Don't accept what you're told without question - it's our job to ask difficult questions.

Posted by Debra Allcock

chief Executive, DSC

Thu 25th, Jul

Don't accept what you're told without question - it's our job to ask difficult questions.

 Recently my father was having lunch with some cronies and ordered a roast-chicken dinner. He was a bit taken aback when the waitress asked him if he wanted an egg. It struck him as a bit odd – the idea of an egg with a roast chicken. But being aware that modern chefs often use soft-boiled eggs as sauces and not wanting to look out of touch, replied “yes”. When the roast chicken arrived he was rather puzzled to see that it was minus the egg. But in a stereotypically “British” way didn’t comment on the lack of said egg and simply went on to enjoy a rather splendid roast chicken.

But the issue of the egg was gnawing away at him. He remarked to my mother later that he didn’t understand why he’d been offered an egg in the first place. But he was even more puzzled by the fact that having been offered one it didn’t then materialise. Next morning over breakfast he scared the living bejesus out of my mother by suddenly shouting: “Leg! She was asking me if I wanted a leg!”

Nowadays we’re bombarded with mainstream and social media headlines and soundbites, often crafted to elicit an immediate emotional response, usually negative. It seems to me that we might have lost the ability to critically evaluate the information we receive. We don’t always have time to check the validity of everything, and that’s fair enough. But at the very least we should ask ourselves basic questions: “Who stands to gain from my emotional reaction to this and what is the context of the person/organisation sharing this? Where did this information come from and how credible is the source? Is there contrary evidence?” If the answer to any of those questions is “I don’t know”, then we need to immediately distrust our emotional response and either take the time to check or recognise that information might not be reliable.

I include family and friends in that. Just because my mother says something is true doesn’t make it so (sorry Ma!) unless she can point to a source where her information can be validated – and not a meme or trope or emotionally laden imagery.

What’s so delicious about the story of my father and the egg is that even though he had his doubts he didn’t question the offer of an egg, and then when the egg didn’t come he didn’t question why it wasn’t on the plate.

This is so relevant to us in the sector – especially now! We mustn’t accept what we are told without question. “There is no money for this service”; “we value you but have to make cuts”; “it’s too difficult to do”; “the minister/MP/councillor is too busy to see you” and so on. Asking the questions and challenging the statements will get you better information and possibly encourage others to think more critically. And, in any event, it’s our bloody job to ask: “Where’s the blimmin’ egg?!”

This article first appeared on Third Sector.

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Posted by Debra Allcock

chief Executive, DSC

Wed 24th, Jul

We have a strange relationship with those who have money, but we should not feel powerless in their presence.

My sister has recently become a governor at her sons’ school. Charlie, Year 9, is very chilled about it. Not so thrilled is Freddie, Year 7, who was utterly horrified when he realised his mother might be prowling his space. This necessitated a serious conversation. “Now, mummy,” he said firmly, “we might encounter each other at school. If we do you may say ‘Hello Freddie’. And depending on who I’m with I might respond ‘Hello mummy’, or I might just nod. Then you must move away quickly. There will be no kisses or cuddles or calling me cute baby names. Are we clear?”

With this vignette in mind, I want to talk about a Twitter thread by John Rendel director of grants at the Peter Cundill Foundation. The foundation has decided to stop giving restricted funding. But I was particularly struck by his explanation: “Restricted funding is a) distrustful, b) disrespectful, c) philanthropically self-
defeating and d) narcissistic.”

Wow! The raw truthfulness of this was like a blast of fresh, cold, bracing air. It’s what charities have so often thought, but dared not say for fear of losing the very funding they’re desperate for. As human beings, and especially in charities, we have a strange relationship with those who have money: we feel powerless in the face of it and assign it a power beyond what is healthy. People and organisations who have the power to give or withhold money are treated with a deference that isn’t good for them or us.

We allow ourselves to be patronised by high-net-worth individuals who’ve been successful in business and think that this (and their cheques) means they know better about how to run our charity more efficiently and effectively than us, or that solving serious societal problems simply requires the application of business processes. Then there’s the foundation that thinks we can’t be trusted to use its grant wisely and well, so we need to be scrutinised and monitored as if we are just naughty children.

What’s especially impressive about the Peter Cundill Foundation’s approach (and others following in the same vein) is the adult and collaborative nature of it. There’s something so grown up about an organisation admitting that having money doesn’t make it better than the organisation that is asking for it, that can recognise and be brutally honest about that fact and effectively say “we’re partners on this journey”.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need to establish mutual expectations and deliver on them, which is why I thought about Freddie and my sister when reading John Rendel’s tweet.

That story wasn’t just a rather sweet and funny tale about a small boy standing up to his very powerful mother and establishing an equality of boundaries. It was about the bravery it takes to allow a real power shift in a relationship where one is used to holding the resources and setting the rules. That’s hard for a mother to do. It’s even harder for a funder to do. But it’s when you relinquish your power that you release the power within others.

This article first appeared on Third Sector.

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Posted by Debra Allcock

chief Executive, DSC

Mon 22nd, Jul

We need to be sensitive to how our behaviours might affect or exclude those who aren't in our 'gang'.

I was recently a victim of bullying. I ended up hiding in a changing room cubicle and crying until the gang of women who had been unkind had gone. When I shared this experience on social media I got a message from someone who suspected her own daughter was bullying others. It’s very hard for people to actually admit to having been bullies.

Our sector collectively is not immune to engaging in bullying behaviours either. For instance, we can be desperately bitchy about one another behind people’s backs and sometimes to each other’s faces. After a speech I gave some years ago, a senior sector colleague, whom I had heard of but not met, said to me that even though he was one of the group of sector colleagues who disliked me he nonetheless agreed with what I’d said. It really hurt. I hadn’t realised there was a group!

And I’m not alone. We have all heard – and, if we’re being brutally honest, sometimes colluded with – folk being unkind about others. Ad hominem attacks are not uncommon, especially about those who are “names”. I think it’s ok to criticise the policy, the position or even the values of a person – but personal attacks are just not a very grown-up strategy. In my experience they never change what the victim says or does.

The other way to bully is to exclude. Our sector is full of cliques – groups that start from the good place of folk having things in common, but can end up being self-referential exclusive “in groups”. Speaking from experience, if you’re not in one of those groups it can be a horribly lonely and difficult sector to work in.

Having suffered from exclusion myself, I’m hyper aware of making sure we don’t do it at the Directory of Social Change. Throughout our history we have had a very diverse workforce, with, for example, people of devout faith who don’t drink, recovering alcoholics, carers, parents, folk struggling financially, people who are wary of loud, noisy spaces and so on. So we don’t ever have officially work-sanctioned parties or dos out of office hours or out of office space. We know that if we hold events such as our welcome parties (a bit like leaving dos only less tinged with sadness!) or festive celebrations during working hours at work, no one ever needs to feel excluded.

In fairness, I suspect that some of the excluding behaviours we exhibit in our sector are not deliberate or malicious. But I do think we could to be more sensitive to perceived outsiders, the ones who don’t appear to fit naturally into our “gang”. We are all trying to serve our citizens and our communities, and even if we don’t agree on how best to do it at the very least we can agree that this is the gang we all belong to. Let’s not be mean to or about each other. Be kind about people, especially behind their backs. And don’t be the reason someone hides in a cubicle.

This article was first published on the Third Sector website

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Posted by James Barker

Partner, Head of Personal Injury at Kirwans Solicitors

Tue 16th, Jul

Many employers who don’t make clean drinking water and containers available to their employees do not realise they are breaking the law, a leading solicitor has claimed.

James Barker from Kirwans law firm said that throughout the year, but particularly as the weather heats up, it is vital for employers to provide drinking water for their workers in order to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The legislation sets out that employers must provide basic welfare rights, such as drinking water, to employees – a requirement that some employers still aren’t aware exists, according to James.

He said: “Making clean and wholesome drinking water readily accessible to employees is an absolute must at any time of the year, but in the summer it becomes crucial.

“The Regulations state that an ‘adequate supply of wholesome drinking water’ must be provided, taking into account the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity, and that it must be readily available at suitable and clearly marked places, either with a supply of suitable cups or as a drinking fountain.

“It must also be free from contamination and preferably from the public water supply, although water dispensers are considered acceptable as a secondary supply.”

Drinking water does not have to be marked unless there is a significant risk of people drinking non-drinking water.

Hydration in the workplace has been identified as having a tangible effect on productivity, with studies showing that dehydration reflected in a 1-2% reduction in body weight can reduce our ability to concentrate, our cognitive and physical performance, and increase feelings of aggression or irritation.*

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends that men take in 2.5 litres of water per day through food and drink consumption, while women are advised to consume two litres of water per day. Between 70-80% of the daily water intake should come from drinks.

James said: “The provision of water seems like a straightforward-enough process, but the Approved Code of Practice also sets out important regulatory requirements.

“For example, drinking water taps should not be installed in places where contamination is likely, such as workshops where lead is handled or processed, and as far as is reasonably practical, they should not be installed in sanitary accommodation.

“If supplying non-disposable cups, facilities for washing them should be provided nearby.

“Finally, any cold-water supplies that are likely to be grossly contaminated, as in the case of supplies meant for process use only, should be clearly marked by a suitable sign.

“Employers must realise that the provision of drinking water isn’t a ‘nice to have’, but a basic necessity, and those failing to do so could face heavy penalties as a result.”

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A thriving North not only needs reliable transport connections within the region; people and goods also have to cross borders easily and get to neighbouring parts of the UK.

Posted by Robin Miller-Stott

Senior Strategy Officer, Transport for the North

Mon 08th, Jul

Senior Strategy Officer Robin Miller-Stott explains how Transport for the North is working with partners in Cheshire, Merseyside and Wales to ensure investment in the North also forges links with adjoining regions.

As a proud Cestrian, I know how important cross-border links between England and Wales are. A strong transport network supports local and regional economies on both sides of the border, enabling people to seek new job opportunities, encouraging tourism into North Wales and Snowdonia, and opening new markets by allowing businesses to move their goods and services.

When we’re making the case for investment we know it’s about more than just transport, we also know that roads and tracks don’t stop at our borders, and that what’s good for us, is good for our neighbours.

Our cross-border approach is brought to life through our seven Strategic Development Corridors (SDC). More than traditional transport corridors, our SDC’s represent area’s where investment in transport could deliver the greatest opportunities for improving productivity and economic growth. They are fundamental to our Strategic Transport Plan and highlight the importance of working in partnership with transport authorities, governments, and business leaders at our borders with Scotland, the Midlands, Wales, and Ireland.

The West and Wales SDC is home to some of the North’s largest cities and has significant economic and population growth forecasts over the next 30 years. Transformational economic growth could bring an extra £34 billion to the corridor and support an extra 260,000 jobs on top of business as usual. The cross-border Mersey-Dee economic area has an economy larger than Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield.

Enhancing connectivity between the economic centres of Chester, Mid-Cheshire, Warrington, South Cheshire and Crewe, the Liverpool City Region and Deeside, and the rest of North West would enable this transformational economic growth. With all four prime capabilities – digital, energy, health innovation, advanced manufacturing – strongly represented in the area, there are opportunities to attract people in to high quality jobs across a range of innovative businesses, and to support the organisations based here in their growth goals.

Airbus, the aerospace manufacturer, has a factory in Broughton, a few miles from Chester just over the border in Wales. They currently employ 6,500 people directly, with thousands more in the supply chain. This puts a significant demand on the transport network, with thousands of employees and parts to move.

The current transport challenges in this economic area are strikingly reflected in the cross-border commuting patterns, of which only 1% are by rail. Apart from significant cross-border movement in the Mersey Dee area, the region is characterised by low inter- and intra-regional commuting between North West Wales and the North of England.

Local partners have done significant work to set out the benefits of investment in the rail network, including on maximising the benefits of HS2 coming to Crewe and the wider North. Growth Track 360 has said investment in rail could support:

• Growth in the economy to over £100 billion
• Employees becoming 20% more productive than the UK average
• The creation of more than 300,000 new jobs
• The delivery of more 200,000 new homes

Transport improvements are happening. The reopening of the Halton Curve in May 2019 reinstated the first direct rail services between North Wales and Liverpool for 40 years. An additional 215 weekly services are now in operation thanks to the £18.75 million track upgrade, which have the potential to reduce cars on the roads and boost local economies. Chester and North Wales passengers now have a direct rail connection to Liverpool Airport, via a stop at Liverpool South Parkway. The Transport for Wales franchise will also transform connectivity and the service offer across the border area with new trains and enhanced services.

However, future growth ambitions are not just limited by infrastructure investment with the area, but further afield. Currently the service frequency from North Wales and all the way from Cardiff in the South is limited by the number of trains per hour that can pass through central Manchester. That is why investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail will have real tangible benefits far beyond where the new and upgrade lines will be constructed.

Crewe Hub station will play an increasingly important role, not just for the West and Wales area but the wider national rail network. Further investment here as part of the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects will deliver improved capacity and connectivity and increase resilience in the local, regional and national networks. A new Warrington Northern Powerhouse Rail station could present a really exciting rail offering, allowing easier transit for passengers between Wales and England, and a western rail link to Manchester Airport for people from Cheshire and North Wales.

Transport for the North and the Welsh Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in February 2019, cementing our joint working arrangement and driving forward a shared common vision of a vibrant, sustainable and growing economy in North Wales and the North of England. It sets out a coordinated approach to strategic transport investments that connect people and businesses through a reliable, efficient and cost-effective network. Both parties have also committed to establishing a political transport forum, with ministers from the respective Governments on either side of the border and local political leaders to better coordinate investment and decision-making.

This partnership, and the programme of interventions set out in our Investment Programme, mean we can work across borders to support the transformation of the economies of the North West, Wales and beyond. Multi-modal investment across road and rail, brought to life through our joined-up partnerships, will help unlock the massive growth potential seen in the West and Wales SDC.

By reducing delays and congestion, improving the frequency of services, and implementing new connections and technologies, people will have better access to jobs and businesses will be better able to move their goods and services. This is a really exciting prospect, and one we’re proud to be working on alongside our neighbours in Wales.

Find out more about the Strategic Development Corridors here.

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Mon 08th, Jul

If you look at any service providers’ sales and marketing material,  there’ll probably be warm and comforting messages like ‘we add value’ and ‘we take time to understand your business’.

The thing is, the sentiment behind them has got legs! In the world of IT and telephony support, the provider who really understands their client’s business is the one that can add the real value – and differentiate themselves in the process!

Without that depth of understanding, we’re not convinced how added value can be delivered. So, let us briefly explain what we mean by really understanding a client’s business. For us, the really switched on IT support provider is asking these sort of questions:

  • What are your business goals, what are you trying to achieve in the short, medium and long term, what does success look like for you?
  • What do your customers need from you – what’s important to them?
  • Which parts of your business and your service are absolutely critical to your success?
  • What does the future look like in your sector  – do you need to change how you work?
  • When do your people do their best work – what makes them productive and motivated?
  • What does a great IT support service look like to you – what kind of service suits you and your teams best?
  • How and when would you like us to communicate with you – what kind of professional relationship works best for you?

This is the priceless information that enables the best IT providers to deliver a service that really makes a difference, in practice, when it matters most to your business. If you work in despatch and need some instant help with your system to get your delivery van away on time, calling your IT support and discovering that they’re all out for lunch is a non-starter!

At The PC Support Group, we believe that ‘adding value’ is simply ‘great service’ and ‘good business’ put another way. And it’s an attitude of mind. It’s about being constantly switched on, spending time building your knowledge about your client’s sector and their customers’ wants and needs, so that you can proactively share ideas about improvements, that enable your client to do great work for their customers.

By contrast, if a service provider only responds to your needs and addresses problems reactively rather than proactively and you never hear from them– they probably don’t get it.

If you’d like talk to an IT support and service provider that’s great at IT - and knows how to add real value - call us on 03300 886116 for an informal chat  or leave us a message here and we’ll get back to you or email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com  

www.pcsupportgroup.com

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Following on from the Liverpool Property Awards, DTM Legal and Redwing comment on the progressive regeneration for the City.

Posted by DTM Legal

Thu 20th, Jun

As we approach the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century, the positive prospects for the City were reaffirmed at the Liverpool Property Awards on the 6th June 2019.

The awards highlighted a significant rebirth over the last 5 years and it’s no surprise that Liverpool currently has 1.4 billion worth of major construction schemes currently on site.

Liverpool is due to attract a further £1 billion pounds worth of development investment for the 5th consecutive year. For 2019 and 2020, it is due to see new homes, improved leisure facilities, further health and education amenities and a mixture of new industrial and commercial space. Liverpool is ‘in the midst of unprecedented renaissance’ as quoted by Joe Anderson OBE, the Mayor of Liverpool, earlier this year.

Projects such as Liverpool Waters (Winner, Developer of the Year) have truly regenerated one of Liverpool’s most iconic areas.

Lindsay Bromby, Operations Director at Redwing, commented: “Liverpool has always been a forward-thinking city and the level of regeneration that’s both ongoing and planned is immense.  Liverpool Waters builds on the city’s history of iconic, ground-breaking buildings and brings some fantastic mixed-use projects to the waterfront.  We’re proud to be a part of the residential aspect of the project with Plaza 1821, and it’s so exciting to see the wide range of other commercial and residential plans.”

The overall connectivity of the City has previously been a concern but projects such as The Liverpool Lime street (ISG , Ion Development) (Shortlisted) and £47m Liverpool City Centre Connectivity Scheme will look to improve these barriers which will link the City more efficiently.

The project, Mere Grange, St Helens (Network Space, Homes England, St Helens Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Regional Authority) who won Commercial Development of the Year at the Liverpool Property Awards, is currently attracting new business into the area and creating new jobs.

Anna Duffy, head of property at DTM Legal comments: “The city has seen an abundance of transformation over the last 20 years. Liverpool is such a forward thinking city, and has demonstrated its ability to truly create positive change focussing on retaining its talent. The development projects highlighted during the Liverpool Property Awards looks to encourage this movement.”

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Fri 14th, Jun

So, let’s get to the point, would your business benefit from:

•           Access to the latest and best IT and tools at predictable, affordable prices?

•           An IT platform that enables you to expand rapidly?

•           Giving your people the ability to stay in touch, access and share documents and work together wherever they are in the world?

•           Avoiding significant capital expenditure on expensive IT infrastructure?

•           The peace of mind that comes from the latest IT and data security provisions?

•           Help and support to achieve all of the above?

The answer, of course, is yes! For SMEs seeking agile, flexible and cost-effective ways to simplify operations, empower employees and generate and manage growth, this is of course a no-brainer.

With more than 100 million users, Microsoft’s comprehensive, cloud-based, suite of products and services has been at the heart of a revolution in the workplaces of businesses around the world. 

The PC Support Group has helped many clients to select the best Office 365 package for their organisation, deploy it correctly and make the most of what it has to offer including financial, productivity, growth and business efficiency gains.

We have produced a FREE guide to download with top tips to help your business grow by making the most of Office 365.  Simply click on the link here to download your guide.

If you’d like to have a chat about Office 365, or IT and telephony support, please email info@pcsupportgroup.com, call our friendly team on 03300 886 116 or leave us a message here and we’ll call you back.

https://www.pcsupportgroup.com/

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Verity Machell, Intern at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 07th, Jun

Introduce yourself

My name is Verity Machell and I am currently interning at the Chamber. I am due to graduate from Liverpool John Moores University in July with a degree in Business Management.

Tell us about your time at the Chamber

Since starting my internship with the Chamber, I have been involved in a range of projects including supporting the Chamber’s Business Policy Committee and drafting the Chamber’s pledge for the Liverpool City Region Year of the Environment.  I was surprised at the diversity of topics with which the Chamber is involved.

I have enjoyed all the projects I have been engaged with, particularly the Policy Committee’s discussions around the current skills gap and Graduate retention across the City Region. As a soon to be Graduate these topics have been very relevant to me and I hope I have contributed constructively to the debate by offering an alternative perspective.

The work I have been doing around the Quarterly Economic Survey has also given me a real insight into current economic and recruitment challenges faced by businesses across the City Region, as well as highlighting key success factors. I feel extremely grateful to have participated in this process and have learnt a lot.

Who or what inspires you?

As cliché as it sounds, I would have to say my Mum. Among many things my mother is hard-working and loving, and balances both effortlessly. I am forever inspired by her work ethic, strength and constant support.  

Where would we find you on your day off?

I would like to say at the Gym but depending on the day it could be the pub.

Why choose Liverpool City Region? 

I love Liverpool. I have had the most incredible time studying in this City and have made friends for life. I am unfortunately moving back down South after my internship, but I have no doubt that I will be back to Liverpool when the opportunity arises. I always tell people “the air is different here; the vibe is different”. For me Liverpool is a City of change, social and economic issues are being recognised and appropriate processes are being implemented to change them. Since being at the Chamber I have become much more familiar with the Combined Authority and the amazing things being done to solve current issues. I understand why Scousers are so proud to be from Liverpool.

What area of business interests you the most?

I am particularly interested in social enterprise and helping local communities whilst generating a profit. My time at the Chamber has been very interesting for me regarding SME start-ups across Liverpool City Region. However, I am still very open to other areas of business, particularly finance, and have not yet decided on the career path that I wish to pursue.

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Fri 24th, May

We’ve all heard the same marketing slogans many times.

Committed to service excellence. Passionate about great service. Service is at the heart of everything we do. Great customer service is our top priority.

It’s admirable of course to aspire to do great things for customers. But the problem is that, all too often, the reality doesn’t match the rhetoric.

Words like excellence and passionate raise our expectations, we’re now looking for something special, something extraordinary. The bar has been well and truly raised.

Sadly, we can all point to examples of really poor service from businesses that make extravagant claims about their quality of service. And, when this happens, it’s the gulf between the desired state and the reality that we notice most.

In fact, as customers, competent, timely, efficient and friendly service can be enough for us to feel positive about the organisation we have been interacting with. For many of us, displays of passionate, extraordinary service can be a bit unsettling!

At The PC Support Group you won’t be surprised to hear that we too try very hard to deliver a really good quality service for our clients. We’ve spent a lot of time and energy defining what we mean by this, and how best to achieve it. 

Fortunately, we get lots of positive feedback about the service we provide and it’s always a source of pride and motivation for us when it happens. We’ve also won quite a few awards for it, so we must be doing something right!

So, we’d like to share with you some of the things that we have learned about service over the years – and what we do to ensure that our people understand what good service looks like – and help them to spot the right opportunities to go that all important extra mile. If you’re also striving for great customer service then many of these insights can easily be applied to your own business.

As usual, most of this isn’t rocket science, a lot of it is about applying common sense. But you’ll probably agree with us that common sense is actually not so common!

If you would like to download our free guide on “Achieving Service Excellence”, please click here or if you would like a chat about how we can help with your IT support, please call one of our friendly team on 03300 886 116 and we’d  be happy to give you some advice.

www.pcsupportgroup.com

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