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

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Member Blog: The nature of “Marketing” in the internet age

By David Wright - BSA Marketing
The Marketing world is well and truly into the seasonal mayhem…

Why does every day leading up to Christmas need have a name? Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mad Friday, Panic Saturday, Manic Monday etc. The list goes on!

Okay, okay, it’s marketing, but I thought that, amidst all the chaos, I’d use this article to bring things back to earth a bit.

I recently received a newsletter in which one of the articles was titled

"4 Reasons Marketing Shouldn’t Control Social Media"

You can read the article here

As I was reaching for my soapbox, I thought maybe I should read it first.

Whilst I do disagree with the core premise, it brings up some interesting issues; not least, the nature of “Marketing” in the internet age.

Here are the 4 reasons from the article title:

1. Marketers simply use social media to mix holiday messages and discounts with standard sales and marketing content and this is not what customers want.

2. Social media practitioners (marketers) try to be all things to all people in order to keep their audiences engaged – Rather than doing this, good brands must know their niche

3. Marketing departments adopt social campaigns that do little more than offer discounts and coupons, training consumers to wait until that next discount is offered before they make their next purchase.

4. Sales, Customer Service, Product Development, and nearly every other department bring something to bear in the corporate-consumer relationship that [this type of] marketing cannot.

I have to say that I pretty much agree with all of these statements but it suggests that, the author has narrowed the definition of Marketing to a point where it isn’t really anything more than Sales Promotion.

So what is good Marketing?

Marketing is about identifying the value that your business adds to its marketplace, and then creating and communicating that message in a manner that engages with your audience.

Encourage your customers and prospects to see you as the best supplier for their needs.

A significant part of this process is long term. It is about building a relationship with a customer.

However in the world of e-commerce, marketing has become a highly transactional process:

A      B      C      THE SALE!

Too often, “marketing” is about no more than facilitating and optimising this conversion process.

Whilst converting people from not being customers into customers is key, in most cases things are not that simple.

The “marketing” process outlined in the article suggests that it’s all about tinkering with A B and C to increase conversion rates.

Good marketing is about introducing D, E and F. These, in themselves, may not directly impact the conversion rates, they create an environment which makes conversion more likely.

To use an analogy from fishing:

Fishermen use ground bait to attract the fish, and get them into a feeding mode. Into that environment they then place their baited hook. Increasing the likelihood that they will get a bite.

The process outlined in the article suggests marketing is all about the hook, whereas good marketing is also about laying the ground bait!

Although maybe angling is not a good analogy for the process of building a relationship of trust with your marketplace, hopefully you get my point!

Ultimately marketing should be the custodian of the process by which a company:

1. Identifies the value that you and you business adds to your marketplace
2. Creates a message that communicates this value
3. Communicates this message in a manner that engages with your audience

Social Media is a key tool in this process. I suggest that good marketers are the perfect people to manage it!

I can’t completely forget that it is nearly Christmas (even as a marketer, I’d prefer Christmas to start no earlier than mid-December!).  I’d like to wish you a Happy Christmas.

I hope you have a great holiday and step into 2016 ready for a positive and successful year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Member Blog: The One Secret You Need to Master Social Media

By Zahid Hussain - Creative Director, Script Social Media 
Social media is a minefield.

One company I know spent £5,000 each month on social media for over a year and failed to garner a single lead. Another company spends half a million pounds on Google Ads alone and tens of thousands more on social media ads and is making millions. Which company would you rather be? But more importantly, what separates companies that succeed in social media from those which don’t?

I have a theory; do you remember the line, “Build it and he will come?” It’s from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner. Hollywood movies end happily, but when companies adopt the Build-It-And-They-Will-Come approach, they always fail.

Businesses spend thousands on websites, dazzling logos and on glowing social media covers, but when the prophesised customers do not materialise, they jump to buying likes and followers to lure customers their way. But customers still don’t come. Soon, companies discover that creating new material for the litany of social media platforms becomes a chore and inevitably the content dries up. Social media accounts turn into a no-man’s-land.

So, what do you need to succeed in the heady world of social media? You need one thing. The right mind-set.

I have crystallised the mind-set into 4 pillars. Social Media:

1. Echoes the real world.
2. Is not a soap box.
3. Is where the sale starts.
4. Isn’t really free.

Social Media Echoes the Real World

If you’re famous or successful in the real world, you’ll find you’re famous on social media. A well-known restaurant that springs up on Instagram will attract followers in buckets. If this doesn’t happen then it’s because they haven’t told anyone in the real world. One restaurant I know asks its regulars to post Trip-advisor reviews. So ask: it works!

Social Media is NOT a soap box

Social media is well, social. Engagement is the beating heart of social media. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Retweet and like other people’s posts. Connect with businesses; connect with customers. Tell your story, but listen to theirs too. In fact, customers often use social media to complain. Reputation management is therefore essential for those sorts of companies.

Social Media is where the Sale STARTS

A sale doesn’t take place on the social media platform, but it might start there. You need to funnel leads to a website, a phone number, a face-to-face meeting.

It isn’t free

Facebook limits how many people can see the posts on a Facebook page. Even if you have a million likes, less than 5% will ever see a post. And if you’ve bought fake Likes, there will be zero engagement. You must pay for social ads; it’s just the way it is. That goes for other platforms too.

You can successfully navigate through the social media minefield if you approach it with the right mind-set, and then, once you’ve built your social media platforms, I promise you that customers will come and they will keep returning.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Member Blog: What are your 'Scores on the Doors'?

If a 'Scores on the Doors' rating scheme was introduced in all businesses in the Stockport borough, what would the results be? How many would achieve a level  5 on the first audit? Michelle Hay of Michelle Hay Training Ltd is campaigning for the scheme to be introduced:

I believe that it should be compulsory for all businesses to sign up to the rating scheme.  But there are a large number of local businesses that have no systems or training in place to safeguard their employees and visitors.

I am keen to talk to all kinds of industries about this initiative and gain some support. As a glass half full kind of person, I hope that at the very least, those that do walk the talk and demonstrate health and safety in the workplace will get in touch, and put the system to the test.  I am looking for volunteers for a pilot.

After all, whenever we go out and about, we take it for granted that we will be protected by ‘elf and safety’. It seems that there are double standards and lip service going on in and around Stockport. Be careful you don’t trip over them!

After the success of the ‘Take the Health and Safety Challenge’ at the North West Expo, I was left horrified at the lack of knowledge and training that the majority of visitors to my stand had. Besides the questionnaire the I posed to people, many people admitted that they had never received any form of safety training at their place of work. Not even fire training.

The latest changes to the fines that can be imposed for failings are to be based on a company’s turnover and profitability. So the more financially successful the company is, there’s more reason to get your health and safety house in order.

At the very least all employees must be trained in fire safety including:

- What to do in the event of a fire
- What to do if they discover a fire
- How to avoid fire happening in the workplace

From someone who has been training staff in fire safety, and all the other compliance training for the last 25 years, it is almost inconceivable that people would not bother to train their employees in fire safety awareness. I’m not talking about fighting fires, (I wouldn’t encourage that), just basic what to do when the alarm sounds, where to go and who does what. Who wants their business to go up in flames?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers must:

- Develop suitable and sufficient emergency procedures
- Provide health and safety information to their employees and others
- Provide employees with adequate and relevant health and safety training
- Undertake suitable and sufficient written risk assessments - identifying risks and controls

If you want to take part because you already have a good looking Health and Safety Management System in place, get in touch with Michelle on 0161 298 1040. If you don’t know what you should be doing, also get in touch. The safety courses that Michelle Hay provides are for the following sectors: 
Office – Retail – Manufacturing – Hospitality – Trades – Healthcare

Member Blog: Your guide to a hassle-free festive period

By Zee Hussain - Partner at Simpson Millar

During the festive period, it makes sense that employees embrace the celebrations with open arms; presents, the office party, and that bit of extra time off work to be with loved ones. And whilst this should be encouraged, an employer's preparation and communication is key.

This employers’ HR guide provides some useful information and tips on how best to avoid the embarrassing stories, HR-headaches, and any other potential pitfalls for employers during the festive period.

Annual Leave

In an ideal world, all employees could clock off ahead of Christmas Eve and not need to return until the New Year, but the truth of the matter is that many businesses don’t lock up shop over the festive period.

As such, employers should expect a higher than usual demand for annual leave as we approach the festive period.

The key to dealing with this effectively is to be prepared and remember that whilst the employee has the right to request annual leave (within their entitlement), the employer has the right to refuse it.

Likewise, employers can require employees to take annual leave at a certain time of the year and or cancel approved annual leave in line with the business needs.

The caveat here is that the employer must give sufficient notice under the Working Time Regulations 1998 and comply with any notice provision stated within the employee’s contract.

If you are intending to close between Christmas and New Year, it is good practice to have a clause within the holiday section of an employee’s contract to confirm that X number of days must be reserved for use between this period as the workplace will be closed.

Online Shopping

Many employees will turn to the internet to do their last minute Christmas shop as the number of available shopping days dwindles away the closer we get to Christmas Day.

The approach to using the internet for personal matters at work varies between employers; just make sure that you have a steadfast policy.

You may have an outright ban on any type of personal use, or perhaps a more relaxed approach - the key is to check that your IT policy clearly states your intentions as the employer.

In the event that an employee is spending more time using the internet for personal matters, as an employer, you can turn to your policy.

Secret Santa

Secret Santa is now much more commonplace, and usually, it is a chance to exchange thoughtful gifts with colleagues. Though the roots of Secret Santa are in a jovial place, some may see it as an opportunity to embarrass another employee in disguise; it is not without risk for the employer.

It is quite often the case that employees taking part in such a tradition purchase an offensive gift with the intent of embarrassing a fellow colleague. Whilst the ‘Secret Santa’ may find this amusing, the recipient may not.

You should have an up to date policy on equal opportunities, bullying, and harassment. It should confirm that purchasing gifts to cause (or which are likely to cause) offence will lead to disciplinary action under the company policy.

Whether or not something is deemed offensive, will be judged with reference to the impact on the recipient - and not to others, this is the approach taken in the Equality Act 2010.

Christmas Parties

Your Christmas party should be an opportunity to thank employees for their work throughout the year. The party should be a place to celebrate, enjoy and relax in the company of colleagues.

That said: employees should be made explicitly aware in advance that the Christmas Party is an extension of the workplace. Any inappropriate conduct at the event will be treated in the same way as it would be had it occurred in the office.

Send out a simple reminder by email ahead of the party reiterating the company policy explaining any inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and acts of physical violence will be dealt with under the company’s disciplinary policy.

Your disciplinary policies must also make reference to Christmas/workplace parties.

Ensure that all employees are invited to the Christmas party, including those away from the business, for example, or those on maternity/paternity/adoption leave, and sick leave.

Post Party Sick Day  

Whilst it may be unavoidable that embarrassed or even still intoxicated employees call in sick the morning after the work party, employers should remind employees in advance that the usual procedures and penalties apply.

5 Tips For A HR Headache-Free Festive Period:

1. Review your HR policies to ensure they are fit for purpose, the key ones relating to this issue being disciplinary, grievance, equal opportunities, anti-bullying, harassment, and sickness absence.
2. Implement policies to assist the business in dealing with the issues mentioned in this guide if they are not already in place.
3. Remind/inform employees where the policies can be found.
4. Offer refresher training to managers on the key issues and how to handle them.
5. Adhere to your policies should the issues mentioned in this guide or indeed any others arise.

The festive period should be one that everyone can enjoy and celebrate. However, issues during the festive period can result in the employer being liable for costly claims such as; discrimination, unfair dismissal and sexual harassment.

This guide is not intended to remove the fun and festivity of Christmas. However, by taking some simple steps, being pro-active and communicating well with employees, employers can reduce risk to the business and ensure a smoother ride for the management team.

Preparation Is Key

If you need practical advice on any aspect of HR or employment law ahead of the festivities, Simpson Millar is offering a fixed fee service to review your policies. This will ensure that your gifts will be the only costly thing for you and your business this Christmas.

If you would like to discuss any of the matters mentioned in this guide or further ways to protect your business ahead of the festive period, please call the Employment Law Team on: 0808 129 3320

Alternatively, you can visit our new HR Support Service for Business: HR ORACLE

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Member Blog: Why Networking is Not Working for You

By Jane Schofield, Director at WorkPlace

With countless events taking place every night of the week in cities across the UK, the business community could easily spend their life networking.

Despite the value in making business contacts, not everyone enjoys networking and many dread going to these types of events.

However, as one of the founders of the newest co-working office space in Manchester, WorkPlace, I believe networking is still a key part of today’s business world and I want to encourage people to look at events from a different perspective.

Since we launched WorkPlace, we have been to every kind of networking event imaginable.

We want to talk to as many people as possible about our new business and invite them to come and check out WorkPlace.  But, although we think we have a great concept we know that people won’t just believe us after a five minute chat – time needs to be taken to develop the relationship.

So many people say that they hate networking, which is why we want to share our top tips for approaching this invaluable business tool:

1. Forget business event – think relationship 

Think of it more like a social event and the opportunity to make new and lasting friendships. Go and seek out these new friends, and plant the seed for what could develop into a beautiful new (business) relationship.

2. Be interested and interesting

Don’t focus on what they can do for you and what you can do for them - friendships don’t work like this. You have to invest time in getting to know people – make them want to find out more about you and stay in touch. Give before you receive.

3. Arrive early

If you don’t like networking, arriving late seems like a good idea but by then the party has already started and it can be daunting to break into groups that are already in discussion. I have a friend who always arrives early and then stands and greets as many people as he can. It’s a nice trick and people, especially those flying solo, are often so pleased to see a friendly face, that it can reap great dividends.

4. Ditch the sales pitch

If you expect to go to a networking event and sell, then you are at the wrong event – it’s all about relationship building. I always try to find a way we can help the people we are talking to – either recommending a contact or a website that might be of interest.

5. Share your passion

In order for people to want to work with you, your passion needs to come across. If you work for Mercedes, make me want to buy a Mercedes car. There is nothing more off-putting than someone who is bored talking about what they do.

6. Don’t hijack the conversation

Nerves can make us talk too much and we forget to listen. Nobody likes someone who holds court and doesn’t let people get a word in – listen more than you talk.

7. Always follow up 

Never go to an event and forget to take note of the people who have attended. If someone interested me, I will do a little more research and make an effort to stay in touch from time to time.

For more information on WorkPlace, visit or follow @WorkPlace2015 on Twitter.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Member Blog: Do you really need social media?

By Zahid Hussain - Creative Director, Script Social Media
Recently, I was introduced to a dentist at a networking event. When he found out that I work in Digital PR, he narrowed his eyes and asked, “Everyone tells me I need to be on social media. What do you think?”

He was astonished when I said, “No. You don’t.”

Let me qualify what I am saying. The wealthiest business person I know has no presence on social media whatsoever and his company’s website is out of date. All the business he does is through word-of-mouth, through trusted contacts he amassed over decades. His focus on what converts has driven this individual to startling success.

Often, I hear prospective clients say that such-and-such a company has thousands of Facebook likes and is doing really well as a result. So, why can’t they? To add fuel to the fire, digital marketers will claim that you can reach billions of people through social media, potential customers who’ve never heard of your company. Wonderful new markets to behold, new niches to find. Treasure, treasure everywhere.

Sounds too good be true, right? It is.

The clients who approach my company are usually interested in social media; unfortunately, many have been stung by it. Companies will pay digital marketing agencies tens of thousands of pounds to rebrand themselves, and to upgrade their website. The agency will also set up multiple social media platforms each with a glossy cover harmonised with the deliciously expensive branding scheme. The digital marketer finishes the magic show with a flourish by buying likes and followers and then hands over the key to the new house and trundles off into the horizon.

It doesn’t take long for companies to realise that customers aren’t flocking to buy their service or product. In fact, how many business Facebook pages have you visited that are bursting with likes, but which have no engagement, no conversation, no buzz?

It is no consolation to have a trophy website and trophy social media accounts and zero customers.
On the other hand, I work with companies and know of others who spend hundreds of thousands a year on social media ads and on PPC (Pay Per Click) and are making millions. Their websites aren’t necessarily spectacular. Importantly, they have understood why they are on social media and invested for the long-term. They have clinically calculated what their ROI (Return on Investment) is. The question is, do you know yours?

If you are determined to wade into the world of social media, then you must commit to it. Be warned though. If you enter the fray with the wrong mind-set you will squander resources and weaken your brand. Maintaining a social media presence is incredibly hard, which is why so many social media accounts fall silent.

Remember, joining a social media platform is free, but it always costs to convert a passer-by into a customer. As long you earn more money than it costs your company to convert it will always be worth it.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Member Blog: A Record High for SME Confidence

By Vince Tovey - Davenham Trade Finance
Small businesses across the UK are set to continue to grow and thrive, as the latest Small Business Index revealed an all-time high in confidence. With everything from improved productivity and revenue to an increase in wages and aspirations to grow, all statistics found in the latest quarter have shown a positive incline across the majority of fields – all in all, a great outcome for SMEs.

This latest research has shown that a huge 65.3% of UK businesses aspire to grow moderately or rapidly over the coming months, therefore viewing their prospects for the future very positively. Not only this, but small businesses’ profits and revenue are also on the rise, with 24.1% reporting increased revenues and 17.4% seeing higher profits. Overall, confidence levels are sitting at +37.9, up from +28.7 in the previous quarter, a result of which is caused by an increase in productivity – a domino effect perhaps?

When it comes to trade finance, it was interesting to see a rise in SMEs who are exporting to 28.6%, in addition to one third of businesses planning to increase capital investment within the next year.

With this positive increase in mind, it is essential that the government provides and develops an effective support system for the ever-rising amount of small businesses planning to grow and invest in the coming years. This will ensure that these record levels of confidence continue to increase, and in turn the growth of the UK economy will hopefully benefit highly.

Are you experiencing growth and increased confidence, or is this something you are yet to see within your small business? Join in the conversation and tweet us @SMETradeFinance – we want to hear what real, local businesses have to say on this topic.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Member Blog: Does telemarketing work?

By David Wright, BSA Marketing

Telemarketing calls in business are a fact of life but I received a call recently which led me to ask the question:

Just how effective is telemarketing for B2B services these days?

There is no question that the telephone is a valuable and effective business communication tool but it’s the WAY it gets used for much B2B telemarketing that made me stop and think.

All too often calls are simply focused on nailing the lead rather than engaging with the prospect – a process through which, if the interest is there, they’ll probably get the lead anyway!

Here’s the scenario:

I was cold-called by a ‘typical’ telemarketer (you know the type) and her opening line went something like this:

“I’m calling from XYZ Accountants because our advert has been on ‘Local FM’ radio and we’ve had such a great response we didn’t want you to miss out….” 

So she was engineering a situation to justify her call!

She went on talking ‘at’ me (I’m paraphrasing a bit)….

“Our accountancy services can save you up to 60% on your annual accountancy fees”

Now call me old fashioned but I don’t just pick an accountant on price. I suggest that professionalism, competence and value for money (as opposed to cost) are more important considerations, but there you go!

What’s more, changing accountant is not something that businesses do regularly. A good relationship with your accountant is a valuable element of a successful business.

So most of the time, most businesses are NOT looking to change their accountant so just randomly calling businesses in the hope of landing on an opportunity is statistically likely to be a lot more ‘Miss’ than ‘Hit’

Now here’s the point:

We were looking to change our accountant!

We should have been a lead; but the whole approach the telemarketer took just turned me cold. Even though her basic massage was promoting the idea of ‘Cloud-based’ accounting, she wasn’t interested in me, she was interested in getting a lead – which she didn’t.

If she’d shown more interest in me and my business needs, and talked with me rather than at me (with some half-baked reason for calling in the first place!), maybe she would have got somewhere.

A better approach?

These days, marketing is so much more about engagement than it is about selling. Since the rise of the internet, if we want to buy something (whether it is a TV or a new accountant) we can go online and research options and find where to buy.

Marketing is about influencing our preference. Where and why a customer would like to buy something, and making it easy for those customers/clients to choose us!

Cold calling is a leap into the unknown. Anyone making a telemarketing call has no idea of the circumstances for the people they are calling. They might be busy, sad, happy, annoyed, who knows? It’s pure port-luck.

A good telemarketer can deal with what they find but the ONLY practical way is to empathise and engage.

There is another way – and that is to bully. We hear of a lot of this going on in B2C telemarketing and telesales but I believe this approach should have no place, anywhere.

So, back to my call. If the telemarketer had talked with me rather than at me, maybe she would’ve got further.

Are you interested in considering an alternative accountant?
Have you considered the benefits of cloud-based accounting?
Do you ever feel you are paying too much for your accountancy services?

A positive answer to any of these may have opened the door but just telling me why I should be talking to her didn’t cut it!

Even if she got nothing but negatives, taking a reasonable approach always leaves the door open for
Can we keep in touch?...

…and this leads to the opportunity for ongoing communication and engagement, the essence of modern marketing.

So does telemarketing work?

In my example, the answer is clearly NO!, but I believe if telemarketing embraces engagement as part of a joined-up marketing communication process, it can still play a valuable role in B2B marketing that delivers benefit to everyone.

If you are thinking about using telemarketing in your business, I’d be happy to talk to you but, in any event, always remember to think about the opportunity beyond the sales lead.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Member Blog: How to tackle the HR issues that may arise over the festive period

By Michelle Gyimah - Pregnancy and Parental Rights Consultant at Equality Pays 

From the organisation of an office get-together, to the often emotion-fuelled issue of who gets to have time off, the festive period can be the cause of all kinds of HR issues.

Thankfully though, help is at hand. It’s often simply a case of ensuring that you understand your legal obligations, and communicate effectively with your employees.

Here, we give you the answers to some common HR questions that employers face at this time of year.

Q. It’s really difficult keeping our premises warm during the winter months. What are my legal obligations?

A. In the UK, you need to ensure that the minimum temperature in a place of work is 13 degrees for strenuous work, or 16 degrees generally. If it falls below this, you need to take action immediately, or send your employees somewhere warmer (if it’s possible for your staff to carry out their work at home, this could be an option).

Of course, it’s not just your legal responsibilities that are worth mentioning here. If it’s too cold, it could be dangerous for your employees, or they could at least lose concentration and carry out work that is not up to their usual standard. It’s in everyone’s best interests to provide a comfortable workplace.

Q. Do I have to pay for a Christmas party or function for my staff?

A. There’s no legal requirement for you to provide a Christmas party for your staff, unless it’s written in the contract of employment. If you’ve offered this for your employees for many years though, it could be argued that it’s an unwritten agreement.

Legalities aside, a Christmas function can be a great way to thank your staff for their contributions to the business over the past year, and can really increase morale.

Budget will often be an issue, but you don’t have to spend a fortune, and you can spend up to £150 per person on a staff party and it’s tax deductible.

Q. A large number of staff members want to take holidays over the Christmas period, and I’m worried about how this could impact my business. Do I have to give them the holidays they ask for?

A. This all comes down to the finer details of your employment contracts. You need to assess the exact terms and conditions that you’ve laid out regarding how holiday can be taken. In general terms, staff can ask to take holiday at any time, and there should be clear guidelines within your policies that explain how they should do this, and what notice they must give. If your business has particular busy periods, you might decide to state in your contracts that no leave can be taken during this time.

It all comes down to some careful forward planning in terms of your contracts and procedures. If you haven’t yet taken the time to ensure your documentation is in line with business needs, take action now. Speak to an HR professional who will be able to assess your policies and provide guidance on how they can be improved.

Q. Should I consider giving my employees a Christmas bonus?

A. The economy is still delicate, so it’s not surprising that many businesses are wary about giving bonuses. Here, we need to consider contractual requirements, and of course, apply a little common sense.

If it’s stated in the employment contract that workers will receive a bonus, you need to comply with this. If you don’t, you run the risk of facing a tribunal claim. Where this can get a little trickier is when you don’t have anything detailed in your contracts, but employees have always received a bonus, so it’s considered as an accepted custom and practice. In this case, it’s worth speaking to an HR professional about how your business will tackle the issue.

It’s also vitally important that you have crystal clear communications around bonuses, and can explain the criteria for receiving a payment. If you don’t give this some careful consideration, you could leave yourself open to a discrimination claim.

Q. I have a diverse workforce, with staff actively practicing a variety of religions. What issues might I face at this time of year?

A. You’d be hard pushed to find an HR professional or a savvy business owner that didn’t recognise the benefits of having a diverse workforce. Quite simply, it’s great for business. Inevitably though, there are many questions that arise in light of this over the Christmas period.

First of all, your employment contracts are once again vitally important. Check to make sure that yours are up to date and effectively address diversity within your business.

Remember that Christmas is a national holiday within the UK, and it’s recognised among many religious groups (including the non-religious) as having a special status. If you do have many employees from different religions, it may be worthwhile considering making arrangements to recognise other holidays that your staff may wish to celebrate.

If you have any questions about these issues, or other HR matters that are causing you worry in the run up to the festive period, get in touch for a no-obligation discussion.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Member Blog: Are you missing out on R&D tax relief?

By Managing Director of R&D Tax Claims Limited, Mark Evans FCA

Since 2009, the team at R&D Tax Claims Limited has successfully helped over 200 UK companies to save a staggering £21 million by helping them to make successful R&D tax claims.  This is an important milestone for us and we hope it goes to show just how much we’ve aided businesses from a wide variety of backgrounds to reinvest and grow over the past few years.

The UK provides one of the most generous R&D tax relief schemes in Europe, with around £7 billion available to SMEs to claim every year, so make sure your company isn’t missing out on what it’s entitled to.

R&D Tax Relief is a government backed tax incentive designed to give companies the encouragement to develop new and / or improved products and / or processes.  If your company pays Corporation Tax and is carrying out activities which qualify as research and development, you may be able to claim back tens of thousands in tax which could then be reinvested back into your business, great news for the future of any company..

Contrary to popular belief, R&D tax claims don’t have to be a long drawn out process.  We make sure all our clients’ claims are handled in the most efficient manner possible and with our expertise clients can receive their tax refund within just six weeks of submission of the claim to HMRC.

It’s a common misconception that R&D tax claims are only available to companies which design their own products such as OEMs but in fact many 1st, 2nd and even 3rd tier subcontractors can also qualify. Recent statistics suggest that many SME subcontractors have little awareness or understanding of the R&D benefits available to them and could be missing out on thousands of pounds in unclaimed tax credits.

So, how have we achieved these impressive tax claims? Well, our success is down to our vast technical knowledge of R&D, along with our long standing relationship with HMRC.

It allows us to recognise whether a claim qualifies for R&D tax relief quickly, at absolutely no risk to our clients. We operate a strict No-Win No-Fee policy, so you can be sure that we’ll only put forward your claim if we think you’ll be successful and with our 100% success rate, you can be sure you’re in safe hands. The average annual tax saving achieved for our clients is over £35,000. This annual “bottom-line” saving means a successful R&D claim has the power to completely revolutionise your business.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to make an R&D tax claim, get in touch with our Shrewsbury or Warrington office today.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Member Blog: Halloween - Trick or treat?

By Claudine Jacobs - Operations Support Manager, Reed Screening
The start of October always brings colder days as well as darker, earlier nights. Hats and scarves come out of storage, as does your big winter coat, Autumn has well and truly set in, with Winter not too far from our minds. The 31st October also brings the celebration of All-Hollows Eve - more commonly known as Halloween. Whilst this has become increasingly commercialised over the past few years, with the retail shops and well known brands well and truly cashing in - think green sludge cakes through to Halloween slime bleach - the old time traditions of trick or treat and carving pumpkins still thrive.

For most people on Halloween, the idea of neighbours who you 'only know to say hi to' bringing their little monsters to knock on your door leaves no other option but a quick dart behind the sofa with a not so subtle change of lighting in the living room. Others however, they seem to relish the opportunity to let strangers over their threshold and into their world, with no more thought than whether the sweets that were purchased during the rush hour commute are going be up to standard - If you've never felt the abject humiliation of a child rejecting the sweets you so hurriedly purchased, then lucky you.

Whilst Halloween (mercifully) only lasts one evening, the idea of trick or treat got me thinking. What if the people knocking at your door were your work colleagues? People you statistically spend more of your life with than your actual family. The people whose relationship history you know, in some cases in too much detail, whose likes and dislikes you're aware of, whose afternoon coffee order is now as familiar as your own and whose evening meals have been running commentary since the day you started - essentially, people you know well. Would that make a difference? Would you still hide behind the sofa or would the invite extend from the doorstep? Would you be far more likely to welcome them over your threshold and into your home? Why wouldn't you, its not like they're going to trick you, you know them...

Or do you?

• Did you know that 'Attempts to obtain employment fraudulently (for example by withholding or falsely declaring information such as qualifications or previous convictions) doubled in 2012 - CIFAS 2013.

• Did you also know that 'In a survey of 2000 people, 7 in 10 people admitted that they would commit fraud if they knew they could get away with it' - Personnel today 2007.

• 24% of the 9000 CVs that Reed analysed in the last 6 months contained untruths - Don't believe what you read - Reed Talent Solutions white paper 2014.

• Lastly, 'Fraud perpetuated by either management or employees accounted for 80% of financial loss through fraud experienced by businesses in 2012' - KPMG 2013.

The above facts, and lots more, are readily available on the internet and are widely quoted, yet again and again we see examples of companies having little or no pre-employment screening for new employees. Word of mouth referrals, especially when it comes to senior appointments, seem to be acceptable. So the question has to be posed - Why would you expose your business and indeed your employees to such a risk? How much would you uncover if you and your business adopted a robust pre-employment screening process? A simple credit check, references check and criminal records check could be the difference between a quality, approved employee and a potential fraudulent risk. Pre-employment screening could literally save you thousands.

So, look around at your colleagues that you know so much about and have a think, how well do you and your business really know them? Are they a trick or a treat?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Member Blog: Planning time for your business

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

Owning and running a business is not about doing whatever you do….

Accountancy, Bricklaying, Clothing, Design, Engineering, Farming, Grocery…..

We can work our way right through the alphabet but these are all just products and services.

A business is:

The people (You and the other people you work with)
The way you deliver your product/service
Your engagement with your customers and suppliers
Your communication with your markets
Your processes to develop all of the above – oh, and do the admin, accounts and keep on the right side of the law!

Do you work ON your business or IN your business?

It’s a well established cliché that many people spend too much time working in their business and not enough working on their business, but I think we can take this a step further.

If all you do is accounts or bricklaying or buying and selling clothes etc then I suggest you aren’t running a business, you are doing a job.

Just as doing a job takes time, so does developing a business. I appreciate that it is doing the job that generates the vital short-term income but it is developing the business that drives growth and opportunity.

The value of taking time out

It is so easy to tell yourself you are just too busy doing your job (and time with family, etc. etc.) but if you are going to develop your business, the first step is simply to take the decision that you will make the time to do it.

This is perhaps the hardest yet most valuable step because by giving yourself the time you create the opportunity to develop your business.

In practice, if you think about it, it should not be difficult to find some time once you have decided that you are going to! It may be a change in routine, delegation, or even one less round of golf but the time will be there somewhere.

If you genuinely believe there is no way to find time to develop your business then maybe you should question its viability!

Developing your business – a process, not an event

As with everything else, business development is a process, not an event. Finding time isn’t about a few hours a week on Saturday, it’s about regular time.

Here is a post looking at 5 Rules for Effective Planning which hopefully might give you some ideas. I can personally vouch for the approach outlined in this post because it is the one we have used successfully for a number of years!

Since we started taking time out for our business we have seen real and significant development and growth. 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Member Blog: How to avoid getting a misconduct dismissal wrong

By Samantha Quinn - Laveer Legal
A business faced with potentially serious employee misconduct, particularly by someone senior, will face some difficult choices and risks. How can it protect itself?

The contract of a key employee usually contains provisions designed to protect the business.

These typically include restrictive covenants to prevent them setting up in competition for a period after termination of employment, approaching or dealing with key clients/trading partners, and soliciting staff.

An employer that breaches a contract in terminating the employment loses the right to enforce these covenants.

In dealing with allegations of serious employee misconduct, an employer must, therefore, act within the terms of the employment contract, to enforce its covenants.

Employee misconduct

Misconduct typically arises around:

acts of employee misconduct during employment including dishonesty, unacceptable behaviour with colleagues or clients, or breach of company rules;

behaviour preparatory to leaving to join a competitor with a plan to damage the business; or

behaviour outside work that brings reputational damage to the organisation.

Each scenario brings risks of reputational harm, both internally and externally, and potential financial damage to the business. The problem is magnified if the business is in the public eye as a result of the conduct, something now more common as a result of issues going viral on social media.

If the employee's behaviour amounts to gross misconduct, an employment contract can be terminated without notice or payment in lieu of notice. Contractual provisions may expand the right to terminate without payment to a wider range of serious failings.

If the employer wishes to terminate and protect the restrictive covenants, it will wish to satisfy itself that the alleged misconduct took place and justifies termination without notice. Often this will be obvious, but employers should not make assumptions and must check the facts on which they rely.

The individual should always be given an opportunity to put their side of the story, so that the employer can be confident that it understands the full picture before making a decision.

Where allegations are disputed, the employer is entitled to reach its own conclusion, and provided it behaves reasonably in doing so, a court is unlikely to interfere with its decision.

The risks in reacting to public opinion

In addition to preserving restrictive covenants, a business will want to manage the expectations of other employees, particularly if the allegations relate to conduct towards colleagues; and may also be mindful of the views of customers and wider public opinion.

These concerns will be critical, but care must be taken not to permit them to cloud the employer's judgment on its contractual obligations.

A very public dismissal followed by a successful claim by an employee, or a failure to enforce restrictive covenants leading to a move of lucrative business to a competitor, will not impress shareholders.

Garden leave

The contract may contain a right to place the employee on garden leave once notice has been given. This offers the employer the opportunity of giving notice to terminate the contract, and thereby avoid any arguments that it has acted in breach of contract.

Care must be taken not to permit them to cloud the employer's judgment on its contractual obligations.

An employee on garden leave can be directed not to have contact with customers, suppliers or media. Thus the impact of termination may be less immediately dramatic.

The individual would remain an employee during the notice period and so would not be free immediately to join a competitor. Such an employee would, however, be seen to remain in employment and to enjoy the benefits of the contract. The PR impact of this will need to be assessed.

Payments in lieu of notice

A payment in lieu of notice breaches contract unless made in accordance with an express power in the contract. In the absence of such a clause, such a payment will render restrictive covenants unenforceable.

Where a payment in lieu is permitted, the employer, again without breach of contract, can bring the relationship to an immediate end while preserving the right to enforce restrictions. The key downside of such a route is that payment must usually be made for the value of salary and benefits for the entire notice period.

This may lead to concern that an employee is receiving a substantial payment amidst serious allegations against them. This situation attracts particular criticism where the employee moves immediately to a new role, having received payment in full for a long notice period.

Restrictions in the contract on joining or setting up a competitor would, however, remain enforceable.
It simply may not be possible to satisfy all interested parties. Dismissing an employee in breach of contract may, however, have longer term disadvantages for the business, in terms of freeing the individual to take valuable business and profile elsewhere. The priority must be the protection of the assets and reputation of the business.

If you are thinking of dismissing an employee or embarking on a disciplinary and would like any assistance take advantage of our FREE 30 minute consultation.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Member Blog: 5 Reasons to Make an R&D Tax Claim

By Managing Director of R&D Tax Claims Limited, Mark Evans FCA
Making your first R&D tax claim can seem like a big undertaking, but the reality is that there are so many benefits to putting your business forward. As a form of Corporation Tax relief, the financial return speaks for itself, but there are many other rewards too. Here are five reasons to make your claim:

1. Development of Your Business

The UK’s R&D Tax Credit Scheme is backed by government and designed to provide companies with the opportunity to develop their products and processes. If your company pays Corporation Tax and is carrying out R&D work that qualifies for tax relief, you will be able to put the money back into your business and the progression of your project, and that can only be good news for the future of your company.

2. Opportunity to be Best in Your Field

R&D relief will enable you to not only develop your businesses, but allow you to compete with other companies who operate in the same industry. Increased funding can have a huge knock on effect on your business’s ability to perform at a high level and really make it stand out from the crowd, especially if your competitors haven’t made an R&D tax claim.

3. Expansion Within Your Supply Chain

More funds mean that your supply chain process can become more efficient and expand, maximising the reach to your customers and, in turn, the volume of sales you make.

4. Nationwide Growth and Employment

Your successful tax claim has the potential to not only influence your businesses, but businesses throughout the UK. The more investment in your industry from whatever source, the better the outcomes for all involved – this can mean faster advancement and refinement of industry processes, resulting in economic growth and more employment opportunities.

5. Opportunity to Compete on the World Stage

A consequence of successful R&D growth within the UK is that these businesses can hold their own within the global market. As the UK provide one of the most generous R&D tax relief schemes, approximately £6 billion is available to be claimed by businesses every year. In short, the more companies that claim, the better the outcome is for the UK economy and R&D as a whole.

R&D Tax Claims Limited is here to help with all of the above. It operates a strict ‘no win, no fee’ policy, and its simple and risk free 6-step process enables it to take care of the hard work for you. The team has a long-standing relationship with HMRC and their efficient process ensures you get the maximum refund possible – to date they’ve secured clients in excess of £18million in tax savings. To find out more about how they can help you, contact the Shrewsbury or Warrington office today.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Member Blog: Protecting your employees and business from the varied British weather

By Paul Watts, Branch Director, Bluefin Insurance Services, Stockport

Britain’s climate is influenced by systems originating from the Atlantic and the European landmass.

This combination results in the weather conditions our shores are synonymous with - rain and unpredictable weather.  At the beginning of the year the north of England, Wales and Scotland were inundated with snow and thunderstorms, adding the term ‘thundersnow’ to the nation’s vocabulary. Such extreme weather conditions are becoming more commonplace, with the Prime Minister commenting upon this year's ‘thundersnow’ storms in the House of Commons.

The resulting business interruption and impact on the economy shouldn’t be underestimated. Schools, transport and mobile phone signals were disrupted as 'thundersnow' storms wreaked havoc across swathes of the country. Manchester Airport suspended all departures and arrivals and more than a dozen rail services between the city and Yorkshire were cancelled as the north west of England was hit hard by a burst of wintry weather.

As we all know, even in the summer there is no guarantee of long hot days. In mid-August torrential rain with flash flood warnings affected the majority of England and Wales, causing travel mayhem and adversely affecting the tourism industry at the peak of the school summer holidays. While the varied nature of the weather can be frustrating, there are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid it causing business disruption.

Both heatwaves and snowstorms are accompanied by a number of risks and although businesses are not liable, it is important to safeguard the welfare of staff. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states that: “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements but employers have a duty of care to staff, meaning it is obligatory for them to create safe working environments.  Employers should be aware of the adverse affects of working below the minimum suggested temperature and provide a safe working environment for their staff. The HSE does not have specific guidance for working in temperatures below 13 degrees Celsius however as a first point of reference employers are advised to refer to the British Standards for assessing ‘cold stress’ in the workplace. And whilst there is no legal maximum temperature, it is important to keep the workplace cool either with air conditioning units or fans, as there is a noticeable effect on productivity levels if staff are too hot.

It is critical to ensure that you and your business are well prepared for all weather scenarios as employers have a legal duty to ensure the workplace remains safe. It is vital to have a continuity plan to guarantee arrangements are in place should the business be disrupted. It is advisable for businesses to conduct risk assessments of working environments to ensure they can cope with the issues caused by extreme weather conditions.

Research conducted at the end of 2014 by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that three out of five (59%) of the small businesses (up to 250 employees) they questioned did not have a plan in place to deal with extreme weather conditions such as floods and snow storms. This news comes despite the news that two thirds (66%) of small businesses have been negatively impacted by flooding, drought or snow over the last three years. Around a third (29%) of businesses do not have insurance for business interruption (loss of income, costs incurred) or damage caused to property by flooding. Volatile weather conditions can cost businesses a lot of money in damaged assets, lost sales and decreased productivity. Although it is impossible to predict the weather, it is possible to decrease the associated risks and minimise the disruption to your business and your employees. This can be done partly through having open channels of communication with staff, to let them know what the protocol is when there is bad weather but also by having relevant insurance in place that offers you protection should, despite your best efforts, your business be affected by the weather.  Choosing a reputable insurance broker can make a significant difference to how a claim is handled and your business is supported as it recovers.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Member Blog: Removing restrictions on invoice finance for SMEs

Chamber member Paul Burke, Managing Director of Davenham Asset Finance, comments on the removal of a number of unfair clauses that have been impacting UK SMEs when it comes to invoice finance.
It has been vowed by the Small Business Minister to remove restrictive covenants used by many large businesses to the detriment of cash strapped SMEs – something prohibiting them from using invoice finance. In 2016 new measures will be introduced by the Government under the Small Business and Enterprise Act 2015.

The restrictive clauses were originally introduced into contracts to prevent suppliers from subcontracting work, however due to the way the clauses were drafted they ended up preventing companies from accessing invoice finance funding. The provision of invoice finance requires the assignment of debts as security, and such a clause removed the ability to provide funding, thus leaving SMEs unable to access this form of asset based lending (ABL).

At one time, approximately 44,000 businesses receive more than £19bn of funding this way, however the size of the market is hugely limited by such clauses; an issue that has been recognised for decades and acknowledged internationally as a problem, but until now has not been addressed by the UK Government.  As unpaid invoices represent one of the biggest assets many UK SMEs have, these clauses have been restricting a vital source of funding, so the news of these clauses being removed is welcomed by many small businesses in an ever difficult economic environment.

By removing these restrictions on invoice finance, thousands of small businesses across the UK can benefit from faster access to funds, and while invoice finance may not be suitable for some, it is imperative that small businesses have the option of utilising invoice finance to increase their cash flow, rather than being restricted to a small number of traditional funding options. With the Small Business Minister stating ‘small businesses are the economic backbone of Britain’ – we agree that the necessary steps should be taken to ensure that the restrictions are lifted in order for SMEs to continue growing and creating jobs within the UK.

Cash strapped SMEs should also remember that there are other ways of accessing funding via the provision of asset refinance, seeing capital tied up in their plant and machinery being released, thus helping to support their working capital requirements. In addition, asset finance is an easy way for SMEs to purchase those important assets needed to help grow their businesses. Here at Davenham we offer both products and work in partnership with our clients to ensure we can offer the maximum level of funding they require.

For more information, visit

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Member Blog: All White for Winter?

By Craig Robinson - Director, Cloud 53
We know the weather predictions are always a tad dramatic with phrases such as ‘Arctic Freeze’ and ‘El Nino’ but it is worth paying attention to the fact that your business could suffer because of the winter. At present weather predictions for this winter are suggesting the El Nino (named Modiki) weather Phenomenon and reportedly maybe the strongest since 1950. In this year heavy snowfall brought chaos to much of the country with temperatures in some areas being as low as -22C with around 50cm of snowfall, certainly worse than the ‘big freeze’ which we remember in 2009/10.

The ‘El Nino’ happens when ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific, near South America, rise due to a change in the normal wind direction, creating knock-on effects across the globe due to the amount of heat released into the atmosphere. The polar jet stream tends to move further south, and brings wetter weather across the Atlantic, which causes heavy rainfall in warmer months (we have certainly had this), but can bring snow in the winter.

So is your business ready in case we do have a bad winter? Typically in the UK a bad winter means the public transport system grinds to a halt or at best is a very poor service. The reason for this, apart from the weather affecting equipment and roads, is due to staff not being able to get into work and so we get into a vicious cycle!

If your staff cannot get into work whether it be due to public transport or the highways what contingencies do you have in place to allow your business to continue? Should it just be for a single day most businesses will be fine, albeit probably lose some revenue, however if the weather spell lasts a week or more then it could be much more serious.

Points to consider:

Remote access – Do you provide remote access whether it be via Remote desktop, Citrix, Outlook web access. Is this setup for all staff? Are they aware of the details? Do you have enough licences? Does your internet connection give sufficient bandwidth for inbound connections?

Telephony – do staff have desk phones at home? Can staff access the telephone system through soft phones (PC or smartphone apps). Can diverts be put on remotely?

Backup – if using onsite backups who will change the tapes/disks? How will the data get offsite for safe storage?

Meetings – do you have video conference services available to take meetings internally and externally given that travel is limited?

Communication – are staff aware of the business continuity plan? How they will access systems? How will staff communicate?

Suppliers – depending on your business your supplier’s business continuity plans maybe extremely important if you cannot receive deliveries of vital goods and services – they should be asked the question.

Whilst we have seen predictions previously for heatwaves, bad winters and even the end of the world eventually predictions do happen so it’s always best to be prepared. Please get in touch should you be interested in any advice on the above (excluding weather forecasts).

Visit Cloud53:
Call Cloud53: 0845 557 8687
Follow Cloud53:  @cloud53ltd

Monday, 21 September 2015

Member Blog: Apprenticeship Grants – are they worth it? The fall and rise of the apprenticeship

By David Wright - BSA Marketing

Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years then, all of a sudden, in the 1990s everyone was off to college – the brave new world of university for all.

RIP apprenticeships?

Now, after less than 20 years, apprenticeships are back with a vengeance. Bright 16-19 year olds with more than adequate results for a place at University are voting with their feet and choosing an alternative; to go into work-based higher education through an apprenticeship.

OK, pay rates are modest but apprentices have the opportunity to build valuable (and genuinely employable) real-world skills that will see their earning potential rise without finding themselves, in their early twenties, encumbered with a £30000+ loan.

There will always be young people for whom university is the right choice but I believe apprenticeships offer a real and valuable alternative to many people joining (or re-joining) the world of work.

But what about businesses? The government is currently offering apprenticeship grants of £1500 (rising to £3000 in some areas) to a business that takes on an apprentice. Is the grant worth it?
What is the employers’ role in making an apprenticeship work?

Why should I offer an apprenticeship?

When I talk to many SME business owners about apprenticeships, there are two distinct camps:

1. Apprenticeships are a cost to my business

Taking on an apprentice will distract from my business while I give up time to train them. Even with a government grant contribution, apprentice wages are higher than the contribution they make to my business.

2. Apprenticeships are an investment in the future of my business

My business relies on a skilled workforce. Investment in our apprentice programme is a key element of our strategy to deliver the skills we need to sustain our business and achieve our development plans.

Interestingly, most people in Camp 1 have never taken on an apprentice while those in Camp 2 have real-world experience! Camp 2 companies do recognise that there are costs and that not every apprenticeship works out but by taking a planned, strategic view they appreciate that the investment delivers real value over time.

Should businesses be paid apprenticeship grants?

The apprenticeship grants can be seen in two ways

An Incentive…

…to ease the pain of the cost of an apprentice to your business

A Contribution…

…to the investment in building a skilled workforce for the future

Which way you see it is subjective but maybe the incentive view is ‘glass half-empty‘. No matter what the incentive, apprenticeships are a bit of a pain! Is this approach set to deliver a positive outcome for anyone? I think not.

On the other hand, the contribution view is ‘glass half-full‘. Our planned apprenticeship programme delivers real benefit to our business and the contribution is a welcome addition. We are focused on making things work.

So whether the apprentice grant is worth it or not depends more on planning and attitude rather than cash?

I believe apprenticeships are here to stay and are immensely valuable as an option in the education and growth of young people (and increasingly older people too).

However, for an apprenticeship to work, to really deliver value to both the apprentice and the employer, the company needs to have a strategic vision for apprenticeships as part of their business growth.

Strategic investment in an apprenticeship can be a real win:win

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Member Blog: 5 Tips for Making a Successful R&D Tax Claim

By Managing Director of R&D Tax Claims Limited, Mark Evans FCA
There’s no denying that making an R&D tax claim can be incredibly valuable to your business, but how do you ensure that your claim is approved?  At R&D Tax Claims Limited we make it our business to help you maximise and speed through your claim, and our 100% success track record speaks for itself. Here are our top 5 tips for making sure your claim makes the grade:

1. Formalise your developments

Don’t let your hard work go unrewarded – make sure your company has the right protocols in place to help you get the most out of your research and development.

2. Keep records

Keep hold of your paperwork relating to any R&D projects and their qualifying costs.

3. Keep your staff up to date

In order to get the most out of your claim, you’ll need the help of all involved parties.  Speak to any staff involved with your research and development – ask them to help you gather technical and financial information relating to your claim, and keep them up to date on any developments.

4. Provide a report

Explain the technical justification for your R&D claim in the form of a comprehensive report.  This report should explain in layman’s terms the R&D activities undertaken and what technological or scientific uncertainties had to be overcome to achieve a significant advancement.

5. Don’t delay

You can claim for R&D relief on your company tax return, but your claim must be made within two years of the end of the accounting period in which the expenditure was incurred, so don’t lose what is rightfully yours, act today.

R&D Tax Claims Limited are here to help you with all of the above.  We operate a strict ‘no win, no fee’ policy, and our simple and risk free 6-step process enables us to take care of the hard work for you.  We have a long-standing relationship with HMRC and our efficient process ensures you get the maximum refund possible – to date we’ve secured our clients in excess of £18million in tax savings.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch with our Shrewsbury or Warrington office today.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Member Blog: The Challenges of Refrigerated Transportation

By Adam Green - Regional Sales Manager, Blue Tree Systems

If you transport temperature-sensitive freight, how prepared are you if something goes wrong with a refrigerated load?

For example, it is estimated by industry analysts that 32% of refrigerated cargo loaded onto refrigerated vehicles is at the wrong temperature at time of loading. In most cases, the cargo is warmer than requirements dictate.

While some temperature-controlled transportation companies believe that traditional responses to rejected loads are adequate, a new white paper issued by Blue Tree Systems makes it clear that automated, real-time, two-way systems with documented reporting are needed to cope with the EU’s rapidly changing cold chain logistics industry.

Transporters work in a rapidly changing work environment, due to changing food safety regulations, more discerning customers, increasing complexity of refrigeration units and rising cargo values. The result is that refrigeration unit complexity, driver error and late notification from dataloggers leave transportation organisations wide open to the potential for rejected loads, insurance claims, contract loss and reputational damage.

Our white paper, “7 Key Challenges in Refrigerated Transportation”, provides insight into addressing such issues as hot loads, equipment failure, driver error, late notification, post-incident paper trails, regulations compliance and the lack of remote control. The white paper helps transporters understand the key challenges – and what you can do to address them.

Established in 1995, Blue Tree Systems is a global leader in enterprise fleet management software for the transport industry, with offices in the UK, Europe and the USA. Blue Tree provides technology solutions for trucks, refrigerated vehicles and dry trailers from one vendor.

To download the white paper, get a copy from

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Member Blog: Export Management Solutions - What Features are Essential?

By Marine Matringe - Marketing Manager, Kailao Consulting
A company wishing to expand its activities by exporting will face some constraints that have to be taken into account to ensure good management of the business. Some specific features, in order to manage the export, need to be interfaced or integrated to the current business management system set up within the organisation, whether the export activity will use a distributor agent, a wholesaler, or even the development of a subsidiary to ensure the distribution in different countries.

An adapted documentary production: A business management solution, such as an ERP, has to be quick and efficient when producing adapted documentary essential for exports. These documents can be certificates necessary to export in some countries, or documentary credits, to facilitate administrative duties and formalities that businesses will face. All documents produced need to be coherent, especially for products that are likely to change all along their life cycle. For example: food products, where the weight can sometimes change.

Transport management: The management of transport is particularly important when undertaking export activities. Whether the transport and delivery of goods will be made using trucks or container charters, the management system used has to perform in order to maximise the transport of goods. The management solution has also to take into account the incoterm which will be used, as to who between the seller and the buyer will take over the expedition.

EDI: The EDI, or Electronic Data Interchange offers two distinct entities, such as a company and its supplier or a company and its distributor, to automatically exchange information using computerised channels. The goal is to facilitate the transmission of information between the different commercial partners, to reduce the risk of errors due to manual entries. EDI is a common feature within companies, but, when the purpose is to sell abroad, companies will need to face some adaptations. Indeed, each country or group of countries has different EDI standards, and there are even some EDI standards dedicated to one specific industry (ex: The GALIA Standard for the automotive industry in France, or ANSI X12 Standard for the United States).

Export accounting: Each country has some specifics regarding the accounting that have to be respected by companies. To consider these differences, the business management system has to adapt itself to the specifics of each country's account entries, and be able to manage multi-currency and multi legislation problems. For example, in France, the accounting system is widely influenced by the taxation, whereas this is not the case in England.

To find out more about export management solutions, email, call 078 7463 0697 or visit

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Member Blog: The National Living Wage – Can Small Businesses Sustain It?

By Phil Eckersley - Managing Director, Bridgewater Care

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made a surprise announcement regarding the National Living Wage at the end of his budget on 8 July 2015.  The wage increase will be phased in between 2016 and 2020. For over-25 year old employees, the wage will start at £7.20 per hour in April 2016 and is projected to rise to at least £9 per hour by 2020.

For low earners this is somewhat of a boon, but how will it affect the hard working, cash strapped employer who has a continuous struggle to keep profit margins at the sustainable level which they have worked so hard to gain?

The social care industry is, of course, biting its nails around the pressures that the National Living Wage will put onto their businesses.  Care companies across the country have had their margins slashed over recent years due to the heavy budget cuts to Local Authorities.
The problem faced by many care companies is that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I don’t think there are many people who set up a business in social care who do not want to treat their staff well and provide a quality service to their clients.  Financial pressures, however, have been taking their toll which has led to many very competent business owners leaving the industry, which in turn, causes the care industry to suffer further.

The pressures faced by established care companies mean that they have already had to cut their margins to enable them to continue to win their bread and butter contracts with Local Authorities. Now, care companies are being squeezed at both ends with the NLW being implemented in April 2016 which will see many care companies’ staff costs rise by over 10%.

So what can be done?

The phoenix from the ashes could be ‘Devo Manc’, which would see the merger of health and social care for 2.7m people enabling Council and NHS resources to pay for care services concentrated at a more local level.  An extra £6 billion of pooled budget will be available by 2017 which will be focused on health and social care.

The key now is for companies to ensure they have a lean operational structure and a financial model that works, which is sustainable when the changes are calculated into margins and is prepared for the upcoming implementation of the National Living Wage.

Here’s to the future!

For more information, contact Phil Eckersley, Founder and Director of Bridgewater Home Care ( and Bridgewater Day Care ( Email:

Friday, 28 August 2015

Member Blog: Do workplace wellness programmes increase productivity and a company's profit margin?

By Andy Gardner, Director - Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd

The question of workplace wellness is one that seems to be very much flavour of the month in the media at the moment. Like many company owners, it is also one that we at Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd feel is of particular importance. If it doesn't positively benefit a company why would they do it?

So here is what we know:

The cost of absence averages at £609 per person with the public sector costing £914 per person per year [CIPD 2014]

Companies with workplace wellness programmes experience an 8% increase in productivity [2005 National Business Group On Health Report]

Healthy weight people take fewer days off. A healthy weight male misses three days of work due to illness per year, An overweight/obese male misses about five, therefore someone working 237 days a year will be more productive than someone working 235 [Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, USA]

Musculoskeletal complaints result in 31 million absence days per year, stress and anxiety result in 15 million [ONS 2013]

If this can be addressed then those savings will directly benefit the company in turn benefitting the employee, who then feels more valued. And so it goes on.

Many workers don’t directly generate income, it is a combined effort often involving different members of different teams working towards a common goal.

Neil Carberry of the CBI has acknowledged the importance of wellbeing programmes.

The key to getting the most from them is to offer support that, well, supports them. If a person has less time off due to ill health, they will contribute to the company mission much more effectively.

The benefits of workplace wellness programmes for employers are obvious. They provide the company with strategic advantages by investing money in a programme that will bring them lowered expenses in return, often in the form of better performing workers, and lower absenteeism and care costs.

Employees are the most valuable assets to any company. By providing workers with these services, companies are improving wellbeing and job satisfaction, as well as raising retention rates. The welfare of employees has a direct impact on the success of the company. This is even more important given that many employees work in teams. The team that trains together stays together. The costs of implementing a programme is more than recouped by savings on productivity [ Black & Frost survey recommendation, 2014]

A new concept from The Karen Andrew Partnership Ltd involves an interactive health kiosk being supplied to your work premises, along with a support package bespoke to your business requirements and needs.

We are holding a free launch event for both Chamber members and non-members to showcase the interactive health kiosk and how the support benefits your company. ’Wellness Wednesday’ will take place at Elliot House, 151 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WD on 16th September 2015 from 4pm until 6pm.

The event will include a chance to network with a glass of wine, and the opportunity to experience all the benefits of the health kiosk, with live demonstrations and presentations.

To confirm your attendance, email, or call 07860 223334.