5 Return to Work Tips for Your Employees After a Crisis

It can be challenging to know what to do after a crisis. Even after an emergency subsides, it’s not always clear how to proceed with work when everyone comes back. After the COVID-19 pandemic, these questions seem especially relevant.

As workers start returning to the office, you should take the time to ensure everyone feels comfortable and happy. Here are five tips for returning workers you can use after COVID-19 or any future emergencies.

1. Communicate with Workers

If you only do one thing when employees return to work, it should be communicating. The times after a crisis can be challenging and confusing, so explain your company’s next steps. Inform workers of any changes, new resources they can use and how they should carry on.

Remember that you should also let workers share their thoughts and opinions. When employees feel their voice is heard at work, they’re 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. Giving space for them to voice any concerns or ask questions can also be comforting.

2. Make Your Employees Feel Welcome

When your employees come back to the office, they should feel like you want them to be there. Make sure everyone knows how excited you are to see them again. This can help calm any lingering negativity and promote enthusiasm and engagement among workers.

Consider giving out custom office party favors or setting up stations with snacks and drinks. Even little actions like these can go a long way in making employees feel welcome.

3. Plan Appropriate Group Activities

After being apart for some time, it can be hard to get back in the hang of working together. Group activities are an excellent way to promote teamwork and inclusion, and can improve morale. Whether it’s an after-hours event or a group lunch, any way you can foster socialization will be helpful.

Of course, not every activity is appropriate for every situation. With COVID-19 still going around, you probably want to stay away from anything involving crowds or physical contact. Always keep recent events in mind to ensure your plans are safe, comfortable and inoffensive.

4. Spruce Up the Office

Giving your workplace a new look can help keep returning employees engaged and comfortable. Color can impact your mood, so it may be time to repaint your walls or add some plants or decorations for a splash of color.

Try to capitalize on natural light as much as possible, as it’s often more soothing than harsh fluorescents. Reorganizing furniture to make rooms feel more open can also make things more comfortable.

5. Be Flexible

Finally, remember you may have to deal with some changes. Studies show that 54% of American employees want to keep working remotely after the pandemic, so consider offering flexible schedules. This flexibility can help people be more productive and feel comfortable.

After a crisis, new guidance or best practices may emerge before long. Stay on your toes so you can adapt to these changes without much disruption. Most of all, remember to be patient with your employees.

Welcome Back Your Workers with Care

Coming back to work after a crisis isn’t easy for anybody. If you follow these steps, though, you can make the transition more comfortable. Your employees will be happier, more engaged and more productive before long.

Lessons from the CEO Working to Build a More Equitable Society

As a purpose-driven entrepreneur and a father to three children, I’m proud to have played a part in several movements to drive positive, sustainable changes within communities. 

First and foremost, my experience in the education sector has left me with a firm belief in the importance of reflective practice and in sharing knowledge; progress happens more quickly when we collaborate and learn from each others’ experiences. Below, I’ll endeavour to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past 20 years, in the hope that they might inspire or motivate readers. 

Lessons from Teach First 

I took my first leap into leadership in 2002, when I founded the charity Teach First to help tackle education inequality in the UK. This was a very immediate response to the entrenched problems I was seeing at the time in London’s schools – I started out with just 11 employees and a belief that I could make a difference. 

This unshakeable conviction attracted some incredibly talented and committed social innovators and educators, including colleagues, supporters, advisors and, most importantly thousands of fantastic teachers and school leaders. Together we transformed Teach First into a national movement. By supporting talented graduates to kick-start an impactful career in education, and through extensive work with schools and students, Teach First has positively impacted the life chances of over a million young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The process of growing my idea from a small London pilot into the nations’ largest graduate recruiter taught me that no problem worth solving is going to be easy. To make a real impact, 9 out of 10 times you are going to need to seriously shake up the status quo – and that’s not always going to make you the most popular person. Staying true to your mission in the face of obstacles and opposition requires bravery and self-belief; two important qualities for leaders.  

My experiences with Teach First also reinforced my belief that if we want to see a more equitable, healthier society, we need to empower people with the skills and tools they need to thrive. This is the philosophy that underpins my new initiative, tiney, which focuses on community-level empowerment in the pursuit of an early years education transformation.


Why starting small is the key to huge impact 

I launched tiney in 2019 as a solution to the childcare and early years education crisis that I could see first hand is heavily impacting families across the UK and the world. 

When you look at the data, it’s shocking how few affordable childcare places exist. Parents are struggling to find a nursery or childminder that suits their needs and their budgets, and even where capacity exists, the quality of education provision is often far below the standard that children ought to be receiving at this crucial life stage. 

This current status quo isn’t just holding back the academic and social development of a generation of children, it’s putting a huge strain on parents and often preventing them from reentering the workforce. 

Being able to afford excellent care and education for your children should be a right, not a privilege. This is why tiney is empowering hundreds of entrepreneurs to retrain as early years educators and launch their own tiney home nurseries. 

Tiney delivers the best-in-class digital training and end-to-end support to every one of our nursery owners – from lesson planning to billing and safeguarding compliance.

We’re already well on our way to establishing a national network of highly skilled local childminders, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see some of the country’s brightest and best talents elevating the quality and status of a career in the childcare sector.  

Each of the tiney home nurseries is small in scale, and serving the youngest members of society. But collectively, their impact on their local communities and on children’s lives is huge. 

Tiney is enabling the next generation to thrive. Creating the foundations for equal, bright futures for our children is what drives me through the highs and lows of leadership.

Will High Street Stores Turn to the Dark Side to Survive Their Battle with E-commerce

A new study by the home delivery expert ParcelHero reveals the store of tomorrow might replace shoppers with robots and stock with digital screens.

The reopening of non-essential stores has seen shoppers flocking back to the High Street. Footfall soared over 90% during the first week that non-essential stores reopened. However, the home delivery expert ParcelHero is warning that the High Street may never return to its 2019 pre-pandemic peak. It has launched a new report revealing how dramatically town centre stores must change to adapt to the new, post-Covid era of e-commerce.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T, says: ‘The pandemic has taken its toll on our town centres: 17,500 chain stores have closed forever since Covid hit the UK and 46% of shoppers say they will never return to their former High Street spending habits. This means High Streets will have to adapt radically to survive in the long term.

‘Our latest study reveals that, in order to survive and coexist with online retailers, the store of tomorrow will function very differently to the store of today.


‘Dark’ stores

‘Many stores could turn to the dark side – so-called “dark” stores are shops full of stock but no customers. Instead, they become Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) to meet the soaring demand for local online orders. Shoppers will be replaced by pickers selecting goods for home deliveries. Tesco pioneered purpose-built dark stores in 2009 to meet the growing demand for home shopping. However, as our report reveals, during lockdown many normal High Street shops became dark stores, as customers were banned from entering and goods were left on shelves.


Sharing with robots

‘Shoppers hate sharing crowded aisles with in-store pickers grabbing goods for online orders. ParcelHero’s latest research found that a third of customers were annoyed by having to jostle with manual pickers selecting items for online orders. The space occupied by big trolleys emblazoned with “It’s not all for me” doesn’t help. That’s why many larger stores will become “semi-dark” stores. Urban, or Micro, Fulfilment Centres (UFCs) are small areas inside large stores that are dedicated to picking. Manual pickers not only raise stress levels – they are expensive to employ. In the future, UFCs will be easily automated and will only need a surprisingly small amount of room. Robot pickers will be operating within metres of customers.

Stockless stores

‘Finally, ParcelHero’s new study investigates why many retailers could plump for exactly the opposite solution to shopperless dark stores: stockless stores. Stockless stores will be full of customers but have no stock on their shelves. These will be all about customer experience, blending both physical and digital retailing. Few, if any, items will be available to pick up and place directly into a basket there and then. Instead, with video screens and plenty of seating space, the aim is to encourage customer dwell time amid an immersive experience.

‘Shoppers will scan items, perhaps using QR codes to reveal product details, and then add them to a digital kart. Their purchases can then either be collected at the end of their visit from behind-the-scenes storage or, in most cases, be delivered to shoppers’ homes at a convenient time.

‘Whether the stores of tomorrow will have no customers, no stock on their shelves, or dedicate areas to robot pickers, our study reveals that they will function in a very different way to the shops of today. The three new cashierless Amazon Fresh stores now opening around London are just a pointer to the radical new shape of High Street stores in the age of e-commerce.

What’s Happened to the Flexibility in Warehousing that Businesses Desperately Need?

By Matt Whittaker, Commercial Director at Bis Henderson Space

Economists predict that the UK economy will show a dramatic recovery from the pandemic – but this could be curtailed by a simple shortage of storage space. Our clients tell us of a serious market failure, yet, extraordinarily, in the government’s recent White Paper on planning, there was not a single reference to the land and space needs of supply chain and logistics industries.

Even before the pandemic, the UK was significantly ‘under-warehoused’. According to estate agency Savills, a record 50.1 m sq ft of space was taken up in 2020. Some 20 m sq ft of that was new build ­– half of which was ‘speculative’ and usually snapped up long before completion. Amazon alone took a quarter of the available space, the 3PLs are also active, and, say Knight Frank, another agent, ‘The UK only has 10 months’ worth of warehouse supply available at current growth rates’ – and much less in London, the South East, and the near-urban locations needed to support on-line last mile.

Rental rates are soaring and even the 40 million sq ft that Knight Frank expect to see completed in 2021 may not restore a functioning market. Demand for space is only going to increase.

Every £1 billion extra spent through e-commerce generates need for 750,000 sq ft of extra space, and ecommerce is just one competing need for warehousing. In both retail and manufacturing we see businesses abandoning the dominant lean, Just-in-Time, low inventory, procurement-led supply chain model. With increasing risk from events such as, Covid, Brexit, trade friction with China, flooded Taiwanese chip-makers, and the Suez Canal blockage, businesses are facing greater uncertainty and are looking to build resilience into their supply chains. And that means holding more inventory which in turn puts further pressure on available warehouse space.

Flexibility is a sound bulwark to uncertainty. So most businesses, our clients included, don’t want or need vast new empty sheds. They need operational, workable space that they can move in to and use from day one, to accommodate increased inventories of raw material, work in progress, and finished goods but also for kitting, picking, packing, returns processing and a host of other tasks. They need services, and at least a minimum of fit-out, already installed. Their current requirements are strictly tactical ­­– they need to be able to move out again as strategies become firmer.

But most new development is aimed at flagship brands and 3PLs making long-term commitments to big sheds where long leases and multi-million investments are needed to equip a facility. A 100,000 sq ft shed counts as ‘small’ even though that is 20% larger than the playing surface at Wembley. New spaces are drip-fed from the developers’ land banks, keeping rentals high and ensuring further yield compression.

The smaller and mid-size businesses we meet, the heart of the UK economy, are manufacturers and retailers, not property companies. Their balance sheets can’t support such long-term liabilities. And most new build sheds are offered as just that – a bare shed. The tenant has to fit out and equip the facility, from automation to basic services. It could be six or nine months before the business can ship its goods in, perhaps longer. Businesses don’t have that money, or that time.

Timescales are critical. Savills say that last year 12% of transactions were for ‘short’ leases – but we know this greatly understates the need for high quality, yet flexible, warehouse provision. To developers, a five-year lease is ‘short’, but many companies are pushed to see clearly for five months out. They need short-term provision, to buy breathing space while they develop their longer-term strategies, or to keep the business operating while new solutions are applied to existing warehousing.

They need to move in quickly and, when appropriate, move on. They need something akin to space-as-a-service, not an investment. Most property companies are reluctant to have that conversation. As such, businesses are turning to well-connected warehouse operational space brokers like ourselves to develop a solution that meets their immediate and quite often longer-term needs whilst avoiding an expensive long-term lease agreement.

Over many years we’ve developed a wide network of warehouse suppliers – we introduce businesses with a need for additional capacity to providers who have spare operational space available on a flexible basis. Often facilitated deals are as short as 3-9 months, (although in practice these can roll over for several years) but any term of less than three years is better than can be obtained in the current investor-driven market.

Such premises will usually have at least a basic, perhaps even a quite sophisticated, fit-out, suitable for immediate occupancy for little additional capital outlay. Shared labour and services can sometimes be an option. A further advantage for many companies is that as a short-term service agreement there is no five-year liability hanging over the balance sheet.

For any company considering how to rebuild their supply chain to combine flexibility and resilience, this approach could be a game changer. Any business that needs to take care of cash as they trade out of the present crisis, that needs a short-term tactical solution while working out the long-term strategy, or that needs to trial new markets or business models without overstretching, can find a viable and well-proven alternative to a constrained, rigid and uncompromising property market through working with a well networked broker. Look no further.

Are Garden Offices the Future for the UK Workforce?

When it comes to our work life, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted all our lives in one way or another. For those in occupations were working from home is possible, this became the new norm in 2020 and still continues in 2021. But as we see life gradually return to normal, many of us are keen to get back to the office and away from the confines of our home. With this said, reports suggest that the pandemic has shown many businesses that having employees work from home comes with many financial and physical benefits attached, raising the question of if remote working will be the new norm in the future.

However, who is to say that working remotely is limited to the same four walls of our living room? With remote working in question, we discuss the rise in the garden office trend and look at whether these are gradually shaping the future of the working world.

What is a garden office and why have one?

Garden offices, also referred to as garden rooms, are a separate building detached from your main home and are designed to create a comfortable and professional space for work. Other than helping to create a divide between your home and office life, garden rooms can be transformed into a quiet and tranquil place to escape to – especially when the UK’s lockdown rules have limited us to the same four walls of our home.

Recent search data collected between April 2020 and April 2021 finds that garden office-related terms have dramatically increased in popularity. The term ‘garden office shed’ increased by 200 per cent, along with the term ‘garden office pod’ increasing by 180 per cent, proving many people have taken an interest in the garden room trend.

So, why invest in a garden office? There are many reasons why remote workers are opting for this over their main home as a place to work, and here, we discuss a few of them.

Travel time is reduced

It’s a given that working from your garden saves both money and time on commuting. No one likes spending time stuck in traffic or dedicating an unnecessary amount of money towards fuel every month, so with home working both of these can be avoided. It even benefits the environment too!

A better work and home life balance

Sometimes, having a structured working hours schedule gets in the way of our life outside of work. Although jobs should always be set as a priority, garden offices allow us to be more flexible when it comes to balancing work life with our home one. For those with children especially, spending as much time with them as you can and being part of their everyday life is something every parent wants. So, working from your garden makes this easier to do, unlike working from an office.

Office gossip is avoided

Anyone who has worked in an office environment before will know that sometimes it can be difficult to concentrate on a task with numerous other conversations going on around you. From catch-ups in the kitchen to phone calls being made every few minutes, it’s not always easy to focus with so much going on around you. With garden offices, however, all of this can be avoided, helping you do each task to the highest of quality in a shorter amount of time.

Garden office Inspiration: where to start

Now, the question is, where do I start? Data suggests that one question on a lot of people’s minds is how much it will cost, with the search term ‘garden office cost’ increasing by 200 per cent between April 2020 and April 2021. To answer this question, the average cost to create a garden office can vary between £5,000 and £25,000. Although this is quite a hefty sum of money to spend on a space, in the long run, this can add an incredible amount of value to your home – between five and seven per cent to be exact.

So, if you’re in need of some garden office inspiration, take notes of these top tips on how to save money in the process.

The foundations

For those who have a family member or friend who is in the building trade or knows someone who is, shopping local for a construction business can not only help support local businesses, but save you money too. As for the basic materials that are needed at this stage, such as concrete plates, bricks, and other materials for the frame of the structure, make sure to have a look around for the most cost-effective suppliers. The likes of Gumtree and Facebook marketplace are a good place to start!

Interior design

This is where the fun part begins. When it comes to designing your garden office so that it never gets boring to look at, now is the time to get creative. Firstly, decide on a theme. Since it is your own personal space, think about what kind of things make you happy and use that as the catalyst behind some interior inspiration. Perhaps you have an eye for bright and vibrant furniture pieces, or maybe you have an interest in knitting your own throws or cushion covers. Alternatively, you could opt for a particular sport-theme you enjoy – whatever it is, pick a theme and add a personalised twist to your garden room.

Since this is the most creative aspect of the process, there is one main activity that can help you cut costs in the design stage: DIY. Platforms such as YouTube are full of easy-to-follow guides on how to DIY everything from building a bed frame to making an entirely new room. Of course, some work might require the help of a professional depending on what it is but assessing what could be done yourself helps to cut costs.

The final finishing touches

After the main interior work is done, the final finishing touches need to be added. Other than the additional home décor that you choose to buy or make yourself, the exteriors of your garden office can also be enhanced with some creative flair and make it the centrepiece of your entire garden.

What better time to invest in some gardening work than after building a garden room? Framing your garden room with an array of vibrant flowers and plants can help bring your space to life. Moreover, you could also purchase a variety of solar-powered lights suitable for outdoor use and create a cosy night-time setting to relax in after work. This can be a relatively inexpensive task too. All you need is a few garden tools and some seeds for your chosen flowers and shrubs. Compost Direct have a handy soil calculator, to help you figure out much soil you’ll need for the borders around you garden room.

The future of working from home remains unclear. However, one thing we do know is that garden offices continue to be an interest the nation shares, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Empower and Engage: The Key to Developing Your Team in Innovative Companies

When employers are looking to build up a team for an innovative project, they can often fall into the trap of looking for someone new rather than realising the potential of their current workforce. It is often the case that the person who shouts the loudest is assumed to have the most creative ideas. But what if you’ve got some hidden gems amongst your workforce that are going unnoticed? According to Greg Satell, and international keynote speaker and author of Mapping Innovation, to build a successful, innovative team, “you need to start by empowering the people already in your organisation. But to do that, you need to take responsibility for creating an environment in which your people can thrive.”

Empowerment and engagement are the fundamentals of successful team development. So, let’s find out how you can help your team to feel inspired and get creative.

Communication is key

In order to come up with some exciting ideas, your employees need to feel confident and comfortable in expressing their thoughts. Regular communication will keep employees in the loop and encourage them to speak up, knowing that their voices will be heard. Who knows, you might already have dozens of creative and innovative ideas bubbling in the minds of your employees. Without establishing clear and regular communication, however, these ideas could be lost.

Value individual skill sets

Any well-oiled creative team will be made up of people with a variety of skillsets. How will your team grow if everyone thinks in the same way, after all? In successful innovative companies, differences make a team stronger. What’s more, people are normally far more creative and engaged when they’re working on something that they’re interested in. As a leader, it’s important to listen to your employees, find out more about their skillsets, hobbies, and passions. This way, you’ll be able to match your employees to the projects that they’re most interested in, and their performance is sure to impress you!

Establish a creative environment

While some people may seem creative at face-value, others might need a little encouragement. Often, how creative and innovative you feel can come down to your environment. Of course, if your company is currently operating remotely, this is easier said than done!

Send around some pointers to your team to help them keep creative in their own home. One idea is allowing some flexibility in your work schedule. This way, your team members can get out on walks or take breaks if they’re feeling particularly stagnant. Taking a step away from the laptop and enjoying a breath of fresh air is a great way to help you feel more creative.

If you’re working from the office, there are plenty of ways in which you can construct a more creative atmosphere. Simple things like decorating your office with creative colours, having some uplifting music on in the background, and getting the lighting just right can all contribute to creating a comfortable work environment. This is essential for successful innovative projects.

Try some team-building

There’s nothing like a spot of team-building to bring your workforce closer together and help empower them. Often, the office can become uninspiring, no matter how much of a creative space it is. Employees can feel stuck in a rut of nine-to-five days and need something fun to break up the monotony and hit the refresh button. Off-site meetings and activities are a great solution for this. They will help your team to see things in a different light and perhaps look at a project from a new perspective.

If your workforce is currently remote, this may seem more difficult. However, online team-building activities such as quizzes or a games night are still great for lightening the mood and reducing stress amongst your workforce.

Set goals and show appreciation

To establish an innovative team, it is essential that your workforce feels motivated and appreciated. Setting goals and holding regular reviews and meetings are both key parts in this. Through goal-setting, your employees will feel appreciated on an individual level. They will also always have something inspiring to work towards. What’s more, members of your team may have some great ideas about how to improve the business, but they might not think to voice them unless you go to them. A regular catch-up with your team members allows for productive one-to-one discussions. For some people, this might spark creativity more effectively than a group meeting.

Innovation can come from the most unexpected places – it just sometimes needs a bit of friendly encouragement! Try out some of these tips and watch the creativity in your team flourish.

Over 50% of Remote Workers are Worried About Workplace Exclusion

Thanks to COVID-19, remote working has become the ‘new normal’ for many workers across the globe. While many profess to prefer this way of working, the impending re-opening of offices and a gradual return of many colleagues to the 9-5 , is causing increasing anxiety to those who will remain almost, or entirely working from home.

A new study of over 1,000 employees, conducted by Business Electricity Prices has revealed that a whopping 53% of remote workers are worried about being left out of in-person team meetings and other activities that take place in the office.

While over a third of home working employees have fears about being overlooked for promotions and pay rise opportunities in favour of people who actually work in the office.

There are clearly two key issues here that employers need to address. The first is the anxiety stemming from feelings of exclusion, and the second is the worry and concern that they will be overlooked professionally.

While the first may seem like a harmless case of FOMO (fear of missing out), feeling isolated and lonely has serious implications on both physical and mental health. One study revealing that loneliness can actually increase the likelihood of mortality by 26%!

Remote Workers’ Plight: How Exclusion Can Impact Mental Health

Beyond the potential physical harm caused by long stretches of loneliness, a feeling of exclusion can create or exacerbate a number of mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression.

Despite the comfort that working from home can bring, remote workers are susceptible to feeling disconnected and excluded, owing to the lack of face-to-face interaction and the casual ‘water-cooler’ talk that usually breaks up a normal working day and offers brief periods of respite and relaxation to staff.

Matt Bradburn, the co-founder of London-based People Collective, conducted an internal survey and discovered that 70% of his network were experiencing social and mental health issues, as well as feelings of loneliness. Many workers claimed to want to return to the office as a result of this.

A sense of togetherness is important whilst working. However, this comradery can be difficult to establish when some employees are working remotely.

Off-site workers regularly miss out on social interaction with colleagues, like group lunches and team building activities.

And what about those who have started a new job whilst working remotely? These workers are likely to find it especially hard to build relationships having never officially met other team members before.

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of relationships, inside and outside of work.

It’s therefore important for employers to ensure that efforts are made to make all workers feel included, even if they aren’t physically present in the workplace. Not only could this be beneficial for their mental health, but it could also help to boost productivity.

Remote Workers and Feelings of Inadequacy

There is a common misconception regarding productivity and working from home. In the past, bosses have been reluctant to allow remote working due to fears that it would negatively affect staff’s work rate.

While these fears have been significantly reduced since the pandemic, with two-thirds of employers reporting that productivity has increased for remote workers compared to in-office workers, this has not necessarily filtered down into a feeling of security for employees.

Many remote workers cannot help but compare themselves to in-office colleagues and feel the need to work harder since management cannot physically see the energy they’re expending.

This feeling of inadequacy compared to in-office staff, directly bleeds through into anxieties around job security and abilities to progress within the company.

A study conducted by Indeed revealed that 37% of remote workers believe that working from home can lead to reduced visibility and less access to company leadership.

According to Business Electricity Prices, this translates into one in three people (35%) worrying that they may be overlooked for pay raise and promotion opportunities in favour of those who always work from the office.

How Can Employers Help Remote Workers?

Research has revealed that 46% of employees feel that the most successful managers check in frequently and regularly with remote employees.

A further 39% of workers stated that they feel a greater sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them and enquire about how they are doing, personally and professionally.

The data suggests that communication is key when attempting to get remote workers more involved, both on a personal and professional level.

As an employer, you’ll need to be willing to put in some extra effort to communicate with out-of-office employees. You should also encourage other members of staff to do so.

Thanks to applications such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Slack, having team meetings and frequent check-ins is fairly simple, however management needs to ensure that communication is maintained and encouraged so that digital bonding and engagement doesn’t peter out.

Making time and creating a space for non-work-related or light-hearted conversation is important for maintaining morale and promoting interpersonal work relationships. A professional way of doing this is to create a daily news channel, where employees can share funny or relevant news articles.

To improve communication further, employers should ensure that any physical meeting minutes are taken and distributed to all relevant employees, to maintain transparency and keep remote workers in the loop.

Of course, there’s only so much team building that can be done virtually. To boost colleague relations and create a more integrated workforce, you should aim wherever possible, to have face-to-face catch ups at least quarterly and ideally monthly (when COVID restrictions permit you to do so).

These meetings don’t necessarily have to be formal, or even about work. A group dinner or a simple coffee shop catch up can help to make remote workers feel more part of the team.

All in all, improving communication between remote workers and in-office employees can not only help to keep them in the loop, but it could also make them more comfortable in their job. This could make them more willing to voice their concerns should any issues arise.

When an employee is comfortable and content in their role, they are less prone to stress, anxiety and other damaging mental health issues.

With double the number of people expecting to work from home 5 days a week post-pandemic compared to the amount pre-pandemic, it is clear that worklife conventions are changing.

It’s key for all employers to ensure that their workforce adapts with these changes, as this will help them safeguard the wellbeing of their staff, and ultimately improve the success rate of their business.

Seven-in-ten Workers Feel Optimistic About Returning to Work As UK Opens Up

  • 71% of workers said that the rollout of the vaccine made them optimistic about returning to work as normal, up from 50% after November’s lockdown
  • 75% of workers said they would be comfortable to take a Covid-19 test before returning to the workplace; only 7% said they would feel uncomfortable with being tested
  • 80% of employees who have been working or furloughed feel confident that their workplace is safe, and employers have standards that they meet to keep employees and public safe
  • 64% of employees who have been working or been furloughed said the vaccine will make them feel safer at work; only 13% have concerns about their health and safety in the workplace relating to coronavirus

As pubs, shops and other workplaces re-open this week, the success of the vaccine rollout has helped workers feel much more optimistic about their return to work than they were following November’s lockdown, according to Aviva’s research of more than 2,000 employed adults across the UK.

Aviva’s third Employee Back to Work Index shows that 71% of workers surveyed agreed that the rollout of the vaccine made them optimistic about returning to work, compared with 50% after November’s lockdown who said that news of a vaccine gave them optimism about returning to work. Two-thirds (64%) of employees surveyed said the vaccine will make them feel safer at work.

Another piece in the puzzle of opening up safely is regular testing of workers for Covid-19. Aviva’s research shows that three-quarters (75%) of employees would feel comfortable to be tested for Covid-19 in order to work. Only 7% of employees said they would be uncomfortable with such a requirement.

Aviva’s Employee Back to Work Index comes as the UK takes its next steps out of lockdown, and captures the attitudes of full-time or part-time employed adults working in a wide variety of industry sectors across the UK on their feelings about their health and safety in the workplace.

Returning to the workplace – safely

Businesses have had to adapt at pace in the face of continually changing Covid restrictions. In some instances, this will mean that operations have fundamentally changed, including the role of employees in carrying out their duties. Aviva’s survey found that 23% of employees surveyed said their job had changed as a result of new business operations due to Covid, but that they were not offered any training on their new role, compared to 11% who said their job had changed and they had been offered training. 

Likewise, employees who have been absent from the workplace since the beginning of the January lockdown could benefit from refresher training. Overall, 60% of employees surveyed who had been off during previous lockdowns said that their employer had not offered them refresher training to ensure they are able to continue to do their job safely.


Working from home looks set to stay for many employees. Of those employees surveyed that are currently working from home, 40% said that after lockdown restrictions have ended, they will split their time between home and their usual workplace, while 30% said their employer has told staff that they should continue to work from home. Just one-in-four (24%) said their employer expects all employees to return to the office on a permanent basis after pandemic restrictions ease.

Only 52% of employees surveyed who have been working from home said their employer had taken steps to ensure their home office is set up safely to prevent injury or strain. However, 40% of employees said their employer had not taken any steps to make their workstation safe, potentially putting them at unnecessary risk of injury. Employers should ask employees to complete a homeworking assessment and if the employee is likely to continue working at home into the longer term, then more rigorous assessments might be required.

Cyber risk not being addressed

Working from home has also increased the risk of a cyber attack. As Covid forced businesses to work remotely and – increasingly, digitally – cyber attacks increased, with 46% of UK businesses reporting a cyber breach or attack in 2020. However, Aviva’s survey found that just under half (48%) of employees working from home said their employer did not take any steps to reduce their cyber risk.

What risks do you face as you come out of lockdown?

Aviva asked workers what risks they believe they face as they come out of successive lockdowns. Workers could choose multiple responses. While it is positive to see the gradual increase in the proportion of workers saying ‘there is no biggest risk’ (now at 26%), there are still a number of workers who are concerned about Covid-19, and a significant and growing number of workers who say lockdown has impacted their mental health. 

What risks do you face as you come out of lockdown?

June 2020

Nov 2020

March 2021

My health – I worry about catching Covid-19




My mental health – the changes under lockdown have affected my happiness




There is no biggest risk to me as we come out of lockdown




My safety – I worry about how a change in work processes to maintain social distancing will affect my safety at work




My job – I worry about being made redundant




My safety – being off work for so long means I am more likely to get injured at work




Chris Andrews, Director of Aviva Risk Management Solutions, said, “The vaccine rollout has had an enormous benefit to employee confidence in returning safely to the workplace. Our research found that 80% of employees who have been working or furloughed feel confident their workplace is safe and that their employer has standards that they meet to keep employees and the public safe. This is a significant, positive step in our journey back to working normally.

“There are, however, a number of risks that businesses must address to ensure that the return to the workplace is wholly successful. Training for employees who have been off work for some time is essential to reduce the chance of injury upon return. Likewise, those employees whose jobs have changed as their business has adapted to Covid restrictions should also receive training on their new ways of working. And if working from home becomes the norm, employers need to do more work to ensure their employees are safe at home and have the appropriate tools and environment to work effectively.

“Businesses also really need to consider how they can protect their organisation from cyber attacks while their employees work from home. Cyber attacks come in many forms, and increasingly target employees through phishing and social engineering fraud. It’s clear from our research that more needs to be done to help employees understand and identify the various forms of cyber attacks while working from home to protect the business.”

Business Lessons We Must Have Learnt From the Pandemic

Over a year on from the start of the pandemic and as lockdown is slowly lifted, many changes in the way we operate business are most likely here to stay, but what lessons do we need to ensure we have truly learnt from the pandemic? Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership, looks at what we need for a new healthy business lens.

  1. Measure output not hours. Many businesses have been measuring productivity through the number of hours put in. The pandemic has taught many of us that it matters less how long it takes for someone to do a task and more that they get the job done effectively. Self-employed and small business owners have been working successfully in this way for decades.
  1. Know and show your people are your most important asset. Treat all colleagues with compassion, respect and gratitude, and in return they will show loyalty and work hard. Showing your workforce that you appreciate them will increase job satisfaction which will in turn maintain staff retention rates, boost productivity and morale.  
  1. Global without travel. Whilst the pandemic has put a stop on most international and domestic travel, businesses have never worked more globally thanks to working remotely, video and audio conferencing, chat, webinars, and social media. These solutions are a far more cost and time effective and ultimately productive way to work as long as they aren’t depended upon entirely – human contact still has an important part to play, particularly for promoting creativity and innovation. Whilst borders are almost closed, global reach has never been more possible.  
  1. Inclusion is an absolute, not a tick box. Countless times in the last year we have seen huge national and global movements standing up for what they believe in despite the pandemic. A business that sees the importance of diversity and inclusion of different races, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religion and socio-economic status, and celebrates those differences, creates an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, bullying and harassment are absent, and people thrive.
  1. Promote health sustainability. The pandemic has made us understand how important but fragile our health and wellbeing is. Reconceptualising health policy is vital. Don’t just follow the guidelines, go over and above. Find out what your employees need, and bear in mind that individuals may well have contrasting needs. Be clear about the importance of physical and mental health.
  1. Promote a speak up culture. Open communication is key to combating systemic problems at work, such as bullying. Where possible, remind colleagues to share their feelings and troubles at work, and be a role model in this way. Be empathetic, actively listen and show care for their wellbeing to help your employees to speak up and feel that they are truly being heard.
  1. Trust, don’t micromanage. With employees having to work remotely, companies have been forced to place their trust in their staff more than ever before. Micromanaging your workforce damages employee trust, leads to burnout and increases employee turnover rates. Trust is key to all aspects of business success including employee retention, loyalty and increased engagement, productivity and empowerment.
  1. We are not in the office but relationships matter. Even if we are physically not in the same building, an absence in communication or the social side of working as colleagues is damaging.  Making the effort to reach out to support colleagues, work collaboratively and maintain relationships will help keep the company thriving, encourage creativity and keep morale at a high.
  1. Flexibility and agility are vital. Flexibility increases staff wellbeing and job satisfaction. Giving your employees the option to choose their ideal schedule and setting within reason, allows leaders to show they understand and care that we all have additional important personal commitments and responsibilities. People also work better at different hours of the day – don’t we want them to work when they are most productive? Having internal procedure in place to acknowledge we don’t have to all be “at work” at the same time will benefit the business in terms of employee experience, innovation and ultimately growth. 
  1. Place importance on work / home life balance. Burnout is a real problem. During the pandemic it has become worse for many, particularly for mothers who work, but the forced circumstances also highlighted to many what they aspire to and what is important to them. Act decisively on changes that need to be put in place, consider the different spaces, circumstances and equipment people have at home. Working from home was put in place as an emergency solution but is here to stay in one format or another.

How Made Smarter Manufacturers are Using Technology to Save Pounds and the Planet

SMEs are finding economic and environmental success through the technology adoption programme


SME manufacturers supported by Made Smarter are using technology to save pounds and the planet. Businesses working with the technology adoption programme are investing in new machinery and digital tools to make their buildings, equipment, manufacturing and transport processes more efficient, use less energy, and produce less waste. Additionally, some manufacturers are supplementing this with measures like switching to LED lighting in their factories to slash electricity bills; and investing in renewable energy sources and biomass boilers to power their plants.

As a result, manufacturers are reducing costs, boosting profit margins, and increasing competitiveness, helping them navigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, and paving a path to recovery and growth with a new resilience. The 187 technology projects supported by Made Smarter are forecast to deliver an additional £147.8M in gross value added (GVA) for the North West economy over the next three years. The drive towards a more sustainable approach to manufacturing is reducing the businesses’ carbon footprint and impact on the environment, helping the UK achieve its ambitious net zero target by 2050.

Donna Edwards, North West Adoption Programme Director at Made Smarter, said: “Climate change can no longer be ignored. The manufacturing industry, together with the transport and storage industries, produce 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gases.

“Manufacturers are facing pressure to become more sustainable from their own employees, customers, the government, investors, and wider communities. 

“Technology has played an incredibly important part in enabling businesses to navigate the pandemic and recover. There is no doubt that digital tools are also key to addressing the challenge of decarbonisation and help the UK achieve its net-zero aim.

“Digitalisation offers a huge opportunity for manufacturers to deliver operational efficiencies, decarbonise heat and power, optimise design and materials, and improve logistics and transport, benefitting their business, their bottom line and the environment.

“It is encouraging that so many Made Smarter supported manufacturers have started this journey and found the sustainability sweet spot between these economic, social, and environmental goals.”

Creative Apparel, a Stockport based clothing manufacturer, has ambitious plans to build a new state-of- the-art factory combining renewable energy sources and full digitalisation where a central IT system drives and measures smart machinery, linking production through to its customers and supply chain.

Made Smarter is supporting data and systems integration to automate the process from receiving orders right through to production management and dispatch; and the development of a bespoke software which uses artificial intelligence (AI) tools to respond quicker and more effectively to fast fashion trends.

Creative Apparel’s ambition is to quadruple production capacity, increase productivity by 30%, and reduce waste by 20%.

Managing Director Phil Millar said: “The fast fashion industry suffers from a reputation as one of the most damaging to the environment due to the amount of waste generated during the production process and the throw-away nature of many of the products. We want to help address that by becoming a leader for change in the sector by putting sustainability at the heart of our production processes. 

“By introducing digital technology and tools that reduce waste and consume less energy we want to prove that you can help save the planet and can save money.

“Accessing support from Made Smarter is helping us accelerate faster towards our vision.”

Bloom-in-Box, an eco-friendly plastics manufacturer based in Burscough, is using robotics and process control technology to increase productivity by at least 25% and improve quality control, reliability and repeatability when moulding components, reducing the number of rejects and waste.

David Reardon, Director, said: “We believe that investing in the next generation of moulding machines will develop a more digitalised manufacturing environment aimed at improving efficiency, expanding production capacity, and generating more revenue. This will allow us to expand and invest in new ideas, create jobs and develop more environmentally friendly products.

“Made Smarter has accelerated our ambitions by years. Its support has really driven forward our plans to design and manufacture plastic products with more than just one life.”

Bloom wants to move towards carbon neutrality with a focus on its machinery and investing in renewables like solar panels.

“We have always invested in electric moulding machines because they use up to 80% less power compared with counterparts,” David added. “Software managing drives and motors in the new machine will reduce energy use by up to 20%. This is a huge saving in both CO2 and the energy bill.”

Crystal Doors, a manufacturer of bespoke vinyl wrapped furniture components based in Rochdale, has engaged with Made Smarter’s digital transformation workshop process to identify the opportunities for technology to overcome the business challenges.

The fully-funded bespoke process involved working with an impartial adviser to analyse the business’s product, services, processes and people, and develop a digital transformation plan tailored to the needs of the business.

Crystal Doors also tapped into Made Smarter’s digital technology internship programme, which links tech savvy students and postgraduates with SME manufacturers.

Crystal is using the three-month funded intern to implement a network of sensors that will give the business full visualisation to gain insights into how its machines are performing and identify potential efficiencies.

Ben Horn, Digital Transformation Programme Manager, said: “We have been on a journey towards carbon neutrality since 2015 and are on course to achieve that ambition by 2022. We want to prove that becoming carbon neutral is possible for SMEs not just for the big companies, and that it is an approach that can be cash flow positive.

“By capturing data from all your operations, you can create a full picture that is not just estimation or guesswork, but cold hard facts that allows you to make informed decisions that enable a more efficient factory and positive for the environment.

“Working with Made Smarter has really given us the confidence that we can make these advancements and still have a profitable future.”

DA Techs, a Chorley-based alloy wheel refurbishment specialist, also worked with Made Smarter on projects to capture operational data to enable full visibility, and identified efficiencies which enabled the business to expand capacity by 55%.

Jamie Baxter, Director, said: “While our motivation is increasing efficiency and profitability, becoming a greener, more sustainable business is an additional benefit.

“Working with Made Smarter changed our mindset. Once you start to see gains, sometimes big, sometimes granular, you start looking for more.”

Other Made Smarter supported manufacturers are using technology to reduce their transport emissions.

The Cumbria Clock Company, a clock repair and restoration specialist based in Penrith, is introducing a bespoke digital management system to give the business oversight with the ambition of increasing productivity and efficiency, cutting costs and reducing its carbon footprint.

Keith Scobie-Youngs, Director, said: “This new system will significantly improve our efficiency to plan routes and combine service visits with call backs and inspections, and reduce annual mileage by 30,000. This would not only save a significant sum of money, but reduce its emissions by 11%, the equivalent to 12 tonnes of carbon, which is very important to me.

“Made Smarter has not only accelerated that to now but opened our eyes to so many possibilities which could transform our business from reactive and regular service and repair to a proactive data-driven service provider.”

Parity Medical, a manufacturer of mobile wireless computer carts and specialist clinical computing devices based on the Wirral, is also expecting to reduce travel time, costs, and carbon emissions by 11%.

Working with Made Smarter, it has invested in an off-the-shelf software package which will enable sales staff and customers to have a meeting using an online virtual showroom. The solution also integrates with the company’s administrative, sales and production systems.

Parity Medical believes the solution could reduce travel by 30,000 miles and cut its carbon emissions by 11 tonnes per year. It will also significantly accelerate the initial sales demonstration process from two days to just one hour. 

Steve Wood, Managing Director, said: “The technology will transform our sales process, removing delays and errors, allowing us to get it right the first time – which will make us significantly more efficient. This will increase productivity and accelerate the business’s growth.

“The reduced travel translates into lower carbon emissions at a time when sustainability is increasingly important to the industry.”

As well as offering free, impartial expert advice, Made Smarter has produced a free guide to help SME manufacturers take their first steps in reducing carbon emissions and become more sustainable.

Granting a Path to Success

The grant and government contracting sector is broken. It’s convoluted and difficult to navigate for even the most experienced of industry players. The team at Grant Source have found the way forward. Under the stalwart leadership of Allen Thornton, the team have achieved the most astonishing levels of success. We take a closer look at this impressive company to find out more.

Technology has proven to be the decisive factor in the way that industries operate today. Even the most complex of tasks can be simplified through the use of a technological solution. Nowhere is this truer than in the grant and government contracting industry. The service that Grant Source offers does more than simply find and track grants. It disrupts the way in which the industry has traditionally operated in its entirety.

The way it does this is due in no small part to the comprehensive approach that the team have championed over the years. The processes involved make it incredibly easy for customers ranging from large businesses through to non-profits to find, write, track, and manage grants in one platform. Instead of exploring various different options and collating them later, everything that is required can be found in one place.

This makes it a much easier system to work within and has made an enormous difference to the way in which companies work. This simplification of such complex structures was always key not only to the success of the business but to the reasons behind its origin in the first place. Allen Thornton wanted to change the way through massive impact and opening the doors for companies to take advantage of the opportunities available to them was a key factor in the direction of the business.

Companies and organizations that use Grant Source are able to reduce costs, increase revenue, and mitigate risk. At the most basic level, they can save themselves an estimated 60-90% by using one platform as opposed to individual platforms. The app is able to act as a comprehensive source of information for clients so that they know they are receiving data from a place they can trust. Education on how to get the most out of a grant, as well as resources that can assist in the application process can also be found here. It truly is a one-stop-shop when it comes to securing grant applications.

Customers find the process of applying for grants considerably streamlined when compared to the hassle of organizing applications for themselves. The team at Grant Source can search for the appropriate Secretary of State and Local County to apply to, as well as filing the applications on the team’s behalf. The team will help clients apply for the essential your D-U-N-N-S number required to receive federal grants too.

What Allan and his team are offering is a true revolution in terms of what is being offered to clients. It opens the door to those who need the support the most. Many companies will act as consultants for organizations, exploring the structure and offering potential directions in which a team could go. This is useful to some but leaves the burden of work on those who don’t really understand the industry at large. What Allen has gone with Grant Source is design a system that specifically offers support. They get their clients where they need to be, when they need to be there.

Many customers from many backgrounds turn to Grant Source for help, but the team have thrived through laser-focusing on helping non-profits in major metropolitan areas. These organizations own or rent a building, with at least two years of documented impact and an active 501(c)3 with a mission that will change the world. When Grant Source was designed around having as big an impact as possible, it’s easy to see why the team have turned their attention in this direction. Through helping those who help others, the team have been able to support many people in challenging circumstances. With such a targeted vision, other companies have been taken on, on a case-by-case basis.

Not just content with the positioning of Grant Source as an invaluable resource for people who support others, the company has recently turned to colleges and universities for financial support that goes both ways. Being an entrepreneur is something that starts at an early age, but that also requires an enormous amount of support on all sides. Grant Source has been able to position itself so that colleges and universities can sponsor access to the Grant Source platform for their current students and facility.

For facilities that have innovative ideas or students that are pushing into new areas of entrepreneurship, there is enormous potential to create a generation that not only has dreams to pursue, but a way of pursuing them. Campuses are the ideal grounds on which to start a career in non-profits, and by working with Grant Source, these organizations can become formalized and receive funding to continue this good work beyond those college walls.

The team that Allen has brought together, and leads with aplomb, comes from an incredibly varied background. This diversity of experience has allowed the firm to expand quickly, taking the most successful traits of different industries and applying them to this new situation. Real estate property owners, former grant writers, successful serial entrepreneurs and former executive directors at non-profits have all come to work at Grant Source, able to apply their unique perspectives to the situations that arise.

What unites everyone involved is the experience of looking for grants that can be applied to their specific situation. Having been able to secure close to two million dollars for their own non-profits and businesses, it places the team in the ideal position to support others as well. While business grants appear to be ideal, it often proves that they are not only a hassle to find, but much less secure in the long run. The security and investment protection of Grant Source ensures that no matter what challenges arise, your investment is always safe.

It’s clear that Grant Source is a resource to be treasured by organizations of all sorts, simplifying a complex process, and making it available to all. We celebrate the vision of its CEO Allen Thornton, and the tireless work he has put into ensuring that the business always continues to serve its clients to the highest calibre.

For more information, please contact Allen Thornton via email at [email protected]

Remote Working Has Caused a Surge in Mental Health Problems

As April is Stress Awareness Month,, Instant Offices researched how the last year has affected employees mental health but also what business and individual employees can do to improve and support mental health. 

As remote working has been the new normal for the last year, self-isolation and health-related anxiety have created a general sense of unease for many people. A YouGov survey showed that Covid had impacted the UK’s overall mood, with 41% of Brits feeling stressed and 38% feeling frustrated.

The Top 5 struggles for remote workers are currently:

  1. Not being able to unplug: 27%
  2. Difficulties with communication: 16%
  3. Loneliness: 16%
  4. Distractions at home: 15%
  5. Staying motivated: 12%

Instant Offices discovered that in 2020 the biggest struggles for employees working from home was loneliness, difficulty communicating and balancing a work-life balance.

A surge in anxiety caused by the COVID-19 outbreak means managing and supporting mental health at work has never been more crucial. A 2020 survey revealed that 828,000 workers in the UK struggle with work-related stress, anxiety or depression.

Four Things Employees Can Do To Manage Stress

  1. Get a Better Night’s Sleep: The number of Brits struggling with sleep problems has risen from one in six to one in four. Tips to get a sleep pattern include reducing caffeine intake, turning off screens, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
  2. Take a Digital Detox:Now is a good time to limit the amount of media we consume due to the current situation’s uncertainty. The goal is to ensure you are informed enough to make decisions but not overloaded with news headlines that induces anxiety.
  3. Be Strict Around Work-Life Balance:Schedule the day into bite-size chunks and work in waves. By working in waves, we become energised and find it easy to switch off from work when the end of the days comes. It’s crucial also to schedule enjoyable things in the evening.
  4. Create a Calm Workspace:When deciding which space to work from, look for an area with natural light and temperate, fresh air, and minimal distractions. Space must be free of clutter and have comfortable furniture.

As workers are gradually starting to return to work, business’s needs to retain talent and put employees’ mental health first. 

Ways employers can help their employees with reducing stress and have a healthy work-life balance include:  

  1. Break the Culture of Silence – Environmental Psychologist & Wellbeing Trainer Lee Chambers says dealing with a lack of social connections during the outbreak has been a massive challenge for many people. “Without the ability to go out and socialise in the way we usually would, we have to be more creative and have more intention in our connection with others during this lockdown scenario. In some ways, the enforcement of rules around movement has caused us to slow down”.
  2. Lead By Example – Managers need to be more conscious of the challenges different households face. Encouraging flexibility, self-care, and regular check-ins is key to reducing stress.
  3. Introduce (or Keep Up) Team Activity and Training Sessions – Now is a perfect time for business’ encourage morning catch-ups, remote Friday drinks, yoga sessions or company training sessions. This is a great way to keep employees engaged and busy. 

Some of the most-requested workplace changes among UK employees, providing a guideline for businesses looking to provide better support and ease post-lockdown concerns:

  1. Flexible hours: 59%
  2. A 4-day working week: 45%
  3. Fewer people in the office: 37%
  4. Fewer meetings: 33%
  5. Mental health days: 32%

Pre- Covid, in 2019 – 2020, 17.9 million working days were lost due to these work-related mental health issues. 

60% of Brits say they’d only feel comfortable returning to the office once everyone has been vaccinated. As optimistic as that is, a new survey by CPD shows us a new wave of concerns which include: 

  1. Social distancing: 60%
  2. Workplace safety: 56%
  3. Workplace cleanliness: 55%
  4. Spreading illness to family or friends: 45%
  5. Being away from family: 16%

Is Digital Transformation the Key to Business Survival in the New World?

After a turbulent year, enterprises are returning to the prospect of a new world following an unprecedented pandemic.

Around the country the way we interact with customers, how consumers buy, and what interests the public has rapidly changed. Successfully managing these digital transformations may be the difference between your success and failure at this stage of continuing economic uncertainty.

Of course, the investment may appear unviable, but the benefits maintain growth and profitability. Digital transformations change the way you conduct your business. It allows you to take a step back and reconsider every aspect of your business. This includes the technology you use, how your staff operate, and how customers interact with your brand.

The World Economic Forum has predicted that the value added by digital transformations across all industries could be greater than $100 billion by 2025. Digital transformations are allowing organisations to rapidly innovate.

Accepting this innovative approach to your business right now may spell the difference between company liquidation and prosperity. Here, we look at the benefits of digital transformation and why it’s essential for your business.

Transform your customer experience

The main objective for a business is to fulfil the needs of their customer. A positive experience is vital to retain customers and encourage new consumers to interact with your brand. Likewise, positive customer experience is a core principle of digital proficiency.

A recent study found that 92 per cent of the top 100 organisations have a mature digital transformation strategy in place to improve their customers’ experience. This is compared to all other organisations where only 22 per cent of responding companies have these strategies in place.

One way to achieve this is to recreate your e-commerce platforms to better represent the needs of your customers. A complete rejuvenation can help to identify problems and obstacles in your current system.

SMEs have the opportunity to base their digital transformations on the successes of other businesses. In terms of customer satisfaction, 70 per cent of the leaders reported a significant and transformational value in overall customer satisfaction.

Data-based insights

Digital transformation can help you to better understand your market. By tracking metrics and analysing the data that you collect, you will be able to better understand your customers. You can also gain a clearer understanding of how the sector operates under varying circumstances. This helps companies to make better business decisions.

One survey on the use of data in business showed that 49 per cent of businesses believe that analytics are of most use in driving business decisions. Two-thirds of businesses surveyed believe that data plays a pivotal role in driving strategies.

There’s a plethora of ways that businesses can collect essential data. These include surveys, transactional data tracking, social media monitoring, and in-store traffic monitoring.

Greater collaboration across departments

By centring your organisation around digital infrastructure you can create a consistent working experience. Sharing data and information with your staff can promote idea sharing and innovation.

Organisations are beginning to create companies based on a digital culture. This shapes the way that staff communicate with each other and how technology influences the way they work. This culture reinforces their other digital strategies.

It’s important to maintain engagement with staff during a digital transformation. One report indicates that 79 per cent of companies that focus on culture sustain strong performance throughout their transformation.

When organisations are built around a common goal, business transitions will be smoother.

Improved agility and innovation

Digital transformations allow your business to stay agile, in that it is always prepared to and welcomes change.

The most successful organisations do not follow the beaten track. They look to see how their company can diverge from their original mission and build on their successes. Technology allows these new approaches to be developed alongside extending business enterprises.

One survey shows that 68 per cent of businesses believe that agility is within their top three most important initiatives. This means ensuring that every interaction between customer, technology, and staff is meaningful.

These agile interactions can include, for example, the development and improvements of chat-bots. It all works towards helping locate the best possible options for staff and customers.

Achieving Success for American CEO

Founded by attorneys, for attorneys, WealthCounsel focuses on helping estate planning and business law attorneys practice excellence. Providing continuing legal education, a strong community of thousands of attorneys, and thoughtful analysis on legal topics and breaking industry news, WealthCounsel is at the top of its game. Much of this industry-leading work is spearheaded by the firm’s CEO, Henna Shah, JD, LLM. Today, we find out what makes the firm so exceptional, and why Henna is deserving of the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the USA from CEO Monthly.

Having established itself more than twenty years ago, WealthCounsel has had time to build a reputation that precedes it. Today, the organization is perhaps best known for its superior automated document drafting software for estate planning and business law attorneys, with solutions including Wealth Docx®, Gun Docx®, and Business Docx®. Most recently, the company has launched a streamlined solution for trust administration called Wealth Tracx® with outstanding success. Alongside these software solutions, WealthCounsel provides continuing legal education, a strong community of thousands of attorneys, and thoughtful analysis on legal topics and breaking industry news. Since its inception, WealthCounsel has not deviated from its mission to be the number one source for estate planning and business law attorneys who want a complete approach to success for their practice. Internally, four core values determine how the firm goes about this.

First, WealthCounsel seeks to see things through its members’ eyes. Second, WealthCounsel embraces expertise. Third, WealthCounsel employees understand that work can happen anywhere. Finally, they know that they can go further together. These four core values have defined the firm’s success for the better part of two decades and have made the company unique in the industry. WealthCounsel constantly strives to provide comprehensive support for attorneys and their practices regardless of the attorney’s level of experience. The company does this through its own four pillars of service: automated drafting, learning, coaching, and community.

WealthCounsel’s automated drafting solutions are the gold-standard in estate planning and business law document drafting. Wealth Docx accommodates the drafting of both basic and complex estate planning strategies with its Core and Complete versions. Further, it offers single point-of-data entry as well as software integration with practice management systems like PracticePanther and Clio, helping reduce errors in drafting and increase efficiency.

Learning is another pillar of service: WealthCounsel knows the key to a successful practice goes beyond drafting documents. The company understands the importance of a robust, learning-based approach to keeping attorneys up-to-date on current developments in the industry. It provides clients with powerful learning solutions, providing on-demand and live webinars and timely written educational content. WealthCounsel members are consistently educated on the best planning strategies they can implement for their clients.

The coaching and community elements of the business go hand in hand. WealthCounsel welcomes attorneys at every experience level, recognizing that many attorneys are transitioning into estate planning or business law or are looking to take their practice to the next level. There are coaching programs implemented in-house to help members acquire clients, serve their client base, and add the best possible value. Offering such a tailored and individualized approach is one of the best examples of WealthCounsel’s commitment to its members’ success. A WealthCounsel membership offers access to a vibrant and engaged community of members, truly setting the company apart from its competitors. WealthCounsel members provide each other with unparalleled support.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the leadership and vision of someone at the top, steering the ship and helping to keep the company on the right course. For WealthCounsel, that someone is Henna Shah, JD, LLM, the CEO of WealthCounsel. Henna provides the vision and strategy behind WealthCounsel’s steadfast focus on the success of its attorney members. Drawing on her deep pools of experience in and knowledge of estate planning, Henna ensures that every decision benefits both the company and its members.

Before joining the team at WealthCounsel, Henna worked in private practice as an estate planning attorney for several notable national law firms. In these roles, she gained experience and became a formidable force to be reckoned with. In 2007, Henna established her own successful estate planning boutique firm, Shah Law LLC, where she focused on planning for high net-worth families and individuals. Henna has an AB in Political Science from the University of Michigan, a JD from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, and an LLM in Taxation from the New York University School of Law. Eventually, Henna joined WealthCounsel as part of the Editorial team, spearheading Wealth Tracx.

As exceptional as Henna’s leadership is, the success of WealthCounsel also comes down to the staff that she has surrounded herself with. WealthCounsel’s staff have direct contact with members and are proud of the level of service they provide. The personal attention that WealthCounsel staff offers to members makes a tremendous difference in encouraging an overall sense of community. Many WealthCounsel members have been with the company for years and have formed long-lasting relationships with WealthCounsel staff. The company continuously works with members and staff in the pursuit of excellence.

Ultimately, the work of WealthCounsel continues to be vital for estate planning and business law practitioners across the United States, and that comes from the visionary leadership of Henna herself. As CEO, she continually pushes the boundaries of what her company can do and delivers success after success for WealthCounsel’s members. Henna’s vision and ambition drive the company forward, and the future remains bright for WealthCounsel.

For further information, please visit www.wealthcounsel.com

There Are 4 Key Points for You to Follow to Be a Leader, Not a Manager

Managing a team of people comes with a new level of responsibilities. But have you ever considered the vast difference between being a manager and a leader? Harvard Business Review reports that 30 is the average age of a first-time manager while 40 is the age where people first embark on leadership training. This is a decade of lost years of building leadership skills – this can lead to ingraining bad habits and not practising to improve your style.

Being a manager doesn’t automatically make you a leader. The main difference between a manager and a leader is that managers delegate tasks to those who work for them whereas leaders have people follow them and believe in what they’re setting out for the company. The best part of the last year has demonstrated that leaders need to be prepared and agile to respond to protect their business and employees.

Here, we will determine the four ways that managers can transform themselves into leaders.

Respect goes two ways

Firstly, and most importantly, be respectable. Respect should be earned, not expected – no employee is going to consider a manager their leader if they don’t respect them. There are a number of things you should consider in order to gain your employees’ respect. After all, if they respect you, they’re likely to work harder for you, cooperate more with others, be more creative, resilient, and likely to take direction.

These include:

  • Leading by example. Be prepared to pick up tasks big and small, for example making your own cup of coffee or printing copies out to hand out to the workforce.
  • Listen to your team. Open the floor for others to speak and allow them to voice their opinions on how to improve things. Holding steady team meetings opens up a dialogue of feedback and ideas.
  • Follow through on deadlines and agreements. If you can’t meet your own deadlines, why should your team? If you offer to help someone on a particular project, honour that promise.
  • Accept responsibility if things don’t work out.

Communication is key

Never underestimate the power of communication. Managers with poor communication skills often alienate their workers, leaving the team confused and with little faith that things are being run properly. Take time to communicate your ideas, expectations, strategies, and everything in between, making everyone else feel involved in what’s going on. You can do this by thinking of any strategy the same as telling a story to someone who knows nothing about it. You can focus on things you don’t know or what you need to understand yourself in order to relay it others.

By involving your team and keeping them engaged, this will also allow successful executions and a happy, motivated team – you can’t expect a strategy to work if it isn’t understood and nobody is committed.

Shape company culture

Leaders should contribute to an active company culture. If workers’ characteristics don’t fit into the culture, this could influence their decision to leave. By defining a culture early on and recruiting those who fit into the talent pool, employees will feel comfortable which will have a positive effect on their performance.

Harvard Business carried out research to find out which qualities are most important in leaders. 700 workers were asked which qualities they value the most – 70 per cent agreed that creating a culture of engagement is a very important attribute and results in lower turnover rates, more productivity, and more profitability.

This reiterates what was mentioned in the first section – leaders must lead by example. They can determine how valued traits are within the business, for example, communication, integrity, and commitment. Employees who work in an engaging culture with their leader will have positive opinions about the company and will be strong advocates.

Leadership training programs

Go over and beyond for your team and consider enrolling on leadership training programs. which are designed to guide leaders through key issues and how to effectively adopt forward-thinking strategies. Organisations are constantly evolving in the modern world, therefore so does the nature of leading. Building on agile and reactive skills can help you become a capable and inspiring leader.

Leaders certainly have a big responsibility to inspire and encourage their workers – so it is important to do it properly.

Issue 4 2021

As always, CEO Monthly is dedicated to providing its readers with the latest news and features from across the global business world. Sharing knowledge, insights, expertise, and success stories from all over the world allows us to inspire individuals and promote positivity in a world where everything is changing every single day.

Leadership has been vital during the pandemic as businesses have taken charge of their own situations in order to survive during these difficult times. Not content to sit back and wait for things to blow over, these CEOs and business leaders have carved out their own success, despite what the world has thrown at them. This very sentiment of carving out one’s own success story can be best summed up in our cover feature for this month, Actionplus Foundation.

Grounded by the belief that people need to “take action now”, the Actionplus Foundation was founded by the Apostle Fred Osei Annin in 1997 with a dedication to destigmatising HIV and AIDS within the faith communities of the BAME population. The firm’s mission was simple, yet powerful, and it has proven effective in its almost twenty-five years of service to faith communities around the world. Were it not for Fred’s steadfast leadership, that success may never have come.

Join us as we dive into this latest issue of CEO Monthly to discover more stories of leadership success, visionary guidance, and outstanding business acumen. Until next time, have a fantastic rest of the month ahead and we’ll see you in May.

Cool Clothes CEO

The clothes industry is one that is constantly moving forward, and the team at Kewiloo are no exception. Under the stalwart leadership of Jonathan Cohen, this impressive team have moved from success to success. We take a closer look at the firm, and how Jonathan’s impressive guidance has allowed the business to thrive in challenging times.

Curating clothing is immensely complicated in the world today, especially when it comes to sportswear. The team at Kewiloo excel in this regard, providing customers with a fit and finesse that reflects the high standards they have come to expect. When combined with an online shop front that is open to all, it’s clear that the team have achieved something truly special.

At the heart of the Kewiloo approach is Jonathan Cohen, who has been CEO since 2017. Under his reign, the business has gone from strength to strength, not only finding new and exciting items of clothing, but building closer connections with customers so that they keep coming back to buy more. For many, Kewiloo has become the first port of call for clothing, thanks to their accessibility and range of apparel.

When people come to Kewiloo, they find some of the most interesting items on the market. These are chosen because of their quality and interest. While the team may not stock in high quantities, this simply means that you need to keep your eye on the store for something that takes your fancy. Kewiloo doesn’t just act as a leading clothing provider, but as a home for those gadgets that make your life a little more intriguing. Few places stock the latest technology, such as 3D printed fitness apparel, but the team at Kewiloo has built it into their business model.

The key to success has not just been what is provided, but the level of interaction that has been encouraged across by the board. This is a top-down decision, with communications strong across the board. The team want their customers to feel comfortable shopping with them, trusting that they will do everything in their power to have the items they want, delivered safely and quickly.

A key part of this growth has been thanks to the team’s work with social media. While privacy is a priority at all times, being able to meet people through Facebook and Instagram has allowed the team to have a public shopfront that carries by word of mouth. These connections not only build more loyalty, but ensure that people return to buy more. The use of programs like easycall has eased the way in which Kewiloo connections with customers, increasing the levels of trust, and therefore the conversion of potential sales to actual sales immensely.

When a firm is built around a promise to make your life cooler, it’s not just about making a space that sells good gear. What Jonathan has been able to do is build a place where cool is how the team operates. It’s where people can build a community. This community is not just a group of passionate purchasers, but the heart of the company going forward. By continuing to nurture this committed team, the firm will be able to achieve long-lasting success.

For further information, please contact Jonathon Cohen via email: [email protected]

Ramadhan in the Workplace

By Andrew Willis, Head of Legal at Croner

Monday 12 April 2021 signifies the beginning of Ramadhan, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims often commit to a period of fasting during daylight hours. Considering this, here are three top tips for supporting staff during this time:


Flexible working and working from home

Given the physical demands of daytime fasting, staff may require some adjustments to their working routine during Ramadhan, even if they are working from home. This could include altering shift patterns, allowing staff to start and finish earlier in the day to aid with daytime fasting, or amending workplace duties to reduce the chance of fatigue impacting performance or increasing the risk of injury. 


It is important to remember that the requirements may affect each person differently, and organisations should refrain from taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flexible working arrangements. Arguably, it is more important than ever that organisations take steps to accommodate their employees’ personal circumstances.

Annual leave and rest breaks 

Consider that some individuals may wish to use their annual leave entitlement during Ramadhan to allow them sufficient opportunity to rest during times of fasting or to participate in the Eid celebrations that follow. They may also ask for increased rest breaks or to change the time of these breaks. While it will be fair to expect staff to request time off in the usual way and provide sufficient notice, it may be wise to make an exception where possible to avoid discrimination, such as where requests occur on short notice or clash with other team members.


It may be difficult for an organisation to accommodate annual leave requests as a result of the coronavirus. However, given the importance of this to those who celebrate it, it is important to be as accommodating as possible. 

Harassment and respect 

Unfortunately, it can be the case that Muslim employees are at an increased risk of suffering religious harassment at work during Ramadhan, either at the hands of third parties or their colleagues. Other staff may have the misconception that Muslim employees are receiving ‘special privileges’, especially if they are given time off or increased flexibility during the outbreak. Organisations should work to dispel any notion of this. Also, make sure to remind staff that appropriate action will be taken against anyone found responsible for offensive behaviour and that ‘workplace banter’ will not be accepted as a legitimate excuse for discrimination.


Given the importance of Ramadhan to Muslim employees, it would be advisable to outline the organisation’s approach in a religious observance policy, giving individuals a clear source of information on their rights at work during this time. Having said this, any policy will need to be inclusive, giving equal footing to other religions, to avoid further claims of religious discrimination.

77% of the UK Experience This Work-Related Syndrome

You may read the phrase “imposter syndrome” and be surprised that there’s a phrase for something you feel without realising it’s a common thing. Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough for the career you have? Do you doubt yourself and feel like an imposter in the workplace? Do you have a nagging feeling that you’re winging it? You’re not alone.

77 per cent of the UK experience imposter syndrome.

Some signs of imposter syndrome are:

  • Doubting yourself
  • Being unable to accurately assess your competence and skills
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Criticising your job performance
  • Being afraid of disappointing

Did the pandemic make imposter syndrome worse?

Interestingly, research has found that working from home can mitigate these feelings – according to the University of Nottingham, there was a 75 per cent decrease in feelings of imposter syndrome compared to the year before, when we were in the physical office.

Associate Professor Dr. Terri Simpkin at the University of Nottingham commented: “Imposter Phenomenon is related to context and so if the context changes so can experience of Imposterism…It’s socially constructed so change the social circumstances and the experience may change too.”

This may not be the case for everyone, however, and some workers may have intensified feelings of self-doubt combined with feeling deflated and isolated when working from home. Remotely working for significant periods of time can impact company culture, social integration, and being in the general thrall of it all. You might feel out of the funk and start to doubt your skills when you’re out of the swing of things.

If you feel like your feelings of imposter syndrome have subsided, but you’re worried about them flaring up again upon return to the office following Boris Johnson’s roadmap to normality, we’ve got some tips to slip back into the swing of things.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Being so critical of your work performance, even when you do well, can make it hard for you to get some perspective. Here, we look at some steps you can take to overcome imposter syndrome when you get back to the office donning your smartest work suit.

Facts over feelings

We can be prone to letting emotions override logic. Focusing on facts over feelings can apply well to many different areas of our lives, but particularly imposter syndrome. When you perform well, are given praise, or are generally getting things done, praise yourself for your achievements that you’ve worked hard for. Due to your competence, you’ve succeeded, not because of luck or a fluke. Occasionally there’ll be times where things don’t go to plan for everyone, and that can be disappointing. But when you perform well, don’t gloss over the moments or downplay it.

Try not to assume how other people feel about you, for example assuming and feeling like your boss thinks you’re rubbish at your job – you are projecting your own misconceptions about yourself onto others.

We’ve all got to start somewhere

If you’re doing something new at work or are given a new responsibility, don’t put pressure on yourself to master it first time. Everyone has to start somewhere and learn.

Whenever I’ve started a new job or tried something new, I’ve wanted to master it on the first try. Needing additional guidance made me feel like I was weak, especially if there was an audience. Clearly, it’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on ourselves, which it’s why it’s important for us to flip the script.  

Instead of feeling as though we need to prove our worth, we need to remember that we all have to start somewhere. We all try and fail before we succeed. There’s nothing worse or more flawed about us than there is about anyone else. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like you’re not learning fast enough.

Talk to your colleagues

If you have friends you feel comfortable opening up to at work, confide in a colleague. If not, speak to your friends outside of work. Chances are, saying your thoughts out loud may help you realise how wrong you are when there’s no evidence of you underperforming at work. Plus, others may be going through the same thing – being honest and open about your feelings to those close to you can have tremendous benefits on your wellbeing.

Take a break from social media

Returning to the office? Queue an influx of LinkedIn posts as workers race to post optimistic and motivational posts about getting an ounce of normality back. Like all social media, LinkedIn can be tough on us if we’re feeling down. And like all social media, everyone only posts their best and highest achievements rather than when they’ve failed on a huge project or are struggling to keep up with their workload.

Avoid putting pressure on yourself and take a break from social media, including LinkedIn – unless if your job relies on it. Ease yourself back into it when you’ve settled back into office life and feel ready to see what other people are posting about.

Look at what you’ve accomplished so far in your career and be grateful for all you’ve achieved. Overcome feelings of fear and anxiety and recognise your successes. After all, you’ve kept your job during a pandemic, so continue working as hard as you are!

The Three Areas Businesses Invested in to Make it Through the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons. We have a better appreciation of our key workers, which includes NHS staff, shop workers, and transport and logistics providers. A better understanding of the spread of infectious viruses has helped individuals and businesses protect themselves and their staff.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns also taught businesses the importance of digital solutions that enabled remote working and collaboration. Roles that could be carried out from home made the switch. For businesses that had already invested in digitisation, this was a straightforward move. In some cases, employees were already used to home working. But for others, investment was required quickly to implement the necessary technologies. 

A McKinsey survey found that as a result of this need to adapt, businesses accelerated their digitisation by a huge seven years, highlighting one positive side-effect of the pandemic. But where have businesses been investing during this time?

Digital marketing takes the front seat

Many businesses have realised the value of digital marketing in the face of an increasingly competitive industry. This is especially true for retail and B2B organisations that have traditionally operated face to face. For non-essential retailers, national lockdowns meant they could only transact online. While many of these businesses were already operating in the e-commerce space, they didn’t necessarily have the same presence they held on the high street.

Online visibility has been more crucial than ever because many retailers were pushed into the online space. National lockdowns also resulted in consumers spending an extra day a month online. Online sales as a percentage of retail sales shot up by over 50% between February and April 2020 from 19.1% to 30.2%. The current lockdown has seen these sales soar further to 36.3% of all retail sales.

As a result, ad spend on traditional media fell by 50%. Even retailers who increased their sales during the pandemic, including Amazon, reduced their traditional media spend. Meanwhile, after an initial dip due to heavily impacted sectors postponing activity, Google’s parent company Alphabet recorded record profits. Tellingly, 81% of its sales came from digital advertising.

Visibility on search engines and social media is crucial to online success. While undertaking intensive SEO work should be a long-term goal for businesses looking to increase their online market share, paid search can create some quick wins. Many businesses turned to Google Ads to increase their online visibility and sales. Then, as your business grows its online presence, paid and organic search can work together as a lucrative income channel.

Customer service goes digital

As a result of the pandemic, the McKinsey survey found that businesses in Europe increased their percentage of digital customer interactions from 32% to 55%. Interestingly, almost half of brands with over 20 years of longevity ranked customer engagement as their investment priority. Only 39% of younger businesses, however, said the same.

The demand for digital customer service has increased in recent years and has also been accelerated by the pandemic. Businesses that don’t offer digital communication risk losing customers who will seek organisations that prioritise their experience. Of the organisations that rate themselves as excellent in delivering customer engagement, 67% exceeded revenue goals in 2020. What’s more, 75% of these brands are increasing their budgets in 2021.

It’s important to make sure these digital options are available to your customers even when things go back to “normal”. It’s widely assumed that younger customers prefer digital contact methods and their older counterparts overwhelmingly favour traditional communication. However, new research shows a third of over-65s prefer digital contact. For important interactions, the same Echo survey showed 53% of people prefer to speak in person or over the phone. But for information or basic tasks like paying bills, customers prefer digital communication or online self-service options.

With all of this in mind, there’s no clear winner when it comes to how you deliver your customer service. Blending face-to-face interactions (where possible), telephone, email, live chat, and web self-service will ensure you’re meeting the expectations of a wide cross-section of customers.

Employee engagement is on the agenda

The past year has been turbulent for office-based workers. The majority were instructed to work from home in March 2020, before being encouraged to go back into the office, and were then sent home again… and so on. Business spend on digital communication and engagement tools skyrocketed, with Microsoft Teams and Zoom usage growing by 894% and 677% respectively between February and June 2020.

With a plan for exiting lockdown in place, many organisations are now preparing to welcome staff back to the office again after more time away. While you’ve likely got hygiene and social distancing measures in place, employee engagement is important. Especially considering over two-thirds of pandemic home-workers feel less connected to their colleagues and businesses as a result of working from home.

For colleagues returning to the office, there are a number of ways you can increase engagement and keep them up to date with company news and performance. Placing digital signage screens throughout your office that display company bulletins, performance metrics, or even industry news can help your employees feel more connected to your business. Equally, hosting regular business update sessions in your office or at another venue that incorporate team-building exercises and a social element will help your people reconnect.

If you’re one of the many businesses incorporating flexible and remote working into your long-term business plans, there are still ways to engage remote employees. Keeping your company intranet up to date is key to helping employees feel like they know what is going on with your business. Team-building activities don’t always have to take place in-person, either. Virtual quizzes, movie nights, or even gaming sessions are a great way to get your remote workers involved in your company’s culture.


For businesses whose operations were brought to a standstill because of the pandemic and lockdowns, cost-saving has been essential. But for those that have continued to operate throughout multiple national lockdowns, investment in the right areas has never been more important. Businesses have prioritised digital marketing, customer experience, and employee engagement, and these areas are still key focuses as we begin to slowly return to something that looks like normal.

Stress Awareness Month: 7 Steps to Managing Stress As Workplaces Reopen Post-Covid

With 73% of workers admitting they fear a return to the workplace could pose a risk to their personal health and safety, David McCormack, CEO of employee benefits and outsourced payroll provider HIVE360, shares seven practical steps for Stress Awareness Month, that will help ease workers’ worries about being back in the workplace post COVID lockdown, and ensure they feel comfortable you are providing a safe environment for them.

  1. Communicate – ensure workers know it’s ok to feel anxious about the return to the workplace after months of working from home, and encourage them to talk about their feelings so you can reassure them and take any additional action to ease their worries.
  2. Be flexible – for people anxious about a busy commute to work, be open to an early or late start / finish time for the working day. For those feeling really uncomfortable about being in the office, give them the option to continue working from home some days each week.
  3. Be safe – People are counting on their employers to help them get back to work safely. Putting health and safety and employee wellbeing at the heart of any return-to-work planwill help with employee support and reduce the stress of transitioning back to work. Be COVID aware, safe and secure; employers have statutory duties to provide a safe place of work and general legal duties of care towards anyone accessing or using the workplace. Carry out a risk assessment of the entire workplace and implement measures to minimise these risks, and create and share with all employees and visitors to the workplace a clear policy on behaviour in the workplace such as the rules on wearing facemasks, social distancing measures, hand washing and sanitizing, with the relevant equipment available to all, along with what people should do if they or someone they live with feels unwell or tests positive for COVID.
  4. Be caring – employees feel uncomfortable speaking about poor mental health, and this won’t change. With concerns about the effects of COVID-19 on society and the economy, mental health continues to be a growing problem, so demonstrate you are an employer that recognises and understands by introducing and communicating the tools, support and measures available to them to support them and address any fears they have about the return to work. Give them access to specialist medical support and information on wellbeing support.
  5. Keep in touch– the need for clear communication is more important now than ever. Make a point of checking in with your staff regularly, and ask how they are coping.
  6. Encourage work:life balance – poor work:life balance reduces productivity and can lead to stress and mental health problems. Build-in positive steps towards work:life balance to your staff mental health and wellbeing strategies; encourage staff to work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks and get outside for fresh air and exercise once a day.
  7. Tailor solutions – let your employees know you understand everyone’s personal situation is different and that you’ll do your best to accommodate it. Remind people of their worth as an employee, and the positive attributes they bring to the team. After all, people are every company’s most valuable asset.

What Needs To Happen To Support Inclusion Of Transgender Employees

 In recognition of International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31st March, we caught up with Joanne Lockwood, a Diversity & Inclusion & Belonging Specialist who also promotes Transgender Awareness to organisations, and an Associate Facilitator with Serenity in Leadership, to find out what we need to do next to stop discrimination in the workplace and support inclusion of transgender and non-binary workers.

What types of discrimination are transgender employees facing?

“Trans employees, who include transgender, non-binary and gender queer individuals, often face severe discrimination in the workplace spanning speculation and false rumours to severe harassment including physical or sexual assaults. Biases and lack of awareness means opportunities for promotions and recruitment of transgender employees is often extremely poor. They can often feel trapped in one place of work in fear of being rejected for future employment. When someone transitions, workmates often act as if someone has died, or people disengage as they are not sure what to say and don’t know how to reengage the friendship resulting in that colleague being isolated and seen as less than they were.”

When you were transitioning, did your place of work help support you and how are things now?

“I had my own IT business with 20 staff and two co-directors. I found it very hard to transition at work and I was unable to share this part of me. I was struggling with my mental health at home and at work and not performing as well as I should.  For me it felt easier to allow my co-directors to buy me out rather than face opening up to everyone.  When I left, I already had this vision, passion and need to promote trans awareness to organisations. I know what it was (and is) like to be discriminated against, to feel marginalised, to have a sense of imposter syndrome.

“Now I have started my own practice specialising in inclusion and belonging, along with promoting trans awareness, and am able to use my lived experience to have conversations with people about discrimination and the impact of marginalisation. I now work all over the world as a global speaker, offering training and consultancy and talking on panels and podcasts and I am also regular columnist, but I am keen not to be tokenised.

“I am extremely happy and comfortable living my life as a visible trans person and if I can give someone else inspiration to do the same or drive positive awareness, then I am doing something meaningful. I have been married for nearly 34 years, I have two great children, friends and parents and a brother who love me.”

Have things got any better in the workplace for transgender people in the last five years or so?

“In the workplace it is still often easier for an employer to find a reason to let a trans person go rather than have any sort of disruption, conflict or friction. Employers by proxy pass on bias such as beliefs that customers will be turned off and feel that they somehow need to protect the brand and reputation from us and stop questions being asked. Then of course there is the bare-faced anti-trans movement seen as a result of radical feminism or faith. There is extreme anxiety for the transgender person about being open and it can have a severe impact on their mental health.

“However, the debate has increased, there are many more trans allies and more education and awareness.  We still need to break the eggs and it will likely take another generation to bring forth the required change. That is just in the UK though. There are still probably 80 countries in the world that don’t recognise or condemn the transgender community, and the UK could still do much better by removing the medicalised pathways to self-determination of gender and recognising non-binary as a legal third option on official documents.”


Will the pandemic have had an effect on inclusion?

“We are of course all wearing masks now which cover our identity, so it is an interesting part of the discussion because trans people often are not allowed to be their authentic selves and have to wear “a mask”. During the pandemic, there has been increased isolation. Trans people often live alone and so are more cut off.  Lockdown is very difficult if are struggling with your identity and there is a lack of socialising with like-minded people, who understand you.

“Personally, I think working from home is fantastic.  There is an argument that you need to be at work to socialise but actually you don’t need to socialise at work, you need to socialise out of work! The pandemic will spark change and innovation. It is an opportunity for growing inclusion.”

What is the most common stigma you have come across in your work in inclusion and belonging?

“Often when I give trans awareness talks, it ends up being about toilets and showers. I joke that I have made it to 56 years old and have become a toilet consultant along the way – because that’s what people want to talk to me about. The reality is that people are confusing trans people with predatory men and evil perverts. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We just want to get up in the morning, have breakfast, do a great job, come home, kiss our kids’ goodnight and smile like everybody else. This isn’t a lifestyle choice, it’s who we are.”


What needs to be done to protect support and include transgender employees.

“Just because some people don’t actively disapprove of me doesn’t mean they will give me an opportunity. Employers tend to go for the easy hire even if they think they are forward and open thinking. They just want the corporate and perfect fit.

“The best place to start is to have a clear diversity policy.  Employers need to review their values and make openly positive public statements on their website, careers pages, intranet and social media and to act as allies to trans, non-binary and gender diverse people. Importantly use diverse imagery so you aren’t just representing one type of person.

“We need to amplify role models and engage with trans and non-binary people when making change and developing the business; actively listening to them and ensuring they feel safe, that they belong and are thriving. 

“Ensure your recruitment process is open and inclusive and regularly review your policies. When recruiting review job adverts for gendered language and post them to sites for all sorts of diverse communities.

“Take harassment very seriously and have procedures and measures in place that you action without hesitation.”

How important is the language we use around sexual orientation, gender identity and gender reassignment at work?

“We need to have zero tolerance policies around unacceptable language and behaviour in order to build trust and confidence. Unpacking any concerns is important to see where training is needed. HR systems need to support name changes, gender neutral titles and as much as possible de-gender language.”

What is your future dream for gender inclusion?

“I want to get to a place when one’s gender and sexuality aren’t relevant yet are recognised and celebrated.  Acceptance without question. Where it stops being a conversation and is just understood. We are not there yet.  In the meanwhile, we need to break down barriers, collaborate, raise awareness, and elect more inclusive governments and leaders.”

Bid Smarter. Win More. Live Better.

Blackdragon is a full-spectrum management consultancy focused on helping federal contractor bidders win targeted government contracts. After receiving his award with CEO Monthly, we got in touch with Rob Rosenberger to find out more about how he earned the accolade CEO of the Year 2020 – USA.

Launched in 2015, Blackdragon is a rapidly climbing consulting firm revolutionising the way new contracts with the US Federal Government are identified, pursued, and ultimately won. Going into further detail, Rob begins by kindly offering us more of an insight into the values of the firm and some of its specialisms.

“The founding mission of Blackdragon was to improve the efficiency of the federal contracting industry where contractors compete to win contracts with the US Government. We set out to fundamentally transform the way target contracts are identified, analysed, qualified, pursued, and ultimately won by bidders. The objective was to establish a new paradigm whereby the right bidders consistently win the right contracts, while streamlining market inefficiencies caused by absent or uncompetitive bidders. Typically, clients can range from top 10 mega-firms with hundreds of thousands of employees to very tiny contractor firms with a handful of employees, and everything in between. Blackdragon doesn’t have a preference on the type of contracts to be won and the crowdsourcing model enables the formation of expert dream teams of all backgrounds and experiences. Clients can register for free access to participate in the Blackdragon online marketplace and can purchase products a la carte, as needed.

“From the contractor perspective, Blackdragon helps them to create more competitive bids and from the Government’s perspective, Blackdragon’s influence on the industry boosts better proposals from the right bidders while indirectly discouraging non-competitive proposals that can bog down the selection process. These combine into Blackdragon’s slogan, “Bid Smarter. Win More. Live Better.”, which describes a marketplace yielding enhanced benefits to all participants.

“The aim of disrupting the hyper-mature federal contracting industry with an innovative platform was based on the key principles of global coalition, technology, a virtual workforce, and high-quality products. Not just a global ecosystem of talented experts, Blackdragon is also an emerging community and a family of empowered entrepreneurial individuals proactively using the platform as a means of forming into custom ‘Dream Teams’ that know how to win select contracts. It’s a bottom-up approach compared to the conventional top-down process where bidder firms first decide what contracts to pursue and then seek talent to achieve it. The first and only of its kind, Blackdragon breaks longstanding paradigms by revolutionising one of the largest, most mature industries (the US government contracting industry), renowned for its resistance to change.”

The matchmaking marketplace previously mentioned is what helps Blackdragon distinguish itself from some of its closest competitors as Rob explains further.

“The online matchmaking marketplace combines powerful aspects of the Gig Economy, big data and predictive analytics, business automation, and personal networking connectivity that completely rethinks the value chain. Arguably our most unique selling point is the fact our suite of on-demand products help bidder clients win targeted contracts with low investment risk and minimal disruption to daily operations. It is a powerful collection of complementary features for winning key federal contracts. Clients can also better optimise their precious bid and proposal (B&P) resources for each opportunity by flexibly investing in the right combination of on-demand services that best match their budget and pursuit ambitions. These are both universal and customisable, to perfectly complement or fully replace existing client endeavours.

“In the business world of yesterday, ownership was everything. In today’s on-demand world, access is better than ownership. This very simple concept is causing reverberations throughout the economy and spurring on tectonic shifts across entire industries. ‘Access is better than Ownership’ is a fundamental principle of the on-demand economy, as it asserts that it is better to temporarily rent something (when needed) than to buy and own it permanently. Blackdragon’s innovative business model is liberating and empowering compared to the old way of going company-to-company, competing with peers, and begging to get hired (full or part-time) in a support role. Too often you can be waiting for weeks or months to receive a call or email for the next job prospect that rarely fits, does not pay very well, or includes painful commutes. Even more empowering than all of that, Deal Teams have autonomy over their projects which means they are sharing equal voices with their fellow teammates and their clients on every detail pertaining to how best to win. Dragons are not just there to provide ‘support’ to a client who calls all the shots, they are also helping clients as their partners, because both are accountable for the same outcome.”

Much of Blackdragon’s success can be attributed to its members who are heavily involved in each project. Working behind the scenes, the teams at Blackdragon are involved in community management, ensuring maximum participation in the platform among freelancers and bidder clients.

“Calling themselves Dragons, members of the Blackdragon worldwide coalition are freelance subject matter experts representing the best trained, most experienced, richly networked, immensely talented, and most creative minds throughout the industry” Rob highlights.

“Dragons know that they will be working with top-rated professionals who are the best at what they do, so an unproductive dead weight on a team is removed quickly. This competitive spirit spurs innovation and drives excellence to deliver quality products that often must win to achieve full compensation. By getting matched to best-fitting projects, Dragons can proactively monetise their underutilized assets within the digital marketplace. In advance, Dragons know what they are signing up to provide, the timelines expected for each completion, and the control they will have over their earnable compensation based on their contribution value. Additionally, they have greater confidence that a client will pay them by way of the bigger corporate enterprise, Blackdragon, in the middle of the transaction.”

Bringing the interview to a close, Rob takes the time to reflect on the some of the challenges Blackdragon has faced in recent years, before highlighting a few of the exciting plans which lie in the pipeline for the firm going forward.

“The biggest challenge we have faced is helping bidder client firms understand our disruptive business model as it compares to the conventional way the industry has functioned for many decades without change.

“Looking ahead, we have big plans for the future. While not at liberty to reveal the details, what we can say is that we are preparing to launch a major technology enhancement to the existing online platform. This will be yet another industry gamechanger added to all of the previous accomplishments to date, so stay tuned!”

For further information, please contact Rob Rosenberger at www.blackdragon.expert

Tailored Solutions

Established in 2012, Cloud Theory is a technology firm specializing in customized Salesforce-based client relationship management solutions for financial services. Recently, we caught up with Brian Marchand to find out more about their exceptional product and services the team at Cloud Theory effortlessly provides to their clients.

Situated in the heart of New York, Cloud Theory is passionate about providing alternative asset management and investment banking professionals the tools needed to compete in the 21st century economy. To begin, Brian provides us with a brief overview of the firm and the award-winning solutions the team delivers.

“Cloud Theory was initially founded on the principle of partnership. After working in the consulting industry for such a long time, both my Co-Founder, Min Kang, and I had seen too many firms concerned with revenue growth regardless of the project outcome. Having been used to working with customers who saw consultants as workers and not an extension of the team, our number one goal was to create a firm with partnership as a core value across customers and employees.

“Ultimately, we wanted to build a place where every customer is referenceable, and employees share in our joint success. We specialize in Salesforce solutions for financial services, specifically alternative asset management and investment banking. However, we also work with customers in other industries, including but not limited to insurance, healthcare, and consulting.”

Amongst other key factors, adopting a client-focused approach has been one of the keys to success for Cloud Theory, When discussing the strong bonds the team have with their clients, Brian is keen to highlight how the firm’s personalised approach and attention to detail have rewarded them with a loyal client base.

“Here at Cloud Theory, we approach every customer in the same way. By listening to their existing issues and future goals, we can gain an understanding before we work together to determine the best path forward. While most customers generally have similar goals and challenges, they all have different cultures, skill sets, and processes that don’t provide a ‘one size fits all’ approach. As a company with a product called FundEngine, managed services subscriptions and standard services offerings, we work with our customers to ensure we recommend a solution that will make them successful.”

Regarding the internal culture in place, the firm’s success can also be attributed to the dedication and commitment of its employees, as Brian points out.

“Having worked hard to build a company that cares about every individual that works or has ever worked for Cloud Theory, we strongly believe our family spirit has allowed us to operate in a way that others can’t. Many of our employees are friends, family or former co-workers of current staff. Even with a successful product, nothing happens at Cloud Theory if it wasn’t for the tremendous efforts of our employees.”

Bringing the interview to a close, Brian signs off by discussing some of the various challenges the firm has had to overcome throughout the years, before outlining a few of the exciting plans which lie in the pipeline for Cloud Theory in 2021 and beyond.

“Some technology vendors often focus on too many things. For example, our least successful year over the last seven came when we tried to make too many changes. As a result, growth stalled. When we regained focus, we returned to the 50% year-over-year growth we had come to expect. The outbreak of COVID-19 has been another challenge. However, we were uniquely prepared as most of us were already acclimated to a work from home environment.

“Moving forward over the next year, the company has several major goals across various offerings. We are focused on providing our client base with several subscription services to make their journey to CRM success easier. With the recent hire of Dana Daly as Director of Change Management, we will be providing a subscription service to change management and adoption. Additionally, our experts will turn the traditional data migration and integration project obsolete through our fully formed product, DataEngine. DataEngine will save significant resources on internal and client teams, and automate any client integration, migration or AI need.”

For further information, please contact Elizabeth Curtin at www.cloudtheoryinc.com

Experts Provide 6 Ways Leaders Can Actively Lift Inclusions Barriers

Leaders currently face 2 key barriers – prioritisation and recognising privilege

“You either care about people or you don’t but you can’t fake it, and in turn, inclusive leadership starts with recognising the value of individuals” says Garry Eccles, Vice President of Cereal Partners at Nestle.

“If leaders don’t value individuals, become culturally aware and listen more, they won’t overcome the barriers to their inclusion efforts. Inclusion and belonging are personal feelings which means people won’t articulate their thoughts if they aren’t asked”.

Matt Stephens, founder of Inpulse, the employee wellbeing survey experts, agrees. Research from Inpulse shows that 25% of employees do not feel like they can be themselves at work and 33% don’t believe their company takes D&I seriously. 

According to Stephens, an inclusive culture is one in which a mix of people can go to work, feel confident in being themselves and work in a way that suits them to effectively deliver company needs. He asserts that to make this happen, it’s essential for leaders to address their own shortcomings in supporting employees to feel comfortable at work.

In the Inpulse webinar about Inclusion, Stephens identified two particular barriers that leaders currently face in improving an inclusive culture at work:

Not prioritising inclusion above other focuses

In the period we’re in now, it’s not that people don’t want to focus on inclusion, it’s that other things get in the way. With so much change – redundancies, remote working, return to work and home schooling – inclusion can fall into the trap of becoming more to do with spreadsheets, hitting targets and meeting the numbers. Leaders need to support inclusion initiatives in a humane way that still values people.

Being unable to recognise privilege 

Sometimes in the corporate world, where leadership teams aren’t currently as diverse as they should be, they may struggle to recognise their own privilege. They may think they’re aware of the experiences others are facing but, in truth, their own understandings of the workplace don’t reflect the experiences of their employees. Becoming aware of your own privilege and recognising the real life encounters of others are essential in creating a workplace culture that nurtures the broader needs of a team.

Here are the 6 key steps that Garry Eccles and Matt Stephens have identified, helping leaders to address the inclusion barriers in the workplace:

1. It starts with the top

Leaders should be encouraged to walk the talk and model the behaviours they want to see in their teams Though inclusion is a step that all employees must participate in to help create the right culture, if senior leaders aren’t encouraging inclusivity in communications and actions, middle management and those beyond won’t embrace it either.

2. Being genuine is essential

According to Garry Eccles: “You either care about people or you don’t but you can’t fake it”. 

Organisations must show genuine concern for the welfare of their employees. Inclusion efforts can’t merely be about hitting targets. Instead, understanding the value of people should come first and then this should be championed by setting goals and standards.

3. Connect hearts and minds: add the human element back into inclusion

Because of remote work, the pandemic has exposed the home lives of leaders, uncovering their human side which has broken down typical hierarchical barriers. Leaders have spoken about their personal experiences – their struggles, their mental health concerns – and it’s become acceptable for others to open up too. According to Garry, when leaders show these vulnerabilities and human imperfections, it creates a wave of sharing, providing an inclusive place to talk. Adding the human back into inclusive leadership is key.

4. Get everyone on board

When thinking about inclusion, it’s possible that not all members of the workforce will feel it’s an effort that’s connected to them. Some groups may not understand the role they can play in helping others feel included or the benefits that they themselves would feel from a more inclusive environment. It’s important that leaders make an effort to open up the conversation with these people, by linking the conversation to mental health, wellbeing or workplace safety – any inclusion topic that will resonate with them and create a lightbulb moment where someone realises ‘yes, this is about me’.

5. Actively find new perspectives

Most people don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s vital that leaders gain outside perspective in order to overcome their privilege and be an ally to other employees. Creating opportunities such as reverse mentoring in which grad scheme members, for example, pair up with senior leadership to provide a fresh perspective and open their minds to new ideas. 

6. Go back to basics

Garry Eccles stresses the importance of creating a ‘listening environment’. Whether it’s by opening up conversations, using employee listening surveys or holding focus groups, leaders must be prepared to find ways to regularly hear the needs and thoughts of their staff. Action has to be based on what employees are saying.

Garry Eccles, summarises:

“When leaders are able to create a listening environment and get to a deeper level of understanding, they have the ability to ask ‘what more can be done?’. It gives them the awareness and the capacity to take inclusion efforts from acceptance to acceleration.”

Shaping the Post-COVID-19 Recovery: Rethinking HR For the Digital World

Primary Source Verification provider, TrueProfile.io advises how HR leaders can become stronger influencers by empowering digital workplaces

To extend their sphere of influence even further, HR leaders must now rethink how they can support their organizations to adapt to the workplace of the future and empower digital workplaces. This is according to TrueProfile.io, a leading provider of Primary Source Verification (PSV) services, which outlines that in order to thrive and grow in a post-COVID-19 world, rapid digital transformation and a pandemic-proof organizational model is a must.

Last March, the digitalization that companies were slowly going through suddenly accelerated, seeing transformation projects rapidly sped up. Playing a key role in supporting this acceleration and maintaining a productive virtual workforce, HR leaders emerged as greater influencers within businesses. However, with this increased digitalization set to be a permanent feature of the post-COVID-19 landscape, it is now vital that HR continues to evolve, adapt and transform across every element of the HR lifecycle to meet a new set of organizational needs and demands.

Alejandro Coca, co-head of TrueProfile.io, explains, “As companies make work-from-home policies permanent or move toward a hybrid working model, it’s clear that businesses and society are only going one way: a more digital, flexible world. While HR has been key to rapid digitalization so far, the sector needs to go further in several key areas. By reinventing existing practices, augmenting HR technologies and permanently digitalizing old ways of working, there is an opportunity for HR leaders to take the lead in driving digital transformation post-COVID-19 and extend their sphere of influence even further.”  

Alejandro outlines two key areas that need permanently rethinking: upskilling and reskilling current employees and recruiting and onboarding.

Upskilling and reskilling employees

Employees are now working remotely for the foreseeable future, requiring different technologies to deliver their work. The upshot is that digital upskilling is becoming an integral part of many organizations’ learning and development agendas. To play a key role in future-proofing their businesses, HR leaders must now consider implementing effective programs to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary digital skills and tools needed to succeed in today’s workforce and tomorrow’s more technology-driven world.

Fortunately, a growth in digital executive education solutions is now making courses more accessible than ever before. We see a democratization of learning, with knowledge reaching more people in more ways, from apps and video conferencing tools to virtual tutoring and online learning software. For HR leaders, tapping into this engaging, accessible and collaborative learning environment means that there are better opportunities to develop, reskill and upskill employees, giving them the tools to gain new knowledge, skills and attitudes to then apply to their organization’s services.

Recruiting and onboarding

A second area that needs rethinking is at the onset of the employee lifecycle: recruiting and onboarding employees. With a hybrid working model, the most likely outcome for many businesses, most HR leaders will be challenged to have the long-term, flexible infrastructure to recruit, hire and onboard new employees virtually. Having previously relied on in-person conversations and manual, paper-based processes, HR leaders that are still lagging in this area risk, for example, hiring a fraudulent candidate or alienating new employees with an inefficient onboarding experience.

Harnessing digital tools is key to overcoming these challenges and adapting to the workplace of the future. For example, leveraging the right recruitment technology can help get a full view of an applicant’s qualifications, allowing HR teams to build a watertight virtual recruitment process and avoid the potentially damaging scenario of hiring someone who has exaggerated their experience. When it comes to onboarding, new technologies can allow HR leaders to create a tailored, digital hub where new joiners can, for instance, access the documents they need to get a deep understanding of the business. This creates an in-office experience in the home long-term, which is critical for new joiners who will lack the physical interaction they need to absorb the culture of their new workplace.

Alejandro concludes: “This crisis has changed the way we live and the way we work, but it also offers the possibility for HR leaders to rethink their role, accelerate digitalization and play a key part in helping businesses meet the challenges of the post-COVID-19 world. Whether this is through implementing programs to equip employees with digital skills or permanently digitalizing elements of the recruiting and onboarding end of the employee lifecycle; HR leaders must continue to rethink every element of the HR function in an increasingly digital world and how they can support their organizations as we bounce back from COVID-19.”


GlideFast Consulting is an Elite ServiceNow Partner that is dedicated to using its profound knowledge of the ServiceNow industry coupled with real-world experience to create solutions for business success. Having used the platform as both consultants and consumers, the GlideFast team is able to provide unique perspectives on the ServiceNow platform, making them the top choice in partner. We speak to CEO and Co-Founder, Michael Lombardo, who tells us about the highs and lows of building GlideFast from the ground up.

Based in Massachusetts, GlideFast Consulting is an Elite ServiceNow Partner dedicated to implementing, integrating and maintaining the digital workflow platform designed for modern enterprises. Through profound technical knowledge and comprehensive experience of the ServiceNow platform, GlideFast is able to provide market-leading advice on how the service can optimize operations of businesses of all shapes and sizes.

ServiceNow, founded in 2014 by Fred Luddy, was created with a vision to build a cloud-based platform that would allow people across businesses to route work effectively through an enterprise. Transforming the outdated, manual ways of working into modern digital workflows for IT, Employees, and Customers, ServiceNow boosts efficiency and productivity with positive results for businesses as a whole.

Michael Lombardo first encountered ServiceNow at the beginning of his career when he worked his way up from a Helpdesk Analyst to Helpdesk Manager at a large Boston hospital. One of his roles as manager was to implement the ServiceNow platform into the hospital systems, which he worked with for two years, acquiring vital experience as a customer that would later equip him in his GlideFast journey. Following his time at the hospital, Michael joined a start-up ServiceNow consulting firm as one of its first ServiceNow developers, utilizing his customer experiences to enhance the platform even further.

With the support of co-Founders, President Lloyd Godson and Chief Public Sector Officer Stephen Light, Michael made the move to set up GlideFast Consulting with a vision to offer exceptional service and expertise around the ServiceNow platform to clients. For GlideFast, strong business outcomes, processes and technical architecture are fundamental to any successful projects, thus the firm’s solutions as a service infrastructure is designed to provide excellent results as foundations for business growth and development.

GlideFast works across a broad range of sectors, including healthcare, local and state governments, telecommunications, higher education, technology and more as an Elite ServiceNow Partner committed to supporting them towards success. The unique perspectives of the team of developers and architects acquired through experiences as both customers and consultants of ServiceNow enable the team to honor its commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations in the creation of effective business solutions.

Accordingly, Michael and his co-founders rely heavily on their team at GlideFast in the delivery of excellence: “Our success stems from our employees. We hire the best of the best to give top tier results to all of our clients.” Together, the employees and management team collaborate and share ideas in a familial culture that is constantly innovating and growing, with new talent in the industry continuously being added to the ranks to further enhance the strength of the team.

With their support, Michael and his co-founders have seen exceptional development to become an elite partner of the ServiceNow platform, even in the midst of personal and professional adversity. Michael himself was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in the autumn of 2019, which he has thankfully recovered from after a grueling and challenging period of chemo, radiation and stem cell transplant. Whilst Michael tried to stay as involved as possible in the business, he was able to take the time to heal as well, confident in the knowledge that his company was in the good hands of his ambitious and enthusiastic team.

Now returned to full health and with the growth of GlideFast still at full speed, Michael is looking ahead with great excitement and high ambitions for his firm to become the top ServiceNow Partner in the industry. Seeing the determination and devotion that has built GlideFast so far, there is little doubt that we can expect to continue seeing big things from Michael and his team

For more information, please contact Lauren Jankowski at www.glidefast.com

12 Positive Changes for Businesses & Workplaces

Frank Creighton – Director of Business Development at Appreciate Group

“Despite many challenges, the last year has cultivated a fresh, progressive and resilient culture of change for businesses throughout the country, which we can all take forward and grow.”

As the UK reflects on the anniversary of the first Covid lockdown and introduction of furloughing and working from home, Appreciate, the home of Love2shop, shares its ‘Lockdown Legacy’ 12-point list.

These are the key changes cultivated in the last year that many businesses and organisations all over the UK have introduced and embraced in the face of an unprecedented challenge – the Covid pandemic.

As the UK’s leading voice in customer and employee incentives and rewards, Appreciate, the home of Love2shop, has collated the key 12 steps taken in the last year that have brought about positive change in the workplace and will continue to do so. 

Speaking on the UK’s business ‘Lockdown Legacy’, Frank Creighton, Director of Business Development at Appreciate Group, said: “Despite many challenges, the last year has cultivated a fresh, progressive and resilient culture of change for businesses throughout the country, which we can all take forward and grow. 

He added: “Our Lockdown Legacy checklist is testament to the huge efforts made by employees and leaders alike. This is a time for reflection and gratitude in the business community on a wider scale too – a time to say thank you to loyal staff, customers and to remember the outstanding efforts made by frontline workers in bringing us to this point of optimism a year on.”

The Lockdown Legacy list – from Appreciate, the home of Love2shop:

1. Working from home is here to stay 

UK employees showed that despite years of scepticism within the human resources world that WFH (working from home) would be impossible on a large or long term scale; within a month of lockdown one, UK business had embraced it. Not only did staff adapt swiftly, many recognised the huge benefits of a home-based workplace with productivity boosted by cutting out the old culture of commutes, time-consuming office-based meetings with the convenience of building a workflow around life at home.

Going forward? WFH is here to stay with business leaders now aiming to introduce a hybrid of both office and home-based working. Many businesses plan to go even further and ditch the expense of office space over the coming years and have a WFH-only workforce – something inconceivable before Covid. 

2. Greater staff autonomy 

The business world found itself in a suddenly digital-first world of engagement last March. In tackling the new obstacles that presented themselves, staff took initiative like never before and showed themselves to be impressively flexible and creative problem solvers. 

Going forward? Employers can now confidently delegate new ideas and approaches to staff knowing there is an openness to change and a resilience in the workplace not experienced before March 2020. This gives leaders the confidence and optimism to know that staff can take more initiative and can be trusted to meet and overcome challenges in the future. 

3. Stronger staff solidarity  

There has been a commendable display of colleague solidarity demonstrated in the last year. The shared experience of working together under a unique set of testing circumstances has created a stronger workplace bond. Both personally or professionally, we all got through the last year together. 

Going forward? Extending this solidarity and recognising how much staff are appreciated with the broader delivery of rewards and recognition programmes. Making this even easier than ever is the Love2shop Contactless card – a personalised, digital gift card that can be sent through email and SMS to staff and customers all over the UK.

4. No more daily commutes 

One lockdown legacy that has had a universal appreciation is the end of the daily commute to the office. Now, the working day ends when the laptop screen closes; not an hour or two later. No more getting home tired and stressed from traffic jams and train delays! 

Going forward? Introduction of official reduced and even zero commute policies; subsidised commute allowances where possible; the potential offer of a local gym/health club memberships (as opposed to office located options) and an HR policy on school-friendly flexitime for parents. Plus, ‘fresh air breaks’ as standard with staff encouraged to take breaks from their home desk and enjoy the sunshine or walk the dog.

5. Creative employee recognition 

With face-to-face interaction restricted and employees digging deep to keep the wheels turning while the world changes around them, companies have had to get creative at recognising a job well done. An added complication has been that not everyone has been present in the daily ‘office mix’ – with some staff on furlough. 

Going forward? Businesses will continue to get imaginative and embrace digital recognition platforms, online rewards, virtual and remote office staff reward days. Staff incentives will never be the same again. 

6. Better work-life balance – goodbye 9-to-5 

After a year spent working from home, often with children and pets in the house, or elderly relatives requiring support, employees have cultivated new skills in balancing time schedules and diaries in a way never seen before.  Standard working hours have been adjusted to fit in with staff’s needs. 

Going forward? If the last 12 months has taught the UK anything, it is that time with loved ones is crucial to a work-life balance. This means the extension of school-friendly working hours, flexible clock-ins for those with vulnerable, sick or elderly relatives and even overnight online shifts for those with daytime commitments. If the job gets done and done well, there is no reason why 9-to-5 becomes a thing of the past. Overworking and excessive hours was an issue pre-lockdown and tackling this with extra-flexible working hours a step forward. 

7. Investing in home offices 

Plenty of workers started off their April sat on piano stools and beanbags, having thrown together a makeshift home office over a weekend. Now, they’re riding high on plush ergonomic office chairs, with a head-height monitor and a wrist-rest for their keyboard. 

Going forward? Home office refurbishment grants and HR policies? Yes, a year fund to ensure WFH is as comfortable, healthy and enjoyable as possible. This may mean home office vouchers or introducing digital reward codes to make sure staff invest in lumbar support chairs, standing desks, laptop-risers, voice operated keyboards and Zoom-friendly cameras.

8. Community spirit and connection 

Never before have employees had to embrace their local neighbourhood and surroundings as they have these last 12 months. Public spaces have been lifelines to for workers’ health, wellbeing and sanity. From appreciating nature and the outdoors, to joining in on Clap for Heroes and finally speaking to neighbours we’ve only nodded at before, lockdown has created a greater sense of community. 

Going forward? Cultivating this further is an investment in staff wellness and retention. This new-found sense of community engagement flows into the workplace. This ‘bigger picture’ approach for businesses and workplaces will continue to bring a greater sense of doing more for others and reimagining CSR (corporate social responsibility) with more time for staff to work on causes important to their community – park clean-ups and fundraising. 

9. Zoom is here to stay but it’s not all bad 

While many organisation will introduce a phased return to IRL (in real life) meetings in the workplace, the use of Zoom and MS Teams is here to stay. These handy video calling tools have demonstrated that practically any meeting can take place online – any time. Yes, we have Zoom fatigue but no one can deny that the likes of Zoom have possibly saved many a business or at least sustained it during the last year, with Zoom seeing a 2000% increase in account registrations in the last year. 

Going forward? The introduction of online video call support policies in the workplace. From employee Zoom technician support, improved home router kits and camera phone cradles, to Zoom protocols that include a minimum number of hours blue light time to avoid fatigue and more privacy. 

10. New hobbies and passions 

All work and no play is a recipe for burn-out. With our usual leisure outlets closed, such as pubs, health clubs, restaurants and even golf courses, workers have had to find new distractions to keep sane out of hours while living in very restrictive times. This has created a fresh league of budding painters, sour dough bakers, writers, gardeners, runners, readers and more.

Going forward? Appreciate, home of Love2shop predicts that sabbaticals and staff personal development will feature highly post-lockdown. There has been a profound impact on the idea of career development and what is classified as a promotion, as more individuals look for more meaning in their lives and jobs, with new perspectives and activities. For example, a three-day week may be preferable to a pay-rise or new, impressive title. 

11. Wellness, self-care and mental health

Key to getting through the last year has been the resilience shown by staff and employers across the UK. However, recognition of the impact of isolation, overwhelm and stress is an essential factor that all businesses must accept as a lockdown legacy. Even the most mentally robust employees will have endured excessive stress and even burn-out. Many top businesses introduced 24-hour counselling services and upped their occupational health provision.

Going forward? Much more mental health support in the workplace, with awareness days and training for staff at all levels to recognise signs of stress and depression. Self-care days will soon be standard in many workplaces with wellness provisions such as online and in real life yoga, mindfulness classes and free access to counselling services becoming priority staff perks. 

12. Rule breakers welcome 

Many employers dropped their formal wear policy in the last year  as so many workers were based at home. Did businesses collapse because staff were in tracky bottoms and not wearing uniforms, ties or suits?? No. Many workplaces also cancelled rigid staff rules on sickness, lateness and time-keeping too and cut workers’ some slack in difficult situations. 

Going forward? Work places will continue to loosen up on rigid rules around appearance, requests for time off and pre-Covid staff protocols. That’s not to say the days of presenting oneself smartly and professionally are over. This will always be required in certain settings. But more flexibility and tolerance will certainly continue for many businesses and that will be great news for countless employees.  

Realities of Post-Covid-19 Working Life Revealed

The seismic shift in our working lives is reflected in the Banner Post-COVID-19 Workplace Market Report, launched on the 24th of March.

The report from the UK’s largest workplace supplies and services company, analyses all the company’s vast reams of sales data from 2020 to identify changing patterns in UK organisations’ office behaviour.

It shows a 2,000% increase in headsets, and laptop sales outperforming desktop computers by 512% as people flocked to work from home.  Monitors make it into the top selling list, following employer observations that dual monitors increase productivity by up to 25%.

Meanwhile, companies driven to better ventilate their offices prompted a 622% rise in doorstop sales.

The battle for SMEs to create COVID-19 secure workspaces in between lockdowns, was clear. Sales of general cleaning products rose by 987% and demand for facemasks and hand sanitiser shot up by 3,626%. The use of disposable items such as cups and cutlery also went up by 71%, as employers strove to avoid cross contamination.

When it comes to providing the right tech for employees, but not breaking the bank, the report highlights that the pandemic has turbocharged the rise of the subscription economy – such as for laser printer services – which is projected to rise 3600% in five years.

The report not only charts the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on the UK’s workplace supplies and services, but identifies trends which Banner’s experts predict will continue for the long-term.

The trends are:

  1. Flexi-working and focus on worker well-being
  2. Customer drive to greater consolidation of services
  3. Cleaning and infection control at the heart of business preparedness strategy

Flexi-working and the focus on worker well-being was emerging prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, but has been radically accelerated, and its permanent adoption expedited. Its impact extends beyond laptops and headsets. Banner predicts a decline in larger inner city business complexes, in favour of smaller satellite operations, and a blend of office and home working becoming the norm for most businesses.

Employee well-being is part of this flexi-working trend and is now higher on the business agenda than ever before. This is reflected in Banner’s top selling products list, with ergonomics absolutely central:

  1. Chairs
  2. Desks
  3. Monitor arms
  4. Monitor risers
  5. Laptop risers
  6. Headsets

Banner also predicts that this worker-centric trend will spearhead a leasing revolution.  Companies, challenged by the ‘upgrade culture’ of employees, will increase the use of leasing models to provide best in class equipment without denting the bottom line.

The second trend identified in the Post-COVID-19 Workplace Market Report is the customer drive to greater consolidation of services. More than ever, businesses and organisations want a ‘one order, one invoice, one delivery’ approach to receiving goods from suppliers. Aside from the efficiency and economies of scale this delivers, this trend is also driven by environmental concerns and corporate carbon reduction goals. Accelerating this trend was the need to ring-fence vital product supplies to manage the pandemic and possible Brexit disruption. Finally, companies continue to look to reduce the number of orders and deliveries to reduce the risk of contamination.

Banner also highlights the trend for multiuse and more concentrated forms of products, so organisations buy less and store less, motivated by a combination of environmental and practical factors.

The third trend Banner has identified is the permanent impact the pandemic will have on business risk strategy. Many organisations were ill-prepared and ill-equipped to effectively respond to the crisis and they cannot afford to be in that position again. The need to create virus-secure workplaces has changed business behaviour and put cleanliness centre stage.

Frequency of office cleaning has increased from weekly, to 3 or 4 times a day. Communal touchpoints went from weekly cleaning to being cleaned after every single use. From a product perspective, the buyers’ focus will be on refills and multi-use cleaning products, e.g., those which can be used as a hand sanitiser as well as cleaning surfaces such as monitors, work surfaces and office equipment.

Products will also be used to drive behaviour change. For example, antibacterial bin bags, touch-free bins, aerosol-based products for hands-free surface decontamination in one hour. In educational settings, standalone hand washing stations with foot operated taps help to prevent the congregation of numbers of school children in small indoor spaces.

Craig Varey, Managing Director at Banner, comments: “As a leading fulfilment partner to public and private sectors, Banner is uniquely placed to see the shape of reactions across businesses, sectors and industries, and identify the trends that signify a permanent shift in the way we are working.  The turbulence of 2020 brought some significant trends in workplace behaviour and management to the fore, which we expect to impact the products we provide over the coming year. Interestingly we had seen these trends emerging prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, but like COVID’s impact on everything, the effect on these developments has been unprecedented.” 

Technological Revolution

E-commerce is the future of trading, but finding ways of creating a platform for people to advertise their products is increasingly becoming more and more difficult. When Joy Tang founded Mai (Markable AI), it was with the aim of establishing an equal conversation space between content platforms and e-commerce brands. We take a look at her work to see how she did it.

AI lies at the heart of so many modern businesses, and Mai is no exception. The firm uses its AI-based image and video content recognition and search technologies to achieve higher quality performance conversions for its demand-side clients. In short, the firm’s intelligence solution examines previous habits and offers advertising that meets the desires of the customer.

When Joy Tang started the business in 2017, it was based in the United States, but by 2016 the firm has started to take a hold in the Chinese market too. Joy’s background was as a Senior High Frequency Trading Strategist where she was able to take a lead on Machine Learning Trading Bots. This information provided the basis from which she was able to form Mai.

Over the years, Joy has been able to work alongside some of the leading computer vision scientists and engineers in the world, positioning her company at the forefront of a technological revolution. The success of the business is clear, and a credit to her work. At its heart is a believe that AI drives content realization, which empowers media and allows her to serve her clients.

The vision since the firm began has centred around creating a better advertising ecosystem. The relationship between content platforms and e-commerce platforms is often contentious, and the AI solutions offered by Mai opens the doors to new opportunities. The challenge of exposing advertisement space for content platforms, as well as the conversion bottleneck of performance advertising for e-commerce advertisers has been solved in one stroke. Instead of a static response, the systems that take on board what Mai has to offer become more convenient for customers and return in a more attentive online shopping experience.

The way in which Mai has been able to travel across borders is truly a credit to the team’s sterling efforts, and to Joy’s impressive leadership. Her forward-thinking approach has ensured that the firm has thrived in an constantly evolving industry.

For more information, please contact Joy Tang at www.markable.ai

Fifth of Managers Consider Quitting as Covid Burnout Strikes

More than six in ten UK managers have experienced burnout at work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a fifth considering quitting their job as a result, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

Assessing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation’s workforce one year on, research has found that as many as 61% of managers have suffered from burnout at work since the UK was first placed into lockdown, with a fifth (20%) of all managers either considering, or actually quitting their job as a result of the strain on their mental wellbeing.

With the Office for National Statistics reporting that the number of individuals experiencing symptoms of depression has almost doubled since the start of the pandemic, Benenden Health has examined the impact on the nation’s workforce. This has revealed the effect of COVID-19 on the working lives of managers and their subsequent experiences of burnout, which is the occurrence of exhaustion, stress, cynicism and/or feelings of reduced professional ability due to demands at work.

The main causes of burnout at work in the past year were shown to be anxiety about the future (46%), a lack of sleep (40%), limited social interaction (35%), increased demands from senior leadership (28%) and managing home schooling with work (26%), whilst a third (34%) of burnout sufferers revealed that working longer hours had contributed.

Despite more than half of managers (55%) wanting to take time off work due to burnout brought on by the pressures of the pandemic, only a fifth have done so (21%), with others revealing they couldn’t due to their workload being too high (36%), their team needing them (33%), fearing an absence would impact their career progression (32%) and that senior management wouldn’t let them do so (16%).

The survey of UK-based managers also revealed that only a fifth (20%) of those who have experienced burnout in the past year have sought medical support, whilst a third (33%) either took time off as annual leave or a physical health sick day to hide the real reason for their absence.

With the coronavirus pandemic placing such a serious strain on the nation’s workforce, UK businesses are now facing a mental wellbeing crisis as individuals suffer in silence, having a knock-on effect on the culture, retention, productivity and overall performance of organisations.

One in seven managers (15%) have reported lower productivity levels at work since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst 11% said their work was of a lower quality. Conversely, only 9% said their productivity has risen and 8% believe their work has improved in the past year.

On a personal level, a third of managers reported that work has caused increased anxiety in the past year (33%), four in ten said it has caused mood swings (27%), a quarter revealed their diet has got worse (26%), one in five (18%) have consumed more alcohol and a tenth (10%) said their relationship with their partner has deteriorated.

As the nation begins to slowly roll back COVID-19 restrictions, one in six managers (17%) revealed that they are worried about being encouraged to work from an office before they are comfortable doing so, whilst 16% believe that the easing of restrictions will put more pressure on them at work. With one in eight (12%) saying that they fear the culture within their business will get worse once restrictions ease, businesses may also need to consider how they maintain a feeling of togetherness as life returns to something more like normality.

The future of traditional office working was also revealed to be in jeopardy as more than two thirds (69%) of managers said they would like to work from home – at least part-time – on a permanent basis.

Naomi Thompson, Head of OD at Benenden Health, said: “It goes without saying that the past year has been incredibly challenging for individuals across the nation, both in our personal lives and at work.

“Businesses too have suffered immensely from the COVID-19 pandemic and these pressures have filtered down to management, who have been vital in keeping operations going at work whilst managing their own lives at home.
“What we are seeing is that there is a burnout epidemic across the nation’s managers, but too often these individuals feel too helpless, worried and embarrassed to open up and seek support for their mental wellbeing concerns.

“An open, two-way conversation must now take place to ensure employees are able to disclose and address any mental wellbeing concerns without fear. It is also important that employers are in a position to support appropriately and effectively, to the benefit of both individual employees, and the business as a whole. In building a happy, healthy and productive workforce, employers will also have to consider how their operations change as restrictions ease, ensuring that employee wellbeing is at the forefront of these conversations.”

Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as mental health helplines, 24/7 GP plus access to services such as mental health counselling support and medical treatment so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it.

COVID-19 One Year On: Cost To UK SMEs To Exceed £126.6 Billion

  • New data reveals the impact of Covid-19 to UK SMEs is set to exceed £126.6bn – nearly double the £69bn initially projected a year ago
  • SMEs have lost £15,673 so far on average, but expect total cost to reach £22,461, suggesting losses will continue for some time yet
  • Over 840,000 SMEs don’t believe their business will ever return to pre-pandemic levels
  • 81% feel they haven’t had enough government support, and over 2.2 million still haven’t been able to access government support or grants.

Approaching the anniversary of the first national lockdown, a new report reveals the cost of Covid-19 to UK SMEs is set to exceed £126.6 billion – nearly double the £69 billion initially projected a year ago.

The study by small business insurance provider Simply Business revealed that on average, SMEs have lost £15,673 each so far in earnings due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, up from the £11,779 small business owners initially estimated that Covid-19 would cost in May last year.

The financial impact on SMEs

A year into the global pandemic, SMEs now fear they will lose a total of £22,461 each on average, suggesting there are still more losses to come. Almost one in 10 (8%) expect the pandemic to cost them over £50,000 in total.

What’s more, over 840,000 SMEs are not sure their business will ever return to pre-pandemic trading levels, bringing a huge blow to both the small business community and the UK economy.

With six million SMEs in the UK, accounting for over 99% of all businesses, 33% of employment and 21% of all economic turnover, the total cost of Covid-19 to UK SMEs – set to exceed £126.6 billion – has the potential to send ripples through our economy and communities.

A lack of government support?

Overall, 81% of SMEs still say they haven’t had enough support from government – with 41% saying they don’t feel supported at all and 40% believing they’ve had some support but not enough.

In terms of financial support, over 2.2 million SMEs (37%) still haven’t been able to access government schemes and grants, seen by many as a lifeline to help small businesses through the pandemic.

For those that have been able to access government support, a third (33%) have been able to receive the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a quarter (26%) have utilised the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, and one fifth (18%) have accessed the Local Restriction Support Grant.

So far, only one in 20 (5%) have been able to make use of the business rates holiday, and just 3% have been able to use the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Despite the government offering a range of financial schemes to support small businesses, it’s clear that many haven’t been able to access the vital help needed for their recovery.

What small businesses needed from government

Well over two fifths (46%) of SMEs believe the government should have offered a wider range of financial support schemes – highlighting how difficult small business owners have found it to access the schemes on offer.

One quarter (24%) believe finance should have been released quicker, and the same number feel there should have been greater communication and transparency from the government about the impact on small businesses and the self-employed.

A further 23% of SME owners also believe there should have been more clarity around restriction and regulations within their industry, and one in 10 (9%) think the applications should have been easier to fill out.

Emerging from lockdown

Looking ahead, roughly half (54%) of SMEs believe the government’s roadmap out of lockdown has given them some level of reassurance to start planning the future of their business – leaving 46% still uncertain in the coming months.

In recouping the money lost during the pandemic, the majority predict it will take anywhere from 18 months to two years (18%), or two to three years (20%) to get back the money lost.

One in five (20%) think three years or more, meaning they might not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or later.

When it comes to returning to pre-pandemic levels of trading, over 860,000 SMEs (14%) are not sure that their business will ever return to pre-pandemic trading levels, but others are more optimistic.

A quarter (25%) believe they will return to pre-pandemic levels by spring or summer 2022. Well over a tenth (14%) think faster, and predict they’ll be back to normal trading levels by the end of this year.

Overall, over half (53%) of SMEs remain concerned about their business’ future, but hope to survive until the end of 2021.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, comments: “No business, big or small, has been able to escape the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic – with 12 months of restrictions, lockdowns, and uncertainty always likely to take its toll.

“The scale of the impact across this last year felt by the self-employed is abundantly clear in our latest research. Covid-19 will cost SMEs an estimated £126.6 billion – double what owners predicted it would cost them when asked a year ago.

“With six million SMEs in the UK – accounting for over 99% of all businesses, 33% of employment and 21% of all turnover – this £126.6 billion hole in the books of small businesses is a huge blow to the economy.

“Beyond the unquestionable economic hit, we should also recognise that behind each of these small businesses is a small business owner – each with families, livelihoods, and dreams. The impact of the pandemic on so many of these individuals has been devastating, both financially and emotionally.

“While the government support packages have proven a lifeline to many small businesses through the pandemic, our research reveals that 81% of self-employed people feel it hasn’t been enough – with over two million SMEs unable to access any financial support.

“Yet in all of this, we have seen countless examples of the resilience, resourcefulness, and creativity that we have come to associate with the UK’s small business owners.

“Insuring over 450,000 small businesses – from plumbers to accountants to restaurants – has allowed us to see first-hand the impact on this audience, and the impressive way in which they’ve responded. As we emerge from what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic – with SMEs across the country looking to kickstart their operations – it is important that we all support small businesses, knowing that they will be crucial to our collective recovery.”

Top Tier Training From Tapiit

Working with shipping companies all around the globe to offer them cost-effective choices for training requirements, trading routes, and crew nationalities, Tapiit is an online training and information portal delivering new training solutions to various markets. Steering the ship to its latest success is one of the finest CEOs, and recipient of this years’ CEO of the Year, 2020 – The United Kingdom award, Mr Richard Turner. As we take a closer look at what Tapiit and Mr Turner offer to clients, discover what has made the firm into an industry standard for excellence by which others measure themselves.

Formed around the basis of connecting users to a global list of training providers around the world, Tapiit has since diversified into creating new and efficient training through different vehicles and supporting training centres with new applications and systems. The firm’s bookings offers users the ability to search and book all types of maritime training from the world’s largest database of providers in more than forty seven countries. With such an easy to use system, applicants can make swift and cost-effective decisions on available training which links in with their travel and work plans. By working with shipping companies all over the world, Tapiit has been able to bring down training budgets by removing peripheral costs such as travel, accommodation, per diem, and salaries, leaving companies with minimal expenditure based against the cost of a course.

Training providers all over the planet are queuing up to use Tapiit and its unique system, given that it allows providers to showcase far more than those other standard marketing vehicles. With Tapiit, providers get access to unique dashboard that show documents such as accreditation, HSE reports, and staff and faculty certifications. Shipping companies and users of the system can have the ability to fully understand a training provider, what they are offering, and how much it will cost. Armed with that knowledge, they can make the key decisions knowing that they have all the information they need to do so. Helping make sure that the clients can access all of this information in the best way possible is Tapiit CEO, Mr Richard Turner.

Mr Turner has been the current CEO of Tapiit since just last year, and has already made such an impact on the way the company is addressing the training needs of the maritime industry. Tapiit, under the sage guidance of Mr Turner, has a large and growing database of training suppliers, training centres, learning centres, educational colleges, and academies. Since coming into his new role as CEO, Mr Turner may have made his stamp on the firm by increasing the levels of success, but the core values and mission remain the same as they ever were; to increase training through choice and efficiency, and lowering costs in the process.

These core values are at the heart of everything that both Tapiit and Mr Turner are looking to develop, implement, and achieve together. Linking people to more training through new access points, different vehicles, and lower costs will bring about higher competence within any industry and, in most cases, improve a business whilst driving down incidents in the workplace. Tapiit is now considered to be the fastest growing business model in the maritime industry, thanks largely to the sage leadership of Mr Turner and his executive team around him. The success comes from keeping everything simple, and delivering on what it promises. Within the first four months of starting business, Tapiit has clients in twenty eight countries and have since gone even further.

Drawing on its truly global database is what makes Tapiit one of the most unique businesses around, with its database matched only by search engine behemoth Google. Within the maritime sphere, the firm has training providers that cover the complete spectrum of training, and its advantage over Google is the ability to find the training, book the training, get cashback on courses, and manage it all through an app in less than two minutes. For those who need to, the app can also be a source of booking travel and accommodation. Within the Tapiit model that Mr Turner and his team has devised, there are three primary types of client. The training provider, who wants to showcase the courses and facility; the individual user of those courses and facilities; and the shipping companies who require the training for their workforces.

As one of the most effective and simplest solutions in the maritime training industry, Tapiit’s business model ensures that its culture operates in much the same manner. The workforce is made up of dynamic and empowered individuals who can take a problem, and offer solutions. Everyone works as important individuals making up one collaborative team, from Mr Turner at the top to new entry-level employees just starting out their careers. Mr Turner has spent time on vessels himself, and understands that it takes everyone coming together to help the ship run smooth. Encouraging his employees to work in a modern fashion, Mr Turner empowers his staff to have a flexible week. The staff have the option to either use one of the desks in the office, or work from home with the team meeting once a week and have virtual meetings every day. Productivity is at an all-time high, and people are excited to work.

With productivity levels booming and showing no signs of slowing down, Tapiit has further expanded their business by launching two new and exciting projects: Tapiit Live and Flexiilife.

Initially formed as a live stream training company, Tapiit Live focuses on delivering maritime modules to seafarers onboard vessels, whilst at home and management personnel in the office. Having the ability to attend classroom style of training without the burden of additional costs, such as travel and accommodation, is a huge benefit for any ship owner/manager looking to reduce their training budgets. Live interactive streaming will slowly, but surely, become the normal vehicle and leading the way will Tapiit Live with its established in-house studios.

As for Flexiilife, the new company was established to provide individuals, families and crews onboard vessels access to a comprehensive platform of live streaming channels that focuses on the mind, body and soul. With a diverse range of classes from yoga, fitness, exercise to wellness which covers topics including healthy eating classes and even nutritional courses. The mindful courses offer an array of subjects such as meditation, stress management, how to deal with interview stress and relaxation for driving tests. In addition, Flexiilife’s learning channels cover a vast array of topics from children’s academic subjects to general interest. All of these classes are now live and interactive, as well as streamed 24 hours a day on multiple devices all for just one subscription fee.

With both these platforms in full effect, the Tapiit team have been able to successfully implement these services with the support and guidance from CEO Monthly’s CEO of the Year, 2020 – The United Kingdom.

The mark of a good leader over a good boss is understanding how to empower and uplift staff around them to do an excellent job. Mr Turner is definitely the former, understanding that his staff are integral to the continued success of Tapiit. The newest and best vessel may have all the latest specifications, but without the right staff it will fail. In every single one of his roles, Mr Turner has always developed and surrounded himself with the best teams possible, and success quickly followed suite. Every business owner, manager, or CEO must understand what Mr Turner has lived his life by; you cannot do it all by yourself, and understand the strengths and weaknesses of those around you to maximise the chance of success.

A truly outstanding example of what leadership looks like, Mr Turner is a rare breed in the executive world. As Tapiit continues to grow exponentially and set industry benchmarks for what maritime training could, and should be, Mr Turner is an exciting figure in the development of exciting, ground-breaking technologies and simple solutions.

For further information, please contact Richard Turner at www.tapiit.com

Intelligent Solutions for the Future

Artificial Intelligence-enabled Internet of Things with 5G+ connectivity is the next major innovation on the technological horizon. Although many companies are not familiar with AI -enabled IoT’s power to transform operational processes, businesses increasingly depend on the competitive advantages that the solutions offer. With the capacity to connect disparate systems and elevate business needs in unprecedented ways, powered by a range of connectivity solutions; EPIC IO and it’ subsidiaries are perfectly poised to lead the public and private sectors through this wave of innovation, under the impressive leadership of Ken Mills. We take a closer look at the firm and Ken’s history to see just how he did it.

For the last twenty years, IntelliSite has been an early champion of internet-of-things (IoT) solutions. For the layman, IoT describes a network of physical objects that link sensors, software, and other devices through wireless connectivity, transforming streams of data into actionable, strategic responses. For a wide range of businesses, there is enormous potential to be explored, and IntelliSite is a key player within the solutions infrastructure market that has evolved.

IntelliSite, now a subsidiary of EPIC IO, with global headquarters in Fort Mill, SC, and offices in Ceres, CA, Argentina and Costa Rica, delivers targeted outcomes for customers across IoT, safety and security, and computer vision enablement. Over the years, IntelliSite’s team has turned its attention from sophisticated turnkey solutions to a range of subscription-based managed applications that deliver AI-powered intelligent analytics and actionable outcomes for connected businesses and communities. Leading this evolution into this brave new world of smart communities and digital connectivity is EPIC IO, CEO, Ken Mills.

Mr. Mills brings a wealth of information to his role as the Chief Executive Officer of EPICIO. For the past two decades, he has worked in the field of business-to-business technology and information security, giving him not only a unique insight into the industry-at-large, but also expertise and depth of knowledge unmatched by other companies that are only now entering the field. Mills’ approach ensures that EPIC IO and its subsidiaries, Broad Sky Networks and IntelliSite are always one step ahead, able to provide the valuable, tailored solutions that people need, when they need it.

With a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Business Management from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Clemson University, Mr. Mills has spent a great deal of his life balancing the needs of the public and private sector. He has been a Partner in one of the largest contract field sales organizations in the U.S. and served as a Nuclear Engineer for the United States Navy. He spent nearly eight years building a hyper-growth business for Cisco’s safety and security, access control, and emergency response business unit, which he followed with a stint as a Fellow at the U.S. Department of State.

Prior to his leadership role at EPIC IO, Mr. Mills was the General Manager and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Dell Technologies safety and security, IoT, and computer vision business unit. He quickly made a name for himself, not only as an exceptional businessman but as one of the company’s top experts in the areas of security and public safety. Over the years, his work proved to be instrumental in creating and advancing solutions that Dell Technologies’ safety and security division had under development.

In short, when it comes to matters of technology and security, Mr. Mills is driving innovation in this space with a depth of knowledge few competitors can match. To ensure that EPIC IO’s business offerings remain at the cutting edge, Mills conducts significant outreach as a member of the Security Industry Association (SIA), serves as an Advisory Board Member for the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, and writes opinion pieces as a member of the Forbes Technology Council. These outlets allow Mr. Mills to communicate with his peers and stay abreast of the latest changes and innovations under development in this fast-paced field, always calibrating the impact such trends will have on his work.

When it comes to EPIC IO’s future, it’s clear that the holding company and its subsidiaries will have a big impact on the technology sector as a whole. The team has produced hundreds of enterprise-scale solutions spanning across such diverse economic sectors such as the healthcare industry, public works, financial, energy, agriculture, retail, and education markets, with deployments across the US, Europe, and Latin America.

“The reason for our success is simple,” shared Ken, “We focus on the ‘Why’ with every customer. Whether it is a city manager, facility manager or the Chief of Police, we start with the desired outcomes first. Then our team of experts can work through how we get from A to B to deliver the desired, measurable results. Our end-to-end managed solutions shepherd our clients through every step of the process – from design, to procurement and installation, all the way through life-time system health management.”

At the heart of every solution is IntelliSite’s open, nimble and extensible software platform, connecting desperate streams of new and existing cameras and IoT sensors to create sophisticated solution systems, capable of providing high-volume, AI-enriched data, and near real-time visual computing analytics. IntelliSite solutions gather all of the sensor data information that is available and leverage the latest technology innovations to convert that data into to actionable information, that positively impact business operations and goals.

To serve the business community-at-large, the team provides various solutions in a variety of different areas. For example, products such as IntelliSite’s heuristic-based monitoring (hBM) combines the team’s DeepVisionAI and DeepLogic Rules Engine, which enables multi-sensor and multi-system integration with DeepInsights federated visualization, alerting, and reporting capabilities. When used alongside a third-party FDA-compliant thermal/optical camera, the result is the most complete thermal monitoring solution available.

The hBM Solution software completes three-layers of assessment, beyond the strictly thermal reading provided by the camera, which ensures that thermal noise can be removed, reducing the chance of false positives. The end result: businesses can confidently execute screenings of employees and visitors not only for temperatures, but for mask compliance, occupancy management and even employee badge screenings for check in. Centrally managing and automating a process that was once a demand on human resources with more efficient, effective, and data-driven results.

“We have had great success in working with communities to solve their safety and security issues, one pilot at a time. Recently our company worked with the Alameda County Department of Justice in California to provide an AI-enabled IoT solution to reduce illegal dumping. Illegal dumping was costing the city more than $8 million dollars a year at the time,” Ken explained.

“The Alameda District Attorney’s office was extremely pleased with the result of our engagement. After carefully assessing their challenge, we helped form a private-public partnership with local businesses. Business owners were frustrated with the lack of cleanliness in the area and its impact on their business. IntelliSite, the DAs office, and business owners worked in concert to strategically place cameras where IntelliSite’s AI-enabled cameras where IntelliSite’s DeepLogic software could identify trigger events, such as a car illegally parked or activity in an area of frequent illegal dumping through IntelliSite’s DeepInsights analytics dashboards.”

The return on each intelligent solution multiplies when you consider the team’s remote management services. This is an invaluable security resource for companies, providing 24/7 monitoring by a professional security team. Instead of working onsite, this team can engage remotely, escalating engagement where necessary to an onsite security team or with local authorities. Having the option to gather more information and react appropriately is expected to transform the options available for security services. This system can be deployed on a larger scale as IntelliSite’s Smart Community as-a-Service (SCaaS) powered by Broad Sky’s 5G Connectivity. For local communities, the remote monitoring or “IntelliCare” service is available at an affordable monthly subscription that offers state-of-the-art safety and security monitoring solutions.

Needless to say, AI-enabled IoT solutions are inherently complex with many moving parts between hardware, software, connectivity, and service components. But when EPIC IO, IntelliSite and Broad Sky Networks are involved, the team creates the perfect, bespoke solution, specifically tailored to an organization’s wants and needs.

Intelligent solutions are an important feature of modern life, and the team at EPIC IO offer something truly revolutionary. We celebrate the success of Mr. Mills and his amazing team as they explore new avenues for success in the future.

For further information, please contact Beatriz Burgos at www.intellisite.io

Top Ten Attributes Every Great Business Leader Needs In 2021

By Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership

Successful business leaders may previously have been visionaries of their brand, expert decision makers with a growth mindset and possessed extraordinary levels of energy, but the qualities needed to be a good leader in 2021 have changed vastly due to the seismic pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 situation and the events that have brought suppressed and ignored social issues to the fore.

In response to the pandemic, leaders have had to formulate effective crisis management schemes, show agility during lockdowns, repeatedly re-plan to meet the changing needs, navigate the varied transitions of working from home, deal with redundancies, cope with a collective rise in burnout, and begin to look at issues like BLM and harassment with new eyes whilst maintaining team spirit with physically separated teams.

Different circumstances call for different styles and attributes of leadership and we have certainly seen some shining examples of global influencers and inspiring business leaders in the last year. Unfortunately we have also seen incredibly poor leadership.

These are 10 attributes that every great leader needs in 2021 as we negotiate the ongoing twists and turns of the crisis:-

  1. Resilient leaders don’t let failure dishearten them; they understand losses are temporary and use them to their advantage and to learn; they are generous in the face of others’ needs. Our current VUCA (volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous) environment means an agile approach to change is essential, as is the need to be one step ahead. Having a big picture outlook and a willingness to take early decisions is key. Whatever your political standpoint, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel is extremely good in a crisis. Whilst other hospital systems came crashing down in the first wave, Germany had so many ICU beds, it flew in Italian, Belgian, Dutch and French patients.
  2. Controlled Ego. Effective leaders are humble, have a clear vision and know when their contribution is needed and when it is best to let others take the floor. They build on the capability of their team first and welcome input from all stakeholders, and then look for new opportunities to grow or do better. We all have an ego but those leaders who are in command of theirs are patient, often self-less, don’t require gratitude or ego-stroking. A survey of 105 computer software and hardware firms revealed that humility in CEOs led to higher-performing leadership teams, increased collaboration and cooperation and flexibility in developing strategies. A leader who has demonstrated these attributes throughout his extremely varied career is Rory Stewart, the former Secretary of State for International Development.
  3. Compassion. Employee welfare is a hot topic with concerns rising about mental health and physical safety during the pandemic. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that maintaining morale is key to thriving, and actively care about employee wellbeing. They have a heightened awareness of mental health including the effects of, and needs around trauma, grief, bullying, harassment, stress and PTSD and effectively support workers through this period. At the start of the pandemic Ally Financial CEO Jeff Brown was quick to provide leadership and responded by showing care and generosity to employees by moving most of the 8,700 workforce to work from home in just a few days, including hustling equipment to people who needed it, along with getting them set up with internet. The company’s already-existing financial, medical and mental health benefits were well designed to help employees through a crisis.
  4. Inclusion. Inclusive leaders are people-oriented and do not value one more than another and openly look for different ways of thinking. The best leaders check for unconscious bias, starting with themselves, and strive to make the workplace an equal environment for all. They actively welcome diversity as a real asset with great potential, not a tick box. In Latin America, John Deere’s head of HR, Wellington Silverio, launched a comprehensive D&I program in 2016, which has now touched more than 13,000 employees in Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico by having a leadership team that promotes—and a workforce that reflects—the global diversity of its consumers.
  5. Responsibility. Being a responsible leader is about being able to shape the business by making strategic yet informed ethical judgements. These leaders appreciate the crucial importance of creating the right culture, have a clear understanding of the values and goals for the business, and know how to communicate them. This means listening openly and displaying moral courage, long-term thinking and value-led collective problem solving. Ruth Bader Ginsburg demonstrated great traits of the responsible leader, for example effectively teaching the then all-male Supreme Court that discrimination against women actually existed.
  6. Trailblazing. New Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris has broken barriers, remained rooted and now embodies the hopes of young women all around the world. Trailblazers tackle problems and find solutions in ways others can’t. These leaders are resilient in the face of failure and keep going long after others have fallen away. Greta Thunberg continues to challenge world leadersto take immediate action against climate change.
  1. Authenticity. Leaders who are authentic promote transparency, honesty and openness within the workplace because they know that it ultimately builds trust. We need to talk the talk and walk the walk to show integrity. Honest leaders keep to their word, follow through on promises and deliver on time. They know how to effectively manage expectations, even if that means delivering bad news. Yvon Chouinard, the founder of the incredibly successful outdoor equipment company Patagonia, has lived by his principles and created a continuously ground-breaking organisation based on his values.
  2. Accountability. An accountable leader takes responsibility for their actions and steps up when they are needed. They are not afraid to apologise if things go wrong, nor do they blame others for their mistakes. Rather, they endeavour to fix and learn from them. The first female president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, mother to seven children and head of an organisation with over 32,000 members of staff, admitted it was a mistake to override part of the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland to prevent shipments of vaccinesentering the UK and rectified the mistake within hours, asking to be judged at the end of her term.
  1. Inspirational leadership is fuelled by passion and purpose. Leadership like this is contagious. An inspirational business leader motivates everyone around them, trusts them and encourages them to feel as passionate about the business as they do. Barack Obama offered hope and inspiration to his country by being both open and vulnerable.
  1. Excellent Communicator. Paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues, listening well and being personable are enviable characteristics of a great leader. Great leaders simplify complex problems to be able to focus in on what really matters, delivering information in a clear and concise fashion. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand led her country through the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019 with courage and determination. Since then she has combined a willingness to make hard and timely decisions with a consistently high level of communication, demonstrating openness, honesty and vulnerability. She is perhaps today’s shining example of all the 10 attributes outlined above.

Commitment to Connection Drives Success for Intelligent Contacts

At its core, Intelligent Contacts’ technology offers cloud-based, omni-channel contact center technology and consumer-friendly digital payment platforms. As the world becomes more digitally-aware, successful companies are leveraging consumer convenience and preferred-channel communication to grow their business and retain customers. Intelligent Contacts is a software firm that helps create these meaningful connections between its’ clients and their customers like no other, thanks largely to the experience and expertise of its outstanding CEO, Jeff Mains. Mains has also won the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – The USA in this issue of CEO Monthly, so we profile both the man and his work with Intelligent Contacts.

Since its inception, Intelligent Contacts has sought to offer the most innovative and configurable contact center technology and consumer-friendly digital payment platform available. Instead of building products, Intelligent Contacts creates solutions designed to be frictionless for both the business and its customers—creating a seamless and integrated experience between its’ communications and electronic payment platforms. The success of Intelligent Contacts can be attributed to a number of factors, but there are few more influential or impactful than the vision and leadership of its’ founder and CEO, Jeff Mains. Throughout his career, Mains has been a keynote speaker, bestselling author, and business transformation expert, and he always seeks to share the good, the bad, and the downright ugly from over two decades of leading companies in a wide variety of sectors and industries. Over the years, Mains has consistently found ways to solve the operational challenges of his clients in a way that also simplifies the experience for the end consumer.

The inspiration for Intelligent Contacts came while Mains was running a SaaS CRM company, and noticed that his clients were struggling to find communication and payment tools that worked the way they wanted. Most of the available options were mediocre and out-of-touch with where the industry was moving. Many were rigid and overly complex. They were “built by techies for techies,” and lacked the flexibility that clients needed. Rather than take this as it was, Mains decided that there must be a better way.

Out of this glaring need, Intelligent Contacts sprang into being, quickly becoming a key player in the financial services and healthcare revenue cycle management space. Mains set out to build his technology on a foundation of flexibility, simplicity, and speed-to-market. That meant creating a cloud-based solution that eliminated the need to buy hardware, software, or employ an IT staff to manage.

Today, Intelligent Contacts delivers enterprise-level cloud contact and consumer-focused payment solutions to healthcare and financial services companies that helps them to meaningfully connect with consumers to create engaging and personalized communication and payment experiences.

Because the products are so easy to use and integrate seamlessly with other systems, Intelligent Contacts has a built a cult-like following among its user base. Client satisfaction is confirmed by their 99.5% retention rate for 2020.

However, 2020 was a year quite unlike any other. Like many other businesses, Intelligent Contacts soon found itself needing to adapt to meet the needs of a changing marketplace. Few businesses are the same today as they were a year ago. Some industries have found themselves majorly disrupted while others skyrocketed. The clients that Intelligent Contacts works with have certainly experienced their own issues, and what Mains observed is that the severity of the issues often came down to agility and mindset.

For example, the most successful companies adapted quickly and found ways to make lemonade from their lemons, while others panicked, resisting change, and decided it would be better to simply wait it out. Intelligent Contacts works with clients that have historically been resistant to the idea of remote working, but this has now become a new reality and something that all businesses must plan and account for long term.

Intelligent Contacts has created solutions that are built to work securely from anywhere, and managers have the same visibility into activity and productivity regardless of location. Many of the firm’s clients are more forward-thinking than the industry as a whole, and a large number had already begun transitioning to remote working either partially or fully prior to 2020. This gave Intelligent Contacts a proven process to seamlessly transition hundreds of clients, many with hundreds of employees, from centralized offices to a “work from home” setting in just a two-week period.

Quite remarkably, 100% of clients forced to make this rapid transition managed to hold firm and steady throughout 2020, and many clients set new revenue performance records.

Jeff Mains specific role was working with client CEOs and executives in helping them rethink and pivot their businesses to meet the changing needs within this new reality. Remaining agile and raising the level of engagement rather than retreating was the path to success, and Mains helped his clients find that.

Mains also knows a thing or two about sharing a message in a way that is accessible. In his bestselling book Small Fish Big Pond: Building a World Class Business That Swims Circles Around Competitors, Mains describes how markets are always in motion. Disruption is both fluid and inevitable. To prepare for this flux, Mains stresses the importance of always engineering the business for speed and agility. A company optimized for speed and agility can anticipate a disruption in the market and move quickly to capitalize on it. Or, quickly pivot to lessen its impact.

Undoubtedly, the biggest impact in 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused many companies to look inwards at themselves. It was at the onset of the pandemic that Intelligent Contacts made the proactive decision to reach out to its clients and offer its help as a cloud-based contact center software company that cared about its’ clients and was already built with the speed and agility to help them adapt. In addition, Mains helped other CEO’s rethink their business models, leverage the resources they had, and redeploy those resources to serve existing markets in a new way.

The challenges brought on by 2020 confirmed how critical it is to stay close with clients, especially during times of crisis. This experience proved once again that the most valuable type of capital in existence is relational capital. Revenue may go up and down, but trust is a commodity that never loses its value. Mains discovered, in a fresh way, that his clients at Intelligent Contacts count on them for more than just great software. They look to IC for solutions, and they want a business partner who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them to provide hope and certainty when the world seems to be crumbling around them. Then, at other times, to be ready with innovative ideas that create unseen opportunities and drive greater levels of business success.

None of this is possible without meaningful connections, proactive engagement, and taking time to deeply listen and understand what a client is saying. Mains is more than an exceptional CEO; he is someone that understands the humanity of business and has built his own business to serve its clients consistently and whole-heartedly.


For more information, please contact Jeff Mains at www.intelligentcontacts.com

Complete Package From Compleat Software

As a business-to-business software author, the work of Compleat Software is focused on digital purchasing, invoice capture, AP automation, and real-time spend analytics for the SMB and SME markets across the United States. The firm is also home to one of this month’s recipients of the CEO of the Year, 2020 – The USA title from CEO Monthly Magazine, the fantastic Mr Philip Douglas. Join us as we take a closer look at the man and his firm to find out more about what it has to offer, and why he is such a worthy winner for his work as CEO.

Since its inception, Compleat Software has sought to be more than the average software and tech company. Instead, it has grown to become a highly disruptive software and technology company, and one that empowers businesses and accounting practices all over the country. There is an outstanding combination of the firm’s seamless purchasing and purchase invoice automation functionality, with a unique e-invoice service, which has proven to be a gamechanger for both the market and the corporate side of the industry. Compleat Software’s founding mission has always been to deliver innovative and affordable real-time financial purchasing, as well as budget automation software that removes manual tasks and empowers business users globally to make more informed decisions about how to smartly spend their money. Compleat Software has been built on three core values: simplicity, growth, and openness. Firstly, the firm continually seeks to simplify its approach to doing business by designing products to make the lives of its customers and employees easier.

From there, growth brings exhilaration and pride, the type of which will make a new future for the entire finance industry. Compleat Software grows because it is not afraid to tackle big problems and create opportunities from them. Finally, the firm prides itself on being open and transparent, working together for strength and inclusiveness whilst building a culture that is founded on trust, respect, and integrity. Compleat Software is fundamentally different to its competitors, attracting both end user customers as well as partners. It also scales from family businesses right the way up to those with revenues of more than half a billion US dollars. Though it caters to many firms, the promise is simple: this is not a point solution that fixes just one thing. Compleat Software is for growing businesses, and has the options that they don’t even know they need yet. There is no comparable solution on the market for SMEs, and that is thanks to the growth overseen by CEO Philip Douglas.

A collaborative leader that has always championed a culture of learning at Compleat Software, Mr Douglas boasts superior facilitation, communication, and coaching skills that stand him in perfect stead as CEO of Compleat Software. Achieving quick success in the market is not something that many can master quickly, but Mr Douglas has always sought to understand the needs of the market and of the whole business, so that software can be developed with pinpoint accuracy towards prospect and customer requirements. Understanding is key here; without it, there can be no accuracy of software and no outstanding service from Mr Douglas and his teams. He has ensured that Compleat Software has become the leader in purchasing and invoice automation with integration tools that have never been seen before in the industry.

Mr Douglas has always been a firm believer in the fact that a company culture should define what a business is all about. As CEO himself, Mr Douglas has always expressed to his staff that the software offered speaks for itself. Therefore, the business should strive to be a caring and thoughtful one, with a deep understanding of others and the general health and wellbeing of those it works with. Mr Douglas understands that people are in their working lives longer at times that they are in their social circle, and strives to make it an enjoyable time for his staff. Yes, there is hard work, but Mr Douglas ensures there is plenty of smiles and laughter along the way; attributes that will surely go much further in building relationships with customers. Ultimately, Mr Douglas seeks to inspire his teams with a calm, creative, and methodical approach to all areas of the business’ operations and growth. He drives the vision of the business, and is outstanding in pushing forward with new ideas to effectively guide his team in improving performance, developing competencies, and increasing productivity and sales.

As any good business leader knows, the strength of the firm lies in its staff, and Mr Douglas is always on the lookout for potential recruits to increase that strength further. In his capacity as CEO, Mr Douglas takes great pride in wanting to know more about the individual, rather than their attached CV. Experiences and knowledge are important, but Mr Douglas wants to paint the picture of a day in the life of a progressive fintech business, whilst understanding what a day in the life of the candidate is like. Humanity is everything for Mr Douglas. After all, if he can have a conversation with this person which is easy flowing without pause or concern, the Mr Douglas knows he has the right person for the job. Giving people a chance is just as important. Compleat Software has employed people straight out of high school into junior positions, giving them a career path, further education, and an insight into parts of a business that they might not otherwise see. Seeing progression in these individuals is a real point of pride for Mr Douglas today.

However, there are challenges that Mr Douglas has faced in his time as CEO of Compleat Software, just like any other tech company. It may investing in new R&D ventures that didn’t work out as planned, or recruitment in certain locations. Whatever the challenge, Mr Douglas chooses to focus not on the things his firm did right, but what it learned from it overall. Recruitment is a perfect example. Compleat Software focused its recruitment on its office locations, wanting to build an office vibe, complete with Friday feelings and feel-good factors. However, after looking at itself as a tech company, it came to the conclusion that it does not matter where someone is located. That culture can still be created, and all Compleat Software had to do was think differently. Engaging with staff and customers in a remote fashion, Mr Douglas strived to create a culture remotely, and did just that.

Ultimately, Mr Douglas has poured everything into Compleat Software, and the result is a business that stands out for its exceptional services and outstanding culture. As CEO, Mr Douglas has crafted Compleat Software into the complete package. His firm is one of excellence, and his service and dedication to the company is nothing short of admirable. He deserves every success and recognition for his work.

For further information, please contact Philip Douglas at www.compleatsoftware.com

Understanding the Detrimental Impact of Covid-19 on Gender Equality

By Avalyn Kasahara

Are we going back in time? how COVID-19 has dramatically widened gender equality for women in the workplace. 

The past year has been difficult for most, with COVID-19 dramatically changing almost every aspect of our everyday lives. In particular, studies reveal that the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, both personally and professionally. Now questions are being raised whether years of progress towards female empowerment, women’s rights and gender equality is taking a step in the wrong direction. 

 At Future Strategy Club, a members club of over 300 of the UK’s most experienced c-level consultants and leading creative talent, we recognise the detrimental impact of COVID-19 on gender equality. We are aware that the past year has been tough for many, but particularly for women, who have undoubtedly been challenged and confronted by the gendered economic impact of COVID-19. 

The economic impact of COVID-19 has disproportionately fallen on women, with data from the ‘Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact’ report further unveiling this. Within this report, data shows that women have been at an especially higher risk of job loss during the pandemic, being a third more likely to be employed in sectors such as travel and tourism, childcare, beauty and non-essential retail, all of which have been forced to close at least once during the pandemic.

The report also reveals that women have been more likely than men to be furloughed, made redundant and take on more hours devoted to childcare and non-developmental care, such as laundry, food shopping, life admin, cleaning and cooking. This demonstrates not only the widening gender inequality that the pandemic has created but the need for women to be better represented in all employment sectors, particularly those typically male-dominated. 

The major disparity in how COVID-19 has impacted both men and women is clear. And as women become increasingly vulnerable to the pandemic’s economic effects, many women are looking for a new way to work, outside the norms of traditionality. In fact, 58% now say they would consider starting a business or finding freelance work. 

This makes sense, as freelancing allows women to gain control of their careers by becoming their own boss, from flexibility and better income prospects to higher job satisfaction and overall happiness. At Future Strategy Club, we believe female freelance talent is particularly important and continue to ensure we support and encourage female freelancers, at every stage of their career, by guaranteeing equal pay and opportunities. Freelancers are also a vital part of our economy, with more than five million self-employed people in the UK, representing 15.3% of workers.

Home for Hospitality

COVID-19 has had a major impact around the world, but no industry has been hit so hard as the hospitality sector. We catch up with Ahmed Hassib, Co-Founder and CEO of Arura Hospitality, to see how he has been able to thrive in his current position and earn the impressive title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Arab Emirates.

When looking at Mr. Hassib’s career, it’s not all that surprising to see what a celebration of success it is. He is a senior executive offering a record of verifiable success in business start-up, business strategy, team leadership, new business development, sales, and marketing with proven ability to effectively build and manage sales and profits. It’s been a long journey, and his efforts with Arura Hospitality are just the next exciting step on the way.

Now a clearly successful entrepreneur, Mr. Hassib has designed Arura Hospitality to lead the way when it comes to the tourism sector. At the heart of this impressive operation is a determination to inspire others by offering a truly astonishing experience for each and every guest. High targets are set, and more often than not exceeded in attempts to ensure that customers have the best possible time.

One of the reasons behind Mr. Hassib’s success in this venture is his long experience in where the challenges of the hospitality industry lie. Optimizing revenue across the spectrum, from increasing room sales, upgrading revenue, maximizing meeting and conference opportunities and enhancing the unique image and positioning of a property, is key to success. It’s the secret behind his business plan, and why it has thrived.

The name Arura Hospitality runs through a range of different brands, offering a standard of exceptional quality that people can quickly come to rely on. The team has come to approach each property as its own unique enterprise, with qualities that make it stand out from the rest. It goes without saying that the differing mindsets and travel occasions of guests, owners and investors alter how each venture is handled. With five different brands to chose from, Arura Hospitality is able to provide a solution that is truly able to fit all.

The success of Arura Hospitality is down to many different factors, and Mr. Hassib has experimented over the years with ensuring that each plays their part in delivering overall success. To ensure peak efficiency at a management level, the team support all property stakeholders and general managers through a central office. This office provides auditing, payroll, invoicing, taxes, Insurance, budgets, legal services and training for each property.

The management of each hotel is obviously critical to success, and as CEO, Mr. Hassib has played a crucial role in ensuring that the staff under him represent the highest possible standard of employee. As a result, the team have extensive experience in managing hotels, with

Also central to success has been the team’s approach to marketing. This is done in addition to manager’s own efforts with their particular enterprise. Having a corporate marketing department allows the team to effectively coordinate regional and national marketing opportunities that benefit each hotel individually and collectively. This work is done in-house, with a talented team of creators ensuring continuity within the different media outlets for the firm. This consistent approach has increased the team’s impressive purchasing power for Media buys.

When Arura Hospitality works with a client, they set up a contract that embodies the principles of dedicated service and commitment. It is a solid way of optimizing investment return and capital growth for all concerned. Mr. Hassib has a long history of experience designing effective business plans to help these businesses thrive. Each plan is customized to meet the specific needs of each individual hotel, incorporating details such as the hotel’s market environment, capital improvement needs and operating history. To ensure good development, the team will also receive activity calendars for planning and future monitoring. This supports the marketing plan and ensures the budget targets are achieved.

When it comes to expanding the firm’s effort, Arura Hospitality has already started a new and exciting campaign based on inclusion and diversity. Entitled Aruraability, the aim is to empower people, especially women. The scheme is intended to enable access to opportunities in the labour market, which ensure their right to work on an equal basis with others and not to be discriminated against. The scheme will develop their potential raising the firm’s human resources capabilities.

The wide geographic presence of the firm has allowed the team to offer a unique combination of extensive global diversified resources, technical expertise, and in-depth local knowledge to our clients. Instead of being forced to remain local, the team are able to offer some of the leading minds in the hospitality industry to support hotels across the land.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges faced by Mr. Hassib is COVID-19. Despite everyone’s best efforts, lockdowns in many countries have had a major effect on the hospitality industry. Regaining trust in these institutions will be no easy task, with the fear of the virus still prevalent in society at large. As the situation begins to recover, the team are sure that investors will begin to invest in this popular sector once more, with guests coming from the shelter of staying at home to enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Looking forward, Mr. Hassib has already begun work on his latest venture, which is the establishment of the hospitality group, Joyoun Hotels and Resorts. This expansion to complement their hotels and resorts management will see the team establish an umbrella for hotel management, asset management and third-party management the Bayan Hospitality. Client-focused in the extreme, the aim is to offer a novel, rewarding business model, and a genuine concept of guest service that is set based on luxury amenities, exclusive accommodation, and personalized yet unobtrusive butler-style service. This new endeavour, Joyoun Hotels and Resorts and Bayan Hospitality will go a long way to utilizing all the skills that Mr. Hassib has developed. It’s sure to be an instant influence on the way that hospitality is run around the world. With such a passionate mindset for the business, it’s little wonder that Mr. Hassib has achieved such success. Truly, the sky is the limit for this impressive businessman!

For more information, please contact Ahmed Hassib at Arura Hospitality. 

Nourishing Innovation

Greenhouse Foodstuff Trading LLC has been a leading FMCG distributor in the UAE for over four decades, importing and distributing premium goods and brands from Europe and USA to retailers and foodservice establishments. Led by Mr Daniel Chidiac, Greenhouse continues to adapt and evolve, now taking on an exciting new market in B2C services. We take a closer look at the journey so far and Greenhouse’s visions for the future.

Established in 1977, Greenhouse Foodstuff Trading LLC is one of Dubai’s oldest and most established FMCG companies in the UAE, and has proudly been the ‘one stop’ solution for the region’s food service channel for more than four decades. Greenhouse is specialist in importing and distributing premium quality brands and food products from Europe and the US in addition to foodservice equipment.

Catering to global chains and local enterprises, to four and five-star restaurants and catering establishments, Greenhouse also partners with leading retailers across modern and traditional trade in GCC. Specialising in air freight short shelf-life products, Greenhouse is able to deliver exclusivity to their various channels across the food industry, whether they be importing dairy products, bakery and pastry foods, multicultural cuisines or other premium kitchen equipment. In 2014, the decision was made to focus on only eight key categories of culinary products, so that Greenhouse would be able to focus on excellence in select markets without having to compromise elsewhere.

The decision taken was part of a major restructuring project across Greenhouse that was initiated following the appointment of Mr Daniel Chidiac at the head of the firm, who brought with him a vision to position Greenhouse as the top player in the foodservice and retail markets of the UAE. Prior to joining Greenhouse, Daniel had acquired vast industry insights through extensive experience within retail and distribution of FMCG brands, namely from his involvement in the launch of Spinneys, in Beirut, Lebanon. Having worked with a myriad of multinational brands before entering Greenhouse, Daniel was well-equipped to carry on the legacy of Greenhouse founder, Mr Petros Hadjipetrou.

Mr Hadjipetrou founded the company in the seventies with a vision to create a single, comprehensive channel of major food brands into the UAE. To that end, the firm set out to introduce and develop Greenhouse’s brand portfolio to include major international brands. That mission has remained consistent throughout Greenhouse’s existence, as the firm itself has evolved and grown. In 2007, BPC Holding, chaired by Mr Salah Osseiran, took on the firm with a view to support the ongoing growth path through continual investment in infrastructure, skilled personnel and resources to maintain continuity and best practice, for the sake of clients and shareholders alike.

When, in 2014, Daniel joined with his plans for restructuring and a new vision to make Greenhouse the leader of eight categories of the foodservice and retail markets in the UAE, it marked an exciting new chapter for the firm. With principles of transparency, integrity and loyalty built around trust and consistency in strong partnerships and business relationships, Greenhouse continues to strive for excellence in its customer service and innovation in its operations.

Working across two different client bases in food service and retail, Greenhouse employs two go-to-market approaches driven by dedicated teams for each channel. In retail, for instance, the team includes brand managers who play a vital role in proposing innovative concepts to large supermarket chains and independent retailers, offering them unique opportunities to stand out in a saturated market. The team have proudly brought to market products such as the Mini Cheese concept for Carrefour and other retailers and the ‘Cut &Wrap Cheese’ concept, that has proven a firm favourite at Choitrams, Grandiose and Aswaaq supermarkets. In addition, Greenhouse recently launched its Plant-Based division, which seeks to find new and exciting products and brands to answer the growing popularity across the continents for more plant-based diets. With the support of Greenhouse, supermarkets are able to deliver the best and most innovative products to clients around the GCC.

For clients in foodservice, Greenhouse goes above and beyond only offering exclusive premium ingredients and products. The Greenhouse Innovation Centre at the firm’s headquarters in Dubai is a world-class culinary platform that welcomes professionals and chefs to learn about developments and changing trends in the food industry. Comprehensive culinary courses and training events are led by illustrious chefs and Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOFs) and cover everything from baking demonstrations to revolutions in cooking techniques to inspiration for new menus. Chefs from across the UAE flock to the centre to learn the best and latest trends from the European food industry and leave feeling inspired and empowered to craft their own culinary creations.

Thus, as a service company, the team behind Greenhouse are instrumental to the organisation’s growing success. As Daniel himself says, “the greatest asset of a company is its people” and to that end, he is continually investing in the development and improvement of the team. When recruiting new members, Greenhouse seeks loyalty, integrity and intelligence, as these attributes are what create a smoother, more efficient and overall, more successful company. Together, Greenhouse has cultivated a culture that is friendly, collaborative and equal, whilst at the same time promoting accountability, professionalism and ambition. Every member of the Greenhouse team is an entrepreneur in their own right, taking pride and responsibility for the corporation that they have each helped to build.

For Daniel, it would be easy to find managing an operation across the four countries of UAE, KSA, Qatar and Sultanate of Oman challenging, yet the strong management of his teams in those regions alleviate any stress. Whilst Daniel and his team at the headquarters in Dubai focus on the growth of the firm as a whole, he is able to trust in his partners across the continent to be striving towards the same goals for the branches of Greenhouse.

It is with great enthusiasm that Greenhouse is able to look ahead to the future, with plenty of exciting projects ongoing and in the works. Having seen a lot of shareholder investment in projects like Cheese Cut & Wrap and the launch of Greenhouse in Saudi over the last two years, the firm is now strategizing growth and focus on these projects to reach maturity in KSA, Qatar and Sultanate of Oman. Moreover, following the successful launch of Greenhouse’s catering services for coffee houses at the beginning of 2020, the firm is expanding into the development of B2C products to account for the increase in delivery services brought about by the ongoing pandemic. Green Mealkit is the first of Greenhouse’s products in this vein, which will be launched in March 2021 as a healthy and convenient option for easier cooking at home.

Thus, with innovation continuously at the helm of the firm’s ventures in the retail and foodservice industry, we are able to look ahead to this exciting next step in the Greenhouse’s evolution. As they take on the B2C market, there is no doubt that even after four decades of operation, the best is still yet to come for Greenhouse.

For more information, please contact Daniel Chidiac at www.greenhouseuae.com

Issue 3 2021

As always, CEO Monthly is dedicated to providing the latest news and features across the business world to our readership. After all, knowledge sharing is crucial to enduring success – especially in a world that seems so focused on adapting, changing and shifting beneath our very feet.

This issue we have focused in on the technologies that have helped redefine how we work. Last year, more than anything, offered an opportunity to redefine the workplace. Businesses that had never delved into the realm of remote working suddenly found themselves with few other options. For others, it was the next step on an already established path – the infrastructure was there, the intranets and VPNs and communication lines were in place. The rest had to adapt quickly, jumping in at a time when services and expertise in the arena were stretched somewhat thin. This year, then, presents an opportunity to strengthen and reinforce what was created quickly. We’re already seeing companies spring into action to capitalise on this need for experience in what is, for many, a rather alien area of operation.

So let’s dive in and see what technology has to offer for companies of all sizes looking to expand on this strange new world we live in.

Until next time, we hope you have a fantastic month ahead.

Why HR Makeovers Are Necessary For Your Workplace

Millions of people around the world tuned in for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah. Like many others, we were watching intensely as the pair spoke candidly for the first time about the disastrous treatment they endured while working as senior Royals.

We propose that the Royal workplace needs a major overhaul of their people management. So, we’ve spoken to Chief People Officer, Alex Hattingh at Employment Hero to find out the HR makeover that the Palace needs, plus future Royals and future generations deserve.

Diversity is something to be championed

Throughout the interview, Meghan and Harry were not afraid to point to racism as the root of the discrimination that they had been subjected to by both the Royal institution and the British media. In one of the most distressing parts of the interview, Meghan shared that the Royal family had expressed concern over the skin tone of their son Archie, and that the Palace had intentions to change Royal conventions so he would never receive the ‘Prince’ title.

Just like with corporations, the institutions who reject diversity not only lose out on all of the benefits of diverse thinking, they become more disconnected from a multicultural society and increasingly out of touch with the new generation who are demanding more.

We know that Millennials and Gen Z (who are now the world’s largest population) will not accept a lack of diversity, and they’re willing to go after those who slow down progress. How much longer can the Royals continue when they’re so out of touch with an increasingly dominant generation?

Middle management can be culpable

If Queen Elizabeth is the distant CEO, Prince Charles is the apathetic middle manager. During the interview Harry shared that Prince Charles stopped taking his calls after a certain point, effectively abandoning him and Meghan and turning his back on the trouble they were facing.

The success of a company depends on the actions of its staff at every level. Middle managers have a duty to bring understanding and clarity to workplace conflicts, bridging the gap between junior and senior staff members. 

Onboarding guides are essential

In any job, a detailed onboarding guide is an absolute must. Your incoming recruit may be absolutely great for the role – and positioned to do a stellar job – but there might be a few quirks of a new company that they might not be aware of.

If you don’t let people know what is expected of them, you set them up for failure and stress. If you share the details of the role and conduct helpful training, you both can start the job with your best foot forward and a sense of mutual understanding.

Mental health must be taken seriously by employers

Anyone in 2021 knows how important it is to care for mental health – apart from the Royals apparently. The impacts of poor mental wellbeing can be devastating for individuals and their loved ones. People experiencing risks to their mental health as a result of their work deserve assistance and compassion – from their workplaces and, of course, their families. 

What can we learn from Meghan and Harry’s story?

It’s good to see that after some difficult times, Meghan and Harry were able to somewhat resign from their toxic workplace. Although their Royal experience is burned into their CV, they seem to be paving their own way forward and living and working authentically.

As for the Royals… Although the institution is yet to comment on the controversial interview, we hope that they will be able to take some learnings from this situation. The rest of the working world knows how important HR is to running a functioning business, how long can they last without it before they cease to remain a viable organisation?

Professional Services Success

The role of financial services has become incredibly important to the UK economy over the years. The team at Sanne are regarded as the global leaders in servicing the alternative assets industry. As such, we took a closer look at the firm’s CEO, Martin Schnaier, whose work has seen the company become the pre-eminent FTSE 250 listed business in its sector, to understand how it has achieved such astonishing success.

Since being founded in 1988, Sanne has rapidly evolved as an organisation. What was once a small company, focused on local issues has grown into an international firm, which employs over 2,000 professionals across 22 locations globally. The group administers structures and funds in excess of £500 billion, delivering tailored professional services to a highly valued institutional client base.

Leading the company is Martin Schnaier. Having joined Sanne in 2011, it’s his dedication and focus that has guided the firm through a sustained period of success. The strategy is very simple, to focus on expertise and quality and build a superb reputation in the industry. Acquisitions and technology are also a core part of the growth strategy. Sanne have completed fourteen deals since its IPO in 2015 and have implemented innovative technology, disrupting the landscape for private fund administration.

Martin was appointed as the company’s CEO in 2019 and throughout his tenure, Sanne has experienced rapid change. Setting Martin apart, and in turn Sanne, is his capacity to lead and inspire a global firm. Martin’s ability and willingness to communicate with all levels of the company has created a community feel amongst employees based worldwide.

Sanne is a youthful and socially aware organisation that is passionate about the investment industry that it serves. This culture of responsibility manifests itself in many different ways that employees are immensely proud of. Sanne recruits and retains the very best talent in the industry, enabling teams with technical solutions that empower better decision making and quality of communications. They are delivering a sustainable growth business that exceeds expectations by providing tailored expertise to a higher standard than anyone else in their sector.

Sanne is defined by a culture of exceptional service, developing long term relationships to enable their clients’ success. They play an increasingly important role to the asset management community as it continues to evolve, standing for professionalism, innovation and quality. It is their commitment to service that means that they remain one step ahead for their clients and employees A culture of resilience underpins Sanne’s service model, which has been successfully tried and tested throughout the global pandemic.

Innovation lies at the heart of Sanne and Martin describes 2021 as ‘the year of innovation’. Celebrating fresh thinking and new ideas an entrepreneurial approach is welcome. High on energy and team spirit – Sanne are a professional, agile and connected business, using their expertise to be the best they can be.

One of the most recent successes is Sanne Spotlight. This is the brand name of the firm’s portfolio and data analytics platform developed in collaboration with their strategic partner, Colmore. This partnership has accelerated their ability to deliver real time access and insight to multiple alternative asset classes. Sanne are building the future technology of private markets for investors and fund managers.

Another strand of innovation that has been developed is Sanne’s first ever digital worker, Lucas. Rolled out in late 2019, the AI bot has been taught to work on credit control functions. Essentially, Lucas performs repetitive tasks and then presents results to Sanne’s human colleagues, who make value added judgements. Whilst still early on, clearly there is a tremendous opportunity here to further improve efficiency and mitigate operational risk in the business.

In short, Martin continues to lead Sanne during an extraordinary period of growth and expansion. His ambition is to be the very best they can be. It’s a credit to his leadership that Sanne’s employees have been able to deliver uninterrupted, quality client service under the most extraordinary conditions.

For further information, please contact Martin Schnaier or visit www.sannegroup.com

“The Tattooed Tycoon” – Revolutionary Business Mentor

Commonly known as The Tattooed Tycoon, Glenn Flashman has had quite the career over the course of more than thirty years. From joining the British Army straight from school, to working hard in London as a Project Manager and Investment Advisor, to being made redundant and rising again to even greater heights than before, Glenn’s journey has been one to remember, but he’s not done yet. Discover how we at CEO Monthly have recognised the ongoing work of The Tattooed Tycoon by awarding him the title of CEO of the Year 2020 – The United Kingdom.

Starting his professional life in the British Army over thirty years ago, Glenn Flashman soon entered the world of business as he embarked upon the City of London. Having earned the title of The Tattooed Tycoon, Mr Flashman worked in the capital as a Project Manager and Investment Advisor, before eventually rising to the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) at a predominant European dotcom. As well as his experience working in a professional capacity, Mr Flashman also studied hard to gain recognition through an MBA and PhD. However, it turned out to not be enough to save him redundancy several times. Yet, despite these redundancies that he experienced throughout his professional career, they were not enough to keep this outstanding leader down and out for the count. Instead, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and vowed that he would never work for anyone else ever again, whilst also helping others achieve the same goal of independence and freedom.

Now, three decades after starting his career, Mr Flashman has a wealth of experience, knowledge, and understanding at his disposal, as well as several businesses that have failed, been sold, or are still owned. Where Mr Flashman’s passion truly lies is in his multi-award-winning tattoo studios that are scattered across the United Kingdom. With plans to take the American and European markets by storm in the future, Mr Flashman is currently heading up Tattooed Tycoon Ltd. As part of his work as CEO here, Mr Flashman partners with a team of revolutionary thinkers and content creators to break new ground in leading the way with dynamic business mentoring on a group and one-to-one basis.

When working with his customers at Tattooed Tycoon Ltd, Mr Flashman often asks them one simple question: what one thing would they like help with, or to increase? Very often, the answers involve increasing numbers around customers, money, followers, interactions, or other facets to running a business in the modern world. With almost thirty years’ experience as an entrepreneur, and the last ten of those being in the tattoo industry specifically, Mr Flashman can help his clients increase their customer numbers, create a brand and signature style, create an impressive and meaningful marketing plan, and offer advice regarding a financial security plan.

In essence, Mr Flashman’s work as the Tattooed Tycoon is all about doing more than just increasing a social media following. It’s about engaging with customers and creating something that they can get behind in terms of a message, brand, or signature element, and it does so in a way that offers a one hundred percent success rate in taking a business to the next level. One of the three mentor programs that Tattooed Tycoon offers reveals the specific strategies that can be used to attract floods of customers, attain a wealth of referrals, and build a business that is successful in the long-term. These proven strategies are designed to completely re-think a tattoo business, give clients the cutting-edge strategies that actually work, help clients enjoy sustainable growth regardless of competition, legislation changes, and other factors, and enable clients to give the very best in customer service.

Ultimately, Mr Flashman’s career has been a truly excellent one, and one that showcases the power of not giving up. No matter what has come his way, Mr Flashman has always found a way of making his situation better, and now he is in a place where he makes situations better for lots of other people, too. In a world where it pays to be different, this outstanding CEO helps his clients do exactly that, and he deserves every recognition for that effort.

For further information, please contact Glenn Flashman at www.tattooedtycoon.com

A Matter of Management

Everyone’s wealth is different, and the best planners of these services create a system that is entirely bespoke. The team at Century Private Wealth, led by CEO Madhur Kakkar, has made its name in providing new levels of success for its investment clients. Named as CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Arab Emirates for his work at this loyal asset management firm, we take a closer look to find out more.

Based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), it’s clear to many that the ideal people to entrust with your financial future are the talented team at Century Private Wealth. Under the staunch leadership of Madhur Kakkar, the firm has gone from strength to strength, leveraging his long service in the industry to deliver a world-leading service.

The goal of the team has always been to provide an experience that is above and beyond the norm within the industry. Working with a mix of professional clients, institutions & private individuals, those working at Century Private Wealth have always placed a high value on the relationships that they’ve developed and cultivated with clients. Their care is the foundation of the firm’s overall success.

The long experience of Mr. Kakkar has been a boon to the firm, with his fourteen years of expertise in the banking, financial markets and services sector allowing him to tackle any challenges that might occur. Before he joined the team at Century Private Wealth, he worked across many global banks in the region, managing multiple teams of wealth managers and ensuring profitability of regional branches and cost centers. These skills have been invaluable to the firm, as he focuses on the direction of the business, and how it grows across business verticals and geographies.

The challenge, of course, is keeping the work that the team do as simple as possible in a complex industry. Clear understanding is key to client satisfaction. The team take the time to ensure that their products and processes have been designed in such a way as to be easy for anybody to comprehend. Some firms offer services that are opaque, but everyone that Century Private Wealth offers is designed to be as transparent as possible. The team reserve from proprietary trading or entering into positions that will benefit their balance sheet. The focus is always on the client, and achieving results that clients are happy with in every way why people continue to turn to the team for their expertise.

The team at Century Private Wealth are proud not only of their heritage, but their ability to shape the future of the investment industry through their exceptional work ethic. The company lives on its bedrock values of stability, honesty, trust, quality, transparency and privacy, operating in the belief that as more businesses take on this approach, the industry as a whole will improve.

Needless to say, the work of Mr. Kakkar has not just been on developing the firm to reach the point it is currently operating at, but on creating plans that will enhance the business in the future and the business as a whole. At the heart of these plans is the desire to ensure that what Century Private Wealth offers clients in the UAE is the best that it can possibly be. The team are understandably passionate about their work, which is shown by their clear commitment to deliver excellence in every respect.

For more information, please contact Madhur Kakkar at Century Private Wealth.

Software CEO Seals Success

Established in 2008, Igloo Software was designed to be a solution that helped companies move beyond traditional intranets, instead embracing the world of inspiring digital destinations that improve communication, knowledge sharing, collaboration, and culture. In the thirteen years of business that Igloo Software has been going, the firm has built over ten thousand digital destinations for clients in more than eighty countries. The leadership provided by CEO Mike Gaburo has helped steer Igloo Software into a position of great success, and we now take the time to profile Mr Gaburo as CEO of the Year, 2020 – The USA.

2020 saw the world radically shift in terms of working environments. Businesses were forced to move things online and workforces had to adapt to working from home in areas where the impact of COVID-19 was most harshly felt. As a direct result of the working from home environment that was accelerated by the virus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that followed around the world, organizations had to find a better way to work. That is where Igloo Software comes in. Igloo Software has always sought to move beyond the traditional confines of workspaces of today, instead choosing to build digital destinations where people can benefit from improvements to all current working relationships. Whether it be increased levels of communication, knowledge sharing, collaboration, or culture, Igloo Software does not just provide the technology, but it also offers best-in-class services and support to ensure success for every customer. In essence, Igloo Software helps organizations improve productivity and engagement by implementing secure and scalable digital workplace solutions that integrate with popular enterprise applications and tools.

There are three core aspects to the service provided by Igloo Software that matter most to the firm: collaboration, innovation, and achievement. Each of these areas represents a different area of focus for the team at Igloo Software. For instance, the collaboration focus ensures that everyone is working towards the same goal, and places great emphasis on the fact that everyone’s expertise and effort is appreciated. However, the focus on innovation means that Igloo Software is constantly improving its product and exploring new ways to solve its customers’ problems. Achievement is done collectively, and the firm supports its employees is reaching their goals alongside each other and the company. As important as it is for a firm to have excellent goals and a focus, leadership is another area in which Igloo Software excels.

Mike Gaburo is the CEO of Igloo Software, and he brings with him an abundance of executive leadership experience that is second to none. In his role as CEO, Mr Gaburo is responsible for every facet of the business, and his ability to deliver success across all of these facets is exceptional. With more than a quarter of a century of executive leadership experience, fifteen years of which has been spent leading software businesses, Mr Gaburo has a proven track record in delivering great results for customers, employees, and investors alike. Prior to joining up with the established team at Igloo Software, Mr Gaburo held another CEO role at payments fintech firm Brightwell. There, he led the transformation of the company’s product offering and a rejuvenation of its go-to-market efforts, resulting in a quadrupling of the firm’s  user base and revenue.

Having the right leadership at a firm is just as important as having the right software products and collective goals. Ensuring that everyone is focused on the company task at hand, Mr Gaburo has transformed Igloo Software into a corporate force, and one that is incredibly relevant now more than ever. With businesses seeking new and better ways of working, Igloo Software stands as a beacon of brilliance thanks to the tireless efforts of its outstanding CEO, Mr Mike Gaburo.

For more information, please contact Jason Hahn at www.igloosoftware.com

Connection is Crucial For Intelligent Contacts

At its core, Intelligent Contacts’ technology offers cloud-based, omni-channel contact centre technology and consumer-friendly digital payment platforms. The world is more digitally-aware than it has ever been before, and keeping up with the needs of this increasingly digital era is imperative. Intelligent Contacts is a firm that delivers services and solutions like no other, thanks largely to the experience and expertise of its outstanding CEO, Jeff Mains. Mr Mains has also won the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – The USA in this issue of CEO Monthly, so we profile both the man and his work with Intelligent Contacts.

Since its inception, Intelligent Contacts has been a firm that has sought to offer the very best contact centre technology and consumer-friendly digital payment platforms. Each and every solution offered by the firm is designed to be frictionless for both the business and its customers, creating a seamless and integrated experience between communication and electronic payments. The success of Intelligent Contacts can be put down to a number of factors, but there are few more influential or impactful than the work of the firm’s outstanding CEO, Mr Jeff Mains. Throughout his career, Mr Mains has been a keynote speaker, bestselling author, and business transformation expert, and he always seeks to share the good, the bad, and the downright ugly from over two decades of leading companies in a wide variety of sectors and industries. Over the years, Mr Mains has consistently found ways to use technology to solve business problems and simplify life for clients. Intelligent Contacts is no exception to that rule.

At the time the firm was founded, Mr Mains was actually running a SaaS CRM company, and noticed that his clients were looking for communication and payment solutions. Most of the options were out of touch, overly complex, and mediocre in nature. They were built by techies for techies, and lacked the flexibility that clients needed. Rather than take this as it was, Mr Mains decided that there must be a better way. As such, Intelligent Contacts sprang into being and became a key player in the marketplace. Upon its foundation, the firm set out to be a non-techie, cloud-based solution that business users and their customers would both love. Today, Intelligent Contacts delivers enterprise-level cloud contact and consumer-focused payment solutions to healthcare and financial services companies that helps them to meaningfully connect with consumers and create engaging and personalized communication and payment experiences.

However, 2020 was a year quite unlike any other, and Intelligent Contacts soon found itself needing to adapt to meet new needs. Few businesses are the same today as they were a year ago, and some have found themselves majorly disrupted or skyrocketed. The clients that Intelligent Contacts work with have certainly experienced their own issues, and what Mr Mains observed is that the severity of the issues was often down to agility and mindset. For example, the most successful companies adapted quickly and found ways to make lemonade from their lemons, whilst others panicked, resisting change, and thinking that it would be better to simply wait it out. Intelligent Contacts has historically worked with clients that have been fairly resistant to the idea of remote working, but this has become something that all businesses have had to start looking at in greater detail.

Now, Intelligent Contacts has created solutions that are built to work securely from anywhere, and managers have the same visibility into activity and productivity regardless of location. Many of the firm’s clients are more forward-thinking that the industry as a whole, and a number have transitioned to remote working either partially or fully over the past few years. This has given Intelligent Contacts a proven process to seamlessly transition hundreds of clients, each with hundreds of workers, from their offices to work from home settings in just a two-week period. Quite remarkably, 100% of clients that has to make this transition recently have managed to hold firm and steady throughout 2020. As far as Mr Mains’ role goes specifically, he was responsible for working with client CEOs and executives in helping them rethink and pivot their businesses to meet changing needs in a new reality. Remaining agile and raising the level of engagement rather than retreated was the path to success, and Mr Mains helped his clients find that.

As a bestselling author, Mr Mains also knows a thing or two about sharing a message in a way that is accessible. In his book Small Fish Big Pond: Building a World Class Business That Swims Circles Around Competitors, Mr Mains describes how markets are always in motion, and disruption is both fluid and inevitable. To prepare for this flux, Mr Mains stresses the importance of always engineering for speed and agility. A company with speed and agility can anticipate a disruption n the market and move quickly to capitalize on it, or pivot to lessen its impact. Undoubtedly, the biggest impact in 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has caused many companies to look inwards at themselves. It was at the onset of the pandemic that Intelligent Contacts made the proactive decision to reach out to its clients and offer its help as a cloud-based contact centre software company that was already built with speed and agility in mind.

The challenges brought on by 2020 confirmed how critical it is to stay close with clients, especially during a crisis such as this. This experience proved once again that the most valuable type of capital in existence is relational capital. Revenue may go up and down, but trust is a commodity that never loses its value. Mr Mains discovered, in a fresh way, that his clients at Intelligent Contacts count on the firm for more than just great software. They look to the firm for solutions, and they want a business partner who will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them to provide hope and certainty when the world seems to be crumbling around them, as well as offer innovative ideas to help them succeed. None of this is possible without meaningful connection, engagement, and taking time to deeply listen and understand what a client is saying. Mr Mains is more than an exceptional CEO; he is someone that understands the humanity of business and has built his own business to serve its clients whole-heartedly.

For more information, please contact Jeff Mains at www.intelligentcontacts.com

Lighting Up the Traffic Industry

When driving in the United Kingdom, or most other places in the world, one of the most common things that is seen on the roads is traffic lights. That ever-present combination of green, red and amber lights has played a vital role in the lives of drivers everywhere, but there is one firm to thank for the abundance of safe traffic light systems on the road: SRL Traffic Systems. At the head of the firm is CEO Richard Tredwin, and we take a closer look at his excellence in this issue of CEO Monthly following his achievement of the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Kingdom.

SRL Traffic Systems Limited is home to the largest fleet of portable and temporary traffic signals available in the United Kingdom, and also provides equipment as an essential service across the country in a market with limited cyclability, underpinned by regulatory and safety requirements and multifaceted growth drivers. Today, the SRL Traffic Systems business comprises of four key divisions: equipment hire as a service, manufacturing / technical, Urban 64, and intelligent transport systems. Each division delivers something unique and exceptional to the business as a whole, but it is the oversight and leadership of CEO Richard Tredwin that has engineered such resounding and repeatable levels of success for SRL Traffic Systems.

For more than two and a half decades of his professional career, Mr Tredwin has served in a wide variety of leadership roles within a multitude of business both in the United Kingdom and further afield. Mr Tredwin’s previous roles include working as CEO, CFO, Company Sec., NED, Investor, and Shareholder within a number of different entrepreneurial, privately-owned and private equity-backed diverse business, with head offices and teams based all over the world. Mr Tredwin has proven throughout his professional career that he is more than capable of working with teams anywhere in the world, and his leadership style allows him to constantly generate success and value for the businesses he works for.

A commercially and operationally focused individual, Mr Tredwin brings a hands-on style of leadership to his work with his teams. Together alongside them, Mr Tredwin’s teams have always gone from strength to strength under his tutelage and guidance. In the years since first stepping into leadership, he has grown, acquired, and sold businesses, driven and managed change, led large-scale challenging business turnarounds, raised debt and equity, and much more whilst also optimising tax structures and delivering material value for company directors and shareholders alike. His demonstrable ability to influence at all levels brings confidence and capability to his teams, as well as strategic awareness, enthusiasm, and a resilient nature that is imbued with high moral integrity and loyalty.

In his role at SRL Traffic Systems, Mr Tredwin has ensured that his management and operation team adopt a very hands-on approach to running the business also. Their passion and commitment to the traffic management industry has made the firm what it is today, with 170 employees, 140 specialist vehicles, 29 strategic depots (UK and Republic of Ireland), future-proofed technology, and significant investment in quality, reliable, and easy to use products coupled with outstanding customer service. SRL Traffic Systems has been instrumental in shaping the portable traffic signal market in the United Kingdom. The team at SRL Traffic Systems brings knowledge and expertise to the business, and Mr Tredwin is a key part of that.

The success that SRL Traffic Systems has had, and continues to have, is built on a mix of reliable and quality products, and a great group of individuals spearheaded by a leader who is truly outstanding. With a point of contact conveniently located in the client’s region, there is always an SRL Traffic Systems expert on hand to help with any need when it arises. Mr Tredwin has cultivated the perfect atmosphere of success, and his vast wealth of experience will surely see SRL Traffic Systems hit even greater heights in the years to come.

Mr Tredwin, is very proud to see that SRL has just featured in the North West Insider Growth 100.

For more information, please contact Richard Tredwin at www.srl.co.uk

Millwood Marks International Women’s Day 2021

In recognition of this year’s International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, luxury homebuilder Millwood Designer Homes is celebrating the female members of its workforce. Offering an insight into what it is like as a woman in the housebuilding industry, one of Millwood’s female employees, Sophie Marks, offers her advice for women looking to pursue a career in construction.

Just 14% of the construction industry is made up of female professionals, proving the sector is still very much male-dominated for the majority, and more should be done to entice women into housebuilding. In recognition of this year’s International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, luxury homebuilder Millwood Designer Homes is celebrating the female members of its workforce. Offering an insight into what it is like as a woman in the housebuilding industry, one of Millwood’s female employees, Sophie Marks, offers her advice for women looking to pursue a career in construction.

Sophie, 23, joined Millwood in October 2019 as a receptionist, before being promoted to a Customer Services Administrator. She comments: “After finishing a history degree, I started working for Millwood as a receptionist, before being moved into customer service last year. I love being the first port of call for customers when they need answers to queries; it’s a very personable job, and I’m enjoying doing something I never thought I would be doing when I first joined Millwood! As a receptionist, you don’t necessarily need to know much about the construction industry whereas in this role, I need to be able to respond to homeowners straight away with answers. This has meant I’ve had to learn a lot about the technical process of housebuilding, and that has really sparked my interest in a career in the industry.”

Sophie adds: “I think its great that more women are getting involved in the housebuilding industry, but I definitely think it is still a male dominated sector. I feel that women bring a different way of looking at things, especially to the design process, and they may think of including certain features in a home that are different to a male point of view. A lot of my role is very personable and involves speaking to customers on a daily basis, which is something you don’t necessarily associate with a career in construction. There are so many different pathways into construction and so many different roles within it, you don’t just necessarily have to work on site building the houses.”

Sophie continues: “I think more needs to be done to teach girls that construction is a great career path for both men and women; I went to an all-girls grammar school, and there wasn’t any mention of construction as a potential career. Girls should be encouraged that housebuilding is a really interesting profession with lots of different opportunities; just because typically boys have gone into it, it doesn’t mean that they can’t too. It’s so important in all areas that women get the same opportunities as men, and that girls get told about careers that are typically male-driven. I didn’t even consider going into construction until I got this job, and now I am really interested in it.”

“Millwood is a fantastic company to work for as it has a really diverse workforce, and women are just as respected as men both on site and in the head office – we even have a female project manager, something which is very rare in this industry. I’m really looking forward to growing more with the company and continuing to learn about construction, and the process of building our homes.”

Nick Stonley, Managing Director at Millwood Designer Homes, comments: “International Women’s Day is a brilliant platform to celebrate our female employees, whom we are extremely proud of. Under pressure over the past year, our team, including Sophie, has continued to thrive, and it’s great to see that gradually more women are pursuing a career in housebuilding. Sophie is a fantastic example of a woman that is excelling in a male-dominated sector and is a shining example for young women across the country that you can be successful in whichever career path you choose to take.”

Breaking Barriers in Real Estate

Platinum Premier Global Equity (PPGE) is a minority-owned, U.S.-based, private equity firm that bridges capital from around the world for projects in growth-oriented cities and industries, with a core focus on real estate. Working in such a complex field, long-term relationships are at the heart of the business, and that falls on the shoulders of CEO, Mr Zameer Upadhya. For his outstanding work, Mr Upadhya has achieved the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the USA in this latest issue of CEO Monthly Magazine. Join us as we examine the work of Mr Upadhya and his firm to find out just why this business leader is so deserving of this success.

Growing up on the not so glamorous side of North Miami, Florida, Mr Upadhya quickly learned that the relationships he built made the difference between surviving his walk home from school or not.  Building and having roots in the community gave him a sense of protection and support that encouraged him to grow from an inner-city kid to a Global Private Equity firm’s CEO.  This sense of community connection was influenced by his paternal grandfather (“Dada”).  In 1972, Mr Upadhya’s paternal grandparents were exiled from Uganda by Idi Amin.  Overnight they became refugees in a foreign land with no other family or friends.  Dada quickly built deep relationships to help him navigate a new world and set up his family for survival and success.  Mr Upadhya recalls that at his grandfather’s funeral, a few hundred people from all walks of life ranging from community leaders, to successful business persons, to the custodial staff that cared for him at the hospital on his last days.  This reinforced Mr Upadhya’s lessons that his grandfather and parents had imparted upon him that building sincere relationships through service to others was the true mark of success.

The story of PPGE is rooted in this lesson on relationships.  Mr Upadhya had built a successful wealth management firm that had as its clients mostly affluent minority executives, physicians, and entrepreneurs.  As the firm grew, several clients started to ask for alternative investments to equity markets with a keen interest in real estate.  One of the clients that approached him was also a close friend who shared his frustration that he could not find trusted alternative investments.  He was a successful minority physician, yet he still did not have access to quality real estate investments.  Mr Upadhya realized that there was a significant gap in access to such investments for people of colour.  Further, he realized that many successful women also did not have access to generational wealth type investments.  Thus in 2016, Mr Upadhya and a few of his trusted and close friends started the company with the mission to democratize access to wealth creation. In short, it aims to diversify the colour and genders of money. In less than four years, PPGE has invested in $225mm USD of real estate investments in Seattle and throughout Texas.

Setting Themselves Apart

In an industry-led by larger established corporations, Mr Upadhya and his team broke many barriers to entry.  They did this by taking the first year to invest solely in relationships with investors, real estate developers, family offices, and institutions that were looking for a different approach to such investments.   Early in his career, a mentor of his shared that to build trusted relationships, “I have to see you, to know you, to trust you.”  They did not make their first investment for about a year as they built out these deeper connections.  Under his leadership, they have built relationships from Houston to Dubai to Singapore that have turned into trusted partners and investments.

Most of the projects that PPGE invests in are because of the relationships that have been cultivated over time, and thus are deals that are not traditionally found on the open market. Whilst this can take quite a bit longer as a process, it enables PPGE to make investments in deals and partners that share the firm’s core values of Trust, Transparency, and an Unrelenting Commitment to Excellence. Trust and transparency, matter because PPGE deals with people’s hard-earned money and investors are rely on the firm to complete a high level of due diligence on projects and partners alike.  Trust is very delicate, and thus excellent execution is a must for that trust to continue.

Success has undoubtedly come for PPGE over the last four years.  Much of it can be attributed to the firm’s genuine commitment to authentic, long-term, and focused relationships courtesy of Mr Upadhya. He and his team are not just looking to make a quick buck on one project. The firm’s goal is that the partners will be with the firm for decades to come. Mr Upadhya’s deep focus on relationships is not only vital from a financial standpoint, but also ensures that everyone can stand together in storms such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unity and dedication has seen Mr Upadhya and his team at PPGE withstand many a storm, and come through it with clients happy on the other side.

As far as Mr Upadhya’s leadership goes, it continues to drive the business’s success almost as much as the nature of his work itself. His parents once told him that “If you did nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.” It is this ethos that drives the company culture that Mr Upadhya puts into place at PPGE daily. At the heart of everything that this outstanding CEO oversees is the drive to do what is right for the investors and development partners.  Mr Upadhya leads decision making by the question of “What is the right thing for the investors and the partners?”  Answering these questions is a crucial part of the company culture, and lead into the core values of trust, transparency, and excellence.

Breaking Barriers

All this success is not to say that PPGE and Mr Upadhya have not experienced their fair share of challenges over the years. One of the challenges that the firm faced early on in the business was, in Mr Upadhya’s own words, “the look of the team”. A minority-owned firm in a predominantly white male-driven industry was met with uncertainty at first, and some potential investors even went as far as telling Mr Upadhya that his co-founder should not present pitches due to the colour of his skin. Undeterred, Mr Upadhya and Mr Chambers presented together, with their talent and professionalism shining through the lens of bias and prejudice, they earned the investors trust. As PPGE pushes forward with its mission to diversify the colour and gender of money, it will continue to face hurdles of access, but its commitment to each other, its investors, its partners, and the mission enable it to blow through any obstacle that comes its way.

It’s about the team

Every good leader knows that they are only as good as their excellent team surrounding them. PPGE’s success and the success of Mr Upadhya himself is genuinely due to his team. Mr Upadhya has surrounded himself with diverse and exceptional talent that help to break these barriers. There is no way that the company could grow to be a global private equity firm in such a short time without the team or Mr Upadhya’s excellent leadership. Their hard work, dedication, and commitment to excellence is what sets the firm apart.

Overcoming Challenges

Whilst 2020 was a challenging year for many businesses worldwide, PPGE took the global pause to grow and develop internally. It brought in a business coach that helped the team with leadership and communication development.  This internal work has brought the team closer and even more committed to the purpose and future. During this slower period, Mr Upadhya and PPGE also doubled the communication with investors and partners, thereby deepening the relationships. Heading into 2021, the firm has investments in a medical office plaza, office park, and multi-family apartments lined up.

Ultimately, the global pandemic of 2020 has impacted so many people. Many have lost family and friends to the pandemic, and global economies have been decimated. One of Mr Upadhya’s favorite quotes is “Within every difficulty lies opportunity” by Albert Einstein. Mr Upadhya continues to strongly believe that there is an opportunity to come in this, and the world can come out of this pandemic in a better place as a global society. Mr Upadhya’s leadership has successfully guided PPGE through one of the most financially difficult times in modern history.  Continued success is sure to be on the horizon, or as Mr Upadhya loves to say, “have faith, success is imminent.”

Hospitality Firms Hope For a Summer Boost With Relaxed Covid-19 Restrictions

More than three quarters of smaller hospitality firms are confident of a boost to their business in the summer if lockdown restrictions are relaxed, according to a new research conducted by Recognise Bank, UK’s newest SME business bank. The sector leads the way in confidence amongst the UK’s SMEs, with overall two thirds of all small businesses hoping for a seasonal trading uplift.

The research comes hot on the heels of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a roadmap to freeing the UK of coronavirus restrictions by the summer. If everything goes to plan, all legal limits on social contact will be removed by 21 June, with many retailers and hospitality venues enjoying more freedom from 12 April.

However, smaller businesses are also expecting to have to spend more money to get themselves ready for the summer: a total of 73% of hospitality businesses plan to invest in PPE and protective measures for their staff and customers ahead of re-opening, compared with a total of 45% of all SMEs surveyed.

While hospitality firms are confident, Recognise’s research found that many still have some niggling doubts: 67% are worried about keeping their employees and customers safe, 61% fear COVID-19 restrictions will still be in place and could hamper business, 30% are concerned that customers will be too worried to return, while 27% are concerned about replacing customers lost during lockdown.

Jason Oakley, CEO of Recognise Bank, said: “Our research reveals just what a complex situation small business are currently in. They are clearly confident and looking forward to getting back to business in the summer, and trading will bring a much-needed boost to many firms that have had their income reduced due lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.

“However, they also know that re-opening brings its own challenges, particularly for hospitality firms. Will people feel safe enough to return to restaurants, cafés and pubs, and how can they ensure their employees and customers remain safe?  Whatever happens, it is clear that if businesses are going to be able to trade this summer, they  are going to have to invest heavily in additional PPE for staff and increased protective measures for their premises at a time when money is already tight.”

Recognise’s research also found that of those hospitality businesses planning to invest ahead of the summer: 21% hope to borrow from their bank, compared with 13% of all SMEs; 18% will turn to government loan schemes, compared with 14% of all small firms; while 15% will use their cash surplus, compared with 14% of all SMEs.

Recognise surveyed the bosses and decision makers of 500 SMEs across the UK. Its research found:

  • 76% of hospitality firms are confident of a summer boost to trade if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted or reduced, compared to 67% of all businesses surveyed
  • 73% of firms in the hospitality sector plan to invest in PPE or protective measures for their staff and customers, compared to 45% of all SMEs
  • Other planned investment ahead of the summer includes:
    • Employing extra staff or getting staff numbers back to normal – a total of 51% of hospitality businesses compared with 38% of all SMEs questioned said they would consider employing extra staff/get staff numbers back to normal.
    • New products and services – 39% of hospitality firms compared to 23% of all SMEs were looking to introduce new products and services.
    • Increased promotional activity – 27% in the hospitality sector and 19% of all businesses were looking at increased promotional activity in the summer.
  • SMEs have several concerns over whether they’ll experience a summer boost, including:
    • Keeping employees and customers safe – a total 67% of hospitality firms compared to 44% of all SMEs were worried about keeping employees and customers safe.
    • Being able to trade because of COVID-19 restrictions – 61% of hospitality firms against 37% of all small businesses were concerned about being able to trade because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Customers will be too afraid to return – 30% of hospitality businesses compared to 20% of all firms are worried that customers will be too afraid to return.

Returning to work spring 2021

The 5 things businesses should do to safeguard employee health

As businesses prepare to return to working in large scale offices and face to face meetings they need to fully consider the health and safety of their workforce. It is more important than ever to have a responsible testing procedure in place to predict and respond immediately to the changing landscape.

Simon Checkley, CEO, The Regenerative Clinic, says; “There is much to be optimistic about in the coming months, but businesses should be realistic that risks still remain. There is a balance to be made in re-activating your teams, having face to face to meetings, and in returning to the social working norms that are so productive and often enjoyable for staff. Businesses also have a responsibility to protect employee health and ensure that their teams are properly defended against exposure to the Covid19 virus.”

As offices begin to welcome workers back, and as those workers increasingly connect both in and out of the workplace, outbreaks of the Covid19 virus may still emerge in clusters. Employers should plan to limit the impact of these outbreaks by operating a responsible testing procedure.

The most important 5 steps for returning safely to work in spring 2021 include:

1. Responsible testing procedure

Although the NHS testing provision is now excellent for people with symptoms, or exposure to the Covid19 virus, your employees who display no symptoms may not be eligible for Covid19 testing.

A responsible testing procedure within your organisation will ensure that you are in control of any spread and give you the confidence and data to operate a Covid19-free workplace. It also shows a responsible attitude to your employees and communicates your care for their health.

You should only use approved tests with results interpreted and acted on in line with government guidance. You can test employees for presence of the virus prior to re-entering the workplace as part of an ongoing programme to detect and respond to cases and minimise transmission.        


2. International travel

Depending on your business there may be a requirement for international travel to carry out tasks which are deemed to be essential. Currently travel is not generally permitted. However, where there are essential reasons for travel then staff may be allowed and may need a ‘Fit to fly’ certification. If your destination requests a Fit to fly certification then this requires a medical consultation and Covid19 test before you can fly. Other destinations may require a negative Covid19 PCR swab test taken 24-48 hours before departure. If an employee is traveling on behalf of your business then you should organise this for them.

3. Visitors to your workplace

If you are welcoming visitors into your workplace then you should ensure that following strict government guidance on mask wearing and social distancing is adhered to. This is both for the visitor and your employee. You may use questionnaires asking visitors to state any contact or symptoms that they have had. It is well recognised now that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread are drivers Covid19. Businesses should consider using private testing that follows government guidelines and also the NHS track and trace app.

At this time there is no advice from the government giving special provision to those who have had the Covid19 vaccine.

4. Government guidance

The government continually updates guidelines for “covid-safe workplaces”. You should ensure that someone at your workplace is regularly checking any government updates to be sure that you continue to comply from a legislative standpoint. The government breaks down its guidance into specific sector types so that you can better understand the issues that might affect your business particularly. For more specific advice please visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

5. Internal communications

Every business if going to have a view on what is right for them culturally. Some businesses will return to work flexibly giving their people the opportunity to work from home on a more permanent basis. But that is not right for every company. There are tangible issues around production and manufacture to consider, plus the loneliness of remote working is also not productive for all workers.     

Looking after your staff’s general wellbeing and keeping in touch with staff is very important. You should show concern for their physical and mental wellbeing whether they are in the office or working remotely. Facilitate a culture of holistic care by encouraging them to take time away from their desks, create walking meetings, and encouraging physical activity, and a good diet.

Employers should also consider giving employees enough space at work to socially distance themselves from each other.   

An open dialogue with employees is crucial to making all team members feel safe and well looked after as we transition into the next phase of our new ways of working. In all likelihood the need for testing and flexibility will continue in some version for the next 12 months at least.

The Regenerative Clinic, Europe’s largest centre for regenerative medicine based in London’s Harley Street Medical Area, has its own Covid-19 testing facility with a 24 hour on-site laboratory. It also has a standalone clinic in Manchester Piccadilly.

Further information for employees and employers can be found at https://www.theregenerativeclinic.co.uk/

Simple But Effective

Established in 2016, Keep IT Simple (KITS) is a London-based company that specialises in providing the highest quality and value in IT design, build, delivery support and transformation services for public and private clients. Conceived by a team of proactive and expert consultants and engineers led by CEO Dr Grant Harris, KITS is an ethically driven organisation that is committed to integrating world-class resources into the clients’ businesses with a simple approach, delivering stable platforms and software in even the most complex environments. We decided to find out a bit more about KITS.

Keep IT Simple (KITS) is a company conceived and established in 2016 by a team of technically-skilled and proactive consultants and engineers, who had a desire to provide the best quality and the highest value IT design, build, delivery, support and transformation services to public and private sector clients.

A significant issue currently facing the IT support sector is that most modern organisations organically grow their IT platforms and environments, adding more components to their online services as and when they need them. This means that organisations often have a number of different IT service providers working on different platforms, each comprising proprietary products and their own highly priced support staff. By not using a single, overarching IT support strategy, many businesses accumulate capital and people costs that KITS has been able to reduce significantly.

Employing the best enterprise, solution, infrastructure, and data architects, with the highest calibre Programme Managers, including experts in software development and operations, System Administration, Database Administration (DBA), Network and Security Teams, KITS provides complete, holistic services. These include strategic IT assessment, architectural design, transformation of IT platforms and environments, ongoing support and optimisation, and migration from high-cost proprietary products, to the use of open source and private or public cloud solutions.

KITS also specialises in the transformation of stalled or failing IT programmes, delivering stable and performant platforms in complex environments with very tight deadlines. The firm is also a pioneer in its ‘as a Service’ offerings for clients, such as Architecture as a Service, which sees clients paying for outcomes based on solutions instead of paying the excess of what is actually required.

Alongside the comprehensive services it offers clients, KITS is also able to boast numerous accomplishments, such as the development of their own productised automation code verification testing tool, ‘vStack’ and its contribution to the development and delivery of the lauded ‘Covid-19 Food for Vulnerable people’ online application, which was launched only two weeks after inception.

KITS also provides strong security services covering information management to Security Pen testing of CI/CD environments and associated packages, and also boasts a driven Database Team with over a hundred combined years in the IT industry, specialising in the design, implementation and maintenance of highly available, redundant, mission critical database systems. The team are experts in Azure, Cosmos DB, Mongo DB, NoSQL geospatial, PostgreSQL and Oracle, successfully integrating these with multiple middleware and ETL tools. The team has offered bespoke troubleshooting and consultancy to major clients across finance, defence, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, biotech industries and government.

Whether working with a private sector company or UK public sector organisation such as Defra, HMRC or NHS, KITS provides a unique problem-solving approach to radically improve performance, whilst significantly reducing the overall cost of provisioning and supporting IT. Through the offering of creative, innovative solutions and high value provisioning, private and public cloud options and full end-to-end IT systems management, KITS is able to accomplish their founding mission.

KITS has recognised that many of its clients, particularly those within the public sector, seek exceptional, specialist skills that are not readily available or too expensive to recruit for full-time roles. The team therefore ensures that their pricing is always competitive, and that their service is always delivered to the highest standard, so that clients continue to return to KITS for their services time and time again. As a result, more than half of KITS’ clients choose to use the organisation for their ongoing support programmes.

Although the aim of clients is only to use KITS for a limited amount of time on each project, the organisation considers it vital to embed themselves in the client culture, recognising their priorities and aims as the same as their own and therefore putting their clients’ needs first. Many of their competitors may seek to do the same, but only KITS fully understand the complex nature of portfolio IT services and acknowledges the unique challenges faced by companies working within the government or private sectors.

KITS is entrusted with total accountability and ownership across a number of major projects and therefore works closely with the clients to build trust. Transparency and communication are key, and the KITS team go above and beyond to become an integral element of the team, supporting them from the initial consultation up to the successful delivery of the desired outcomes. To become an ‘extension’ of their client’s organisation, KITS also operates with strong ethics, ambitions that put the customer first and objectivity in technical details and analysis. The combination of these values with extensive knowledge, project planning and agility ensures a successful customer experience in every project.

The people behind KITS are therefore absolutely integral to the firm’s success. The team is led by CEO, Dr Grant Harris, a former technical architect who was highly regarded in his field for excellence in his specialisms such as very large IT infrastructure projects that were valued at more than £1 billion. He brought a great deal of experience and insight with him to the role of KITS CEO, including the value of becoming an integral member of any team, even in a transitory position.

The road there may not have always been easy, but thanks to the team of expert consultants, engineers and professionals, KITS has doubled in size in the last twelve months alone, even despite the challenges posed by 2020 and the first two years of struggling to gain credibility in the public sector, an area well known for its hesitations concerning SME’s for critical programmes. As KITS is the culmination of likeminded tech consultants, who seek to deliver the best outcomes possible for their clients, the projects they have successfully embarked upon, such as reducing the overall running costs of a floundering government platform by 80% in only four years, have been plentiful.

Recruitment is therefore immensely important to the success of KITS, and the organisation has been able to acquire some of the best and brightest talent from a broad spectrum of sources, including major IT consulting firms like IBM and Accenture, as well as large organisations across a variety of sectors, including BT, Barclays and the UK Government. Once successfully passing a rigorous recruitment process, learning and development never stops for any member of the team.

KITS’s company culture is built on innovation, respect, honesty and integrity, in which every member of the company, whether they be permanent or an associate, is treated equally. Everyone boasts impressive technical skills, which they are always encouraged to build upon and expand through collaboration and research. Weekly team meetings are a vital element in this collaboration, and allow the brilliant minds that make up KITS to come together to find solutions and innovate, using the diverse perspectives and limitless ideas that are curated by the team to consider how they can best help their clients and society as a whole.

The KITS approach has been different to its competitors from day one, and the benefits of the decisions made back in 2016 can be felt just as keenly now as they were then. For instance, the decision to move away from the traditional, office-based environment in favour of offering services directly to the clients onsite, which strengthened customer relations, or working remotely through use of social media tooling, private and public cloud applications and centralised security for all workers, proved to be an immensely valuable decision in early 2020. When the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted business for so many others, KITS was able to continue seamlessly, providing their services when they were most needed and as such growing by more than 25% in the public sector.

Whilst many of their private clients are still using KITS’ services, there has been a downturn in the amount of new and planned work with these clients, as they struggle to manage their own internal political and financial challenges. Whilst KITS is not predicting many major changes to this over the next year or so, the team continues to be available whenever and however they are needed.

As for KITS itself, the next twelve months will continue to be rather similar in their provision of excellent IT services to those organisations in need of high-quality IT services and support for the best price. They will also explore opportunities within the public sector, which the firm believes will prove mutually beneficial for both KITS and the taxpayer, particularly in the economically challenging times that lie ahead.

With their excellent customer service and technically skilled IT support services, KITS will continue to be a valued partner to UK businesses seeking transformational IT support that performs at an exceptional standard, for an affordable price.

For more information, please contact Grant Harris at www.keepitsimple-uk.co.uk

Health & Hygiene for Corporate CEO

Health is incredibly important for everybody on the planet. Whether it is maintaining their current health, or working towards a goal that can help them to lead a healthier lifestyle, it is a core part of our lives that we all need to take care of. In this issue of CEO Monthly, we take a closer look at James Michael Lafferty and his work as the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding. Mr Lafferty has won the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Arab Emirates, so join us as we unveil more about why he is such a deserving winner and what work his firm carries out.

First and foremost, Fine Hygienic Holding is a wellness company. It seeks to manufacture, market, and distribute superior products that provide excellent value to consumers, through improving their wellness. Whether it be the uniquely-sterilized tissue products, the skin-friendly baby and adult diapers,  the Nai Arabia 100% natural beverages, or the recently-launched Fine Guard line of PPE and disinfection products, Fine Hygienic Holding helps the wellness of millions of consumers and their families every single day. Working to deliver products to more than eighty countries around the world, the firm’s aim to improve the lives of consumers globally is nothing short of exceptional and fully deserving of global recognition. This commitment extends into everything the firm carries out on a daily basis, with the staff being a core element and asset that forms the backbone of the firm. Fine is wholly committed to the all-around health and wellbeing of employees and consumers alike, and committed to creating an environment that attracts and retains the best. They do not come much better than Mr James Michael Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding and an outstanding businessman.

James Michael Lafferty has often been described as one of the most unique and diversified CEOs in the world today. He is not only a successful CEO, but he is also an Olympic coach, an award-winning journalist, a college professor, a competitive athlete, philanthropist, husband, father of five and grandfather of three. As though his life is not busy enough running an outstanding business, he also takes on a myriad of other work that enriches his experiences and makes him an even more exceptional talent in the world of business and sport alike. However, Mr Lafferty did start his career with humble roots; a fact that makes his rise to the top infinitely more distinct and remarkable. Beginning as a youth track and field coach, and progressing to be a corporate fitness trainer to senior executives, Mr Lafferty was soon hired by Procter and Gamble in his native Cincinnati, to enter the firm’s esteemed “Brand Management” program.

After superb business results in the US, Mr Lafferty was transferred into an international career that took him to North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Western Europe, Africa, and Asia. With a marketing and general management career that spans more than three decades, Mr Lafferty is among the leading global experts on building businesses, marketing, and branding, particularly in emerging markets. He has had a long and successful career building businesses and organizations across five continents for some of the world’s leading fast-moving consumer goods companies. This includes him taking on CEO roles in the likes of Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola, and British American Tobacco in various countries around the world.

Mr Lafferty continues to coach professionally, having coached national level athletes in his native country of the United States, as well as athletes in Nigeria. Most recently however, his athletic coaching ability has been utilised in his role as a Coach of the Philippines Olympic Athletics team at the 2016 Rio Games. Currently he consults on training with 2021 Tokyo Olympic Pole Vaulters EJ Obiena and Thiago Braz. However, it is his business acumen, knowledge, and expertise that continues to guide Fine Hygienic Holding into a position of global success, delivering award-winning products to consumers all over the world. Today, Mr Lafferty continues to build on the success that was started with the firm’s founder, Elia Nuqul, back in 1958. More than sixty years ago, Mr Nuqul established Nuqul Brothers Company as a modest trade and import business for food and consumer goods. It is this entrepreneurial spirit and desire to see more people able to access hygienic goods that has driven the success achieved by Mr Lafferty and the entire team at Fine Hygienic Holding.

Elia Nuqul was well ahead of his time in more ways than one. Not only did he express a deep commitment to innovation and sustainability that was far ahead of its time, but Mr Nuqul also saw the enormous potential of offering hygienic paper products that were not widely available in the MENA region. Slowly but surely, the business grew and Mr Nuqul sought ways to expand. Mr Lafferty seeks to continue that spirit that Mr Nuqul started, and take the firm to new heights whilst never forgetting the core mission of offering innovative and sustainable hygienic paper products to as many consumers as possible.

2021 is set to be a historic year for Fine—The company has big plans for the year including a world-wide entry into new markets, and the introduction of a completely new and innovative product line under its germ protection brand, Fine Guard, building on the global success achieved in 2020 with the introduction of the world’s best antiviral face mask. In addition to this, 2021 is a crucial year for the company as it will be preparing for a partial IPO/exit.

Yet, for all this global growth, the firm also fervently believes that it must give back to the very communities where it works, lives, and plays. Giving back is a fundamental part of the firm’s DNA, and its legacy stretches far beyond simply offering products and services. Fine Hygienic Holding will also seek to serve humanity and help in small, meaningful ways, making the world a better place to be. Fine Hygienic Holding always strives to do the right thing ethically, morally, and principally. It does not compromise on character or ethics, and embraces diversity in everything it does. Ultimately, this firm and the work of its outstanding CEO Mr Lafferty should be commended for being of the highest calibre. Both Fine Hygienic Holding and Mr Lafferty deserve the highest praise, and certainly deserve this recognition from CEO Monthly Magazine.

Finding the Formula to Combat Back-to-Work Anxiety in STEM

Mental health is a popular topic at the moment, while the majority of us were trying to maintain a healthy routine and lifestyle while stuck indoors, it begged the question, what about after lockdown? Back to work anxiety was bad enough for some of us after months of leisure time and lie ins. But entering the next stage of eased lockdown regulation is a cause of mental health disruption for some of us, bringing a sense of unease, worry, and anxiety.

At first, the thought of losing our freedom and summer plans caused anxiety in itself, but once we got used to our new life it subsided. While some are eagerly anticipating a return to work and normality, others are genuinely distressed by it — whether this is facilitated by concerns of the virus or facing our colleagues, there’s a real issue that needs addressing.

In this article, we’ll take a look at back-to-work anxiety in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries, helpful tips to deal with feeling anxious, as well as a question and answer session from the engineering sector and how they’re dealing with returning to work.

What is back-to-work anxiety?

Being away from your job for a period of time can affect your feelings regarding work, whether it’s the workload or challenging colleagues. Some of us have time to mull over our skills and put ourselves down over our abilities, knocking down our confidence. According to research by YouGov, two in five are anxious about returning to work and the threat the virus has to our health and wellbeing.

Back-to-work anxiety can have physical effects such as headaches, stomach issues, trouble sleeping, and behavioural changes like feeling irritable and isolated. If your job was stressful to begin with, it’s likely that returning can be even more difficult. Although anxiety is a normal emotion, there are many self-help methods you can use to manage these feelings. You should always consider seeking medical and therapeutic care if this severely interrupts your days.

STEMming from anxiety

STEM industries have recently been under scrutiny regarding the working environments in these sectors fostering anxiety and depression. For example, a report called “Masculinity in Engineering” noted that more than a fifth of engineers take time off due to their mental health as well as over one in three UK tech professionals claiming they’re worried about their mental health as it has deteriorated during Covid-19 which was previously one in five before the pandemic. The fast-paced and competitive nature of the work can stop workers from switching off.

These industries are traditionally male and white-dominated sectors notorious for a toxic masculine culture which can make people feel isolated. So it isn’t surprising that this, combined with the notion of returning to work after a period of absence from the office or lab, is having a significant impact on STEM workers mental health.

Although it’s difficult to judge how exactly social distancing measures can be implemented across a broad range of sectors from science to mathematics and the different ways that these job roles are carried out, many workers are also nervous about the spread of Covid-19.

How to handle back to work anxiety

Try to make the transition back to work easier and consider these steps. It’s also helpful to identify the source of your worries to come up with solutions. myGP, a smartphone app for online NHS services including specialist areas like mental health, suggested the following:

Prepare yourself

Getting into the routine of work life can be a daunting feeling, however preparing yourself can make it easier. Whether this is preparing your lunches for your break, or dinners in advance for when you get home late and are too tired to cook, what may seem like minor preparations can actually relieve your mind of things you need to do for yourself. Remember, you and your needs should come first.

If you’ve been spending lockdown not getting out much and waking up late, try to get into a good routine to prepare yourself for when you’ll be on your feet again. Spending time outdoors whether it’s walking through nature or laid out in your garden can help to calm you down and keep you grounded in the present moment.

Speak with your manager and colleagues

Solidarity can be helpful in alleviating feelings of anxiety — try speaking to your colleagues to comfort each other and provide support. Recognising that others feel the same can help you feel like you’re not alone.

If you feel comfortable, it could be worthwhile speaking to your manager about your concerns and throwing yourself back into work life. Employers can be helpful in introducing informal support mechanisms like online resources and volunteers to provide support. They may be able to reduce some of your concerns or make plans to help your return to work.

Find out what will have changed in the workplace. For example, you may find that there will be fewer people in the workplace in order to maintain physical distancing. You could arrange a visit prior to your first day back which might reassure you about the measures that have been put in place to keep you and your colleagues safe. This brings us to our next point.

Seek resources

Lear, an automotive technology leader, created a comprehensive guide of returning to work to ease anxieties workers may have, including protocols, procedures, and rules in place to keep everyone safe, as well as mandatory onsite health screenings in ‘drive-thrus’ of temperature and overt symptoms.

Many organisations have mental health or counselling resources that you are eligible to use if you are an employee — if not there are lots of useful resources online that provide techniques for reducing anxiety.

Plan fun things to keep your mind busy

Summer might’ve been cancelled by Covid-19 this year, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan fun things in the meantime. Meet up with your friends outside abiding government guidelines, go for mind clearing walks and hikes in nature, or, if you have the funds, plan a holiday next year to look forward to! Making fun plans can help tackle the looming feeling of dread when thinking of going back to work.

Avoid unhealthy habits such as reaching for alcohol, cigarettes, or caffeine when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

Words of wisdom…

Research mindfulness and breathing exercises you can practise to improve your mental state. Meditation can be helpful as often when we feel anxious about things, we try to distract ourselves or might spend hours scrolling through our phones to avoid the pressing issue. Writing down your problems to face them can also be extremely helpful, as well as noting down the positives and the parts and people of your job that you enjoy. And remember — try to get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy meals to keep your energy up.

If the feeling of back-to-work anxiety feels serious or you find that you’re not getting any relief, consider getting medical advice (book GP appointment) if you’re concerned. Anxiety is a real condition that can be helped with the right treatment. Don’t ignore how you feel, or this can be even more difficult to cope.

Q&A in the engineering sector

Paul Staines, senior controller in production engineering at Unipres, a global automotive manufacturer, gave insight into how his workplace is handling the transition back to work.

Q: How is your plant planning to facilitate social distancing and safe working?

Paul: When the pandemic seriously impacted the UK and most workers were placed on furlough, we immediately assessed what impact the virus could have on our industry and in our factory in particular. We began to evaluate the risk in every element of the plant. The first noticeable change was the provision of hand sanitiser distributed throughout the plant. Each management team from each department then began to risk assess operations from staff entering the site and carrying out their daily work. On entering the plant, we marked the pavement with two-meter markers on the floor, these markers where put in place as a visual aid to maintain distancing when entering the plant.

Meeting rooms were carefully measured to see how many people could safely occupy a room and maximum occupancy signage placed in the room. Chairs have been removed to further enforce this measure. For any activity where social distancing could not be maintained, controls were developed such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and back-to-back working for a maximum of 15 minutes. As majority of staff were not at work, a return to work handbook was developed to give guidance to staff on what to expect when returning to work. The handbook covered all changes we implemented and even given guidance on traveling to and from work.

Q: What steps do they have in place to phase in colleagues?

Paul: On the initial return to work all staff received a presentation on the new protocols outlining what is expected of them to mitigate the spread of the virus. Supervisors and team leaders received separate training for enforcing social distancing, how to spot the symptoms, and most importantly what protocol is to be followed if someone were to have symptoms on site. Starting times were staggered to mitigate large gatherings when entering the plant as temperatures of all staff are taken on entering the building. We also staggered the break times to enable staff to maintain social distancing in all restrooms in the plant. Again, each restroom had staff allocated ensuring maximum occupancy was not reached.

Every single piece of machinery or rest room appliance was risk assessed and a disinfection standard was created so all users were trained to disinfect said machine or frequently touched surface before and after use. The entire plant has been decorated with our Clean IT campaign reminding staff of the new protocols and to assist supervision to observe the standards are being met.

Q: Are there any mental health groups or processes to support those who are anxious about returning to work?

Paul: Unipres offers support through a service provided by an organisation called Talk Works. The mental health service is available to all Unipres UK employees, offering ongoing stress guidance, counselling, and expert advice to employees and staff who are struggling with mental health issues. Talking therapies allow employees to talk about their life or worries to someone who is trained to listen and help. The service is 100% confidential and free, and so far employees who have used the service have found it very beneficial.

Remote Recruiting: The Future of Onboarding New Graduates

As we move through the academic year, many students are preparing to graduate and enter the world of work. However, these future workers will be entering into a working environment unlike any other we’ve experienced. Universities continue to teach remotely, but now, these students can expect to begin their professional careers while working from home. This is a worrying prospect. According to a survey by Prospects, 82 per cent of graduates in 2020 said that they felt disconnected from their employers. Meanwhile, 83 per cent said that the pandemic has caused a lack of motivation.

A fortunate upside of remote education in the past year is that these students now have a comprehensive understanding of remote work and technology. Not only has this generation grown up surrounded by it, but they have now lived their lives through it. Perhaps this is why the current Generation Z students are commonly referred to as “digital natives”. Leading the way in terms of new technology, the digital landscape is easily navigated by these graduates. However, beginning in a new role in unknown territory without leaving home can still be a daunting experience.

For businesses, the prospect of introducing new employees into a remote working environment is equally challenging. Usual training practices, such as shadowing senior staff members in the office or on-site, are no longer possible. But, as digital signage solutions specialist Exterity explores, using effective digital training methods can help businesses onboard graduate employees successfully and create valuable employees.

The first day (not) at work

When entering a business, a new employee may expect an onslaught of inductions and meetings with their manager, team members, and other employees across many departments. The aim of this is to demonstrate the culture and processes of the business. Cross-departmental understanding is important. For example, a new employee in the marketing department should know how the finance department operates. Departments within one business are all connected, after all.

Digital inductions have been made simple for new graduate employees. Applications and tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom allow businesses to easily organise induction schedules and pair new recruits up with staff members across the business. Most students have been made familiar with these tools thanks to the pandemic. The usage of Microsoft Teams and Zoom grew by 894 per cent and 644 per cent respectively, between February and June 2020.

In addition to direct communication with new employees, presentations can be broadcast across these detail tools. This can be done with individuals or a group of new employees.

Leading by example

A lot of companies will use shadowing as a form of training. This is an effective method to train new graduates who are often taking their first steps in their chosen career. This method allows new employees to recognise the skills and processes used by a team or department on an average day. It’s also a good opportunity to integrate themselves into the culture of a company.

This is a valuable form of training, especially for new graduates. Over a quarter of final-year internship opportunities were lost to the pandemic, meaning that on-the-job learning has been scarce in the past year. But while some key workers can continue in-person shadowing, for many roles it is no longer possible.

Online shadowing

Attending the virtual meetings of the person you are shadowing is an effective way to introduce the new employee into the department and the role they will be filling. For customer-facing roles, allowing graduates to attend client calls can help them to recognise positive interactions between the business and the customer. Online meetings mean that graduates can easily be added to emails and video calls. They should be encouraged to take notes and ask questions during these meetings.

Do as I do

Observational shadowing is essential for training new employees. But doing this in the digital world can still be an effective learning tool when working from home. Sharing the screen of your computer with a new recruit over Teams or Zoom is a great way to help employees learn how to add a new business lead to CRM or update the company website.

Learning online

Graduate employees are critical for roles with advance systems. Degrees help students learn critical thought, complex processes, and managing difficult tasks. However, their learning is not 100 per cent complete. There’s still a lot to learn on the job. Fortunately, there is no shortage of great online training solutions to take advantage of. Online courses are led by market-leading experts and provide excellent insight into sectors and specific roles. One example of this is HubSpot, which has many free courses for a variety of industries.

Even normal in-house training can be taken online. Pre-recorded presentations can be uploaded to a shared drive, or live conferences can provide real value to the education of your employees. These lessons can teach graduates the key processes of the company, and train them in the systems and tools they’ll use in their role.

One study by IBM suggests that online learning is very effective. People learnt five times more material by studying online as opposed to normal face-to-face training. Even better, by directing your learning online, and with the use of new technology, simulated tasks can be assigned for new employees to complete. This creates critical skills with no risk. This is being used in fields such as medicine, where technology such as augmented reality help to simulate complex medical work. This proves for far-reaching capabilities of personal online learning.

The recruiting experience for both graduates and businesses is wildly different from usual circumstances. New graduates are jumping into a competitive job market that has fewer prospects. Businesses also face the difficulties of onboarding this talent using remote solutions. However, with a careful approach, businesses can still effectively integrate new employees across their organisation. Even better, the “digitally native” graduates are ready to contribute to your business. Digital is their standard. With the right recruiting and training practices, businesses can retain the very best talent the new graduates have to offer.

What Women Want in the Workplace in 2021

By The Team at Serenity in Leadership

Covid-19 has changed numerous things for women, with many struggling with additional burdens of children missing school, isolation, anxiety about their family’s health and finances; with burnout and severe stress real issues. As a crisis often presents opportunities, to mark International Women’s Day on March 8th, Serenity in Leadership identifies 10 things businesses need to address to dramatically improve gender equality and meet the needs of what women want in the workplace in 2021.

  1. Flexibility in working hours. Many of us have proven we can work well from home, but women have carried the burden of the constant changes faced during the pandemic to a large extent. Leaders need to readdress preconceived ideas about how to get the best out of all employees whilst appreciating how much women are having to balance, and also offering their male employees the opportunity to redress these balances. The more a workplace enables its employees, the more this will be rewarded with loyalty. We all want to be judged on outcomes, not the numbers of hours spent at our desk, but this is particularly pertinent for women currently.
  2. Parity – Women want equal status and pay but also equality in possibilities and opportunities and decision making. Rejecting positive discrimination, women want to initiate, lead and influence purely because they are the best person for that role.
  3. Breaking gender barriers. Gender diversity is still not widely believed to be a priority as we continue to see an alpha culture and a persistent leadership gap in senior roles and pay. In addition to gender becoming a non-issue, women want a safe environment far removed from microaggressions, harassment and misogynism. 
  4. Fostering an inclusive culture. Women tend to be good champions of other women including those of other races and ethnicities but embracing a positive gender-inclusive future means businesses need to tackle discrimination and diversity in 2021 head-on.
  5. Ensuring an ability to progress despite career breaks to have children. The pandemic amplified biases women have faced for years: being penalised for choosing flexible work options, higher performance benchmarks and glass ceilings, male preferential treatment and feeling pressure to work more than their agreed hours and to repeatedly prove themselves.
  6. Many women feel they need to provide additional evidence of their competence rather than being valued and judged on their skills and work outcomes. Women want to be trusted, respected, listened to and recognised for their contribution.
  7. Ensuring women do not have to conform or act like men. Women also don’t want to have to act like men in order to belong or to conform to a patriarchal stereotype of belonging or success.
  8. Less ego. The unfettered expression of ego is detrimental in the workplace. It causes harassment, micro-aggressions, poor decision making and stifles creativity. This behaviour is seen less in women leaders. The workplace should not be about winners and losers, roles and powerplay. 
  9. After the pandemic we will be at a crossroads as most employees are now clearer about what is important to them. They may seek out career changes if there is not merely a shift in flexibility but also in support.
  10. Voices being heard without the need to shout. The successful leaders of this pandemic have been humble and empathetic and ultimately have demonstrated respect for the ‘feminine’. Let us make it so that women are not patronised or seen as ‘soft’ if they use empathy and compassion in how we act and relate to others. Equally, this change needs to be applied to men.5 Ways to Action Better Gender Balance in the Workplace
  1. Speak out if you see bias or discrimination – Most people are unaware that they are being biased unless it is pointed out to them. Speak out to strive for an equal workforce, to help to prevent workplace harassment and to diminish bias. Having strict, clear and effective policies against harassment in the workplace is key.
  2. Allow flexible working for employees – Part time work remains heavily female-dominated due to unbalanced childcare responsibilities supported by cultural stereotypes. Assumptions still exist that women may not be able to handle as much work as men because of family commitments so men are given more opportunities and responsibility.  Endorsing flexible working hours will encourage a positive work-life balance regardless of gender, whilst also normalising hands-on fathering and enabling the best person to be employed for the job.
  3. Understand that gender equality is not a women’s issue and men must play a critical role, including rejecting the notion that childcare and looking after the home are demasculinising. Balances need to be redressed so that women’s talents can be equally fully utilised. It’s often argued that men need to be drawn into the conversation, but it would be better still if they were as active as their female colleagues in leading change in gender equality.
  4. Close the gender pay gap – On average women earn about 20% less than men. Help to close the gender pay gap by reviewing working practices and salaries across your team to ensure that all employees are being paid equally for the work they do.
  5. Promoting an inclusive gender-diverse workplace including at leadership level. Any recruitment process should reflect diversity in the interview panel, job descriptions should promote gender equality and induction processes should have blindness to difference built in. Don’t let bias cloud your judgement; ask the same questions in the same way to all candidates.

1 in 5 Tradespeople Consider Apprentices More Important Than Ever Despite Covid-19 Decline

  • Over a fifth of companies that regularly hire apprentices took on fewer in 2020 
  • A quarter of tradespeople and companies plan on hiring new apprentices in 2021 
  • Percentage of female, BAME and apprentices with learning difficulties continues to grow year on year
  • IronmongeryDirectlaunch competition to win £5,000 towards funding an apprentice 

A third of companies and tradespeople (31%) who regularly hire apprentices feel that the program has been made harder due to the pandemic, as new ONS figures show a 30% drop in new construction apprentices between August and October 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. 

Demonstrating the effect of Covid-19 on the scheme, more than one in five (22%) companies that usually hire apprentices took on fewer in 2020, despite a fifth (19%) of tradespeople believing that the program is more important now than ever. 

Commissioned by IronmongeryDirect, the UK’s largest supplier of specialist ironmongery, in the run up to National Apprenticeship Week (8th to 14th February), the study also reveals that one in 12 tradespeople (8%) believe that the government has not done enough to support apprentices throughout the pandemic. 

Looking at the year ahead, the positive news is that a quarter (23%) of businesses and tradespeople plan to bring on apprentices in 2021. Building surveyors (34%) and electricians (28%) are the most likely trades to be looking for apprentices this year, while painter/decorators and landscapers are least likely (15% and 5%, respectively). 

Men in the industry are more likely than women to think that an apprenticeship is a great way for people to learn skills (31% vs 23%). Contrastingly however, it is tradeswomen and female-led companies that are most likely to be looking for an apprentice in the year ahead, with a quarter of women (25%) planning to hire a trainee compared to only one in five tradesmen (20%). 

According to the Office of National Statistics, female apprentices in construction are also on the rise, increasing by 19% in the 2019/20 academic year compared to the previous 12 months. This represents a much larger trend in growth as there are a huge 333% more female construction trainees than in 2014/2015. So far in the 2020/2021 academic year, the percentage of female new starters has increased to 9%, suggesting that this growth is set to continue. 

The statistics also reveal a changing story for apprentices of colour. While BAME apprentices made up only 6% of new construction apprentices in 2019/2020, this represents a 16% increase to the previous year and an 82% rise since 2014/2015. What’s more, despite the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the proportion of BAME trainees continues to grow as they make up 8% of new starters so far this academic year. 

The proportion of new apprentices with learning difficulties is also on the increase, making up 14% of the 2019/2020 intake. This is a 53% increase from 2014/15. This trend seems set to continue as 16% of the 2020/2021 year’s new starters so far have learning difficulties. 

Commenting on the research, Marco Verdonkschot, Managing Director at IronmongeryDirect, said: “It’s great to see many tradespeople and companies are still looking to make use of the apprenticeship program, despite the difficulty of the past year.  

“We think the apprenticeship scheme is an amazing way to help shape the next generation of tradespeople. That’s why we’ve launched a competition for a UK based tradesperson or company to win £5,000 towards funding an apprentice.”   

“There are so many people who do amazing work in the industry today who started out as apprentices, so it’s important that the program continues to be well-funded. More needs to be done to support apprentices throughout this pandemic to ensure that we continue to have great talent in the future, and we wanted to do our bit to help!” 

To enter the competition or learn more about this research, visit: https://www.ironmongerydirect.co.uk/blog/apprenticeships-and-covid-19-looking-ahead-to-2021

Serving Brunei through Islamic Solutions

When looking at the long and fascinating history of Brunei, the way in which it manages to combine the responsible infusion of Islamic Values, Real Economy and Finance is something that allows it to stand apart from the rest of the world. The Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam manages this with ease and confidence led by Mubashar Khokhar. We take a look at his firm and his achievements as he is named CEO of the Year, 2020 – Brunei

BIBD stands as Brunei Darussalam’s largest bank and its flagship financial institution. With over 900 employees and B$10.7 billion worth of assets under management, the team are proud to serve more than 216,000 customers, including retail, corporate as well as international clients. But this level of success is due, in no small part, to the efforts of those at the highest level, namely Mubashar Khokhar.

Mr. Khokhar has been a leading light of the organisation since his appointment in 2016. Alongside other responsibilities in the UAE, he has overseen the three year journey between 2016 and 2018 where the bank committed to becoming the first choice institution for employees, customers and stakeholders. It was an ambitious strategy, one which has paid off with BIBD receiving the accolade within Brunei Darussalam.

From this success, Mr. Khokhar is determined to see the bank aiming even higher, to make use of the momentum already gained. Now, the team are planning ways in which they can benchmark themselves against the best Islamic banks in the region, with a view to becoming the Best Islamic Bank in Asia-Pacific.

With many different offerings available, it’s paramount that the team at BIBD find ways of standing out as a unique banking identity. This has most easily been achieved through the team’s strong “Bruneian at Heart” values. BIBD is a bank for the people of Brunei, built by the people of Brunei. Its ethos perfectly captures the essence of inclusiveness of Islamic banking and the team’s commitment has always been to provide smart, safe and practical financial services and solutions to customers regardless of race or religion, supporting the ambitions of the Bruneian community.

Under Mr. Khokhar’s reign, the team has learned to constantly innovate in order to provide the solutions that people wish to see. 2018 saw the launch of the bank’s digital banking platform, BIBD NEXGEN, in 2018, and the team have continuously added to its suite of services, transforming it into a one-of-its-kind product that remains unique in the local market. 2019 saw the firm launch BIBD Wave – a near-field communication (NFC) mobile payment service on NFC-enabled Android devices. This was the first of its kind in Brunei, and has led the way to enormous success.

The achievements made at this stage have allowed the team to develop their comprehensive BIBD NEXGEN Wallet which is equipped with digital conveniences such as BIBD QuickPay for QR code payments, BIBD vCard or Virtual Mastercard, Mastercard Contactless and BIBD Wave. As a national leader in the field of mobile banking services, it’s clear that BIBD has a huge role to play in the evolution from traditional banking to the fintech age.

While Mr. Khokhar has made his name by creating a forward-thinking company, it is also outward looking. BIBD is currently the only bank in Brunei that serves all segments within the retail banking market, with the firm’s Household Bank Strategy, introduced for the retail banking sector, enabling them to capture more than 60% of the market. The desire for BIBD to provide a comprehensive range of products and services to all generations of the Bruneian family unit, and able to meet the needs of our retail customers at every stage of their life has been key to the firm’s continued success.

To serve the firm’s wide clientele base, the bank has opened seventeen branches at strategic locations in Brunei Darussalam’s four districts as well as the largest network of ATMs in the country, serving over a quarter of the Bruneian population. As the premiere Islamic financial institution in the country, BIBD is also committed to ensuring employees are equipped with the necessary Islamic Finance knowledge and skills to be able to serve its customers better. To date, BIBD has 20 employees certified in Islamic Finance Wealth Management and 66 employees certified in Islamic Financial Planning, enabling the bank to deliver highly proficient and informed services to clients.

The nature of BIBD means that it has become the bank of choice for Government Linked Companies (GLCs) and Corporates. The range of services that the team can provide are second to none, providing a comprehensive solution to any and all business needs. The impressive array of BIBD NEXGEN services also extend to corporate customers, with BIBD BizNet providing an array of features including bulk payment management for payrolls, making enquiries and checking transaction histories for Current, Investment and Financing Accounts, conducting transactions in multiple foreign currencies and to make donations, among others.

The challenge of COVID-19 has hit every industry, but what has encouraged Mr. Khokhar is that the values, ethos and commitment of his team have never wavered. He has led the team through the crisis by putting the health of his staff and his customers first and foremost. Most important to surviving this once-in-a-lifetime event was the establishment of a COVID-19 Task Force to ensure a coordinated and holistic response to the pandemic. This targeted approach meant that the team were able to offer a collective economic relief package amounting to BND250 million for a period of 12 months, which was very well supported by our Honourable Chairman and Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance & Economy II.

Amidst the shutdown of public events and restaurants in Brunei Darussalam, it was BIBD that provided the vital assistance that MSMEs needed to digitise their businesses and establishing a strong online presence. Leveraging technology to bring communities together in a time of crisis is one of the most hopeful things the firm could do, encouraging a digitalised society powered by a cashless economy. MSMEs were charged nothing for this key service that has helped to keep the economy flourishing in the region.

With such a strong history of success in innovation, it’s not surprising that this approach will guide the next steps of BIBD. The mission for Brunei is to become a dynamic and developed economy by 2035, and this bank has a major role to play in that achievement. Obviously, the pandemic has forced digitalisation on many industries and businesses, and the team at BIBD is determined to embrace the potential of this new format. Mr. Khokhar has already put core teams into place that will carry out these plans and bring them to fruition. This includes the plan for the creation of a group-wide Data Warehouse Facility which is slated for completion in 2021. This core project that will feed all of BIBD’s future ambitions and initiatives. The digital step forward will include optimising the use of data and metadata – which will facilitate interoperability and resource integration.

Some banks are inherently stagnant, but the team at BIBD is nimble and agile in the extreme. They know just how to move in order to make the most of a situation. With ambitious plans ahead, and an eye already on the next move, it’s clear that they have found the ideal CEO in the form of Mubashar Khokhar.

For more information, please contact Adina Hj Azahari at www.bibd.com.bn

Issue 2 2021

As always, CEO Monthly is dedicated to providing the latest news and features across the business world to our readership. After all, knowledge sharing is crucial to enduring success – especially in a world that seems so focused on adapting, changing and shifting beneath our very feet.

We’ve discussed the qualities of exceptional leadership throughout the last few years. Most of the time, the list is pretty static with little in the way of deviation. Last year proved to be an anomaly in that sense, with leaders of all varieties being tested in new novel ways. There was no guidebook or precedent, and much of what was decided was almost utilitarian in its outlook and approach. We’ve seen how 2020 impacted previous ‘best practices’ of leadership. We’ve seen it raw and exposed. Over the last few months, we’ve seen a new paradigm emerge, where even the most established businesses suddenly find a sense of mortality. Nothing is absolute or certain.

Which begs the question – how has leadership changed in light of 2020? That’s something we’ll be digging into over the following issues, and we’ve just dipped our toes in here. So, with that – enjoy!

Until next time, we hope you have a fantastic month ahead.

Integrated Solutions to the Media & Entertainment Industry

Only the most inspiring, forward-thinking and dedicated of Chief Executive Officers achieve CEO of the Year status from CEO Monthly. Meherezad Dastoor is part of this elite group and has been integral in driving Media Lounge to demonstrate great things for the sector. Here we take a closer look at the business and at the pioneering work of its CEO.

International media and entertainment agency Media Lounge is the home of bespoke experiences that engage, captivate and inspire audiences across global markets. The team offer solutions to businesses operating in the media and entertainment sector, customising a strategy for each client offering a bespoke service in order to achieve maximum results. Service areas include but are not limited to media consultancy, advertising, public relations, events management, media production, embedded marketing services and sponsorship management. Meherezad Dastoor and his team, work as an integral part of each client’s core team to determine the correct strategy and execution plans to meet and exceed expectations. With offices in Abu Dhabi, New York, London and Singapore, the Media Lounge team and network of consultants have a combined experience of more than 30 years across global markets ensuring that businesses are in safe hands when they come to this innovative advisory firm for assistance.

Meherezad Dastoor is a highly skilled media professional with in-depth knowledge of market trends, business practices and trade laws in the media industry. Through his dedication, commitment to client service and his thirst for client success Meherezad has been able to drive great things for the business. The results-driven Chief Executive Officer goes above and beyond for clients crafting solutions tailor made to each brand and each client. Client satisfaction is vital to Meherezad and his team and regular check points with each client are essential to him in ensuring complete satisfaction with the results achieved, delivering real value is a must and client commitment is key in ensuring great results.

Truly great CEOs can only become so through their inspiration and guidance to others. Businesses will only grow and succeed if those at the helm are able to drive their desires and their aspirations throughout their workforce. Meherezad is a great example of how a committed and innovative approach to business can be passed down to inspire team members into achieving great things. His hands-on approach to clients allows others to watch a master at work so to speak and learn from his negotiation and networking skills and how his willingness to dive into work head on is key to his success.

2021 will undoubtedly be a key year for Meherezad Dastoor and his team at Media Lounge, we look forward to hearing more of the successes of this brand and its dynamic leader.

For more information, please visit www.medialounge.ae

How Connectivity Is Set to Transform Employee Experiences

The correlation between employee satisfaction and customer experience is well-established. The happier your people are, the more committed and motivated they will be to go the extra mile for your customers.

Leading businesses are implementing initiatives to improve employee satisfaction including:

  • Flexible working options
  • Training and opportunities for progression
  • Additional benefits like healthcare packages and hospitality discounts
  • Increasing workplace connectivity

The final item might be surprising. But in today’s digital age, there’s no getting away from the fact that employees need suitable connectivity options. Whether they need it for their job role or for personal reasons, it’s now a necessity.

Providing suitable connectivity in an office-based workplace is fairly straightforward. But businesses in the transport sector, particularly railway, must look at more innovative options. Implementing WiFi connectivity will improve your employee experiences – here’s why.

An increase in productivity

Thanks to the improved mobility afforded by business technology advancements, your people can work anytime, anywhere. They can access all their work-related apps on their mobiles, which will increase their productivity. An EIU study found productivity increased by 16% when employees connected mobile devices to the staff WiFi.

Historically, it has been difficult to contact staff who primarily work on your fleet of trains. Not anymore. With collaboration applications available on mobile devices, you can reach them much easier. They can also change their status to do not disturb to reflect when they’re busy. Your conductor doesn’t want to receive a call when they’re inspecting tickets, after all.

Feeling more connected

As a railway provider, you have a high number of frontline, customer-facing staff. This is the group of employees most at risk of feeling disconnected from your company and culture. In fact, a Workplace study found that 17% of frontline workers never communicate with head office. The study also showed 54% of those workers feel disconnected from their business. That’s why it’s important to help them stay connected with their office colleagues.

The Workplace study found that, when frontline workers are equipped with collaboration platforms, they communicate more with head office. 17% drops to 8%, making those workers feel more connected with the business.

Another way to keep your people connected is via your company intranet. If they can use your train’s WiFi to check in on your company news, they’ll always be up-to-date. Not knowing what your organisation is up to is a leading cause of disengagement.

Feeling trusted = satisfaction

One downside to advances in business technology is the license it gives some organisations to spy on their people. Even if your business doesn’t do this, employees might worry that you do.

Fostering a culture of trust will put your people at ease. By letting them know you won’t be snooping on them or disciplining them for looking at their phone, they’ll be much happier. Everybody needs a break at work and sometimes, the best way to relax is to look at cat memes on the internet.

But people also use their mobile phones to manage many aspects of their life these days. When an employee is looking at their phone, they might be booking an urgent GP appointment, responding to a message from their child’s school or something else important.

The happiness of your workforce directly correlates with your customer satisfaction. This is especially important in the railway sector, which is struggling to keep passengers happy. In today’s modern world, internet connectivity is embedded in every area of our lives. We carry out personal tasks online, use social media to stay in touch, and even relax by surfing the web. That’s why improving your business’ connectivity will make your workforce and, in turn, your customers, happier.

A Leadership Shift for 2021

By Stevan Jackson, Vistage Private Advisory Group Chair, West Midlands

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it
.” President Dwight D Eisenhower


There are as many definitions of leadership as there are commentators on the subject, but the quote from ‘Ike’ is one of the most succinct.  Much is made of the nature/nurture argument, about whether leaders are born or made.  The most obvious answer is that some people find leadership a more natural state of mind than others but that doesn’t necessarily make them better leaders than those who must work at it a bit more. History is littered with examples of charismatic leaders who have led their followers to an outcome that has been neither what they wanted or needed. There is no black art in leadership, it can be learned, practised, and polished by anyone who is prepared to make the effort, as with any other aspect of our professional life. Never has that been more obvious to the current generation of business leaders.

What this pandemic has done is remind us that we live in a world where uncertainty is permanent. COVID-19 has required business leaders to adapt to leading in different ways that demand certain skills and approaches. In my Vistage practice, I see leaders responding daily to the challenge of leading their teams in new ways. Considering the importance of employee engagement on business outcomes, leaders must invest in their leadership knowledge and skills to get the best of out of their teams. That has always been true and is not confined to the exceedingly difficult challenge we face.

Here are seven areas that every business leader could focus on to improve performance:

1. Model the way

To model the way, leaders need to be clear about their personal values and philosophy and express them in a way that leaves no doubt about what they believe in. Exemplary leaders set a personal example for others by their attitude and behaviours. They always deliver on their promises and commitments and live the values they champion.

2. Inspire a shared vision

Effective leaders create a compelling vision – where we are going and how we are going to get there together – that people can buy into and use to guide their attitudes and behaviours.  Through inspiring vision, leaders can challenge others to transcend the status quo, visualise positive outcomes in the future, communicate them to other team members and play a full role in achieving the company’s desired outcomes.

3. Challenge the process

Challenging the process means being curious, willing to change the status quo and step into the unknown.  It includes being willing to innovate, grow and improve. Exemplary leaders are like pioneers – they experiment and try new things. They are willing to take calculated risks and are not afraid to fail – from which comes learning and improvement. 

4. Show empathy

If employees feel that leaders care about them, they will be more engaged and more inclined to give of their best. Outstanding leaders are highly effective at building trust within their teams by showing empathy and promoting collaboration. Teamwork and cooperation come from listening closely to diverse points of view and treating others with dignity and respect. Empathetic leaders encourage their people to make informed choices and then support the decisions their teams make. Empathetic leaders create an environment where people can feel good about their work and understand how it contributes to the greater community. A survey of 15,000 business leaders by Development Dimensions International found a link between enhanced empathy and leadership performance.

5. Care about your people (and show it)

Research in the UK has found that “stress, depression or anxiety” were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and more than half of all working days lost. There is evidence that these issues are exacerbated in times of crisis, which is why effective leaders make it a priority to encourage and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff. This can include simple actions such as ringing isolated employees regularly and asking, ‘how are you – what can I do to help?’  Focussing on employee wellbeing can create an engaged and healthy workforce. In companies with this culture, employees tend to enjoy better relationships with their bosses, higher personal wellbeing, and more job satisfaction.

6. Celebrate success

It is natural for people to want support and for their work to be recognised.  Effective leaders are highly attentive to this need and are willing to give praise to people for a job well done. Using authentic celebrations and rituals to show appreciation and encouragement to others is essential and can lead to improved collective identity and community spirit.

7. Communicate, communicate, communicate

The key to effective team-working is communication – especially with a dispersed workforce. In that regard, team meetings to agree objectives, to expose disagreements and resolve them by open discussion are essential. These are real hallmarks of effectiveness. This is a good point at which to reflect on how often do you participate in team meetings and how well led are those team meetings?  Even teams that hold regular meetings will achieve little if there is too great a power gradient between the leader/s and members of the team. Effective leaders will allow themselves to be challenged and respond in a constructive way to contribute to the personal development of their team members and for the sake of business improvement and better outcomes.

There is unwavering pressure on leaders to figure everything out alone and uncertain times call for agile leaders. That’s why Vistage are proud to provide a platform where high-performing business leaders can safely talk about their challenges, fears, questions, and opportunities with peers and make better decision; grow their business and have a better work-life balance. After all, “not one of us is as clever as all of us”. In this pandemic, that could be the difference between thriving or just surviving. For more information about Vistage please contact me at [email protected] 

Unparalleled Expertise

Ginball Digital Marketing uses award-winning digital transformation, digital marketing, and social media strategies to help entrepreneurs and small to mid-sized businesses across North America to achieve growth. Led by digital marketing expert, best-selling author, entrepreneur and founder, Jean Ginzburg, Ginball uses a unique solution model centered on audience trends, results-driven delivery, and superior customer service. We take a closer look at how Ginball has guided thousands of businesses to achieve consistent, sustainable positive growth.

Based in Colorado, Ginball Digital Marketing is a leading provider of solutions in digital transformation, marketing, and social media strategies delivered in a holistic approach to create business growth.

Founder and CEO Jean Ginzburg is an award-winning entrepreneur, best-selling author, and digital marketing expert who has more than a decade of experience in the industry, serving clients, collaborating with partners, and managing strategies. “We employ a holistic approach and proprietary strategy that facilitates communication and a thorough understanding of our clients’ businesses,” says Jean Ginzburg. “Based on our analysis of the products/services and current strategies of our clients, the Ginball team is able to craft client-specific recommendations and solutions designed to increase our clients’ ROI.”

Since its inception, Ginball has worked with hundreds of businesses. The firm’s clientele ranged from novice solopreneurs to well-established small and mid-sized businesses ready to accelerate their growth. The firm works primarily in the tech, SaaS and software verticals in the $10MM to $50MM revenue range. Ginball has become an expert in creating customer journeys for tech firms who are ready to take their brands to the next level! Just in the last couple of years, Ginball Digital Marketing took on a tech company in the B2B software industry which was grossing around $2.5MM per year and with the marketing strategies implemented, the tech company grew to over $10MM in revenue.

Ginball is experienced and proficient in creating unique strategies tailored to its clients and their business models. The firm’s comprehensive service offerings, including content strategy, marketing messaging, social media, video marketing, paid media & paid social, and marketing automation, can be used in concert with each other to create a complete marketing strategy that fulfils each of the requirements a client may have. Whether they wish to lead a webinar for a higher priced-point information product or create a sales funnel for an e-commerce business, Ginball has the resources and expertise to realize these strategies for its clients.

As social media becomes an increasingly dominant feature of marketing strategies and campaigns, Ginball is uniquely positioned to offer its clients insights into the ways to capitalize on the newest platform. Whether clients are looking to increase visibility or engagement to see growth in paying customers or revenue, Ginball is able to provide carefully planned digital and social strategies that have delivered significant results for hundreds of Ginball’s clients.

Moreover, as a nimble leader in the space, Ginball is able to provide services and insights less readily available to the bigger marketing consultancies, such as the latest in online audience trends, best digital strategies, and superior customer service. This unparalleled expertise, applied to digital and social media strategies, produces fast results even for Ginball’s larger clients, which are typically slower to adopt these key strategies.

Ginball is able to deploy its simple yet effective methods in digital marketing to achieve visible and successful growth in relatively short timescales. With its forward-thinking approach to marketing, allowing the firm to adopt and adapt to new and incoming platforms quickly, Ginball has already become one of the leaders of the North American digital marketing industry. We look forward to seeing the firm’s continued rise to success over the months and years ahead.

For more information, please contact Jean Ginzburg at www.ginball.co

Original Innovative Marketing And PR Solutions

Headquartered in the greater Seattle area, Three Girls Media, Inc. is a marketing and public relations agency working with businesses in all industries locally and worldwide. Following her success with CEO Monthly, we got in touch with Erika Taylor Montgomery to find out more.

Raising brand awareness and name recognition through traditional and digital tactics, Three Girls Media is committed to providing world-class marketing and PR services for its clients. Going into further detail, Erika begins by providing us with a brief overview of the firm, offering more insight into the diverse range of clients they serve.

“Here at Three Girls Media, we offer our clients a wide range of marketing & public relations services. Included on this extensive list is strategic social media management, advertising and content creation such as blogging, search engine optimisation (SEO), compelling email marketing campaigns, engaging website design and build, media relations, branding and much more.”

“While providing top-notch customer service, rather than relying on cookie cutter packages or hefty monthly retainers, we design a one-of-a-kind marketing or public relations campaign with each business’ specific goals and budget in mind. Naturally, we serve clients in all industries from food, fashion and finance to hospitality, gaming, the medical industry, pets, non-profits and anything else you can imagine.”

Creating unique marketing content for different brands is typically how the firm likes to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

“Every piece of marketing content we create is solely for one particular business,” Erika highlights. “From blog articles and social media updates, to e-newsletters and website copy, we craft marketing materials exclusively for your brand with marketing goals, target consumers, voice, a client’s industry, and budget all taken into account. While many firms automate generic social media updates and blog articles, or purchase them from generic content mills, we learn about what makes your business special and create custom marketing content, updates and articles that showcase your brand’s unique personality and voice. All of the content we create is 100% original and designed specifically for your business.”

Since launching in 2005, the agency has rapidly expanded to become a dynamic team trusted by clients worldwide. Although its staff have been instrumental in the firm’s success, Erika believes it’s important the team maintain a healthy work/life balance.

“Three Girls Media doesn’t just talk about work/life balance, we also live it. Whether that means office dogs barking occasionally, flexible schedules to allow for other commitments or kids at staff meetings now and then, each member of our marketing team is encouraged to make the allowances they need for a happy and healthy life.”

From developing strategies to executing tactics, the firm’s talented crew are crucial to the success of every customer it serves, as Erika points out.

“The Three Girls Media team is integral to the success of each campaign that we engage in. Thanks to their dedication and creative skills, we are able to continue satisfying our clientele and meet their demands.”

Having worked as a remote agency for the last 13 years, the firm were well prepared for working life following the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Prior to the pandemic, all of our team members were working from home anyway so we haven’t been affected in the way many others have.”

Bringing the interview to a close, Erika signs off by revealing how the firm plans to expand not only the team at Three Girls Media, but also their client base and the services they offer.

“Although we are always on the lookout for new team members who want to be part of a fun and close-knit unit, we have a strong mentorship programme which allows us to promote from within.”

“Looking ahead to what the future holds, we will continue to grow our client base, revenue and team while expanding into local, state and federal government contracting which is very exciting. Having already received our certification as a women-owned small business, we’re also excited to have just been certified to work with the federal government.”

For more information, please contact Erika Taylor Montgomery at www.threegirlsmedia.com

Better Laboratories for Better Lives

Leading the evolution in central laboratory services since 2002, LabConnect provides extensive capabilities through a network of laboratories and industry-leading support services, including routine and specialized laboratory testing, sample tracking custom collection kits, sample management, data management, and biorepository and scientific support resources. Situated in Tennessee, USA, but operating on a global scale, LabConnect is on a mission to improve lives by improving central laboratory management services. Thanks to their visionary business model, LabConnect is leading a positive revolution within the sector.

Based in Tennessee, USA, LabConnect is the preeminent provider of central laboratory support services for analytically and logistically complex studies such as immuno-oncology, cell and gene therapies, and rare & orphan diseases. Offering world-class capabilities across a network of laboratories, LabConnect offers unique and innovative services that are designed to accommodate the increasingly specific and challenging requirements of modern-day clinical trials.

LabConnect’s comprehensive selection of services includes routine and specialized testing, real-time sample tracking, data integration, biorepository, sample processing, and specialized, scientific functional outsourcing. These services have been used all across the world by a broad spectrum of clients within the life sciences, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, who use the services to assist researchers in the management of clinical trials.

With the largest network of qualified laboratories in the world, LabConnect offers services that are equipped with cutting edge sample tracking technology and the most extensive list of tests available on the market from one location. As a result, the organization has been able to offer vital Covid-19 testing throughout the last few months, as well as data integration and a recently expanded biorepository.

Known across the industries for their flexibility and versatility to tailor their services to meet individual project needs, LabConnect is on a mission to be the central lab of choice for investigative sites and sponsors, owing to their ambition to better lives across the globe by improving central laboratory management services.

Whilst the needs of the industry have become increasingly analytical and logistically complex, the organization relies on a visionary business model that focuses on the continuous development of innovative solutions that facilitate global execution and delivery of reliable and timely data. LabConnect is growing at a significant rate which far surpasses that of its competitors, in correlation with the increased number and complexity of clinical trials. This includes creating greater scalability in services and capabilities, and, as they support clinical studies in approximately seventy countries, LabConnect has also become reliant on the use of technology and establishment of strong service delivery partnerships to meet the ongoing growth.

Key to the culture of LabConnect is therefore collaboration, both internally and externally. Amongst its core values is the establishment of close, lasting and mutual beneficial relationships with all stakeholders, including fellow employees, clients and vendors. The team reaches their audience through a profitable combination of outreach through business development and multi-channel marketing efforts. In addition, LabConnect invests heavily in its ability to understand and anticipate the needs of stakeholders, treating each one with respect and appreciation and striving to understand the impact of their actions and decisions so as to deliver a positive experience and productive outcome for all.

Whilst the company’s ground-breaking business model may be a primary factor in LabConnect’s success, the innovation that is central to the model would not be possible without the staff who work extremely hard to realize the full potential of their enterprise, which in turn facilitates its rapid growth. As a service-based organization, the staff plays an integral role in its success and potential candidates are recruited with this knowledge in mind through LabConnect’s two inhouse recruiters. It is vital that employees understand the importance of their work to clients’ clinical studies and, by extent, the wellbeing of patients whom these products will one day help.

Predominantly, personal and company success is the result of good communication and as such, LabConnect maintains a collaborative spirit, seeking clarity and brevity in their communications as they work towards a shared goal. LabConnect’s other core values include both personal and company awareness, in which the firm creates candid self-assessments and regularly examines their own strengths and weaknesses to identify areas in which they can improve. The team seeks regular feedback from customers, relying on their strong communication skills to find out how they can best serve their clientele and learn what they can from their competitors.

This also enables LabConnect to learn from one another so as to understand innovations and apply them with creativity to face challenges and acquire solutions. Mistakes are always likely to be made, particularly in an environment that is constantly pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new ways to improve. LabConnect’s team of creative individuals therefore use their positive attitudes and desire to exceed expectations of stakeholders to find innovative solutions that surpass the benchmarks of their industry.

In order to serve their industry and the wider community to an even higher standard, LabConnect has recently partnered its research professionals with the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM), a non-profit organization that supports the development of safe and effective regenerative medicines and advanced therapies worldwide. Fundamentally, ARM is an international network of businesses of varying sizes, non-profit research institutions, patient organizations and other sector stakeholders dedicated to bettering regenerative medicine on a global scale and sharing LabConnect’s vision to improve patient wellbeing. 

Driven by innovation and exceptional client satisfaction, LabConnect continues to grow at a significant rate, by refining their delivery model and business process to evolve and better serve their customers. For instance, LabConnect recently acquired the software rights for SampleGISTICSTM, a sample tracking pen technology that will enable better customization of the tracking and forecasting capabilities and serve a key industry need that currently remains unmet.

With active recruitment under way and full exploration of technological capabilities at the fore of LabConnect’s current mission, the organization is making plans for the expansion of its geographic presence, which will support global growth and enable even greater consistency for clinical studies around the world. Meanwhile, the LabConnect team will continue to research and launch even more innovative solutions, particularly focusing on those that will boost their productivity and offer improved, more comprehensive client services. With almost two decades behind them and many more ahead, it is clear that LabConnect is achieving what it set out to do, and improving lives by making real, positive difference in central laboratory management services.

For more information, please contact Jaimy McCarthy at www.labconnect.com

How to Effectively Use Direct Mail at Each Stage of Your Customers’ Journey

Direct mail is quickly becoming a rejuvenated form of targeted marketing, as one of the most effective ways to communicate with your customers and prospects today. A recent survey showed that 84 per cent of professional marketers believe that direct mail improves advertising campaign performance.

Like online marketing strategies, direct mail can also be used to target customers on each stage of their buying journey – from brand discovery to retaining satisfied customers. Furthermore, with 56 per cent of people believing that print advertising is more trustworthy, businesses may consider it a far superior way to contact prospects.

Here, we look at the four stages of your customer’s buying journey and how you can use direct mail to progress their buying intentions and remain loyal to your business.

Awareness stage

At the beginning stage in your customer’s journey, they’re discovering that they have a problem and will be searching for the solution.

Fortunately, your business is the best solution to their problem. Unfortunately, the customer may not even know that your business exists. This is the perfect opportunity to use a direct mail service to introduce yourself to customers and raise awareness of your business.

Direct mail is an incredibly effective way to provide customers with information about your business, especially in comparison to most digital marketing techniques. Research shows that direct mail can be more influential than online techniques. For example, while 94 per cent of people engage with physical mail, only 20 per cent of emails are opened. Furthermore, 41 per cent of direct mail deliveries persuaded people to continue their research into the business that had posted to them.

It’s important to get the awareness stage of your customer’s journey right – your job is to create the foundations of a long-lasting loyalty between the business and the customer.

During this step, you should remember to not be too assertive – give the customer the information that they need with a small call to action. This should arguably be a small push to visit your website. Did you know that 64 per cent of people have visited a website because of direct mail they have received? Therefore, you should send mail out frequently. It’s important to maintain exposure, particularly during this early stage where you’re trying to raise awareness for your company. Targeting a smaller pool of people more frequently will be more effective than a larger pool of people once.

The utility of your mail is important when in the awareness stage, so making your mail less advertorial is key. For example, tips and tricks relating to your business will establish your organisation as helpful and authoritative. For example, a landscaper may send out gardening tips, or a gym may produce ideas on how to stay healthy.

Consideration stage

When your customer reaches the consideration stage, they’ve realised what their problem is and are beginning to research what exactly can be done to fix it. The customer knows your business, but now they want to know about your products and services and how your business can benefit them.

This is the stage where your customers want relevant information. Direct mail can help save them the research.

When using direct mail during the consideration stage you must provide relevancy. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how you can solve the problem through your product or services. How can a landscaper create the perfect garden space? How specifically can a gym help you to get healthy?

According to one survey, 53 per cent of people believe that the communication that is relevant to their needs is the most influential form of communication. You’re asking customers to take considerations seriously during this stage.

You can make this stage effective through several different campaign methods with direct mail, including the use of coupons to drive customers to return to your website. Personalised mail is also essential to show that you appreciate customers for their interest in your business.

Conversion stage

At this stage in the customer’s journey, they’re ready to decide on what to buy and who to buy it from. Your job is to ensure that the customer knows that you are the best option above all the competition.

To achieve this, you must guarantee that your customer knows that you can fulfil their needs. This stage requires you to be more assured and assertive, highlighting exactly what you can do, how you will do it, and the cost of your product or service.

With direct mail, you can tailor your marketing to target products and services to the people you know are more inclined to accept your offers. Therefore, it’s important to remind people that you are a trustworthy business. Highlighting strong reviews and affiliations with certified organisations remind people that your service or product will achieve what you promise.

Retention stage

After you have secured your customer, the next phase of this journey is to ensure that they will return to your business in the future. The customer will reflect on their experience with your product or service and measure how resolved they feel with what your business has achieved.

It’s important to remain engaged with your past customers. Research shows that after one purchase, consumers have a 27 per cent chance of returning to your store. Beyond this, three-time customers are 54 per cent likely to continue returning.

This retention can be achieved through direct mail by maintaining contact with your customers. Direct mail is a non-invasive way to communicate with customers after they’ve finished their buyer’s journey.

Customer loyalty can be created by creating mail that appeals to individuals. Throughout the buyer’s journey, you will have understood how your customers operate. When did they buy? Which offers best appealed to customers? Using this information with your direct mail strategy is essential to encourage customers to return to your business.

Posting direct mail with these offers during periods when you know customers are more likely to engage with your content. By using their name on the letterhead or envelope, for example, direct mail can create the impression that your business is providing individual members with exclusive offers.

Direct mail is unique in that it allows you to track your customers on every stage of the buyer’s journey. Understanding how your customer will react to your direct mail at each stage is also important, as you allow your brand to grow with their needs and awareness of your product and services. If you want to grow your business and its effectiveness in reaching customers, direct mail is an essential move towards reaching customers at every stage in their journey.

Full Steam Ahead!

Operation excellence is the key factor in the success of ENGIE – Tihama Power Generation Company. Working under the aegis of the ENGIE Group, the Company is a power and steam generating company with 4 power and steam cogeneration plants in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The cogeneration plants are all located within the boundaries of Saudi Aramco fuel processing facilities and are essential for Saudi Aramco process. The success of the team is due in no small part to the work of Eric Maka, named CEO of the Year, 2020 – The United Arab Emirates in CEO Monthly. We take a closer look to find out more.

ENGIE – Tihama Power Generation Company, one of the leading power and steam generating companies in Saudi Arabia, was established in 2003 to provide electrical power and process steam to four of Saudi Aramco’s refineries and gas plants in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Its continued success is a credit not only to the team who have made it such a critical part of Saudi Aramco’s infrastructure and the company’s partner, , but to visionary CEO Eric Maka.

Mr. Maka’s career with ENGIE started in 1995, when he was hired by Tractebel to supervise the construction of power and desalination projects in Belgium, Luxembourg, Singapore, Turkey, Kingdom of Bahrain and Sultanate of Oman. In 2011, ENGIE Group appointed him as SVP Asset Management (Construction) for South Asia, Middle East & Africa region based in Dubai. With eleven sites under construction, the task was not easy, but he proved crucial to the mission’s success. All projects were completed on time and within budget, including many with considerable cost underruns. Having managed such an astonishing achievement, Mr. Maka was promoted to act as head of construction, working his way through the firm to Head of Asset Management for KSA & Kuwait and finally to his current position as CEO of ENGIE – Tihama Power Generation Company.

In 2018 Mr Maka joined ENGIE – Tihama Power Generation Company from a corporate environment and has adapted extremely well to a challenging O&M environment with a demanding client. For the last two and a half years, he has guided the firm through a unique set of circumstances, ensuring that it thrives regardless. He took a more hands-on approach and reorganized of the head office reporting lines. He inspired the whole team to become the benchmark company for all the ENGIE assets in the region. He improved stakeholder engagement and communications, especially with its client Saudi Aramco giving extra care to their satisfaction. In addition to being empowered to represent the Company with authorities, regulatory agencies, lenders, banks and professional organisations, Mr. Maka has been involved in securing the future of the Company.

Of course, the role of CEO for this company is no small task. The 170-strong team ensures that Saudi Aramco is provided with 1,645 MW of electrical power and 6.3 Million Pounds per Hour of process steam for four of its refineries at Uthmaniyah, Shedgum, Ras Tanura and Ju’aymah.

The Company operates four electricity and steam co-generation power plants using General Electric frame seven gas turbines with associated steam generating industrial boilers under a 20-year Energy Conversion Agreement with Saudi Aramco. Needless to say, the ENGIE Group as a whole is fascinated by the potential that Saudi Arabia holds, and has put a great deal of time and effort into making the most of it. ENGIE currently provides 10% of the Kingdom’s power capacity and 11% of its desalinated water capacity and has achieved notable growth in Saudi Arabia, building its assets and project value to USD 8 billion. ENGIE plans to invest in assets and projects worth an additional USD 6 billion in the next 5 years. 

Under Mr. Maka’s expert leadership, ENGIE – Tihama Power Generation has maintained its status as a multicultural equal-opportunity employer, with more than 67% of its workforce being Saudi Nationals. Part of the work that Mr. Maka has been engaged with has revolved around the promotion of a safe company culture and an environment where good industrial practices can flourish. In short, Mr. Maka is not just a leader, but an ambassador for cultural change, where continuous improvement and a strong drive towards operational excellence is key.

Perhaps the biggest sign of Mr. Maka’s success with operational excellence is the certification that the company now operates under. The team is proud to achieve the ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 certifications, the ISO 55001 Asset Management Certification as well as holding NEBOSH Golden Safety Award-2014-2015-2018-2019-2020 for their impeccable standards.

When it comes to managing energy companies, it’s worth paying attention to how Mr. Maka has secured success for the ENGIE Group. Instead of coming in and making a stance, his work has revolved around ensuring that all stakeholders in the region feel comfortable with his methods. It’s a consistent approach that has brought major success to the region, and is one of the many reasons why the ENGIE Group as a whole must be one to watch for the foreseeable future.

For more information, contact: [email protected] or visit www.tihamapower.com

Driving Creativity and Innovation

Situated in Southfield, Michigan, Banks & Company is a full-service management consultancy firm focused on the management of issues and relationships, strategy around a data-driven approach using advanced analytics and innovation that speaks to technology and creative solutions to address complex problems. After receiving his award with CEO Monthly, we caught up with Lloyd Banks to find out more.

Since 2013, Banks & Company has worked alongside municipalities, corporations and non-profits delivering strategies, resource development and coalition building solutions. To start, Lloyd offers more insight into the values of the firm and some of its specialisms.

“Collectively, we aim to provide the highest integrity and credible global solutions to thought leaders that will drive creativity and innovation throughout the organisation. At all times, it is our goal to meet and exceed client expectations. Since we were founded, no major changes have occurred to the business, but the statements have broadened to be more encompassing of who and what we represent as a company. As the operator of a full-service public affairs company, we are experts in government relations, lobbying services, public relations, and marketing for other organisations.”

In the field of management consulting, Banks & Company regularly come up against a number of similar competitors in the region. However, as Lloyd goes on to explain, the firm like to act as problem solvers to retain the business of some of its clients.

“Naturally, our approach has always been about helping an organisation see how we can solve their problems. Firstly, we seek to understand the problem before then demonstrating how our services can help immediately in a short-term way. With the help of our dedicated team, we have a process that ensures a very efficient onboarding process. Weekly client check-ins, regular client activity reporting, budget tracking and quarterly reviews also help ensure objectives are being met. But, ultimately our most unique selling point is the fact we are proactive, and we anticipate needs to enhance relationships through government relations and so forth.”

Regarding the internal culture in place, much of the firm’s success can be attributed to the dedication and commitment of its staff members, which Lloyd is keen to highlight.

“The company culture here is a vibrant one with everyone full of energy, possessing can-do attitude and a spirit of entrepreneurship. The team are a critical part of the client delivery model. Without the support of my team, I would not be as successful. The entrepreneurial approach and attitudes of those working for Banks has allowed us to satisfy the demands of our clients.”

Similarly, in recruitment we look for individuals who will fit into the firm’s culture as Lloyd goes on to explain. “Recruitment is a very strategic process and to make sure we find the right kind of talent we cast the net as wide as possible. Additionally, we like to focus our network on referrals.”

Finally, Lloyd discusses the challenges the firm has faced in recent years before outlining some of its plans for 2021 and beyond. “Many challenges are not always respected in your hometown. Having been working on strategy to open up other markets, it makes sense for me to go in this direction as it is my goal to be a global player in the public affairs space. Currently, the industry is great and there is plenty of work for everyone, the challenge however is location, and it is important to expand.

“Looking ahead, I want to grow and be positioned as a thought leader in the industry. Naturally, my success and elevation will have a direct impact on my company and team members. The more recognition I receive, the more opportunities I will have for my company. Not only do I plan to run and operate a multimillion-dollar company, but I also want my team members to have a huge stake in that financially. In five years, I plan to be operating successfully in at least two more markets while on the path of doing international work.”

Roots vs Risk: How Companies Can Effectively Create a New Culture and Customer-base

It’s common for brands to become stagnant, rooted in their ways and too set on a specific course which restricts their ability to adapt to change. It is the classic example of the “That’s the way we do things around here” mentality.

But over time, competition increases, markets develop and consumer needs shift. Consequently, very few industries have remained static over the past year let alone the last decade, which has created an urgent need for businesses to evolve.  

This notion is backed by Matthew Hayes, Managing Director of Champions (UK) plc, a strategy-led growth agency in the brand, digital and communications space. In this piece, he explains how digging up a business’ roots can actually help sow the seeds for a successful future.

Letting go of your roots

Resistance to change is one of the greatest barriers to a business’s long-term success. This resistance is often the result of a business becoming too attached to its roots, which can sometimes be so deep that they begin to act as an anchor, weighing the business down rather than enabling its growth.

These roots can be categorised as values, goals and characteristics of a business that define how it operates, the messages it communicates, the way in which it conveys them, as well as how consumers perceive the brand.

But as times change, it is common for business roots to become outdated and unsuitable for the current commercial climate. And as a result, businesses begin to face difficulties in keeping customers engaged and in turn, achieving a profitable financial return. To see this in practice, we only need to look at the demise of some the biggest named brands in recent times.

For example, the Arcadia Group is one of the latest victims of digital transformation, a trend that has been gradually impacting the retail space in recent years, and that has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The digital shift has been led due to the need to meet changing consumer expectations and behaviours, with online sales are increasing year on year, and even more customers are expected to be shopping with a digital-first perspective following the pandemic and its related disruption.

Instead of responding to the change in the market and embracing online opportunities, businesses operating as part of Arcadia Group continued to do things as they had always done. And it was this lack of focus on their digital offering, particularly when compared to competitors such as PrettyLittleThing, boohoo and Asos, that ultimately resulted in their commercial downturn. 

Although not so great for the individuals effected in the process, the case offers other businesses a vital lesson in the importance of letting go of outdated roots and adapting to change.

Taking a risk

But due to the deep-rooted nature of such characteristics, there is a perceived risk involved with letting them go. It’s understandable as it will no doubt involve a significant change to business as usual. But, any risks can be mitigated if businesses take a strategic approach in their decision to make change.   

For instance, by undertaking branding exercises, such as a brand audit and the formalisation of a value proposition, stakeholders can gain an in-depth understanding of the business’s current position, its offering and their consumers’ expectations, through the creation of audience personas and its market via detailed industry insights and competitor analysis. From here, there will be a clear view of which aspects are not appropriate for the current commercial landscape, and where there will be opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labour once change has been implemented. 

Once a new proposition has been established in theory, it then needs a detailed project plan to role it out in a practice, combined with an effective communications strategy. Taking a look at an example from our own experience. We rebranded Delta Global, a packaging provider for luxury retailers that, at the time, was doing great things with regard to innovation, technology and sustainability but was failing from a branding perspective to communicate its capabilities in those areas.

Our branding exercises helped to redefine the business’s values, creating a four pillar model that communicates them much more clearly. Formed of innovation, sustainability, luxury and ecommerce, clients and stakeholders can now, at a glance, understand exactly what the business does and how it does it.

And to ensure the business and its position only benefited from the activity, it was complemented with a robust communications strategy. This gained the brand exposure in industry-leading titles, including Forbes, WWD and The Sunday Times, as well as a greater presence across social media channels.

This helped mitigate the risk of unsuccessful change through use of effective communication targeted at new audiences, existing customers and internal stakeholders, who now understand the new direction but also be on board with it.

Is change always necessary?

In short, no. Change for the sake of change can actually be just as damaging to a brand as staying consistent. This is because sometimes, the deep-rooted characteristics of the business form a vital part of the audience’s understanding of the brand and its offering.

This might include family-run business values or branding elements that are connected to the location a business was founded in, for example. Often, it’s unlikely that these elements will be hindering the business’s growth potential, but are instead, adding value to it by acting as a USP and differentiating it from the competition.

However, in these cases, while the message does not need to change, the way in which it is communicated might, as often, it is the methods of message delivery that become outdated. For example, this might mean making better use of online marketing channels such as social media, content creation, SEO and email promotions to support both online and offline activities.

It’s all about making well thought out changes in order to remain relevant, rather than constantly altering your messages and offerings, which could actually cause confusion and disconnect between the brand and its consumers.

Ultimately, businesses need a solid footing upon which they can build on. But while these foundations are important for business growth, like a tree’s roots, some often go off at a tangent and become stuck in the past, anchoring the brand to where it used to be rather than allowing it to move forward into the future.  

Put simply, if you don’t evolve, you die.

Innovative Investment Services from Sterling Chairman

Qatar not only possesses the distinction of being one of the world’s fastest growing economies, but it is also a highly successful example of a diversifying, robust market with ever-expanding infrastructure. It is in this nation blessed with remarkable economic development that Investment House has made its name. A regulated investment banking firm, Investment House offers the whole spectrum of investment advisory services for corporate entities and individuals like. The firm is led by Managing Director Mr. Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al-Suwaidi, who is this month’s recipient of the title of Chairman of the Year, 2020. Join us as we find out more about the firm and the man responsible for its success.

Led by the visionary leader HH The Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and under the wise counsel of HH the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar has prospered and risen to a position of great distinction and honour on the global stage. It is against this backdrop of huge success that Investment House has established itself as one of the leading investment banking services in Qatar. Since the firm’s inception in 2001, Investment House has become an active partner in contributing to Qatar’s ongoing story of success and unprecedented growth. Growth has also been a key factor in the success experienced and achieved by Investment House itself. The growth of the company has been built on a bedrock of the values, the wise recommendations, and the valuable advice of Mr Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Suwaidi, who is behind this successful story. His contribution and strategic vision helped Investment House to move to the next level, and emerge as one of the major players in the investment sphere both locally and regionally.

Today, Investment House is an outstanding Qatari regulated investment banking firm, offering the whole spectrum of investment advisory services for corporate entities and individuals. Its services range from investment banking and real estate investments, to M&A advisory services, private equity, asset management, and brokerage services. The mission of Investment House is to offer innovative and valuable investment solutions to its clients in all local, regional, and international markets through a competitive investment and financial services portfolio in accordance with the principles of Islamic Shariah. The values of integrity, excellence, trust, and commitment also lead the work that the firm does. Investment House upholds the highest standards of professionalism, credibility, and transparency in all aspects of the work carried out.

Investment House is also committed to excellence at every level. The firm is dedicated and devoted to delivering unparalleled excellence in providing investment banking solutions, and developing asset and wealth management services and products that meet the ambitions of the investors. The firm’s unwavering commitment to its customers is founded on the high standards of trust that drives all the interactions. What stands the firm apart from the competition is being one of only two regulated investment firms licenced by the Qatar Central Bank. Investment House also boasts flexibility in providing investment solutions and investor products to every client. The service delivery model means that Investment House listens to clients’ needs, and then tailors funds and investment structures.

Clients take many forms at Investment House, but include family offices, HNWIs, corporate entities, and governmental institutions. Investment House also offered its financial advisory services to Power Bank LLC, a new international bank established in the Qatar Financial Centre, which aims to be a major global investment bank focused on the energy sector.. Power Bank was founded and led is promoted and led by Mr Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Suwaidi, the founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors, as well as being a prominent regional and well-known banker who has more than thirty five years of accumulated experience in the banking sector.

Ensuring that executive-level and top-level relationships are as strong as they can possibly be is the recipient of the title of Chairman of the Year 2020, Mr Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al-Suwaidi. Joining Investment House in early 2020, Mr Al-Suwaidi has one of the most impeccable track records as a business leader, which is strengthened and compounded by more than thirty years of progressive and diverse experience. Drawing on every ounce of his experience, expertise, and understanding, Mr Al-Suwaidi delivers exceptional service to every client that he works with, or whom Investment House partners with.

Al-Suwaidi’s key competencies span the various sectors of finance, investment, people management and development. His background is well-supported by high-level qualifications, training, and skills gained and developed throughout a career that has been built over the course of more than four decades. Having gained no small amount of hands-on experience in providing wise leadership to companies under his care, Mr Al-Suwaidi is undoubtedly one of the best-placed individuals to lead Investment House to new success.

Positioning Investment House in the local market may not have been in the beginning of the firm’s existence, given that it was then the only investment firm licenced by the Qatar Central Bank that is not part of a banking group in Qatar. The firm’s competitors rely on their banking customer base, network, and contacts, whereas Investment House required a lot of time and energy to gain the trust and confidence of customers and investors.

The assets under management at Investment House have grown circa four times in less than one year, and the customer and investors base has also grown by two times in the same period. Though there have been challenges, the firm’s expertise and experience, as well as Mr Al-Suwaidi’s leadership, have seen it become a leader within the industry.

Looking to the future, the firm is planning to offer a large panel of thematic funds, both locally and regionally. Global and local REIT funds are expected to be offered in the market in the second half of 2021, and the company also has access to off-market real estate opportunities in Qatar and in some European countries. Investment House is intending to launch in second quarter of 2021 its first dedicated real estate fund in co-management with one of the leading real estate funds and asset managers in Europe. It is an exciting time for the firm and for Mr Al-Suwaidi as he oversees this new period of growth and success. Both the firm and its Chairman are outstanding, and the success that has been achieved is fully deserved.

For more information, please visit: www.invhouse.com/en 

Reaching For The Top Spot

Headquartered in London, Carrhae Capital is an independent investment partnership, which aims to deliver high quality risk-adjusted returns derived from investing in publicly listed companies operating within Emerging Markets. Since the firm’s inception, the team at Carrhae have enjoyed a meteoric rise to success, thanks to its award-winning leader Ali Akay who recently received the accolade CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Kingdom. We profiled both Carrhae and Ali to discover more about the extraordinary accomplishment they have achieved over the last decade.

Carrhae Capital is a London-based boutique emerging markets asset manager, which oversees in excess of US$ 550 million across hedge fund and long only equity products. The firm was founded in 2011 by Ali Akay, following a successful investment career as a portfolio manager at SAC, HBK and Goldman Sachs Principle Strategies.

Named after a famous historic battle between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire in 53 BC, the lessons learned from this encounter are applied by Ali Akay when investing in distant emerging markets and serve as a reminder of the risks of investing without thorough knowledge; “proceed with humility and caution, always keeping our ears to the ground for sage local advice.”

With this investment philosophy in mind, in the long-run Carrhae aspires to be a top-tier investment in its clients’ portfolios, whichever product they select. Carrhae’s investment approach has led to its hedge fund winning numerous awards for its performance in its class, and the returns of the long only equity product being in the top percentile amongst its peer group.

As emerging markets continue to increase their role in financial and economic activity and businesses become more international, Carrhae’s products should be setup to outperform. Encouraged by the increasing opportunity set for the firm and the pedigree of its investment team, Aziz joined in 2019 as CEO to focus on business development, executing its marketing business plan and strengthening the firm’s client relationships. However, his association with the firm goes back to its inception, when he supported the founding team in raising its initial capital while working at Goldman Sachs.

Being a seasoned financial professional he draws on his extensive experience and relationships accumulated at bulge bracket investment banks, hedge funds, as well as private equity investment experience to enhance the awareness of the firm, its products and its team to both investors and high calibre talent.

The success of a boutique asset management firm is driven not only by its ability to provide a superior investment proposition, but also ensure its clients receive the highest standards of service delivered by a proficient interface. In servicing and prospecting clients, it is becoming ever-more important to provide deeply transparent data and analytics to better evaluate each product’s value addition and its appropriateness. As CEO, Aziz emulates the diligence, integrity, humility and collaboration of Carrhae’s investment team to build trusted relationships, provide a high-level of service and effectively represent its products and information.

Looking ahead to what the future holds, both Aziz and the team at Carrhae will continue to exceed the expectations of clients, as they works towards their goal of being a -tier investment in their clients’ portfolios in the years to come.

For more information, please contat Aziz Faqir at www.carrhaecap.com 

Why Diversity Is the Key to 2021

By Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity In Leadership

There is an increased appetite for real change following one of the most divisive and difficult years in decades. It has never been so important to get inclusion and diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, physical disability and social differences right. Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity In Leadership, tells us ten reasons why diversity is so vital and may well be the key to healthier times in 2021.

  1. DIVERSITY INCREASES AWARENESS AND CURIOSITY. Learning about, recognising and respecting your own and other cultures enables us to understand different perspectives and gives greater insight into varying attitudes and beliefs.  Foster curiosity to fight against ignorance and prejudice.  Encourage your team to be courageous; be curious, practise active listening and demonstrate empathy for a different way of thinking and show them exactly how that is done.
  1. DIVERSITY PROMOTES INDIVIDUALITY. Culturally rich environments teach us that everyone is unique, and we differ not just because of our race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religion, socio-economic status etc., but because of our life experience and personality. And all of those differences are what make us interesting. When we celebrate our differences, it is easier to find commonality and create a more accepting environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves.
  1. DIVERSITY CREATES A HEALTHIER ENVIRONMENT. A workplace lacking in diversity and inclusion will detrimentally affect mental health and have a direct causal relationship with feelings of resentment, anxiety, anger and injustice.  A business not only has to prime the engine with a diverse mix of good promotion candidates but must ensure they have a truly equal opportunity for promotions, not just once but all the way to the executive suite for a healthy, diverse workplace.
  1. DIVERSITY IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS. Responsible, resilient workplaces embrace inclusion, diversity and equality, having a direct positive effect on productivity in the workplace, helping businesses and employees By aligning business objectives with the meeting of human needs, companies can tap into powerful ways to facilitate change. As McKinsey’s have noted, diverse companies are far more likely to outperform their less diverse peers.
  1. DIVERSITY PROMOTES NEW THINKING. A diverse group of people are more likely to have ideas which are distinct from each other, and diverse viewpoints allow for more creative solutions to problems. Recent research suggests that diverse companies make better, bolder decisions and are more likely radically to innovate. As a result they can gain a competitive edge by anticipating such things as trends in consumer demand and consumption.
  1. DIVERSITY UNITES US. Diversity brings society together and unites a range of perspectives, encourages inclusivity and equality, and promotes harmony and unity. Diversity creates space for us to gain awareness, educate, integrate, evolve and include.
  1. DIVERSITY LEADS TO BETTER UNDERSTANDING. ‘Othering’ is the process whereby negative characteristics are attributed to someone because they are deemed different and are labelled as not fitting in. The opposite to that is wanting to learn about someone else’s differences to educate ourselves and to reduce our unconscious biases.
  1. DIVERSITY PREVENTS BULLYING. Successful diverse environments promote inclusivity and help prevent social problems such as bullying. Power differentials are a breeding ground for othering and bullying. Active, genuine inclusion is the most effective way of eliminating dysfunctional, power-play and bullying behaviour.
  1. DIVERSITY REDUCES STEREOTYPES. Understanding, accepting and embracing people’s differences will reduce stereotyping – a critical threat to diversity. Stereotyping can be unconscious (known as an unconscious bias), whereby we type cast because of assumptions or generalisations about someone which relate to their differences from others. Check yourself and your team for unconscious biases by encouraging self-awareness.
  1. DIVERSITY PROMOTES RESPECT – The more time spent interacting with people different to us, the stronger our understanding, acceptance and relationships become, and ultimately our respect for one another. A visible commitment to diversity and inclusion during the crisis is also likely to strengthen a company’s global image.

EDreams ODIGEO Inspires with AI & Technological Innovation

Serving more than seventeen million customers per year across five brands and forty-five markets, the work of eDreams ODIGEO, one of the largest e-commerce businesses in Europe, is truly outstanding.

Overseeing and understanding all of the work done is no easy feat, and that job falls upon the shoulders of CEO Dana Dunne. An inspiring leader and a keen businessman, Mr Dunne is featured in this issue of CEO Monthly having won the title of CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Kingdom.  

The five leading brands of eDreams ODIGEO are Opodo, eDreams, Go Voyages, Travellink, and Liligo, and each have been instrumental in ushering in a new era of travel as the one-stop-shop that offers the widest choice of travel products and services to savvy customers. Technology is empowering consumers to take greater levels of control over every aspect of their lives, including how they travel. eDreams ODIGEO puts this technology to work on behalf of consumers, creating tailored travel plans so that customers can get the best prices at their greatest convenience. Currently, the business provides access to over 274,000 different flight routes and more than 2.1 million hotels across the globe, allowing for a multitude of booking combinations that cannot be found on any other platform.

At the head of the business is CEO Dana Dunne, an impressive businessman who has steered eDreams ODIGEO into a new era of success with his sage guidance and expert decision-making.

Mr Dunne has been CEO of eDreams ODIGEO since January 2015, having originally joined the firm back in 2012. What Mr Dunne brings to the table, besides strong leadership, is a real blend of technology and travel expertise that builds on his previous position of Chief Commercial Officer at easyJet. Before that, he was at AOL for four years as both Chief Executive of AOL Europe and Head of Company Transformation. Mr Dunne’s wealth of experience and expertise has no doubt played a key role in the continued success of eDreams ODIGEO, with the firm’s technological expertise in particular differentiating the business from others in the industry.

Alongside an unparalleled offering of content and leadership within the emerging world of artificial intelligence, eDreams ODIGEO outshines the competition. The company’s complex algorithms currently make over 48 billion predictions every day to anticipate traveller needs and offer the ultimate breadth of choice to customers.

It is clear that the firm is leading in technological innovation within its sector, and Mr Dunne’s leadership has been a crucial factor. A key example of the business’ thought leadership is the creation of Prime, a truly revolutionary product that is the very first subscription programme in the travel industry. Prime is hugely valuable not only to the business of eDreams ODIGEO, but also to the firm’s customers and business partners as it allows for a deeper customer relationship, garnering loyalty. Technological insights have long been a staple of Mr Dunne’s experience, and this latest innovation truly shows that. Another example is a recently launched AI-powered travel trends service which is currently being utilised across the globe by tourism boards, policy makers and local governments.

Like many businesses, eDreams ODIGEO has had to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic; a challenge that Mr Dunne has faced head on. His focus during these unprecedented times has been on three key areas: the teams, the customers, and the business. The business’ remote working programme has been a success throughout the last year, keeping teams engaged and highly motivated despite the challenging external environment. On the customers side, the pandemic has forced many travel providers to alter or cancel their services entirely. eDreams ODIGEO, however, leveraged its tech capabilities once again to quickly launch an enhanced version of its self-service online tool so that customers could easily manage their own bookings, including changes and cancellations, without having to call the firm.

Ultimately, it is Mr Dunne’s leadership as CEO along with the business’ fantastic workforce that has seen eDreams ODIGEO navigate the pandemic in the best way possible and emerge stronger from it. The business entered the pandemic with high levels of liquidity and a strong balance sheet and have managed to keep a strong cash position throughout this period.

Flexibility and agility are core to Dunne’s plans for the business in the future, with Mr Dunne believing that businesses that cannot fold this into their offering will struggle to remain relevant in 2021 and beyond. In the meantime, as COVID-19 continues to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, Mr Dunne will continue to lead with clarity and conviction.

For more information, please contact Dana Dunne at eDreams ODIGEO via www.edreamsodigeo.com

For business enquiries, please visit: https://www.edreamsodigeo.com/partnership/

‘Zombie’ Stored Will Plague High Streets for Months, Warns ParcelHero

‘Zombie’ stores – whose name and online business have been taken over but whose physical stores remain half-alive while stocks are cleared – could hasten the death of the High Street, warns the home delivery expert ParcelHero.

The e-commerce delivery expert ParcelHero is warning that ‘zombie’ stores will haunt UK High Streets this year. It fears that shops such as Debenhams, Burtons and Dorothy Perkins could be revived as soulless versions of their former selves following lockdown.

Over the last few weeks, many of Britain’s former favourite retailers have been snapped up by e-commerce giants Boohoo and ASOS, who have only bought the brand and online businesses. Those physical shops whose stock was not bought as part of the takeovers will be left to wind down, effectively feeding off other High Street shops by undercutting them to clear stocks before their final closures.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, warns that over 560 stores will eventually close as their brands move online only. This is due to ASOS’ purchase of Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT plus Boohoo’s buyout of Debenhams and potential takeover of Burtons, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.

‘It’s a horror story for Britain’s High Street. The twist at the end of the tale is that some of these stores will come back to life after lockdown ends but their souls will have gone as their futures move online. Instead, these ‘zombie’ stores are likely to undercut local retailers because of the need to clear remaining stocks. This can only further injure other businesses on the High Street.

‘The administrator of Debenhams, FRP Advisory, has already announced: ‘Once Debenhams stores are able to reopen stock liquidation can continue in stores, the website will be operated by boohoo. The closing down sale will continue in stores for several weeks until the stock liquidation is completed and the value of this stock will be retained for creditors. Regrettably, all the UK stores will then be permanently closed.’

‘It’s not only Debenhams’ physical stores that are likely to be reanimated for a while. Burtons, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis shops may also reopen as ‘zombie’ stores after lockdown, especially if they are also purchased by Boohoo. The online giant did not purchase Debenhams’ remaining stock as part of its takeover deal, nor did it buy the assets of previous brands it has snapped up such as Coast and Karen Millen. These stores were forced to remain open while the remaining stock was sold.

‘In contrast, ASOS paid an extra £65 million for current and pre-ordered stock at Topshop and its other newly acquired brands, and it now seems unlikely these stores will ever reopen, even for a closing down sale.

‘Those “undead” town centre stores that do reopen, such as Debenhams, will be staffed by many of the 25,000 workers who know their jobs are going once this wave of closures ends. They are unlikely to be fully focused on customer service. It’s a retail nightmare.

‘‘Even when this wave of closures is over, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Other big, High Street names are also being snapped up by online-only retailers. For example, Evans is also leaving a plus-sized hole in the High Street after being bought by Australian e-commerce experts City Chic. The new owner says it will continue the business only online and that the remaining stores will be closed “in due course”.

‘ParcelHero has been warning about the dangers of a shift to ‘pureplay’ online-only stores for some time. We believe a balanced ‘brick-and-click’ approach will be best for retailers and shoppers alike. ParcelHero’s influential report ‘2030: Death of the High Street’ has been discussed in Parliament. It reveals that, unless retailers develop an omnichannel approach that embraces both online and physical store sales, the High Street as we know it will reach a dead-end by 2030.

Read the full report at: https://www.parcelhero.com/blog/news-updates/2030-dead-end-for-the-high-street

Recession Proof Sales Tips to Boost Business Growth in 2021

Selling in a global pandemic is no easy task, not least when businesses have been battling against the odds for almost a year. However skilled sales people are taking a proven approach to tackling the challenging sales climate, and – perhaps surprisingly for some – it doesn’t involve shouting about the bells and whistles of their product or service.

Tony Hughes, CEO at leading specialists in sales, communications and negotiations training and pioneers of the world-famous SPIN® Selling, Huthwaite International, reveals how the most successful sales people are boosting business growth by taking stock of the lessons of 2020 and teaming this with proven methodologies, to step away from feature selling and focus on adding real value for clients in 2021.

Stop talking and start listening

Last year, people were overwhelmed with content, more so than ever before. The worse thing a sales person can do is to add to the noise. If you want to stand out in a crowded market, don’t be just another business shouting their way through the pandemic – stop talking and start listening to your customer’s needs.

Forget the script you have in mind about the bells and whistles, advantages and USPs of your product or service, and starting thinking about who you are talking to and what they might need so you can ask the right questions – invite them to tell you more. Find out how they’ve dealt with the crisis, how they’ve been impacted – show that you really want to help them find solutions to the actual problems they’re facing now.

As sales people we are naturally passionate about our offering, but this passion can often stand in the way of effective sales methods. Showing clients you’re passionate about them and their concerns will help you to break through the noise and provide a relevant product or service that they will really value.

Have a plan

Of course, the most effective salespeople enter a pitch already knowing what those all-important client needs are. By preparing in advance, conducting research and planning to meet the needs of your clients, you can position yourself as a problem solver and build credibility quickly.

By giving yourself the time to do your research and fully explore the wants and needs of the both the individuals and organisation you are working with, you’ll ensure you consider all the factors that will impact your client’s market both today and in the future.

Be prepared to be adaptable

Despite the all-important plan, it’s also essential to try to stay ahead of the game and anticipate what might happen. In acknowledging to the customer that you’re aware their Buying Cycle™ will inevitably change during this turbulent time, your understanding and flexibility helps them to see you as trustworthy. Offering to be patient yet keeping in touch regularly will help to build a solid relationship overtime.

Being adaptable doesn’t mean being unprepared, it’s about anticipating changes and issues before your customer highlights them to you. After almost a year of the pandemic, clients will not just be wanting adaptability they will be expecting it.

Ensure constant and consistent communications

We know how easy it is to be all consumed by your own worries and stresses during a crisis, and your customers will feel exactly the same. Increasing your communication with a client is the best way to nurture the relationship. Whether it’s internal, to customers or to third parties this communication is reassuring and helps keep spirits and motivations high.

When people don’t feel informed, they tend to panic which stops them from focusing and prioritising. Keep conversations clear and consistent. If the advice and updates are confusing and provide conflicting opinions and frequent changes in direction, confidence will be damaged or lost completely. Many businesses were so focused on their external communications in 2020 and looking as though the pandemic hadn’t affected them, they forgot to communicate internally. Ensure everyone, both inside and outside your organisation understands your business and current position so all customer touch points are unified in their message.

Be confident, not bullish

Confidence is a vital skill for any sales person, that said it’s important that this isn’t confused with (the archetypal, yet false) aggressive or bullish behaviour often associated with complex sales. This can be a challenge whilst communicating virtually, so be mindful of your online behaviours.

Being a confident sales person means harnessing and building a quiet, calm but unshakable belief in yourself, your company and your offering. This is important, as committing to a sale can often be overwhelming for buyers. Don’t forget to show your emotions as this kind of verbal behaviour also reveals something personal, which is likely to encourage trust within a conversation, making the customer more likely to be honest about their thought process.

Huthwaite’s research shows that up to 30% of sales are left open due to unaddressed concerns. By remaining confident in your product, you create an open environment for questions and issues to be raised and addressed in advance, helping to build a stronger relationship.

Safety over price

In hard times like those many businesses have faced over the last year, consider that people may be looking for safety over price. More often than not, businesses will not go for the cheapest option anyway as it can ring alarm bells

Customers want to know that someone is going to be around and they want to believe that they can feel safe in your hands. As we go through what is hopefully the final hurdle of this pandemic, businesses are looking forward and want to ensure they’re still around to see the back of it, their confidence in you as a safe option will help them to achieve that.

As businesses prepare to secure growth in 2021, it’s important that sales people focus on the issues their offering is resolving for customers. By meeting customer needs by offering tangible solutions, sales people can generate trust, demonstrate value and build stronger relationships for the future.

To discover how your business can benefit from investing in quality sales skills, visit: https://www.huthwaiteinternational.com/business-performance-solutions/sales-training/

The Impact of COVID-19 on Modern Retailers

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the landscape of the retail sector. Social distancing regulations and civil anxiety surrounding the virus mean that physical stores do not offer the same browsing experience as we would usually expect. Meanwhile, a growing reliance on online shopping has been boosted by instructions to remain at home as much as possible.

The impact of COVID-19 and our new shopping behaviours have a profound effect on retailers. Changed buying experiences, falling and rising sales, and new consumer demands have defined an adverse year in retail. Here, we look at how customers and businesses have been affected by these changes.

Rising and falling sales

The Office for National Statistics points to eight key industries within the retail sector to define its overall performance since the start of the pandemic. Only two industries managed to increase their sales in the immediate months following lockdown. Unsurprisingly, these were food stores and non-store retailing (otherwise known as businesses which do not utilise a traditional brick-and-mortar location). All other industries within the retail sector saw their figures drop the most in April.

While most industries have since recovered and now show high sales figures when compared to February, two still fall behind their historic performance. Clothing and fuel saw sales drop by 67.6% and 60.7% respectively. This is significantly lower than the 22.2% drop the entire retail sector experienced. The latest figures indicate that the pandemic’s impact is still damaging. In October, clothing was still 13.8% below February sales. Fuel was still 8.8% down.

The reasons for these fallings are a consequence of reduced demand. Limited social activities reduced the need for new clothing. Working from home, furlough, and further travel restrictions also reduced the need for fuel.

However, there are some promising industries within the sector. Household goods now achieve sales 14.4% above what they achieved in February, despite falling 50.5% in April. In fact, this recovery is seen across the board. Total retail in October achieved 6.7% more sales than it did in February. This indicates that the sector should remain optimistic for a stimulating recovery and boost when restrictions are eased, and normal consumer behaviour resumes.

An online boost

During the initial national lockdown, non-essential stores closed to prioritise the public health crisis. Unsurprisingly, consumers became more reliant on online shopping services as reflected in the rise of none-store retailing sales. But the lockdown changed more than the shopping experience, the limitations on public activities changed the demand for some products and services. For example, where social activities were limited, exercise was encouraged. In-store clothing retailers felt the force of lockdown, but for online sport sales companies, sales saw a significant boost. Cycling saw an increased popularity during lockdown, with many searching for more isolated ways to exercise and commute to work. For example, Google searches for ‘mountain bikes’ increased by 522% between February and April in 2020.

One bike sales company, Leisure Lakes Bikes, shared how their online activity grew during the pandemic. Demand for bicycles increased. In fact, visits to their website increased by 295% between March and April — only one month. By May, visits to their website had increased by 580% compared to March. The appeal of cycling during the lockdown was strong.

Time on their website also increased. Between March and April, the average time spent on the website increased by 57%. This shows that consumers are spending longer online, researching products and showing a real intention of making a purchase. One consumer survey found that 55% of customers prefer to visit stores before buying online. COVID-19 is directly responsible for changing this consumer behaviour.

This example reflects changing customer demands and the impact of selling online. Recognising the retail landscape, offering a product which consumers need, and offering an unchallenging buying experience will allow modern retailers to benefit during this period of uncertainty.

Prioritising responsibility

The retail sector is adapting to the changing views of consumers. Customers look towards stores to provide a safe and COVID-secure environment through hand sanitation stations, social distancing recommendations, and PPE equipment and cleanliness among staff. However, the coronavirus pandemic has not just pointed towards an improved health awareness in businesses. Other aspects, including the environment and social contributions, are a focus of consumer choices.

The pandemic has created a sense of ‘mindful retail’. One consumer index suggests that during the pandemic, 55% of people are shopping in local stores in their community or are buying more locally sourced products.

In the same manner, 61% of consumers say they are making more environmentally friendly or sustainable choices when shopping. Even more, 89%, of these people intend to continue this habit when the crisis ends. This means that a majority of people intend to prioritise sustainability in the future through their shopping choices.

Retail businesses have responded to these changing behaviours, promising to ‘build back better’ in the future. While the pandemic may have impacted the affectability of sustainable strategies, there is a clear drive to improve the retail sector in the future in this respect. One study of the largest businesses in the retail sector shows this intention. Retail giants, including Dunelm, B&Q, and IKEA lead among companies which mention sustainability most through their social media and professional platforms. Measures may include recycling, limiting waste, and utilising renewable energy.

The retail sector has been irreversibly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Whether looking towards consumer behaviour, e-commerce rises, or company culture, retail businesses must reflect on their potential recovery in the future and understand how they can improve on their services going forward. As the pandemic recovery continues, businesses must adapt to the constantly changing landscape of retail.

How to Choose Between YouTube and Facebook for Video Ad Campaigns?

What happens when millions of bored people are stuck at home due to coronavirus lockdowns? One result is a boom in streaming services. Indeed, there’s never been a better time to consider video advertising.

Business sectors like e-commerce, health and fitness, home entertainment, home decor and remodeling, and online education are booming. Business and finance news sites are surging. And millions of new day traders are crowding into trading and investing apps that are easy to learn.

Marketers already know how important video ads can be for any brand’s marketing strategy. They have one of the highest conversion rates when it comes to reaching potential customers. Two of the most popular places for brands to run video ads are Facebook and YouTube.

Many marketers wonder which of these two platforms is the best for their brand. Which one will give the best return on investment? This article will weigh the pros and cons of running video ads on Facebook vs YouTube to help marketers decide which is best for their needs.

What Are Video Ads?

Video ads can appear in numerous places online including on social media and within streaming content. Brands are using video ads more now than ever before, as many marketers are discovering that video is one of the best ways to engage with potential and current clients.

Video ads can be different from television commercials. Many brands are making longer videos, which is only really possible on the internet. For example, more useful “how to” content that is only implicitly advertising is popular as opposed. Brands are also attempting to be more innovative in their online video ads, as consumers expect this online.

Types of Video Ads

There are several types of video ads, and the types can vary based on whether the ad is used in social media or streaming content.

Types of Social Media Video Ads

When used in social media, video ads can be placed within the main content or to the side. They can show up when users are scrolling or can remain static outside of the content. There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these placements. Users are more likely to notice an ad if it’s in their feed, but if it’s static, it’s in their frame longer.

Video ads in social media can also be played in three ways. First, they can require the user to click a play button. Second, they can autoplay as soon as the video player rolls onto the screen. And third, they can play if the user hovers a mouse over the player.

Types of Streaming Video Ads

In streaming video, ads can occur at several locations within the video. Some ads occur before the main media, while others come at the end. There are also video ads that are interspersed throughout the media, much like television commercials.

In certain streaming situations, ads can also stand alone from the main content. These ads may be on display elsewhere on the screen or on top of the main media. Users will have to click on these ads to view them.

Streaming video ads also have the option for skippable and non-skippable. With a skippable ad, the user can dismiss it after watching a set amount of time. Non-skippable ads must be watched, but are usually short — 15 seconds or less.

Pros and Cons of Facebook

With over 2.7 billion users, Facebook is a place where you can get your brand seen. Many users log on several times a day, giving you increased chances of visibility. There are a few ways you can go about setting up a Facebook marketing campaign.

Types of Facebook Video Ads

Facebook offers three types of video ads: (1) in-stream, (2) feed, and (3) stories. In-stream ads show during a video someone watches on Facebook. Feed ads show up in users’ news feeds as they’re scrolling. Stories ads are interspersed through other stories as the user progresses from one story to the next.

Pros of Using Facebook Video Ads

One of the advantages of using Facebook ads is just the sheer number of people who are on Facebook. Brands have a greater chance of being seen by as many people as possible. And it is all but certain that your target audience is well represented on Facebook regardless of who they are.

Related to this, Facebook offers marketers more options when it comes to targeting. It’s possible to target ads very narrowly and retarget the same people.

Cons of Using Facebook Video Ads

Facebook’s 2.7 billion users is a sign of the site’s appeal. But that also means that your ads are competing against a lot of other parts of the site for attention. Marketers have to be smart to stand out.

Facebook ads can be expensive. While they only charge if a user views a video, they count anything over three seconds as a view. Additionally, their cost-per-view is generally more expensive than YouTube.

Facebook ads are also a bit more difficult to navigate to make sure you’re reaching your target audience. Experienced marketers can have a lot of success because Facebook offers great control. But those who are new to video advertising may want to start with YouTube, as it’s more beginner-friendly.

There are over a billion hours of video watched each day on YouTube, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to get your brand in front of users. Many people start doing video ad campaigns on YouTube before moving into other platforms because they make it relatively easy to set up video ads.

Types of YouTube Video Ads

YouTube offers a good selection of video ad options. Display ads show up in the search results as an option when users are choosing a video. Within a video, there are bumper ads that users are required to watch before their video. There are also skippable and non-skippable ads and overlay ads that are shown over a video.

Pros of Using YouTube Video Ads

YouTube also has over 2 billion monthly logged-in users, meaning that brands have an extensive reach on the platform. Users can spend quite a bit of time on YouTube, meaning there are more opportunities to see ads.

Advertising on YouTube can be relatively cheap. The platform doesn’t charge for the first 30 seconds (or the length of the ad), so an ad only costs if a user chooses to watch it.

YouTube ads are targeted in conjunction with a user’s Google searches. This feature can potentially provide more data for narrow targeting.

Cons of Using YouTube Video Ads

As with Facebook, your video ads have a lot of competition for attention. It can be especially difficult to stand out in this crowd. Marketers have to work hard to differentiate their brand from others.

Historically, YouTube didn’t allow as much customization as Facebook. This is mostly untrue anymore. Marketers can now put calls to action on videos, for example. But there may be small things you want that do that YouTube doesn’t allow. Make sure you check first.

There can also be issues with targeting. While you can and should target using videos, YouTube allows its creators to tag their own content, meaning the tags aren’t always accurate.

Final Thoughts

While both Facebook and YouTube have their merits when it comes to video ad campaigns, overall it seems that YouTube is the better choice for people starting out. Video ads are cheaper. The platform is also user-friendly.

Just the same, Facebook has great features for targeting users and good options for ads. If you are experienced with video ads, they are worth considering.

And, of course, if you know your potential customers are primarily on one platform or the other, you really have no choice. You need to go where your customers are.

Keeping Your Team Connected and Beating Work From Home Fatigue

By March, most of the UK will have worked from home for a full year. For many this will have been completely out of the ordinary and a real shock to the system. Even after a year, for those without the setup or intention of working remotely, this will be having a real impact.

The working from home guidance has been reinforced with the introduction of a new lockdown. Some may have just been used to going back to the office and this news will come as a blow. For many, a clear boundary between work and home life will be increasingly difficult to maintain.

With ‘work from home fatigue’ now becoming a very real concept, Sam Hill, Head of People and Culture at BizSpace shares tips on how business leaders can help to combat this unique form of burnout in a very different type of workplace.


Without any physical interaction and the reward from actually being in an office, it can be difficult to really nail down the reason for getting up and working from the next room – aside from the money. It is vital that every member of the team is aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, aside from simply logging the hours and getting through the day. Senior management, team leaders and line managers must be communicating this from the top down through the likes company-wide communication, keeping teams updated on business progress, any wins, challenges and opportunities. 

This communication then needs to filter down through the hierarchy with each level of the team being aware of how their work contributes to the overall goal of the company. No role in a team is obsolete and everyone contributes to the success of the overall goal and defining this purpose, more now than ever before, is vital to give your team a sense of purpose and being.


Maintaining good and open communication is a vital part of this strategy to managing the fatigue of working from home. The success of most businesses is rooted in the comms approach throughout. Many office workers across the country may be living alone, in shared accommodation or having to juggle the added pressures of being at home more often, like childcare for example. 

All of this can lead to feeling a sense of isolation from the team and the company, something that can come as a real shock to the system. While many won’t have a choice but to be working from home, team leaders could encourage the use of instant messaging like Slack and Google Chat. While daily huddles and weekly catch-ups with a line manager/mentor using a mixture of video and voice calls help to keep updated and on top of targets, with managers offering a steer and guidance. Keeping this constant open door to communication can replicate that feeling of being in the office where teams can so easily communicate and celebrate wins with each other. Offering that sense of gratification can go a long way to ensuring that the team feels valued while segregated. 


The traditional working hours are now no longer ‘normal’, with many of us now juggling responsibilities from home that we didn’t have to during the working day, like childcare etc. This can lead to a feeling of needing to prove that all work is being done, leading to overworking and in turn, burnout. Thousands of us are defined by the 9-5, taking lunch at the same time each day and having a physical presence in front of colleagues to prove we are actually working. At home, we don’t have this way of ‘proving’ ourselves externally. 

To combat this and prevent a team that is working over capacity, team leads must show that they trust their team, they can do this by being flexible and less formal, where meetings are required, keeping these streamlined and avoiding typical lunch hours or times early in the morning where some may be taking advantage of the new hours. Setting attainable and broad deadlines with a lot of notice will allow flexibility and give enough time to be met.


When delegating work, be absolutely clear of the deadlines and what the top priorities are. For the more inexperienced members of the team, being in the office has a monumental impact on their progression and will allow them to pick up skills and lean on peers for guidance. As a team leader or manager, making workload priorities explicit from the offset and checking in once a week on progress can help to guide the workload without micromanaging and guide those that may need more of a steer.


Taking a break from the dining room table or home office is key to keeping a clear and focussed mind throughout the day. Workers are likely to be spending more time at their screens with no need to leave the house, whereas heading out to get lunch is the norm when in an office setting. WIth longer nights, we must get the most out of the short amount of daylight we have. But how do you ensure your team is not neglecting their own need for fresh air and daylight?

Using instant messaging, a social chat can be an escape for many employees to talk about everything that isn’t work. Encouraging a weekly thread where the team can share photos of their week and something they have done might be a nice way to encourage people to do more other than stay in the house. Apps like Strava that track exercise can also be a great team building activity that encourages movement. Creating a leaderboard for the amount of miles each person logs in exercise outside should encourage competition amongst the team. It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise either, so whether they’re walking or in a wheelchair, riding or running, it encourages the team to get outside and spend time away from the screen.

How the Pandemic has Unlocked a New Customer Base for Small Businesses

During lockdown in the UK, there was no question that SME businesses and local traders were hit hard. Around 80 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK have seen a revenue impact in the last few months, due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdown.

Despite this, many local businesses have made it through extremely testing times and now have a stronger, and more loyal, customer base than ever before. In the height of lockdown, many consumers began to see it as their duty to help support local businesses and see them thrive against all odds.

There were various ways in which people supported, and are still supporting, local businesses such as pubs, bars, and cafes. In one survey, 36% of people said that they’d supported local enterprises by utilising their takeaway/delivery services and 30% said they had purchased vouchers; 29% said that they had recommended their favourite businesses to friends and family, and 20% said that they’d donated to a few online fundraising initiatives.

Evidently, people were willing to make the shift to shopping local at the beginning of lockdown and, thanks to this, many small traders have a thriving new customer base. The question now, as we move forward into uncharted territory, is how can traders retain, and capitalise on, this customer base? Read on to discover our top five tips.

1. Use your delivery experience as a new marketing channel

In the initial phases of lockdown, most small businesses were prompted to adapt their business. For many, this meant offering online delivery options instead of in-person services. Even though people are able to visit places in person once more, it’s important that you continue to offer an alternative, as this could also work as a new marketing channel for your business.

Omnichannel marketing is the concept of providing customers with an integrated shopping experience, including both online and in-person shopping. During times when many people are still dependant on ordering products online, work to solidify your brand as the go-to home delivery service in the area, and your business will continue to grow. To create a truly memorable delivery experience, consider compliment slip printing as a way to add a personal touch for customers.

2. Create an agile strategy and be ready to adapt

In one survey, it was revealed that 28% of SME businesses doubted their ability to sustain their supply chains, while 24% were concerned about being able to successfully retain their employees. Evidently, a new strategy is needed for the majority of local businesses in the UK. You may have been able to stay afloat thanks to customer loyalty during the initial stages of lockdown, but chances are, that was partly because your business proved to be adaptable and you acted fast, thinking on your feet.

No one knows what the coming months will bring, so the ability to be flexible is essential for all local businesses. Listen to your customer base, respond to their needs and create an agile strategy around them rather than sticking to your pre-lockdown best practice.

Although it can be hard to budget for all of the small-business-essentials, your strategy should involve a marketing budget that allows you to interact with your customer base, keeping loyal customers engaged while attracting an even wider following.

3. Consistent communication is key

As your customer base has seen you through some difficult months, it’s likely that you already have a healthy social media following and consumers have been staying in the loop with everything you have on offer. So, what are the next steps?

Use your social media to keep people engaged. Be sure to consistently communicate with them and let them know all the exciting things that you’ve got coming up. By asking your followers to share your messages further, you’ll be able to reach a much wider customers base, so now is the perfect time to run social media competitions in which you ask your followers to share a post and tag their friends.

Communication is also essential right now because big changes could happen at any point. Don’t leave your customers in the dark. Instead, always be clear on your opening hours, delivery options, and any special promotions that you’re running.

4. Express gratitude through loyalty schemes and offers

One of the best ways to capitalise on the customer base you were able to cultivate throughout the early stages of lockdown, is to show gratitude and thank them for their unwavering loyalty. What better way to do so than implementing a rewarding loyalty scheme? Not only will this retain valuable customers, but if you incorporate it into your marketing efforts it will attract new potential customers to come and reap the rewards of choosing your business. 

5. Share your story

Finally, remember to maximise one of the main reasons why local customers chose to support you throughout lockdown instead of a much larger corporation: the emotion and ‘realness’ of a small, community-based business. Share your lockdown story with your customers and don’t forget to thank them for the part they played in it.

Did your business step in to help others within your community during times of crisis? If so, incorporate that uplifting story into your marketing efforts and remind people that by supporting you, they’re not only helping one small business thrive but playing a real part for their community.

The future is unclear, but by being flexible, engaging your customers, and putting effort into both your digital and print marketing, you will have the tools to continue to build your business up. Independent businesses rely on their loyal customer base, so be sure to put your customers at the centre of your strategy.

Storytelling: The Must-have Marketing Tactic for 2021

As we enter 2021 with a fresh and positive mindset, we are also entering the New Year with a brand-new set of tactics to help reach new consumers by placing brands, products and services at the forefront of desired audiences.

When it comes to brand marketing, storytelling is pivotal when trying to create relationships with consumers. By utilising emotion and taking a humanistic approach in this, brands are able to provide consumers with reasons as to why they should buy into their products, without a pushy, non-emotive hard-sell.

And with that in mind, Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) PLC, explains why storytelling is a must-have tactic for the year ahead. 

The art of storytelling

Now more than ever before, resonating with the audience on a personal level is key, and what better way to do that than through storytelling.

Marketing doesn’t always have to be about a direct sales pitch, but rather a connection and relationship that has been built up over time. And with that, comes brand loyalty and customer retention.

When done effectively, storytelling is truly an art within itself. Sales should equate to product education rather than direct instruction. And it is this, that makes people subconsciously realise their need or want for a product or service.

Storytelling takes the customer on an educational journey, allowing them to understand the brand, what it stands for, what the benefits are to them and why its products are good value for money. This then leads customers to build strong feelings of want and desire, rather than just need.

This is all part of creating a brand. Customers begin to feel something about it, which is want warrants a business or product the status of a brand. And it’s this emotional connection that differentiates you from being just a commodity seller based on price, and positions you as a recognisable ‘brand’ that people engage with on a deeper level.  

And research demonstrates that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable and effective than facts, which is why brand storytelling is a must-have tactic for 2021.

How to tell a story

Creating a compelling narrative requires a carefully devised long-term strategy. But, while this is an important element, what is perhaps the defining factor in commercial success is its ability to resonate with us, as humans. 

Storytelling should be powerful and filled with emotion, in whatever capacity that may be. From laughter and happiness to sadness and grief, emotion can come in a plethora of varieties.

Emotion is what captures the consumer and when a story is both personable and relatable, it builds brand love and deepens the connection between the brand and the consumer.

Not only that, but emotion also impacts the purchasing decisions of consumers and without it, businesses are much less likely to make that all-important sale.

And if brands combine emotion with consumer needs, then they have the recipe for success.

With the rapid onset of digitisation across all industry sectors fuelled by the COVID-19 crisis, the way in which a brand tells their story is having to change in order to keep up with the times and meet the newfound needs of consumers and channels.

With the plethora of channels and shortening attention span of the consumers, video content is the best way to evoke emotion. Put simply, videos are more engaging and because of that, will continue to play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix throughout 2021.

They are easy to understand, digest and share and typically create a deeper connection between the brand and consumer, meaning that people will resonate with it much more.

Storytelling done right 

No one is better at brand storytelling and investing in emotions than the world-famous Disney. From its theme parks and hotels to its films, merchandise and staff, the entire brand has been built from the ability to tell a story, and consistency of delivery.

For consumers to truly connect with a brand, they must implement consistency across their strategy, messaging and storytelling. And while there may be creativity in the way these messages are conveyed, the underlying messages and ethos must remain to be consistent.  

The Disney experience plays a pivotal role in the brand’s story. It’s narrative and essence completely come to life when consumers interact with its offerings, taking on a role within the storyline. In doing so, deeper emotional bonds are created, bringing the brand to the forefront of both people’s minds and memories.

Similarly, gym-wear brand Sweaty Betty have also become well recognised thanks to its ability to tell a story. What began as a normal brand selling high-quality gym-wear that sat outside of the norm, became known worldwide for changing its narrative by becoming so much more than just a provider of gym-wear.

Sweaty Betty is not only a brand for women, created by women, but a brand that listens to its consumers. It’s messaging such as ‘respect your sweat’ and ‘empowering women through fitness and beyond’ is reflective of inclusivity, body positivity and raises awareness of diversity, using its brand, products and people to continue to tell that very story.


A must-have tactic for 2021

In order to keep up and remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds, brands need to focus their strategies on telling a story.

Storytelling is as old as mankind, dating back to cave paintings and the bible. And modern-day storytelling allows brands to use the full extent of multi-channel media, applying to all of the five senses. It allows the brand to educate, taking the consumer on an educational journey rather than advertising, which can only convey one message at a time.

It can build in sub plots, ethos, ethics and values, bringing the full personality of the brand as well as the people behind these brands to life, while also highlighting how these ‘personality traits’ mirror those of the consumer.

It is through this ‘bonding’ that the consumer can feel for the brand, rather than simply seeing or knowing about it. Feeling is a pivotal part of branding, and without it, the brand and its products, are just a commodity, based on nothing more than consumer needs and cost.

Brands are consumed based on a want or desire, with price being far less prevalent. Therefore, brands offer businesses far greater profit margins and a more loyal consumer base – the holy grail.

And when executed effectively, the story helps build brand love through evoking a deeper, more authentic connection with its consumers.

As a result, brand storytelling is priceless, and quite simply a must-have tactic for 2021 and beyond.

Have Learner Drivers & Public Transport Avoiders Boosted Car Sales?

In what has been a turbulent time for the industry, car dealerships across the UK have been desperately trying to claw back car sales. To paint a statistical picture of the downfall, figures for new private car registrations dropped by 98.7% in April, the worst downturn in 70 years. Only 871 cars were registered, compared to 67,873 at the same time in 2019.

As the clock moved forward to July, the outlook started to look brighter, with sales up 11.3% compared to the same period in 2019—the first positive rise in 2020. In comparison to the negative downpour experienced in April, this is a turnaround in fortunes for an industry that had the uncertainty of Brexit to contend with before the global pandemic hit.

But what can the turnaround in sales be accredited to? Here we look at some of the possible reasons, beyond dealerships such as the Ford Oldham re-opening, as to why car sales are starting to put up a better fight against the economical battle to overcome the global pandemic.

Cars look to be in the driving seat

Up until July 17, the government message on using public transport was simple—avoid it if possible, and use other transport methods such as cycling, driving and walking to get from A to B, especially work.

It was a government message that resonated with the public too, with phone data analysis from Centre for Cities revealing that only a handful of workers were commuting into the UK’s big cities towards the end of the first lockdown—despite attempts from Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to encourage people to use trains and buses again to travel to the office. 

A survey of 2,000 drivers conducted in July by Green Flag also found that 62% of respondents were going to avoid public transport where possible, while around a quarter of all commuters surveyed said they were going to consider a new mode of transport where social distancing was easier to achieve.

The knock-on effects of avoiding public transport can arguably be seen in July’s figures for car sales. The near 80,000 cars sold compared to just over 66,000 sold in 2019 sparks a sense of intrigue in terms of breaking down the increase. While one explanation could be the “disappearance” of Brexit over the course of the year, the other could well be the fact driving offers a greater sense of security when commuting—at least in terms of limiting the number of people you come into contact with on a daily basis.

Despite July’s resurgence, August’s figures show another downturn in sales with a 5.8% decrease. 2019’s figures of 92,573 in 2019 have been followed by 87,226 in 2020. This could well be down to the government’s message on using public transport changing from “no” to “go”.

But, more seasonally, new car registration plates come out in September, with August sales for new cars often lower for this reason.

Are learner drivers on course to help the industry?

Another hot topic to consider when looking at why car sales bounced back in July, beyond dealerships re-opening, is the fact learner drivers could take lessons and tests again to get on the road independently. The four-month hiatus that finally ended on 4 July for lessons and 22 July for tests no doubt sparked a reaction between consumer and retailer.

July’s new car ‘best sellers’ list shows that a vehicle—which is often connected to being a new driver—is at the top of the list. It’s interesting to see sales for the Vauxhall Corsa performing just beyond the Ford Fiesta—the car that tends to always be the most popular among new drivers.

A quick look into August’s Best Sellers list and the Ford Fiesta was back on top spot for the most sold car, but much like the Vauxhall Corsa, it can be a favourite among people who’ve recently passed their test. The fact that popular first-time cars were still being sold is a good thing.

With learner drivers chomping at the bit to pass their test and get a new or used car to call their own, it could be a case of perfect timing for the industry. It will likely take some time for everyone to feel comfortable on public transport, and while in the past learner drivers may not have gotten a new set of wheels straight away, the pandemic will possibly encourage them to do just that.

Hopefully, if driving tests can resume soon without further disruption, the hundreds of thousands of people who were learning to drive when the virus surfaced may well provide the perfect solution for a further spell of recovery.

What Does the Future of Shopping Hold for the Beauty Industry?

The year 2020 has changed the way we shop forever. The pandemic has driven online sales, for example. Now, over 25 per cent of the world’s population shops on e-commerce websites. The dramatic shift from the high street to online landing pages is set to continue. But while COVID-19 has changed many brands’ focus of retail, the beauty industry has continued to innovate.

There are more factors involved in our changing shopping habits. From consumer demand to understanding the customer experience, beauty brands are opening up to further technological and social innovation. Here we look at how shopping for beauty products will change in the future.


Technology and the makeup industry are becoming more interwoven. This is already evident in some makeup retailers who offer customers the ability to match their makeup with their skin type and colour by using intelligent scanners. However, innovations may further integrate intelligent technology into our buying decisions, helping us to make smarter decisions about the types of products we buy. 80 per cent of online consumers state that new tech is improving their shopping experience.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), some makeup companies can indicate your skin age and advise which tone of foundation and concealer should be used. Previously, the makeup market had often made it difficult for women of colour to find a matching foundation or concealer. However, this technique allows correct decisions to be made and products to be custom produced for specific customers.

Technology even allows us to test out makeup looks and help guide our purchases. Smartphone filters, the likes of which have been popularised by Snapchat and Instagram, can show us what we look like with a variety of fashionable options. Customers can try on a variety of fashion and beauty products, from clothes, ladies shoes, and makeup. When deciding which colour looks best, choosing from swatches may become the old technique. Instead, seeing the makeup we may buy on our faces without having to apply it may make cosmetic buying a walk in the park. The benefits of this include being able to view multiple makeup looks and colours, avoiding cross-contamination by using testers, and being cleaner overall.


One survey by Ipsos shows that consumers are influenced by the people closest to them over any other group. This means that beauty influencers may not be as effective as first thought. The survey suggests that 50 per cent of people’s beauty choices are influenced by friends, while Instagram and social media influencers only influence 25 per cent of people when it comes to buying beauty products.

Beauty businesses are recognising this and are seeking out more authentic ways to demonstrate and promote their products. Instead of aspirational advertising, where a particular standard of beauty is pedestalled, the future of shopping in the beauty industry will celebrate difference. Diversifying the beauty industry will create a better image for the market, where different body sizes, skin colours, ethnicities, and distinguishable features will be celebrated. Even gender will be a less considerable measure in the industry. The US edition of Vogue recently featured Harry Styles as the first solo-male on the magazine’s cover. Wearing a flowing dress, the singer is taking another step in proving that beauty has no limitations.


The beauty market has a strong focus on aestheticism. After all, makeup should be used to make us look stronger and feel more confident. But we may be looking for more than colour shades and texture when we go shopping in the future. Instead, makeup is becoming less of a covering tool, and more something which can benefit and rejuvenate the skin underneath.

Gone are the days of clogged pores and heavy chemicals which we would normally associate with makeup. In the future, we can expect natural vitamins, oils, and extracts in our makeup to boost our skincare.

One ingredient in health-boosting makeup is vitamin A. This vitamin can be found in many foundations and base layer cosmetics and can benefit your skin greatly. Vitamin A helps promote and maintain healthy dermis and epidermis. The top two layers of skin can benefit from this health boost which adds natural moisture and can prevent breakouts.

The move is being adopted by more cosmetic companies who understand that, in the future, beauty shopping will focus more on the long-term benefits of cosmetics as opposed to the short-term boost that a new shade of eyeshadow can give us.

The beauty industry is hopping on the trend of the digital world. But the biggest changes will not impose on how we shop, but why we shop. The message of the beauty industry will become one of acceptance and utility, where cosmetics serve a purpose of confidence and change. When we shop for beauty products, we will think about the impact of our buying choices.

Issue 1 2021

Welcome to the first issue of 2021!

As always, CEO Monthly is dedicated to providing the latest news and features across the business world to our readership. After all, knowledge sharing is crucial to enduring success – especially in a world that seems so focused on adapting, changing and shifting beneath our feet. Last year was a crucible of change, intent on destroying long-standing paradigms and shaking industries to their core.

Over the last few months, we’ve learned to change and play by the pandemic’s rulebook. We’ve collectively found some semblance of solid ground, and rebuilt foundations – in whatever way we can. It’s been difficult (an understatement, for sure), but 2021 looks different in its outlook. So, here’s to a more optimistic time ahead!

As for our January inclusions, we profiled the achievements of Mubashar Khokhar, CEO of Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, spoke to CEO Anthony De Almeida on his successes in the business turnaround sphere, and took a deep dive in Investment House’s Managing Director, Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al-suwaidi. And, that’s just in the first ten pages.

Until next time, we hope you have a fantastic month ahead.

Best for Business: The Rise of User-Generated Content

From the days of flyers and telephone calls to the evolving world of social media content and tailored online advertising, brands and businesses are constantly thinking of new ways to gain exposure and sell their products to customers.

Thanks to the power of social media, almost every company includes platforms like Facebook and YouTube. From TikTok to Instagram, it’s all part of a strategy to reach new audiences and increase sales.

You’ll already know that “influencer marketing” has been the way forward for many marketing professionals. Tapping into the success of everyday people who’ve taken the internet by storm has been seen as the logical way to go about it.

But, with high follower counts comes the high price you’ll have to pay to get social media users—who are bombarded by brand deals—to pay attention. Even if you opt for an influencer with fewer followers, you can never guarantee a return on investment.

Today, we look at how new tactics are being used to corner the social media market, including User-Generated Content and the phenomenon of “unboxing”.

The personal touch over fake presence

The traditional use of influencer marketing, where you pay a social celebrity to post your product on their platform, is a dying art. The facts and figures certainly back this up, especially around the use of fake followers.

According to a report in 2019, fake followers cost advertisers $1.9 billion, with companies “ripped off” for the price they paid for sponsored posts. It’s no small cost for a market said to be worth $8.5 million in the same year—based on advertising spend.

But it’s not just fake followers that point to influencer marketing being less effective than it once was. In the same year, American internet sensation Ariana Renee had to cancel her own clothing range after failing to sell the minimum 36 T-shirts required to start her first shipment, despite having a following of 2.6 million on Instagram. 

Examples like this has got brands thinking. How can they promote their products in a way that people on social media will share it, without having to be paid a small fortune for the pleasure?

The answer in a nutshell—User-Generated Content (UGC). In simple terms, UGC is any content, whether it be videos, text, or audio, that’s shared by social media users. For brands, it’s a means to get creative and add personal touches to their products and packaging. This will have people reaching for their phones to post about it without hesitation.

Personalisation has boomed in recent times, with everything from personalised business cards to personalised candle holders available online. It’s a trend that even celebrities are on board with. David Beckham’s 45th birthday celebrations saw Victoria give him his presents wrapped in paper printed with his own face!

It’s more than plausible to say that people want more unique, personal items these days, with the world of social media playing a key role in the desire for personalisation. If you think about it for a second, what is more likely to be shared on social media, a shopping bag with a brand name on it, or one that’s been designed to feel like it’s special to a specific individual and nobody else?

To quantify this from a financial point of view, it’s estimated that the global market for personalised gifts will rise to $38 billion by 2021. This provides a closer look at what direction things are heading in.

Unboxing–the never-ending phenomenon

With a continuous conveyor belt of products to choose from, there comes the opportunity for trends to emerge on social media. One of the most popular ones right now is known as unboxing.

Recognised in the Oxford Dictionary, ‘unboxing’ is defined as:

‘An act or instance of removing a newly purchased product from its packaging and examining its features, typically when filmed and shared on a social media site.’

Search for ‘unboxing’ on YouTube and you instantly get a sense of how popular it’s become. A channel known as ‘Unbox Therapy’ has amassed 17.1 million subscribers since its creation in 2010, with over 3.7 billion views in that time, with viewers tuning in for the excitement of unboxing the latest products.

Not only do unboxing videos fuel anticipation of what’s inside, but it always gives key information on the product itself. This is a big deal for consumers, and a recipe for success when brands think of new ways to present their latest craze.

Unboxing is not some sort of look into the future, it’s an established way to present and digest content right now. As of 2019, YouTube channel Ryan’s Toy Reviews, where youngster Ryan unboxes the latest toys and reviews them with his parents, was worth a whopping $26 million.

Personal reviews, not just views

It’s clear to see that the days of brands relying on social media megastars to post about how much they love the product they’ve just been paid handsomely to share are over. It just doesn’t yield the same results that it used to.

Now people want to see more personalised branding and opinions from the people in the position to blog, vlog and talk about. Not only that, but the everyday person also wants to share what they buy on social media. Making simple changes to packaging, adding unique touches, and even handwriting a note to fit inside the box are all ways for companies to up their UGC game.

5 Daily Habits You Should Follow to Become Successful in 2021

Former US Navy Seal William H. McRaven said, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished your first task of the day.”

McRaven’s book is aptly named Make Your Bed. As well as earning a place as #1 bestseller, it is also thought as one of the greatest self-help guides out there. Making your bed might seem silly — you might think that nobody will see it, it’s a waste of time, or you’ll only be sleeping in it again anyway. But that is a negative outlook, others looking to improve their life might say “absolutely”.

Consider this: do you think that Bill Gates, Alan Sugar, and Mark Zuckerberg wake every morning, don their favorite and most powerful suit, and leave their bedroom with an unmade, messy bed? The answer is no. Did you know that you spend around one-third of your day in your bedroom? It only makes sense that making your bed would help relieve stress and create a tidy and more pleasant environment to be in.

So, now that you’ve found something to do for the first several minutes of your day, let’s take a look at the rest. We’ll look at the top five daily habits carried out by successful people — after all, if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them. The new year is the perfect time to implement new steps into your routine and change yourself for the better.

Being productive

Work hard, play hard? No — work smart, play hard. Don’t make anything more difficult for yourself than it needs to be. Use your time wisely and assess what you’re doing. Weigh up the benefits that completing a task has.

Think about it: people may wrongly assume that the CEO or director of their company doesn’t have time to speak to anyone. However, they most likely have more time than others, prioritizing important tasks and avoiding wasting precious time on things that won’t yield a valuable return.

Document your goals

One of the biggest errors people make when trying to achieve something is not setting clear goals. And we don’t mean grabbing the nearest pen and note pad to jot down a few empty and meaningless goals to make it seem like you’ve got a plan.

Start by compiling a list of realistic and actionable goals. You don’t need to sit and fret over a 15-year plan — you could set goals for the day, week, or month. Ticking them off will give you a clear idea of where you are and where you want to be. 62 percent of successful people focus on their goals every day.

Early riser

So, we know that successful business leaders don’t leave their bed a mess, but what time do they get up? It should come as no surprise to learn that those who do well in life get up early on a morning.

Virgin Media owner Richard Branson begins his day at 5:45 am. This may seem super early, but this is nothing compared to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who gets up at 3:45 am. When the rest of the country has begun to wake up, both of these men have made a considerable dent in their to-do list, as well as exercising and responding to emails.

Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals author Thomas Corley carried out a study which involved over 200 self-made millionaires. He found that 44 per cent were awake for three or more hours before officially starting their workday.

Keeping healthy

There are many different ways you can maintain a healthy body. In Corley’s study mentioned previously, he recognized two constants: a lack of junk food and a regular, structured amount of exercise. This can be running, lifting weights, or yoga — whatever you prefer. Plus, this will make you more competitive and fill you with motivation.

Motivated to achieve self-improvement

Now ask yourself, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can anyone else? This can range across many different things in your life but starts with what you do every day. We’re all tempted to get in from a long day at work and sink into a Netflix rabbit hole. But what benefit do you really get from that?

There’s no denying that this time could be used to consider how you can spend time to improve yourself. The successful ones among us will perhaps be reading something beneficial to their development — 88 per cent of rich people spend around 30 minutes reading non-fiction each day.

Of course, we’re not guaranteeing that following these five steps will land you in the C-suite of a major corporation, but it might be enough to set yourself on the track to success.

Eco Brands Helping the World

Although us as consumers might do all we can to reduce our carbon footprint like recycling all items possible, taking public transport, cutting down on meat consumption or switching from oil to gas, there are 20 firms behind a third of all global carbon emissions. According to researchers, these companies are responsible for knowingly accelerating the climate crisis even after scientific evidence.

Climate change is a global threat which requires global reforms enforced by governments across nations. Although the power of consumers pales in comparison to international corporations, consumers have a responsibility to spend their money which will have a positive impact rather than further empowering these harmful companies — eco brands that are sustainable. Research shows that 88 percent of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly.

Here, we’ll take a look at the top brands that are making the biggest green waves in terms of sustainability, diversity, and equality.


The apparel industry as a whole accounts for around 10 per cent of global carbon emissions due to production, manufacturing, and transportation of the millions of pieces of clothing purchased each year. To put that into perspective, aviation only accounts for two per cent of global emissions.

Patagonia is a popular outdoor adventure-wear brand which is committed to respecting the outdoors and nature that its shoppers respect. Patagonia is a B Corporation, with the “B” standing for “benefit.” These B Corps must meet extremely high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Brands must score a minimum of 80 to be certified, with Patagonia at 151.

All of the cotton and fabrics sourced for the clothing is certified organic as well as a high proportion of eco-friendly and recycled materials. Patagonia’s strategy is the opposite of fast fashion, creating products that are high-quality and long-lasting so that less is bought to replace garments that fall to pieces after a few wears. Shoppers are encouraged to buy and sell worn wear, with the option to send back in used items to be repaired and resold. The company donates one percent of sales to environmental organisations such as Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), with $89 million being donated since 1985.

The company is also known for progressive procedures and services like onsite childcare, three-day weekends every other week, and has pledged to bail any employee out of jail who is arrested for peacefully protesting for the environment.


It seems that outdoor brands are leading the way in sustainable business practices, with tentree, who create outdoor clothing and base their whole marketing strategy around planting ten trees for every purchase made. In 2016, tentree became a certified B Corp, scoring 124. Since the company’s start in 2012, tentree have planted almost 40 million trees in more than eight countries, with a corporate mission to plant one billion by 2030. Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide emissions that are driving climate change, with research estimating that a global planting initiative could remove two-thirds of all emissions from human activities in the atmosphere.

Tentree’s mission is reflected in the materials used as sustainable materials like lyocell and hemp. The brand endorses complete transparency in their operations, providing insight into its ethical manufacturing and disclosing the environmental footprint for each product made. In terms of inclusivity and diversity, tentree’s products are inclusive to body types.

CanO Water 

As mentioned prior with Coca-Cola being the world’s biggest offender of plastic waste, plastic water bottles are one of the biggest causes of ocean pollution. Statistics report that in the UK alone, 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year. Water is an abundant and natural resource, so with bottled water essentially being unethical and unnecessary, the thought of shipping water across the world seems absurd. What is our obsession with bottled water when we have a tap feeding unlimited amounts of water to our homes? Well, with water quality deteriorating due to pollution and sewage companies in the UK, many opt for bottled water under the misconception that it’s cleaner.

CanO Water is packaged in recyclable and sealable aluminium cans that can be recycled an infinite number of times, creating a plastic-free cycle. You can refill and reuse these cans of water as you please, making them convenient and eco-friendly. ‘Wave Goodbye to Plastic Pollution’ is an ocean clean-up campaign created by CanO Water to both make our seas cleaner while raising awareness of the looming crisis our oceans are facing. The campaign encouraged the public to post a ‘wave’ emoji 🌊 on CanO Water’s Instagram post, with each wave equivalent to removing 3.5 plastic bottles of plastic from beaches.

Fairfields Farm

Essex-based potato farmers, Fairfields Farm, are playing their own part in the fight to become more sustainable. Thanks to a packing facility, that is supplied daily with potatoes grown on the farm, their food miles are as low as possible, giving them low carbon footprint produce.

They also use fertiliser from its renewable anaerobic digestion site for potato growth, which results in less carbon being released into the atmosphere. It also powers the potato cold stores with renewable energy from both solar power and its digestion site, which saves several thousand tonnes of carbon per year.

Their work has not gone unnoticed, as HelloFresh, the recipe delivery service, will be using the farm for their supply of potatoes.

There are plenty of sustainable brands playing their part in creating a clean and safe planet for us. Make sure you do your research so that your money goes towards a greener future.

How Smart Technology is Helping the Manufacturing Industry

In the world of manufacturing, the way things are produced has changed dramatically over the years. From the first moving assembly line created, through to the modern-day invention of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it’s safe to say that manufacturing methods have evolved quickly.

The secret to this progression is advances in technology. Not only has it allowed businesses to speed up production and increase efficiency it has brought greater profit margins too. In today’s market, it’s all about ‘smart technology’ or more accurately ‘enablers’.

Businesses now use technology to optimise their operations — from automated sales and distribution processes to energy management software. Here’s a list of the benefits smart technology can bring.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a computer science that can help the capabilities of humans. Voice recognition for example, allows processes to be carried out without being manually entered into a computer. AI also uses algorithms that can record and react to changes in data to help businesses achieve more and increase efficiency.

Block chain

Block chain is essentially a programme that helps keep track of goods, logs transactions and manages supply chains, following a ‘chain-like’ process. For businesses, this information is essential – allowing them to record data and deliver real-time analytics on their stock and supply chain without manual input.

The Industrial Internet of Things

The collection of data has now become a significant priority for businesses looking to gain a deeper insight into their production processes. With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), companies can ensure that every device, machine and process is connected through data communication systems. This gives them a greater understanding of their business and can look at ways of enhancing efficiencies and increasing profits.

Industrial Robotics

An extension of AI, industrial robotics have now become a focal element of the manufacturing process. Modern robotics can now carry out a range of tasks, whilst reducing the risk of injury to workers. Although robotics is a modern invention, they’re intelligent enough to learn human tasks.

More recently ‘collaborative robots’ or ‘cobots’ have been designed to work together with humans. Cobots have become prominent in the automotive industries to help build vehicles.

Digital Twin

Manufacturers can create a ‘digital twin’ when creating a new product — this allows them to virtually forecast its cost and production. Using this technology, they can evaluate production, visualise products in different environments, track and monitor systems and troubleshoot equipment. This results in a more streamlined development process.

Condition monitoring

Broken or machinery that needs repair can have significant impact on production. With condition monitoring, businesses can monitor a range of performance conditions, including vibration, temperature, pressure and oil condition. This can help manufacturers prevent breakdowns in equipment by noticing changes and faults at an early stage.

Cyber security

The rise in technology means businesses are open to digital malfunction, including the risk of cyber-attacks — which have been common in several industries. Cyber security is important as it protects computer systems from theft or damage to their software and electronic data. As the manufacturing sector is the third most hit sector in the UK for cyber-attacks, companies to ensure they are adequately protected.

A ‘smart’ way of working

As ‘smart technology’ continues to improve the way manufacturers can do business, evidence suggests that introducing new methods can have a positive impact on a company’s output and profit margins. With energy at the heart of manufacturing processes, it’s important that energy supply is efficient and automated. If you’re switching from oil to gas, such as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), speak to an expert for help with the process of becoming greener.

What Are Businesses Doing to Reduce Carbon Emissions?

Businesses up and down the country are making significant efforts to cut their carbon emissions and become more sustainable. One of the main catalysts behind this growing movement is climate change and the devastating impact it’s having on our planet. In order to tackle this issue, the UK government has been strong in its response, declaring a climate emergency and becoming the first country to enshrine it’s ‘Net Zero’ Initiative into law. The result is that businesses have begun introducing new ways of lowering their carbon footprint – from the energy they use, to the type of lighting they install and even behavioural changes in staff, no change is too small in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

But exactly what are businesses doing to ensure they take responsibility and how are they implementing different ways of working to help make an impact? Here to discuss this is off-grid energy experts, Flogas Britain.

Choosing renewable energy

One of the most effective ways a business can reduce its carbon footprint is by choosing an energy supply that can reduce CO2 emissions. As a result, renewable energy resources are now becoming an increasingly popular option. This could be anything from solar heating systems which harnesses the power of the sun to heat water and buildings, to the use of biomass boilers which uses the breakdown of organic matter to generate heat and electricity. As a 100% renewable fuel it can also provide additional benefits such as minimising waste and potentially reducing running costs.

LPG: The low carbon option

Whilst 100% renewable energy ticks the boxes in terms of its environmental impact, technology has some way to go before it can power more energy intensive processes such as those used in the manufacturing or construction industry. Until that happens, businesses are now adopting lower carbon alternatives as a way of reducing their carbon footprint. LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is one such fuel, offering lower levels of CO2, nitrous oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) compared to oil, it can help businesses reduce the amount of emissions they emit whilst allowing them to remain compliant with government legislation.

Long lasting effects with lighting

Increasing the efficiency of office lighting is yet another step businesses are now taking in their efforts to become more sustainable. By choosing options such as LEDs, companies can make huge carbon savings over the space of months and years. The use of motion sensors is another route, allowing lights to switch off automatically when they’re not in use to minimise energy wastage. Alternatively, structural changes to buildings such as bigger, brighter windows can also reduce the need for artificial lighting and has the added benefit of creating a more pleasant workspace for staff.

Reducing travel emissions

With HGVs (Heavy Goods Vehicles) estimated to account for around 17% of UK greenhouse gas emissions and around 21% of road transport NOx emissions, finding ways to reduce emissions is a top priority for many businesses. The installation of telematics systems and GPS tracking within trucks  allows companies to analyse the fleet to ensure they are taking the best routes to maximise efficiency. The training of staff in eco-driving techniques can also help them to become more economical with fuel and ultimately reduce emissions.

The introduction of vehicles that use lower-carbon fuels or electric power can also prove successful in reducing the amount of carbon a business creates. Vehicles powered by BioLNG (liquefied natural gas) are now being seen more frequently on the roads due its exceptional energy efficiency and low carbon output.

Optimising heating systems

Indoor temperature controls can be an effective method in slashing carbon emissions. By installing proper controls, companies can ensure that their heating and air conditioning is correctly timed, lowering the risk of wasted energy. Building management systems can also give accurate readings on temperatures, which over a period of time can dramatically reduce emissions. Training staff on how to use heating and cooling units can also help prevent unwanted spikes in energy and helps to enforce good habits that can lead to further CO2 savings long term.

Carbon offsetting: A solution to unavoidable emissions

Whilst many companies will aspire to reduce their carbon emissions wherever possible, it’s inevitable that some form of emissions will need to be generated as part of the daily operations of running a business. In those situations, companies are now looking at carbon offsetting to provide a solution. This is a process in which businesses are given then the chance to offset their emission through the purchasing of ‘carbon credits’.

These ‘carbon credits’ are used to support environmental projects around the world that either reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb carbon dioxide. Whilst carbon offsetting isn’t the one-size fits all solution to reducing the impact of climate change, it does allow businesses to be proactive in their drive to reduce the amount of carbon they emit into the atmosphere, whilst offsetting the unavoidable emissions.

The CEOs Sacrificing Salaries in a Time of Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy and job market in a way many of us have never seen before. Some organisations have been forced to close with no re-opening dates in sight. Others have sadly gone into administration. Businesses in the supply chain have seen an impact on their bottom line due to contract cancellations and postponements. As a result, over 170,000 UK workers have lost their jobs.

With the effects of a damaged economy set to be felt for generations to come, a lot of focus has been placed on wealthy individuals and their ability to help out. Many conversations have focused on the likes of Jeff Bezos, whose personal wealth increased by $48 billion during the pandemic, and wealthy company CEOs who earn, on average, 117 times more than their workers.

A number of these company chiefs are leading by example and sacrificing a percentage – sometimes 100% – of their salary to help their companies ride the coronavirus storm. People management organisation Impact International has compiled data on the CEOs and chairpersons who have sacrificed income. Here, we discuss the trends and delve into the sectors with the highest number of salary-sacrificing leaders.

CEO salary sacrifice: the key findings

The data focuses on CEOs who have publicly stated they will be giving up some or all of their earnings. It found that, of the CEOs who have sacrificed income to help their businesses during COVID, 41% have given up 100% of their base salary. A further 32% have given up between 50–99% of it.

CEOs in the struggling aviation and hospitality sectors are leading the way, making up 32% of all leaders sacrificing salaries. Fashion and retail businesses form a further third, while the final third is made up of the entertainment, travel services, electric, financial services, automotive and vehicle for hire industries. The highest average donation comes from the financial services sector at $4.15 million. The largest total pledge amount comes from CEOs of media organisations, totalling over $10 million.

Who is sacrificing their salary and why?

Leading the way is Disney’s Executive Chairman, Bob Iger, who has given up his entire salary for a year. The company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, has taken a 50% cut, while its executive-level staff will take 30% cuts. Disney has seen huge success in its streaming platform, Disney+, which currently has 10 million subscribers. The company has, however, experienced shortfalls with its theme parks closing.

Aviation and hospitality businesses are amongst the hardest-hit by the pandemic. That’s why it’s encouraging to see leaders in these industries sacrificing their income for the sake of their businesses. The three Airbnb founders have given up their salaries for six months. While the business was required to lay off staff, it pledged to pay them 12 weeks’ salary and finance their health insurance for up to a year. Clearly, these executives have been on leadership training programs!

Delta Airlines’ CEO Ed Bastian has similarly given up 100% of his salary for six months, while Heathrow Airport’s John Holland-Kay will only accept 25% of his pay. Arne Sorenson of Marriott announced in March he would be forgoing his salary for the rest of 2020 and that his senior executives would be taking a 50% pay cut. Online travel provider Booking Holdings’ CEO Glen Fogal, meanwhile, is halving his salary. John Zimmer and Logan Green of Lyft, and Mark Hoplamazian from Hyatt Airlines, made smaller contributions of one month of their salaries.

Is sacrificing salaries enough?

While these company leaders deserve praise for doing the right thing and sacrificing often large portions of their wages, there is still some criticism. For many of these CEOs and company leaders, their bonuses and additional compensation far outweigh their salaries, and few have committed to giving up this additional source of income. One leader who has also given up this additional income is Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of his namesake organisation. The fashion mogul is giving up both his 2020 bonus and fiscal 2021 salary, which equates to around $11 million.

There’s also the question of net worth, which is often factored into conversations around wealth and financial support. All these donations come to an average of just 2.7% of net worth. However, it’s also worth noting many individuals’ net worth does not equate to money in the bank. Instead, much of it is tied up in stocks, shares and investments.

Strong leadership is more important than ever in these trying times. Leading by example and taking pay cuts to alleviate the burden on businesses and employees is to be applauded. While it could be argued that leaders can afford to donate more, it’s good to see altruism in effect. After all, great changes start with small steps in the right direction.

UK Workers Are Neglecting a Major Workplace Need

2020 has been a strange year for businesses and workplaces around the world. With the majority of us working from home for at least part of the year, workers have no doubt gained a new appreciation for a dedicated office space away from home – or, if nothing else, for the top-quality office chair as opposed to the spine-shattering kitchen chair of their makeshift home office.

Not only are we craving that distinct work-to-life separation in our lives once more, but many of us are missing our colleagues in a social way too. According to one survey, during COVID-19’s work-from-home requirement, Brits placed “work” as their second-most-missed thing – ahead of friends, shops, and even pubs. This isn’t a surprise, given Britain’s workers have previously admitted to deeming a good company culture to be their top work concern.

In fact, according to a review by Fulcare of 4,999 employee reviews across a number of businesses on Glassdoor, the top three workplace considerations mentioned in employee reviews were:

  1. People (880 mentions)
  2. Pay (720 mentions)
  3. Culture (499 mentions)

But, perhaps shockingly given the year we’ve had, UK workers are worryingly neglecting to mention a key concern within the workplace – the very concern that saw us all working from home – in hygiene and cleanliness. In the same analysis, concerns of “mess” were only voiced 20 times; noting a workplace as being “clean” or not featured just 22 times; and issues of “hygiene” were mentioned just once across the data.

Does this mean the UK’s workplaces are so clean and tidy that workers feel comfortable? Or are we turning a blind eye to a major workplace need?

A worrying lack of concern

If workers aren’t flagging concerns of cleanliness at work, is this a point in favour of the UK’s squeaky-clean workplaces? You would expect so, especially given the numerous requests for workplaces to up their cleaning requirements to help combat COVID-19.

But in truth, workplaces can be a breeding ground for bacteria. According to one report, the average office work desk contains far more dirt than the average toilet seat – 400 times more, in fact. Furthermore – and certainly one to consider in this COVID-19 era – touch-based transmission accounts for 80% of common infections. In a world of trendy open offices, this should certainly feature in workers’ minds when they look around their workspace.

Could it be that workers are simply taking cleanliness and hygiene at face value, even with a pandemic still at the forefront of our minds? It is easy to see why. For many people, so long as something looks clean, it is clean – which might be why an otherwise-clean looking keyboard can house around 7,500 bacteria and avoid being considered for a more than monthly clean by over half of workers.

This neglectful comfort is put into practice too, with 26% of workers eating lunch at their desks one to three times per week. 11% confessed to not cleaning their desks after, and 38% admitted to only binning wrappers and such after. Without attention to thorough cleaning habits, this behaviour could become costly for workplaces and workers alike. Just a quick wipe down with spray and blue roll would see employees’ desks kept in clean and hygienic condition after a working lunch!

The cost of careless cleaning

With so many people seemingly happy with a visually clean environment assuring them that surfaces are hygienic, why should workers rank hygiene with company culture and pay? Well, one report prior to the pandemic found that poor hygiene – and the resulting sickness it can spread through a workplace – costs UK businesses an eye-watering £1.56 billion every year.

Plus, it isn’t a case that UK workers aren’t aware of this potential pitfall. According to Elite Business Magazine, 46% of British workers suspected their unclean workplace had contributed to making them ill, and 68% placed a lack of hygiene in their workplace as a reason for their sickness. 48% suspected uncleaned desk phones as the germ-carriers of the office – rightly so, given that in another survey, only 28% of workers noted their desk telephones were cleaned at all.

Workers should be more concerned

Of course, it goes without saying that people ought to be more worried about cleanliness and hygiene during and after the pandemic. But why else should this feature much more highly on a worker’s list of company desires?

Fidelis Group points out several benefits to a clean and tidy workplace, including a great impression for clients, increased productivity, and safeguarding employee’s health. When “people” rank so highly in employees’ reviews of their workplaces, it seems logical that protecting the people around them should factor in too. Increased productivity leads to a better display of work, providing a stepping stone to a promotion – nailing the “pay” desire too.

It’s clear that cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace can often be overshadowed by ambition and company culture. But, for the benefit of those around us, our own health, and indeed our productivity levels on our quest up the corporate ladder, being more attuned to how clean our workspaces are is vital.

Occupyd Launches First-of-its-Kind Marketplace to Help Any Business Monetise its Existing Space

Today marks the launch of Occupyd, a first-of-its-kind online marketplace that connects businesses and individuals searching for workspace with companies looking to monetise their extra capacity.

The brainchild of 29 year-old founder, Callum McPherson, Occupyd caters to a number of industries across the UK including hospitality, hairdressing and beauty salons, as well as workshops, photography studios, event spaces and much more.

Here’s how it works: a cafe that closes its doors at 3pm each day can advertise its kitchen space on Occupyd for small businesses or entrepreneurs who cater to the evening market. This provides out-of-hours income for the owner – during a time when it’s needed most – and cuts down the financial responsibility for the occupant. 

McPherson, whose vision is to make physical space more accessible and less burdensome for businesses regardless of sector, size or location, said:

“A large number of organisations have been affected by the on-going pandemic, which has had a huge impact on their bottom-line. We’re driven to make life a little easier by facilitating relationships between businesses on the hunt for workspace, and those that have extra capacity, so they can help each other out and continue to grow.

“We talk about the ‘hidden market’ – something which is already there, but people are unaware of. Monetising after-hours capacity, which would otherwise be empty, or renting out supplementary workspace could be a goldmine for some companies. Many of us are sitting on something valuable – we just don’t know it.” 

Occupyd offers businesses a simple way to maximise their income in what is a very challenging part of the economy – owning physical premises in big cities. These proprietors will have either been missing out on this additional income, or managing the timely process themselves. 

When businesses sign up, all they need to do is create a profile and field enquiries from interested parties. Occupyd does all the marketing and platform development so space owners can kick back and watch the bookings roll in. Once they reach a deal and accept a tenant, the money will be deposited into their bank account, so no need to issue or chase invoices. 

McPherson concluded: “Taking a five or 10 year lease on a building, paying a hefty deposit and having access to it 24 / 7 is not what most SMEs and microbusinesses want or can afford. We give them access to space in prime locations, when and where they need it, so they don’t have to pay for more than they require. Not only do we save them money on space, but also equipment such as ovens and mixers, which would otherwise have to be bought. Occupyd makes it infinitely easier to get started in business, test your concept and expand.”

How Tech Can Transform the Fashion Industry’s Supply Chain

As the fashion industry has grown over the years, with more people shopping for garments and more clothing options than ever before, companies have had to show how quickly they can adapt. In the constantly evolving industry, brands everywhere have to stay up to date with the latest technological innovations so that their supply chain can keep up with an ever-growing demand. Luckily, technology is helping the industry along the way. High-tech, efficient, and sustainable supply chains are now more realistic than ever.

The revenue from the fashion sector increases year on year. By 2025, predications state that revenue will reach over £30 billion in the UK. The largest chunk of that revenue is generated by apparel sales, followed by footwear and accessories. Consumer interest in clothes shopping is not slowing down. As this accelerates, it leaves us to question how fashion supply chains can keep up with the demand. 

Technological solutions

Consumer demand paired with increased costs and a move away from local resources has led to more complex processes in the fashion industry. Many factors must be considered for fashion companies to minimise waste while keeping their customers happy.

The good news is that tech and fashion can work in unison to keep up with customer demand. Technological supply chain solutions allow fashion companies to update their processes regularly while ensuring that their supply chains are safe, transparent and efficient. This is no small trend—50 per cent of large global companies are set to be utilising artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and the internet of things (IoT) in their supply chain operations by 2023. There are many ways in which tech is helping fashion keep up with the ever-growing demand. Here’s how technology-fuelled fashion supply chains are becoming more efficient than ever.


Artificial intelligence 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way that fashion supply chains function. AI allows fashion companies to process massive amounts of data to find out faster than ever which products are seeing the most interest or the highest purchase rate at any given time. This really speeds up the supply chain process and allows manufacturers to know where to focus their resources. For example, if there’s a surge in demand for women’s sport shoes, brands can adapt. The benefits of AI in this respect can be seen both in the warehouse and in the product designing stage. 

Cloud-based technology  

A successful and efficient supply chain largely comes down to excellent communication. Cloud technology is revolutionising the way that different elements of fashion supply chains function and communicate. These cloud-based systems allow employees at every stage of the supply chain to document and share crucial information.

Automated supply chains

Automating your supply chain by creating a web of working parts that are controlled by technology has become essential for tracking and reporting on your products. With the fast-paced nature of online shopping, an automated supply chain is essential for big brands to keep up with consumer demand. Fashion brands have to deal with changes in order or returned parcels, which runs smoother with an automated supply chain. 

Wearable tech

Another innovation that has helped the smooth-running of fashion supply chains everywhere is wearable tech. For big fashion brands, wearable tech is often utilised in warehouses and distribution centres, allowing for increased communication and efficiency. There are many ways in which wearable tech helps out – from in-house communication to real-time data sharing. It offers employees the ability to map the warehouses at a quicker speed. Communication and data gathering can happen on the go, negating the need for staff members to be tied to their computer screens. 

Supply chain transparency

These technological innovations improve the efficiency of fashion brands’ supply chain processes. But they also make it easier for brands to be transparent about their practices. This is particularly important when appealing to younger shoppers. Generation Z and millennial customers prioritise ethical practices more than any previous generation. 54 per cent of generation Z shoppers and 50 per cent of millennials are willing to spend up to 10 per cent more on sustainable and ethical products. 

Technology is helping fashion brands everywhere produce clear and transparent reports on their supply chains. This is beneficial both for the brand themselves and the ethical consumer. 

By utilising tech in new and innovative ways, the fashion industry is able to modernise its supply chains and keep up with ever-increasing consumer demands. The next few years are set to bring more efficient, transparent, and ethical supply chains than ever before. 

3 Marketing Tips for Marketing Retailers to Navigate Through Lockdown 3.0

With many retailers hit hard this year by the pandemic, businesses are turning to ecommerce to regain lost sales in 2021 as their customers move online to conduct their shopping.

The events of 2020 have caused a significant shift in buying habits, meaning online sales will become a lifeline for many businesses over the next year. To help ecommerce retailers set up for 2021, Andy Bojko, Director at Hidepark Leather, has listed 3 tips below on how businesses can successfully implement small changes to their website to succeed online over the next year.

1. Focus on understanding shifting consumer needs

The pandemic means consumers have been forced to change the way that they shop and the items which they purchase. There have been significant shifts in buying habits, with the priorities of consumers changing as they spend more time at home. The beauty industry has experienced significant buying pattern changes, where sales of makeup from designer brands in department stores declined by more than 40% in 2020. Instead, the industry saw consumers choosing to spend more time on skincare, with John Lewis reporting sales of skincare, body, and hair products up by 234%.

For businesses, this highlights the importance of understanding where your customers are choosing to spend their money in lockdown and which products they are no longer interested in. Google Analytics allows businesses to analyse which product or service pages have received the most interest from customers over the past few months, information which businesses should gather and use to drive audience engagement to these areas. Products that are found to have previously performed well can be placed as readily available through paid social or presented as hero products on the website so that customers can easily access them. This will allow customers to navigate quickly through the site and avoid your audience losing interest if they struggle to find what they are looking for.

2. Provide discounts to your customers in the new year

Many customers will be short of money as we enter the new year after spending more than usual in November and December during the Christmas period. By implementing “buy now, pay later” offerings from the likes of Klarna, PayPal and Affirm to your site, your business will be aiding customers to secure the items which they wish to purchase during this lockdown. These services operate by allowing customers to delay their whole bill for a set period of time or split the cost of their purchase into equal installments, meaning consumers can choose a payment method that best suits their financial situation.

To help in capturing the attention of consumers amongst the tough competition in 2021, your brand should focus on providing targeted discounts to each audience segment. By offering special offers through bespoke email marketing campaigns or SMS marketing, your retail business will be able to instill greater loyalty in your customer base and catch their attention against retail giants such as Amazon.

3. Prioritise building a personal connection with customers

With consumers concerned over the strain which COVID-19 has placed on small businesses, research shows the pandemic has led to more customers supporting local independent businesses than ever before. Customers, especially the younger generation, are seeking more interpersonal connections with brands and are actively searching for local and small businesses to help out.

As customers look for small businesses during this lockdown, your website must be offering something unique and personal to your audience if you wish to make it stand apart. The ecommerce site should be simple and easy for customers to use, with strong calls to action which guide customers along their journey. Coupling effective customer communication with a seamless onsite experience will aid in instilling loyalty with your audience and can help convert customers to make additional purchases as we move forward in 2021.

Tremendous Hospitality Shows Direct Impact on Wine Sales

The wine industry fascinates experts and casual participants alike. Business owners may chase wildly different promotional ideas to impress their complex consumer base, but they only need to know one simple factor. Tremendous hospitality shows a direct impact on wine sales, improving client relations and quarterly profits.

Hospitality is everything in the customer service world. These tips make it easy for winery staff and management teams to make clients feel cared for, increasing sales and long-term engagement.

Environment Builds Trust

When someone walks into a store or restaurant, they want to know they’re in good hands. This is especially crucial at wineries or boutiques. Customers may feel out of their depth while listening to staff explain body profiles or aeration tricks. If they can’t trust who they talk to, they won’t purchase a product or return for a second experience.

Any company can build their client relationships by establishing a foundation of trust. Check in with tour participants so you can clarify any terminology or questions. Get their feedback and help them participate in tastings or presentations. When clients trust a company, they’re more likely to spend money on those products.

It’s a significant step in a world where extra spending cash becomes harder to find. Millennials currently make up 24% of the wine market but also struggle with massive student debt and incomes that hardly match the rising cost of living. They’ll only buy wine from companies they bond with, which starts with building trust. 

Conversation Creates Better Moods

People attend tastings and other wine-focused events for the experience as well as the products. They want to have a great time, which could directly impact sales. A recent study found that 72% of young people want experiences over material objects, so improve your hospitality by engaging clients in great conversations.

During events, engage visitors by asking questions and sharing personal experiences. Discuss why specific wines are perfect for weddings or personal celebrations and talk about them. People enjoy it when a company gets to know them and values their presence. It could result in more client willingness to follow through on suggestive sales techniques after tours or through marketing copy.

Attention Demonstrates Care

Better hospitality demonstrates attention to detail. People will return for future purchases or visits if they know they’ll receive the same high level of care each time. They’ll open to the possibility of deeper connections through wine club enrollments or regular trips to the vineyard with friends and family.

Improve hospitality efforts by staying connected with clients. Reach out through emails and send birthday or membership anniversary gifts. When they feel cared for during property events and membership perks, they’ll become inclined to support the business with more frequent or increased purchases.

Great Experiences Result in Return Visits

Tremendous hospitality shows a direct impact on wine sales, so focus on this aspect of customer care to improve business. Staff members who listen, converse with clients and show genuine love for their craft will build relationships and lasting sales gains.

The Future of Shopping Hold in the Fashion Industry

Over the course of 2020, the way we shop has changed forever. Although many new shopping trends are a direct result of COVID-19 and brands adapting to life in lockdown, countless changes in the fashion industry were already underway. An overwhelming switch to e-commerce, for example, has only been accelerated by the pandemic. Today, over 25 per cent of the world’s population shops online. The numbers of consumers flocking to landing pages instead of the high street is only set to increase.

With this dynamic shift to online shopping and exciting technological innovations becoming available to brands all the time, the world of fashion and e-commerce is evolving and adapting at an impressive rate. Gone are the days of mass shopping in the traditional way. Instead, brands are utilising tech to create personal, immersive, and remote shopping experiences. 80 per cent of online consumers stating that new tech is improving their shopping experience. So, it appears that the fashion world is certainly heading in the right direction!

Let’s take a closer look at the trends that are set to transform the way we shop for clothes and accessories over the coming years.

Shifts in social media

The outcome of the US election could impact the world of fashion e-commerce, especially in terms of social media advertising. A Biden administration is tipped to impose greater regulations on big tech companies such as Facebook, which could lead to more expensive advertising costs, but a potential boost for small fashion tech start-ups.

On a positive note, this move is also forecast to improve customer trust and loyalty. That’s why such changes are likely to be a long-term win for selling and buying fashion online.

Try-on tech

As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology continue to develop, our online shopping experiences are set to improve. Tech that allows the buyer to see what the product will look like—be it clothes, makeup, ladies boots, or accessories—is sure to help shoppers find the perfect piece for them, while also reducing returns and boosting customer satisfaction.

This development won’t only help in the world of virtual shopping; in fact, many brands already utilise VR technology in-store. Uniqlo offers “magic mirrors” and American Apparel has an in-store colour-changing app. The COVID-19 pandemic means we have be more careful about keeping our distance while shopping (if we choose to shop in person at all). This technology offers a great solution that allows shoppers to cut out the fitting room stage and skip straight to the purchase.

Personalised experiences

Greater personalisation is the future of shopping, and technological advances are helping us get there. We’ve already discussed VR and AR, both of which work to personalise shopping experiences online and offline. But there are many other ways in which the fashion industry is adding a personal touch to our shopping experiences.

74 per cent of customers report that they feel frustrated when an online shopping experience doesn’t feel personal. What’s more, an incredible 91 per cent say that they are more likely to shop with a brand that provides personalised recommendations. Judging by the customer demand, we are likely to see brands strive for greater personalisation than ever over the coming years.

Now that much of our shopping experience has moved online, meaning that we can’t enjoy the personal experience of asking for help and advice from a shop assistant, we are relying on e-commerce websites to up their game. Chatbots are a great way of providing that personal touch, so expect to see them become more common. We’re also expecting more personalised offers on all your favourite shops’ websites in the coming years.

Sustainable practices

Finally, we can expect the future of fashion and shopping to continue to strive for greater sustainability. From ethical supply chains to locally sourced materials, fashion is becoming ever-more sustainable. Thanks to the development of more sophisticated synthetic materials such as vegan leather, fashion brands will have an increasing variety of materials to work with. This will enable them to keep working towards the sustainable practices that their customers are asking for.

There’s no doubt about it, the future of fashion and shopping are in the hands of the digital world. As shopping practices evolve, fashion brands are listening to their customers and making sure to stay one step ahead. Exciting things are undoubtedly on the horizon in the world of e-commerce over the coming years.

New Year, New Business: How Will Your Company Adapt?

2020 was a tough year for business in the UK, having to adapt to a new way of working as the new world ground to a halt. 2021 was perhaps anticipated as the year where things would return to normal but as the government has enforced a new lockdown, it seems that we will be bringing parts of 2020 into the new year. This is a time where businesses will sink or swim, building on what they learnt last year, and making lasting changes to their business models.

There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic has brought a profound impact to the business world. Some previous models of business are now completely redundant and entire sectors were obliterated overnight. Offices shut and working remote. Firms have had to furlough staff or let them go completely. Financially, the effect of the crisis has resulted in the prediction that a fifth of all small businesses will collapse in the UK. Although this is a bleak prophecy, the aftermath of crises often leads to a new period of creativity, inspiration and growth.

The COVID period has allowed firms to reflect on their business models and ensure they are fulfilling their founding purpose. Businesses unable to pivot and alter their model are likely to suffer, whereas firms that are willing to adapt and innovate are likely to see success, Firms will have to redefine their corporate personality – how will your business adapt this year?

Three of Future Strategy Club’s business advisors share their tips on how businesses can adapt and make permanent change to solidify their corporate position in the new year.

Justin Small, Founder of Future Strategy Club:

“Business owners and managers will have faced innumerable challenges over the past year. Business leaders don’t just need advice, but a hands-on approach to see their firm through the second year of the pandemic. An outside consultant can bring a fresh perspective to businesses looking to make a change this year, integrating a new, more flexible ethos to firms who are looking for the best way to accommodate new business models. Consultants talk to other consultants and these peer-to-peer conversations help to share the knowledge of experts who have dealt with previous crises, such as the 2008 crash, that can now be applied to the pandemic. A highly skilled CRO or transformation expert could be the difference between growth and capitulation in 2021, and thanks to Future Strategy Club, you no longer have to pay through the nose to get this help.”

Gurtej Sandhu, former Digital Director at The Times and Future Strategy Club advisor:

“2020 taught us lessons as we asked the question of what matters for businesses, and this will continue this year. Will they be dependent on an office? Will demands for talent change? Businesses will need to change how they operate and communicate and continue to take advantage of the situation. There may be an opportunity for much needed structural reorganisation – the process of sharing ideas is important and needs to be considered. The culture of companies is also being reviewed, and changes can help to future-proof firms as we move forward. COVID has really made leaders think about productivity and encouraged them to strip back to reveal what matters.”

Gareth Tennant, former Head of Intelligence for the Royal Marines and Future Strategy Club advisor:

“COVID has brought the importance of planning for disruption and contingency into the spotlight. Leaders needs to build resilience in their organisations by having an all-encompassing strategy. It’s cliché, but every crisis is an opportunity. Some firms have found an increased demand for their services. The organisations who were able to adapt are the ones who have thrived in this period. There are two pieces of advice I would give; the first is to consider the future shocks that may occur. Ride the wave of success now, but do not be complacent and think that your firm is now invulnerable to future dynamic shock. Secondly, I would say that firms should be more value driven. A lot of people have suffered during this period and I think we may emerge into a world where our societies are far more driven by social value, rather than just fiscal value. It is important now to be magnanimous with our success and empathetic to others around us.”

Businesses are definitely facing a tough year, but companies that are willing to learn and adapt are likely to survive, and even thrive. With the leanest talent, a nimble business plan, and a sense of comfort regarding the unknown, firms will come out of this period feeling more prepared and stronger than ever.

Future Strategy Club is a members club of over 250 of the UK’s most experienced c-level consultants and leading creative talent – offering organisations a continuous and dynamic outside-in stream of robust thinking and strategic guidance to identify, plan and execute the necessary change required to solve complex innovation and transformation challenges.

Ten Top Tips to Ensure Your Business Is Set Up For Success in 2021

Research from Yell indicates that despite a difficult 2020, SMEs (Small Medium Enterprises) are feeling very optimistic about their business in the New Year, with three out of every four (76%) business owners confident about the success of their business in 2021.

To help you make sure you’re ahead of the game going into 2021, Yell has shared their top tips to ensure your business is being seen, chosen, and trusted in the New Year.

  1. Get online in 2021 – if you’re yet to take the plunge, the pandemic has meant that getting an online presence is now an absolute priority. There are plenty of options out there, from free do-it-yourself sites, to websites built and managed for you.
  2. Consider how you can adapt your business to offer online-friendly services, look to set up an e-commerce platform on your website, or if you’re in the service industry try offering your services via video conferencing, either on a one-to-one basis or larger group sessions.
  3. Setting up and maintaining social media profiles for your business will be even more important in 2021. With businesses having to adapt and make changes to their operations at a drop of a hat as a result of the pandemic, social media can be a great way to communicate these changes to your customers quickly.
  4. Ensure your business is listed where consumers are searching for your services. This can be done for free on the likes of Yell.com and Google. Yell.com even shares your listing with major media players such as Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, increasing your chances of featuring on the likes of Alexa, Bing, and Apple maps.
  5. Always ensure that your information is up to date. Make sure your latest opening hours, products, services, and delivery information is easily findable by customers and is consistent across all channels.
  6. Download relevant business apps onto your phone – and ensure notifications are switched on – so you get alerted as soon as a potential customer contacts you via that platform, and you can reply instantly to convert the opportunity.
  7. Reviews – a lot of people are stuck at home with more time on their hands, your customers will understand the challenges you have faced this year and will want to help as best they can. Now is the time to reach out to previous customers and invite them to write reviews for your business on Yell.com, Google My Business, Trustpilot etc.
  8. Use the start of the New Year to build a portfolio of case studies. What your satisfied clients say about you will always sound far more convincing than what you say about yourself. Getting new, relevant, and engaging content will help to add credibility and enhance the performance of your digital marketing.
  9. Email marketing is another effective marketing channel that you should consider exploring in 2021. Ensure that your emails come across as helpful and enjoyable, providing content that your audience will enjoy, will build trust and rapport. If you’re struggling to get people to sign up for your emails, try rewarding new subscribers with a special offer, or a coupon to use with your business.
  10. Finally – trust is key – now more than ever, with consumers wanting to work with businesses they can count on. Let your customers know what steps you have taken to comply with Government advice and make sure this is immediately apparent on your website.

With the arrival of a vaccine against Covid-19, we should all feel optimistic about the future and life returning to a semblance of normality – here’s to a successful 2021!

Scalable Security

Corsa Security is the first turnkey network security virtualization platform to simplify the process of scaling traffic inspection and automating firewall virtualization. Led by CEO, Eduardo Cervantes, an expert in cybersecurity, cloud and SaaS technologies, Corsa is revolutionizing the way enterprises and service providers protect their security networks in a way suited to the vast amount of data they deal with every day. We put together a profile of Corsa Security to explain how their ground-breaking technology works.

Founded in 2013, Corsa Security is the leader in scaling network security with the first turnkey network security virtualization platform that simplifies how large enterprises and service providers expand traffic inspection, increase threat protection and automate firewall virtualization, at much lower total cost of ownership.

CEO, Eduardo Cervantes, takes companies in promising markets with great ideas that exceed their small size and facilitate their growth organically and through acquisition to quickly generate shareholder value. In particular, Corsa’s top security infrastructure enables users to economically scale their threat detection capabilities using visualization and the automation of multiple virtual firewalls. This allows managed Security Providers and Enterprises to quickly and easily deploy security services while reducing DevOps expenditures.

Principal to the success of Corsa has been its recognition of notable failings in the use of virtual firewalls. In an interview, Cervantes explained that increasing the size of firewalls had a minimal impact when dealing with the colossus of data that is only growing, and much of which is encrypted. These firewalls do not have the capacity to decrypt, analyze and re-encrypt the data to be used at the scale required, proving that traditional methods of network safety are no longer sufficient. Instead, the technology needs to be cloud-like and ‘elastic’, expanding and evolving to suit the needs of the business it is protecting.

Therefore, by tightly integrating virtualization with intelligent orchestration, Corsa streamlines deployment, management and migration of virtualized next generation firewalls (NGFW) for zero-touch network security operations.

This revolution of network safety is the result of customer research and innovation, which has enabled the Corsa team to combine software and networking technologies into one, neat turnkey solution that is scalable and easy to implement, cutting the efforts and costs of typical firewall deployment by up to two thirds. As a result, large enterprises and service providers are able to expand traffic inspection, increase threat protection and automate firewall virtualization through Corsa’s easy-to use platform.

In addition, Corsa employs a pay-as-you-go service model, having created a platform that can be bought in one click, deploys quickly and is paid for only when it is needed by subscribing only to the capacity and services required through three year subscriptions. So that customers can avoid buying additional hardware and its associated replacement costs, and therefore deploy and manage security services with great agility and for minimal costs.

The company’s mission to assist in scaling up mid-sized companies comes from Cervantes himself, an expert in cybersecurity, cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service) technologies who has served on several Boards of Directors for Security related companies, as well as an advisor for VC and PE funds.

His vast experience in investment banking and operational entrepreneurial expertise has given him the strategic acumen as a CEO required to scale mid-sized organizations into industry leaders, which he has accomplished for zeniths such as ClearPath Technologies, Password Bank and Panda Security. In addition, Cervantes employs carefully strategized methodologies and abilities to bring about successful growth of these organizations and to excited and inspire confidence in investors to successfully raise capital.

Cervantes also takes pride in his ability to recruit and retain world-class talent to all levels of Corsa, recognizing the need for vastly-experienced personnel to bring together networking and software technologies to achieve Corsa’s revolutionary solutions. Cervantes therefore takes the process of recruitment very seriously, as he explains,

“I am constantly on the lookout for experienced top talent that can quickly make an impact on the organization. To this end, I participate in several executive forums in the Silicon Valley and other places in North America, Asia and the Middle East, where we have most of our operations. Of course, I also utilize trusted executive recruiters.

“In the selection process I look closely at the candidate’s ability to lead, to get things done, to communicate, and their ability to think strategically, analytically and practically. I look for people who are fact and number driven, but with a strong bias to action.”

The result is a team of executives who are each focused on the performance of the platform and business as a whole, as well as their own personal responsibilities, by driving the team’s KPIs. Each executive is also charged with the development and succession planning of their teams, and are additionally prepped as potential CEO successors, to ensure that there is always deep bench of talent at Corsa.

In a wider context, the culture of Corsa is warm and supportive, yet at the same time driven by facts and numbers so as to produce excellence and an environment in which people strive to be the best. There are metrics and performance measurements at every level of the organization, so that every individual, be they a leading executive or new intern, can see how they are performing and how this contributes to the overall mission of Corsa.

The Corsa team operates on an international scale, with headquarters in Ottawa, Canada that makes the most of the rich, regional networking talent, as well as offices in the US, Spain, Dubai and Delhi, so as to attract more experienced, global technology executive talent.

Operating on such an expansive, global scale also means that Corsa is able to serve a vast network of clients across a variety of roles and sectors. Principally, Corsa serves three types of client: first, Managed Security Providers who use the Corsa platform automation module to quickly and easily deploy firewalls-as-a-service to their customers without the need for DevOps resources. Second, are enterprise network security teams who operate several firewalls to protect different segments of their network. They use the Corsa platform firewall automation module to quickly deploy, upgrade, manage and decommission virtual firewalls without downtime or DevOps expense. Finally, Government agencies and Telecom service providers use the Corsa platform firewall scaling module to keep ahead of criminal activity by surveilling large throughputs of encrypted communications.

Corsa is therefore designed to be beneficial and functional to a broad spectrum of users and as such, is regularly developed and improved to best serve their clients. Moreover, cyber-security as a sector is becoming increasingly saturated, as well as seeing growing fragmentation in the market. The multitude of new companies entering the market with their new innovations and technology set an exciting precedent for the future of cyber-security, yet at the same time create uncertainty for prospective customers who are left overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices on the market.

Corsa is therefore faced with the challenge of making sure they stand out on the market, producing new technologies which leverage networking expertise and virtualization technologies to revolutionize network security in a way that is relevant. Corsa is committed to delivering these technologies with a message that is sharp, unique and consistent, to avoid getting lost in the noise of a busy and promising industry.

For more information, please contact Eduardo Cervantes or visit www.corsa.com

2021: An outlook for Employers

2020 has thrown up challenges no one could have foreseen, so how can your business prepare for 2021 in light of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic?


31 December 2020, will not only mark the end of 2020, which has been a year like no other, it will also mark the end of the Brexit transition period. 

In terms of changes to the employment law landscape, from 1 January 2021 any legislative change is unlikely to come immediately and the scope of any deregulation may be limited by level playing field provisions included as part of any trade deal with the EU.  The changes to retained ECJ case law are also likely to take time since cases will first need to reach the appellate court level for any departure to happen.  From an immigration perspective, the changes are going to be more immediate as on 1 January 2021 the new points based system will be implemented for new arrivals from the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

There are a number of things that employers can do to prepare which include:

  1.  Employers should conduct a review of their workforce. If they wish to employ anyone arriving from the EU after 1 January 2021, they will need to be a Home Office licenced sponsor and should apply for a sponsor licence as soon as possible. Any EU, EEA or Swiss citizen arriving before or on 31 December 2020 will be subject to the old immigration rules and able to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021.
  2.  Employers should continue to check any job applicant’s right to work in the UK in the same way as now until 30 June 2021 and have a duty not to discriminate against EU, EEA or Swiss citizens by requiring them to show their status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021.
  3.  Those employers who transfer personal data outside the UK (which from the EU and data protection perspective on 1 January 2021 will become “a third country”) should review the adequacy of their organisation’s data processes and protections in place.
  4.  Employers should conduct a review of contracts of employment in relation to post-termination restrictions and references to geographical limitation (i.e. non-compete clauses that refer to “throughout the EU”).
  5.  Employers with an international workforce should examine whether they wish to retain existing works council agreements, both domestic and European and consider any impact on its UK workers who are temporarily posted abroad.  


The Government scrapped its plans to introduce its widely-criticised Job Support Scheme and announced that the Corona virus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) (the ‘furlough’ scheme) will be extended and run until 31 March 2021, with a review to take place in January 2021. Employers should continue to watch this space for further developments but inevitably will have to consider whether or not they will make redundancies when the scheme ends. 

The roll out of the vaccine means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for businesses but in many cases the damage has already been done. Employers should remain alive to any collective redundancy consultation deadlines ahead of the scheme ending and ensure that if they intend to make 20 or more redundancies within one establishment in 90 days or less, they start the consultation process as soon as the redundancies are contemplated and in any event no later than 30 days before the first dismissal takes effect – and if that number is 100 or more, they will have to do so 45 days ahead and notify the Secretary of State in writing.

Another matter directors should be alive to is the wrongful trading provisions which impose personal liability on directors found to have over-traded while a company was insolvent – and if found liable, directors can be ordered to contribution to the assets of the company.  When a director concludes (or should have concluded) that there is no reasonable prospect of the company avoiding an insolvent liquidation or administration, they have a duty to minimise potential loss to the company’s creditors.  

In March this year, the Government suspended wrongful trading provisions so that directors could continue to trade through their companies without concern that they would be personally liable.  This suspension ended on 30 September 2020.  Directors are therefore advised to act with utmost caution and keep matters under continual review. In particular it is prudent to:

  • Hold frequent board meetings convened specifically for the purpose of reviewing the company’s financial position and keep proper minutes of those meetings, noting in particular any decisions made and the reasons for them.
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date company financial records.
  • Continually monitor the company’s financial position and future cash flows and consider ways to reduce expenditure.
  • Take professional advice aimed at reviewing whether insolvent liquidation is inevitable or whether there is some way of resolving or mitigating the company’s financial difficulties.
  • View resignation as a last resort, but if it becomes unavoidable, they should minute any dissent with other directors at a full board meeting and set the reasons out again in a resignation letter to the whole board.

Employers are likely to remain subject to the same considerations in terms of asking employees to return to work while the threat of the pandemic is ongoing – in relation to individuals who refuse to or cannot work for health reasons, these can be split into four categories:

  1. Individuals who will refuse to or cannot work in the office for health reasons.  This, in turn, will be split into four categories:

    a. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals as defined in the Government guidance.

    b. Higher risk individuals as defined in the Government guidance.

    c. Individuals who live with or care for clinically extremely vulnerable or higher risk individuals.

    d. Individuals who are not clinically vulnerable or at higher risk but are simply worried about catching the coronavirus or passing it onto others.

  2. Individuals who simply would like to continue to work at home or part at home and part in the office.

In relation to the first category of individuals, there are clearly health and safety and whistleblowing and/or discrimination concerns that employer and directors should be alive to (in particular directors can be criminally responsible for health and safety failures).  As vaccines continue to be rolled out, there is also debate whether employers could make it compulsory for employees to take the vaccine.  

In relation to asking the second category of individuals to return to the office after the dangers of the pandemic have passed, employers should be sensitive that if the individual has shown they can work from home effectively and the purpose for them to be in the office is to be monitored or due to a lack of trust this may undermine the duty of trust and confidence owed by the employer to the employee. The best way to approach such conversation would be to ask the individual what they would like to do and explain the purpose behind why they are required to be in the office. 

Employers should also be alive to the possibility that the individual could make a statutory flexible working request in relation to homeworking whether for permanent homeworking or working part at home and part in the office. Again, if the individual has shown that they can work from home effectively and has proven their productivity and commitment over an extended period of time, employers will be in a difficult position to refuse that individual’s flexible working request if it is framed in reasonable terms.   

Employers may wish to start considering what the future of working will look like more generally.  The pandemic has certainly accelerated the trends with regard to flexible and home working and has given employers the opportunity to revaluate the purpose of the office space and the use of new technologies to enable remote working.

There is also a question of what benefits will look like in the future – the current popular benefits such as season ticket loan, cycle to work scheme and so on may be out of touch with the future workplace and would salaries be lower or higher on the basis the individuals do not have to commute as often and/or the employer saves cost by not renting as big an office space?  The change in approach to these will no doubt begin to emerge as we come closer to tackling the pandemic and returning to what will inevitably be a different normal.