The Chambers has only ever been as good as the sum of its Members, whose enthusiasm and drive give us the focus and the mandate to carry out our mission of being the complete business support and representative body for business in Staffordshire.

We are looking for active, influential Members who would like to take their involvement to the next level by joining Chambers’ Council, Board of Directors, or one of the Local Area Advisory Boards for Stafford or the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Serving on our Council, Board of Directors or a Local Area Advisory Board is a great way to keep abreast of what is going on in business and the wider economy. As a businessperson you can get directly involved and influence by representing the views of businesses in your community right up to the highest level.

In addition, you will make new contacts within your peer group and forge valuable business connections.

We welcome applications from all businesspeople who are Chambers Members, from all backgrounds from self-employed to large business in any sector.

Here are some quotes from existing board and council members:

“I would recommend council membership to any Chamber member who would like to get more involved in Chamber activity and in the local community.”

Margaret Michell

“Being a member of the Chambers council is an amazing opportunity to be a bridge between the Chambers team and the local businesses they support. It has enabled me to meet with some fascinating and inspirational people in the local business community.”

Lisa Cooper, Socially Grown

“I can honestly say that being a member of the Staffordshire Moorlands Board has totally transformed the way that I operate. It has introduced me to likeminded businesspeople who are willing to work together and collaborate on initiatives which make a real difference to all our businesses and the local economy.”

Jed Eatough, LSGK Accountants Ltd

“I joined the Chamber’s council because I believe that it is vital to be willing to serve in order to support local businesses and jobs – no more so than now when we face such major challenges.”

Jeremy Lefroy

If you are interested in becoming a council or board member, or would like to chat about what is involved please contact Vicki Hardie vicki.hardie@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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.

Last month  the government announced that hospitality businesses, including pubs, restaurants and accommodation, and leisure facilities, such as visitor attractions, will be permitted to reopen on 4th July, whilst restrictions on ticketed outdoor events will remain in force until it is considered safe for them to be lifted.

The visitor economy has been hit by total closure since lockdown in March. Devastating for a sector when you consider the 2019 Economic Impact Assessment report commissioned by Destination Staffordshire which showed there were 27 million to trips to Staffordshire in 2018 generating a staggering £1.34 billion plus another estimated £500 million in indirect spend.

The industry supports over 32,000 jobs with around 24,000 full-time equivalent posts. That is 6.6 per cent of all employment in Staffordshire.

The Chambers will host its third special visitor economy webinar next Wednesday entitled Routes to re-opening – Right tools for the job. It will highlight how you can use technology and what tools you can use to finalise your plans for visitors and customers to return. You can book on to the webinar here: https://bit.ly/2z6dmXc

Visit England are close to launching a common industry quality mark that will provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for tourism businesses, attractions, and destinations, as well as reassurance to visitors that businesses are as safe to visit as is possible and have clear processes in place as restrictions are lifted.

Alongside this, and following UK Government guidelines, Visit England are working on a major domestic campaign to give reassurance to the public that it is socially responsible to travel.

We know from feedback on our webinars that many businesses have been busy during the downtime with limited trading, improving communications, updating websites, writing blogs and networking with fellow businesses owners to broaden the offer post lockdown and we are fully supporting this activity with our webinars and business specialist advisers.

If you would like any assistance with issues raised please don’t hesitate to contact us at: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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. We also have a Twitter hour each Tuesday and Friday from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

On Monday 1st June, ten weeks to the day from the day we closed our offices on Festival Park to enter lockdown, some of us will be making the first tentative steps back to a new world of work.

Not all staff will be returning to the offices and no one is being asked to come in against their will or put under any undue pressure. Rather, it is a slow start to a way of working which will see a blend of office-based and online activity.

All through the lockdown I have had daily online meetings with the Chambers’ management team and fortnightly all staff meetings, including furloughed staff, so that everyone has had a chance to contribute to the decision-making process along the way.

We have undertaken a full risk assessment which will be published on our website later this week. It follows the government guidelines for returning to offices and coves vital areas such as social distancing measures, hygiene and PPE. In the short term the offices will only be open to staff. The Members’ Lounge will remain closed until further lifting of restrictions.

I envisage that all staff will be spending part of their working week at home for some months and we are doing everything we can to make sure that everyone has essential equipment to do this, such as a proper office chair, laptop supports and footrests. The last thing we want is staff suffering injury due to poor posture from home working.

One of the real positive outcomes from the lockdown has been the way in which members of the Chambers’ team have supported each other through this time. Lockdown has been a different experience for us all dealing with issues – some positive and others much less so – such as home schooling, caring for elderly relatives, self-isolation, loneliness, and illness.

Coming back to work in Commerce House is going to be challenging for us all in different ways and so to help everyone, we have re-established our wellbeing group headed by our HR specialist advisor, Joe Gill. It will enable us to share concerns, hints and tips and best practice.

All of this is new territory and we know we have a lot to learn. However, we are happy to share anything discussed here with all business as well as learning from you about what is working well in your organisation. And we are keen to learn from your experiences too.

To get in touch about any issues around returning to work you can contact us at info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

Leading Midlands based Digital Agency Netbiz Group are delighted to announce the launch of a new solution that will go one step further in supporting the future of businesses.

As part of their ongoing commitment to provide help, advice, and assistance to businesses through the current COVID-19 situation and beyond, Netbiz Group have specifically created their Business Bounce Back solution.

Business Bounce back involves the experts at Netbiz Group working with businesses to highlight the most effective marketing methods for their industry and target market. In addition, this solution includes the creation of tailor-made marketing campaigns, utilizing recommended techniques such as social media campaigns, website updates, blog posts or graphic design. The friendly, professional team at Netbiz Group will create all campaign materials a business needs to achieve a successful bounce back.

Boasting over 15 years’ experience transforming the digital landscapes of businesses, firms can be sure that they are in the best hands working with Netbiz Group.

The business hopes that this new addition to their product portfolio will give brands the boost they need to bounce back from the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brand Manager, Jessica Oliver commented; “Business Bounce Back has been created to help firms. We know that for some, starting up their company again or simply their marketing strategies after temporary suspension will be daunting and we’re here to support them.

Jessica added; Carefully planned marketing is crucial to communicate that they are once again open and ready to trade. As part of our Business Bounce Back solution, we will offer multiple services as a package to enhance their relaunch success and brand visibility”.

This latest solution follows E-Commerce Express, a product designed and launched by Netbiz Group back in April to help businesses move their trading online in just 1 week.

Will Hayes, Managing Director at Netbiz Group said; “Our customers are our top priority. Business Bounce Back is our newest solution created alongside others that have been specially designed to offer support to businesses throughout this time and beyond. We have been speaking to businesses and there is huge demand for assistance with marketing as they transition back to trading.

Will continued; The team have designed Business Bounce Back based on this for firms who’s marketing has taken a back seat due to the current situation, to help them move forward effectively, reach customers, and strengthen their market position.”

Businesses can learn more about Business Bounce Back by visiting Netbiz Groups website: https://www.netbizgroup.co.uk/business-bounceback-marketing/, emailing: info@netbizgroup.co.uk, or by viewing an e-brochure: https://bit.ly/2Lologl

The Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy and workplace guidance was outlined yesterday and I was fortunate to be able to talk about this and businesses concerns on Midlands Today and Radio Stoke.

The guidelines are a significant step forward for businesses who will now need to digest the detail as it signals big changes in the way that many businesses operate. Many firms will now need time to plan for a cautious and safe return to work.

Some of my colleagues in other chambers were involved in doing a late night reality check on the documents which have been produced in consultation with industry. There are separate guidelines for factories, plants and warehouses, offices, shops, vehicles, restaurants offering takeaways and many others….but still some gaps.

But alongside the guidance, businesses urgently need clarity on the future of government support schemes which need to be adapted to help those businesses who need to remain closed for an extended period or who face reduced capacity or demand. We need a tapering of the JRS and we are expecting Chancellor Rishi Sunak  to reveal the future of this scheme later today. He has already indicated that the scheme, currently with six million people having 80 percent of their wages paid by the government, is not sustainable at its current rate – which none of us would expect!

However, with Prime Minister indicating that he was not expecting “a sudden flood” of people returning to work, I am hopeful that the extension of the scheme will be mindful of those workers who won’t be able to make a speedy return to work.

Staffordshire Chambers are keen to hear what support you need as we all return to workplaces and what issues you are facing – and what is working well as people return. Please send any comments or thoughts  to info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk.

Another element about the relaxation that everyone is concerned about is transport. Some news just in from London Northwestern Railway. They will be issuing a press release this afternoon which urges those passengers who are making essential journeys to check the timetable before travelling and in line with government advice to wear face coverings while travelling and to buy their tickets in advance online, if possible.

The timetable includes the reinstatement of services through Stoke-on-Trent which were temporarily halted last month. There is a summary of the services from 18 May onwards and the new timetables online at www.lnr.uk/coronavirus from this afternoon.

You can view the Government’s guide to working safely here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

If you want to talk to anyone about issues in your business,  you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002. We also have a weekday daily Twitter hour from 11am – 12noon #StaffsChamberChat

Mitten Clarke guides

When Selina Rudzik needed “an extra pair of eyes and ears” to help her recruitment company reach its full potential, she knew who to turn to.

As a mentor herself, Selina already knew the many advantages of joining the Let’s Do Mentoring programme at the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, but as she states, “Sometimes you reach a stage where you need a clearer focus, to see the woods from the trees. It’s admitting to yourself that this is the case and taking appropriate action. In this instance, the answer really was right in front of me.”

Selina has over a decade of management experience in the recruitment sector, and is the founder and owner of Recruitment Robin Ltd, a fixed fee recruitment and resourcing business supplying permanent and contract staff solutions to businesses in Staffordshire and beyond.

Selina’s extra eyes and ears came in the shape of mentor Sean Farrell, a successful business coach who boasts an impressive track record of helping companies throughout Staffordshire.

“When I first started on the mentoring road, I was looking for support with regards to having a clearer focus, but with particular help on sales and marketing,” she explains. “But after meeting Sean it became apparent that the focus would be very different. Basically, Sean gave me clarity. Clarity in how I thought about myself and my business. He helped me to virtually strip away everything that I shouldn’t be focussing on and helped to remind me that I’m really good at what I do, but also to cut out what I don’t need to be doing.”

Click on the following link to read the full case study of how Let’s Do Mentoring supported Selina: Recruitment Robin Case Study

The percentage of UK firms facing recruitment difficulties has returned to previous highs, while one in four businesses expect to increase headcount according to the UK’s largest survey of employers.

Over half (54%) of British businesses recruited in the last three months, with nearly three quarters reporting recruitment difficulties, as skills shortages persist. One in four (27%) British businesses plan to increase their headcount in the next quarter (Q4 2019), with two thirds believing their workforce will remain constant.

The latest Quarterly Recruitment Outlook from the British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with Totaljobs, reveals that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of businesses who attempted to recruit faced recruitment difficulties in Q3 2019, compared with 64 per cent in Q2.

Skills shortages were predominantly felt across skilled manual roles and professional roles, with 80 per cent of construction firms and 71 per cent of transport and distribution businesses facing difficulties recruiting the right staff. In the run up to Christmas, 70,000 transport and distribution roles were advertised on Totaljobs in Q3, receiving an average of 23 applications per vacancy.

Despite concerns over Brexit deadlock, labour market performance and expectations are holding up fairly well.  Only 11 per cent of businesses have decreased their workforce in Q3, with one in four businesses increasing their total headcount. Headcount remained consistent at 62 per cent of responding businesses.

Looking forward, one in four businesses plan to increase their headcount in Q4 2019, and two in three expect to keep their workforce consistent. Just 8 per cent of UK firms expect to decrease their headcount in Q4 2019. Supporting signs of a buoyant recruitment market, over 740,000 job vacancies advertised on Totaljobs in Q3 2019, with over 13 million applications made on the platform.

Although over half (54 per cent) of UK businesses tried to recruit in Q3 2019, just one in four (28%) micro- businesses attempted to recruit. In contrast, 75% of small and mid-sized businesses (250+ employees) and 90% of large businesses (250+ employees) recruited in the same period.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:

“Jobseekers will welcome the fact that many businesses are continuing to hire staff, but policymakers should be alarmed that skills shortages continue to bedevil firms – particularly in the skilled roles that will be needed to drive healthy manufacturing and export performance following Brexit.

“The next government must swiftly translate election promises into action and deliver more generous investment in high-quality technical and vocational education at all levels, alongside a flexible, fast and affordable immigration system that provides access to a broad range of skills. It must radically reduce upfront business costs so firms have the confidence and cashflow to back this up with on-the-job training and apprenticeships.”

Patrick Wehrmann, CEO of Totaljobs said:

“The labour market remains one of the strongest pillars of the UK economy, and in the previous quarter, there were almost 750,000 vacancies advertised on Totaljobs, driving over 13 million applications from the UK workforce.

“Despite economic uncertainty, our latest research indicates that the labour market is buoyant, and with over a quarter of businesses looking to expand their workforce with an increased headcount in Q4, this looks set to continue.

“However, it’s notable that skills shortages continue to affect businesses UK-wide, and as such, regardless of wider economic concerns, employers should be mindful that they are doing what’s necessary to attract and retain the best talent on offer.

“Totaljobs research shows that workers are particularly driven by professional development and training, clear progression paths, and a healthy work-life balance. It’s vital that employers put these things front of mind and continue to drive investment in their people in order to keep staff engaged, and drive business output during a dip in the economy.”

 

 

Avoiding a no-deal Brexit and delivering an urgent confidence boost through action on infrastructure, immigration, skills and business costs must be at the forefront of the next government’s agenda, says the British Chambers of Commerce.

2020 and beyond: business priorities for the next UK government – compiled with input from the 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK and the BCC’s growing global network – sets out key priorities that would enable businesses of all sizes to reignite the country’s stagnating economy.

BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said:

“The message from business communities all over the UK couldn’t be clearer: the next government must deliver an end to the Brexit stalemate and take decisive steps to improve the business environment here at home.

“To say business leaders are angry and frustrated would be putting it mildly. They are doing their bit for the country – and think it is high time politicians do their bit too.

“We cannot afford to allow our infrastructure to fray, for the gaping holes in our training and skills system to go unfilled, or for governments to pile on new costs that stop firms from investing in growth.

“Millions of businesspeople across the UK pay their taxes diligently, and care deeply about their communities and the environment. They should never be seen as the enemies of progress, and Westminster should never be distracted from delivering the conditions needed for growth, jobs and prosperity here at home.

“Our proposals would help an incoming administration reignite business confidence and investment – and would pay lasting dividends for our communities and the UK economy.”

Key business priorities for the next administration are:

On Brexit:

  • Avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union. Ensure the smoothest possible shift from a transition period to the future UK-European Union relationship. Introduce a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions.

On people:

  • Introduce a simple and flexible new immigration system that minimises the administrative burden on businesses and allows access to all skill levels – including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles – with recognition of professional qualifications.
  • Increase funding for apprenticeships to ensure SMEs can access training, at all skill levels, in their local area and reform the Apprenticeship Levy in England to allow businesses to use all forms of accredited training.

On business investment and costs:

  • Launch a business-led review of the business rates system in England and Wales, and work with the Scottish government to co-ordinate these reforms to provide a level playing field.
  • Extend the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance for a further two years and widen its scope.

On infrastructure:

  • Raise public investment in infrastructure to at least 1.4 per cent of GDP per year – exceeding the funding guideline of 1.2 per cent recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.
  • Complete the legal frameworks forall phases of HS2; deliver promised investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail; and proceed to deliver a UK-wide high-speed rail network as soon as possible.

On international trade:

  • Ensure continuity of trading conditions with third countries so that businesses can continue to benefit from the levels of market access that they have had under European Union free trade agreements.
  • Secure the future of the UK-European Union trading relationship, minimising cross-border trade frictions and avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

Big Quiz Night