With our Annual Dinner Awards 2016 approaching, we look at some of the key reasons you should nominate your business for awards

Posted by Daniel McGinley

Marketing & Events Officer - Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Tue 18th, Oct

In business it's constantly drilled into us to spread the good news that we do, whether it's to increase your image in the community, increase your sales or grow your brand, we all know it's essential. And yet, so many of us fail to capitalise on the biggest opportunity to spread our news and boast about the work we're doing - nominating our business for awards and riding the marketing wave that comes with it.

That's why, ahead of our Annual Dinner Awards 2016, we're going to highlight some of the ways you can benefit from nominating your business so that you don't miss out on the massive marketing opportunities awaiting at the end of the calendar year.

1. Free Marketing

Now, as mentioned above awards can be a fantastic opportunity for you to market your business, there's the potential to write posts on the back of your nomination, blogs explaining why your year has been fantastic and social media content highlighting the fact you've been nominated. But, not only is there the promotion that (hopefully) you'll do following on from your entry into the awards - there's also the fact the host of the awards will essentially be marketing your business for you, completely free of charge. In the build up to the awards ceremony, you can safely expect, social media activity, blogs, posts and (usually) a business panel of high level individuals examining what makes you great.  

Plus there's the added marketing following on from if you win the award, again this will include pictures, press releases and extensive Social media promotion - all a fantastic way to demonstrate your business has had a fantastic year.

2. It demonstrates to potential customers you've reached a benchmark you're proud of

Not only does entering awards give you an extensive arsenal of marketing activity, there's also the mindset benefit. The fact that entering for the award demonstrates to your potential customers that the service you provide is of the highest quality. Whether or not you win the award you'll still demonstrate by applying that you're proud of the quality you're bringing. To jump on this your marketing message needs to be a simple one of 'Take a look at how great our year has been'. 

3. Internal communication/mindset

While you're boasting about the fantastic work you've done it won't go unnoticed that your staff have played a big part of that success. Taking advantage of this for your internal communications will 100% go a long way in terms of happiness, pride and mindset going into the New Year for your staff. The message with this should be thanking staff for the part they've played and how the next year can be bigger and better. 

4. Increased creditability in the business community

(Hopefully) you know how fantastic your company is, what better way to show everyone that you're right then by having an award that proves it? Potential customers will see the fact you've won the award as a mark of your quality and in turn will give you the edge over competitors. Even if you don't win, demonstrating you were shortlisted will go along way in terms of showing that you're credible. 

5. The chance to enjoy an evening of celebration for the year you've had

With most awards there's usually an awards ceremony, an awards ceremony means one thing - a chance to let your hair down and reflect on the year you've had. Social media activity during an awards ceremony can help to demonstrate that again, you're proud of the year you've had. Regardless of whether or not you win, you can usually expect a fantastic evening with an insight and outcome of where you can expand on the year you've had.

Hopefully our five tips have given you a useful insight into how you can maximise your marketing for awards nominations, if you feel inspired to shout about your year, on the 1st December we're holding our Annual Dinner 2016 where we'll be celebrating the best of Liverpool business. If you're looking to nominate your business because you've had a year worth shouting about you can find out more information below.

Best of luck!

Nominate your business now for our Annual Dinner Awards 2016

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British Chambers of Commerce Podcast

Posted by British Chambers of Commerce

Thu 08th, Sep
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Posted by Jenny Esau

Managing Director of Credit Management Group UK

Mon 22nd, Aug

You’ve heard the phrase ‘Cash is King’ in business; however I have come across many businesses that put a lot of emphasis on sales, bringing in lots of new customers (which is great), but whilst doing this, credit management processes fall by the wayside, therefore they are carrying out lots of work but aren’t getting paid for a great deal of it.

Having effective credit management processes in place can do great things for your cash flow, as well as your relationship with the customer, due to the fact you will have regular contact with them, rather than frantically pushing for payment every few months because cash flow is tight.

Credit Checking

Credit checking prospective customers will highlight your customer’s ability to pay at that particular moment in time; you will be able to find any red flags against working with a customer, or you could indeed find a positive result that spurs you on in carrying out work. As this is only a snapshot of their current financial position, regular monitoring can also be an effective tool for continued work with a particular customer.

Refine your soft skills

Confidence is the key to the success of chasing for invoices. Credit control can be a nerve-wracking; I’ve often been told that credit control tasks are delayed constantly because the task of phoning a customer to ask for payment is daunting. Having the confidence to negotiate with a customer, handle difficult situations and understand the ins and outs of their accounts is essential to a good credit controller; much of the time, gaining this confidence is simply a case of thoroughly preparing for the call and being aware of the ideal outcome your business needs from the call.

Have strict procedures in place

Analysing your order to cash process is an effective way to identify any issues early on that could have a knock-on-effect later down the line and stop you from getting paid when you should. How the order to cash process works within your business should inform your credit management process. Don’t be mistaken in thinking a credit management process is just chasing invoices, credit management should run through the entire relationship with a customer, from the order (initial agreements, T&Cs, offer and acceptance), to producing,  delivering and invoicing (disputed invoice management) and finally, if all has gone according to the process, getting paid.

Know what the next steps should be

If all efforts have been exhausted to chase payment from a customer, with no success, you may want to consider taking legal action. I say all efforts exhausted as this is exactly what you should do before beginning any claim for money, the courts do not look kindly on those that haven’t followed pre-action protocols, and you could run the risk of your claim being struck out or being fined in costs even if you are successful in court. Aside from this, you should also assess your customers’ ability to pay you, should you receive judgement, there is no point in throwing good money after bad if your judgement cannot be enforced due to debtor not having any assets.

Understand the impact of insolvency on you, as a creditor

Although the rate of insolvency is slowly decreasing, your business still runs the risk that a customer could become insolvent whilst you are still trading with them. This is one aspect in which ongoing monitoring through a credit report agency is vital, as this could indicate trouble on the horizon for a customer.  Whist this information is very useful, it cannot guarantee it will predict a future insolvency.  If you do receive any adverse indicators, it will give you the opportunity to reduce your potential loss before your customer becomes insolvent.

These steps amongst countless others, can significantly improve your business’ cash flow if they are carried out in the correct way. Credit Management Group UK offer a number of credit management training courses that can provide you with the knowledge, procedures and confidence to have an effective credit management department within your business. Take a look today to see how it could help to improve your business. 

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Posted by Microsoft Cloud Computing

Thu 11th, Aug

It's hard to have any discussion about IT these days without the cloud cropping up at some point. A few years ago, this technology was still an emerging solution limited to ambitious early adopters, but in 2015, it has become a mainstream solution that is impossible to ignore.

Indeed, figures from the Cloud Industry Forum reveal 84 per cent of businesses in the UK now deploy at least one cloud technology, whether this is software, infrastructure or any other IT solution. With almost four-fifths of firms using two or more tools, it's clear that the cloud is here to stay.

But many small and medium-sized businesses - particularly those without a large IT department - may still be uncertain about what the cloud offers, or how it could benefit their operations. So understanding what the advantages of this approach are will be vital if businesses are to make it work for them.

With this in mind, here are three key benefits of the cloud that all small firms should be aware of.

1. Cut your costs

Because cloud service are delivered via the internet, it means businesses will not have to invest in the same level of hardware, such as servers and data storage solutions, that they would need if they were to run their entire operations through traditional methods. However, this reduced capital expenditure is not the only way a well-managed cloud service can have a positive impact on a company's expenses.

For instance, software-as-a-service solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 are provided on a monthly basis, so there is no upfront cost. And with the tools these solutions can provide all under one subscription, businesses can make a wide range of savings on everything from reduced third-party software to travel costs.

The results of this can be significant. A study by Forrester Research, for instance, found that a midsize business can expect to see a return on investment of over 320 per cent for Office 365, with results being seen in as little as two months.

2. Work anywhere, anytime

Another key trend that is transforming the way companies do business is the rise of mobility. In the past few years, more powerful smartphones and tablets have given users all the capabilities of a PC in the palm of their hand, so it is natural employees will want to take advantage of this to work whenever and wherever they want.

If companies are still relying on traditional, on-premise solutions, enabling mobile working can be a major headache. They will have to set up solutions to securely deliver applications and data to mobile devices and spend time and resources ensuring that they are able to be used properly on a range of gadgets.

Cloud tools can eliminate many of these issues. With applications delivered via this method, all a user needs to be productive is a reliable internet connection. Plus, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions such as Office 365 have been tailored specifically to work on all major operating systems - including Windows Phone, iOS and Android - so small and medium-sized firms will not have to worry about any compatibility issues.

3. Grow with your business

For many firms with on-premise systems, the expense and time needed to upgrade servers and other hardware as they grow may be one of the biggest barriers that prevents them from reaching their full potential.

However, the cloud promises to avoid many of this issues, thanks to its flexibility and easy scalability. For instance, if a business wishes to increase its headcount, it will be very straightforward to add new users to a cloud SaaS solution - whereas obtaining licenses for on-premise alternatives may be more difficult.

Similarly, adding computing resources to cope with a growing business or a short-term spike in traffic is also made simple with the cloud, while flexible solutions enable businesses to select only the functionality they require and avoid wasting money on tools or capacity they do not need.

 

Find out how cloud solutions such as Office 365 can revolutionise the way you do business.

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Posted by Paul Corcoran

Managing Director - Agent Marketing

Fri 29th, Jul

At long last, the working world is waking up to a simple truth: happy and healthy teams consistently produce brilliant work. To many people, this may seem obvious, but it’s staggering how many employers are yet to realise that an overwhelmingly positive workplace culture is the foundation of a strong and profitable business.

After being named ‘Leader of the Year’ at the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, I’ve been approached by many business owners and journalists asking how I manage to fill the team’s calendar up with yoga, meditation, massages and early finishes, yet still deliver great work on time.

Asking this question is, arguably, missing the point: it’s precisely because of Agent’s wellbeing initiatives that we’re able to maintain the focus, energy and sense of team spirit that underpins all the work we do. Staying sharp and focused allows people to use their time effectively, and stay highly productive throughout the day.

So, without further ado, here’s some tips on how to foster an outstanding workplace culture.

1.  Make your space somewhere that feels good. Only in an energetic, varied and positive environment can people feel relaxed enough to come up with fresh ideas that delight clients and change the world.

2.  Share your resources, and your space. An open-door policy turns your office into a destination, somewhere colleagues and clients actively want to spend time. It also encourages co-working and cross-pollination of talents, ideas and ways of thinking.

3.   Help your team stay healthy! At Agent we have a bike fleet that everyone is welcome to use, resulting in half of the team cycling in every day and arriving fit, fresh, and ready to work. We’re proud to support The 20 Effect’s mission to get more people walking and cycling.

4.   Wellbeing is the way forward. At Agent we have daily meditation sessions, weekly yoga sessions and monthly massages. This keeps everyone feeling positive and healthy, which keeps Agent’s rate of absenteeism at zero, and contributes to our remarkably low staff turnover rate. We’re proud to have been accredited by health@work for following their pioneering Workplace Wellbeing Charter.

5.   Recognise that your community needs you, and you need your community. What goes around comes around, and the more you voluntarily offer up your services to great local causes, the better you’ll feel about the work you do and the more your community will respect you. At Agent we regularly carry out pro-bono work, and many of the team are board members of local social enterprises and charities.

These are just some of the ways that you can create the conditions for an outstanding workplace culture. You could also consider bringing in a dog… Leo, our dedicated poodle and Head of Security, does a superb job of keeping the atmosphere lively and making sure each and every visitor gets a warm (and loud) welcome.

And remember: if you want to pop in to Agent and hear more, or come and work from our office for a day, you’re more than welcome. Our door is always open.

 

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Helping businesses achieve their potential is at the heart of what we do. Last week, Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce flagship IFB event facilitated over 300 1-2-1 meetings between British businesses and overseas representatives.

Posted by Andy Snell

Head of International Trade & Commercial Services

Wed 22nd, Jun

Andy Snell, Director of Commercial Services reflects on the Chamber’s involvement in the International Festival for Business 2016 last Thursday.

With Euro 2016 well underway, it seems fitting to judge the success of last week’s Meet Your Global Business Network conference by one key statistic.

2014 1-to-1 meetings - 280

2016 1-to-1 meetings - 340

Helping British businesses achieve their potential is at the heart of what Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce do. Last Thursday was about putting ambitious British SME’s in front of people who can not only help them expand into new international markets, but how to be successful in doing so. Judging from the figures above, we delivered.

On the day, we were joined by some fantastic speakers who covered a diverse range of topics that will shape the global marketplace in years to come. John Carroll of International Chambers of Commerce & Santander began by stating the importance of international trade to the global economy, emphasising the role it plays in jobs, growth and investment. This was followed by Greg Clarke CBE who discussed how major cities have shaped our world and how they will continue to play an ever more important role in global connectivity. Our final keynote was given by Stephen Phillips, CEO of China Britain Business Council. Stephen spoke about the largest and most ambitious infrastructural project in the world and one that presents vast opportunities for companies and will impact global trade exponentially; China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Acting Director General of British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall commented: “Businesses attending the BCC’s ‘Meet Your Global Business Network’ event at the IFB had the chance to hear from knowledgeable trade experts, representing Chambers from every continent.

“From an overview of opportunities available with the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative in China, to detailed discussions on how to find partners in countries such as Thailand and Chile, there was a wealth of information given to delegates.

“The 1-2-1 meetings between businesses and Chambers were just a taster of the reliable and agile support available to businesses through the BCC’s Global Business Network of Chambers.”

Having overseas connections is fundamental to any business with global aspirations. That is why we are very proud to have had the support of likeminded and internationally focused organisations such as DLA Piper, Santander, Turkish Airlines & Warrant Group. With their help, last week’s conference helped lay the foundations for hundreds of British businesses to go global and achieve their international potential by engaging with overseas Chambers of Commerce.

In 2014 the Chamber helped over 120 businesses involved in the conference go on to receive European Regional Development Fund grants (ERDF), an important source of financial support that helps businesses take part in overseas trade missions. Getting feet on the ground is one of the most important actions a business can take when deciding whether or not a particular market is right for them. We hope that even more delegates from 2016 will go on to receive this funding and look forward to updating you further in the weeks to come.

Chambers of Commerce from around the UK act as the go to places for ambitious British businesses interested in growth. As part of the Global Business Network, Liverpool & Sefton Chambers are part of a connected, agile and responsive group of over 40 international Chambers and business organisations who share one common purpose – helping UK SME’s achieve their potential. Whilst our conference has been and gone, Liverpool Chamber works daily, helping ambitious British businesses achieve their exporting ambitious. From Chile to China, Jeddah to Johannesburg, Liverpool Chamber’s Global Business Network is here to make trading internationally work for you.

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Posted by Amanda Dodd

Founder and Creative Director of Koogar Limited

Mon 20th, Jun

I recently delivered a Tech Tuesday session for Liverpool Chamber in the International room where Business Owners and Marketing Managers attended to find out what Blogging was all about.

The session I ran started with a discussion based on WHERE your blog fits within your marketing strategy. We then moved on to WHO will be reading your blog. After the audience discovered two sources would be reading the blog we looked at Content vs Context and talking about writing content for no good reason won’t get you the results you are after.

The main reason people leave your company (in fact 68%) is because they believe that you don’t care about them! So what VALUE do you give them and how can you make them FEEL like you do care?

Think about the last customer who left your company. Did they tell you or did they just go? What could you have done to stop that from happening and how can you put that in place now?

I’m not saying blogging would have prevented them but by using this marketing method effectively you would be able to answer questions they may have as well as challenges and struggles and within a nurturing process been able to keep them on board.

Here are the slides from the Blogging Session - https://www.slideshare.net/secret/KUcgd5WDjNXJnLv

I have 3 questions for you to answer about blogging:

1. WHY are you blogging? What is the reason for you to spend 20 minutes to an hour to write content?
 

2. What are your blogging GOALS? What do you want to get out of blogging?
 

3. WHO are you writing for and what do they perceive as valuable?

There is a lot more than can be covered within this subject like, tools and software to use, Plug-ins, S.E.O (Search Engine Optimisation) tips and Keyword analysis… But before you get to the nitty gritty of it all, you must first answer the 3 questions above and I guarantee you WILL be writing differently!

Need a little help?

Email Amanda at info@koogar.co.uk with the subject line “#BlogUnearthing” to book a FREE 20 “Unearthing” Session where you can chat with Amanda about your blog and how you can make it a more effective marketing pillar.

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Posted by Jenny Stewart

Chief Executive of Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 03rd, Jun

The upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is one of the most dominate features of the UK political landscape this year.

As a Chamber, we have adopted a neutral stance in the debate however the below information sheets may be of interest to you in the coming weeks.

 

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Posted by Ed Gommon

Liverpool Community Renewables Limited

Thu 02nd, Jun

In December a historic new global climate agreement was agreed at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. The Paris Agreement is certainly to be welcomed but it will not stop climate change on its own. The beginning of a long process, it is definitely a step forward, empowering civil society groups and citizens to hold their elected representatives to account and push their local authorities to do more to transition away from fossil fuels and reduce green-house gas emissions.

The net zero carbon emissions goal is now mainstream global policy, which will filter down to the nations and regions. It’s now a question of when and how, not if, we get there and the likelihood is, as a city in a developed nation, it’s going to have to be before 2050.

All partners, including the business sector will need to play a key role if we are to achieve that target. At the recent Liverpool & Sefton Chamber’s Green Lunch it was heartening to hear how both Jaguar Land Rover and Unilever are supporting renewables on site. We need more organisations, both public and private sector, to be engaged. For example, facilitating and supporting the development of renewable energy. At one level, this might be buying renewable energy that has been generated locally, or on another level it could be allowing community energy companies to use their land or roofs to site renewable energy systems, for example solar panels.

Crucially we also need more innovative partnerships. The recently improved Blackfriars station in London has the world’s largest solar bridge. It has over 400 photovoltaic panels, enough to cover 23 tennis courts, crown the roof and provide up to 50 per cent of the station's energy, enough to make almost 80,000 cups of tea a day. They will reduce the station's CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes per year, equivalent to around 89,000 average car journeys.

Very few buildings have expanses of roof like our stations do, and they are often perfect for installing solar panels – so why can’t all our stations use their roofs in this way?

The bottom line for the UK and us here in the Liverpool city region is that this is a big, game changing deal and in my view we need to grasp the nettle and take control of our own zero carbon destiny and set our own target and timeline. Why shouldn’t we create our own roadmap of how we become a zero carbon city region by 2040!

Ed Gommon, Director

Liverpool Community Renewables Limited

http://lcr.coop/

@LcrCoop

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Jonathan is Managing Director of Aqueous Digital based in Runcorn.

Posted by Jonathan Guy

Aqueous Digital

Thu 02nd, Jun

Getting your website noticed these days is a pretty hard task. This is particularly true if you are a small business in a competitive sector and more especially if you need to rank in a city like Liverpool.

Why?

Well, Liverpool is a magnet for businesses all over the country. Not only are they trying to rank their websites for their local area but they also want to come up in searches specifically for Liverpool.

When you look at the figures, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

As the seventh biggest city in the UK and with a population of around half a million people this is a market which no business would want to ignore. Just try searching for a local tradesman in Liverpool and more often than not you will find aggregators such as Yell, Checkatrade, Freeindex, Gumtree and the like crowding out the websites of genuine local businesses.

The question I get asked more often than not is “how can I compete against these ‘big’ websites when I’m just a small local business?”

The answer is actually simpler than you think and the fact that you are a ‘small local business’ gives you a distinct advantage against the larger players.

We covered the basics in the Tech Tuesday talk on 22nd March (slides are available here) but the summary is as follows.

  • Make sure that your website has been built with users in mind. Can they find what they are looking for easily? Is it clear what you do? Can they contact you from every page?
  • Ensure that each page talks about just one thing. If you want to be found for Central Heating repairs make sure you have a page that is built exclusively for that. Don’t hide it away on a page that talks generally about plumbing.
  • Optimise the page for the search engines as well as customers. This means writing a relevant title, heading and description and making each page different.
  • Write good content. If you can’t do this then outsource it as this is critical. Good content should sell the benefits of using you at the start then tell people about the service they can expect. A good page is one with a lot of information on, not just nice pictures.
  • Make sure you have claimed your Google My Business listing. This puts you on the map locally.

 

The advantage you will have over the bigger businesses, and the secret they don’t want you to know about, is that they are all spreading themselves too thinly.

Google wants to give anyone searching the very best answer to the query they type in. So if you type in ‘boiler repairs Gateacre’ Google wants to give you a choice. As I type this, currently the top five results are all Yell.com. That’s not choice.

What Google is looking for is one really good page from a firm that offers boiler repairs in Gateacre and it would quickly shove most of those Yell entries out of the way. Currently it can’t find an alternative so we are left with no choice at all.

So if you are a Central heating specialist in Gateacre and are looking for more boiler repair work then this is your chance to beat the big boys!

 

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