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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What the European Court of Justice ruling on keeping records of all hours worked means for the region’s businesses

Posted by Lindsey Knowles

Partner, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans Solicitors

Thu 23rd, May

A new ruling obliging all employers - regardless of size - across Europe to ensure that adequate systems are in place to record the exact number of hours worked by employees has been handed down by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The measure is an attempt to enable wronged workers to prove, should they need to, that their rights are being breached and would assist the relevant authorities and national courts to enforce those rights. But with question marks hanging over Brexit, how will such a move affect the region’s businesses?

“There has been a lot of noise around the ruling,” said Lindsey Knowles, Head of Employment Law at Kirwans law firm, “but essentially the decision simply requires employers who, under the EU Working Time Directive should be recording employees’ working hours anyway, to document a greater and more objective level of detail than they have done previously.”

The ruling came about during the case Federacion de Servicios de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) v Deutsche Bank SAE, which was heard by Spain’s high court, the Audiencia Nacional.

Here, Spanish trade union CCOO brought legal action against financial organisation Deutsche Bank SAE. It argued that the businesses should be obliged to have a system in place that records the time worked each day by employees, so that compliance with stipulated working times can be verified. Evidence was produced that over half of overtime hours worked in Spain are not actually recorded.

“The EU Working Time Directive already sets out that workers over 18 can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average unless the worker has opted out in writing, and that employers must keep and maintain records that are ‘adequate’ to demonstrate compliance with that” Lindsey explains.

“However, the ECJ decision appears to impose an even greater obligation, and although employers in the UK are not currently required to record daily and weekly rest breaks and rest periods, the ruling could lead to that being the case in the future,

“The new measure will help employers by reminding them of the importance of keeping detailed data with regards to employee hours worked and breaks and holidays taken, and will also give them the chance to demonstrate the efforts they’re taking to ensure a healthy work/life balance for employees by complying with both EU and UK law.

Lindsey explained that the legislation is likely to stand whether or not the UK eventually leaves the EU.

“Employers have quite rightly been concerned about how they’ll be affected by the changes post-Brexit, and although EU member states have to determine specific arrangements for the implementation of such systems themselves, the current government has signalled its intention to restate all EU employment rights into UK law following our potential departure from the EU,” she said.

Refuting the suggestion that the ruling could mean the return to a punch clock, Lindsey said: “The requirement to record workers’ start, finish and break times does not necessarily mean the return to a punch clock. There can still be flexibility, as smart phones and apps can document working hours, and the ECJ did not specifically state that, for example, an email sent from home has to be recorded as work. We in the UK can decide the specifics – whether we remain in the EU or not.”

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Posted by Barry White

Chief Executive, Transport for the North

Thu 16th, May

As the Prime Minister recognises the important work of Transport for the North and reversing decades of underinvestment, we kick-start of series of insights from across the North. Transport for the North’s Chief Executive Barry White explains why the cases we make for investment are about much more than transport.

When we set out to create a credible blueprint for investment in the North (in the form of our Strategic Transport Plan) we were acutely aware that transport isn’t the end in itself, it’s a means to an end. The goal: to use transport to create a thriving economy for the North, with more opportunities that are easier to access.

It’s why you’ll often hear our team say the Plan isn’t about transport, but about economy, prosperity and quality of life. We firmly believe that more investment, delivered in a coordinated way, can underpin a shift in the experience of living and doing business in the North.

So, when is a transport plan, not just a transport plan?

I want to give a taste of why it’s about much more than transport – and why you should care…

1. A northern workforce with more opportunity

If you’re a business in the North, poor connectivity can have a detrimental impact on your ability to attract a skilled workforce. Likewise, as a Northerner looking to further your career, you can face the prospect of having to move away from your family to get the job of dreams within a commutable distance.

It’s this current construct of transport as a barrier that we need to address. The journey from Leeds to Newcastle is just one of many such examples. As a business owner in the North East, you’re less likely to be able to attract workers from Leeds.

However, you could well attract employees from Leeds if that journey takes less than an hour, which it could with Northern Powerhouse Rail. Suddenly more people would consider applying for a job because the commute between Leeds and Newcastle is more doable on a daily basis – and vice versa.

The train journey between Liverpool and Newcastle currently takes over three hours, and so is not really seen a realistic to do in one day without either an early start or a late finish. Northern Powerhouse Rail will bring this down to less than two hours – this is the type of journey time that people usually see as reasonable to go there and back in a day and still have free time at either end. So instead of losing a day or being put off attending a meeting by the thought of losing a day travelling, employees are less tired, more likely to pursue opportunities, and still have time for leisure activities when they get home from the opposite coast, thus improving health and wellbeing.

Equally if you’re looking for work, historically pursuing new opportunities would mean needing to move, either because journey times were too long to justify staying in your current home, or because the frequency (or infrequency) of services didn’t work for your working hours or commitments like childcare.

The proposed improvements that will be delivered through our Investment Programme and through programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, will mean that transport is no longer a barrier but enables, supports and promotes people accessing new opportunities.

The frequency of rail services between Leeds and Manchester through Northern Powerhouse Rail for example, will increase to a train every 10 minutes, and a journey time of less than half an hour. So, if you work in Leeds and live in Greater Manchester, you no longer need to worry about getting home in time for school pick-up if you miss a train, or getting back in a rush if you’re needed at home during the day.

If businesses can attract a wider pool of skilled workers, and people have access to the opportunities they want and deserve in the North, our economy benefits. No longer will we lose talented individuals and businesses to London or the South East. People will be able to be born, educated and work in the North with access to the same opportunities as people elsewhere in the country.

2. Supporting trade, growth and collaboration

Poor connectivity can also limit a businesses ability to trade and grow. The freight rail network in the North is a good example. East-West connectivity for rail freight is severely limited because of the current constraints of the network. Because of the old Victorian rail tunnels and train lines that are mostly made up of only two tracks, freight arriving at a port on the east coast must go up to Scotland or down to the Midlands before it can go west, which increases travel time and costs, making rail freight less efficient and more expensive for businesses.

Projects outlined in our Investment Programme will improve the ability and capacity of East-West freight connectivity, making it easier, efficient and less expensive for Northern-based businesses to move goods and trade internationally. This will attract new businesses to the North, which will provide more opportunities for the people that live here.

Improving rail freight will also encourage businesses to move goods by rail, reducing the number of large lorries from our roads. This will improve congestion on some of the North’s busiest roads and improve air quality.

Our Strategic Development Corridors identify where greater collaboration between areas can have positive impacts for smaller businesses too. In Sheffield City Region, major international firms such as Rolls Royce, Boeing and McLaren have set up facilities in the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District. In East Lancashire and the Aire Valley, there has been a renaissance in small advanced manufacturing firms that can provide components for these large companies.

Yet trying to get from these areas to Sheffield either by road or rail at the moment is unreliable at best and sometimes really difficult. Why shouldn’t a small business or entrepreneur in Rawtenstall be able to supply parts to Rolls Royce? By improving major road and rail connections in our Central Pennines and West Coast to Sheffield City Region corridors, we think that they could.

3. Better connections to the great places of the North

We all know that the North is a great place to live and work – it’s this greatness that attracts visitors in their millions. They come for our great historical assets such as Carlisle and York as well as our stunning natural assets too – our craggy coastlines, National Parks and our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But these great places need better connections. Currently, getting around the North (in a way that leaves time for sight-seeing at the end of a day) can be a challenge.

The North shouldn’t be a day trip from London. With increased connections – through better investment – we can extend the length of stay, and therefore the spend, of visitors. Within a week, visitors could stand on the waterfront at Liverpool and marvel at the Three Graces, take a paddle cruiser on Lake Windermere, see the sunrise or sunset over the golden beaches of Northumberland and immerse themselves in the culture of the City of Hull.

Our Integrated and Smart Travel programme will help with this, making it easier for everyone to move around the North on public transport, with a simple way to pay backed up by a promise that they’ll get the fairest price for their journey. And programmes such as Northern Powerhouse Rail will help make getting from our airports to a range of world-class destinations faster and more convenient.

More than transport …

Access to work; exporting goods; attracting visitors – just some of the ways in which a transport plan isn’t really about transport. It’s about the economy, housing, health, happiness, experience, and, more than anything, opportunity.

It’s about giving every young person, both now and in the future, access to opportunity, with transport as an enabler not a barrier.

Join us over the coming weeks to find out more about the role of transport, and how transport could help unlock opportunity across the North.

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Posted by Mashbo

Thu 09th, May

AI or artificial intelligence is far from a futuristic idea looming on the horizon, yet few organisations are truly leveraging the opportunities the technology can offer for business growth.

When asked, in a recent survey undertaken by the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership (LEP) , if AI was used in their workplace, 24% of respondents said they didn’t know, while a further 35% said no. However, this is perhaps down to the lack of understanding of the various forms of AI.

Basic AI is in fact present in most workplaces, through automated emails, sales campaigns and social media scheduling tools. Process automation and rule-based systems can be created to address specific business issues, but many organisations are not harnessing the power of this because their approach to digital strategy is wrong.

What’s Your Problem?

“We need to do something with [INSERT NEWEST, SHINIEST TECH HERE]...” - that’s the most common brief we hear from clients and prospects nowadays. A request to do something - anything - with the latest, headline-grabbing technology. Our response is always the same - “What’s your problem?”

You see, the key to harnessing the power of tech and its transformational effects is understanding the organisational problem or challenge you are trying to address. In a world of connected living and technology that evolves rapidly, on a seemingly daily basis, it’s never been more important to avoid getting caught up in the hype and jumping on the bandwagon.

When looking at what technology can do for your business, you shouldn’t be starting from what type of technology to use. You should be starting with the problem. From that, with the knowledge of the business or sector from your team and the expertise and guidance of software development consultants like the team at Mashbo, you can work out how to respond. Identify the most impactful and cost-effective tech solution.

To learn more about how AI and Automation could transform your business, download Mashbo’s latest FREE report at www.mashbo.com/whats-your-problem/

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Posted by The PC Support Group

Wed 08th, May

Most business owners and managers are now aware that taking appropriate cybersecurity precautions is as important as paying the VAT on time. Those organisations that still don’t get it are issuing an open invitation to the fraudsters and criminals to make their lives a misery!
 
But did you know that, for a relatively modest investment, you can put in place some very effective, common-sense cybersecurity measures AND open up a world of new business opportunities in the process? “Great, how do I do that”, I hear you say!
 
Well, we’re a big fan of the government-backed, industry-supported Cyber Essentials accreditation scheme, because it can help your business in so many ways:

  • It’s a simple and effective way to ensure that you have essential security processes and measures in place to help protect your business from attacks
  • It gives you a clear picture of your current cybersecurity status, and a roadmap to add additional security systems and processes when required
  • Certification means that you will be recognised as having achieved a respected cybersecurity quality standard
  • It puts you in a position to go for the full Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation which pre-qualifies you to bid for many central government and public sector contracts, that would otherwise not be available to you
  • It’s a valuable, public symbol of your commitment to cybersecurity and data protection, that you can use with pride in sales and marketing communications to your existing customers, sales prospects and other stakeholders, adding weight and value to your offer.

In a recent report by CyberGuard, part of the OGL Group, 84% of accredited companies surveyed said that Cyber Essentials had “helped their business to win contracts”, with other respondents highlighting “the importance of the certification in reassuring their customers”.

So, if you don’t currently have Cyber Essentials certification then I would urge you to seriously consider it. Your existing IT support provider should be able to help and advise you on this (hopefully they have already) although it will need to be led by an internal advocate who is familiar with other areas of the business as well as technology.
 
The PC Support Group is a Cyber Essentials-certified business ourselves and work with senior managers responsible for achieving certification within our client base, providing a wide range of practical information, advice, and guidance, to help them with their Cyber Essentials programme and to complete their submission.
 
If you’d like to discuss your IT support requirements and how we can assist you to become part of the Cyber Essentials community, boosting your security and sales potential - call us on 03300 886116, leave us a message here or email info@pcsupportgroup.com  and, in the first instance, mention Cyber Essentials.
 
www.pcsupportgroup.com

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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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5 minutes with...

Fri 07th, Jun

Verity Machell, Intern at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce

How a recent ECJ decision could affect region's businesses

Thu 23rd, May

What the European Court of Justice ruling on keeping records of all hours worked means for the region’s businesses