Happy Brexit Day everyone. Great isn’t it?

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 29th, Mar

I attended the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference on Thursday at the QEII Conference Centre, ironically within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament. There, for the first time throughout the process, our Director-General Adam Marshall directly accused politicians of letting businesses down by focussing on politics at the expense of prosperity.

Even by the standards of post-2016 politics, the events of the past week have been truly bizarre and disturbing. Our political system may be putting the fun in dysfunctional for those viewing events through the lens of a soap opera but this is now serious stuff.

Today was supposed to be the day we left the European Union with a transition of free trade agreements, a bagful of opportunities and a brave new world within which to enter.

Now, we’re potentially two weeks away from leaving the European Union without a deal. Another cliff edge. Some may understandably feel so fatigued, jaded and apathetic by the whole process that this appears an acceptable outcome. However the economic and practical realities of this outcome are simply not acceptable as David Liddington stated at the Conference - the UK is not ready.

It is not my job to get embroiled in the intricacies of the political process, merely to state and articulate the prevailing views of business and where we can, to provide advice to enable them to mitigate for the impact of the impending outcome (whatever that may be). The provision of our Brexit risk register, health check and online hub for example, is there for all businesses to use. Still, it is virtually impossible to be prepared for every eventuality and the fact we are still copying and pasting that statement on 29th March 2019 is truly a dismal situation for businesses large and small.

The conference featured speeches from Liz Truss, Sir Keir Starmer and the afore-mentioned Liddington – generally speaking the grown-ups in the room. Yet despite their warm words, respect conveyed to businesses working through the current impasse and acknowledgement of the problems our politicians have caused and exacerbated, the entire situation remains - at the time of writing - a shambles on a grand scale.

We’re all sick of Brexit. It’s dominated the media, conversations, resources (in businesses and government) and completely grounded any possible forward momentum in resourcing and improving the UK’s provision of great people, infrastructure and trade opportunities. It has also fundamentally damaged our trust in politics as allies to business. 

Our hope is that there is a swift resolution to the impasse; that further cliff edges are avoided and a degree of stability is achieved. There are sufficient challenges – at a macro and micro level – for businesses to deal with amidst the ongoing distraction that Brexit continues to provide.

Chambers of Commerce provide a respected voice for business which have not only been centred on businesses for more than a century but also make the news headlines. It is time for government to act in the interests of business and not their own.

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Lucja Majewski, Regional Development Manager at First TransPennine Express

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 29th, Mar

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

I would like to see more young people being attracted to work in the rail industry.  It’s a great career choice with a variety of roles available to men and women. 

What does a typical working day look like?

There is no such thing as a typical day – one day I could be in parliament, the next meeting local rail user groups.  That’s what I love about the job – it’s so varied.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Believe more in yourself and stop worrying what other people think about you.

Where would we find you on your day off?

I usually start off at the gym and end up in the pub!  I enjoy socialising with my friends and family and if there is a game of rugby league on in the pub, so much the better!

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

Be kind to everyone and treat everybody the same no matter who they are.

Who or what inspires you?

Seeing how much the landscape is changing and how quickly – anything is possible now no matter where you come from. 

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

I moved to St Helens to be with my future husband.  It’s a great location ideally placed between Liverpool and Manchester with a fabulous rugby league team!

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Posted by Lindsey Knowles

Partner, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans Solicitors

Tue 26th, Mar

From children falling unexpectedly sick, to work projects that need out-of-hours attention, the pressure on mums to perform around the clock has never been greater.

They’re highly organised, able to perform under pressure, and often come with a wealth of experience in their chosen sector; but their need to accommodate family as well as work means that mothers are often undervalued in the workplace.

Lindsey Knowles, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans law firm said: “Despite more mums being in the workplace than ever before, many employers are still failing to understand their worth, often viewing them as a problem they have to accommodate rather than a valuable asset to their business.

“In fact, towards the end of 2017 ACAS published guidance to help employers create supportive workplaces for women during pregnancy and maternity leave after receiving 14,000 calls in the previous year about pregnancy and maternity issues.

“However, there are clear business benefits of supporting workers in the workplace, with a 2016 Deloitte study reporting that 77% of employees said the amount of paid parental leave had some influence on their choice of employer, and 50% saying they would rather have more parental leave than a pay rise.” 

As families prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, Lindsey looks at the best ways businesses can help mums in the workplace – and potentially see a boost to their business in the process.

1) Think flexibly
Many employers are missing out on experienced and talented professional women who are unable to work full-time hours because they also happen to be mums too, by failing to think outside the box. By advertising roles as potential job shares rather than just full-time positions, you’ll be making them accessible to mums who aren’t at a stage where they can work full-time – which could give you an advantage over less creative competitors when it comes to finding the best talent available. In addition, think about how you could offer mums remote or flexible working arrangements in order to help them to combine home and work life more easily, and make sure you’re operating in line with the law on flexible working too.

2) Develop policies that go above the statutory requirements
There are statutory policies in place for unpaid leave, parental leave, compassionate leave and emergency time off for dependants, but employers who pride themselves on being family friendly will have their own versions. Consider the key moments that might arise in a parent’s year; settling their child into nursery, settling in days at school, nativity performances, Easter services, sports days . . . you don’t have to accommodate these moments, but by doing so you’ll be making parents’ lives easier – and generating a lot of goodwill in return.

3) Make contingency arrangements for emergency time off
There will come a time, probably on the busiest day of your business’s year, when a working parent is hit with an unexpected emergency. Whether it’s because the childminder develops a bug, or a child had an accident at school, it’s highly likely that at some point a parent - usually mum - will receive a call that means she has to drop everything and race off. Be prepared for the fact that this will happen and have processes in place to deal with it so that the sudden disappearance of a key employee doesn’t throw your whole business into disarray. 

4) Avoid contacting parents on their days off
There few things designed to send mums into a panic more than being contacted whether it’s by phone, text or email - on a day when they’re trying to mentally devote themselves to their child. In fact, unless it is stated in employees’ contracts that they must be contactable outside of normal working hours, then they should be left alone when not in the workplace, with contact only being made if it is absolutely necessary, and only in cases where the employees have agreed scenarios in which it is acceptable. Doing otherwise can put employers at risk of claims of invading employees’ privacy.

5) Provide a private room for breastfeeding mums
Mums returning to work who are trying to breastfeed often find they have to retreat to the toilets with their breast pump, while their valuable breast milk has to be dumped through lack of storage.
Employers are legally required to provide a room where breastfeeding mums can lie down and rest if they are tired, but forward-thinking bosses will set aside a space for them to express milk too.
By providing a private, clean room with a lockable door – although definitely not a toilet - and a fridge for breastfeeding mums to pump and store their breast milk until home time, you’ll not only be helping to ease some of the guilt they feel for working in the first place, you’ll also be helping reduce health risks such as mastitis as she continues to try and breast feed from afar.

6) Talk to your employees
A lot of companies fall down in their employees’ eyes by assuming a ‘one size fits all’ approach to working parents, when often the opposite is true. Some parents will be offended if they’re not asked to attend dinners with clients out of hours, for example, while for others it would be a huge relief. The key for any employer is to ask the employee how they can support them as they try and navigate their way through working and parenthood. This way, you’ll be letting them know that you’re keen to make the situation work for them, which will help you to retain valuable staff members, while also going some way towards preventing misunderstandings in the future.

7) Support dads too
Another way of supporting working mums is by supporting the dads in your workplace. Interestingly, the Modern Families Index 2017 found that, when asked whether they would assess their childcare needs before taking a new job of promotion, 76% of younger fathers said they would, so it’s clearly an issue that matters to them. By letting dads know you understand their need to take time off to share parenting responsibilities with their child’s mum, you’ll be demonstrating a real commitment to supporting parents, helping to ease the burden on working mums, and potentially retaining male employees too.

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James Pressley, Head of Corporate and Commercial at Kirwans law firm

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 22nd, Mar

Introduce yourself – name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

My name is James Pressley and I am the Head of Corporate & Commercial at Kirwans law firm. Kirwans is a full-service law firm with offices across the Liverpool City Region, primarily serving owner-managed businesses and companies. Kirwans is able to deal with virtually any legal need an owner-managed business may have, through departments including Corporate & Commercial, Commercial Property, Employment and Dispute Resolution.

What does a typical working day look like?

My typical working day starts calmly, with a cup of coffee and a clear plan for what I am going to accomplish that day. However, my plans have to be flexible, as I often need to quickly reprioritise. This might be because of last minute changes to negotiations on a deal completion, or it may be because a client suddenly needs urgent assistance to meet a deadline or due to an influx of new enquiries which all need to be dealt with.

I try to restore some calm with a sandwich at lunchtime. Most of my work takes place on the computer or over the phone, but it can be quite intense, particularly if there is a deadline to meet, so I do burn some calories. At the end of the day I like to feel I have accomplished something, even if it is not what I planned on my morning commute.

Where would we find you on your day off?

On my day off you would find me in my local micropub with my trusty companion Paul, doing what we call ‘drawing a line under the week’. The beers change every week so it is always a voyage of discovery. Current favourites include ‘Iceberg’ by the Titanic brewery and ‘White Witch’ by Moorhouse’s. A good pint of real ale is the essential antidote to a busy week. 

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

‘Stick to commercial work’. Advice given by one of my silver fox role models when I was a young solicitor. He foresaw the kinds of changes that are taking place today, when Legal Aid has been decimated and firms in certain sectors like Personal Injury are going out of business because of rule changes. I’m not sure whether he thought I was any good at commercial work, but it was certainly sound advice. 

Who is your role model in business?

My role models are four senior solicitors I worked for at different firms earlier in my career. At the times I worked for them, they were all in their sixties and they shared other common attributes. They were charming, but courteous. They had encyclopaedic knowledge of my area of law, backed up with a lifetime’s experience and expertise. They always seemed prepared for any eventuality and it was virtually impossible to catch them out. Their presentation was impeccable, both in their dress and in their work. They were ‘old school’ - impatient with a lack of knowledge or poor preparation, but would often offer a guiding word or an amusing anecdote or war story. 

Why choose Liverpool City Region? 

Liverpool City Region has a unique combination of the warmth and culture of its people, and a thriving business sector. Merseyside is a really exciting place to be at the moment from the point of view of business. I know from my own work that there is investment, that people are doing deals, that businesses are growing and there are opportunities out there for those who wish to find them. The tech sector is particularly vibrant. 

You could probably say those things about a number of cities around the UK, but the difference in the Liverpool City Region is a friendly welcome and a sense of humour, which is not something you could say about, for example, London.

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Wed 20th, Mar

In recent months we have seen a significant increase in reports of major security breaches around the world, resulting in large-scale theft of data and cash, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the victims.

By the day, the tactics used by cybercriminals are becoming ever more sophisticated.

1 in 6 UK SMEs have suffered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the last 12 months and those that were affected, 21% reported that it cost them over £10,000 and 11% said that it cost more than £50,000.

It just makes sense to protect the business you've worked so hard to build - and demonstrating that you have cybersecurity measures in place is increasingly essential for SMEs wishing to supply large organisations.

A small investment today could save your business tomorrow.

Here, at The PC Support Group, we have produced a Cyber Crime Security bulletin which highlights some of the key risks and the preventative actions that you could take which will help minimise the risks to your organisation as well as fulfilling your legal obligations.

If you’d like to receive your FREE Cyber Crime Security download, click here, email our friendly staff on info@pcsupportgroup.com or call us on 03300 886 116 for a confidential chat about your cybersecurity or IT support requirements.


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Laura Pye, Director, National Museums Liverpool

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 15th, Mar

Introduce yourself – name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

I am Laura Pye the Director of National Museums Liverpool. We run eight museums (Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Seized!, International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House) across the Liverpool City Region attracting over 3 million visitors a year.

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

The museum sector is a great place to work and has changed a huge amount over the last 15 years. It’s much more business focused that it was and we are embracing new technology to engage new audiences which is great, but the diversity of our sector is still poor. Our audiences here in Liverpool are more representative than most museums but we still have a long way to go, and we are also working to diversify our workforce. At National Museums Liverpool we are striving to provide experiences that everyone can engage in, regardless of age, gender, race or class. I hope in 10 years’ time we are not still having this same discussion about lack of diversity in the sector.

What does a typical working day look like?

There is no such thing and that’s what I love about it. I could be working with colleagues on a new exhibition proposal, finding answers to staff suggestions, or meeting finance to plan our budgets. Currently we are working on an exciting new plan for the museums’ buildings on the Liverpool waterfront, and that has involved speaking to a lot of partner organisations and neighbours, to hear what they think.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

It gets easier and no one ever asks about your GCSE results. I am dyslexic and even today my GCSEs were the hardest thing I have done, I struggled to get the grade and just found it really hard work. I realised if I wanted to move on from the feeling of not being able to cope I had to accept I am dyslexic and find my own ways of dealing with it. At the time my D in English felt like the worst thing in the world, but I got the C I need 6 months later and now no one even asks what I got!

Where would we find you on your day off?

At the football or any other sporting event to be honest. I am a massive Tranmere Rovers fan and one of the best things about being back in Liverpool is I get to a lot more home games. I am also a big fan of American football and baseball and will give most sports a go, although I’m not a huge cricket fan. I love to travel as well, so I try and get to a sporting event in every place I visit.

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

I have two: “Fake it until you make it and it never feels like you make it” and “Assume the best and not the worst of people” Both have been useful throughout my career, however hard they are to follow.

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

Where else? I have lived all over the country and only moved back to Liverpool last year. It was moving home for me so I guess that is always easier but it is also a great place to work. Culturally it is thriving and it’s great to be in a city which not only has such a strong cultural scene but where it’s valued by the city council as well. The wider business sector is supportive and Liverpool feels like a city which is going places. There are lots of new developments happening and lots of change still taking place but it also feels place that is comfortable and confident with who it is. It’s a friendly place to work and everyone is supportive and keen to work together for the benefit of the city region.

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Daniella Lawson, Area Sales Executive at Concept Defibrillators

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 08th, Mar

I am the area sales executive for the Liverpool area, we supply Automatic External Defibrillators to businesses throughout the UK for £1 a day! That’s right for £1 a day you can potentially save someone’s life or someone could save yours! We provide a peace of mind guarantee and a friendly professional service to all. It doesn’t matter the size of your company, we can accommodate everyone! 

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

I would love for more focus to be drawn towards having Defibrillators in the workplace, knowing you can protect your staff, visitors or customers should they fall victim to a Cardiac Arrest and potentially save someone’s life. It’s just as important as having a fire extinguisher onsite in my opinion. They can both save a life, one is a legal requirement ones not. It just doesn’t sit right with me. 

What does a typical working day look like?

Every day is different - that makes every day interesting. I spend a lot of time networking, trying to get Defibrillators into everywhere I can. Visiting potential customers and focusing on social media to boost knowledge on Cardiac Arrests. I go home every day knowing I have done something for the community. It’s a great feeling. 

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Always smile - a smile can be the difference between building a good or bad relationship with a customer. 

Where would we find you on your day off?

At the stables with my horses & spending time with my beautiful 2 year old Charlie. 

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

It doesn’t matter if your gender, age or nationality, the person with the best attitude, self-belief and personality will, come out on top.  

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

Liverpool is my home town, it thrives with different cultures and experiences. Liverpool is a town where you can belong, you are supported and everyone loves a good coffee & chat! It’s a town growing with new businesses and old businesses, but everyone works together to make the city a better place. 

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Author: Rob Allen, Managing Director, Commercial & Business Banking

Posted by Rob Allen

Managing Director, Commercial & Business Banking

Fri 01st, Mar

Business Banking Switch is a scheme that has been set up and designed to provide eligible customers with offers which are better than those normally available on the market if they switch their bank provider.

If you’re an eligible business customer with Royal Bank of Scotland or NatWest you may have heard about such an initiative.

The scheme will give up to 200,000 eligible customers a unique opportunity to choose from a range of exclusive offers to switch their business current account to a selection of participant banks.

If you are one of these customers you’ll get the chance to take advantage of these offers when Business Banking Switch launches on 25th February.

Why is it happening?

During the financial crisis RBS received support from the UK Government. As a result, to meet a European Commission (EC) directive on competition, the bank was required to divest several parts of its business.

This included Williams & Glyn – the name given to a portion of its UK Retail and SME banking business. However, following complications setting up Williams & Glyn as a standalone bank, Business Banking Switch was put in place as part of a broader package of measures to ensure the bank meets its obligations to the EC.

This means that RBS is taking the step of providing £350million to help a number of competitor banks to create bespoke offers that incentivise some of its SME customers to switch their accounts.


To take part in Business Banking Switch you must have a company turnover below £25 million, and be a customer who was due to transfer to Williams & Glyn. Essentially this is Royal Bank of Scotland SME customers based in England & Wales, as well as NatWest SME customers in Scotland and certain small business customers. If you’re one of these eligible customers you’ll have received a letter from the bank to let you know.

What banks can customers switch to?

As the overall aim of Business Banking Switch is to create more choice in the business banking market, the larger banks who currently dominate the market are not able to take part.

An independent body is managing the scheme and has confirmed that nine banks will have offers available from 25 February:

  • Arbuthnot Latham & Co. Ltd
  • Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • Hampden & Co
  • Handelsbanken
  • Metro Bank
  • Santander UK
  • Starling Bank
  • TSB


Comparing offers

Customers will be able use the dedicated websites below to view and compare offers from the participating banks.

If you’re a customer who is eligible for Business Banking Switch, the choice will be yours – and if you decide to switch your account, your business could benefit from the exclusive offers that will be available.


You can find out more by visiting the dedicated websites:

Royal Bank of Scotland: www.businessbankingswitch.rbs.co.uk 

NatWest: www.businessbankingswitch.natwest.com 


Author: Rob Allen, Managing Director, Commercial & Business Banking

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Mon 18th, Feb

An internet search on the business benefits of having happy employees throws up enough reading to last a lifetime! Hundreds of research projects tell the same story – that happy employees are great news for your business.

Happy employees stay longer, work smarter, are more committed, take more responsibility and are more productive and creative. They need less management, they support their colleagues - and customers love them because they provide better service because they’re, well, happy! In a nutshell, happy employees save you money, and make you money.

Did you know that flexible working tops the wishlist for employees working in UK SMEs? In a 2018 study by financial advisers Drewberry, 42% of respondents desired flexible working arrangements above any other employment benefit.

So, what does flexible working actually mean? Flexible working is working outside a normal working pattern which is typically in the same place each day during the same hours. Flexible working is a way to work that suits your employees’ needs and may suit your business needs too. 

Remote working is a type of flexible working which means working from anywhere and has become possible and a lot more common due to advances in IT.  With today’s technology, it’s never been easier to work away from the office – there’s a host of great, simple to use tools, such as Office 365, SharePoint, OneNote, Skype and many more – and, in the cloud, you can securely store and access everything you need to work 24/7.  In fact, remote working has resulted in 13% performance increase (Institute of Leadership & Management Research) – so it is a huge benefit to businesses.

So, if flexible working makes employees happy - and happy employees are golddust, there’s no time to lose! If you’re considering flexible and remote working arrangements for your people, what are the key things to consider? Here’s what we say when our customers ask us that very question:

  1. Firstly, prepare a business case examining the pros and cons, analysing the costs and benefits of implementing flexible working in your business
  2. Decide how much flexibility and remote working that you want to introduce and what suits your business. For example, remote working will probably suit a small, client-facing consultancy business more than a mid-sized manufacturer
  3. Talk to everyone who you think is interested, or would benefit from being able to work remotely. There isn’t a one size fits all strategy
  4. Communicate your decisions to all your staff
  5. If you’re concerned about losing control or visibility of your people, then set groundrules, times when they will be in the office or available electronically and, most importantly,  agree ways of measuring their productivity to ensure they meet their targets
  6. Talk to your IT support partner about the technology best suited for your needs, the most cost effective way of introducing it and the training available to make the most of it.

So, if you really want happy employees and would like to seriously consider successfully introducing or extending your flexible and remote working arrangements,  The PC Support Group  can help you.  Email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com , leave us a message here and we will call you straight back or call us on 03300 886116 for an informal and confidential chat.


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Carving a niche market through customisation, personalised detail, and social media

Posted by Liverpool John Moores University

Fri 08th, Feb

This is the third of a series of articles from the Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, featuring contemporary issues for businesses.

Max McDonough, owner of Rawhide Custom (https://www.rawhidecustom.co.uk/) is a passionate manufacturer of leather goods in Liverpool, who is carving a niche in an extremely competitive industry. While studying for his law degree at Liverpool John Moores University in 2012 he became drawn to the manufacture of customised leather items that today include wallets, belts, lanyards, traveller notebook and card wallets, hip flasks, and dog collars.

Reflecting on those early days, he recognises that “it seemed a no-brainer to get into this industry, and take on the traditional stuffy, bloated leather goods market, where if you are not in in Knightsbridge in London with a fancy shop you’ve got no chance… Let’s do the things that they can’t, but we can by definition of size, attention to detail, and customer service.”

That focus on the customer is one of the key strengths of Max’s business, where he can provide unique, customised products in limited numbers, distinguishing him from competitors.

Max’s baptism of fire occurred while knocking on doors with a former business partner to procure customers. A visit to a Liverpool hotel provided a significant opportunity to manufacture hundreds of leather room key tags. This experience tested Max’s ability to adapt and cater for different customer needs.From the beginning, Max recognised the importance of social media and continues to look at ways to enhance his social media platforms, particularly highlighting the quality and symbolic value of his products: “I am using social media to document every little step… to get the word out there about things.” It certainly pays off as he receives international orders from enthusiastic individuals, such as one for a leather bag for a Mexican barman to store bar tools.

The combination of customisation, traditional manufacturing methods, personalised customer service, and social media helps convey very strong messages and interactions with consumers. To cater for individual tastes he uses a rigorous system of made-to-order, which helps to differentiate him from other, larger manufacturers, and allows him to gain competitive advantage. This fuels further orders and repeat sales.

Reflecting on the importance of social media for his business, Max also acknowledges the value of the reciprocity that this medium offers: “When I am sitting there, thinking that the cave man way of making leather products has never changed… that is really only true to a certain extent. Because without all the other things in the background, the customer would have never found the product and I would never have got the sale or had the feedback. The product would have been taken off the shelf and that would have been the end of it.”

Max McDonough has supported the Liverpool School of Business’s Business Management Program, conducting business presentations since 2016. Max’s engagement has not only benefitted students but also allowed his business to gain exposure, and in the process help him expand and widen his customer base. The team has also worked with Max to map a number of business development options, innovation and expanding his product mix.

The research team, Dr Abel D. Alonso, Dr Seng Kok, and Dr Seamus O’Brien, have completed a range of projects nationally and internationally (Western Europe, Oceania, Latin America) since 2006. Their research predominantly focuses on family, micro and small businesses in the areas of international business, innovation, socioeconomic development, and sustainability. For more information contact: a.alonso@ljmu.ac.uk

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