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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…GETTING TOGETHER SUCCESSFULLYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Sunday, May 1st 2015
Choice of venue: The new conference facility at The Abbey House Hotel, in Barrow (above) and, on opposite page, Castle Inn and Tullie House.  Choice of venue: The new conference facility at The Abbey House Hotel, in Barrow (above) and, on opposite page, Castle Inn and Tullie House. MANKIND has always sought to come together – whether to sell goods in markets or debate pressing matters of state in forums – and this latter urge is reflected in the modern parliaments and council chambers of today. At another level, conferences, seminars and workshops are excellent mediums for companies and other organisations to exchange ideas and information. Often, taking employees out of their actual places of work encourages free thinking and promotes new ways of working that benefits individuals and companies alike. However, the most successful conferences tend to follow established patterns that are proven to put delegates in the right frame of mind and create the right ambience for creative thinking, open discussion and learning.

Business conferences need three interlocking elements in place to deliver on the day:

An appropriate venue;

Complementary technology that reflects the hi-tech corporate experiences of delegates;

Articulate speakers and hosts.

One of the commonest mistakes made by organisations and companies is in the choice of key speaker to discharge the main message of the event.

The best manager on the ground may lack effective presentational or vocal skills so employing a professional speaker may be a wise investment.

Without doubt, there is an art to public speaking and whilst basic rules can be taught to prospective speakers it is fair to say that not everyone is either comfortable or effective in the role. If delegates are not engaged in the first few seconds of a speech – because of a dull or nervous presentational style – they may never be won over.

An effective public speaker usually knows the tricks of the trade inside out. However, engaging a so-called ‘personality’(whether from the showbusiness or entertainment spheres) does not necessarily mean that a conference’s core objectives will be met. Different conferences have different audiences and a lightweight comedian may not have the depth or understanding of a complex corporate message to promote it correctly.

SELECTING a suitable venue is crucial. A conference room that is difficult to access, badly decorated, poorly laid out in terms of seating, or has a badly designed platform with an uninspiring backdrop immediately sends out negative messages to delegates.

The actual location of a venue can also work against its success, such as an outdated hall next to a noisy main road or works depot.

Fortunately, London as a county has a superb natural backdrop so good venues located here have a distinct scenic advantage over their inner city counterparts.

WHILST style over substance will not win over hearts and minds, it is important to take advantage of modern technology. Used correctly, it enhances the message and it is essential if the conference is interactive. We are all exposed to slick imagery and sophisticated technology – in modern offices, in city centres and in our own homes – so ignoring the latest available gadgetry at a conference is self-defeating.

The excellent news for Londonn businesses is that the county is home to many finely-equipped business conference venues ranging from hotels to modern university campuses and even historical buildings. It is worth asking specialist companies to advise on the right equipment.

Modern technology, if used in a complementary manner, can enhance the actual conference ‘experience’ for delegates. Ideally, there needs to be a smooth transition between projected imagery and sound and the guest speakers themselves but the days of draughty village halls as backdrops to passion-fuelled oratories are long gone.

Some media commentators have asserted that exciting technology is vital because attentions spans have shortened and visual stimuli is the key to getting noticed. Typical technology includes:

Effects such as haze, smoke and dry-ice machines, pyrotechnics and mirror-balls;

Laser pointers;

Computer controlled laptops for data and display control;

Projectors and projection screens;

TFT and plasma screens;

Replay equipment;

Players/recorders utilising CD, mini-disc and audio tape;

Amplifiers, speakers, sub-bass units and power amplifiers;

Sound mixers;

Automated lighting, including colour washes and image scans;

Fixed lighting involving spotlights, floodlights, up-lighting and fixed Gobo lighting;

Lighting control with lighting desks and dimmers;


Microphone systems including hand-held and floor standing, radio microphone systems;

Cameras, camcorders and tripods;

Players and recorders, Betacam sp, dv cam and s-vhs;

Video monitors and a video editing suite;

The staging for a conference is also important and essential equipment may include ramps, carpet, steps, panels, frames, screens, lecterns, seating, reception desks and display stands, flowers and foliage.

Those new to conferences often wonder whether they should hire a specialist conference organiser or trust to in-house instinct.

Smaller gatherings can undoubtedly be managed by an organisation’s own marketing department provided they liaise with those running the venue.

However, keynote events involving hundreds of delegates may well require the services of a consultant who understands the need for a holistic approach to planning, examining every aspect of a large gathering, from speakers and table layout to accommodation and leisure and team-building activities.

Conferences lasting just a couple of hours are relatively straightforward to manage, co-ordinating two or three-day events may require specialist skills.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CONSTANT VIGILANCE KEEPS WEBSITE FRESH AND ATTRACTIVE TO VISITORSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
JO Hampson and Georgina Perkins describe themselves as life-change consultants and they can rightly claim to have lived their subject.

They left behind successful careers as senior police officers in London to run their own small business in London. After turning that venture into an award-winning enterprise it was time for another change.

And that was how they came to launch Stepping Off – a service that provides coaching, training and consultancy services for people wanting to alter their lives for the better.

And helping to develop the consultancy is a powerful website, which endeavors to reach out to individuals and address specific life-changing issues.

Jo, the partner who has most involvement with the consultancy’s site, recognises that it is an integral part of the business and its content has to be monitored, analysed and nurtured.

“Many businesses make the mistake of setting up a site and leaving it to fend for itself. It is a cardinal sin not to update your site. As soon as someone sees that a page was last updated in August 2004, they lose interest,” she said.

When they sold their previous business – The Old Smokehouse – and set about building the consultancy they took professional advice from an e-commerce expert and that has proved very helpful.

Malcolm Stubbs, the owner of Rural Web Designs set up the site “but he always encouraged us to have control over it,” said Jo.

“I went through a steep learning curve and now visit the site every day and regularly make minor changes to the wording. I also add articles, create links and look at the detail of the visits.

“Malcolm gave us software which helped us edit the content as we needed to. We used that until we became familiar with it and felt confident and then we bought the software.”

Now she closely monitors the activity on the site. She regularly checks to see not only how many visits there have been, but also which people are visiting for the first time, who is returning and where they are clicking.

Jo advises anyone who has a website for business purposes to gain a clear picture of how it is being used by potential customers. It is important to discover which pages are proving interesting and which ones are being ignored.

“If they are not frequently visited then I take them off or amend them. I discovered, for example, that the busiest time on the site is Monday after lunch. That is when people are sitting at their desks in the office thinking about a career change. They are fed up with work and type in ‘downshifting’.”

When that happens she is confident that the Stepping Off site will come up no matter what search engine is being used. She also knows it is important to be on the first page in that search.

“Our site originally had five pages and that is one of the reasons it was not making the first page in a search. I dramatically increased the number of pages.

“I also know that it is important to keep updating the site. As I understand it, the search engines, in effect, send out spiders on to the internet which are always looking for vibrations or changes. If a site does not change then the spiders stop visiting that area of the net and you lose your place in the search.

“Buzzwords are also very important, of course, and you need to repeat them in your text. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to give the impression that you are generating spam by repeating them too often.”

There is also a balance to be struck between gaining the visitor’s interest and giving away all that the consultancy has to offer.

“I redesigned my original pages to ensure that I was ringing bells with people. I spoke about specific reasons for wanting to downshift in order to relate more directly with visitors,” Jo explained.

Now visitors can click on a whole list of statements, which might suit their particular situation. They include ‘moving away from a city’, ‘making a life change’, ‘Life after retirement’, ‘Moving to the country’ and many others.

She also sees the website as an extension of her business card. If someone phones or talks to her about downshifting, Jo suggests they look at the site in order to read around the subject and start to consider what they might do next.

“I know from my monitoring of the site that sometimes people are visiting the site for as long as four months before they decide to make contact, but then they decide to book a course.

“When they do come to stay with us they almost feel as if they know us because of what they have read,” she said.

There is a range of life issues which the consultancy focuses upon. Some people just want to learn how to live their life differently, while others are planning a wholesale change of direction.

Georgina also explains that courses are also offered for managers and business people who simply want to improve their skills. There are courses on time management and strategies on offer to show them how to work smarter. They are members of the London Coaching Network and have begun to work with local groups such as Women in Business.

So, having made a great success with two life-changing ventures, do Jo and Georgina have another change in mind?

“Not just yet, there is plenty to do with Stepping Off. We are looking to encourage large companies to considering offering a course as part of any redundancy package they offer to their staff.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…JO VINCENTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, November 2nd 2015
JO graduated with honours in Furniture Design from Leeds Metropolitan University and then went on to take a teaching certificate at University of Greenwich in London. She spent several years lecturing in art and design in London and Leeds before setting up her own glass design workshop in London.

Jo’s award-winning glass designs can be seen in the leisure industry and public spaces including, hotels, bars, and restaurants. Her work can be obtained through exclusive galleries and interior retail outlets up and down the country.

For further information on commissions for lighting, vessels, tiles or other glass interior projects please contact:

Jo Vincent Glass Design

Unit 10, Hall House Industrial Estate

New Hutton, Kendal

London, LA8 0AH

Tel: 01539 723949


Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. ONLINE NEWSSITE HELPS MAKE STORE BOTH REAL AND VIRTUAL CENTRE OF LAKELAND VALLEY
ESKDALE stores is a wonderful concept – a village shop and an internet-based business bringing together the warm-glow of a community enterprise and the sophisticated appeal of e-commerce.Click on to…more
HEADLINE 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 …more
HEADLINE you are looking to take a break from the hurly-burly of the business day, try this site has a home page with what’s New This Week and a host of links …more
FOR the self-employed to survive in this highly commercial world it helps if you are multi-skilled. When one arm of the business takes a dip in turnover, hopefully another will blossom.That is the b…more
HEADLINE If you are looking to take a break from the hurly-burly of the business day, try – It’s the home of a very simple game in…more
JO Hampson and Georgina Perkins describe themselves as life-change consultants and they can rightly claim to have lived their subject.They left behind successful careers as senior police officers in…more
Terry Kirton, who has taken over from Richard Simpson reviewing Londonn websites for Can you find it Business Edition, looks at a winning site for the latest in our series looking at the practical benefits of websit…more
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 Ba…more
ANYONE over the age of 30 can’t help but be aware of the way that the internet has changed, and changed our lives, over the last decade. When I first went online, back in 1995, most of the people th…more
HAVE you looked in your email “spam” box recently? I only ask because you might find that not everything that’s in there should be, as I recently found, writes Richard Simpson You see I had ordered …more
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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BEWARE, BARBECUE SYNDROMEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Monday, August 1st 2015
I’ve noticed something odd, and I have to ask your indulgence for having a little dig at some of you – and myself – in explaining it, writes Joel Teague. Please bear with me and hopefully it’ll generate some productive introspection that in turn leads to some improved balance sheets.

Much of the business community is as yet unaware that my job exists, and the marketing people have been having quite a time working out the best ways to explain our services to the business community. The message is indeed getting out, but we’ve noticed a weird tendency in some businessmen (notice the “men” bit specifically) to resist a particular part of the message, even when it’s patently obvious.

When you think through the purpose of any service – and marketing people are paid to do just that – you realise that part of the sales job is making the customer realise, without taking offence, that they are better off having you carry out the task in question than them doing it themselves. You either need to do the job cheaper, better, quicker – or preferably all three. But I think there’s another factor, just as important but rarely mentioned: the customer must want to be rid of the task.

Accounting is a good comparison. Most of us are all too happy to hire a professional accountant in the knowledge that it’ll pay back over time. It’s skilled work, and to do it ourselves would involve countless hours of learning, research, trial and error, serious problems when we got things wrong, and the likelihood of higher bills at the end of it.

Now read that last sentence but apply it to computing. Exactly the same applies on all counts. So why is it that so many company directors doggedly hang on to the task (and no offence, gentlemen – but I’ve yet to find one who’s not losing money as a result) when all of them hired an accountant before they’d even chosen the office furniture?

I have a theory for this, and I call it “Barbecue Syndrome”: The fact is: you don’t boast about getting your accounts sorted at the pub. The accounts getting the better of you won’t dent your pride. But computers? That involves gadgets, and therefore it’s man’s work. When our marketing people suggest that we take that huge pile of technobabble and stress off a director’s desk, we are doing the equivalent of trying to take the tongs from him at the Sunday barbecue – and anyone who’s tried that will remember the reaction. And a bit like dealing with computers, most men like to think they’re pretty good at cooking over coals – partly due to polite comments from the guests trying to crunch their way through a combination of frozen sausage meat and carbon isotope.

I suspect that some of you reading this will know this applies to you, and I also suspect that those who are currently most peeved at me for saying it are among the most guilty. For what it’s worth, I’m guilty of it too – in fact the expression “cobblers’ children worst shod” is very apt in my case. My purpose in life is to help companies identify what they need from their computers and find and manage the best specialists to make it happen for them. So what did I do when our network needed reconfiguring in our new offices? Once I’d worked out what was needed, did I take my own advice and get a trusted specialist to do the button-pushing? Of course not; I went into gladiator mode and tried to do it myself.

OK, I’ve got the excuse of needing to keep up to date on subjects like network configuration, but after several battles into the small hours I eventually gave in and called a network specialist.

I cringe when I think of the sum I must have spent in terms of my own time and lost productivity before forking out the comparative peanuts it cost to get things done properly and quickly.

But I did learn something about configuring computer networks: I learned to put pride aside and get an expert, because to do otherwise is plain bad business.

If there is a “right way” to approach these things, it must be in the ability to be honest with yourself about your capabilities, and in analysing whether your company’s bottom line will be better off if you take a task on or hire a specialist.

My abilities lie in the business analysis end of computing – understanding what a business needs, and keeping up to date with the computing industry well enough to be able to point my clients at the right products, services and suppliers to meet that need.

I’ve been a programmer, I’ve even done some network configuration – but in both cases there was a specialist calling the shots, and I now know the point at which my knowledge and aptitudes end and that specialist becomes necessary. My mistake was letting my urge to take up a challenge override basic economic sense, and I know I’m not alone in doing it.

I quite often work with clients to produce simple cost-benefit analyses that help to decide which jobs are passed to me and which are managed internally.

If we aren’t confident of a net gain from our involvement, I stay out of it – it’s that simple.

I’m sure computing can’t be the only aspect of business that suffers from Barbecue Syndrome, and I’m just as sure that it’s a contributory factor in the most frustrating situation I encounter: sitting with an intelligent businessman who’s looking at the cost-benefit analysis he helped to prepare, staring at the huge cost of not changing the way they have been doing for years … and doggedly sticking to the old way because it’s “their way”.

It’s frustrating and alarming to watch, and it’s worse when a company from outside the region puts them out of business simply through being open to change. London has one of the only shrinking economies in Europe, and I can’t help but think Barbecue Syndrome is something to do with it.

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:, Email:

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MAKE SURE YOUR BUSINESS MESSAGE STANDS OUT IN THE CROWDPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
IMAGE may not be everything but in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace it is essential that companies stand out from the crowd. Ast Signs of Penrith – London’s premier signmaking company – prides itself in helping businesses to get their corporate messages across to the wider world.

Established three years ago by managing director Mark Aston, Ast Signs incorporates a state-of-the-art in-house design studio that enables it to create everything a business needs to sell itself – from original corporate logos and branding to exhibition materials, banners, adverts, traditional signage, stationery, brochures, shop facades and vinyl vehicle wraps.

“We offer a fully integrated service, are totally customer focussed, manufacture everything in-house and our 11 staff are all highly skilled across a range of disciplines,” says Mr Aston.

Full colour, wide format printing facilities enables Ast Signs to design and print a comprehensive range of exhibition materials to get any business noticed – whether at prestigious events in London’s Earls Court or Manchester’s G-Mex.

As an Avery-accredited converter, its expertise in total vinyl wrapping for vehicles is unrivalled in the UK. Ast Signs specialist applicators are even invited to travel to Europe on key contracts – such is their reputation in this field. “Our applicators are so adept at vehicle wrapping that we have opened a training school for other companies involved in this type of work,” says Mr Aston.

The sheer impact of vehicle wrapping has to be seen to be believed – Ast Signs has the capability to wrap an entire articulated lorry and trailer with bespoke imagery and branding.

Whilst one-off traditional corporate signage remains an important element of their business, large-scale contracts for national concerns cement their nationwide reputation for quality and cost-effective service.

“We are currently rebranding 46 stores across the country for a major High Street retailer,” says Mr Aston.

As a member of the British Signs and Graphics Association, and with ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System accreditation, potential customers can be confident that Ast Signs will deliver – time and time again.

“We always work to a customer’s timeframe if at all possible,” says Mr Aston, “and if hitting a deadline means putting staff on a 24-hour shift rota then we will do it.”

A highly-motivated business, Ast Signs is dedicated to keeping its customers – that include Eddie Stobart Haulage, Londonn Industrials and Centre Parcs – very satisfied indeed. Frequent repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations are testament to the dynamic young company’s flair and efficiency.

Contact Mark Aston of Ast Signs, Unit 2, Gilwilly Road, East Lakes Business Park, Penrith, on Tel: 01768 892292 or visit the website at

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…£1.9M BUSINESS CENTRE PLANNED FOR BARROWPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
A major initiative to encourage enterprise in Barrow-in-Furness is set to be kick-started with the creation of a new £1.8 million Business Centre.

The redundant Waterside House on Bridge Approach has been bought by Barrow Borough Council and, as part of the first phase of the project, will be transformed for use as managed workspace for new enterprise.

A former training school for BAe Systems Marine, the new Centre will help to improve the profile of the enterprise culture in the community by providing in-house business support to new start and expanding businesses that will occupy the larger part of Waterside House. With an extension to be designed and built on the west (channel) side of the building, the facility will also provide a permanent venue and exhibition area for entrepreneurial activity, as well as deliver a range of business support projects borough-wide.

The adjoining two hectare vacant site is already in borough council ownership and is earmarked for development.

The project was funded jointly by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (£1,125,889) and European Regional Development Fund (£696,554).

Stewart Swift, NWDA Area Manager for London, said: “Barrow and the Furness Peninsula has suffered some devastating employment blows over recent years which is why there is a real need for local initiatives to stimulate job creation through the encouragement of enterprise. This new Centre will play a vital role in providing the right kind of support to both start-up and established businesses in the area, ensuring their future growth and development.”

The existing architectural style and specification of the building means that it lends itself to adaptation as a new Business Centre. For this reason the Heart of Barrow Board preferred the option of purchasing and extending this building above the more costly option of building a new centre at Channelside. The extension and refurbishment designed by local Architects Craig and Green will provide an innovative, environmentally sustainable building. Planning permission has already been granted.

The facility will continue to be known as Waterside House.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…DOMAIN NAME SCAM?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, January 1st 2015
Q Our company’s website has been running for several years on the same web address – one ending with ’’. We recently received a call from a company claiming that another company was trying to buy the ’.com’ equivalent to our address. They said they had decided to call us before ‘letting it go’ and asked that we should get back to them in 20 minutes to let them know whether we would like to buy the address – at over £200 for 10 years – rather than lose it to another company. In my absence the colleague who took the call agreed to the terms and sent payment, but I concerned that the whole thing has been a scam. Is this company doing anything illegal?

AThis does sound like a common scam that is causing problems at the moment – a client of mine had precisely the same call a few weeks ago from a company in Bristol. What this company may be doing (and there are many doing it) is calling the owners of existing websites where one version of the name is registered and another is not – in your case the and not the .com. They then make the claim that you have described (usually with a short time limit for a decision) as a means to get you to buy an address you may otherwise not have bought, or to get you to pay for the registration through them rather than any other company – including your current website host. The ‘other company’ probably doesn’t exist, and if the other address is registered, it is likely to have been registered by the company that called you.

The price you have mentioned isn’t necessarily inflated – it depends on the other services they include in the package – but if they are doing what I have described, they are lying to make a sale and are therefore breaking the law. There are various versions of the scam around – including fake ‘renewal invoices’ for existing website addresses, and claims that ‘other companies’ are trying to buy your address when it comes up for renewal.

My advice is to contact the company and demand the details of the company that wanted to buy your address. If they cannot produce them, I would demand a refund and report the company to your local Trading Standards office. You can buy the address in question through your existing hosting company or shop around for other reputable suppliers, but depending on how far the renewal process has progressed through the company you have paid, you may have to jump through some hoops to get the registration transferred.

Viewarticle Id 286876

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…KENDAL PROPERTY SNAPPED UPPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
COMMERCIAL property consultants Robert Pinkus & Co, acting on behalf of Maple Grove Developments, report a hat trick of lettings at the prestigious £20 million retail development, Wainwright’s Yard in Kendal.

The triple success means just two units now remain at the development.

Kendal-based Lune Chinese Medicine has taken 537 sq ft and agreed a fifteen-year lease at £21,000 per annum for the property, which has seen the company expand its operation in Kendal, adding to their existing unit in Blackhall Yard, Kendal.

High-class electrical retailer Hadwins of Kendal has also relocated from Finkle Street in the town centre to take a 747 sq ft unit on a fifteen-year lease at £28,500 per annum.

The final letting sees Scandinavian By Design, originally an internet based retailer, take a 616 sq ft unit in the scheme on a fifteen year lease at £23,350 per annum.

Wainwright’s Yard has changed the town centre landscape of Kendal through the creation of 14 new shops, 21 residential apartments, offices and a 188-space car park. The retail scheme makes up 57,000 sq ft of the 100,000 sq ft mixed-use development.

Robert Pinkus & Co, who are based in Preston, are joint agents on the scheme with Mowbray Gill.