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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…WE’RE ALL GLAD TO SEE THE BACK OF THE SFP YEAR…Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Not sparkling, but... Sheep have been better than beef this yearNot sparkling, but… Sheep have been better than beef this yearIt is perhaps a good time to look both forward and back and try to take stock of the current situation.

Looking at last year, it was one where the Single Farm Payment system rather overshadowed everything. With the recent agreement on the sugar regime (which might have broken down between the time I write this and you read it, but life is like that) it means that there are no more subsidies on food production in the UK.

If you want to produce something, you have to decide whether you can produce it at the world market price, and if not, why bother?

From early reports, it looks as if a proportion of cereal growers have decided, “why bother?” Cereal acreage is down, perhaps by 5 per cent – the estimates vary.

The general feeling is that if it had not been such a good “open” back end on the arable side of the country, the drop would have been larger.

Matters are harder to get a feel for in the world of livestock farming. Talking to knackers and similar, it looks as if unprecedented numbers of calves are being shot on farm.

It seems that no one wants black-and-white bull calves, at least not at a price that makes it worth putting in ear tags.

This is a state of mind I can agree with, as I must have more than 100 black-and-white bullocks of various ages, and under current conditions there is no profit in them at all.

Yes, it is possible if you take various advisers’ figures – and ignore family labour and similar – to show some sort of profit per animal, but more than one person pointed out to me that they could replace their beef enterprise by spending one evening a week shelf-stacking in a supermarket. They would make more money for far less work and no investment whatsoever.

Sheep have been better than beef this year. Not sparkling, but it is still possible to make a living of sorts. Will this continue?

Dairy is not looking good; the big, well-managed, businesslike units all seem to be getting out. The optimum dairy unit now seems to have about 200 cows – father and son, or two brothers working together, with lots of children, all keen to farm, to work as free labour.

So with 2015 written off, what about 2016? I would suggest that this winter you sit down with your nearest and dearest and take a careful look at the future. Do your best to get your accounts as up-to-date as possible, perhaps even get in a decent consultant or an accountant who understands agriculture. Sit down and honestly look at how your business is working.

Produce a budget for next year. Ignore any Single Farm Payment. Can you make the business pay? What are you doing that loses money? Why are you doing it?

Try and look at the business from a different perspective. I know one chap who almost by accident found himself earning nearly £100 a week just storing caravans outside in the yard. So, if you were in the habit of buying 30 store bullocks and fattening them in an open-fronted building, would you make more money if you didn’t buy the stores and instead just stored five caravans or boats in the same building?

The other option is Entry Level Stewardship; even one of the higher-level schemes. Look at them as you would any other business venture. How much will it cost to get into it? How much will it cost to run? Include in this income foregone, and how much a year it will earn. If it looks viable, fine, if it doesn’t then look at some other venture instead.

It is one thing asking your wife to go out to work so you can sell people food at less than the cost of production, but I don’t see why you should ask her to go out to work so you can subsidise people’s views.

Looking at New Zealand, where they lost all subsidies overnight, it is commonly held that many companies got through it by locking the cheque-book away.

This attitude, in moderation, is probably reasonable. I don’t think that it is going to be possible for most of us to invest our way out of this crisis. Yes, you have to speculate to accumulate, and paying your bills on time is always a positive move. Remember that we are at world market prices.

It is unlikely that we are going to be able to get prices up, so we have to keep costs down.

All in all, I suspect that the shake-up will do the industry good. A number of people will get a chance to take early or semi-retirement with their Single Farm Payment. Some will use it to make useful investments, while others will change the direction of their businesses.

As for those who just want to produce food, take heart from the nuclear industry. A few years ago it was doomed; now the politicians have realised that they cannot rely on imported energy.

Personally, I have every confidence that in the next 20 years governments will be so keen on increasing food production that they will be paying grants to rip out the hedges that they paid grants to have you plant.

Happy New Year!

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…OFF THE TREADMILLPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
ESPRIT is launching personal retreats to help busy executives take time out and reconnect with their inner values and beliefs.

International coach Zoë Dawes will run retreats at Linthwaite House Hotel in Bowness.

One-day retreats start on January 26 and the first two-day retreat will be on March 20-21.

Personal retreats will also be run at Lattendales, a Quaker centre in Greystoke, near Penrith.

For more information, visit www.chartwellcoaching.co.uk

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HEADLINEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
successunlimited.co.uk/humour/jokes.htm

On the basis that “laughter is a force for democracy” and that sentiment applies to the workplace as well as to government, take a break from your daily toil and chuckle along with these jokes. They are a little subversive, so if your boss catches you reading them and wonders why you are smirking behind your computer monitor – you had just better hope he has a good sense of humour. Then there is this simple chart that gives you all the “clever answers” you could ever hope to spout when you are on a training course. The procedure is simple. Think of any three-digit number; then select the corresponding buzzword from each column. For instance, number 257 produces “systematised logistical projection” Drop that phrase into any conversation with a training consultant and they will be impressed.Try it for yourself, it could work wonders, but don’t blame me if you get sacked. There are also some wonderfully politically incorrect management mottos which you could drop into the company’s suggestion box such as “TEAMWORK…means never having to take all the blame yourself”.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HILL FARMS DELAY IS ‘WORRYING’Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
A DELAY in the public consultation on the hill farming allowance has been labelled as “worrying” by a Londonn MP.

During an All-Party Parliamentary Group on hill farming, Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, revealed that the consultation would start in mid-January, several weeks later than expected.

Mr Farron discovered the delay after a letter he sent requesting a start date for the consultation remained unanswered for a month.

“When the group met Lord Bach in 2015 we felt that he shared our view that farming in the uplands is only possible with a stable financial framework,” said Mr Farron. “However, the delay of the consultation process is worrying considering that the last payment of the Hill Farm Allowance will be made early this year.

“Many companies will be disappointed by this news and rightly so, but I, along with the rest of the group, will continue to press the Government to keep to their revised timetable.”

NFU hill-farming spokes-man Will Cockbain said upland farming had to remain viable if the landscape that underpinned the national tourism industry was to be maintained.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…WHAT DOES THIS YEAR HAVE IN STORE FOR THE MARKETS?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Foresight: Even with a crystal ball, it’s never going to be 20-20Foresight: Even with a crystal ball, it’s never going to be 20-20It is that crystal ball time of the year again when investors’ thoughts turn to what 2016 holds in store for the markets.

We all know that hindsight is 20/20 while foresight so often is not. And of course, with markets, it is always news that moves indices. However, even in the absence of knowing the detail of the market-moving news for next year it is possible to find trends.

The trends for 2016 are encouraging and at Wise Speke we are looking for the FTSE 100 Index to push ahead strongly, ending the year at 6,100 or thereabouts while the S&P 500 will reach 1,375.

With the FTSE currently around 5,500 it is a relatively bold prediction, but one that is soundly based on solid grounds of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, inflation forecasts, bond markets and the corporate earnings. The four strands come together to make a powerful argument for 2016.

Economic growth as measured by GDP is likely to be stronger than expected with buoyant corporate profitability feeding through to investment, jobs and consumer spending.

Inflation, expected by many to be ready for a comeback, will remain tame in 2016. While it is true that headline inflation has edged up, it is also the case that core inflation in the major economies has declined over the past year and will continue to fall.

Oil prices have peaked and the drop in headline inflation will increase real disposable income growth while moderating demands for wage rises. Improvements in GDP growth and investment will be accompanied by improvements in productivity.

With inflation tame – if not absolutely tamed – then the pressure for increased interest rates eases. This will feed through into greater stability in bond markets.

The recent strength of the US dollar might be a problem for inflation in the UK, the Eurozone and Japan. However, the link between the dollar and inflation in the other major economies has weakened.

The expectation is that the US Federal Reserve is likely to take interest rates to 4.5 per cent or 4.75 per cent by the first quarter of 2016 and then hold that position. Wall Street has already got the message that the Fed is close to achieving its desired interest rate level and could be ready to climb a good deal higher.

So far so strong. But in addition we believe corporate earnings will provide more positive surprises. Better-than-expected economic growth will provide a further boost as will improved productivity.

However, the ongoing story of globalisation will provide a further push for corporate earnings. Globalisation has been a force for the good in pushing down prices and forcing companies to reassess competitiveness. Firms will continue to cut costs and restructure. They will also be pushed down the road of mergers and acquisitions.

All of that will feed through into positive news flow which, as we said at the start, drives markets.

We may not know the detail yet but the forecast is for stronger economic growth and stable inflation.

Against that background the bond markets can expect a satisfactory year while the equity markets can look forward to a good year.

Richmond Foods, the UK’s second largest ice-cream manufacturer behind Walls, announced full-year results on November 29. Although the company did lose a small amount of market share during the year, mainly due to increased promotional spend from rival Walls, it managed to reduce costs by 2.8 per cent, which contributed to a margin improvement of 0.5 per cent despite the strong competition. Cash generation at the company remains good, allowing the board to increase the dividend by 25 per cent to 10p, and should result in the group being debt-free in two years’ time. Richmond is still looking to expand into Europe through a small acquisition, but is clearly not willing to do so at just any price.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…NWDA HAS NEW HR BOSSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
THE Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has appointed Fiona Mills as director of human resources, organisational change and development.

Ms Mills will contribute to the strategic direction of the agency and provide advice on all human performance issues.

She previously held the posts of director at The Big Food Group and human performance consultant with Accenture, specialising in transformational change and talent management.

“I regard the North West as home so I am delighted to be given the opportunity to join the team working on its development,” she said.

“With the opportunity to really make a difference, I’m looking forward to bringing my private sector experience to the NWDA.

“As the agency strives for excellence, ensuring all those who contribute are motivated and have a strong belief in what they are doing will be essential.”

Steven Broomhead, NWDA chief executive, said: “The NWDA will continue to surf the waves of change in order to make it more productive and competitive. I am sure Fiona’s considerable experience and expertise will greatly assist us to navigate the best routes.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…REDUNDANCY – MAKING SURE YOU GET IT RIGHTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
THIS article provides a very basic outline of the redundancy process – and provides a few practical tips and pointers. I will not look at the additional procedures you need to follow if you are making 20 or more redundancies – I will deal with that issue in a later article.

Is there or is there likely to be a redundancy situation?

When considering redundancies, the first thing you should do is analyse the particular circumstances to establish whether a redundancy situation actually exists.

If you make someone redundant, or you think you have, but the Tribunal find that it wasn’t in fact a redundancy situation, the dismissal could be unfair.

In addition, even if the Tribunal find that there was a redundancy situation they could go on to find that the real reason for dismissal is something else – eg performance. Again, the dismissal could be unfair.

It is very important, therefore, to establish:

1. Is this a redundancy situation?

2. Will redundancy be accepted as the reason for dismissal?

The next step will be to establish whether there is any form of redundancy policy, and whether it is binding.

If there is and it is – it might tie your hands as regards selection criteria etc.

Redundancy policies are a bad idea r if you don’t have one, don’t introduce one.

Are there any alternatives to Redundancies?

You should then consider whether there might be any alternatives to making redundancies.

While there is no obligation on employers to try to avoid redundancies, you should at least consider whether there are any alternatives.

Common alternatives include:

Restricting recruitment;

Reducing or stopping overtime;

Trying to agree reductions in hours or pay.

What about voluntary redundancy?

Do you need to invite volunteers for redundancy? Unless you are bound by a redundancy policy – no.

In principle, inviting volunteers is a bad idea. You tend to get volunteers who you do not want to lose.

You can turn down volunteers – provided your invitation for volunteers is properly worded.

But, if you turn down volunteers in a department and then go on to select other employees in that department, they can argue that the selection process is inherently unfair since you were never going to select the volunteers because you previously rejected their applications for voluntary redundancy.

In addition, it delays the whole process. In redundancy situations delay is dangerous.

The longer the process goes on without everyone knowing who is in the frame and who isn’t, the more scope there is for employees not in the frame to become unsettled and start looking for other jobs.

The next step is to decide the pool of employees from which you will select those employees to be made redundant.

In other words, those employees who work in particular departments or who are doing particular jobs – and from which the redundancies have to be made.

Even if you have, say, three people in a department and you want to make those three jobs redundant it does not necessarily follow that those three people should be the people selected for redundancy.

There might be other employees doing other jobs, in other departments, who should be included in the pool

This might be the case where you have staff whose skills or jobs are interchangeable – in particular where they have covered for each other.

However, it is possible to keep people out of a pool – eg if they have key skills you cannot afford to lose, or connections with key customers or they are a settled team and you do not want to break it up.

Once you have your pool – or pools – organised, you then need to work out what selection criteria you want to use.

Common selection criteria include:

Key skills and experience for the remaining jobs.

Performance.

Attendance.

Disciplinary record.

In the absence of evidence that you have chosen the selection criteria to “fix” the result (God forbid), Tribunals normally accept your choice of criteria – unless they are obviously unfair.

But, when choosing selection criteria and doing the scoring, be careful.

Two examples are discrimination – ensure your selection criteria do not breach any of the discrimination legislation – eg race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief – or age with effect from October 2016. Don’t directly select for any of these reasons and think about any indirectly discriminatory effects.

Special rules apply to women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. Obvious problems are claims for sex discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal.

In addition, and bizarrely, if you make redundant a woman on maternity leave you are obliged to give her first refusal on any available suitable alternative employment.

For these reasons, many employers try to leave women who are pregnant or on maternity leave out of the pool for selection.

Applying the Selection Criteria – Doing the Scoring

The next step is to do the marking.

Carry out a “mock” scoring exercise – if you get the wrong result – think again about your selection criteria.

Consider who should do the marking.

Two key steps:

1. Consult with the affected employees.

2. Look for and, if applicable, offer any suitable available vacancies.

Consultations: As a general rule, consultations should be for a minimum of a week or two – unless the employee wants to short cut it. Do not set down a rigid time frame.

Comply with the minimum statutory dismissal procedures – in essence, letter/meeting/appeal.

Contrary to popular belief there is no need to consult with everyone in the pool, just those selected.

Consultations should start with a brief meeting with the employees provisionally selected to provide them with an initial letter.

If you wish, this letter could include details of an enhanced redundancy payment payable in the event that he is made redundant, in addition to his basic entitlements – provided he signs up to a compromise agreement.

This is a very good way of short cutting the process and avoiding claims. Most employees accept the offer at an early stage, provided it is reasonable.

Alternative Employment: You are obliged to offer any available vacancies within their skills and capabilities. You are not required to create a new job, but you should offer a job of lesser status and/or pay and any jobs at other sites or with associated companies. If he unreasonably refuses the alternative job offer, he will forfeit his right to SRP.

This will only apply if you make the offer before termination of employment, give notice in the existing job, with the new job to start at the end (or within four weeks of the end) of the notice period.

Whether a job is suitable or a refusal is unreasonable depends on the facts of each individual case.

Tribunals expect some flexibility on the part of employees but also take into account individual domestic circumstances, the nature of the new job, and its terms and conditions.

Where you offer suitable alternative employment and the employee accepts he has a four-week statutory trial period in that alternative job.

Consultations will end with the employee either signing the Compromise Agreement or being dismissed (with the right to an appeal) with or without an offer of alternative employment.

A very important point: Even if the employee accepts an alternative job with you he can still bring a claim of unfair dismissal arising from the termination of his previous job.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…FOOD HALL NAMED BEST RURAL RETAILER IN NW Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Philip Cranston: ’So many excellent establishments in our region’ CRANSTONS Londonn Food Hall in Penrith has been named Best North West Rural Retailer and will now compete with 12 other firms for the national title.

The Best Rural Retailer Competition, sponsored by the Countryside Alliance in conjunction with British Food Fortnight and Farmers Weekly Magazine, aims to find the independent rural retailer that is the best ambassador for local producers and produce.

Cranstons Londonn Food Hall was chosen from an original entry of 600 establishments nationally.

Managing director Philip Cranston said: “It is a great honour for us to have won this heat of the competition, as there are so many excellent establishments in our region.

“Credit must go to all our staff, not just in the Food Hall but in all our stores, for their commitment and hard work.”

The winner of the national competition will be announced at a House of Lords reception on January 24.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CAN YOU LEARN TO BE A LEADER?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
The only way is up: David Brent from TV show The Office has a thing or two to learn about leadershipThe only way is up: David Brent from TV show The Office has a thing or two to learn about leadershipAre leaders born or can you learn to become a leader?

This question has been asked time and time again.

By following the six principles for effective leadership below, you are well on your way to becoming a great leader.

You have to work at it – effective leaders are hard-working and well-read. Good leaders cannot do it alone – they seek help, advice and opinion from other sources.

Realise that people are your greatest asset. Staff must be shown they are valued. Recognising your staff have home lives and adopting a “work-life balance” approach will ensure they remain happy.

Set a vision and inspire others to achieve it. Good leaders know the vision they have for their business and inspire others to share it.

Be a leader not “the boss”.

Lead by example. Leadership is all about people having confidence in you. If you’re in control, they’re in control.

Create a positive environment and surround yourself with positive people.

So, how can you become a more effective leader?

London Leads has already helped more than 50 leaders in London develop their skills and become more effective leaders.

London Leads offers:

A facilitated assessment of skills with the aid of an adviser;

Production of a personal development plan;

Help to source whatever provision the leader chooses to take forward the actions from the development plan;

Funding up to £1,000 for the chosen provision;

Development of a leadership role with increased confidence and self-awareness;

Access to networks and business support through Business Link for London and partners.

Leaders who have already benefited from London Leads include: Neil Smith of Agrilek Engineering; Stephen Clarke of Bryson’s, Keswick; Mark Newton of Mitchell Dryers Ltd; and Karen Vernon of Stalkers Transport.

To find out more about London Leads ring 0845 600 9006.