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

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Member Blog: Are your teams leaving their brains at the gate?

By Andrea Goodridge, Founder at Ad Florem Coaching

An issue I’m hearing from many of the senior leaders I work with is how some of their staff are just ‘turning up’ for work. They don’t really seem interested in their work; they walk around in a robotic fashion, and just seem to go through the motions until it’s time to go home. They appear de-motivated, lethargic and slightly distant from the team.
What I’m also hearing is the impact this has on the organisation. De-motivated team members don’t perform at their best. They often don’t deliver what is asked of them so the leaders find themselves re-doing some of their work. Sometimes the leaders find it easier to do the work themselves!
Obviously, this is not an ideal situation in any workplace, so we looked at how it could change.
Should you ‘push’ or ‘pull’?
I can certainly relate to this scenario; I remember being in jobs where I was totally disengaged from my work. It was as if I’d drive into work, park up and leave my brain at the gate! Then for the whole day, I’d go through an unthinking, robotic processing of whatever work was handed my way.
This might seem like a crazy way to behave, but if their leaders don’t require them to think, why should a person bother bringing their brain into work? Let’s dig a little deeper and discover how this unproductive behaviour can be linked to your leadership style.
In our discussions, the common thread running through the leaders’ experiences is one-way communication. They can be found giving instructions and advice to their team, who then follow the instructions and process what they’ve been told in a robotic fashion, before waiting for further instruction. Not one person shared an example of two-way communication, where team members were given a voice.
To encourage the leaders to start thinking about how they could turn it around, we looked at a different way. By exploring Myles Downey’s Coaching Spectrum, they soon realised what they were doing, and how it was impacting negatively on their team.
The Coaching Spectrum shows ways a leader might interact with their team. At one end, you have the directive style, sometimes known as ‘push’. This involves instructing, telling and giving people the answers; it might show up as leaders saying, “I’m the boss; I’m the expert; I know best”.
At the other end is the non-directive style, sometimes known as ‘pull’. In this case, the leader asks questions, listens, and helps people to find their own answers. A leader might say, “I’m curious to hear more; let me clarify what you mean; I’ll give you space to talk and I’ll listen”.
The leaders I spoke to could see how, by sticking to ‘push’-style interactions, they had caused their team to just ‘turn up’ and process what they were given, as there was no need for them to think for themselves. They could see how introducing some ‘pull’ interactions would encourage the team to share their opinions, be heard, and tap into their inner knowledge and resources. Ultimately, interactions at the ‘pull’ end of the Coaching Spectrum empower team members to take ownership and accountability, leading to them showing up (instead of just turning up), and bringing their brains into work.
However, there is still a place for ‘push’ interactions, especially in emergency situations, or when working with legislation. The key to success is to be aware of who you are interacting with, and adapt your style depending on the situation.
Adjusting your leadership style to include more ‘pull’ interactions can take your team from just turning up to showing up, and being engaged with their work.

Member Blog: Under Promise and Over Deliver

By David Wright, BSA Marketing.
Why is it so popular to try to make a success of NOW – with no thought for the future?
Maybe I’m just showing my age but I think Over Promise, Under Deliver is the scourge of the 21st Century
In business, this is often true of the sales approach. The push to get the deal now means people can almost feel bullied into business and if the aim of the supplier is always to drive on for the next customer, the last customer can feel let down.
As a result, we get a self-fulfilling prophecy. The customer can feel ignored and let down so next time they look for a different supplier. The last supplier loses the business so they are constantly looking for the next new customer – and so the cycle repeats!
If you believe your customers aren’t going to stick with you, you will always be focussed on finding the next customer – yet doing this makes it even more likely they won’t stick with you!
It’s scary and whether you are in business (or politics!), if you over promise and under deliver, keeping going will be tough.
Big promises may be what get the headlines but underneath, in the real world that doesn’t tend to make the headlines, good business relationships do exist. They are typically based on the trust, confidence and respect that is earned when someone aims to Under Promise and Over Deliver – they deliver real benefit and make things better for everyone. A powerful win:win.
If you are after a quick buck then join the rat race and keep chasing the next new customer but without delivering real, sustained benefit, it is hard to grow true business value.
Good, long-term business needs trust, confidence and respect. It’s not about being perfect, it is about relationships and how you respond when maybe things don’t quite go according to plan.
Poor service is never good. I recently found that my energy supplier had let me fall onto their standard tariff which was around 15% more expensive. I’m sure they sent me a letter but I missed it. Then there was nothing for nearly a year until I happened to pick up on it.
I don’t want to spend my life checking on suppliers. They know they have a cheaper deal but don’t make any effort to tell me. They should have communicated regularly (using some of the extra we were paying them!) They know they could deliver better value but made no effort to make it happen.
Needless to say, we have now switched!
I believe in the principle of Under Promise, Over Deliver.
We all have the choice – but I know which I prefer!

David Wright is a Founder-Director of BSA Marketing –

Member Blog: What you need to know to ensure you're compliant with the new debt pre-action protocol

Polly Hill, Associate in our Commercial Dispute Resolution department outlines below the new debt pre-action protocol.
  • Letter of claim
  • Response by the debtor
  • Disclosure of documents
  • Settlement/alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

The current pre-action position for a debt claim is to follow the general principles set out in the Practice Direction Pre-Action Conduct and Protocols as presently, there is not a specific protocol for debt claims.
From 1 October 2017 where a business (including a sole trader or public body) claims the payment of a debt from an individual (including a sole trader), the business must comply with the new protocol before commencing court proceedings. The protocol does not apply to business to business debts except for sole traders.
Reason for the introduction of the new protocol
In January 2010 Lord Justice Jackson raised in his Final Report on Civil Litigation Costs that debt claims ‘constitute a huge swathe of business of the courts‘ and need their own specific protocol.
The core principal of this protocol is so that debtors (or alleged debtors) are provided with sufficient information to enable them to obtain advice before court proceedings are commenced and where possible, that the parties attempt to resolve the dispute to avoid the need for court proceedings.
Key aspects of the new protocol
The new protocol encourages the early engagement and communication between the parties. This includes the early exchange of information to facilitate resolving the matter without the need for court proceedings where possible and encourages the parties acting in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
There is a two step pre-action process where the creditor only needs to supply to the debtor with certain information and documentation concerning the debt. There is then provision for the debtor to request further information if required. Therefore if the debtor does not respond at all, the creditor will not incur the cost of providing the further information.
The first step is that the creditors to sends a letter of claim to the debtor before proceedings are started and which contains the information set out in the new protocol and the information contained in the Annexes to the new protocol such as an information sheet, up-to-date statement of account for the debt, a reply form and a standard financial statement form for the debtor to complete with his/her current financial situation.
The debtor has 30 days to respond before proceedings can be commenced.
The debtor should complete the reply form and can request copies of relevant documents.
The creditor should try to contact the debtor to discuss the reply form and request any further information needed to understand the debtor’s position.
The parties should endeavour to agree payment by instalments based on the debtor’s income and expenditure and the financial statement. If the creditor refuses the debtor’s payment proposals the creditor should provide written reasons.
The creditor cannot commence proceedings until after 30 days of receiving the completed reply form. This period can be extended if the debtor is seeking debt advice, requests further documentation or requires more time to pay.
The parties are encouraged to disclose documents and exchange relevant information to help clarify or resolve the dispute.
The creditor must supply any documents requested by the debtor within 30 days and if the document/information is unavailable, explain why.
If the parties cannot resolve the dispute they are encouraged to consider ADR. If the chosen method is mediation then the parties must take into account if the costs of mediation are proportionate to the debt.
If settlement is achieved the creditor cannot commence court proceedings whilst the debtor complies with the agreement. If court proceedings are required at a later date, an updated letter of claim must be sent and the protocol will recommence afresh. Documentation does not need to be re-sent if it has been provided within the past 6 months unless it needs to be updated
Compliance with the protocol
If proceedings are commenced, the court considers any non-compliance with the protocol when giving directions and can sanction a parties non-compliance by adverse costs orders.. However it is unlikely that the court will be concerned with minor or technical infringements, especially if the matter is urgent.
Taking stock
Following compliance with the protocol a ‘taking stock’ provision requires the parties to ‘undertake a review of their respective positions to see if proceedings can be avoided and, at the least, to narrow the issues between them’.
When a letter of claim and reply have been exchanged but an agreement has not been reached, the creditor must give the debtor at least 14 days’ notice of its intention to commence court proceedings except for exceptional circumstances which require urgent action for example, where the limitation period is about to expire.

Member Blog: 5 Tips For Employers On Dealing With Disciplinary Action

By  Zee Hussain, Partner and Head of Corporate Services at Simpson Millar.

Zee shares some tips on how your business can effectively manage the disciplinary process.

  1. Have Clear Rules And Procedures In Place
Having clear, concise rules and detailed policies on appropriate conduct within the workplace not only provide standards of behaviour for staff to follow, they also ensure that employers handle certain situations consistently and fairly.
Whether you're reviewing your existing policies or plan on introducing new ones, it's a good idea to get the input of your staff – and their representatives if they have them – during the process.  
Sharing the policies with your staff as well as informing them about any changes or updates is also essential. Managers in particular and employees need to understand how to follow the process and know where they can find the policy if they ever need to refer to it.
If you have a different disciplinary procedure in place for staff on probation, information about this should be included in their contract of employment.

  1. Carry Out A Fair Investigation And Gather Evidence
If you believe that a member of staff has behaved inappropriately or breached a rule, it's important that you carry out an investigation as soon as possible and collect the right evidence to support your case.

It's not a good idea to leave a gap between the time of the event and following it up, as this could affect the strength of your case. The person who carries out the investigation should also be different from the individual who handles the disciplinary. This will, of course, depend on the nature of the matter and the seniority of the member of staff concerned, and also whether there is someone within your business who is in an appropriate position to handle the investigation.

In situations like this, you shouldn't draw any conclusions or take any action until the investigation has finished. If you're found to not have followed the right process this could get you in serious trouble if your employee decides to take legal action.

  1. Schedule A Meeting With The Employee  
Once your investigation comes to an end, a meeting must take place between the employee involved and the member of staff who carried out the investigation.

It's important that you send your employee a written invitation to the meeting, and you give them reasonable notice, for example around 3 working days.

As part of the invitation, you should:
  • Set out the allegations that have been made and the possible sanctions
  • Include any evidence to back up the allegations
  • Inform your employee that they have the right to bring witnesses to the meeting – if their witnesses are unable to attend, they can bring statements from them to the meeting 
  • Explain the procedure that will be followed

  1. Inform Your Employee About Their Right To Be Accompanied
Employees who have been asked to attend a disciplinary meeting have the right to be accompanied by a colleague or their trade union representative. If your employee wants to bring someone with them to the meeting, they should inform you about this as soon as possible.

If the individual can't attend the meeting on the date that has already been set, your employee can make a reasonable request for another date and time within 5 working days of the original date that was set.

  1. Draw A Fair Conclusion
Dealing with every case and employee consistently in situations like this is essential, as well as coming to a fair final decision.
Your conclusion must:
  • Refer to your business' existing policies and be consistent with any actions that you've previously taken
  • Provide detailed explanations and suggestions on how the issue can be resolved
  • Explain the process for appealing
Employees have the right to appeal against a decision made by their employer. If they choose to make an appeal, it should be handled by a member of staff who hasn't been involved in the disciplinary process and is able to deal with the matter objectively.
Your employee should explain the grounds for their appeal, and any new evidence presented by either your business or the employee should be taken into consideration. 
The outcome of the appeal must be in writing and a manager within the business will have to justify the decision that's made.

What Simpson Millar Can Do For Your Business

Disciplinary action is never easy for anyone involved, but having a straightforward process in place will make life a lot easier for both you and your employees.

Our Employment Law experts are well versed in helping businesses create effective policies and introduce new processes. If you need some advice or legal assistance, we're ready to lend a helping hand. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Member Blog: Marketing Strategies & Digital Media in the 2017 General Election

By Christian Michaels

Theresa May forced the UK onto another path of uncertainty by calling a surprise general election on June 8th.  A bold yet cunningly strategic move, May announced the snap election at a time when the Labour party is in obvious disarray, highlighting the tactical prowess of the Conservative party in exploiting the weakness of its competitors for its own political gain. Although dissimilar in so many ways, what joins the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, and Green parties is the necessity of devising and executing a seamless political campaign. In seven weeks.

As the party leaders traverse up and down the country trying to convince voters that they are the candidate the people can trust, it’s down to an in-house team of specialists to handle the party’s digital marketing campaigns. We’re going to explore how this general election raises some salient points about marketing, digital media and branding.

Social Media Marketing to Engage the Young

Jeremy Corbyn has undeniably resonated with the young voters of our country, with passionate people in the 18-24 age bracket coming out in full force to support the unpopular leader of the Labour Party. However, only around 40% of people who fall into this demographic voted in the previous three general elections, suggesting that all parties are failing in their attempt to reach younger audiences. The young feel disillusioned, so how can political parties make them feel included again?

Young people are a huge proportion of the population and they represent the future; as such, marketing campaigns have to speak to them. This can be done by embracing the channels that they use the most: social media platforms. Most young people use content from Twitter and Facebook to inform the opinions they make, so politicians need to ensure that this content is tailored to a young person’s tastes. This can be done by diversifying the content that’s put out and changing the tone of voice to suit young people. This can be done by sharing humorous things, creating eye-catching images with facts about the opposition emblazoned on them and using social media to speak about issues that the young care about like education, housing, debt, the environment, refugees and social justice.

Having a Comprehensive Digital Strategy

In 2015, the Conservative party spent £1.2 million of its budget on Facebook campaigns whilst Labour only put £16k into their Facebook strategy. Although this probably didn’t play a huge part in Labour’s failure to secure Downing Street, it does raise some unanswered questions about the audiences that Labour failed to reach by not investing in their Facebook campaign. It’s a shame that Labour failed to tap into the potential of this channel, indicating that political parties should capitalise on and invest in all the digital media tools that are available.

Maintaining a Strong, Consistent Brand Image

Whether deserved or undeserved, Politicians have reputations for being liars. Being in the public eye means that they’re placed under intense scrutiny, so any inconsistencies in their policies or public image won’t go unnoticed for long. Having a consistent brand image will help inspire trust in voters; this can be achieved by creating a clear branding strategy which involves establishing their objectives, ethos, principles and policies, and sticking to them.  Ultimately, people will only vote for the politician they can trust and believe has their best interests at heart. This can only be achieved through strong branding.

Although pertinent to the election, these points ring true for businesses small and large. If you want help with your social media marketing, digital media or branding, contact our friendly team.  

Monday, 15 May 2017

Member Blog: How do Ogden tables affect your insurance?

By Nigel Bailey of Wrightsure in Stockport.
The consequences of the Lord Chancellor’s decision to amend the rate of the Ogden tables to -0.75% will easily by be overlooked by many people. However, what will not be overlooked is your insurance premium when it jumps up at renewal by anything from 10% to 20%!
All liability and motor premiums will be affected and there is no escaping the fact that insurance premiums will be on the increase in 2017.
Understanding Ogden – The Ogden tables help Actuaries and Lawyers to calculate the lump sum of compensation due to an individual or family. The calculation is generally used on large personal injury claim settlements where the injured party is severely incapacitated and unable to enjoy their former quality of life.
Large settlements comprise of two components:
1) a lump sum paid by the insurer which is lower than the total agreed compensation.
2) interest the claimant can earn through on investments.
Together these are supposed to deliver the agreed settlement sum which can typically run into tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Since 2001 the calculations have been based on the assumption that the injured party can access an interest rate of at least 2.5% from a lump sum investment. However, due to the sustained period of low interest rates the Lord Chancellor has moved the discount rate to -0.75% as of 20 March 2017.
For every thousand pounds paid in settlement £25 was formally supposed to have been delivered by the 2.5% interest accrued each year. This meant the insurer only paid £975.61p for every £1,000 awarded. With the new rate insurers, will now have to pay £1,007.56p for £1,000 awarded.
This will ultimately add up to millions of extra pounds for insurance companies to find to settle claims leading to just one outcome – an increase in premiums for you the customer.
The amended Ogden rate has already been reflected tin Aviva’s UK’s general insurance full year results for 2016 leading the combined operating ratio (COR) to deteriorate to 106.3% compared to 95.0% in 2015.
As just one example, Aviva recently noted in the results that without the impact of Ogden changes the COR would have improved to 94.9% increasing their operating profit on the previous year.
Many other insurers are in a similar position and rate increases will be the only solution to this significant ruling.
So, what we are likely to see in 2017 is probably the largest increase in premiums since the aftermath of the twin towers terrorist attacks back in 2001. Many insurers were caught with huge exposures which they were not aware of and the reinsurance market was heavily hit. As a consequence, premiums jumped for everyone, insurance premiums hardened and the insurance market went through new wave of regulation and amendments solvency ratios.
Many regard the timing of this ruling as a poor judgement as with article 50 apparently being triggered recently uncertain times are ahead for many UK businesses and increases in insurance premiums will certainly not be welcomed.
If you have concerns then I would suggest that you speak to your broker and agree a strategy with them on how to minimise any increases your business may face.

Member Blog: What about your 'Grey Fleet'?

By Nigel Bailey of Wrightsure, Stockport.
When vehicles are driven on company business they are your ‘grey fleet’
Almost every business has some form of management system that monitors and manages their own fleet of vehicles. But what about your ‘Grey fleet’.
Grey Fleet is the term used to describe any vehicle that is used for business travel which does not belong to your company This management process will generally be controlled and managed by a fleet manager, director or senior member of your business.
Tracking MOT’s, Insurance, Tax, servicing and driving licenses of permitted drivers is all part of the responsibility of this role. However, many businesses stop at the vehicles they own and ignore or overlook their ‘grey fleet’.
This is a very dangerous thing to do.
So what is a ‘grey fleet’?
Your ‘Grey fleet’ is the term used to describe any vehicle that is used for business travel which does not belong to your company. This can include a vehicle privately owned by an employee, a vehicle purchased via an employee ownership scheme or a privately rented vehicle.
When any of these vehicles are driven on company business (often in return for a cash allowance or fuel expense) these vehicles are then considered part of your ‘grey fleet’ and as such fall under the responsibility of the employer to ensure they are safe and suitable for their intended use.
Remember, just because an employee does not use a company-provided vehicle for a business journey it does not absolve the company or fleet manager from their duty of care responsibilities as the company still has a legal duty of care to that employee (regardless of vehicle ownership).
Because of this responsibility, your grey fleet should be managed in exactly the same way as company owned or leased vehicles.
How to manage your ‘grey fleet’?
Managing your ‘grey fleet’ is in fact very straight forward. In the simplest of explanations, all you have to do is to align the management of your ‘grey fleet’ with the same systems monitoring and controlling the vehicles that you own ensuring that you record and maintain:
·         Insurance details (include appropriate business use).
·         Current and valid MOT certification.
·         Current Road Tax validity.
·         Driving license validity for the driver.
·         Regular service documents.
In addition to this, you will also need to consider the suitability of the vehicle for work purposes. This could include the age and condition, or whether the vehicle is equipped with ABS, ESP, and whether or not it is suitable for the journey requirements of the company.
Remember, regardless of the ownership, it remains your responsibility to ensure that any vehicle used in connection with your business meets the legal road requirements.
The risk you can personally face
In the situation of a ‘grey fleet’ the employer has a duty of care to the employee (and general public) ensuring safe use of any vehicle for which they are responsible on the public highway.
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 which means companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
This relates directly to managing your ‘grey fleet’ in a responsible way.
The Act allows the prosecution of an organisation or individual where an employee has died as a result of the organisation’s gross failure to comply with health and safety legislation. This potentially exposes the senior management of any organisation as they can face a criminal prosecution before a jury in the Crown Court.
If convicted, the courts can impose unlimited fines, remedial orders requesting that immediate actions are taken and publicity orders requiring the organisation to publish details of its conviction.
The law allows prosecution for gross failures in the management of health and safety within a company as a whole, when that failure results in a death. With fines uncapped and with the power by the H&S Executive to impose prison sentences this should be taken very seriously.
The tests for a Corporate Manslaughter prosecution include the following questions:
·         Were the organisation’s health and safety activities organised or managed in a way that fell far below the standard that could reasonably be expected and directly or indirectly caused the death?
·         Did the organisation’s conduct amount to a gross breach of a Duty of Care to the deceased?
·         Was a substantial part of the failure within the organisation at a senior level?
·         ‘Senior level’ means the people who make significant decisions about the organisation or
·         substantial parts of it. This includes both centralised, headquarters functions as well as those in operational management roles.
In addition, It will not be necessary for the management failure to have been the sole cause of death. The prosecution will, however need to show that “but for” the management failure (including the substantial element attributable to senior management), the death would not have occurred.
A jury will consider how serious that failure was, how much of a risk of death it posed, attitudes and policies and accepted practices within the organisation which encouraged the failure or produced tolerance of it, as well as looking at the level of Health and Safety guidance.
So in conclusion, the question that you need to ask yourself is are you managing your ‘grey fleet’ effectively and can you evidence this?
Failure to do so could prove very costly indeed to you and your business.

Article supplied by Nigel Bailey of Wrightsure, Stockport.