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

Friday, 29 May 2015

Member Blog: The Importance of Business Travel

By Alan McDonagh - Roomex

Recent rises and falls in business sentiment have been reflected in the amount of business related travel being carried out by company executives.

As the recession bit, and costs were cut, approval for business related travel was slashed across all industries but recent reports suggest this reactionary policy was a mistake. The US Travel Association’s 2013 “Travel Effect” report detailed statistical modelling carried out over 18 years and 14 industries which indicates that for every dollar spent on business travel, US companies have experienced a $9.50 return in terms of revenue.

Oxford Economics reports that companies that held firm and continued to travel during the recession are now reaping the rewards as they are better positioned to avail of an uptake in the clients’ fortunes. Not all cuts are smart cuts and surely turning off face to face time with your clients or prospects, the very people that can help you turn around your business fortunes is the least smart cut of all.

All indicators are that business travel is bouncing back after a difficult couple of years. Roomex, a leading corporate hotel booking platform and Chamber member has just completed its Q1 2015 year review and the numbers are very encouraging, some of the key findings:

Corporate hotel bookings through Roomex for Business are up by over 50% over the same period last year
International travel has increased by 23%
Availability in key locations remains an issue as occupancy rates are often above 90%

Business travellers are on the road more often with each of Roomex’s top corporate clients having booked more room nights this year than in the same period last year. Roomex constantly strives to control the cost of this increased travel even though room rates have increased throughout UK and Europe. Business executives instinctively know the importance of their face-to-face meetings with almost two-thirds stating that increasing business travel expenditure would have a positive impact on company revenue and profitability. They also believe that 40% of existing customers would eventually be lost without in-person meetings.

As companies do begin to travel more again it is often under the control of more restrictive travel policies. Roomex for Business is founded on saving time and money for its corporate clients. Critically, Roomex has managed to return an average saving of 21% to their clients in Q1 2015 and this comes at no cost to the customer. A clear message from their customer base is that they want more control over their travel management programme. Strong contracting, technology and customer support are the key ingredients that allow that control to be ceded directly to travel bookers, giving them the tools to book hotels 24/7 on a device of their choice.

For more information contact Alan McDonagh:

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Member Blog: 5 tips on achieving steady and successful business growth

Most business owners want to see their companies grow, but if you’re not prepared, it could result in financial catastrophe. Here, Warren Jacobs, MD of Manchester-based Digital Marketing firm ActiveWin Media, gives us his top 5 tips on achieving steady and successful business growth.

Be realistic about what you offer and what you don't 

Some of the best advice I ever received was to be sure about what you do and to not over-stretch yourself. Instead of trying to be a jack of all trades, strive to be the master of one - your area of expertise.

Many businesses make the mistake of offering too many services to expand into new markets. Be true to what you do and focus on what you do best. This will prevent any undue pressure on your team and business.

Set SMART goals for your team and business

Leaders in all industries know how important it is to set attainable and effective business goals.
The SMART system helps both employees and employers understand the goals that have been set and the process by which they will be achieved.

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Timeline

Breaking objectives down makes it easier to measure outcomes. Target setting is essential to business success.

Have patience

Patience, we are so often told, is a virtue. And sustainable business growth requires not just patience but also perseverance.

While it’s advised that business owners and entrepreneurs enter the market as early as possible when they spot an opportunity or gap, jumping in without sufficient planning can be detrimental to the business.

Take time to consider and develop concepts, invest time and resources in building up the business and focus on your long term objectives and growth vision.

Happy employees make for happy clients (and will help your bottom line!)

Business owners focused on growth and longevity have three bottom line considerations; financial, environmental and social.

It is our responsibility as business owners to discover ways of increasing employee satisfaction, which organically leads to a better service for clients.

It is my mission as MD of ActiveWin to deliver the best experiences - not only clients, but also staff. If business owners engage with, invest in, and nurture their workforce, customer satisfaction is never far behind.

Simple, thoughtful steps can create a culture that induces employee happiness and contentment.

Listen, learn and gain trust

A thriving business understands that customer loyalty and satisfaction drives revenue. Loyalty is achieved when the other party feels connected to your brand and business and they are understood and heard.

When we partner with a new brand, the first thing we do is hold training workshops with the client to understand their business inside out. We then hold regular face to face meetings with our clients in the UK and abroad.

For our overseas clients and affiliate partners, we travel to the USA, Gibraltar, Germany, Israel, Spain and Amsterdam to meet with them. Multiple daily calls ensure our clients know exactly what we are working on. We take great care in setting realistic expectations, and maintain total transparency of activity and results to clients. We firmly believe in integrity, which leads to the building of trust. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of everything we do.

We’ve recently been awarded an International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 9001 certificate, which shows existing and new clients that we are a trusted supplier, dedicated to providing the highest level of quality and service.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Member Blog: 5 Reasons Why Asking Just Any Old Young Person to do Your Social Media is NOT Best Practise

By Joanna Booth - Owner of Social Media Makes Sense

If I had a pound for every time a business owner told me ‘I don’t need Social Media training, my son/daughter/neighbour’s child/junior staff member does it for us’,  I would  be well on my way to being a millionaire.  See, the main problem with the social media industry, is most people believe it’s:

A) Just for young people and

B) Therefore young people are the best people to manage it.

These two points are the main reasons thousands of businesses are losing thousands of pounds of potential new business each year.

This type of thinking and attitude are my biggest pet peeve because it hinders so many SMEs from maximising their online potential.  Social media is a fantastic, mostly free, marketing tool that can attract business from local to global markets.

So why do I say that asking any-old young person to do your social media is NOT best practise?


1) Unless you’ve specifically hired a young marketer (bravo if you have), then this young person isn’t going to understand marketing your business. It astonishes me how many businesses, including the giants, who place a young person as their Social Media Manager without checking they understand any marketing principles. You wouldn’t come home and ask your child to design your new brochure would you?  You would at least check they understand what it is you do and how to best represent that.  Social media is no different.  It’s your online shop-window and it must act accordingly if you want to see results.

2) Granted, there are many young people who are far more mature than plenty of adults.  However, it’s important you ensure the person running your social media is mature and mature enough to cope. They must be able to sound professional, act professional and ultimately be able to handle anything thrown at them. Running a social media strategy (hopefully you have a strategy) takes time, understanding and appreciation.  It also means they have to have the maturity to handle enquiries and especially the odd complaint.

3) In order to run your social media within UK law, they must also understand the legalities.   Simple things like data protection need to be considered, as well as more complex matters like Impressums (displaying your VAT Number, Company Number, etc). Not to mention libel and other pesky potential legal pitfalls!

4) As well as being a marketer, the person implementing your social media marketing should understand sales.  As I said earlier, your social media platforms act as a shop-window, is your Social Media Manager capable and happy to make sales for you?

5) And finally, and possibly the most common issue with asking a young relative or junior staff member to handle your social media, what is their level of commitment?  Any successful social media strategy takes commitment, patience and consistency.  Is this person dedicated to your business’ success?  Do they appreciate the value to you of your social media marketing? Can they dedicate the time to implement it?

All that being said, you’ll notice I highlighted any-old in the paragraph above to emphasise my point. There are many, many qualified, quality young people who will do a fantastic job of your social media.  In fact, young people typically do have a better grasp of the technology and principles behind social media.  What’s most important is that you select the right person for the job, spend time training them and supporting them within the role.  We use young people all the time for implementation but we also spend the time making sure they are confident and competent before doing so.  I myself am only 25, after all!

Joanna Booth is the owner of Social Media Makes Sense, Social Media Training Company. Joanna and SMMS have just finished their massively successful social media campaign for the BBC’s hit series Poldark!

Contact her on: 07935 636 839 or on Facebook/SocialMediaMakesSense

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Member Blog: ISO Standards and Certifications – what are they and most importantly, how can they help your business?

By John Keen, managing director of RKMS

With thousands of different ISO standards and versions covering pretty much every industry imaginable, it’s no surprise the prospect of gaining certification can be quite daunting. Where do you start and which one is most appropriate for your business?

Amongst this vast range of standards, ISO Management Systems present organisations with a set of procedures to follow in order to meet business objectives. The potential benefits speak for themselves:

Increased opportunities and eligibility to apply for tenders
Reduced costs
Increased profits
More efficient use of resources
Improved risk management; and
Increased customer satisfaction as services and products consistently deliver what they promise.

Like all standards, ISO Management Systems are the result of international, expert consensus that ultimately benefit from global management experience and good practice. They can be applied to organisations of any size, regardless of the product, service or sector of activity.

The most popular quality management system standards are:

ISO 9001 – Quality Management System

This is probably the most common and can be applied to pretty much any industry. ISO 9001 requires businesses to focus on: developing continuous improvement; customer satisfaction through the use of management systems and; internal processes.

Advantages include:
- Increase in profits because of the reduction in waste
- Increase in sales through the sourcing of new clients, but also due to the reduction of lost orders
- Effective management
- Increases prospects – some tender opportunities are often restricted to ISO 9001 certified suppliers

ISO 50001 – Energy Management Systems

This standard addresses the impact your business has in terms of energy usage.

Benefits include:
- Reduced use of energy and lower carbon footprint
- Demonstrating social responsibility
- Financial

ISO27001 – Information Security Management System 

As the name suggests, this standard deals with all aspects of information security within an organisation, from physical to intellectual and electronic.

Benefits include:
- Mitigating the risk of data security breaches; and
- In the event of a breach, establishing an efficient back-up plan

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management System

By having this standard, a business is showing commitment to reducing the impact its day-to-day operations have on the environmental.

Benefits include:
- Reduced insurance costs
- Improved environmental focus
- Cost savings – reduction of energy use

OHSAS 18001 – Health & Safety Management System

By identifying the risks associated with your business operations, this standard guides you to focus on mitigating their impact.

Benefits include:

- Adhering to the Corporate Manslaughter Act which states all companies must do their upmost to ensure no injuries or fatalities are caused as a result of negligence.
- Give you customers confidence that your services will not be compromised by health and safety issues

Think ISO Management Systems as business tools that reduce your costs. This could be through minimising waste and errors, increasing productivity, improving efficiency and adopting effective management approaches. They can also help organisations access new markets and for businesses operating internationally - facilitate free and fair global trade.

Put simply, by achieving an ISO Management System Certification – you are sending a message to your customers, suppliers and potential investors/funders that because of robust internal systems, your products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.

If you’d like to know more about ISO Management Systems, which one(s) are right for your business and how you can gain certification, why not book an initial consultation with RKMS? They have a team of expert consultants with a vast range of experience in many sectors. You can contact them on phone: 0844 815 77 65 or email:

Friday, 1 May 2015

Member Blog: Unblock the Blockage with Email

By David Wright, a Director at BSA Marketing

I was recently in one of our regular quarterly planning meetings with a client, when they told me about an event that really demonstrates the power of email as a tool to help you get a response and unblock the blockage.

It also reminded me of a tip I gave a while ago:

Here’s the story:


Having received a specific enquiry for some engineering work from a large process company, our client responded promptly with their quotation and then, after a reasonable period, called to follow up on the quotation. Unable to get through, they left a message. The response….nothing!

Over a further couple of weeks, more follow up calls were made, all with the same outcome – no response.

We’ve all experienced the frustration

I’m sure many of you have been in this situation and know how frustrating it is.

1. Your prospect sent you the enquiry for a specific requirement

2. You respond promptly with a comprehensive, competitive quotation

3. Despite your best efforts, you just can’t get an answer

After a while you come to the conclusion that clearly they aren’t interested and move on to the next opportunity.

WAIT! – Don’t just leave it at that. At least bat the ball back to them.

Back to the story…

Our client didn’t just drop it. Although they were pretty confident that the quotation was dead, they sent the following email. I repeat it almost exactly (words in italics have been changed to protect identities)

Good Morning John

Just checking that you received your quotation for the engineering work?

Would it be possible to give us some feedback please. Could you help with the following

- Won/Lost

- Percentage difference

- Response Time

- Information within quotation letter/ technical detail

We try to be as competitive as possible and the information you provide will help us in the future. 

Thanks in advance.

Kind Regards

There, job done. Stephen didn’t particularly expect a reply but he hadn’t just abandoned the enquiry, though he was willing to ‘let it go‘. He had been as positive as possible – and now he could constructively cross it off his ‘To Do’ list – (always good in my view!)
but four days later….

After two weeks of no response to several phone calls, This email arrived in Stephen’s inbox:

Hi Stephen,

Please see below for feedback:

- Won/Lost

Decision not yet made. If we decide not go to with you it will only be because there is a local
company who can do a full turn key job on the install as a whole.

- Percentage difference

You were 10% lower than one quote and 7% under for another so happy with your pricing

- Response Time

Excellent, a lot quicker than the other two companies I went out to quotes for. It is particularly nice to have someone let me know they are working on the quote rather than just silence until a quote turns up.

- Information within quotation letter/ technical detail

Again excellent I feel like I will get what I want with your quote.


The Moral

Don’t give up, but don’t keep banging your head against the wall.

Have a joined-up process and use it. Don’t assume your efforts will fall on deaf ears. If you have a good proposition, relevant to your customers, you will get successes.

Hope this inspires you to have a process to never drop an enquiry but always be willing to constructively let it go. You never know….