A new course will be run for the first time in Staffordshire to help businesses get the low down on home working. Is “working from home” just an opportunity for staff to shirk their responsibilities or an opportunity that can bring increased productivity to business?

Claire Nicoll, from Work Best Ltd, has created the course which will help delegates consider all aspects of home working, from how to avoid isolation to fulfilling legal obligations. Claire recognizes that it may not suit everyone but argues that there are many benefits to home working that remain unrealised if businesses avoid looking at it carefully and holistically.

Home working advantages include increased flexibility, staff retention, increased productivity, and a reduced carbon footprint. Commuting time can be unproductive for people and car travel releases carbon emissions into the environment, especially at peak travel times. But Staffordshire is largely a rural county so alternative transport is not always an option, but home working could be for many office based staff.

The course, being run in Newcastle under Lyme on 23rd October at Summit Hospitality will help businesses understand the key factors that make home working work. https://homeworkingforemployers.eventbrite.co.uk or contact claire.nicoll@workbest.co.uk.

A leading Staffordshire expert is reporting high demand for Japanese Knotweed surveys as the invasive plant comes into late Summer bloom.
Rising awareness of the destructive properties of Japanese Knotweed has seen Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd grow its Fenton-based team from three to 10 staff in recent times, with further growth set to take the team up to 15 by 2021.
In just one day this Summer, the Fenton and Barlaston-based experts surveyed or treated 12 sites affected by the plant.
Jason Harker, Managing Director of Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd said “It is not unusual for Japanese knotweed to devalue a property by over £20,000, if it has not been treated professionally. It is so important therefore that a qualified company is involved as soon as the Japanese knotweed is identified to ensure minimal damage is caused to the property and that the valuation is not effected,” said Jason who has 20-years of experience of tackling the invasive plant. “The Government estimates it would cost £1.5bn to clear the UK of knotweed.
“It is important that people learn to identify Japanese Knotweed but equally anyone who discovers it should not think it is a continuous blight on their property. We can provide a solution backed by a 10-year guarantee that will allow homeowners or companies to sell their property.”
Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd covers the whole of the UK from its offices in Stoke-on-Trent.
A recent YouGov survey suggested 32% of British adults, who are aware of Japanese knotweed, were prepared to go ahead and purchase an affected property, but at a reduced price.
The majority of these, (26 per cent) would expect a discount of between 6 – 10 per cent, while 15 per cent would expect to knock off between just 1 – 5 per cent. A further 15 per cent would seek to reduce the price by more than a quarter.
Jason added: “The key factor with these figures is that they are dependent on a professional treatment and eradication plan being in place. Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd was one of the first five companies in the UK to be qualified to have a fully certified Japanese Knotweed surveyor – this is vital to gain a mortgage.”
“You are not under any legal obligations to remove Knotweed from your own property, although professional eradication is strongly advised, but the moment it encroaches upon your neighbour’s land or affects natural wildlife you are breaking the law. This could potentially lead to prosecution, fines, or even imprisonment for up to two years.”
In one recent case, Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd helped leading vehicle hardware company Albert Jagger Ltd to remove the invasive plant so that they could sell a redundant site.
Having identified several strands of Japanese Knotweed on the site in Romsey, Hampshire, treatment was recommended. This began in 2017 and has continued in 2018 and 2019.
The sale of the site has now successfully gone through. Regular inspections of the site are still being carried-out to ensure that there is no further growth of the Japanese Knotweed and to treat any identified new growth.
The visits will continue until the site has been completely free of new Japanese Knotweed growth for three years. It will then be declared as free from invasive weeds and a 10-year company and insurance backed guarantee will be issued to the site owner.
This guarantee means that Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd will revisit the site at any point to treat any new growth within the 10 years following the certificate of removal being issued.
Mark Hilton from Albert Jagger said: “Japanese Knotweed Expert were recommended to us and were professional and efficient from the very start. They were always happy to advise us on the best way to deal with the Japanese Knotweed on our site and the removal they carried out was cost efficient and timely. As a result, we have been able to sell our site with no issues and can now focus on the growth of the company at our other locations. I would be happy to recommend the Japanese Knotweed Expert team.”
Factfile:
• Japanese Knotweed was encouraged by some gardening experts in Victorian times and was used extensively to strengthen railway embankments, due to its incredibly strong root structure.
• Japanese Knotweed can grow up to 10cm per day from May to July. Regeneration can occur from a tiny piece of root material and this is why it has developed a feared presence for landowners.
• Late summer and early autumn are amongst the best times to spot it, as this is when the flowers emerge. They are creamy-white in colour and appear in lengthy cluster/spike formations.
Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd is part of the Planterra group of companies. The Group has demonstrated rapid growth in recent years and currently has more than 33 staff. A major new headquarters development, in Barlaston, is nearing completion.
For further information on Japanese Knotweed Expert Ltd, please go online to https://www.japaneseknotweedexpert.co.uk/.

Tamworth based Augmented Reality specialists Enlighten have taken the top spot in a Midlands wide list of tech innovators.

Enlighten were ranked number one in a prestigious search for the best innovative tech companies launched by Business Cloud magazine.

The tough qualification procedure means only the best innovative companies were considered, First, Enlighten had to be nominated by the judging panel to be part of the long list which was put to a public vote. The list was then ranked on two criteria; number of votes and the judges’ comments, with the top 50 being published.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Managing Director Suzanne Edwards. “The list contains the biggest names in the sector in a wide area including Birmingham, Nottingham and Stoke-on-Trent, so to be ranked number one is a major honour.”

The tough qualification procedure means only the best innovative companies were considered, First, Enlighten had to be nominated by the judging panel to be part of the long list which was put to a public vote. The list was then ranked on two criteria; number of votes and the judges’ comments, with the top 50 being published.

Suzanne added: “It was an achievement just to be nominated by the judges and then to be so highly thought of that enough people voted for us and helped us secure the top spot is a fantastic testimonial for the work we do.”

Based at the Tamworth Enterprise Centre, Enlighten develop Augmented Reality solutions in the corporate business, health and education sectors. Previous work with the Armed Forces has seen Enlighten embed important health messages on Post Traumatic Stress Disorders in posters for the British Armed Forces.

They recently won a major contract to support mental health awareness solutions for 1,200 students at the Regent College Group, London.

“We have a strong track record of developing tech for good and evidence shows our Augmented Reality mental health awareness application has provided effective support and signposted users to seek help,” said Suzanne.

Augmented Reality offers interactive solutions for all business sectors. While Enlighten’s solutions have primarily been pioneered to support mental health campaigns, the technology can be used in offices and factories and at events and exhibitions to bring information to life and to signpost staff and customers to additional material, contact information, websites  and videos.

To find out more about Enlighten, please go online to www.enlighten-ac.uk.

A FUTURE PROOF TOWN CENTRE FOR LEEK
Town centres are changing due to internet shopping, out-of-town stores and new leisure activities. Leek’s historic town centre, with its diverse range of local businesses, independent shops and role as a tourist and leisure destination, still performs well. But our town is coming under increasing pressure from these wider economic and social forces.
In addition rising awareness of climate change underlines the need to plan ahead and follow up with actions to deal with all of these issues in a sustainable way.
Leek Town Council is preparing a Neighbourhood Plan which will bring in legally binding policies and proposals to enable the town to adapt to the changing conditions we will be facing in the years to come.

A DESIGN CODE FOR LEEK TOWN CENTRE
To create a high quality sustainable town centre we are working with consultants AECOM under a government support programme, to produce a design code for Leek town centre. This would be included in the Neighbourhood Plan as design “rules” to make sure physical changes in the town centre are co-ordinated to best effect.
Some themes that have been suggested for the proposed design code are:
• Parking – vehicles and cycles
• Signage for businesses
• Electric vehicle charging points
• Outdoor seating areas
• Pavement displays
• Recycling waste bins
• Street furniture
• Changes to shop fronts
We will present further details of this proposal at the public meeting, so that people can say whether they think they would be beneficial and useful.
WHAT IS A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN?
Neighbourhood plans are produced by local people for their local areas. They are statutory documents which must be taken into account when planning decisions are made affecting businesses, shoppers, residents and visitors.
The Leek Neighbourhood Plan will cover the whole of the Town Council area and will be part of the development plan for Staffordshire Moorlands. A draft Neighbourhood Plan will be published for consultation in 2020. It can only come into force after a majority vote in a local referendum.

WHAT IS A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN?
Neighbourhood plans are produced by local people for their local areas. They are statutory documents which must be taken into account when planning decisions are made affecting businesses, shoppers, residents and visitors.
The Leek Neighbourhood Plan will cover the whole of the Town Council area and will be part of the development plan for Staffordshire Moorlands. A draft Neighbourhood Plan will be published for consultation in 2020. It can only come into force after a majority vote in a local referendum.

Making MC Group sparkle

A fresh approach to branding has made the MC Group’s image sparkle as they expand services and take on new staff.

The Cheadle-based MC Group, formerly known as Moorland Contract Cleaning, turned to locally based design, print, marketing company Graphix as they sought a fresh approach to welcome in a new era.

Graphix worked closely with MC Group Director Suzanne Davy to produce a suite of new logos to represent new company strands; MC Group, MC Janitorial and MC Window Cleaning and freshen up the company’s existing Moorland Contract Cleaning brand image.

Continuing the brand launch and roll-out, the companies are working closely together on a new website and marketing collateral which will better depict the full range of services offered by the MC Group.

“We felt the time was right to rethink how we represent ourselves and celebrate our new services,” explained Suzanne whose business is based at Daisy Bank House Business Centre, Cheadle.

“We admired the clarity of the branding work we’d seen Graphix complete for other clients, such as SAS Water Ltd and spoke to Steve Ward, the MD, about how we presented ourselves and how we wanted to position our brand going forward.

“I’m delighted by how they turned our ideas into reality and how responsive their senior designer, Nicci Jones, was. The feedback has been fantastic.”

Graphix, based at Norton, Stoke-on-Trent, produced a suite of striking new logos and added social media images to allow the MC Group to unveil them across all its social media channels.

Nicci said: “The idea was to tease the rebrand with a logo being unwrapped and I’m pleased to say it captured the imagination of Moorland Contract Cleaning’s social media followers.

“We wanted the branding to look crisp and fresh and to bring the MC Group alive with bold new colours. We are now really pleased to have been awarded the contract for the new website and continued marketing collateral.”

Suzanne gave Graphix Managing Director, Steve Ward fantastic feedback, stating “I just wanted to say how delighted and excited I am about the new branding and all the work Nicci has been doing for us. She has been incredibly helpful, and patient, and has not stopped wowing us with the ideas she has been coming up with.

“Moving forward, I can’t wait for the new website and to bring the whole rebranding together.

“Nicci is a credit to your company as are the rest of the Graphix team and it is a pleasure to work with you.”

MC Group has seen rapid growth in recent years and Directors Tim and Suzanne Davy now oversee a 170 strong team, working in over 80 customer locations, primarily within a 25-mile radius of their Staffordshire Moorland base.

Based in Norton, Staffordshire, Graphix is a full-service design agency with a team of 12 including graphic designers, printers and signage specialists.

The company has invested heavily in state-of-the art printing facilities and is the official print and signage partner for Stoke City FC.

Chris Smith has been unveiled as the new Managing Director of Michelin UK. Smith replaces James Alderman, who has retired.

Smith, 36, will oversee the strategy and direction of Michelin UK at the same time as continuing his responsibilities as Sales Director B2B for the UK and Republic of Ireland.

He began his career at Michelin in 2007 and he has extensive B2B experience – including as Truck and Bus Marketing Director for North Europe.

Smith will report to the board of Michelin Europe North, a region made up of the UK, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia.

He said: “My absolute focus will be on customer satisfaction, employee engagement and growth.

“Change is the new norm and we need to make sure we are agile enough to take advantage of that. We have a strong team at Michelin UK and I’m confident we can deliver significant growth on the back of that.

“These are exciting times for Michelin Europe North and I’m extremely proud to be Managing Director of the business in the UK and Ireland.

“I fully intend to continue James Alderman’s commitment to the vision and values of the Michelin Group.”

Leading Stoke-on-Trent law firm Beswicks Legal has been recognised in no less than 11 practice areas in this year’s Legal 500.

The independent guide, which is published annually, lists Beswicks as a top tier law firm for dispute resolution and sports and recommends the Festival Park-based solicitors for a wide range of services including corporate and commercial, debt recovery, insolvency, employment, family law, commercial property, construction and property litigation.

The Legal 500 is an independent guide to the best legal firms and individuals in the country based on the views and experiences of clients.

Published annually, the guide is researched by a team who assess submissions and conduct interviews with solicitors and their clients before they name the best firms.

Recognition was also given in this year’s Legal 500 to senior partner Gary Mellor and sports lawyer Tim Bailey who were ranked among the elite leading lawyers nationwide.

Senior partner Gary Mellor said: “We are delighted to have again achieved top tier ranking for sports and dispute resolution, as well as being recognised in so many other practice areas.”

Nick Phillips, Beswicks managing partner added: “We really do have a fantastic team at Beswicks and recognition by the Legal 500 underlines the expertise of our team and the outstanding service and results that they achieve for clients. We couldn’t be more proud.”

Client comments in the guide include reference to Beswicks’ ‘professionalism, attention to detail and great client care’, ‘extremely thorough’, ‘client-focused and approachable’, ‘you always feel the team will go the extra mile to help’, ‘a very personal and professional practice’.

Beswicks Legal has acquired Grindeys’ family team and their clients in a deal which will see Beswicks’ family department double in size.

Beswicks, a top-tier law firm based on Festival Park, Stoke-on-Trent, has welcomed a number of experienced and highly-regarded family solicitors into their fold as a result of the acquisition.

Among those are Daniel Rushton, who has in excess of 25 years’ legal experience supporting clients across all areas of family law, and Lauren Jodrell, a key member of Grindeys’ family team since 2015.

Nick Phillips, Beswicks Legal managing partner, said: “We’re delighted to announce Beswicks’ acquisition of Grindeys’ family department. The expertise in the team, their strong reputation and focus on client care and high levels of service made the team an ideal fit for us.”

He added: “Our family department has an incredibly strong reputation and the Grindeys’ acquisition strengthens our position further.”

Head of family law at Beswicks Legal Sarah Jones said: “The acquisition of Grindeys’ family department is a fantastic opportunity which enables us to expand and strengthen our existing team.

“Daniel and Lauren bring a wealth of experience and share our values of providing exceptional client service and outstanding advice, which we can now deliver to an even larger client-base.”

Daniel Rushton, experienced family solicitor, added: “It is a privilege for the family team to move to Beswicks Legal. Beswicks Legal is a dynamic and astute firm and the addition of the team allows us to offer wider experience that will help clients and offer them the best possible service.”

Staffordshire-based video production company Humanoid is celebrating ten years of trading by donating ten per cent of orders placed during their anniversary year to chosen charity, Midlands Air Ambulance Charity (MAAC).
The charity is funded entirely by donations and relies on support from local people and businesses to raise the £9 million needed to undertake on average 2,000 missions every year.
Humanoid has been working closely with MAAC since 2015, producing everything from case study videos for its awards evenings, to online videos for social media campaigns.
To view the variety of films produced for MAAC, visit – http://www.humanoid.uk/clients/midlands-air-ambulance/
To support Humanoid’s ten-year fundraising initiative for MAAC, simply get in touch and place any order for professional video, drone or animation work with Humanoid.
In addition to this, co-founder Anthony Thane is in training to raise more funds by completing the Staffordshire Iron Man 70.3.
Anthony says: “It’s hard to believe we have been going for a decade. When we look back at all the exciting work produced for clients it’s great to see all our work being used again and again and our excellent repeat business rate is testament to the passion we give to every film.
“We have worked with the team at Midlands Air Ambulance Charity for over five years, and in that time have produced a number of results-driven films, which have encouraged further donations to and support of the charity. Seeing first-hand what the aircrew do, has inspired me to want to support the charity further so I will be competing in the Staffordshire Iron Man 70.3 in June 2020 to raise further funds.”
Humanoid has a proved track record to help businesses grow through results-based video and animation by working with marketing and communications professionals.
The dedicated team helps leaders communicate better through strategically-developed content that will excite, immerse and engage people emotionally.
Humanoid’s clients include Staffordshire Chamber members such as Addmaster, Bri-Stor Systems and Neida Products.
Get in touch today to see how the team can help you and your business achieve your objectives.

Visit Humanoid at http://www.humanoid.uk/10-year-anniversary-challenge, or call on 0800 7117373