Finest Focus: Graham Doyle

Who are you are what do you do?

I am a tech business owner, an executive coach, a father, an amateur triathlete, a scout leader… I guess the thing I am best known for is as a founder of D2NA, a business that helps IT teams and SME’s use technology to drive growth, scale swiftly, control risk, and improve security.

Why do you do it?

My passion is helping people to reach their potential. I do that in diverse ways.

As an executive coach I have seen clients achieve amazing results. It’s so rewarding to see their success close up.

I like to help people to safely navigate the technology world which helps them to succeed in their businesses and careers.

I like to help young people do more than they thought they could, for example climbing a wall or navigating across challenging terrain.

And I like to keep challenging myself through business, sport and lifelong learning.

Why is being a member of Finest important to you?

Finest opens doors for my business and it gives me the opportunity to keep growing and learning.

Why are you a member of the Steering Group?

Serving on the steering group has helped me to grow and develop as a person, by getting me out of my comfort zone, while also growing my reputation.

How can someone get in touch with you to learn more about your services?

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Book time with me here

Email me

Call me 07973 846 007

Stoke on Trent based LA International is proud to announce that the Company has once again won the Queen’s Award for International Trade. The second consecutive Queens Award follows the previous win in 2015, presented to organisations with outstanding performance in international trade, innovation and sustainable development, recognising those businesses that make a valuable contribution to the UK economy each year.

As the UK’s most prestigious business award and the highest accolade any business can receive, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are made each year by the Queen and are awarded on the recommendation and advice of the Prime Minister, and is subject to the most detailed and rigorous application process.

CEO Statement
Commenting on the award, our Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Paul Lukic said “I am delighted and honoured that LA International has again received this internationally recognised and highly sought after award for a second consecutive 5 year term in recognition of our contribution to flying the flag of British enterprise.
This year marks the 55th Anniversary of the Queen’s award and we pay tribute to the role played by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in originally establishing Her Majesty’s Awards in 1965 which led to the creation of the Queen’s Award to Industry.
The Board of Directors are privileged to accept this award on behalf of LA International and all of our staff who, with sustained effort, have continued to drive the business forward and achieve our targeted expansion”

Why LA International?
LA International has been honoured once again for its continuous achievement and growth in International Trade by winning its second Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Continuous Growth in overseas sales over the last six years.

LA International began trading in 1982 and today, with a turnover in excess of £250 million, is the largest specialist ICT Recruitment & Project Solutions Consultancy in the UK operating globally from the largest single site in the UK. As an approved Defence Contractor, LA International is the UK’s leading supplier of Security Cleared contract and permanent ICT resource to Her Majesty’s Government. With a successful track record spanning over 35 years of delivering Recruitment, Managed Services and Project Solutions, LA International has been at the forefront of providing innovative ICT, Transformation and Project/Programme Management services and solutions to a broad range of clients, in over 90 countries, across 5 continents, ranging from SMEs to some of the largest and most respected global brands across Government, Defence, Health, Education, Technology and Telecommunications sectors.

As a market leader within the UK Government, Security and Defence space, LA International’s well established International Division was able to draw on its UK capability and with an innovative and clear growth strategy, was able to apply this expertise to the international market to achieve significant and sustained growth. . Today, LA International is recognised as Europe’s foremost supplier of Cyber, Cloud, Software Development, IT Infrastructure, Testing and Project/Programme Management expertise to organisations where security is of paramount importance.

The growth has resulted in the significant expansion of their overseas customer base and international operations over a sustained period. In particular, in August 2018 it became the only UK Company selected as one of ten Prime Contractors to NATO for the supply of all IT and Professional Services across NATO programmes.
Jamie Davies, Sales Director, said “to receive the Queen’s Award once is outstanding, but twice is exceptional and is testament not only to our long-term European growth strategy, strong client retention and new business performance but in particular to the passion and commitment of our staff that have worked so hard to deliver these results.”

Scott Henry, Managing Director, commented “the Queen’s Award is exceptional and unique, we are proud and honoured to have our Monarch working hand in hand with UK business for the benefit of all citizens”.

Paul Martin, Financial Director said “The Queen’s Award is testament to our strong business model and our ability to generate year on year organic growth in varying market sectors delivering strong underlying financial performance and sustained growth despite uncertain economic conditions.”

Winning the Queen’s Award for the second successive term cements LA International’s position, having been consistently recognised as the benchmark in its industry, regularly appearing in the Sunday Times International Top Track, winning a number of prestigious accolades at the Recruiter Awards for Excellence, including being named Best Public Sector Recruitment Company, receiving the ‘Winner of Winners’ Gold Award and being voted UK’s Best IT Recruitment Company three times.

More info

The awards are usually announced on the Queen’s birthday but were delayed until today due to the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

Children in Kidsgrove are about to benefit from an exciting £3.8m upgrade to their school.

Regeneration specialist ENGIE has begun work to transform St John the Evangelist Catholic Academy into a modern, purpose-built environment in which children can thrive.

The project will see the whole academy brought together for the first time ever as its two sites are collocated in one building. Staff and pupils at the academy’s lower-school, currently at The Avenue, will relocate to the Gloucester Road site, a short walk away.

A newly built classroom block will provide modern facilities in which children can learn and grow. New hard play areas will be incorporated and access to grassed areas will be improved so that youngsters can explore and stay active. The build will also include the creation of a new school hall bringing yet further opportunities to unite the school community.

One of the stand-out features of the build will be a modern bridged entrance way linking the new classrooms to the existing building.

The project will be carried out in phases to ensure that disruption to pupils, carers and staff is minimised and to ensure areas are safe at all times.

Paul Gethin, Contract Manager at ENGIE, said: “We’re excited to get started on this project and to use our expertise in the education market to bring some great new changes to the school.

“I’m sure the children will enjoy seeing the build progress and we look forward to working alongside the community to share the journey.”

Helen Rigby, Principal of St John the Evangelist Catholic Academy, said: “The whole school community is very excited about the new build. Locating both sites to Gloucester Road, will bring our wonderful school community together and enable children to flourish in state-of-the-art facilities which pupils at the school have been denied for too long. This move will allow all children at St. John’s to benefit from purpose-built classrooms, playgrounds and an extensive grassed area.

“The new facilities will further enhance the curriculum on offer and allow for opportunities for collaborative learning and working for all of our children that currently cannot take place. The move to one site will allow further enhancements on offer for our before and after school provision due to the new large hall that will be built.”

The school offers full nursery and primary provision and offers up to 30 hours free childcare for children aged 3 years and over. The school is currently graded ‘Good’ by Ofsted and with the recent changes to their curriculum and with the new build, the school will soon have the facilities to match their ambition to be ‘Outstanding’.

Helen added: “For staff, it will eliminate the current travelling between two sites. There is no parking at The Avenue site and this poses problems for both staff and parents as they try and find somewhere to park their cars on busy roads in the centre of Kidsgrove. In addition, a large number of parents find dropping off at two sites an issue and once the school is relocated to one site they will have the option to walk with all of their children to the one location.”

Alongside the build and improvements works, new pedestrian crossing points will be created, laybys will be put in and areas will be resurfaced and new signage will be put in place.

Work is part of the Department for Education‘s Priority School Building Programme to rebuild or refurbish school buildings most in need across the country and is planned to be complete by summer 2022.

Since 2016, Laundry Efficiency have been on a mission to make the textile care industry greener and more sustainable. Their progressive business model of encouraging the industry to reduce excessive waste, pollution and misuse of natural resources is recognised with the United Kingdom’s highest official British business award.

The company is one of only 205 organisations nationally recognised with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise. They will carry the honour of using the acclaimed Royal Warrant for the next five years.

The highly coveted award is for their outstanding achievement in tackling important environmen-tal issues within the laundry supply chain to make the world a better place.

Graham Oakley, the Commercial Director of Laundry Efficiency reflects ‘From day one, my aim has been to make the world a greener place. I am delighted that our consultancy services and greenwashing system is helping the textile care industry make critical environmental changes in afforda-ble ways. Winning a Queens Award is testament to the transformation and high eco standards we get our customers to reach’.

The Queens Award for Sustainable Development is not the only award Laundry Efficiency has won. In 2020, they won Keele University’s Breaking the Mould Award for developing a new software system that gives Laundry Efficiency customers real time data to reduce their carbon footprint.

In addition to this, they won the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce Sustainability and Environ-ment award (2020), the FSB’s Green Business of the Year Award (2020, 2019, 2018) and LADA’s Green Impact Award (2018). All awards have been given in response to balancing economic, envi-ronmental and societal concerns within industry practice.

However, despite the awards, Laundry Efficiency has vowed to continue pushing forward the idea of a greener, cleaner and more sustainable supply chain for the textile industry. They believe it is critically important that commercial laundries adopt new practices to remain relevant in addition to servicing their customers’ high standards. It’s no longer enough to offer whiter than white linen. Post-pandemic, linen now has to be white, clean and bacteria-free.

The suite of products and consultancy services that Laundry Efficiency offer can give their custom-ers clean, bacteria-free whiter than white linen. How?

Firstly, their ‘NASA’ developed Ozone technology is an advanced product that kills bacteria, halves wash time, reduces plastic waste and decreases the level of harmful surfactants in drainage water.

Secondly, their new Wash & Protect chemicals address the challenge of maintaining sanitised cleanliness as textiles remain bacteria-free for up to three months after washing – a claim verified by independent ISO22196:2011 testing.

Finally, Laundry Efficiency takes a consultative approach, advising and creating best-fit systems for commercial laundries of all shapes and sizes. They will even train users up to healthcare standards and provide certification for laundry operators who continuously achieve best practice.

Forward-thinking and environmentally aware commercial launders can rely on Laundry Efficiency to provide a complete ‘green washing’ system. A system that saves money, time, resources and provides credibility in respect to their eco responsibilities.

Recent social trends indicate a new ‘war on waste’ is burgeoning, suggesting the general public could very likely reject a hotel, gym, spa or restaurant because of perceived waste creation and consumption. Therefore as the textile care market innovates after a challenging year, Laundry Effi-ciency has award-winning products that give laundry owners a springboard for a brighter future.

This Saturday, 1st May is Staffordshire Day, a celebration of our wonderful county, its people, places, its creativity, and the business community.

As someone who has lived and worked in the county for a mere 10 years, I never cease to be amazed just what the county has to offer.

With unrivalled countryside, a creative and an industrial heritage that has reached all corners of the world, two excellent universities and of course a diverse and brilliant array of businesses from micro to blue chip global leaders, Staffordshire truly is an incredible place to live, work and play.

It is also a very special day as May 1st is the anniversary of our most famous son, Josiah Wedgwood, setting up his pottery company in 1759 and helping to transform Staffordshire into the centre of the world’s ceramics industry, a crown it still wears proudly 262 years later.

There are lots of virtual events planned on the day and throughout May. You can find out more here:

And don’t forget to use #StaffordshireDay on all social media posts.

I have been fascinated to read the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Barclays LifeSkills report, The next normal: Futureproofing the post-pandemic workforce.

The findings are from discussions during a series of roundtables with members of the UK Chambers of Commerce between November 2020 and February 2021.

The report finds that new ways of working introduced during the pandemic offer opportunities for employers and staff and highlights how supporting employees’ mental wellbeing and digital skills will become increasingly important.

It also shows that equipping school-leavers with key skills to deal with new working arrangements will be vital.

The report contains some crucial insights into the way employers have managed their workforces during the testing circumstances of last year and how they view the route forward post-pandemic.

It tells us that companies are now looking to the future of the workforce and are keen to grasp opportunities for both greater productivity and improved wellbeing of their employees.

However, businesses will need the necessary support to achieve these goals and the capability to adapt to shifting training priorities and new ways of working from top to bottom will be a key strength for any organisation.

Chambers of Commerce have a key role to play in helping firms recover from the effects of the pandemic and, in equipping employees and especially the next generation of employees coming into the workforce.

You can read the full report here:

We are incredibly fortunate to have the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub based at the Chambers. They offer complete bespoke training packages for business with funding of 48 percent up to £5000.

To access the fund all businesses just need to undertake a skills review with a member of the Skills Hub team.

The Skills Hub has just passed a milestone in delivering funded training to their 300th client company in Staffordshire.  There are no limits to the type of business training on offer and there is also currently top-up funding available to cover the remaining 52 percent cost for eligible companies.

Also, we have Growth Hub HR advisor, Amanda Swann based at the Chambers. Amanda can help with any people and HR issues and signpost you to relevant support. Email Amanda:

For more information and to find out how you can benefit from the funded training on offer call the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub on 0300 600 1066 or visit

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:

Offering families an opportunity to spend some time together back at the theatre, Coppelia – A Mystery will take place from Friday 16 July to Saturday 7 August. This mesmerising adventure full of love and mischief takes audiences on a journey from outdoors and indoors and back again, to discover the curious secrets of Doctor Coppelius’ toyshop. A perfect way for families of all ages to return to their local theatre and lift spirits post-lockdown, this show will celebrate the home-produced work of the theatre as it returns to performances. The production will star Corinna Brown, soon to be seen in the Netflix adaptation of Heartstopper.

Opening the New Vic’s spring season is theatre favourite ‘Eric’ in Third Time Lucky, Eric! On stage from Monday 17 to Saturday 29 May, this is a show guaranteed to be a feel-good party. Featuring the character of Eric’s hilarious antics, toe-tapping live ’60s music and laugh out loud comedy, this show follows on from the hugely popular Keep Calm and Carry On Eric seen last year.

A New Vic first, Hoard: Rediscovered is a digitally reimagined piece of theatre designed to be enjoyed in-person in the in-the-round auditorium. On at the theatre from Thursday 10 to Saturday 19 June, the show features New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins’ documentary-drama Unearthed and a selection of mini plays directed by Gemma Fairlie for a rare opportunity to delve into the intriguing story of the discovery of the biggest hoard of anglo-saxon treasure in history, found right here in Staffordshire. Audiences are invited to make a night of it and visit the theatre restaurant for a meal beforehand and enjoy being back in the surroundings of the local theatre.

New Vic Artistic Director Theresa Heskins said: “Hoard: Rediscovered and Coppelia were both made during challenging times last year, and just as we were about to welcome audiences the theatre had to close to the public so that we could play our role in fighting the pandemic. So it feels quite emotional to be reviving these cherished pieces of work right now. They’re unique experiences, tailored very precisely for this place and time and people, and we hope that audiences will be able to feel the love and care – and gratitude – that’s gone into making them.

“Everything this year is a bit different, however we’re still determined to provide extraordinary and memorable pieces of theatre, with ferocious energy and optimism, while also offering our audiences a chance to explore something new.”

Tickets for the New Vic’s upcoming season go on sale on Thursday 29 April at 12.00pm. To book, and for more information about what’s coming up at the theatre, visit or call Box Office on 01782 717962.      

Finest Focus: Lee Vickers

Who are you are what do you do?
I’m an Individual Banking Manager here at our local relationship bank, Handelsbanken in Stoke-on-Trent. I’ve been here now for 3 years, having been in the banking world for nearly 15 years. Our office is ran by a team of 13 local bankers, we form long-term, personal relationships with individuals and businesses in the Staffordshire area, working closely with local customers to meet their distinct financial needs, both in the short and longer term.

Why do you do it?
At Handelsbanken, our overwhelming focus is on satisfying our customers which I believe should always be at the heart of any local, national or international business. It’s also the most satisfying part of the job! We achieve this by building lasting relationships with our customers and providing them with the very best service we can. Our distinct difference from mainstream banking is that our decisions are made in-branch by empowering our local banking teams to be able to drive the business that we do, and this is done in the absence of any sales or product targets or bonus incentives. I feel this is really important as it ensures our customers’ best interests always remain front and centre of what we do. We look to be our customers’ trusted advisers and hope that they remain with us for the very long term.

Why is being a member of Finest important to you?
When I joined Handelsbanken in 2018 I was moving back into the Staffordshire market, having been based primarily in Cheshire. Having worked previously with the Chamber of Commerce I found that the Finest and Future Finest network was vibrant with many local businesses being represented by excellent, enthusiastic professionals, and we want to be part of it. We see our local office on the Festival Park as being a part of this fantastic local network and want to be available and accessible to our peers, whenever our advice is sought by any local business. Being part of the Finest membership has allowed our network to expand and supports us in regularly engaging in the market.

Why are you a member of the Steering Group?
With the Finest and Future Finest network having provided me with regular development and support activities, which in turn has opened the door to many new connections, I felt that I wanted to give something back to the local professional network. Having the opportunity to influence future activities and direction of the group felt like a great way to get involved. I was delighted to be requested to join and didn’t hesitate to get involved.

How can someone get in touch with you to learn more about your services?
Businesses and individuals can contact me directly by calling 07483036975 or by email at, anytime of the day.

Make Some Noise is excited to be growing its Programmes Team by offering this new role to coordinate our programmes that enable babies, toddlers and children (alongside their parents/carers) to develop their speech, language and motor skills as a result of engaging in empowering early years music opportunities.

We are looking for a highly organised and methodical individual, experienced in creative early years provision that supports babies and toddlers dealing with challenging circumstances. Being a musician is not vital to this role; this position is for a passionate and hard-working candidate, with excellent coordination, time-management and communication skills.

If you have a strong desire to champion the importance of inclusive and fun music-making opportunities and want to work for a charity that uses music to unlock the extraordinary potential in children and young people, then apply now.

For full details and application form please visit:  News & Jobs – Make Some Noise (

My blog this week is all about hard-earned awards for businesses who have gone above and beyond the norm in an exceptional year.

On Thursday night this week, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce were privileged to sponsor the ‘Business of the Year Award’ at the Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards 2021.

The Business Awards seem even more poignant this year coming at the end of the toughest year for business in living memory.

The Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards were an opportunity to reflect the positives of the past year and recognise that for some, 2020 has been a year of opportunity. Whether taking their business online, entering new markets or using their expertise to develop new products and services, many businesses were not only surviving, but thriving.

There were also countless examples of businesses supporting our key workers and the more vulnerable in society. Providing meals to those hit hardest by the pandemic, distributing food to food banks, manufacturing PPE and equipment and raising money for the NHS are just some of the ways in which business saw their role in the collective effort to get through this as one community.

And so, we celebrated the best of the business community with award entrants, fellow sponsors, guests, and everyone from the Sentinel at the online award ceremony. It may be a cliché, but everyone was a winner at the ceremony. Congratulations go to all the winners especially our ‘Business of the Year’ category winner TMT First. The Newcastle based Samsung authorised repair partner have had a great year, winning more repair contracts, and creating jobs in the most difficult of years. Well done to CEO Adam Whitehouse and the team at TMT First.

For a full list of award winners click here:

There is another opportunity for Staffordshire businesses to showcase their excellence as we launch the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards 2021. The competition will open for entry on 19th July and the winners and runners up will be celebrated at a special gala celebration evening on 15th November. We are hopeful that this will be a hybrid event with attendees and a live streaming.

Entry criteria is very similar to the Stoke-on-Trent Live Business Awards, so if you entered that competition, you have already done the hard work.

We will shortly be sending out full details of the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards and publicising them across social media.

Finally, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise launch on 1st May.

These awards are widely considered the highest accolade to be bestowed upon a UK business, celebrating the British companies that have showed outstanding achievement in trade, innovation, sustainable development and promoting opportunity through social mobility.

In 2020 two Staffordshire businesses won Queens Awards for Enterprise, Addmaster (UK)Ltd (Innovation) and Churchill China (International Trade).

I know that there are many more Staffordshire businesses out there deserving of a Queens Award for Enterprise and I hope that you will take time to consider entry. Alternatively, perhaps you work with or know of a business that should enter.

To find out more, check eligibility criteria and to apply, visit:

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:

The UK introduced a digital services tax (DST) in April 2020 in a bid to ensure search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces pay their fair share.

But Washington believes the tax unfairly targets US firms and it is now pressing ahead with counter-measures as it applies the pressure to Number 10 to change course.

The increased tariffs on UK exports could be imposed on items like make-up, coats, dresses, shirts, ceramics, gold necklaces, air conditioning machines, furniture and game consoles Click Here for a comprehensive list.

The US is threatening to impose tariffs of up to 25 per cent on some UK exports as it retaliates over Britain’s new ‘unreasonable’ and ‘discriminatory’ tax on big tech firms

The UK’s digital services tax, first unveiled back in October 2018 by then-chancellor Philip Hammond, applies a two per cent levy on the revenues of big tech firms.

The tax applies to companies with worldwide digital services revenues of more than £500million and UK digital services revenues of more than £25million.

Downing Street has promised the tax will be scrapped once a global solution has been hammered out to ensure tech firms pay proportionate amounts of tax where they operate.

The US had urged the UK not to go ahead with the measure but Number 10 proceeded anyway.

The Office of the US Trade Representative launched an investigation last June to establish whether the policy discriminated against US companies and to determine whether the tax was ‘unreasonable’.

In January this year it concluded that the digital services tax ‘is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts US commerce, and therefore is actionable’.

The US has vowed to take ‘all appropriate and feasible action’, with the US Trade Act allowing for the imposition of retaliatory tariffs.

Setting out a potential course of action, the Office of the US Trade Representative said it ‘proposes to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 percent ad valorem on an aggregate level of trade’.

The US believes the digital services tax will see US-based companies paying the UK approximately $325million per year and the tariff measures are designed to generate a similar amount.

The US has drawn up a long list of products which could be hit with the increased tariffs. The initial investigation into the tax was launched under Donald Trump’s White House and Joe Biden’s administration has decided to continue with it.
The proposed way forward will now be subject to consultation in the US.

A UK government spokesman told the BBC: ‘Like many countries around the world, we want to make sure tech firms pay their fair share of tax. Our digital services tax (DST) is reasonable, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

‘It’s also temporary. We’re working positively with the US and other international partners to find a global solution to this problem and will remove the DST when that is in place.’