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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…ALL CHANGE FOR SMALL FIRMS LOAN GUARANTEEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
WITH sweeping changes to the Small Firms Loan Guarantee (SFLG) being introduced from December 1, businesses are being urged to examine the new eligibility criteria of the scheme so they don’t miss out.

Alison Watts, corporate finance partner at Armstrong Watson, looks at some of the implications.

The changes will open more opportunities for younger businesses and ensure that the process is improved to allow funds to be freed up when businesses need it.

The changes come after the Government accepted in full the recommendations set out in the Graham Review of the SFLG, which benchmarked the UK scheme against several international loan guarantee programmes. No less than 38 recommendations have helped to ensure the continuing relevance of the SFLG.

Minister for Competitiveness Barry Gardiner said that the Government hopes the changes will enable SMEs to build even more economic stability and overcome obstacles they face when raising debt finance.

The Small Firms Loan Guarantee is a vital element for helping businesses achieve ongoing success, making a real difference to those that find it difficult to obtain the necessary finance to grow. These changes will encourage more use of the SFLG by the widest range of eligible SMEs using a diverse range of lenders.

The new scheme will see a raft of changes that include:

Expansion of lending limits so a single £250,000 limit applies to all eligible Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs);

Raising the turnover limit for all eligible SMEs to £5.6m;

Reserving resources to incentivise a range of new lenders to join the scheme;

Reserving resources to enable additional SFLG lending by banks that demonstrate a clear focus on high-growth SMEs; and

Removing the limit on the level of borrowing that individuals can be associated with (the so called “connected persons” rule), thus centering the lending decision on the quality of the business case, not the previous borrowing history of individuals involved with the business.

These changes are wide ranging and will offer a valuable opportunity to SMEs as the focus of the scheme will move to start-ups and young businesses. The modifications will see the availability of SFLG limited to those SMEs under five years old, which will provide a source of much needed funding as these are the businesses which have had least opportunity to build up a financial track record and assets against which to secure borrowing.

For more information about any of these changes and whether your business will benefit, please contact Alison Watts on 01228 591000.


Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. FOCUS ON FOCUS ON THE AUDIENCE
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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…ONE MAN’S SPAM COULD BE ANOTHER MAN’S CRUCIAL EMAIL Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, June 1st 2015
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 a pair of boots for one of my children, and an email concerning the stock situation (amazingly they’d sold out of the things) ended up in my spam folder, and I only found it by chance a day or two later.

But how can this happen? Because this email most certainly was not spam, since it was in response to an email of mine, but it still ended up with the flotsam and jetsam from the seedier side of cyberspace.

The reason that it happened is almost certainly that my ISP (the company that provides my Internet connection – in this case AOL) had reason to believe that the server from which the email originated had been guilty of spamming.

The company that I’d ordered from was probably totally innocent, but in all probability someone else who was sending email from the same server had been up to no good – so AOL rightly took steps to protect its users.

But of course accidents do happen and occasionally perfectly legitimate emails do get filtered out, because the big ISP use sophisticated automated systems to make decisions, so they can’t possibly be as accurate as a fully manual system would be.

So what should you do if you find that your email is getting filtered out? If it’s simply a response to an incoming mail then contact your own service provider first, and ask them to investigate.

They will be very concerned, because if it is happening to you then it’s happening to their other clients too, so you’ll normally find that the issue is quickly resolved.

And if you’re emailing out the equivalent of a direct mail message – where you’re sending the same message to hundreds or even thousands of people – and you’re using a company that specialises in sending out volume email, then it’s possible that the problem is very similar.

The big ISPs operate things called “white lists” of ESPs (the companies who send out the mail), and if the ESP has white list status then the ISP knows that it doesn’t spam, and so will usually let its email through.

But if you’ve signed up with a less choosy ESP, one that has perhaps been sending out email that consumers are regarding as spam, then it might not enjoy white list status – in which case the ISP’s systems will look much more closely at its mails.

So if you’re planning to send an email campaign out then do check that your ESP is ‘white listed’, and also make sure that your email is properly worded. Avoid terms like ‘win’ and using punctuation like ‘!!!’ because they are very likely to draw down the ire of the ISP, although in all probability your ESP will check your mail before it is sent, and will point out any problem areas to you.

So do keep an eye on what happens to your outgoing email, and if a customer (or a friend) reports that your email is ending up in their spam folder then do take steps to investigate. Because from your customers’ point-of-view an email that they never see is like an unreturned phone message – something that is always to be avoided.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…EVERY MEMBER OF STAFF IS RESPONSIBLEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
Diane Clare, Regional Director for The Chartered Institute of Marketing offers this advice.

IF satisfying customers is at the core of marketing, then who is responsible for marketing? Take a look at your company and answer the question. If it’s just your sales person or you, then think again.

Of course there has to be someone who is finally accountable and who co-ordinates everything related to marketing, but the real answer is that everyone in your organisation is responsible. They can all have an influence on customer satisfaction through their work to a greater or lesser extent, and this is particularly the case in the small business where roles are less clearly delineated and individuals ‘multi-task’.

It’s not just the obvious activities; advertising, producing brochures etc., supporting services also play an important role in determining customer satisfaction. For example, repeated errors with invoicing can be enough to make a customer change suppliers, even if they are satisfied with the product.

Try this: List everyone in your organisation and alongside each of them write down how you think they have/can have an impact on customer satisfaction even if this is indirect. Ask each of them to do the same and compare the answers. If their answers are very different from yours then some discussion is needed. They may have identified something that you haven’t and vice versa.

Once you have collated this information you may want to revisit your marketing plan and ask for input from other members of the team. The marketing and growth of your company is a living, breathing thing, which needs attention and nurturing.

So make sure the right people are taking responsibility for marketing in your company. If you think your marketing team could benefit from the experience of other hands-on marketers, the CIM runs events throughout the North West that are open to all businessmen and women. Visit

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…TRAGEDY LEAVES HUGE HOLE IN BUSINESS AND COMMUNITYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, November 2nd 2015
The Williams’ Family – A Personal Retrospective by Harry Knowles, Chief Executive, Furness Enterprise

THIS is the article that in my worst nightmares I never thought I would be writing. A tragic accident in Tanzania has claimed the lives of Alan, Jill and Sue Williams, the entrepreneurial founders of Colony Candles, along with a close family friend, Debbie Winn.

The Williams’ developed the Colony Gift Corporation in Furness from scratch to an operation with a £20m plus turnover employing some 300 people. Alan in particular working with Furness Enterprise and key partners was also instrumental in persuading Blyth Industries to operate a new candle factory, CCW in Furness employing over 100 people.

The Colony Gift Corporation, manufacturing a wide range of candles, was the first business I visited when I joined the recently formed Furness Enterprise organisation in 1991. Those were even more challenging times than now with many thousands being made redundant at the Barrow Shipyard and no certainty as to how the Furness economy would survive.

In my first meeting with Alan Williams I was immensely impressed with his energy, vision, and determination. He was very clear about how, having achieved £2m turnover, he was going to drive the business to over £20m turnover and conquer European markets. I felt then as I feel now that it was people like the Williams’ who would determine the future economic success of the Furness area.

The Williams’ started Colony with an impressive business background. Alan and Sue owned a successful employment agency based in the Midlands. During a 5-year period they took the business from a single modest office to a prosperous organisation consisting of four branches employing up to 200 temporary staff.

They then moved to owning and operating the Aynsome Manor Hotel in Cartmel, turning a modest guest house into one of London’s leading country house hotels. They were joined in this venture by Sue’s sister, Jill, who previously had been a head teacher.

Colony was originally set up in 1979 initially selling imported scented candles from the USA. Alan used to tell the story that it was because it could not get a good supply of the right type of candles for his Aynsome Manor Hotel in the UK that triggered him off to develop a candle business of his own. His view was always that, though Colony manufactured scented candles and sold these along with other table top accessories e.g. candle holders, what made Colony successful and distinctive was that they marketed a ‘life style’.

Eventually the Williams’ sold Colony to Blyth, a major US candle company, and subsequently left the business to pursue new interests, some of which Furness Enterprise were involved in.

Alan in particular became a shareholder in some key local companies like and became a patron of a major Furness Enterprise programme ‘Building an Entrepreneurial Culture’. All three Williams’ along with Debbie Winn were working on a major new venture when they were tragically killed.

I have given the summary details of the Williams’ business successes which were very significant. It is much more difficult to put into words their personalities.

Alan Williams was a great bear of a man with huge energy, an intense personality and a massive sense of humour who loved business.

He was proud of his council house background. His educational qualifications were, he said, an O-level in woodwork. Highly intelligent, he could be impatient with those who did not share his passion for his business.

He was modest about his own abilities and refused to see himself as special. His favourite phrase was “The harder I work the luckier I get”. He was not a corporate man and critical of those who surrounded themselves with ‘corporate trappings’.

When he left Colony for a time he wanted to use his undoubted expertise to advise other businesses. I was personally keen to see him launch a new career on the public speaking circuit. However doing not saying was his style and his real love was making business happen. I regarded Alan Williams as a Richard Branson character, larger than life.

Sue Williams was the creative powerhouse in Colony. She developed their highly successful product ranges with flair and imagination. She had a great warmth of personality. She was keen once she left Colony to develop charitable activities particularly for the NSPCC and she used her creative flair in developing a hugely successful charitable ball for the NSPCC this summer.

Jill was possessed of a high intelligence and was a member of MENSA. She came over as quiet and reflective. Like her sister Sue, she had an intense interest in cricket.

You usually saw the Williams’ together and together they made a formidable team with their different complimentary personalities and strengths. Working together they developed a formidable team of people at Colony who worked for the Williams’ not the company.

I could not finish this tribute without mentioning Debbie Winn who was very close to the Williams’. Debbie had been with Alan for several years. She was from Liverpool and had all the characteristics of natives of that great city. She had a great sense of humour, was very business savvy and blessed with a warmth of personality. She also will be greatly missed.

The destruction of the Williams’ through this tragic accident will leave a huge hole in the Furness area’s business and community life. They were unique and irreplaceable.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO BE TOO METICULOUSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Monday, August 1st 2015
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 venue, highlights the importance of the personal touch in the competitive conference market.

When sourcing a conference venue, location is clearly a key element, but location alone should not be used to differentiate between venues. The venue must reflect the corporate image of the company and the venue conference coordinator must provide the unique support and co-ordination required. Ensuring that the venue has a dedicated meeting host during the event and serves quality food and refreshments will ensure smooth running of the conference and satisfied delegates.

Organisation and meticulous attention to detail by the venue is a reflection on the client presenting the conference. A disorganised conference where slap-dash service and poor product quality are experienced gives delegates the impression that the ‘sub-standards’ delivered by the venue are accepted by the client company. A venue which prides itself on timely organisation and consistently high service standards in line with the client’s requirements will see a high level of client loyalty and satisfaction.

From the initial contact with the venue, it is imperative that the client receives an individual, friendly service offering them the necessary support required to meet the demands of their client. Attention to detail must be at the forefront of any conference coordinator’s mind when liaising with the client, especially taking into account room layout requirements and technical support. This serves to save time in the long run and also to instil confidence into the client.

It is impossible to share all the information that one person knows about a conference with someone else and it is time wasting for the client to have to repeat details and requests to various members of the venue staff. By offering the client a dedicated meeting host, a venue can ensure continuity of service, knowledge and rapport. From arrival through to departure, a dedicated host can cater for all the client requirements and extend a personal touch for the duration of the conference. For the conference organiser this gives the opportunity to relax in the knowledge that there will always be one person on whom they can rely., whatever their requirements.

For delegates attending the conference, while the conference contact is the motive for attendance, coffee and lunch breaks are always welcome. The venue must be prepared to offer high quality food and beverage and a flexible approach to food and refreshments. By offering choices, the conference organiser is able to personalise their conference and delegates’ variety. Should the conference organiser require a healthy morning break with fruit and muesli bars, a “working lunch” of sandwiches and salads served in the conference room, followed by an indulgent ‘afternoon tea’ of scones with jam and clotted cream and strawberries, then the venue should be able to accommodate these requests. If he or she is looking for bacon baps, croissant and preserves on arrival, an international menu served in the restaurant for lunch and a “To Go” bag at the end of the day, the venue should be able to satisfy the client needs.

The importance of location cannot be ignored. A key factor on the choice of venue is its location and whether it is easy to find either from the train station or the motorway. For most conference organisers convenient car parking is also a key factor for choice of venue. For those venues able to offer extensive complementary car parking for all delegates, this can only help to differentiate them from other venues being considered for an event.

Every conference venue should be able to offer every conference organiser a service which is both personal and professional and at the same time, flexible. A dedicated meeting host should ensure continuity of high standards. throughout the dura Flexible, personalised food and refreshment options should be on offer. Finally a venue must be able to offer a product and team of staff able to give commitment to the event, culminating in an effortless realisation of a high-quality, personalised conference. Corrine ReynoldsHoliday Inn, Lancasterable to offer every conference organiser a service which is both personal and professional and at the same time, flexible. A dedicated meeting host should ensure continuity of high standards. throughout the dura Flexible, personalised food and refreshment options should be on offer. Finally a venue must be able to offer a product and team of staff able to give commitment to the event, culminating in an effortless realisation of a high-quality, personalised conference.

Corrine Reynolds

Holiday Inn, Lancaster

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LEGISLATION BURDENPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
WHO would run a small to medium sized business these days? Sometimes it must seem like being in siege, surrounded on every side by increasing amounts of legislation which must be complied with, under threat of prosecution in our increasingly litigious society.

Every month our legal and financial experts outline the latest issues to face managers. Companies are expected to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, the Data Protection Act, the new Civil Partnership Act, to name just three that are mentioned in this month’s Can you find it Business Edition. Then there is the vital business of health and safety, which, if not met, can be costly not only in financial terms but in the health and wellbeing of individuals.

And on top of all this, managers are trying to run successful, profitable businesses that provide employment and help boost the economy both locally and nationally.

It is hard enough for the major companies who can afford employ experts. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the smaller firms to stay on top of everything that is coming there way.

It is, of course, only right that people should be able to live their lives free from discrimination, and also in the knowledge that the working environment is as safe as possible. No one should have an issue with that.

But there must still be some sympathy for the hard-pressed small business employer, who must occasionally wonder if it’s all worth it.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…£4M INVESTMENT FOR COLLIERYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
A £4m investment from national regeneration agency English Partnerships in the former Haig colliery site and the present mining museum at Whitehaven, is set to boost the town’s tourism economy and stimulate further investment.

The colliery, which closed in 1986, was added to the National Coalfields Programme in 2002 which aims to create new jobs, homes, leisure facilities and open space in former coalfield communities throughout England.

The funding will help to transform the former colliery site into a more pleasant environment thereby improving the setting of the adjacent housing area and providing an attractive landscape to the Haig Mining Museum, helping to attract more tourists to the town.

The Museum, which traces the history of mining in the area, is located in the former pithead and engine room of the colliery and currently attracts 10,000 visitors per year.

The plans include proposals to landscape 37 hectares of the site and to link the harbour to the cliff-top museum with a new footpath and a cycle trail. A plaza area with seating and lighting will encourage people to stop and enjoy the sea views.

There will also be improvements to Kells Rugby Club – an important part of the local community – which could include new changing rooms and work to the pitch as well as new lighting and surfacing of the gravelled access track.

The proposals were the subject of a public consultation at the end of 2004 which attracted more than 1,000 visitors.

Partners behind the scheme are English Partnerships, which is funding the clean-up and regeneration of the site as part of its National Coalfields Programme, Copeland Borough Council, which owns the site, urban regeneration company West Lakes Renaissance and London County Council.

It is intended that the site will be offered to the Land Restoration Trust for long-term management.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…EXERCISE FACTS TO CONSIDERPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, January 1st 2015
Light work: TV presenter Tania Bryer demonstrates how people can incorporate light exercise into their lives by cleaning, shopping and even commuting in a new exercise, Routinetics.Light work: TV presenter Tania Bryer demonstrates how people can incorporate light exercise into their lives by cleaning, shopping and even commuting in a new exercise, Routinetics.A FEW facts about exercise for you to consider:

Your muscles do not grow during exercise. Exercise is only the stimulus. The body strengthens the muscles while you are resting;

Each pound of muscle burns 75-100 calories every day simply by being;

The amount of rest needed for muscles to grow depends on their current size. The larger it is the more it needs to rest. Gym beginners should rest at least two days between exercise. After a year in the gym you should probably rest three days. By exercising every day you are hurting your body and retarding muscle growth;

There is no difference between stronger, larger and firmer muscles. Those three go hand in hand. It is not true that one kind of exercise will build a different kind of muscle than another. The only three variables you can influence with any type of exercise are muscle mass, muscle shape and the amount of body fat;

A pound of body fat stores 3,500 calories;

The only way that you can know that you have stimulated the muscles enough is to train to failure. If, after a number of repetitions, the muscle is unable to move for 15 seconds even though you are willing it to, then you know that you have provided maximum stimuli;

Your body doesn’t care if your muscles failed after five repetitions of exercise or after 50. Use the weight that allows you to do 4-8 repetitions for maximum safety and time efficiency. And there is no reason to do more than one set;

You can hurt yourself during exercise if you apply excessive force to your muscles. The best way to work with weights is slowly. Raise the weight for 10 seconds and lower it for 10 seconds.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…AVOIDING THE LEGAL PITFALLS OF WEBSITES AND E-COMMERCEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, November 2nd 2015
Chris Strutt, a solicitor at Baines Wilson Business Lawyers, provides some practical guidance in relation to the legal issues and risks concerning websites and e-commerce. Baines Wilson is one of only a few firms in the country, outside of the largest commercial law firms, who specialise in this area of law as well as intellectual property work.

THE growth of e-commerce offers huge advantages to businesses in terms of the ability to extend their reach to new markets via a website. However, making effective use of the technologies available and complying with the legal compliance requirements is a challenge for all business as is operating successfully in the internet environment.

Non-compliance with the ever-increasing amount of legislation exposes your business to a number of risks, such as civil liability, fines (and in some extreme circumstances imprisonment), contracts being set aside as unenforceable, and legal action from organisations such as the Office of the Information Commissioner, Disability Rights Commission and Trading Standards which are increasingly being frustrated by the apathy and lack of knowledge shown by businesses in respect of the issues and are now taking a firmer line.

It is only a matter of time before we see more and more legal actions being brought against non-compliant businesses.

All risks are clearly outweighed by the benefits technology can offer to the modern business and in reality the risks can easily be minimised by addressing the legal issues head on and dealing with them in appropriate legal notices and policies.

There are a number of key areas where businesses need to ensure that they are legally compliant.

It is useful to have legal terms which set out the ways in which a visitor to a website is entitled to use the content of the website.

There are a number of issues that can be dealt with in a legal statement, all of which can enhance your legal position. This may be as simple as a copyright statement to put visitors on notice that the material on the website is subject to copyright and should not be copied, or a more complex statement, such as making clear the basis upon which you conduct e-commerce.

Businesses have been required for some time now to provide various items of information as a matter of law on their website, which include the name of the business, geographical address, an email address suitable for rapid communication, details of any trade, professional or regulatory body that the business is registered with, and the business’s VAT identification number.

Some of these, such as the business name, tend to be included as a matter of course, but businesses often omit all the required information, such as a VAT number and geographical address. These requirements are in addition to traditional laws relating to the information that businesses should have in off-line communications, such as a company’s registered office address, which continue to apply and should be included on a website in the same way that they should be included in a company’s letterhead.

Web sites that are used purely for marketing or information purposes and not “e-commerce” are still caught by regulations requiring the provision of information to visitors to the site.

One key area of legal concern for brochure websites is in respect of obligations relating to data.

Whether or not you intend using your website for genuine e-commerce, that is to actually take orders, there is a good chance that the website will collect information about visitors to the site.

This could be overtly in the form of electronic forms you ask visitors to complete, or less obvious methods such as information collected from cookies, which are small text files which websites can send to the hard drive of computers which allow the website to recognise if visitors return to the site.

Under data protection and privacy laws, businesses are under certain obligations in terms of getting specific permission for the collection of this information and in respect of cookies the law now specifically requires that you explain what the cookies are and how a visitor can refuse them.

A good privacy policy will assist in achieving legal compliance. If you do not have a privacy policy, you will at least need to have a statement on your website covering the use of cookies. Failure to comply can lead to bad publicity, fines and the inconvenience of having a website brought down whilst the compliance issues are dealt with.

There can also be privacy issues in terms of the information you publish on your website. For example, publishing information about employees of your organisation without their consent could be in breach of data protection laws.

If the website is trading, businesses need to ensure that they adequately protect themselves against contractual problems arising from the nature of internet transactions.

This includes the need to ensure that they do not find themselves committed to sell goods at a ridiculously low price as a result of a typographical error, or that they are not committed to sell goods that they do not have in stock or which are no longer available. You may recall a number of household names have had to deal with website pricing issues.

The law imposes certain requirements when accepting orders over the internet, which include a detailed explanation as to how the contract process will work and when the customer reaches the point where it is contractually committed to purchase and when the site owner is obligated to sell.

These requirements apply to websites aimed at businesses as well as consumers.

If you are dealing with consumers, a further set of regulations apply which include the provision of specific categories of information at point of order and which are later available to the consumer including the description, arrangements for payment, delivery or performance, the existence of a right of cancellation and the period for which the price remains valid.

The reality is that while the regulations impose burdens on business, they do exist to benefit customers. In which case, why not use the fact that you are complying with the regulations as something positive to promote to customers – instead of regarding the “small print” as something to be ashamed of and hide (which has its own problems in terms of proving that they are binding).

Businesses would be advised to turn their legal obligations into something positive, such as a customer care policy. With a little time and thought, businesses can use this to achieve compliance with the various regulations, obtaining legal protections for themselves and importantly appearing to potential customers as being trustworthy and concerned for their needs.

Baines Wilson can advise clients of the risks associated with the internet and the best means of dealing with these risks. We regularly carry out legal compliance audits of websites and prepare the necessary legal content for them. This can go hand in hand with an e-business legal strategy, setting out tactics and best practice for trading electronically and policies for the retention of information, direct marketing and employees’ use of internet technologies.