National restrictions continue to significantly affect businesses across the country.  While non-essential retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have had to temporarily close during lockdown, those businesses which are still operating will also have been heavily affected by the pandemic.   

As such, there is an enormous pressure on businesses’ financial situation.  They may be juggling reduced income whilst navigating new income streams such as various government support measures.  Businesses might be facing unexpected expenditure on PPE and the cost of making their operations Covid secure. 

It is extremely challenging to budget month to month; something which is especially true for smaller businesses, who may already be operating with limited cash flow. 

More than ever, the battle to keep control of company outgoings is crucial if they are to survive in this tough climate.  A straightforward place to start in this battle is a universal cost and key expense:  energy bills. 

While every business receives regular energy bills, the vast majority don’t track how – and where –they are using their gas and electricity.   

A proactive way of taking back control of this expense is by installing a smart meter, to show exactly how much energy is being used hour by hour.  It will show whether switching off appliances overnight will save a small fortune, the cost of keeping laptops and phones plugged in all the time, and even how much boiling a kettle costs. 

Another key benefit of smart meters is that businesses get billed for the exact energy they use.  Unless very regular meter updates are provided, bills generated without the input of smart meters are estimated, based on the usage from a previous period. If businesses have temporarily closed or furloughed some of their teams, this could be hugely damaging as they would be paying for energy they haven’t used yet, and might not use for several weeks, potentially making a big dent in their already fragile cash flow.  

A smart meter is a positive step in taking control of business outgoings and if your firm has 10 employees or less, your business could be eligible. 

To see whether smart metering can work for your business, and to find out if you are entitled to claim a free one, contact your energy supplier.  It could be one of the best calls you make this week. 

It’s been yet another momentous week for business as the Health Minister gave details of the restrictions we will be living under when the national lockdown ends on 2nd December and the Chancellor set out the details of his Spending Review on Wednesday.

It is now clear that the whole of Staffordshire will be moving into the tier three, allowing non-essential retail to reopen, whilst hospitality remains closed and households remain banned from mixing outdoors.

On a positive note, tier three areas will receive extra funding, yet to be announced, as well as more virus testing to help control infections as the government aims to get out of the toughest restrictions as fast as possible. To this end they will work with local authorities to get tests to where they are most needed and to get people to come forward.

As a chamber, and with the Growth Hub, we will be here to help you find out if you are eligible and how to access any available funding – as soon as the details are announced. As we know, sometimes we have schemes that are announced and they take ages to actually be delivered. This is something we have consistently put to government as a flaw in the support they have offered.

What we do not want is for the government to keep switching businesses on and off like a light bulb without expecting even more severe consequences. The Chambers, through the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), will be lobbying government for a plan that keeps Covid-secure businesses, and the economy, open throughout the winter and beyond until the positive effects of a vaccine programme begin to turn the pandemic around.

If you have any immediate concerns or views around the new tier system restrictions, please let us know so we can represent your views to government. You can email them to info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review, came at a critical time as business communities are fighting for survival and looking for clear guidance during the pandemic. We will be looking at all aspects of the Review in the next week or so and seeing how we feel it is going to impact Staffordshire businesses – and what needs to happen for the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to benefit from the announcements.

As part of the review the government has promised action on help for people to return to work to help limit long-term unemployment, and we will be playing our part in helping people to re-train and re-skill through the Kickstart Scheme for young people aged 18-25, and our brand new Start Scheme which will offer support and interest free loans to people looking to start a new business.

You can see the BCC’s reaction to the Spending Review in full here: https://bit.ly/378E1PZ

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: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk.

Stafford based CESAS Medical won 3 Golds, a Silver and a Bronze award at the latest Digital Health Awards announced from Chicago on Friday.

The Digital Health Awards recognize high-quality digital health resources for consumers and health professionals and has been running now for 22 years. The awards cover the full range of digital media from social media to podcasts.

CESAS collected awards for programmes, developed through its collaboration with the University of Glasgow, which included COVID-19 podcasts and a COVID-19 webinar which attracted a worldwide audience.

Commenting on the awards Chief Executive Martin Lennon said “we set out through our collaborations with top universities and leading clinicians to develop high quality education for healthcare professionals. These awards are recognition of this innovative collaboration. It is great to see the young team we have in Stafford being recognised on a global stage. In these awards we have worked with colleagues in Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, USA and the UK and shared our content to over 100 countries”

Beswicks Sports has brokered a deal between 16-time Darts World Championship winner Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Betbull.

Betbull contacted Beswicks Sports’ Group Commercial Director Ryan Yates to work with him to find suitable candidates to ‘bring to life” the Betbull social betting experience.

Betbull is a social sports betting app, focused on creating a community of sports fans who can all share information on the accumulators they place covering many different sports. The company currently has Ray Parlour, Darren Bent and Alan Brazil involved in sharing their football results predictions.

Ryan managed the negotiations between Phil Taylor and Betbull, helping to create an engaging and innovative campaign, which involves the darts genius giving his insights and providing video content that is shared over Betbull and Phil Taylor’s social media channels.

Ryan explained: “Once we began discussing the darts season there was no better person to introduce than Phil Taylor to give his expert opinion and insight into the strongest competitors in major darts tournaments. Phil dominated darts for over two decades and won a record 16 World Championships during his career.”

Welcoming the deal, darts champion Phil Taylor said: “I am delighted to be working with Betbull. I love the buzz of giving my predictions and hopefully my involvement will help Betbull to grow as a company.”

Beswicks Sports Ryan Yates concluded: “I was really pleased to broker the deal. Commercial deals and sponsorship opportunities are a huge part of the sporting landscape. Matching the right athlete, player or club with a brand can be hugely beneficial for both parties.

“With our knowledge of commercial deals coupled with our extensive contacts across a range of sports both nationally and internationally, we are perfectly placed to broker these sorts of deals.”

If you require advice about commercial opportunities in sport, contact Ryan on 01782 205000 for a chat or visit www.beswickssports.com

Award-winning Chartered Accountancy firm, Mitten Clarke, have already bucked the employment trend this year, increasing their headcount by 20% over the summer. Now, as demand from clients requiring their innovative business advice continues to accelerate, they are once again expanding.

“In these times of constant change and uncertainty, great business advice is proving invaluable. We work in partnership with clients, immersing ourselves in their business and this needs a passionate and dedicated team,” comments Operations Director James Beardmore.

“It’s fantastic that our expansion is generating jobs across the career spectrum. We have opportunities from Accounting Apprentice to Senior Accountant level, with eight new positions currently available, including Head of Personal Tax and Accountancy Client Manager.”

“These new appointments will ensure that we continue to propel the growth trajectory of the business. It’s a fantastic opportunity to join an ambitious, hard-working, talented, diverse and motivated team. We’re not your typical firm of accountants. Although we’re very serious about work, we have a culture that encourages people to be themselves and to find different ways of doing things. We embrace a fun-loving approach, where you can carve a pumpkin or even play Bingo!” adds James.

Mitten Clarke were last week crowned champions in the prestigious Employer of the Year category at this year’s Staffordshire Chamber Business Awards, as well as being finalists in the Professional Services and Young Employee / Apprentice Award categories.

Candidates looking for a fresh challenge, in a creative, dynamic environment are invited to discover more at Mitten Clarke’s website http://www.mittenclarke.co.uk or follow their stories on social media.

Aspire Housing appoints new Chair

Aspire Housing has appointed a new Chair to support its corporate strategy and lead the board in its vision to ‘Build Better Futures by Putting People First’.

Aman Dalvi OBE, who has worked in housing for over three decades, joined the 9,000-home landlord this month.

Aman commented: “I’m delighted to have joined Aspire Housing to support the board and executive team to drive its new corporate strategy forward. Together with PM Training and Realise charity, Aspire Housing is exceptionally placed to support people across Staffordshire and Cheshire to find homes, jobs and training, and to live well, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

“It’s likely we’ll all face significant challenges in the coming months following Covid-19, and my focus will be on ensuring Aspire delivers the best possible service to its customers as effectively as it can.”

Aman has worked in senior positions for many years, including as Chief Executive of three different organisations where he has led multi-disciplinary teams, and Executive Director of Development & Renewal in a major London Local Authority.

Aman brings to Aspire Housing considerable experience of working in the housing sector. Aman has served as Chair of a number of organisations, which include the Anchor Trust and PA Housing, and he currently works as an advisor to a major private real estate company. In 2000, Aman Dalvi received an OBE for services to housing.

Aman’s appointment as Aspire Housing Chair follows the stepping down of Kevin Richardson, who has been on the board since 2013 and Chair since the start of 2019.

Sinéad Butters, Group Chief Executive of Aspire Housing, said: “This has been an unprecedented year for all of us, and our board and colleagues have faced many challenges that we’ve never before encountered. Whilst we’re not through the Covid-19 pandemic yet, and we will carry on providing vital support wherever needed, it’s important that we also look ahead to the future.

“We’ve recently updated our corporate strategy and vision to reflect the events of the past few months, and I’m delighted to welcome Aman to the board as our new Chair to help us achieve this. Aman has a lot of experience in the housing sector, with extensive planning and regeneration knowledge. He will be invaluable as we look toward strengthening the group to deliver more, to invest in our homes and communities, and to continue to put people at the heart of what we do.

“On behalf of Aspire, I would like to thank Kevin Richardson for his work with Aspire Housing over the last seven years, and especially for the support he’s given us as Chair for the past two years. We wish him all the best for the future.”

Acas TUPE Conference: Making sense of the law & business process, 01 December, 2020

Delivered via Zoom and suitable for delegates from all sectors of industry

Understand the rules, avoid the pitfalls…This event is a MUST for staff involved in business transfers or outsourcing of contracts.

TUPE transfers can be complex and stressful areas of business activity for both employers and employees. You will gain insights into how HR strategy can fit into the TUPE process and better understanding of its impact on employees. You will be given clarity on the TUPE regulations and your responsibilities as an employer and provided with examples of common mistakes made during TUPE transfers.

Join ACAS and guest speakers, including Eversheds Solicitors, who will also provide an update on recent case law, for this niche conference designed to demystify TUPE.  

“The answer, in the short to mid-term could be ‘yes’ if you look past the populist politics. Most manufacturers are introducing mainly hybrid vehicles now anyway, and plans for an electric-only future are hampered by lots of practical issues that are not going to go away any time soon. Internal combustion (IC) cars are also lasting longer too.

Modern Euro 6 vehicles are generally very fuel efficient and definitely very clean in terms of emissions; so the environmental argument is being addressed – while a more sustainable power generation infrastructure is built-up. What is clear is that the aftermarket will need to provide support for these vehicles for a long time to come.

The announcement simply underlines that plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and latest generation of mild hybrid 48V (MHEV) powered vehicles are going to be the focus for the foreseeable future. Legislation aside, cost and practicality considerations also mean that this will probably be the case way past 2030.

Klarius along with many other leading manufacturers of automotive components and consumables will be there to support the replacement needs of all these vehicles – helping to maintain their emissions and performance standards long into the future.”

One of the UK’s leading on line gift suppliers is supporting suppliers close to its Newcastle-under-Lyme base by offering more local produce than ever before in a new 2020 deluxe Christmas hamper.

 

AdGiftsOnline supplies corporate and personal gifts across the UK from its base at Lymedale Business Park.

 

The company’s Christmas stock features a host of hampers to appeal to a diverse market place.

 

Stephenie Altham, a Director at the family run company, said: “Hampers make fantastic presents and are among our best sellers each Christmas and our new handpicked hamper offers customers the chance to choose from a  wide range of produce. We’ve added high quality produce from our local area to the list, both to benefit our customers and support fantastic local companies.

 

“Choices include Moorland Pottery, Just Crisps, Guernsleigh Cheese, Brampton Candles, Hasbean Coffee and many more.  If you are a local business and believe your product would work well in our hampers, call Stephenie on 01782 571950.

 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that it has been a difficult year for business and we think that featuring a wealth of local brands is a way of supporting the local business community, while supplying our customers with great products that will delight their taste buds this Christmas.”

 

You can build your own hamper by calling Stephenie on 01782 571950.

 

AdGiftsOnline is run by husband and wife Steph and Tony Altham. Based at the Lymedale Business Centre, the company has been supplying a huge range of corporate gifts for 29 years.

 

Added Steph: “2020 has been a difficult year for the corporate gifts market with most trade shows and events falling foul to coronavirus restrictions. However, with much recent good news about possible vaccine breakthroughs, we are confident that there’s pent up demand in the marketplace for us to bounce back in 2021.”

 

AdGiftsOnline supply companies from multi-nationals, high street banks and major football clubs, through to scores of local Staffordshire businesses.

 

Is your business Brexit-ready?

It is less than 50 days to go until Brexit, and currency markets may fluctuate as we near the December 31st deadline, affecting the amount of money you may receive when making an international payment, meaning it is more important than ever to plan ahead. For businesses in Staffordshire, it’s vitally important that you look to protect your businesses as we head into the new era of the UK as an independent nation.

How did we get here?

It is four years since the UK voted to leave the EU, but this year, the crunch year for a deal, Brexit was on the backburner for much of 2020 while the world dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the transition deadline fast approaching, businesses and individuals need to get ready, and fast.

A crucial EU leaders’ summit in October didn’t yield a breakthrough, and the PM’s deadline for a Brexit agreement came and went by, barely causing a ripple in the markets. Johnson has told the UK to prepare for a no-deal, and while the government ‘walked away’ from negotiations, they ‘left the door ajar.’ After a few days, talks resumed and appeared to lift sterling after the renewed discussions.

How could this affect businesses and individuals?

If you export or import, buying or selling goods or services from companies based abroad, you are exposed to currency risk, in a nutshell. Factors such as economic growth, interest rates, politics, Covid-19 and Brexit can all play a big part in how much your money is worth. If you are an importer for example, a strong pound tends to be good news, but if you are an exporting business, a stronger sterling can make a product or service more expensive overseas, or it could reduce margins a business is able to take home. British sterling slumped to a 31-year low after the Brexit referendum result in 2016, therefore if the UK and the EU fail to make a deal before the end of 2020, currency markets could become more volatile and the value of your payment could differ.

Where you purchase supplies from for example, to how often you do business internationally, can all add to different points of risk. So the first action as a business looking to understand its risk exposure is to identify where the risk is coming from. It can be simple, such as looking into how you are quoted or invoiced. Some overseas companies may do this in their local currency, and add a margin to protect themselves from currency fluctuations, which in turn impacts your pricing and therefore your bottom line.

Highlighted particularly during the pandemic was the pressure on international supply chains, where some collapsed as lockdowns came into play. Businesses need to be looking at their supply chains, especially those within the EU because of Brexit, and how they may be affected by highs and lows between sterling and the euro.

Could you really afford to lose over £20,000?

An example of how currency fluctuations could impact a company is a manufacturer in the UK exporting goods to the EU. Let’s say the client exports an order worth €500,000, for delivery in 90 days’ time. The price today is €1.10, meaning a return in British sterling of £454,545. Now in 90 days’ time, if the GBP/EUR exchange has moved to €1.16, then the return is now only £431,034. In other words, an exporter could lose £23,510, through no fault of their own. For a client importing from the EU, spending €1,000,000 per annum, there is the potential for costs to vary from £833,333 to £952,380 when looking at market forecasts for 2021. This means costs could differ by as much as £119,047.

Protecting your payments from Brexit

Locking in exchange rates could help secure your costs, which in turn could protect margins and improve revenue. A forward contact* allows you to plan payments ahead with reassurance and certainty, ideal for paying invoices, and if you’re protecting profits or maintaining a budget. Market orders allow you to buy currency at a set exchange rate of your choosing, with the trade being processed if and when the rate is achieved.

If you’re unsure about your currency exposure, we also offer a free FX health assessment. Using historical transaction data from your business over a 3, 6 or 12 month period, our expert team will use the data to provide accurate information on the available exchange rate on the relevant currency for each payment.

Our team of dedicated dealers are on hand to support businesses with FX, global payment solutions and risk management during these turbulent times. Please get in touch via chamberfx@moneycorp.com, or call Andy Medler on 07551 170665 or +44 (0) 203 823 0526 quoting ‘BCC Brexit’. Once set up as a customer, you can easily get a quote or even make a payment yourself online with our 24/7 secure online platform.

*May require a deposit and enables you to secure an exchange rate for up to two years.