Posted by Paul Barnes

Partner, Kirwans Solicitors

Thu 02nd, May

A leading solicitor is urging those representing themselves in court to ‘steer clear’ of unqualified legal advisors whose intervention could do more harm than good.

Paul Barnes, Head of Dispute Resolution at Kirwans law firm, said that sweeping legal aid cuts had led many people to try and access ‘law on the cheap’ by turning to unqualified, unregulated and uninsured legal advisers such as McKenzie Friends.

Traditionally providing informal advice, taking notes, and giving support in court, McKenzie Friends don’t need to be legally trained or have any professional legal qualifications.

But some McKenzie Friends now charge a fee for their support, and claim levels of experience and knowledge that they may not actually possess.

The dangers of using such unqualified legal advisers have become clear as a result of cases that have hit the headlines.

Last year an English couple, acting on advice from a McKenzie Friend, brought their child into Ireland in defiance of an interim care order and ended up in court. In another case, a man who had suffered permanent disability after three plastic bags were left inside him during an operation at the Basildon and Thurrock NHS Foundation Trust was able to pursue only part of a claim against the trust after acting on negligent advice given by George Rusz – who described himself as an ‘experienced legal professional’ and his firm Troy Lucas.

As a result, in a key ruling, the High Court found that the duty and standard of care should be determined by that which the unqualified legal advisor assumed – in this case that of an ‘experienced legal professional’, and went on to order Mr Rusz to pay £263,759 to Mr Wright, plus £73,200 costs as a result.

Paul said: “From groceries to energy suppliers, we’re all used to shopping around for a bargain nowadays. But when it comes to the law, there really is no substitute for a qualified legal professional who carries insurance and is regulated by an industry body.

“Those seeking to save money by scrimping on legal advice could find that it ends up costing them dear.”

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Tue 30th, Apr

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 are that passionate about providing excellent customer service that we’ve spent a lot of time and energy defining what we mean by this, and how best to achieve it.  We have mapped out the entire journey that our clients take with us, from the first contact to the last, defining how and what we want to communicate at every stage, and identifying every opportunity to add value and build rapport.  

We call it our Service Excellence Cycle (SEC) and everyone in our organisation is trained and tested on their knowledge of it, because every single one of us has a role to play in delivering it. We see it as a cycle because great customer service doesn’t have a beginning, a middle and an end, it’s a continuum on which every single contact with the client is important.

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!

We have also produced an Achieving Service Excellence guide which you can download for free on the link here.  In addition, if you would like more information about our IT and telephony support you can contact us on 03300 886 116 or send us an email to info@pcsupportgroup.com

www.pcsupportgroup.com

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Tue 16th, Apr

According to the latest EU figures, more than 40% of UK businesses are now using cloud computing services – with more than 70% using the cloud for email, file storage and office-related software.

So, it’s here to stay – and for many businesses it’s delivering great results and benefits. But is it right for your business? To help you make that decision, let’s try and nail down the facts and the main advantages and disadvantages. First of all, let’s just define what we mean by cloud computing.

In a nutshell, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services – servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence, telephony and more – over the Internet (the cloud).

Advantages

Cost: No need for ongoing expenditure on hardware, software, onsite dedicated server rooms, or on associated running costs. Typically, you pay a fixed fee for what you use

Productivity:  Your staff can access systems instantly from anywhere, making remote, flexible and collaborative working possible, as long as they have an internet connection, leading to an increase in overall productivity

Performance: Whether you’re growing or consolidating, cloud services enable you to be more dynamic because they are constantly updated, giving your employees the latest tools, technology, and protection, with the option to expand or reduce your computing requirements as required

Business continuity: Reputable cloud providers have exceptionally robust systems and processes which ensure a high level of uptime which leads to improved business continuity.  Also, as cloud systems are not located at your business premises, and can be accessed from various locations, they can play a positive contribution to your business continuity plans

Disadvantages

Downtime: With cloud computing systems only being accessible via the internet, any internet service outages will lead to downtime, potentially interrupting your ability to do business until the connection is restored

Security: Moving to the cloud means that your security – and that of your customers – is only as good as the security arrangements of your cloud service provider

Data compliance:  GDPR regulations, as well as specific industry regulations, may mean that not all cloud service providers are appropriate. Always check where the data is stored and what data compliance commitments the provider gives to ensure you don’t breach regulations

Dependency: Outsourcing to the cloud can result in a dangerous dependency on third parties and loss of internal expertise. As a result, selecting your provider and considering your failover position is business critical

Hidden costs: Moving from one cloud platform to another can be difficult and potentially expensive, so, again, comprehensive due diligence is vital.

Of course, every business is different and the cloud isn’t right for everyone.  It could be that using the cloud for some of your computing services, but not all, is what is best for your business.  This is where the knowledge and advice from your IT provider is vital, especially because as your business develops, your needs will change. 

 

At The PC Support Group we are big advocates of Office 365 and everything that comes with it, but there are other alternatives that may be better suited to your needs. So, if you have never used the cloud previously or would just appreciate a friendly chat about the best options for your business right now leave us a message here and we'll contact you back, call us on 03300 886 116 or you can email us on info@pcsupportgroup.com

www.pcsupportgroup.com

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Posted by Rob Allen

Managing Director, Commercial & Business Banking

Tue 16th, Apr

In February a new initiative launched with the aim of driving more choice for business banking customers, although it might sound a little strange.

It involves a bank asking some of its business customers to consider moving to another provider. And it says that customers who switch will enjoy offers that are better than what’s normally available on the market.

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


Whether you are interested in banking sector reforms, or eligible to take advantage of the scheme, it’s important to understand why it’s happening, and what makes customers eligible to participate.   

It’s part of Business Banking Switch - a scheme designed to 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.

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 unusual step of providing £350 million to help a number of competitor banks to create bespoke offers that incentivise some of its SME customers to switch their accounts.

Eligibility

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.

All eligible customers have been notified about the scheme.

What Banks can customers switch to?

Choosing the right bank is an important decision for any business. 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.

There are currently nine banks who have offers available to customers:

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

Comparing offers
Eligible customers can use dedicated websites to view and compare the offers available to them from each participating bank. They can then decide if they would like to switch their account(s) as part of the scheme and benefit from the exclusive offers that are 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

Fri 29th, Mar

There’s good news and bad news in the cybersecurity giant Symantec’s most recent report on internet threats. And it confirms a pattern that I’ve been increasingly concerned about in recent months, so much so that I wanted to share some important advice and guidance with you.

The good news is that, for the first time since 2013, the overall number of ransomware attacks is in decline. The bad news is that the volume of attacks on consumers is falling because attacks on businesses are rising, up 12% in 2018. Businesses are now the victims of more than 80% of all successful ransomware infections, with bogus emails the cybercriminals’ weapon of choice. 

And ransomware is very bad news indeed, blocking users from accessing their computers or files until they pay a ransom to cybercriminals. It’s all too easy where you or I could simply open an email attachment and innocently allow a crypto virus into our network regardless of whether you have anti-virus protection or not. The reason why anti-virus protection is not always enough is complex, but the bottom line is that the criminals can be a step ahead, spreading far and fast before the anti-virus protections have caught up.  The costs of recovery can be huge - and potentially fatal, especially for SMEs for whom the loss of data and interruption to customer service, for even a few hours, would have catastrophic results. So, first and foremost, think of backup solutions as an insurance policy.  In a nutshell, it’s vital that all of your valuable data is backed up in a safe and secure location, out of the reach of even the most determined thieves.

Symantec’s report reveals that a key reason that attacks on consumers is declining is because consumers are increasingly using mobile devices with their essential data backed up in the cloud.

And this highlights a key vulnerability for many businesses. Onsite backup can be just as vulnerable to the same infection as live systems. This is because once criminals have access to your onsite network they may also get access to your onsite backups. The answer is a secure and managed offsite backup solution.  First, ask yourself these key questions about your data and backup arrangements:

  • Do you know exactly what data you hold – about your customers, your employees, your business, your suppliers, your finances, your products and services?
  • How and where is it stored, and how is it secured?
  • Do you back it up, how, and how often?
  • What would happen if you suddenly lost access to your live data and onsite backups, whether through a ransomware attack, or a flood or fire in your office?
  • How long would it be before this became a serious issue for you – minutes, hours, days?
  • How often do you review your backup arrangements? As your business develops, and therefore your needs change, so will your data backup requirements.  Therefore, it is essential to periodically review your backup solutions.

Another worrying statistic: of 81% of ransomware victims confident that their backup would enable complete recovery, only 42% succeeded! So ACT TODAY and put the right backup arrangements in place, so when the worst does happen recovering your systems and data is possible.

If you'd like a backup review and an informal and confidential chat about your options to ensure you are protected adequately, leave us a message here, call us on 03300 886116 or email info@pcsupportgroup.com  

https://www.pcsupportgroup.com/

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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.

www.pcsupportgroup.com

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