associate at Wilson Gunn



The majority of SMEs in the UK don’t take advantage of the intellectual property (“IP”) rights they create, with most being unaware that they’ve generated rights in the first place.

Intellectual Property’ covers a wide range of rights, including inventions, technical knowledge, trade marks, designs and database rights. Some of these IP rights can be protected by registering the rights, but many are protected automatically, without the owner having to do or pay anything.

If you don’t protect your IP rights, then you stand to lose out on revenue, licensing opportunities and to put it bluntly, weapons to use against your competitors. In addition, there are some very nice tax breaks which the government has kindly handed out in relation to patent rights and R&D which all companies undertaking R&D should look into.

Below is a quick guide to the main IP rights and tips on their use:

Patents – cover “inventions”, and are registered rights covering technical ideas, which can last for up to 20 years from filing. A UK company with a granted patent (in the UK or Europe) allows that company to claim tax relief under the UK Patent Box scheme, which can result in an effective tax rate of around 11% on profits generated globally from products covered by a patent. Not to be sniffed at!

Trade marks – cover your brand names, logos, strap-lines and many other “markers” of your company.  In this day and age of e-commerce, having your brands protected by registered trade marks enables you to quickly remove online counterfeit and copy-cat products as well as through traditional physical sales routes. Your registered trade marks can last forever if managed well.

Registered designs - cover the shape, surface patterns or artwork on your products and are cheap and easy to obtain. There have been a number of high-profile cases, such as the Samsung vs Apple tablet shape disputes, in which registered design protection has been a key battleground. Registered design protection can last up to 25 years.

Unregistered rights – include copyright, unregistered design rights and database rights, and they tend to be automatic, with nothing for you to do other than recognise that you have them, and of course use them to your advantage! The great benefit of unregistered rights is their flexibility – for example with unregistered design rights you can pick only a part of your product’s shape and claim design rights in that specific part, which stops competitors from taking the core of your designs and changing some aspects but not others.

There are many other rights that you can use to protect your ideas and products, and Wilson Gunn is always happy to offer a free initial consultation to discuss your business and advise you on your potential IP rights. 

For more information call on 0161 827 9400, email manchester@wilsongunn.com or visit www.wilsongunn.com

Wilson Gunn is a firm of Patent & Trade Mark attorneys, established in 1864 and based in Manchester.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Member Blog: The Art of a Good CV


By Tom Linn - Project Manager, Thomas Cole Internet Solutions

During my time as project manager I have had to spend time when hiring employees
looking over multiple CVs sent in applying for various roles we have had advertised.

One thing that has always surprised me is the quality of some of the CVs that come in. I thought I would put together a checklist of tips and things to avoid when sending in your CV for a job application.

Things to avoid:

- Mis-spellings and grammatical errors
- No examples of work (if possible to provide)
- Irrelevant content at the top - get to the point, if you are applying for a job as a designer put your design experience at the top and examples of work along with any qualifications.
- A lengthy CV - don’t make it five pages long sometimes too much information can go against you so condense where possible by removing none relevant information.
- An unprofessional email address - keep it professional! Not something like ibizamassive2012@hotmail.com
- Sending the same CV to multiple jobs without tweaking to fit the job spec.

Tips for a good CV:

- A well set out page so it is easily readable.
- A bit of colour where relevant can sometimes help to break up the text
- Add relevant experience at the top
- Add your contact details
- Send examples of work (if applicable)
- Get somebody else to read over it and give their opinion
- Write a covering letter
- Add on any additional training you’ve undertaken
- Keep it up to date

You would be surprised by how following these simple steps you could find yourself at the top of the pile.

On a recent job I advertised, only 4-5 of the 40 applications matched the above and naturally they were all offered interviews.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Linn - Project Manager
Thomas Cole Internet Solutions
www.thomascole.net
Twitter: @tomlinnuk
E-Mail: tom.linn@thomascole.net

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday Blog: A Revealing 'Netwalk' of Manchester


By Jo Preihs - Digital & Social Media Manager, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

On a sunny lunchtime this week, donning a decent pair of flats, I headed out of the office to do a spot of ‘netwalking’. Not familiar with the term? Neither was I, but actually it’s quite self-explanatory and involves, well, networking whilst walking, funnily enough!

Philippa Cave (pictured below), Manchester Green Badge Tour Guide-extraordinaire and founder of Reveal Manchester, was the lady quite literally in the know, and was to be our guide around Manchester city centre. Twelve of us, from a number of different professions, met outside the Opera House on Quay Street where the netwalking session was to start. Our tour was intriguingly entitled ‘Campfield and Castlefield’ and promised: ‘Tales of Romans, canals, corpses, war, bollards, eyes, potatoes as well as plenty of Manchester firsts.’ And it didn’t disappoint…

The first stop was a little way down Quay Street at the Cobden House Chambers, which is actually a Georgian building. I realised at this very early stage of the tour that I clearly walk around with my eyes closed. Philippa pointed out a big blue plaque on the side of the building (which had previously gone unnoticed by me) that told us this was the first home of Owens College – the institution that later became Manchester University. She told us all about the College’s founder, John Owens, and his history, and it was obvious from the off that Philippa not only has a phenomenal amount of knowledge, but was able to deliver the information in a style that got us all giggling and relaxed. In fact, her only two pieces of advice to us at the start of the tour were: “Try not to get run over or fall in the canal.” Duly noted – glad I wore the flats.

We rounded the corner on to Byrom Street where the old Manchester and Salford Hospital for Skin Diseases used to be situated – a lovely thought just before lunch. Here, we paid rather close attention to a pot hole… but not just any pot hole. Beneath the tarmac, wooden setts were visible which apparently were employed by the road maintenance teams of the early twentieth century to dampen the sound, so as not to disturb patients. Take a look next time you’re passing! 

Further up Byrom Street, there are Grade II listed bollards – who knew?! – which are said to be upturned canons. Legend has it that they were left by the armies of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 as they were passing through Manchester. Here we also heard about some of the things done to Mancunian traitors at that time, which included pickling heads; a sight you don’t see so much these days. 

Passing the gothic-style door frames of some of the houses at the top of Byrom Street, our next stop was St John’s Gardens, where St John’s church used to stand. It’s an old burial ground too and Philippa told us there are the remains of 22,000 people here, including the aforementioned John Owens.  

It’s worth mentioning that between stops is when the networking happens, so naturally members of the group move around and get to chat with different people. From finance professionals to PR folks, there really were a wide range of fellow netwalkers (pictured below) to talk to and learn about. Some, like me, were newbies, and a couple had been on Philippa’s previous tours so were familiar with the format. Everyone, though, was there to learn more about Manchester, and of course, to meet some new people in a really relaxed way. Without wanting to rub it in, we also had perfect weather too, which certainly helps!

So, round to the Great John Street Hotel, which, built in 1912 is actually a former school. It is situated across the road from the old Granada Studios and Coronation Street set, which has now moved to Trafford Park, and Philippa told us it was actually named after the region in Spain (Granada Studios, that is, not Costa del Coronation Street).

We ventured past the Museum of Science and Industry, which (another gruesome fact alert) apparently houses the eyes of English Chemist, John Dalton, who produced a lot of pioneering research into colour blindness. Anyone who has been to MOSI will also know that this is the site of the world’s first passenger railway station, and Philippa told us that within two weeks of its opening, the Manchester Guardian published the first letter of rail travel complaint. (Twitter wasn’t invented in the early 19th century.)    

Further up Liverpool Road, Philippa told us the history of the Oxnoble Pub, named after a potato. This area also used to be the site of St Matthew’s Church, which has now been demolished. The church was designed by the same architect who designed the Houses of Parliament, Charles Barry, so it’s a shame it’s no longer here. The Campfield market buildings are still in existence though, one of which is the Air and Space Hall of MOSI. Philippa told us about the Knott Mill Fair which used to take place in the 1840s and 1850s on part of Deansgate and down Liverpool Road, which the Manchester Guardian described as having ‘glaring evil on every side’, and was full of pick pockets and peep shows! 

We finally headed over to Castlefield and the reconstruction of the Roman fort that resides there, and Philippa told us that it was the Romans who originally gave Manchester its name, Mamucium, which actually means ‘breast-like hill’. On that note, we walked down to the Castlefield Basin and heard about the origins of the Bridgewater Canal which was built in the 1760s to get coal from Worsley into Manchester. Deemed to be the first modern canal in Britain and also the fastest, Philippa pointed out that through its canals and rail networks, Manchester has been the forerunner in the development of transport infrastructure over the centuries. 

Having met some really lovely people, feeling a pride in our city and nicely warmed by the sunshine, I walked back to the office brimming with interesting facts. The networking, for some, carried on in the pub. I’m hoping someone bought Philippa a drink or two!

For more information about the range of netwalking tours available, corporate/team building walks, treasure hunts, guided pub crawls and social events, contact Philippa on 07932 041217. The next netwalk in Manchester takes place on Wednesday 2nd July. 


Friday, 16 May 2014

Friday Guest Blog: The Easy Way to Write a Business Plan - 3 Key Steps


By Hakeem Adebiyi - Director, Hands Associates

Most people find creating a business plan one of the hardest things to do when setting up a business but it doesn't need to be. Like everyone else it's not one of my favourite things, so I decided to look at ways to make it easier. Having written and reviewed many plans over the years I discovered that if you have the right formula then the planning process becomes much easier.

This article is dedicated to explaining the right formula and giving the three key steps for easy success in writing business plans.

1. Find a template

Don't try and do it all yourself. There are now loads of templates on line so that you at least have a starting point. It can be as basic as a word template or you may move up to a sophisticated on line tools. Whatever your preference this resource will enable you to at least start with the end in mind.

2. Get an industry specific sample template

It is now easy to find sector specific templates and ones which have a sample filled in. Imagine if you have a photography business and you have a business plan template with a sample business plan of a photography business. I guess this would speed up the process of doing your business plan. It certainly has with mine. Make sure the template has the following elements.

Executive Summary: Overview summary of the strategic objective of the business. Typically looking at 1-5 years and should be no more than two pages as it should be an overview of the rest of the document and give a clear picture of your business.

Company Description: Legal establishment, history, start-up plans, etc.

Product or Service Analysis: Describe in some detail the different services or products you have and how these will specifically benefit the end user - the customer.

Market Analysis: This should include market stats, segmentation of market based on your products/services, who are your target customers and how are you going to market to them.

Strategy: Make sure it's Specific.Measurable.Achievable.Realistic.Timed/trackable. What is the strategy and how are you going to achieve it, using what methods.

E- Strategy: These days whether you are an eBusiness or not then I would suggest you need to have some king of strategy. Even if it is as basic as just discussing your website, development costs, content and target audience.

Management Team: Who are your key management team members and exactly what are their responsibilities. How will they be measured.

Financials: Probably self explanatory but you need to cover projected budgets and sales, cash flow, profit and loss and balance sheets. Again there are really low cost and in some cases free software which can help you set all this up. Even better they will also track the information and help you build manage your invoicing procedure.

Now hopefully you know more about your business than anyone else so filling in these sections shouldn't prove difficult. Make the information simple, clear and action based. However never be afraid to delegate, it doesn't have to cost much, find someone who is a better writer than you, give them the template and the information and let them loose. (of course make sure it is someone you implicitly trust )

3. Review - the idiot test

Once you have completed the document get it reviewed by someone who doesn't understand the business, if they can understand it then you have written a clear, concise business plan that will work.

Once you have written the business plan then you need to make sure that your sales people have effective plans to deliver. Contact me at hakeem@handsassociates.com or call 07786 535550 to see the best advice, templates and tools for delivering effective sales plans.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Member Blog: Top Tips On How To Improve Customer Service


By Richard Edwards of Hired Help PA


As new members to Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce I thought it would be a great idea to kick things off with a guest blog post.

For a small or medium business, customer service can be the secret weapon to use against the big guys. Looking after your customers can not only increase the retention of new customers but also gain referrals for new business.

Being a telephone answering service, we have seen it all – the good, bad and the ugly. Are you doing everything that you could to look after your customers? Here are our 3 top tips for making sure that you have the best customer service in your market.

1) Client Follow-Ups

Do you check up on your customers to see how they are finding your service or product?

By giving your customer a quick call to check they are getting value from your service you create two benefits. Firstly, you get to find out if there is something that you could be doing to serve your clients better, allowing you to improve how you operate. The second advantage is that new customers will be impressed that you have taken the time to see that you are working hard enough for them. It shows them that you care.

At Hired Help PA, we have a procedure to follow our clients up within two weeks of them beginning to use the service. It helps us ensure that we are doing our job properly and that our service is providing value for our customers.

2) Always Answer Your Phone

Ever spent hours on hold? Or spent days trying to get through to someone only to be met by an infuriating voicemail? If you have then you will know what bad customer service feels like.

The simple act of speaking to a human being, knowing that the business is aware of the problem or question that you have can bring much more goodwill than leaving 10 voicemail messages.

Looking after existing clients by showing them the respect of talking to a person rather than a voicemail can often turn a negative situation into a positive one. The annoyed customer becomes relaxed and the situation becomes controlled.

We are here to make sure that you get every call answered so that you never create a frustrated customer, so that they know that someone is always at the end of the phone and that they can always rely on your business, even when you aren’t personally available.

What happens if a new customer calls? Do you think they will hang around waiting for you or will they just try calling one of your competitors? If you aren’t there to get the phone you could be preventing yourself from gaining valuable new business. This is a benefit of our service that we find our customers really value – we capture their leads and even chase them up which in turn sees them grow their business.

3) Make Your Customers Love You

How can you make your customers love you? Asking yourself this simple question can lead you to doing things for your customers that you can bet competitors won’t have even considered. However small the action it can make a huge difference, whether it is buying them tickets to their favourite sports team, asking about their new car or sending a handwritten thank you note.

An easy way to help you do this is to get to know your customers. The better you know them, the easier it will be. Of course this works well for prospective customers too.

Do you do any of these in your business? If not, do you think implementing any of these tips would help your company grow?

Richard Edwards is from Hired Help PA – Hired Help PA is a telephone answering company. We make sure your phone is always answered meaning you create a professional image for your company and never miss another sale.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Member Blog: A Little Goes A Long Way


By Karen Sykes - Marketing Manager, Garcia & Sykes Ltd

When Tameside4Good launched I was invited to the launch event at Dukinfield Golf Club.  I went along as I was intrigued about what it was and also it was a good chance for networking.

When there we heard from Tony Okotie, Chief Exec at T4G, and also people from New Charter and Brother UK who were helping out.  It all sounded like a really good idea, but I was struggling to see where a small company like us would fit in.  The big firms were talking about payroll giving and letting employees have a day off to volunteer which was just not viable for us.

However when I got speaking to one of the staff at T4G they said there were a number of ways we could help out by donating unwanted goods, our services and possibly materials.  Not long after, we had an office refurb and donated three old office desks which went to good causes.  Then they got in touch to say a local community project needed some fencing replacing and they thought we were the best to help.  We were happy to provide some new fencing at cost to help the 'You Can Youth' project in Stalybridge.


Following on from that, T4G held an event celebrating their first year and asked me to speak at the event about how even small businesses such as ourselves could help out.  It was a great success, even if I do say so myself, and we met lots more community-minded businesses who shared their success stories.

Since then we have provided weld mesh at cost to the Wooden Canal Boat Society to build a cage for their gas canisters due to health and safety requirements.


Also T4G contacted us to see if we were interested in getting involved in the local Enterprise Challenge at Tameside College.  They wanted a small, local business owner to talk to them about starting a business, the pitfalls and things to try.  Gareth Sykes (our MD) went along to speak to the students starting on the challenge a few weeks ago.  He returned this week to see how they were getting on and then goes back on 3rd June to judge it.

We are happy to get involved with the local community and help out local charities where possible.  Even if it is only a little we can do, we have seen first hand what a big difference it can make.

http://www.tameside4good.org/get-involved/news/supporter-month-7
http://www.garciaandsykes.co.uk/



Friday, 2 May 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Selling is Dead – Long Live Buying


By David Wright – BSA Marketing


There has been a quiet revolution going on.

It isn’t that long ago that sales teams used to sell things. If you wanted to buy something that you didn’t know a whole lot about, you had to ask a salesperson who would then take that opportunity to try to get you to buy what they had to sell. You pretty much had to rely on the information they gave you as they were the only real source of that information. The system tended to work but much of the power (the information) was in the hands of the seller.

Not any more!

The internet has changed all that. Now if you want to buy something, a quick search on Google® can give you vast swathes of useful information:

  • Specifications
  • Professional Reviews
  • Customer Testimonials
  • Discussion Forums
  • Video demonstrations
  • Where to buy
  • Who has stock
  • Best Prices

The internet has moved the power from the seller to the buyer. People don’t sell things anymore, people buy things. Nowadays, the job of a seller is to inform and advise, to show how they can meet the customer’s need and solve their problem at an acceptable cost. If they do this then the customer is likely to buy from them. If not…

You will know the scene; you go into one of the big electrical retailers looking to buy a new TV/computer or whatever. You want some advice and approach a member of the sales team who proceeds to tell you about a particular model by reading the card sitting next to the item in question!  Is this approach really going to secure the business, particularly when the customer can scan the product barcode with their smartphone and immediately see where else the product is on sale and who has the best price? I think not!

There is hope – maybe

I recently visited the tool department of my local DIY shed when my eye alighted on a ‘must-have’ multi-tool! There were a few different models so I asked the salesman who approached for some advice. He was great. He did not read the card! He told me he owned and used two different versions. He told me how it worked. He showed me on the floor in-store where he had used the tool to cut some bolts. He even pointed out some weaknesses of the tool. He wasn’t just trying to get the sale, he was using his knowledge and experience to inform me – this is more like it. I felt he was interested in my needs and was giving valuable information. But I was good; I didn’t need the tool straight away so I said I’d go and think about it. As a potential buyer, I knew I could go away and build on the information I had before making a final decision and putting my hand in my pocket.

So did the store get the sale? I’m afraid not. Selling is dead – Long live buying. The same product was available for Amazon at 40% less – but that’s another story!

http://www.bsamarketing.com/