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

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Landlords and Property Owners Urged To Comply With New Legionella Legislation Or Face Prosecution

By Jamie Tranter, Legionella Risk Management Specialist and Head of Legionella Control International’s North West team

Landlords and property owners now face hefty fines if they fail to comply with the latest legionella legislation recently updated by the Health & Safety Executive. The revised legislation deals with the control of risks associated with legionella, a water-borne bacteria, which although rare, can have serious and often fatal consequences if it develops into Legionnaire’s disease. With the help of specially designed tools from Legionella Control International, landlords and property owners can now take appropriate steps to mitigate the risks and ensure the safety of their tenants.

As legionella experts, we offer a series of free guides and check-lists to assist landlords, property owners and managing agents control these risks.  Our ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’ is one such tool which is free for landlords and available to utilise on request.

Legionella is typically found within aquatic environments and is especially dangerous where specific conditions enable the micro-organisms to propagate speedily. Legionnaires’ disease itself is rare but 359 reported cases were diagnosed during 2010 in England and Wales alone. Landlords, property owners and managing agents are encouraged to implement risk assessments and water management systems to ensure that impending risks are minimised or eliminated altogether. Landlords have been urged to watch for especially vulnerable individuals who may be further susceptible to contracting the disease when exposed to contaminated water systems.

Although outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease are rare, the ramifications are real and can be devastating to those involved. It is essential that landlords, property owners and managing agents satisfy their legal obligations to ensure that legionella is not ignored and left unmanaged within their properties. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to implement appropriate risk management strategies to ensure that the bacteria does not get a hold. UK tenants and businesses require complete compliance in this area which is why those that fail to comply with the law can face hefty fines.

The HSE issued a revised addition of the Approved Code of Practice entitled, ‘Legionnaire’s Disease: The Control of legionella bacteria in water systems’ to ensure that property owners manage any risks appropriately. The scheme must be enforced by all within the property sphere regardless of the size and complexity of their water systems.

Legionella Control International ensures world class solutions are implemented to minimise, control and prevent the risk of legionella outbreaks in private and commercial properties. Offering independent, impartial advice, we offer landlords and property owners an extensive range of legionella risk management services including risk assessments, compliance audits, training, assessment of water systems, crisis management, and laboratory testing as well as an array of other essential options all designed to safeguard against legionella.

To find out more about Legionella Control International and how to safeguard your property to comply with the legislation, visit: http://legionellacontrol.com/.

To access the ‘Legionella Compliance Self-Audit Checklist’, click here.


About Legionella Control International: Legionella Control International is a UK based company specialising in offering world class solutions from risk management experts to help landlords and businesses safeguard against the risks of legionella. Their independent, impartial advice enables people to control, manage and prevent the likelihood of outbreaks.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog: Unsubscribes – An Opportunity Not a Problem

By David Wright, Chartered Marketer at BSA Marketing

When I’m talking to clients about using e-mail marketing and e-mail newsletters, there is one question that comes up more than any other….

Will I annoy people?
I don't want to alienate my contacts

You may be surprised that the short answer is an emphatic –
NO! Unsubscribes are good

Unsubscribes are a fact of life in e-mail marketing and not something to be afraid of.

They are another point of engagement between you and your markets. The feedback you get through unsubscribes can help you improve and refine your offer and make your business better.

Don’t forget the basics

People read newspapers and magazines because they are interested in the content. Not necessarily every article but they do have an interest. E-newsletters should be exactly the same. Content should be relevant to the target audience. We receive many more positive comments about our Marketing Matters e-newsletter than we do unsubscribes.

Realistically there will always be someone who simply objects to everything but when you look at the statistics, the power and benefit of well targeted, relevant e-mail far outweighs any negative impact.

Naturally, every e-newsletter we send includes an option to unsubscribe and if someone takes that option, we respect it, because unsubscribes are good…..

Unsubscribes are good

The essence of marketing is to communicate a relevant message to an audience that will recognise the relevance of the message (and consequently a ‘fit’ with the company that sent it)

E-mail marketing is no different, and if someone chooses to unsubscribe that is normally because they don’t see the relevance of the message so it makes sense they don’t receive it.

As a consequence of unsubscribes, the target list becomes ever better qualified!

Use your common sense

As with most things, common sense is a valuable tool and should be used in your marketing.

It’s true that some unsubscribes can be a good thing, but you do want your list to grow as you add new (well qualified!) contacts. Adding qualified contacts tends to be a steady, rather than fast, process so getting too many unsubscribes can make your list go backwards – and if you do see a lot of unsubscribes, perhaps you need to ask your self whether your content really does engage your market? Alternatively, consider just how well qualified are your contacts in the first place?

Watch the stats

As a general rule, you may well see a few more unsubscribes the first time you run a list (maybe 3-5%) and this can be OK on the first ‘send’ but after this, unsubscribes should be much lower – typically well under 1%

Make sure you are adding contacts too

Unsubscribes are part of e-mail marketing so if you aren’t adding contacts to your target list, it will shrink.
Having a sign-up form on your website can be a way of growing your list and it can work well if you operate in a B2C or wide B2B market with a lot of traffic to your site. For B2B businesses working in niche sectors (i.e. most of BSA’s clients!), a more proactive approach to list development is normally required but don’t forget:

Contact quality is more important the contact quantity
Remember, you should be communicating good quality, relevant content to well qualified contacts. If you do this, unsubscribes will be minimal and maintaining/growing your list should not be a problem.

Sometimes an unsubscribe may be worth a follow-up

If you only see small numbers of unsubscribes (and you should!) it is worth keeping any eye on who is unsubscribing.

If it is someone you know personally, it might be worth giving them a call to find out why they have unsubscribed. This shows (at least) that you are on the ball and take a joined-up approach and your conversation may give you valuable feedback which you can use to improve your marketing.

I have even had the experience of finding that someone had unsubscribed inadvertently and my call not only resurrected the contact but resulted in a business enquiry!

Be positive and use your common sense, but remember: unsubscribes are an opportunity, not a problem.

If you want to see how e-newsletters can help you grow your business, call me on 01457 851111 or email davidw@bsamarketing.com

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Member Blog: How a migraine can do everyone’s head in at work

By Brandon Wilkinson - Medical Specialists

Are you a migraine sufferer? Or, are you an employer with employees that you are aware regularly suffer with them? If so, you will be delighted to hear that Medical Specialists® Pharmacy have gone to great lengths to make migraine treatment available for the thousands of people that need it after being inundated with requests for help from your fellow sufferers, and this help could enable you to get on with your day-to-day activities without the pain and stress associated with the condition.

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world. It is something much more intense and painful than a common headache, even though many people confuse the two. With an estimated one in four women and one in 12 men in the UK affected by migraines on a regular basis, this means around 15% of adults in the UK are suffering. Although sufferers may feel alone and isolated, migraine is a health problem even more prevalent than asthma, diabetes and epilepsy combined.

Despite this, it can be still misunderstood and underestimated in the workplace. Statistics indicate that over a third (34.3%) of sufferers are experiencing difficulty or discrimination in the workplace due to their condition. (The Migraine Trust, 2004).

Firstly, let’s look at some hard facts about migraine:

* Each year migraine causes a loss of over 25 million working days at a cost of around £2.25 billion to the economy.
* Migraine and chronic headache are the second most common reasons given for short term absence from work.
* A recent YouGov poll involving 2,105 people saw 15% of workers who pulled a ‘sickie’ used migraine as their excuse for a day off work.
* A survey conducted by The Migraine Trust in 2012 found that almost half (46.3%) of workers with migraine say they are unfairly untreated because of illness-related absence, over a third (40.5%) felt unsupported by their bosses and colleagues, and three in ten (30.5%) had received disciplinary action due to their health condition.

The main obstacle between fellow employees and the employer and their employees, is simply lack of awareness about migraines. Migraine pain can be excruciating for those afflicted, but an attack is often disregarded as ‘just a headache’. In addition, many employers are lacking understanding and not providing sufficient support for staff with migraines due to non-sufferers commonly using migraine as an excuse when they have a ‘sickie’ from work.

It is partly this reason why migraine sufferers feel isolated and unsupported, and employers should do their best to communicate with these particular employees, as even with the severe pain experienced during an attack, many sufferers will still continue to either attend or stay in work despite their productivity levels being negatively impacted.  This could have major implications for employers, both financially and with the subsequent drop in staff morale and productivity.

It is called ‘presenteeism’ when an employee still goes to work despite being unwell, and is rife amongst those with regular migraines and headaches because of the fear of reprisals from bosses.  Employers should have a fair and open communication policy with all employees – not just those with migraines – to reduce the risk of presenteeism, which can be problematic for everybody concerned.

The issue of presenteeism could be down to the fact some employers utilise strict absence record systems that focus on performance monitoring after a certain number of sick days have been reached. Some empathy needs to be shown though from the employer – otherwise stress and anxiety can be caused and exacerbate migraine attacks by acting as a trigger.

You as an employer should be aware that depending on the circumstances, migraine sufferers could be classed as having a ‘disability’ according to The Equality Act 2010.  It is employers’ responsibility to put into place appropriate conditions that make it easier for employees that suffer with migraines to actually do their job to a good standard and stop them being unfairly discriminated against.

Some helpful adjustments that employers can introduce for migraine sufferers may include: make sure employees have frequent breaks where possible, offer flexible working hours, amending shift patterns, carry out necessary improvements to the working environment (lighting, computer screens, work station), and make sure there is easy access to drinking water for all employees.

As well as being flexible with working hours, employers should also consider being flexible with regards to sickness policies to prevent migraine sufferer’s absence (which is highly likely to be only short term) resulting in strict/unfair punishments being handed out to them. Remember that the aforementioned changes do not cost much to introduce, and often have benefits to the wider team. A happier working environment will inevitably lead to increased productivity, and a happy employer!

For anybody still worried about the impact of migraine on their working life or indeed any day-to-day activities, Medical Specialists® offer a fantastic range of migraine prevention and migraine relief treatment (http://www.medical-specialists.co.uk/migraine.php) which, for UK patients, can be obtained within 24 hours following an online consultation with one of Medical Specialists’® GMC-registered doctors.

http://www.medical-specialists.co.uk/

Monday, 8 September 2014

Member Blog: 10 steps to make your business more valuable and saleable


By Richard Wright - Prepare to Sell Ltd


Step 1: Make sure the business can function properly without you

•If you want to sell the whole of your business, its valuation is based on what’s left after you’ve gone. So the ideal solution is to transfer your skills and expertise to your management team. Let them deal with your customers, under your guidance.

•Make sure customer loyalty is increasingly with the company, not with you.

•Enable and empower your management team to operate the business without you. If you’re not doing this already, start small until everybody is more confident with this process, including you. With the right management and financial information systems, this delegation does not mean loss of control.

•Passing decision-making responsibilities is a cultural change for most owner-managed businesses. It’s no quick-fix and often needs some outside guidance to make it work. But it is key to growth whether you are selling your business or not.

•By passing day to day responsibility to others, you can concentrate on the direction of the business, and often find a better work/life balance.

Step 2: Demonstrate a track record of growing sales, profits & cash with good projections

•You are selling what you’re doing now and what you’ve done in the past. But a potential buyer is interested in your future earnings and growth potential.

•It’s therefore much easier to sell a business which is already growing and can demonstrate a good performance track-record.

•It is important to show that sales, profits and cash are growing sustainably. But growing sales by cutting margin is not a good story.

•Obviously all this is much easier said than done. If it’s not possible, do you have a good story about the current resilience of the business, and the means by which a new owner can create growth?

•You have to show confidence in the future of your business, even though you won’t be there. So you need a good explanation for selling.

•Place yourself in the position where selling is an ‘option’, not a financial necessity.

•Good, ambitious projections are important for a successful sale, but they must be achievable. They may require the capital investment, skills and contacts the buyers have and you don’t, in order to achieve -but if explained clearly, that’s ok.

Step 3: Reduce dependency on just a few customers, suppliers & staff

•A buyer is looking to build on what you’ve got, not fill the gap created by the business transfer.

•A change of business ownership will put stress on relationships with customers, suppliers and your staff.
Buyers are reluctant to buy if there is a high risk of losing a major customer, critical supplier or key employee. So it’s important that you are not over-dependent.

•Can you survive if you lose your biggest customer or your best employee? You need to ask that question of yourself, because the buyer certainly will.

•It is helpful to demonstrate, as far as possible, a broad spread of customers, old and new, some stable, some growing.

•Your largest customer should on average be no more than 10-15% of your sales. It’s not uncommon for 80% of sales to come from the top 20% of customers. But do those 20% provide 80% of your profits?

•Look at ways to reduce the chances of losing them: through incentives, contracts, future loyalty bonuses, etc. Get key staff to train others to cover for them and transfer those skills and that knowledge.

Step 4: Make sure your business’s brand values are clear, attractive & resilient

•Your business is your brand. It’s a complex mixture of experiences customers have of your products, services, people and attitudes. It includes your premises, website and everything people see, hear and feel.

•Make sure your vision of the value of your brand is properly understood and shared by all your customers, employees and suppliers.

•Why not test to make sure the reasons customers are loyal to you are the same reasons you think they are? If you’re not sure, ask them.

•The benefit of your brand is what you are really selling. It’s the ongoing revenue stream that your brand promises to deliver.

•So how strong is your brand? Can you explain its unique benefits to a buyer?

•How easily customers would switch from you to your competitors is an indication of the strength of your brand. Do you command a price premium? How long have your customers been loyal?

•How will customers perceive your company brand if you, the owner, are not there?

•Your ‘brand’ and what you stand for must be clear, attractive and resilient.

Step 5: Build & reinforce strong loyalty from customers, suppliers & employees

•We’ve said that transferring your business to new owners can test the commitment of your customers, employees and suppliers. So how can you increase that commitment?

•You could offer customers incremental rebates for future business (maybe a 2-3 year deal), or long-term contracts with customers and suppliers, for example.

•Look at staff loyalty bonuses that are paid if they stay for the next 2-3 years, linked to success and targets.

•Get your management teams closer to customers. Spend time understanding in depth your customers’ worries and their wishes. Lead the process of changes they would like to see.

•Make sure every aspect of your package of products, services, innovations, designs etcare as strong as your customers want.

•Ensure your customers and suppliers are close to the teams that actually deliver that package.

•Show customers a breadth and depth of the talent in your business that is not just yours. Your employees will be motivated by it because they feel valued, and your customers will like the feeling of being able to get answers from a team of well-informed and committed respondents.

Step 6: Make your products & services easy to scale-up and difficult to copy

•A buyer who sees your business as a useful addition to their own range of products and services is bound to ask the question: Do we need to buy a whole company or can we buy key assets and poach some good people?

•Your business is worth a lot more if its operations are very difficult to replicate.

•The key is the uniqueness of your expertise, the appeal of your product and service mix versus your competitors, and the level of product and process innovation. Do you have valuable patents and registered designs? Do you have a large capital base that would be expensive to set up in competition?

•If you’re happy that you’ve done everything to make it hard for existing or new competitors to take business from you, how easy is it to expand your business? A buyer will want to grow what you have.

•A high level of expertise and in-depth knowledge that a bespoke service provider can offer to customers is a good way to command a price premium and keep customers locked in. But scope to expand is restrained by the number of employees with these skill sets.

•If every customer is given its own product or service built around its specific needs, that’s very time-consuming and resource-hungry, and difficult to roll out.

•Providers of bespoke products and services may benefit from exploring a more standardised range of packaged services which are then tailored to customer needs. This can be understood by a sales team with a broader skills base, under careful guidelines for implementation, and therefore expanded much more rapidly.

Step 7: Make sure your management & financial information & reporting is good, complete and reliable

•If you don’t delegate many of your management functions already, doing so is a bit scary, but essential for growth or sale. It’s less scary if you know you are still fully aware and informed of everything that’s going on.

•The key to that is putting in place management & financial information systems that keep you fed with accurate information when you need it.

•If you have empowered your management teams sufficiently to effectively operate the business on a day-to-day basis, this information is vital for them to make good management decisions.

•A key indicator of the business’s dependence on you is to see who is in charge of setting and measuring your company’s key performance indicators.

•A buyer will need to see there is a good history of complete, accurate and reliable information, covering all aspects of the company’s performance.

•It would be helpful to make full audited and consolidated company accounts available to prospective buyers, showing your performance over several years.

Step 8: Run the business as though selling is an option not a necessity

•The ideal selling position is to have numerous potential buyers bidding for your business. If you haven’t, that may show if you don’t have ready answers to the questions other bidders would ask.

•Either way, it’s preferable if you can show that, for you, selling is an option not a necessity.

•It is vital that you demonstrate your ongoing commitment to the business (particularly as you may have to work with or in the business for a period after the sale has gone through).

•Your enthusiasm –or lack of it –will show.

•The buyer(s) will look at whether you have continued to invest in your business, replacing capital items when due. Have you continued with new product development, training, process innovation, updated website and promotional material?

•Continued investment shows a buyer you still believe in the business, so they can too.

Step 9: Tackle problems that may lead to legal disputes or compensation claims later. Make sure you are fully compliant.

•Many business sales fail at a late stage because of lots of seemingly ‘minor’ details which add together to create a higher overall risk for the buyer.

•A higher risk for the buyer means a lower deal price for you.

•The details which come out of the legal & financial due diligence can mean that the deal price you agree in principle early on is lowered later.

•The sorts of items we are talking about here are things left unresolved that could become a compensation claim or legal dispute in future years for the buyer.

•For example, are all your shareholder agreements as they should be? Are you compliant on all legislation such as Health & Safety, the Environment, Data Protection, Copyrights?

•Have you any employee disputes looming or outstanding, or potential claims from customers or the public? Are all your contracts of employment correct and up to date? Are your trading terms & conditions robust?

•Has the business any future pension liabilities or potential claims for unpaid taxes?

•If these can be addressed before putting your business on the market, you are more likely to sell, and less likely to face a warranty claw-back in the future.

Step 10: Make sure first impressions of your business are positive, professional & appealing

•This is step number 10 because ideally you will want to tackle steps 1 to 9 before you meet a potential buyer.

•The very first impression a potential buyer has of your business is critical. That may be existing knowledge, an Information Memorandum sent out by a sale broker, your website, or your first meeting.

•Your website, brochures, office d├ęcor, call-handling reception, your operations and your people will all influence that first impression.

•A disorganised and undisciplined operation will show straight away.

•A good atmosphere created by happy and engaged staff will also show straight away.

•‘Window dressing’ will not work. A buyer will study every aspect of your operation. Everything you state or imply must be verifiable. If your business has structural weaknesses, address them as far as you can but be honest about them and disclose them. This will help to build trust and reduce the chances of warranty claims later.

•Buyers are more concerned about unknown quantities, and their valuation will reflect the risks they perceive.

Why you should take the 10-step plan

All 10 steps are easy to talk about but harder to do. They take a lot of time and effort, and you may well need some outside help.

But here are 5 reasons why you should take the 10-step plan:

1.Everything you can do in these areas will add value to your business.
2.You need to if you are planning to sell, or want the option to sell at some future stage.
3.They will ensure you are in good shape if you are approached unexpectedly by a potential buyer.
4.They are helpful if you wish to grow by acquiring other businesses.
5.You will also probably discover a shorter working week and less stress, from the reduced dependency of the business on you.

http://www.preparetosell.co.uk/

Friday, 5 September 2014

Friday Guest Blog - Business Success: The Right People in the Right Places


By Andrew White – Director, Dream Move Relocation

In an age where technological advances are readily affordable to many businesses, employee attraction and retention is even more critical to business success.

Business success is largely dependent on attracting the right people to the right posts and ensuring employee retention once achieved.  To ensure this, businesses need to be creative in both their employee recruitment and retention strategies.

Whilst recruitment can be difficult, it is often employee retention which proves more difficult. The first three months of employment are critical for both the employee and employer, especially in cases where the employee has to relocate.

Employers should be thinking of creative ways to attract and retain the talent required to ensure the business succeeds. Options such as a variation of relocation packages and comprehensive inductions into the business are just a few elements that need to be considered. For those employees who do have to relocate, the relocation package offered by their employer is often a deciding factor in their eventual decision.


As each employee has different needs and circumstances, there are a multitude of elements for employers to consider. From suitable accommodation, transport arrangements and spousal support, each employee relocation has to be tailored to their respective needs.

Whereas some employees may prefer city centre living others may wish to live in the country. Meeting these relocation demands is often difficult for in house HR teams and outsourcing to relocation professionals can have huge benefits.  Just some of the benefits of outsourcing employee relocation are reduced housing costs, improved operational efficiencies and local expertise. In many cases, HR teams struggle to offer this due to their office location and the stressful demands of having a range of other HR responsibilities.

For further details and information relating to the range of relocation services Dream Move Relocation provide, please feel to contact Dream Move Relocation via email at contact@dreammoverelocation.com or phone  +44 (0)161 282 5558.