Category Archives: Business

Bridging the gender gap: Why are there still so few women in IT roles?

If you had asked the graduates of 1993 how they imagined the gender gap would look in a quarter of a century’s time, the chances are they would have laughed in your face. The girls were outnumbering the lads in the traditionally male disciplines of engineering and technology, and it would have been reasonable to assume that by 2018, this would have spread to all sectors and management levels.

Yet here we are, and things do not quite look that way. Gender diversity remains as much of an issue in technology organizations as it was at the turn of the millennium.

Career breaks?

In part, it is down to the fact that more than 50 percent of women who begin careers in technology leave their jobs mid-career. However, there must be more to it than that. The pattern is not seen to the same extent in other sectors, and to the best of the researchers’ knowledge, technical workers are not the only women on the planet who have babies.

A normalized career path

The question is one that was recently studied by Girls Who Code (GWC), a non-profit organization that provides computer-science education and training to girls and young women aged 11 to 17. Their after-school and summer camp style programs have gone a long way to normalize technology as an educational path, and to foster a sense of curiosity and engagement in technology among teenagers.

The real trick is to keep that momentum going into the world of work, and the recent trend towards outsourced IT services could be key. It is no secret that there is still something of a “boys locker room” mentality in the archetypal corporate IT department. But with internal IT teams rapidly going the way of the dinosaurs, so are the attitudes.

Today, businesses are increasingly looking at third party providers to meet their IT needs – that means companies like Probrand, that provides third party solutions ranging from technical support to managed services to a whole lot more. With the new style of service provision have come new attitudes, and the whole sector has a feeling of fresh air about it.

Identifying the talent

Of course, not every major organization is outsourcing its IT. What can those who keep their technical departments in-house do to improve gender equality? Jane Chwick, a senior advisor at Goldman Sachs, is a speaker for GWC and a member of its board. She feels that the major corporations can and should be doing more to identify, develop and retain the most talented employees and cited a project that she led at Goldman’s 15 years ago.

By creating leadership training programs for the most talented and high-potential female employees in the technology departments, she raised their profiles, allocating real-life projects that would have tangible deliverables. She said: “Within five years, 70 percent of those women became managing directors at Goldman. I think that particular program started a movement at the firm.”

Why consider a career in Civil Engineering?

The desire to build and create is one of the primary driving forces that separates humans from other animals, and is one that has led to civilisation as we know it. It is something that manifests itself from a young age – kids of both sexes and all ages love building and making things – from those first simple towers to complex models that are often as popular with the parents as the offspring.

Family owned civil engineering firm Lagan Construction has developed generations of civil engineers over the past half a century. They say that those who choose a career in civil engineering are typically men and women who have carried that passion to create into their late teens and adult life. Here are five reasons civil engineering makes a great career choice in 2018.

  • There’s never been a better time

This is an ideal time to get into the civil engineering industry. There are projects in the pipeline worth around £500 billion over the next few years, including HS2, Crossrail 2 and numerous motorway and regional rail expansion projects. There are also plans for several new power plants, included the proposed Bradwell B in Essex.

  • Entry levels regardless of qualifications

Most civil engineering jobs require the candidate to have a degree, but there are other routes into the industry that do not mean years of academic study. For example, steelworkers form the backbone of any civil engineering project, and entry level roles do not require any specific experience or qualifications. Of course, even here, the right certificates will always help to land that first job, so a specialist course is always a good idea.

  • Career development

Get a job in civil engineering and a whole world of opportunities is open to you. You might choose to work your way up to a supervisory or management role, or perhaps you will decide your talents lie in the technical and design side of civil engineering. The point is that once you are in, it is just a matter of gaining experience and acquiring the necessary professional qualifications to develop your career.

  • Acquire new skills

Whichever area of civil engineering you ultimately settle upon, you will be certain to gain a wide range of useful skills and abilities, that can open doors in a variety of related fields, including manufacturing and construction. As well as practical talents, the soft skills in areas such as teamworking, problem solving and critical thinking will put you in good stead, regardless of the career route you ultimately pursue.

  • Lucrative earning potential

Civil engineers can earn a good salary, particularly those with knowledge, skill and experience that is in high demand. The specific salary opportunities will, of course, vary  depending on the exact role, but starting salaries are typically around £23,000 and even those without a degree can soon find themselves earning £30,000 or more when they have acquired around five years’ experience. Members of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) earn an average basic salary of £50,000.

How to Plead Exceptional Circumstances to Keep Your Driving Licence

You’ve committed a driving offence and you’re about to be prosecuted. It’s possible that you could lose your driving licence and while you’re obviously remorseful and know you must face some consequences, you’re still very worried.

If you’re disqualified from driving for a significant period of time, then the impact on your family could be very serious indeed. When you’re dealing with a driving offence you should get legal help as soon as possible so that you’re treated fairly in court. If you’ve pleaded guilty to the offence then your best hope is to try to reduce the punishment, maybe by pleading exceptional hardship. Here are some helpful pointers to pleading exceptional hardship.

Avoid online templates

Letter templates don’t work because they don’t take you and your unique circumstances into account. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with visiting a website or two to find out how to structure such a letter, but don’t be tempted to copy it to the word.

The prosecution will want to examine your exceptional hardship case

You should expect the prosecution to ask if you can’t use public transport, or a cab, or even get a lift from a friend or relative to get to work or to appointments.

You’ll need to provide written proof rather than verbal testimony. Stick to plain facts, not maybes and what-ifs and certainly not emotive language. You can use bullet-points if you like, as this helps you to focus on facts.

Use sensible examples of the hardship you’ll suffer

Strong examples of exceptional hardship include job loss and therefore the potential loss of your home. You can also include the fact that you can’t drive vulnerable relatives to medical appointments or the fact that you can’t do your usual community or charity work. You need, in a nutshell, to show that others will suffer as much as, if not more than, you.

Is losing your job serious enough?

If you’re in an unusual or niche field and you’re well-qualified and fairly young, then losing your job could be seen as a temporary setback. If you’re older and in a saturated sector, then you may find it harder to replace your livelihood.

Leave out the trivia

Losing your driving licence will make shopping and going on holiday more difficult – you’re being punished, after all. No-one will care about these problems, so focus on the bigger issues like keeping your job and paying your mortgage.

Don’t embellish or lie

You’re dealing with lawyers…

Gather all your evidence in advance

Documents are the way forward here, so talk with your lawyer about the evidence you can collect and how you can best present it. This sort of evidence can make or break your case.

You mustn’t make yourself the star of the show (as it were). If you talk about how much you do for your local OAP group and the village Under 14’s football team, you’ll come over as smug. What you need is letters from the OAP group and the team coach explaining how they’ll find things harder without you. Letters are especially useful because they don’t get nervous in court and forget things.



45 ways to build your Facebook following for your business

Have a Facebook page, it’s a great way to promote your business! That can feel like it is easier said than done, however. In this article, Antonia Chitty, co-author of Making Money Online and Blogging: the Essential Guide, outlines 45 steps to make sure that you don’t just create a Facebook page, but you create one that really works for your business.

    • When setting up your page, choose a good username, something memorable that is easy to spell.
    • Start with a clear ‘about’ and links to your business website.
    • Add in your business telephone number and address as appropriate – the easier it is for people to see that you really exist, the easier it is for them to trust your business and click ‘like’.
    • Use the milestones feature to build in your business’s history, awards, etc – this can all build trust and encourage people to like your page.
    • Build trust with good content – and add content regularly. Carol Smith, social media consultant for EyecareFAQ, says, “Create content that engages your fans, the more they like posts and comments the more their friends will see in their feeds.” Social media consultant Liz Weston says, “For The Baby & Toddler Show we have consistently found and curated content that has truly connected with our audience. It sounds so simple, but the “job description” of a parent, was shared more than 180 times and brought us more than 400 new, organic likes in under 24 hours. At that point the page was 4K ish of fans, so this felt like a big number!”
    • Focus on the problems that your potential customers or clients need to solve. Which issues cause them most ‘pain’ – physical, emotional or psychological? How can you help them address these?
    • Ask your friends to like your page. We all do it, but it has its limitations. Are your friends really your target market? And don’t you need your business to extend beyond friends and family? What asking friends for like is good for, however, is getting the page started, finding the first 25 of 100 followers. Having a number followers already can take away one of the barriers to people clicking like: the more people who like your page, the more people want to say ‘me too!’ and follow the crowd.
  • Another way to build your initial ‘likes’ is to invite email subscribers to go and like your Facebook page. People who are on your list already will be warm to your business and more likely to take action. Remember to go back every so often and remind them about the page again as not everyone takes action first time.
  • Use Facebook resources: Facebook wants your page to succeed and their tips will help. Something simple to start with, as suggested by Facebook, is to ask yourself, “What do your ideal customers have in common? How old are they, and where do they live? How can your business help them? Would one group be more interested in specific messages, products or services? A sale or a timely offer?
  • Once your Facebook page is set up, add the link to your email signature block (and that of all staff members if appropriate).
  • Put your Facebook page on all your print media
  • Add the link or a QR Code to business cards.
  • Now, make a plan for promotion. Planning now, rather than simply wandering round Facebook every day, can save you time and effort and make sure you ae getting the results you want.
  • Be clear about the overall aim for your business and how Facebook fits in
  • Set some goals and targets: this makes it much easier to focus your efforts and see if they are working.
  • Be clear about your target audience – and refine this as you see what type of person likes your page, and how this compares to people who buy from you.  Consider where your audience already gathers online? What would incentivise them to like you – what’s in it for them? Who are their leaders, who would be a great ambassador?
  • Allocate time each day where you or your staff will work on your Facebook page. Regular interaction is vital – people expect Facebook to be a place where conversations happen. Try different times too – do people check in first thing, at lunchtime, in the evenings?
  • Advertising does work to help you boost the number of people who like your business page. See the ad create tool at It really is simple to use, and also to adjust as you use it. Try different adverts for different target groups. Try something for a week then adjust, and assess your results.
  • Ask questions – open ended questions encourage discussion and give you insights you’re your audience.
  • Include the link to your Facebook page in your own blog posts and in guest posts on other blogs.
  • Hold a ‘chat’. Liz Weston says, “For SnoozeShade, the most successful thing we have done is brought high profile and truly valuable people to their Facebook page, to have a FB chat. We don’t need a giveaway – it’s just the value of the conversation. As well as bringing FB followers, because people want to be part of the conversation, it’s ended up carrying on well after it should finish – like an online lock in, in the pub!”
  • Comment, thoughtfully, on other pages as your own pages. Focus on those with overlapping target audiences.
  • Competitions bring people in to your page, though as I write this regulations are changing about ‘liking’ as a requirement for entry. Check the regulations before running your own competition at Facebook Business News,, will keep you up to date with future changes.
  • Offer coupons and discount codes exclusively on your Facebook page. Regular offers will keep people checking back, so flag up when your offers will occur, whether it is every week or month.
  • Embed the ‘like my page’ widget on your website
  • Build follower involvement. Social media consultant Donna Pinnell says, “For Love Boo Shop it has been all about getting people involved, so we do a Sunday night quiz. There are small prizes involved but the engagement is great and we have fabulous feedback from it.”
  • Business consultant Helen Lindop says, “I’m part of a big, carefully moderated Facebook group, one that is on-topic and spam free, where people know and like each other. Very occasionally the owner allows a thread where we all like each other’s pages, which gave us all lots of relevant page likes. ,
  • Link your Twitter to your Facebook fan page and automatically post your Facebook content to Twitter. This isn’t a rule that you always have to follow, sometimes it can become annoying, so test out the response.
  • Another way to cross pollinate your social media is to share what’s happening on your Facebook page with your Linked in contacts. Make sure you select people who are in your target audience, and approach them with email letters that appear to address their particular interests.
  • Network by making connections with other page admins – business owners or social media consultants – who have a similar demographic to yours and cross-promote each other.
  • Make it personal. Facebook gives people who like your page a chance to get the inside take on your business. Consider what might push their buttons and make them feel part of the family. It could be sharing pics of staff, your customers own cake designs, your pets or theirs? Think about what will appeal to your target audience.
  • Photos are key to Facebook. We’ve already mentioned photos of the behind the scenes part of your business. If you have products, can you ask customers to share pics of them in use, perhaps with incentives to share? If you offer a service, get consent from those using the service to allow you post photos. Tag people in the photos once you have their consent and you may find they share the pics too.
  • Polls can make people feel part of your business. If you are selecting new designs or products or considering offering a different service, ask for views. It gives you a good reason to promote your page and get people involved.
  • Promote your posts. This one is straight from the Facebook guide and it makes perfect sense: “Make successful posts into successful promotions: When you notice that a post is getting a lot of engagement, promote it to reach even more people. When people like, comment on or share your posts, their friends are also eligible to see those posts in News Feed.”
  • Use scheduling apps like Hootsuite to ensure that content is coming up regularly. Nothing beats real-person interaction when running a page, but if your busy times are in t evenings you don’t always want to work then. Scheduling can ensure new material appears when it is needed, whether you are online, working on something else, or on holiday. It is also time-effective to plan content for the week or month ahead.
  • There’s nothing wrong with asking others to share. You could simple add ‘please share’ to a significant post, or build relationships with opinion formers within your target audience and drop them a message to ask them to help spread the word about a particular post or event on your Facebook page.
  • Share other relevant page content via your page. It always helps to gather good information on regular topics and disseminate it to people who like your page – they will know where to come for news on their interests.
  • Create custom tabs to use as landing pages for specific campaigns – this could include a sign up box, a coupon, a video, some of your most popular posts, calls to action or other marketing ideas.
  • Take photos at live events and encourage people to tag themselves in them.
  • Add testimonials, customer letters, comments etc, but always make sure that you have permission to do so. This builds trust and also interaction as it can encourage others to share their views.
  • Respond to complaints promptly. Sometimes customers will complain via Facebook and this isn’t always bad for business. Show that you are addressing the complaint and sorting the problem and it can, in fact, help people trust your business.
  • Video is just as important as photos and written updates. Add in videos of your products, your services, your customers. Upload video direct to Facebook rather than embedding and it will display a like button for everyone … and that even includes people who aren’t fans. You can load video content to your Facebook fan page, then take the source code and embed on your blog/website.
  • Tweak your content and check results. Try posting photo posts and those without photos, try posting at different times of day, compare posts where you share other people’s contents with posts that link to your own site. Count the reach for different types of posts and adjust your mix accordingly.
  • Measure and adjust: Find out what’s working well, so you can maximise the impact of every post and ad. Facebook has a lot of different tools to help you measure how you’re doing. Visit Page Insights regularly and look for trends so you can develop more of the best-performing content. It will help you understand more about the people who respond to your updates. You’ll learn more about their gender, age and location, and who is most engaged.
  • Ask how people heard about you—at the end of a call, in a survey, or at the point of sale—and keep track of what they say. This will help you know if your Facebook page is working for your business.

10 tips to help entrepreneurs implement effectively

WB_332-300x212 Ideas mean nothing unless they are made real. Entrepreneurial ideas get turned into products and services and are sold to customers to make a difference. Yet, entrepreneurs are often not implementers, nor project managers. They’re often distracted by the next idea, the next development, and the new opportunity. William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club offers 10 tips to implementing effectively as an entrepreneur:


  1. Crystal clear clarity of where you’re going.
    Firstly, have really clear goals. If you can’t tell everyone what you are doing, quickly and with passion, why would they care about it? If the picture you paint is of a future that makes the effort worthwhile then people will yearn for it and fight for it, with you.
  2. Slow down to go faster.
    There is the work that directly creates our idea and makes it real, and then there is the planning and administrative work. That indirect work is an ‘overhead’. Many entrepreneurs treat overhead tasks as something to do as you go. However, by doing do them early you’ll save a lot of time later.
  3. Set a realistic timescale.

You’ll need some time to adapt and change on the journey. Work expands to fit the time available too, so be sensibly realistic, when you set the goal.
If there are critical dates you need to hit then those should be clear at this point, so expectations are properly set.

  1. Find the big chunks.
    Look at the work one quarter at a time. Identify what would have had to have been delivered three months before the end date, six months before the end date and so on.  By doing that your team can see what they’ll be building.


  1. Identify the building blocks.
    Now create monthly goals for the next two quarters and weekly goals for the first month or so.

    But do not go further. Great teams rely on the ability of everyone to plan their own work within the framework.

  2. Identify “Now Win”s.

It’s now useful to plan forward and look at what could be done this week, this month and this quarter. This can show you where there are opportunities to win now and get ahead of the game.

  1. Don’t be a slave to the plan; the plan is your slave.
    If necessary take a step back, do some work on the project, deliver some elements of it and then look at where that takes you and how to plan further from there.  Project planning should be no more than a few minutes each week once the original plan is put in place.
  2. Remember resources and materials.
    In any project there will be times when you need specific essential materials or resources, so each week and month take a look ahead, check what resources you’re expecting to need and make sure that they’re on track for delivery.
  3. Reward success.
    It’s important to recognise and reward incremental successes within the team; let them know that it’s on track and going well.  It will help ensure that this and every implementation easier.
  4. Document along the way.
    In reality every task in a project has probably been done before in a different context. The mistakes have been forgotten, and so will be easy to repeat, and the shortcuts forgotten too. This step is not for this time; it’s for next time. You’ll get quicker and can move on to the next idea ever faster.

Implementation is the work that brings your ideas to the world, and when it’s done brilliantly it’s because of attention to detail and great planning.  It builds on past experience and creates the foundations for future success too. Brilliant products, and remarkable companies, implement brilliantly.


William Buist is owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club– an annual programme of strategic activities for small, exclusive groups of business owners. xTEN helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’. See:  /  /


5 ways to shift your business story from stuck to successful

We are all storytellers, constantly telling ourselves stories about every aspect of our personal and business lives, says Claire Taylor from The Story Mill.

The quality of our lives and our businesses is greatly influenced by the way we tell our stories, how we frame our experiences.

When we tell ourselves empowering stories that support our success then all’s well.  The trouble is when we’re telling ourselves negative stories, we wind-up feeling stuck with a problem.

Claire Taylor co-founder of The Story Mill and author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling’, recommends five steps we need to take to shift any business story from being stuck to being successful:

Recognise that your frustration is coming from a story that you’re telling yourself

It is easy to see our stories as the truth about a situation. However they are not the truth – they’re just our perspective.   What creates frustration is not the ‘facts’ that we see, but the meaning that we’ve give them or they story that we tell.  In businesses, these stories often become a collective perspective and so everyone in the company believes them.

So the first step is to recognise that we’re simply telling a story – we’re framing our experience with meaning.  Next we need to ask if our story is keeping us and others stuck in frustration, fear, stress and other disempowering emotions.

Now is the time to let go of the disempowering story and start creating a new story about our business.

Redefine your difficult problem story into an inspiring challenge story

If you frame problem stories as difficult, impossible or insurmountable you are actually portraying yourself and your business as victims of circumstance.  This is demotivating and depletes people’s energy and enthusiasm.

So what can you do instead?  Start by redefining the problem story into one that is empowering.  That begins with taking responsibility – so if the market or the economy has changed, how are you going to respond to it?  How can you anticipate change and surf the waves of it?  See yourself and your business as the heroes of the piece.  Reframing the problem from this perspective will help people feel more enthusiastic, and even excited, about tackling a challenge as they see themselves as heroic wave surfers.

See your problem story as an opportunity for growth within your business and yourself

Resolving these business challenges calls for innovation, creativity and processes to implement your ideas. Innovation is about creating value from what you have right now.

Begin by creating a vision of what your business success looks like and be sure to include how you’ll know that you have arrived.  Tell the story of having arrived – what would you see, hear, feel?  Who would be there?  What would you be doing?

Consider your stakeholders as your allies along the journey.

It is easy to get into blaming others for your business problems. If you find yourself doing this remember that you’re telling yourself a negative story about them and your business.

These people can be demons and devils or warriors, guides and guardians.  The latter is definitely more useful because your stakeholders can be your greatest allies in achieving success.  When you see them as warriors, guides and guardians you’ll look for their strengths, open up to their ideas, ask for their help, trust them and innovate together.

Remember that successful teams comprise ordinary people inspired by great leadership to achieve extraordinary things

If you find yourself believing that your team isn’t up to scratch, it’s time to stop and ask yourself if you’re actually connecting with them or rejecting them.

You may be projecting your own fears and feelings of vulnerability on to them.  If you’re doing that, then don’t be surprised when you get your story mirrored back to you by the way that people behave.

Taking the opportunity to learn how to empower, trust and learn from the people in your team, would enhance your self-image as a leader.  Investing in your people begins with believing in them and telling yourself positive stories about them, even if they’re not like you.

In summary, we tell ourselves stories all the time.  Mostly these stories are kept to ourselves and often we don’t even acknowledge that we’re carrying them.  However we live by our stories and they drive our behaviour.

Stories can be changed once we acknowledge them, recognise them as stories and make the choice to create new and more empowering business narratives.

Your new inspiring stories create shifts in attitude and motivate you and your stakeholders into doing the activity it takes to produce the business success that you desire.


Claire Taylor is a Business Consultant, Writer and co-founder of The Story Mill, an innovative organisation that works with business people to create sustainable success through authentic brand stories, personal branding stories, business strategies & collaborative cultures using a variety of business tools and the art of storytelling.  Claire has worked with companies that include manufacturers; Novartis, Abbott/Abbvie, Pharmacia/Pfizer, and retailers The Burton Group (now Arcadia) and The Kingfisher Group.  Claire holds an MA in Marketing from the University of Westminster and is an NLP Master Practitioner and Storyteller.

Claire is author of ‘The Tao of Storytelling – 30 Ways to create empowering stories to live by’: and


Using your intuition spiritual and emotional intelligence in business

Do you rely on facts to make your business decisions or do you follow your gut instinct? I’ve noticed a big interest in articles on the Family Friendly Working site about using your spiritual intelligence so I decided to find out more.

According to Wikipedia, Spiritual intelligence is a term used by some philosophers, psychologists, and developmental theorists to indicate spiritual parallels with IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and EQ (Emotional Quotient). Danah Zohar coined the term “spiritual intelligence” and introduced the idea in 1997 in her book ReWiring the Corporate Brain. There are ongoing debates about Emotional Intelligence – does it exist, can we measure it, and how? The same debate is very much starting around spiritual intelligence. I wonder, though, if the need to define and measure is ignoring something fundamental, as well as being promulgated by those who might not rely on their instincts!

There’s a place for scientific investigation, but I think that it is also interesting to look at what people do every day. I had been thinking about doing a masters for a number of years, but I was always too busy, with family and business vying for time. Some problems with my health coincided with closing part of my business, and all at once I had time to spare, and a reason to reorganise my priorities. I started a course with the WEA which gave me the confidence to apply for an MA in Critical and Creative writing. I’ve been on the course since September and it’s great, giving me loads of new fuel for thought as well as opening up whole new areas of writing. If I hadn’t followed my intuition that the time was right for a big change, I might be struggling to grow a business that wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Joe Gregory runs publishing company He says, “I definitely use instinct when deciding who to partner with. I think we humans are amazing at spotting incongruity when we trust our gut. When buying product and services though I usually check the data.” Small business blogger and trainer Helen Lindop says, “Yes, big life decisions I tend to go with my gut (then justify it to myself with the facts), smaller decisions I tend to go with the data.” Joe recommends Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, to understand more about how we make decisions. Lucy Carraher is Managing Editor of Rethink Press. She advises, “Consciously seek out facts then wait for intuition to process and give a definitive response. “Gut” or intuition is not irrational or non-factual. It’s our subconscious linking all information, knowledge and emotion in a broader but less visible way than our conscious thinking processes are able. “Gut” is bigger than but includes “facts”.”

But when it comes down to it, when faced by a decision, what do you actually do? In my own experience, I’d say that at the final point of making a choice, you can only follow your instinct, however many facts you have consumed before that point. You will be able to make an informed choice, the facts may seem to point in one direction, but it is your instinct that tells you whether the time is right, and whether that is the right direction for you and your business.

This article first appeared in Business Rocks magazine.

New Scholarships for Women in Business

ESMT_studentsA leading European business school is offering women in leadership partial scholarships for executive education.

ESMT European School of Management and Technology will pay for almost two-thirds of tuition costs for experienced female leaders on the Executive Transition Program starting in October 2014.
The two scholarships, each valued at €17,500, are designed for women who have demonstrated entrepreneurial initiative in their careers and can display tangible results in their areas of responsibility.
Kirsten Kaup, Executive Transition Program scholar of 2013 said: “The international exchange between participants from different sectors has inspired me. Those who want to grow professionally and personally are the right candidates to apply for the scholarships.”

The Executive Transition Program takes place in Berlin and Schloss Gracht, and is taught in English, in three modules of 10 days each, between October 2014 and June 2015

The first module provides a foundation for function-oriented management skills, while the second module focuses on cross-functional aspects and includes a stay in Brussels to explore the influence of European institutions on corporate governance and investment opportunities. The third session focuses on putting leadership into action.

Candidates must apply via e-mail by June 30, 2014.

For more information please visit the website:

How will the new VAT changes affect your business?

MMM £20 ImageVAT is set to change on 1st Jan 2015. So how will this affect your business?

Carol Cheesman of Cheesmans Accountants explains the changes and offers some advice for business owners;

Business-to-consumer trades will be required to charge VAT, at the applicable rate, in the EU country in which the consumer is located, rather than where the seller is located.

The changes are being introduced in an attempt to avoid the distortion of competition and create a level playing field across the EU.

These rules will apply to Television and Radio broadcasting services or other electronically supplied services such as websites and website hosting,  downloaded software, downloaded texts, information or images, access to electronic databases, downloaded music, games or films as well as the supply of e-books or electronic publications.

Ordinarily the rules would require a (UK) supplier to register for VAT in each EU country in which it makes the affected supplies. To alleviate this burden, the supplier can alternatively register for a ‘’Mini One Stop Shop’’ (MOSS) online service which will enable the UK supplier to account for VAT due in any other EU country by submitting a single MOSS VAT return and the appropriate payment to HM Revenue and Customs in the UK.

Businesses will be able to register to use the MOSS scheme for VAT returns from October 2014 and the online service will be available to use from the 1st of January 2015.


The government has stated that it could see an extra £300 million in revenue as a result of the tax changes.


Without doubt Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will be the businesses that are the most hit with this new regulation, for example they will be obliged to implement many changes in a relatively short space of time. As a result billing management could become much more complex. In addition their costs may go up in certain countries.


Businesses will be forced to think carefully about where they carry out their operations. The current scheme encouraged many firms to be based in countries like Luxembourg as it charges a lower rate of tax than the UK. The new scheme will revoke this advantage. This means that business owners can no longer reap the benefits of their current location, and may choose to move to areas with lower staff costs, for example.

These new rules may also adversely affect costs so SME owners will need to ask themselves if they can realistically pass this on to their customers. One way to deal with this may be to make the increase very gradual. In this way you may reduce your profits temporarily but are less likely to lose customers in the short term.

January 2015 may seem a long way off nevertheless now is the time to evaluate the impact of the VAT changes on your business, make the necessary changes and plan for the potential use of MOSS.

 Carol Cheesman is Principal of Cheesmans Accountants. Always client focused, Carol regularly meets with clients in person and has a hands-on approach. / 020 7354 3914  


Why businesses are looking in the wrong places when it comes to problem solving + nine tips to help you look in the right places.

WB_332-300x212 If a business has a problem that needs solving, whatever it is, there tends to be a pattern as to where the business owner will look for a solution. Some will almost always look inward i.e. at the internal processes and systems, and other will almost always put their focus externally i.e. at the market and business environment.  While both have merits neither is sufficient on its own.

According to William Buist, CEO of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club, successful businesses can see a problem from both the customer’s perspective (external) and the perspective of the business owner (internal).

We seek to get customers to remember us for all sorts of things but in reality, in any business, customers only remember you for one of two things: the problems you solve – or the problems you create.

So how can you improve your problem solving? Here are William Buist’s nine tips to help you get clarity and put your focus in the right place:

  1.  Clarify your marketplace. In order to solve your customers’ most meaningful, relevant problems, you need to know what problems they are facing – and see them from their perspective. For example, what motivates your target customer? Are they concerned about high-quality products, spotless customer service, or finding the most budget-friendly solution?
  1. Clarify where your customers want to go. Understand where your customers currently are, followed by where they want to go. This gap is, in essence, your customer’s problem. Now you can tailor a solution that bridges the gap and solves their problem.
  1. Clarify with questions. For example, are they frustrated with ad-hoc account management versus automation? Do they need additional capabilities? Is the software simply too confusing or difficult to learn? Asking the right questions is the key to understanding the problem so you can better sell your customer on the right solution.
  2. Clarify customer problems and proactively prevent them. What are the five most common customer complaints that products or services like yours currently receive across the market place? What are your customers saying about your competitors and about you?Clarity around these concerns – e.g. high cost of service, diminishing returns, faulty or buggy products – allows your business to proactively prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
  1. Don’t make the problem bigger. Sometimes what you think is a customer’s problem is actually quite different from the reality. It is critical to understand the actual problem that your customer is facing – or you risk making the problem bigger. By asking questions and taking the time to get to know your customers, you can help prevent “assumptions” from dictating your problem solving response.
  2. Is Your Product Clear? What Do You Really Sell? Many entrepreneurs misunderstand the most fundamental question of what they do – what are you in business for? (Hint: it’s not “making money”). There are plenty of ways to cut out the middle man if all you want is to make money. Entrepreneurs create a product.
  3. Are you clear about how to deliver the right experience? Many owners design of the business is wrapped around activities that don’t add value, aren’t needed and which customers don’t want. Focussing on the key activities, the ones that matter, and becoming exceptional at them is what drives a great experience.
  1. What are you measuring? Are you measuring the things that matter to your staff, suppliers, customers, distributors, or measuring the things that matter to you? Find ways to measure what the customer wants rather than what you want. That’s how entrepreneurs in competitive markets get ahead.
  1. Everything has a shelf life. Do you know when you will replace your product, when you will next revisit the processes that deliver it, when you will need to make it fresh again? Why not (internally if you wish) have a refresh date in your business plan for that product.

Businesses with clarity make profits when others struggle, they grow whilst others stagnate and they outperform the market consistently.

Clarity gives us certainty and with it it brings success not confusion, and enjoyment not frustration. Successful entrepreneurs know that, and that’s why they stop from time to time to take a hard look at their model, the products, activities, and markets.

William Buist is owner of Abelard Collaborative Consultancy, and founder of the exclusive xTEN Club– an annual programme of strategic activities for small, exclusive groups of business owners. xTEN helps accelerate growth, harness opportunity, build your business and develop ideas. William is also author of two books: ‘At your fingertips’ and ‘The little book of mentoring’. See:  /  /