In partnership with Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), we are launching a brand-new programme which will connect top business leaders from the county to help our economy recover and to drive it forwards.

The Peer Network, as it is known, will address issues such as the current business challenges brought about by the Covid19 pandemic, the end of the Transition period, move towards net zero carbon economy as well as ongoing issues ranging from growth strategies, HR, change management, innovation, succession and planning – all with the aim of helping your business, improving the region’s business landscape and driving prosperity.

Everyone completing the programme will be invited to an exclusive talk on ‘Teamship’ from England’s Rugby World Cup winning coach, Sir Clive Woodward in March 2021which will dovetail with the 2021 Staffordshire Chambers Business Festival.

The Peer Network provides a great opportunity for business leaders to learn from each other and get great support and hints and tips on dealing with the challenges facing us all – and especially those who have drive and ambition to grow their companies.

Participants will be put into small groups of about 15 people and will meet to discuss strategic and operational challenges and work together to find practical solutions.

The programme is fully funded with a minimum commitment of 21.5 hours from each participant delivered over five network meetings, each lasting three hours, every two weeks from early November and will be facilitated by an experienced business consultant. And it’s all confidential. Anyone interested in joining the scheme can register at: or for more information call Matt Hustwit on 01782 202222 or email

When moving on is not a good thing……. as you will know Staffordshire is set to join Stoke-on-Trent in Tier Two (high alert). Whilst we fully support any effort to slow the spread of Covid19, this is yet another blow to business, in particular the hospitality sector.

The Chambers is here to support businesses in any way we can, bringing you the latest developments and continuing to lobby government through the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to provide clear guidance and a plan for further support for business as the pandemic continues.

If you have any concerns or questions about the new measures and what it means for business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing:

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email

October is Black History month in the UK, an event that has been celebrated nationwide for more than 30 years.

Black History Month was originally founded to recognises the contributions that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK but has expanded to include the history of all black people.

There are countless examples of the contribution that black people have made to Staffordshire but as my space here is limited, I am highlighting just one, Doug Brown, the son of a Ghanaian father and an English mother.

Doug trained as a physiotherapist in the Second World War to help in the recovery of injured soldiers and continued this work in the newly formed NHS.

In 1960 Doug became the physio for Stoke City where his elder brother, Roy, had played as a young man. Doug was fanatical about inclusiveness in sport and in 1967 set up the first Lads-and-dads matches on local school football pitches, which had previously been closed at weekends.

Lads-and dads continues to this day and has given thousands of aspiring boys and girls given a safe and regulated environment to play football, make friends and stay healthy.

For his work with Lads and dads, Doug was nominated by black footballers Garth Crooks and Robbie Earle, both originally from Stoke, for the BBC People’s Awards. Doug also helped to set up Match Mates to help combat hooliganism for which he received an award from Princess Diana.

Doug became an independent councillor, later joining the Labour Party and went on two serve twice as Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, in 1984 and 1997.

He received an honorary degree from Keele University in recognition of his lifetime’s service to young people, was a Justice of the Peace and president of the North Staffordshire Chinese Community.

Doug Brown’s life was dedicated to making other people’s lives better and his legacy lives on. I am sure he still serves as an inspiration to black men and women who continue to enrich our community in so many ways in business, education, healthcare, politics, charity, entertainment and sport.

I also feel it is appropriate to mention arguably Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous son, Josiah Wedgwood, who was an active member of the Britain’s Society for the Abolition of Slavery in the eighteenth century. He created the anti-slave medallion featuring an enslaved man alongside the words “Am I not a man and a brother?” Wedgwood sent a medallion to Benjamin Franklin, then president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery who wrote back: “ I am persuaded [the medallion] may have an effect equal to that of the best written pamphlet in procuring favour to those oppressed people.”

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) are hosting a very special webinar on Tuesday 27th October when former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown will be discussing a global approach to rebuilding a stronger economy with BCC Director General, Dr Adam Marshall.

You can watch the discussion live as they talk about the Restart, Rebuild and Renew campaign and what the UK and global market need to do to rebuild the economy. You can book your place at this unmissable live webinar here:

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Steve Archer, senior partner at Geens Chartered Accountancy is retiring in March 2021 after a distinguished 38-year career.


After embarking on an accountancy career as a trainee in Nottingham in 1983, Steve came to Geens in 1986, qualified in 1987 rising to partner in 1992, senior partner in 2008 and a seat on the Board of the Stoke-based company following incorporation in 2013.


Steve, of Eccleshall, says that at the age of 58, the time is right to enjoy retirement safe in the knowledge that he’s helped to bring through a strong team of younger senior staff at one of the area’s oldest accountancy firms.


“Geens was founded in 1884 and has a wealth of tradition, but we’ve built a modern, go-ahead practice and have developed our own team who will continue to take Geens forwards,” said Steve. “The Geens Board is a dynamic group of accountants and advisers and we’ve brought through younger members, such as Dean Clacher and Chris Beeston in recent times. Together with fellow directors, Karen Staley Lowe and Carl France, all of the Board began their careers at Geens and have qualified here. I am confident the future of the firm is in very safe hands.


“The fact that most of our Board and senior team have come through the business is one of the things that gives me great satisfaction, together with the friendly philosophy at Geens. The team works hard, but knows how to have fun, with the company promoting excellence while maintaining a flexible, people centred work environment which means our staff retention levels have always been high.”


The Geens ethos can be seen in the success of the Geens charity challenge team which has raised more than £50,000 for good causes by walking the “3-Peaks”, running a half marathon, canoeing, climbing, cycling, abseiling and cliff diving in a series of stamina sapping challenges.


Steve has completed all four challenges and was due to bow out with the so-called Longest and Highest Challenge (canoeing Windermere and climbing Scarfell Pike) this summer, but this was cancelled due to Covid-19.


“The challenges, which hopefully will continue, have helped forge an amazing spirit in the office and I will miss them,” said Steve, a keen sportsman, who helped to found Eccleshall Rugby Club and served as a wicketkeeper batsman for the town’s cricket club for many years.


Steve came to Eccleshall as an 11-year-old and has lived in the town ever since. “It is a great place to live, with plenty of amenities for a small town, and it is where I plan to enjoy retirement.


“Accountancy has given me a great career and has changed a lot over the years, particularly due to technology. When I joined Geens, we had one newly arrived office computer that we all shared, but technology now means we can do so much more to assist our clients. Back then, all the tax returns were written manually, now clients can have all the figures they want on their smart phones and tablets. This means we can present information to clients in an easy to understand way and have far more ability to act as business and tax advisers, adding value to our client services.


“I will be sad to retire after almost 35 years at Geens but I leave a dedicated and extremely talented team, locally born and bred, who understand the uniqueness of Stoke on Trent and who will continue to provide the professional and personal service that our clients expect and for which Geens is renowned.


“Throughout my time here I have come into contact with many of our clients and in many cases they have become firm friends and I wish them all the very best for the future”.

“Staffordshire is home to many companies operating in the Business and Professional Services Sector. It is a common miscomprehension that this sector does not import or export but the truth of the matter is that these so called ‘invisible exports’ account for as much, if not more, than the sum of the UK’s tangible goods being shipped overseas. However according to a recently published House of Lords’ report the UK’s accountants, lawyers, recruiters, architects and advertisers..etc are under risk of losing contracts and jobs when the Transition Period ends on 31 December.

It’s becoming clear that Professional Services are being undervalued when it comes to Brexit. The general feeling of uncertainty that 2020 has given us, married with a growing fear of job losses across the board, we must be doing all we can to ensure professionals can continue to trade.

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is therefore urging the Government to bear this in mind whilst conducting the Free Trade Negotiations with the EU so that this sector is not forgotten. It is of paramount importance that our professional business community can continue to work with and service overseas customers unhindered to ensure that our economy does not suffer further setbacks.”

The Chambers fully understand the measures implemented to tackle the spread of Coronavirus and welcome the new tiered approach adopted by Government, however we do urge the government to consider differences across industrial sectors.

Many companies operate production lines which require days, in some cases weeks, to fully shut down with a similar timeframe to re-start. The ceramic sector is a classic example with high temperature kilns which cannot simply be switched off without planning. This problem is replicated through many businesses using complex automated production processes.

Sectors such as automotive to food and drink will be affected in a similar manner. We are therefore calling on the Government via the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to ensure that communications are swift, accurate and comprehensive so that businesses can act accordingly, thus avoiding the confusion which ensued during the initial stages of the first national lockdown.

From the unemployment figures that are starting to come through, it is clear that the under 24s are being hardest hit. These young people are the future for us all and we need to support and help them into work, so they don’t feel like a generation which struggles to see a positive economic future.

We are currently assisting businesses in the county to access funding to create hundreds of jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds through the government backed Kickstart Scheme which aims to have its first placements in work by November. Any organisation, especially if applying for less than 30 Kickstart placements, needs to apply via a ‘Representative’ organisation such as the Chambers.

Businesses will be paid £1,500 towards the costs of taking on a 16- 24-year-old, on Universal Credit and deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment. The government will pay 25 hours at National Minimum Wage level for 6 months to the employer plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. The £1,500 per job placement is available for setup costs, employability support and training and must be spent on supporting the young person with training to help them stand a better chance of further employment in the future.

Local Job Centres will receive job descriptions and work coaches will then encourage young people, who they feel would be best suited to those roles, to apply directly to business.

Employers can offer more than 25 hours and pay the young person more than National Minimum Wage at their own cost. Support will also be provided for employers looking to offer the young person full-time work or even an apprenticeship at the end of the six-month placement period. And of course there is wrap round support from the Growth Hub, the Skills Hub, the Chambers’ mentoring programme, our HR specialist advisor and many other services to help make this a good experience for the young person and the business generously offering the placement.

So far we have had over 200 businesses offering placements in Staffordshire alone.

Any employer interested in Kickstart should contact Tom Nadin: 01782 202222

Finally, a big thank you to all those who sent in entries for the 2020 Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards. Despite the current situation we still had just under 200 entries. We now have the difficult

but pleasurable task of deciding on the shortlisted entries for our online gala presentation evening on 19th November. More on this special event nearer the time and all the information on the event is on our website.

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

The nature and impact of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the workplace has been researched and studied ever since Daniel Golemans’ book ‘Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ’ was published in 1996.

A recent paper by PSI, explores where and how EI can add value in 4 key areas; performance, wellbeing, engagement and leadership and whether EI can be developed. The evidence suggests that for those organisations who prioritise EI either as a standalone programme or as part of a wider leadership development programme, cultural shift or in response to employee engagement surveys, reap the benefits that this training brings.

Using the latest in proven EI research and tools, Bodhi Consultancy works with organisations to implement Emotional Intelligence programmes developing trusted, agile leaders and a capable and engaged workforce.

Get in touch to explore how EI can make a difference to recovery and growth in your business.

Monitoring specialists KedronUK are asking IT and business leaders to share the challenges that have come to the fore as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The firm is encouraging business leaders to share their learning and best practice around business continuity planning in a live forum this month.

Joined by guest speaker Shaun Clarke, Head of Infrastructure at Betfred, they will ask audience members how their monitoring – of infrastructure and end-user experience, productivity and performance – have had to adapt during 2020, and what business-critical metrics they might be struggling to track.

The expectation is that, for many, extracting actionable insights from monitoring data will be key. Linking business analytics with systems and dashboards traditionally reserved for IT monitoring has the potential to make companies more efficient and customer centric, by better connecting data to core business functions and providing the ability to conduct more real-time analysis and make more decisions based on data.

Shaun Clarke, Head of Infrastructure at Betfred commented: “The pandemic turned our usual priorities on their head. As an IT department, we might think we know which issues are most important in terms of remediation, but it’s the real-time business impact that should dictate what we fix first. For example, during the lockdown, table tennis was the only live sport that was able to go ahead and therefore it became more of a priority for us than football. ”

Phil Swainson, Head of Technical Services at KedronUK commented: “Even with the latest AI and a top class strategy in place, it can be difficult to predict the impact of a rapidly changing situation – like the coronavirus pandemic and associated law and policy changes – on your business and its IT infrastructure. Monitoring systems alone can’t ensure business continuity through a crisis, but there are new ways to link financial and end user outcomes to data on productivity, IT services and all sorts of other functions so that you have a clear picture of what’s going on.”

KedronUK are inviting business and IT leaders to join the Business Continuity Live Forum on Monday 26 October at 1:00PM to share their experiences through the pandemic. Register here:

Stone 360 app created to help organisations take a more sustainable approach to IT hardware purchasing

An app that helps organisations take a sustainable, 360 degree approach to IT, from first hardware purchase through to its end-of-life has today been launched by Stafford-based Stone Group, a leading UK ICT solutions provider.

The Stone 360 app enables every business and public sector organisation, including schools, colleges and universities, across the UK, to effectively manage the entire lifecycle of their IT assets, in just a few easy clicks. Via the app, organisations can arrange collection of their redundant IT equipment for secure recycling. App users can then track and manage rebates on their old IT assets, and collect points to use to purchase new or refurbished IT from Stone.

With tech companies still pushing the latest models and constant upgrades of hardware, the IT sector continues to fail at dealing with the 53.6 million metric tonnes of global e-waste generated just last year alone. And, with the Coronavirus pandemic forcing organisations to adopt mobile devices to facilitate remote working, it is likely that there will soon be a glut of redundant desk top hardware to add to this growing e-waste mountain.

“At Stone, we believe it is our responsibility to work with our new and existing customers to help them with their own sustainability goals and to contribute to efforts to reduce the vast amounts of e-waste currently blighting our planet.”

“To facilitate positive change, we’ve developed the Stone 360 app, it’s a complete game changer. It not only gives customers a shortcut to managing their end-of-life IT assets, it also allows them to boost their own sustainability, track their rewards and use them to replace their old kit.” said Tim Westbrook, director at Stone Group.

“It’s crucial that the IT industry does more to minimise its negative impact on the environment and we think it’s time resellers stepped up to the challenge. At the end of the day it’s the resellers who have the customer relationships and sell them new hardware.”

“While many resellers appear to champion the sustainability message, we see far too few back it up with real action. How many have invested in their own on site, fully accredited recycling facility? Very, very few as far as I’m aware. They think it’s ok to pass that responsibility off to a third party and that’s simply not good enough.”

At its ITAD facility in Staffordshire, Stone Group recycles or refurbishes IT hardware such as laptops, desktops, monitors, printers, servers, or other peripherals. Stone’s team of skilled engineers securely process and wipe all items of any data using industry-leading software from Blancco and any items that can be salvaged are refurbished and resold.

“As we’re able to give significant quantities of IT equipment a second life, our customers are also helping small businesses, schools, hospitals or charities who really need access to low cost IT, as well as helping the environment. Recycling old IT equipment with us is an incredibly rewarding process in so many ways,” concludes Westbrook.

Use of the ITAD service and the new app is completely free of charge and Stone plans to encourage use by pledging to plant a tree for every 200 items its customers recycle. Via the app, users will be able to see a visual representation of the trees planted on their behalf. They can also choose to cash in the value of their recycled goods if they choose not to purchase new IT.

Stone’s ITAD facility is fully accredited with certifications including ISO 27001: Information Security Management, ADISA Distinction, DIPCOG and Cyber Essentials.

The Stone 360 app is available on both iOS and Android devices.

As businesses across Staffordshire continue to restart, rebuild and recover, NatWest’s Business Growth Enabler Gemma Bourne will be supporting businesses move forward following lockdown.

In her role, NatWest will work with local partners including Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce to champion the potential of businesses and support business owners as they develop and grow. This may be through one to one mentoring support or by helping entrepreneurs connect with a business network.
Gemma will be running regular events and will also support new and developing businesses achieve their potential through NatWest’s Business Builder Programme. The digital tool is on hand to provide help with all aspects of getting new businesses off the ground, with a wide range of online learning and workshops.

The NatWest Group have set out the bold new ambition to be a leading bank in the UK & Republic of Ireland helping to address the climate challenge; by making our own operations net carbon zero in 2020 and climate positive by 2025, and by driving material reductions in the climate impact of our financing activity.
As we move from 2020 into 2021, Gemma will also provide specialist support to female entrepreneurs as part of NatWest’s commitment to supporting women in business. An ambassador for women in business, she holds an accreditation in NatWest’s Everywoman program which supports female business owners to turn their dreams and ambitions into a reality.

Gemma said: “The last six months have been an incredibly challenging time for all of us in a variety of ways but, as we look the future, it’s absolutely vital the local eco-system continues to support businesses across Staffordshire as they move forward. We know there are new enterprises that have developed over this period as well as those that have had to adapt and change, and I look forward to working with our partners support further growth in Staffordshire.
Gemma has over 19 years’ experience in Banking and Finance and has spent the last four years specialising in business development and entrepreneurship.

New website for Easy Composites

At Easy Composites we are delighted to announce the launch of our brand new website.

The new website has a fresh look and feel, is easy to navigate and delivers a fully responsive experience for customers.

The site has been developed from the ground up to make it easier to navigate and access our huge range of products and rapidly expanding technical content, as well as providing a platform to showcase customers’ work and interact with customers through product reviews and technical questions.

As you would expect from the Easy Composites team, the new site uses ground-breaking technology to deliver an incredibly fast user experience with innovative search, filtering and compare features to help customers find the right product in seconds.

Other new features include customer case studies, a customer gallery, LiveChat, product reviews, interactive questions on Learning Area articles and a ‘Project List’ feature that allows customers and Easy Composites technical staff to work together on product lists for specific customer projects.

” After two years of hard work behind the scenes, it feels fantastic to have the new website online and ready to support our customers for years to come. ” said Director, Matt Statham.

To find out more about Easy Composites or if you would like to share your project to be featured in our new Project Gallery please get in touch with the team.