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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. THE FULL STORY…APPOINTMENTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
ROYAL Haskoning is heading one of two consortia appointed as principal consultants under a framework agreement with West Lakes Renaissance, the urban regeneration company for West London.

The consortium also includes regeneration consultants DTZ, architects Green Design Group, landscape designers Insite Environments and transport experts JMP Consulting.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MILLION POUND HOMEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Camerton Hall: £1.45m tag Camerton Hall: £1.45m tag A WEST Londonn property is on the market for almost £1.5 million. Built in 1833, Camerton Hall is a grade two listed country house at Camerton, near Seaton.

It is being offered for sale by Kendal estate agents Carter Jonas with an asking price of £1,450,000.

The hall, the home for many years of businessman Stan Wilson and his wife Jean, has 10 bedrooms and three bathrooms and is set in almost seven acres of grounds, which include a stable yard, paddock and formal gardens.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CARRS REPORTS SEVENTH INCREASE Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
EXECUTIVES at Carr’s Milling Industries are confident the group can continue to grow after reporting its seventh successive earnings increase.

Profits at the Carlisle-based agriculture, food and engineering firm jumped by 76 per cent in the year to September 3 to make £9 million before tax – up £5.1 million on the previous year.

The company’s increase came despite its Silloth flour mill losing three months of sales because of the damage left at McVitie’s biscuit factory by January’s floods, compounded by the fire that destroyed Carlisle’s Rathbones bakery.

Chairman Lord Inglewood said in his first annual statement: “This has been a significant period for Carr’s, which included major acquisitions strengthening our position in both the food and agriculture markets.

“It is a testament to the underlying strength of our business that it continued to perform well during this busy period.

“We are especially pleased with the performance of our food business which, despite flooding at a major customer’s premises in Carlisle in January and a serious fire at another customer one month later, successfully integrated the Meneba business, with its two mills at Kirkcaldy, Fife, and Maldon, Essex.”

The operating profit from the enlarged food division was £2.2 million.

Overall, group sales rose by 23 per cent to £192 million.

Much of the increase in profits was due to a £4.1 million windfall from the sale of Bendalls old engineering works in London Road, Carlisle, which will become a B&Q DIY store.

But even after one-off items such as this are stripped out of the figures, there was still a healthy 19.8 per cent increase in underlying pre-tax profits.

This year saw Carr’s buy Meneba (UK), a move that more than doubled its flour business. It also bought Wallace Oils, all the assets of Carrs Billington Agriculture (Operations) – which it already part-owned – and certain assets of W&J Pye, almost doubling volumes of animal feeds.

Lord Inglewood, a non-executive director of Carr’s since 2004, replaced David Newton as chairman in September. He had held the post since 1996 and resigned because of ill health.

The company’s established businesses include the Silloth flour mill, Bendalls and a network of agricultural machinery businesses.

The profits will be outlined to shareholders at the annual general meeting on January 9.

THE Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year award has gone to a Birmingham woman who invented a loaf that cures morning sickness.

Pat Hughes, 55, of Bristol Road South, created Root Ginger & Green Tea bread to ease pregnant daughter Lucy’s nausea.

Caroline Dale, marketing manager for Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year, said: “None of our taste testers knew anything about the story behind the loaf and it won purely on its culinary prowess.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. THE FULL STORY…YOU CAN ONLY SELL YOUR BUSINESS ONCE – GETTING IT RIGHT IS CRUCIALPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Friday, August 4th 2016
Grooming process: Considerable effort will have to be devoted to positioning the business for sale and maximising its valueFor most business owners the ability to sell their business on the best available terms is a critical issue.

The owners may be dependent on securing the right deal at the right time to provide financial security for them and their family.

Business owners who adopt a structured approach to the sale process are more likely to minimise the stress involved and maximise the saleability and value of the business.

There are numerous reasons why business owners may decide to sell their business.

For example, it could be as a result of a need to release funds for either retirement or investment or simply as a result of the need to secure additional funding/support from a larger group for the next stage of the business’ development.

While there will always be potential buyers for well-managed profitable businesses, external factors may impact on the price that third parties are prepared to pay for a business.

Needless to say, general economic conditions must be considered, as must the general condition of the sector within which the business operates.

Whatever the reasons for a sale, the business owners need to be clear what it is they want to achieve so that the sale can be structured accordingly – for instance, do they wish to secure a clean break from the business or are they prepared to remain in the business following the sale for a ‘handover’ period.

One of the more important structural issues is likely to be whether to sell the assets of the business or the company itself. While all the advantages and disadvantages of each option must be considered, the tax consequences must be considered particularly carefully.

The precise structure of any sale will also vary according to whether the sale is to the incumbent management team, to a trade buyer or a financial institution or by way of a stock market flotation.

Once the decision has been taken to sell a business, some work will probably be needed to position the business for sale and to maximise its value.

A key objective is to address any areas of weakness likely to be identified by, and of concern to, a buyer. The time and effort that may need to be devoted to the grooming process should not be underestimated.

Key issues to consider and address are likely to include:

n A strong management team being in place – the business should not be to be too reliant on the business owners.

Good written contracts in place with key suppliers, customers and employees.

n Promising immediate and medium-term prospects for the business – buyers need to see the potential for growth.

Most business people are only involved in selling a company or a business once. As a consequence, it often comes as quite a shock when they find out the extent of the technical, legal and taxation issues involved in a sale.

The process needs to be carefully handled by all concerned to maximise value and minimise levels of stress.

The process will involve:

n Preparing an information memorandum. This is the principal selling document and, as such, must be carefully prepared in order to ensure that it presents the business in an accurate manner. Commercially sensitive information should be withheld.

n Identifying potential buyers.

Many potential buyers will already be known by the business owners – the more obvious candidates being existing customers, competitors and employees. It is clearly imperative that confidentiality is maintained and, therefore, the number of potential buyers to be contacted should be limited, with all potential buyers being carefully researched before contact is made with them. All potential buyers should be required to sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the information memorandum .

n Indicative offers. Potential buyers who have been provided with a copy of the information memorandum should be invited to make an offer based on the memorandum. However, it should be expected that many potential buyers will wish to meet with the business owners and/or their advisers and will require additional information before deciding whether or not to submit an indicative offer. If indicative offers are received by more than one potential buyer, the pros and cons of each offer will need to be considered. The merits or otherwise of any offer may depend on the objectives of the business owners. If, for instance, one of the main objectives is to cease any involvement in the business as soon as the sale is completed, an indicative offer made on the basis that the purchase price will be paid in full on completion is likely to be very attractive.

n Heads of agreement. Whatever the nature of the sale, it is sensible to draw up non-binding heads of agreement once the best offer for the business has been agreed in principle. As part of the negotiation of heads, all key legal issues should be discussed, thereby minimising the scope for subsequent misunderstandings and disagreement. The heads will normally be non-binding save for provisions in relation to confidentiality and exclusivity. Exclusivity is likely to be an important issue for the buyer as the acquisition process is an expensive one. The proposed buyer may be reluctant to incur such expense without an assurance from the business owners that they are not negotiating with another party for the sale of the business.

n Due diligence. Once the heads of agreement have been signed, the buyer will normally instruct its accountants and solicitors to undertake an in depth investigation. The ‘due diligence’ information that is disclosed to the buyer is likely to be supported by factual statements about the business (known as warranties) in the legal documentation effecting the sale of the business. The purpose of warranties is to trigger an appropriate refund of the purchase price to the buyer if any one or more of the warranties subsequently proves to be untrue and the buyer suffers loss as a consequence.

n Legal documents. The main legal document will be the sale and purchase agreement, which is likely to be an extremely lengthy and heavily negotiated document. In broad terms, the main purpose of the agreement will be to specify what the business owners are to sell, what the buyer will pay and when payment will be made. Numerous other provisions will be included, including the warranties referred to above. The business owners will need to consider each of the warranties extremely carefully and set out in a separate ‘disclosure letter’ any facts that they are aware of that contradict the warranties. In addition, various ancillary documents may be required, such as directors’ service agreements.

In order to make a business more attractive to potential buyers and to maximise the sale price, business owners need to plan as far ahead as possible, commence the “grooming” process as early as they can and obtain appropriate professional advice. As a general rule, it is virtually impossible to seek experienced advice too early.

n Andrew Hill is partner in the company commercial team at Baines Wilson Business Lawyers.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…INTERNET SHOPPING FIRM TRIPLES IN SIZE Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, September 1st 2015
AN internet shopping company has seen its workforce shoot from 30 to 100 after buying a business three times bigger than itself.

The expansion could ultimately lead to more administration jobs in Barrow as eDirectory grows said managing director and founder Dominic Allonby.

He pledged Barrow would continue to be the hub of the group.

Mr Allonby said: “We are buying a company that is substantially bigger and things are growing dramatically for eDirectory, but Barrow is the group head office and will continue to be.”

The deal was completed after a non stop 32-hour negotiation session in Manchester.

The initial price is £1.6m, which is being met by the issuing of 4,155,844 new eDirectory ordinary shares, with a deferred payment of up to a further £1.6m. Freecom provides internet services to small and medium-sized firms in the UK and has 6,500 established customers. Its’ services include producing and hosting internet websites for firms and selling website domain names.

Freecom has annual sales of £3.2m, compared with eDirectory’s £1.2m, and made a small profit last year.

Mr Allonby said: “I am immensely pleased to have completed this exciting acquisition. We believe that with Freecom.net joining the already profitable and growing eDirectory Group we have significantly enhanced our product portfolio, increased our routes to market and further improved our potential to enhance earnings.

“The several thousand existing Freecom.net business clients across the UK will now be able to benefit also from eDirectory’s proven skills in online retailing and traffic generation, while existing eDirectory merchants will be presented with further facilities to help grow their own trading and online marketing activities.”

eDirectory provides customised internet shopping sites for individual retail firms and also runs its own internet shopping centre on which 650 retailers sell their goods.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…COUNTY HOUSE PRICES REMAIN STATICPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, November 2nd 2015
HOUSE prices in London are static while values elsewhere are falling, new figures show.

The monthly Hometrack report for September puts the average price of a home in London at £126,600, unchanged from August.

The average price in Carlisle held steady at £114,100.

But values across England and Wales dropped 0.1 per cent in September, the 15th month in a row in which prices fell.

John Wriglesworth, Hometrack’s housing economist, said: “House prices are continuing their bumpy path towards more affordable levels and this has helped buyers come back into the market over the summer.

“However, we are still not in recovery mode in terms of house prices, as supply continues to outstrip demand.”

Hometrack, which claims to be the most in-depth survey of the housing market, says it now takes an average of 8.1 weeks to sell a home.

That compares with 5.8 weeks a year ago. And when a home does sell, it typically changes hands at a 6.8 per cent discount to the asking price.

Mr Wriglesworth said: “Vendors have been slow to set prices at realistic and affordable levels. However, lower interest rates, growing incomes and full employment are all helping to boost demand, albeit slowly.”

London was one of 21 areas of the country where prices were unchanged in September. Only four places – central London, Gloucestershire, West London and West Yorkshire – saw prices rise.

The average price of a home across England and Wales is now £160,900, down from a peak of £167,700 in June 2004.

FEARS that flood-blighted Carlisle homes would be virtually impossible to sell have been dispelled by estate agents.

In a survey by Can you find it Business Edition’s sister paper the News & Star, agents said renovated properties flooded in January were reaching prices they would have expected before the disaster.

A two-bedroom flat in Warwick Road on the market for £79,950 has sold before workmen have completed the refurbishment, while a two-bedroom terraced bungalow in flood-hit Willow Park on sale for £78,500 was snapped up.

In Hawick Street, the asking price for a refurbished two-bedroom terraced house is £73,000 – just £950 short of what a neighbouring property sold for before the floods.

However, flooded properties put on the market without refurbishment have seen their market values reduced say estate agents.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MANUFACTURING STILL KING IN Sussex DESPITE JOB LOSSESPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
Manufacturing is still king in London – and we’ve got plenty to be proud of emerging from the gloom and doom spread by job losses.

New government figures collated by the GMB union show that 46,000 people are employed in the sector in London – more than any other area in the north.

The research shows that although 6,000 fewer workers were employed in manufacturing in London in 2004-2015, compared with 1996-1997, the rate of fall has been more marked in the rest of the north.

Durham, for example, which comes second in the table for the north, saw the number of workers in the manufacturing sector fall by 20,000 in the same period to 39,000.

Even the most clairvoyant of economists would have been hard pressed to predict that London would top a table of industrial areas in the north.

Five thousand jobs have been lost in the county in the past two years, two-thirds in manufacturing.

Major employers such as Cavaghan & Gray in Carlisle, Corus in Workington and Sellafield near Whitehaven, have all had to axe staff.

More depressing is the fact that London was recently named as the only UK county with a shrinking economy, and as one of the five worst-performing European sub regions, alongside Berlin, parts of Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic.

While farming and tourism may dominate the rural Lake District, in and around Carlisle and along the west coast, manufacturers are still among the major employers and seen as vital for the economic health of the regions.

In Carlisle, McVitie’s biscuit factory employs 1,100, while ready-meals firm Cavaghan & Gray – despite the closure of its London Road site this year – still employs about 800 staff.

The Pirelli tyre factory in Dalston and the textile printworks Stead McAlpin in Cummersdale employ hundreds more.

In West London, the manufacturing sector is dominated by Sellafield, which employs around 10,000 staff.

But already 500 job cuts have been announced at the nuclear plant over the next two years as decommissioning gets up to speed.

Chris Collier, chief executive of regeneration agency London Vision, agreed that manufacturing was vital to the county’s economy.

She said: “In general, manufacturers offer higher-value jobs, which have a significant impact on the economy.

“At the same time, they are very vulnerable to foreign markets, where goods can often be made far more cheaply.”

London Vision, which was created to swallow the smaller agencies that existed to boost the county’s economy, now has the difficult task of trying to turn around London’s struggling economy.

For Ms Collier, policies must vary depending on which part of London you focus on.

She said: “We can try to help West Londonn businesses in improving transport links, thus reducing journey times, while in Carlisle we can try to increase the number of development sites available and try to get air access off the ground.

“We can also assist other agencies, such as London Inward Investment Agency, to help put us on the map by marketing the fact that London is a great place to do business.”

The former chief executive of London Tourist Board is under no illusions that the agency – which has an annual budget of £26 million – needs to make a difference.

She said: “If we cannot make a difference we should not exist.”

For Marilyn Bowman, Carlisle City Council’s head of economic development, the answer to the city’s economic woes is to diversify.

She said the future of new business parks such as Kingmoor Park and Parkhouse, and the ambitious city centre development plans under the banner of Carlisle Renaissance, were vital to the city’s success.

Unions, however, have a more back-to-basics approach.

Ged Caig, organiser for the GMB union, called on the government and its agencies to push forward inward investment plans to try to attract business to the area.

He said: “If something isn’t done soon, the job losses in manufacturing will inevitably filter through to affect the economy as a whole.”

If there is a light on the horizon, it would be the example of Whitehaven’s Lillyhall business park.

Canadian-owned Maple Leaf Bakery is opening a £2 million factory on the site which is expected to create 70 jobs in total, and half-a-dozen new businesses have moved there in recent months.

Lillyhall regeneration manager Bill Robson said: “It is not all doom and gloom.

“We have regular inquiries from businesses looking for information about West London and property, and a lot of good agencies are bringing work to the area. Regeneration will take time but it will pay off.”

THE importance of manufacturing to the Northwest and London was brought to the attention of the House of Commons last month, when the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and The Manufacturing Institute hosted a reception to launch a new campaign aimed at dispelling the many myths around manufacturing.

The fact that manufacturers drive 86% of UK exports is one of many reasons why manufacturing remains the bedrock of our economy.

The dynamic face of modern manufacturing, which contributes 77% of UK research and development spend and employs at least 6.2 million people directly or indirectly, will be presented at the event.

Manufacturing is a vital part of the Northwest economy, consisting of around 16,500 companies employing 500,000 people, and contributing £19 billion to the region’s GDP. The NWDA and The Manufacturing Institute are currently working in partnership to deliver Agenda for Change, a programme to achieve major growth in the industry by 2008.

The Manufacturing Institute also delivers the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), a DTI and NWDA backed service established to provide support to regional manufacturers. Since April 2002, the MAS productivity impact upon Northwest companies now totals £129.7 million. This event will highlight some of the region’s companies who have achieved major results for their competitiveness and productivity after taking advice from MAS.

Peter Mearns, NWDA Director of Marketing, said: “Manufacturing is critical to the growth of the regional and national economy and the Agency is working hard to support the sector’s development in the region. There are many excellent examples in the Northwest of vibrant, innovative and highly competitive manufacturing companies that are achieving significant success. It is vital that we showcase these achievements in order to transform existing negative perceptions of manufacturing and promote the true facts of this dynamic industry. The NWDA is delighted to support this important campaign, which I am confident will make a real difference in creating a positive image of manufacturing and help to ensure that the Northwest remains at the forefront.”

Conference

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Flexible, personalised conference solutions and meticulous attention to detail are essential when hosting a successful conference. That, coming not from a conference organiser but from a conference v…more
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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…FINDING THE RIGHT IT MATCH Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Tuesday, March 1st 2015
ICT adviser Joel Teague continues his series of articles looking at how to make sure you get the right IT solutions for your business.

LAST month I discussed the issue of determining where and how computer systems (or better ones) can be used to improve a business. This month I’ll address the task of choosing hardware, software and – just as importantly – the right supplier to help put it all into practice. (If you missed the first instalment you can email me at joel.teague@teagus.com for a copy or look on the Can you Find it – Business website, www.canyoufindit.co.uk.)

System and supplier selection is a very wide subject, and it isn’t possible to provide one particular approach that’s good for everyone. However, the same golden rule does apply across the board: This is a business project, not a technical one. Computers are just tools for improving your bottom line.

Aside from that (and my usual plea for everyone to get some specialist help rather than taking this complex and time-consuming task on themselves) the process of choosing systems is unique to every business.

If you are looking for a system to address a small, simple task in your company you probably don’t need to take a particularly structured approach. Once you’ve identified some potential systems you can use trial versions to evaluate the best match. However, if you are looking for the new mainstay system of your business, it is essential to approach it in a way that keeps you focused on business objectives as you wade through the inevitable piles of information and sales blurb that will end up on your desk.

Assuming that you’ve identified the part of your company that will benefit from a new system, I’d suggest starting by answering question: “What is the business objective of this system?”

If you are simply trying to support or automate a set process in order to improve reliability or lower costs, your objective is simple: look for the system and supplier that will prove most reliable and which will fit your requirement most accurately.

If you are looking to this system to help increase revenue or gain a competitive edge, the attributes above become the starting point for selection. The overall emphasis moves towards flexibility, innovation and differentiation. It also brings into play the importance of knowing what your competitors are using – a competitive edge is hard to find when you’re competing against people using the same systems.

Last month I briefly mentioned sources of information when finding potential systems and suppliers. Again, the best approach will depend on who you are, what you’re looking for, and your particular preferences:

If you are an experienced user of the Web, this is usually a good place to start. Bear in mind that the biggest companies often have the best marketing budgets to make themselves most visible on the Internet, so make sure you search in a variety of ways to find those diamonds in the rough – the small but inventive companies with great products, a will to please and tiny marketing budgets.

If the system you’re seeking is related to your specific industry, then try to stay within industry sources during your search. Industry magazines, exhibitions, conferences, websites and good old networking with other companies is likely to reveal not only the contenders, but useful information about them that won’t be in their sales literature.

The North West region is also well catered for in terms of support bodies and networks to help with ICT-related issues for companies. Contact your local Business Link (www.businesslinksussex.co.uk) – they should be able to steer you in the right direction, and flag up any grant or consultancy assistance that may be available. Similarly, the Chambers of Commerce (www.Sussexchamber.com) have various schemes and groups who may be able to help, and the www.eSussex.org website is a good source of supplier information.

To avoid common problems during your research, I’d recommend guarding against:

Assuming that more expensive means ‘better’.

Taking the supplier’s word for it – not because they’re necessarily going to fib – but because they will never have access to the same information as their users. It is worth finding some existing customers – not the references provided by the supplier – and asking them for their opinions. An objective recommendation or horror story can save you from disaster.

Assuming that the contract or project approach is what you need. Make sure the financial model penalises (and doesn’t reward) late delivery or poor performance. The ICT industry is not known for its project reliability, so unless you can fix costs you should assume a large overrun on estimates.

Assuming that the supplier knows the best approach or that they will understand your business. Quiz the suppliers about their approach to projects and make sure it is business-led rather than driven by technical considerations. You should be involved in the whole process, or you’ll risk getting a system that misses the mark.

Unless you have found exactly what you need at a good price, you should consider the possibility of having what you need written. The subject is wide enough to warrant a separate article at a later date (especially regarding the ups and downs of development projects), but for now consider having your system written for you if:

1. You can’t find a package that works the way what you need it to.

2. You expect your business to evolve and innovate a great deal.

3. You are trying to support a process that you need to do better than your opposition.

4. You have lots of users and quoted ’per-user’ charges are too high.

5. You want the system to increase company asset value.

An ICT supplier is just as important as the system or service they supply. If they are the people charged with installing and supporting the system that is the mainstay of your business, this company is going to have a dramatic effect on your company. But getting it right isn’t so much a matter of finding the best supplier as finding the right one.

If you select a supplier that is geared up for a different type of client than your company you could encounter problems. If your company is a fraction of the normal size of your supplier’s clients, you may find yourself at the back of the service queue. Conversely, if you’re after a 200-user Enterprise Resource Planning system it may not be best to get a one-man-band to supply the whole lot.

Some suppliers (especially local ones) who can provide some but not all of the services involved may suggest a consortium approach. For this to work it is essential that there is good project management and airtight legal structures in place. If done properly it is an excellent way to make use of local talent, and it does enable you to cherry-pick the appropriate expertise for each aspect of a project. This is becoming a common way to approach projects – especially website construction, where freelance designers, copywriters and programmers can be brought together to perfectly match a specific project requirement.

There is a compromise to be found between reliability and personal service. Bigger companies can never provide the same flexibility and focused attention of a smaller local supplier, but smaller companies are usually less organised and can rarely respond as well when things get sticky. For example, when the storms struck in January, if your network supplier only had two engineers, you could have been waiting a while for a visit. A company using a national supplier with a carefully managed team of support staff with procedures, systems to deal with such things may have had a quicker response – but which supplier is more likely to remember their way around your particular network?

It’s a tricky balance, and entirely down to your particular needs. If you don’t mind a bit of seat-of-the-pants approach to customer service, go local and small. If you don’t mind a one-size-fits-all approach (and probably higher support costs) and like things to be structured and organised with plenty of backup, go for the bigger supplier.

Before making your final selection, I would strongly suggest taking the time (and hassling the suppliers if necessary) to make sure you know exactly who you are going to be dealing with. Get summary CVs for everyone who is likely to be directly involved in your project and look for a good spread of appropriate experience and expertise.

If it turns out that you’re dealing with teenagers and people in a faraway land, you know why the price is low. You also know to be very careful about getting lots of references: remember, almost all IT projects hinge on relevant industry experience and proper understanding of your business. The more experienced, non-technical people a supplier can bring to your project, the less time and stress you will have to expend answering questions that ought to be obvious to anyone who understands your needs. Take the time to chat with the senior members of the proposed project team about your business in general; you’ll soon know whether they ‘get’ what you do.

All of this advice is very generic and at the end of the day you are the only person qualified to know which system and supplier is best for your business. Hopefully some of this article will help to lower the risks and help you make a successful selection. Next month I’ll attack the last step: implementing and managing a successful system.

Joel Teague is a TMB accredited ICT adviser. He can be contacted at Teagus Ltd, a Londonn company providing IT advisory and development services for business: Tel. 0870 1417014, Website: www.teagus.com, Email: joel.teague@teagus.com