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  • Business Cornwall: New £3.7M arts hub opens
    Arts and business leaders joined the celebrations at the official opening of the new £3.7 million Krowji creative workspace recently.
  • Business Matters: Recruitment advice from successful startups

    We contacted a number of successful startups in order to find out how they source the right team. Below they share their experiences and advice on the importance of attracting and keeping talent that will help strengthen and grow your business.

    First up we have insights from Luke Lang, a Co-Founder of Crowdcube. Crowdcube is an online crowdfunding platform that enables startups to raise finance via online investment.

    How important is your team to the success of your business?

    Very – the Crowdcube team is a healthy mix of home-grown talent and experienced team members who have cut their teeth at blue chip companies such as eBay, Ask.com, Amazon, KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Google; all of whom have brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the business. Our team has more than doubled in the last 12 months and ensuring we maintain the high calibre of our team is a key factor in Crowdcube’s ongoing success.

    What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

    Since launching in 2011, as the world’s first investment crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube has remained at the forefront of the alternative finance sector. Our market leader position, coupled with our continued drive to remain innovative has been instrumental when it comes to attracting new talent. Our London office is bursting at the seams but it’s our head office in Exeter and company culture that has been a real draw for people looking to escape the city and enjoy the best of both worlds; a better work-life balance and a challenging and rewarding career in a rapidly growing business.

    What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team?

    Having the right people in your business is always important but it’s essential in the early days. My advice to any startup looking to grow their team is to take the time to find someone who is a good fit for the business; of course they will need to have all the necessary skills and experience but it’s also important that they are a cultural fit as well. From experience, getting the right people on board at the start makes all the difference to the businesses long term success, so it’s important to get it right.

    Next we have advice from Brynne Herbert, the Founder and CEO of MOVE Guides. MOVE Guides has grown from a small London-based startup to an award-winning global mobility solution.

    How important is your team to the success of your business?

    I firmly believe that your company is only as great as the people behind it, so it is important to invest time into building a strong team of A+ players. Our team is the heart and soul of MOVE Guides and acts as the glue that brings all moving parts of the business together. We have grown from 15 to over 60 in a year and each member of the team has greatly contributed to making MOVE Guides the award-winning global company it is today. Markets change, products evolve, but great teams create a legacy and will make a lasting difference on an industry.

    What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

    One of the reasons I founded my company in the UK is because it offers access to a huge international talent pool. At MOVE Guides we are committed to attracting talent from all around the world, which has enabled us to create an extremely diverse team. It is also very important to create and promote a strong company culture that attracts the right type of people. People are the foundation of your company’s success, so make sure that they represent and advocate your core values. As we say it at MOVE Guides, they have to “Be the brand”.

    What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team?

    Make talent a number one priority for your business. Be ruthless about creating a team of A+ players, and accept and act quickly when you have made a mistake in hiring someone that does not fit your company or culture. This is especially important for startups as they grown at an incredibly fast pace. There will be ups and downs, but the best retention policy is to build a team that you wake up excited to work with.

    We also have valuable guidance from Rachel Wastell, Marketing Manager at Housekeep. Housekeep is a professional online home cleaning service.

    How important is your team to the success of your business?

    Having a smart, dedicated team is the single most important factor for success in business. With a strong, focused team on board, you will learn and build faster. It’s crucial to ensure you choose a team with a range of different skill sets, to encourage collaboration and innovation. When founding Housekeep, we worked hard to find investors who would be able to bring a wealth of experience and talent on board, who we would be able to bounce ideas off, and ask for advice. Brett Akker, who founded, built and successfully exited Streetcar to Zipcar and Dharmash Mistry, who spent many years at Balderton Capital and has guided many other successful consumer technology startups to success, are merely two examples of this in action.

    What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

    At first, we spent a lot of time trying to recruit through our network. Gareth, Head of Technology, and Avin, Founder & CEO, were university friends, and Gareth had been building very similar systems at another fast growing start up. It was only natural for them to talk about the Housekeep concept, which eventually led to Gareth joining full time. Avin’s background as an investor at Smedvig Capital also led to the hire of another senior team member, Housekeep’s Operations Manager, Lisa. Smedvig Capital had invested in Exchange Group, where Lisa was Operations Manager for 13 years, and having an existing working relationship made the transition quick and efficient. Since then, we’ve hired various interns and used contractors from our network, which is much easier and quicker than recruiting from scratch.

    What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team?

    The best piece of advice when looking for a startup team is to use your existing network to find quality people. The right person for a startup should be: dedicated, smart, keen to learn fast and willing to get stuck in to all parts of the business. It is important to remember that life in a startup is very different to the corporate environment, so using case studies during the interview process based on real problems you’re facing, is a good way to test ability and the way the candidate thinks.

    Finally we have expertise from Jessica Walker, Marketing Manager at Flubit. Flubit is an online shopping service that provides users with a better offer for the products they want to buy online.

    How important is your team to the success of your business?

    Hugely! Without the Flubit team, Flubit is nothing. The concept and technology, as well as the recognition and success Flubit has achieved to date is borne out of the expertise, innovation and curiosity of the 65 strong employees we have. Each person that works at Flubit plays a crucial role here.

    What do you do differently in order to attract new talent?

    Attracting the best of the best in a city like London is difficult, so we have enforce a company culture that makes Flubit an enjoyable place to work. We provide company perks such as a monetary amount that staff can chose to spend as they please – on socialising, development and learning, activities, everything! We also make sure our office is a fun place to be – we have a pool table, dart boards, a PS4, ping pong, an Oculous Prime and other things for staff to use in between working. We run weekly ‘demo days’ where we get together as a whole company to catch up, share ideas, update each other on projects we’re working on. We also hold regular ‘Hack Days’ to ensure our developers, programmers, and technical staff get the opportunity to be creative and explore ideas they may have.

    What advice do you have for startups looking to grow their team?

    Focus on talent, and then retaining that talent once you have them, but recruiting and training new starters is a big investment and London has a lot of competition. Once you’ve hired someone, don’t rely on them hanging around unless their role, team and environment fulfils them on multiple levels.

    If you’re a looking to expand your team, take on board the insights and learnings provided by successful startups who have learned from experience.

     

  • BBC Business News: China shares lower in volatile trade
    Mainland China shares close lower in volatile trade on Friday after plunging more than 6% a day ago, rattling global markets.
  • BBC Business News: How Fifa makes and spends its money
    How football's ruling body makes and spends its cash
  • BBC Business News: BBC uncovers tax avoidance scheme
    Anderson Group, one of the recruitment industry's most high-profile companies, is promoting an "aggressive" tax avoidance scheme which tax experts are calling "abusive".
  • BBC Business News: Pure Gym to buy rival LA Fitness
    Pure Gym, the UK's largest gym operator, buys rival workout chain LA Fitness.
  • BBC Business News: FTSE falls slightly on light trade
    The FTSE 100 opens down slightly despite a strong showing by Associated British Foods (ABH).
  • Business Matters: Pure Gym to buy rival LA Fitness

    LA Fitness and its 43 clubs, based predominantly in London and South East England, will add to Leeds-based Pure Gym’s 91 clubs, reports The BBC.

    LA Fitness was taken over by its lenders in 2014, who then put the business up for sale.

    Pure Gym has grown considerably since opening its first sites in Leeds and Manchester in November 2009.

    It attempted to merge with discount rival, The Gym Group, last year but the deal was blocked by the competition regulator.

  • Business Matters: The science of successful negotiation

    Everyone must negotiate at some point.

    A new hire must negotiate her starting salary. A sales professional must negotiate the best price with a customer. A business owner must negotiate the best buyout cost.

    At some point, you’re going to enter into negotiations, and you should know the best tips for winning, says inc.

    It used to be that successful negotiations were left up for grabs to whoever could be angrier or louder. Today, scientists have discovered surprising psychological insights regarding negotiation. Here are three that you can use the next time you enter into a negotiation of any kind.

    1. Framing Effect: True negotiation is a win-win.
    Most of the time, we go into negotiations with the wrong viewpoint. We frame the negotiation as a win/lose instead of a win/win.

    Here’s why this is important. If you view the negotiation as a win/lose, then you have a 50% chance of losing. If, on the other hand, you view the negotiation as a win/win, then you will definitely come out as a winner. Plus, the other party will win, too.

    The win-win mindset is part of the framing effect in psychology. The framing effect states that a person responds to a given choice based on how it is framed–either as a gain or a loss.

    We create our own internal framing when we view a negotiation as a win or lose proposition. By doing so, we predispose ourselves to the likelihood of a loss. If we view the event instead as an opportunity for two wins, then we increase our odds of getting what we want

    2. Anchoring: Be the first to say a number.
    When it comes to a negotiation, you should be the first to state a number.

    Why? Because when you say a number, you are setting the starting point for the negotiation. Even if your number is absurdly high or low, it will still have the desired outcome of shaping the remainder of the negotiation.

    Daniel Kahneman explained how this works,

    If I ask you, “Is the average price of a German car more or less than £150,000,” you know that’s too high. And then I ask you, “What’s the average price of a German car?” Now compare that to what happens to you if I ask you, “Is the average price of a German car more or less than £15,000? What’s the average?”

    Using this example, Kahneman explains how the first question biased the conversation in favor of high-price, high-end German cars such as a luxury Mercedes. On the other hand, the low price of $15,000 would introduce a thought process regarding low-end cars.

    The idea is called anchoring, and according to Kahneman, is “the most robust phenomena we’ve discovered in psychology.”

    To use this technique in negotiation, you must be the first to say a number. If you want the outcome of the negotiation to be a low price, then you should state an absurdly low price. If you want the outcome of the negotiation to be a higher price, then you should state an absurdly high price.

    You know that your initial number will be quickly disregarded. But that’s okay. You’re not angling for your first number; you’re angling for a better number.

    3. Prospect Theory: Bargain using certainty
    Let’s pretend that you’re a hiring a new developer. In negotiation, the developer is trying to obtain a far higher salary than you are prepared to pay.

    Instead of playing a numbers game, try a different approach. You say, “What I can offer you is a guarantee. You can be certain of your employment here for a minimum of six months, no questions asked. Your position is absolutely safe as long as you accept this salary.”

    This negotiation tactic comes from prospect theory. Prospect theory is a method of understanding how people make choices, especially when the choices involve a degree of risk. In any negotiation, there is some level of risk.

    When you offer certainty instead of money, you are alleviating one form of risk. According to Morris Altman, “People have a strong preference for certainty, and are willing to sacrifice income to achieve more certainty.”

    Final thoughts…
    Science and psychological insight can revolutionise the way that you negotiate. Instead of fearing loss, you can sit down at the table, confident that the outcome will be a double win. Then, open boldly, by stating a number that will permanently turn the negotiation in your favor. Finally, if the price can’t be adjusted, begin bargaining with degrees of certainty.

    By strategically unleashing these psychological insights, you will invariably go into negotiations stronger, and come out more successful.

  • Business Matters: Retailers’ anger grows as PayPoint shares surge

    Shares in the bill payments business leapt yesterday after it reported that pre-tax profit had grown by 7.7 per cent to £49.6 million in the year to March 31, reports The Times.

    PayPoint, which allows consumers to top up their mobiles and pay household bills over the counter in convenience stores, has been accused of “deplorable” behaviour by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents after it cut retailers’ commissions soon after it asked many of them to sign new contracts.
    Dominic Taylor, the company’s chief executive, said: “I am not underestimating retailers’ concerns. I recognise the issues and we will do our best to alleviate them.”

    PayPoint revealed that it planned to sell its parking and online payment processing companies to focus on its growing retail network across Britain, Ireland and Romania.

    The company’s net revenue grew by 8.3 per cent to £123.1 million. The shares rose by 72p, or 8 per cent, to close at 950p.

    Some shop owners complain that they make a loss on every PayPoint transaction that they handle, and recent changes to its commission payments has prompted angry protests from the NFRN and a social media campaign.

    Although there was no offer to revisit commission arrangements to defuse the rift, Mr Taylor said that PayPoint would offer additional training to retailers in how to use their systems to boost their profitability and investigate ways of improving their banking arrangements to reduce transaction processing fees.

    Mr Taylor said: “We never said to the retail community to assess [our] value by the commission. The real value is in the footfall and the investment we make in new products for their customers.”

    He added that shoppers who came into stores because of PayPoint spent more than the average consumer.
    Any retailer that remained unhappy with the company after talking through the issues with PayPoint would be allowed to leave their contract without charge, he said. “The last thing we want is retailers who don’t want to work with us. Our churn is less than 3.5 per cent.”

    Marcus Bergin, the owner of SuperNews, a newsagent in Gloucester, who leads a campaign on the issue, said: “PayPoint is growing but their retailers are suffering. I don’t understand how you can say ‘hard luck on commission rates’ and yet make more money.

    “It doesn’t make any sense that they can treat the people who make them money so badly but watch their share price go up. This issue won’t go away until retailers are treated fairly.”

  • BBC Business News: Neverland ranch goes up for sale
    Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch has gone up for sale for $100m, according to reports.
  • BBC Business News: VIDEO: The fans who built their own football stadium
    The official opening of a new football stadium tonight is timely with the scandal engulfing FIFA.
  • BBC Business News: Imax to list China unit in Hong Kong
    Imax, the Canadian maker of widescreen cinema theatres, is planning an initial public offering (IPO) of its China unit in Hong Kong.
  • Business Matters: Trustpilot closes $73.5m funding round to continue global growth strategy

    Trustpilot, the leading review community for global online shoppers, today announces that it raised $73.5m in a Series D investment round, marking one of the highest levels of business investment generated in Danish history.

    The round was led by the private equity firm, Vitruvian Partners, following an 80 per cent growth in revenue in 2014, with the Trustpilot community receiving one review every five seconds from across the world. Previous investors DFJ Esprit, Index Ventures, Northzone and Seed Capital Denmark also contributed significantly to this round.

    The company will use the funding to continue its rapid global growth, investing even more in the processes, people and technology to help strengthen its position as the online standard for brands that want to increase trust, transparency and customer success.

    Trustpilot is home to 13 million reviews of more than 100,000 brands, and the Series D investment round follows a milestone year of 80 per cent growth, bringing total investments to $118m.

    Feedback collected proactively through the Trustpilot platform enables leading brands like ebookers, Travelex and My Optique Group to increase customer retention, individually tailor customer experiences and prove marketing return on investment. This deep customer insight also enables brands to make informed decisions about service and product development and rally sales, marketing and customer experience teams.

    “Every day more than 10,000 consumers sign up for a Trustpilot account, demonstrating the growing influence of customer experience on brand perception. A brand is no longer just defined by the company, it’s defined by what customers are saying about that company; this is a global trend that businesses cannot ignore,” said Trustpilot Founder and CEO Peter Holten Mühlmann. “Trustpilot is at the forefront of this trend, and we will use this round of funding to invest in processes, people and technology that enable us to amplify our position as the online standard for trust.”

    Boasting a customer retention rate of 95 per cent, Trustpilot has quickly set the standard for company reviews online. To ensure that it continues to meet the highest standards of trust and transparency, Trustpilot has a dedicated team of 30 people working around the clock to make sure that reviews comply with its guidelines as well as to combat fraudulent behaviour on the platform.

    Commenting on the deal, Partner Ben Johnson from Vitruvian said: “Consumers increasingly recognise that peer-to-peer reviews have become an essential resource. There is a huge global market opportunity for online reviews based on the desire of customers around the world to find trusted recommendations in every category. Trustpilot is a technology leader and pioneer in this area, and its opportunity is to reach customers in new markets and to continue extending the benefits of online reviews to new global brands.” Partner Ben Johnson will join the Board of Directors at Trustpilot.

  • Business Matters: BBC uncovers ‘aggressive’ tax avoidance scheme

    HMRC has promised to ‘pursue users and promoters’ of the tax avoidance scheme

    The scheme works by exploiting the government’s Employment Allowance.

    The scam could deprive the Treasury of tens of millions of pounds of National Insurance payments.
    Anderson Group says that all of its services are fully compliant with UK tax laws.

    It says it is “totally incorrect” to say that Anderson Group is promoting the scheme and says it is a product being offered by one of its clients.

    Anderson Group, which calls itself the UK’s “leading provider of support services to the recruitment industry” has hundreds of agencies and thousands of contractors on its books.

    The tax avoidance scheme works by exploiting the government’s Employment Allowance which was introduced last year.

    The allowance enables companies to claim £2,000 off their annual employers’ National Insurance bill and was meant to encourage small businesses to take on more workers.
    Secret recording

    The BBC secretly recorded Anderson Group’s sales manager, Ian Moran, promoting the tax avoidance scheme to a recruitment agency.

    The agency he was pitching to employs 300 workers, many of whom work in low paid jobs in warehouses or as labourers.

    Mr Moran suggested that if the recruitment agency were to set up more than 100 limited companies with a couple of workers in each of them, each company could then claim the £2,000 allowance.

    By Mr Moran’s calculations the agency’s National Insurance bill would then fall from £300,000 a year to zero.

    Mr Moran suggested the recruitment agency, which has no intention of using the scheme, might like to spend the £300,000 on Bentleys and ski chalets.
    The ”job’s a good’un,” he said.

    Mr Moran told the recruitment agency that 10,000 workers were now being employed through these companies, and the goal was to increase that to 20,000.

    If National Insurance was avoided on every worker, HMRC could lose £20m in National Insurance contributions.

    At the meeting, Mr Moran admitted that the Employment Allowance was being misused: ”It wasn’t intended to be used exactly like this,” he said.

    ”Let’s be straight, but they set the rules, we’ll build a product.”

    Robin Williamson, head of the low income tax reform group at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, has called the scheme “highly aggressive” and “abusive”.

    He says it drives a coach and horse through the legislation: ”To use the colloquial – they are having a laugh.”

    The Employment Allowance legislation makes it clear that artificially created companies cannot claim the allowance.

    The BBC found on the Companies House website more than two thousand limited companies created by those behind the tax avoidance scheme.

    “Schemes like this don’t work and anyone thinking of using it should think again,” Jennie Granger, head of compliance at HMRC told the BBC.

    “Failing to disclose an attempted avoidance scheme is punishable by a fine of up to £1m,” she added.
    HMRC has promised to “pursue users and promoters” of the scheme.

    Tax expert and financial reform campaigner Richard Murphy thinks the scheme’s promoters are banking on the idea that by the time HMRC catch up with them, there’ll be no money to recover.

    ‘”What they’ll say is: well, there’s no money in any of these companies, they’re all empty shells, therefore, you can sue us, you can put us in to liquidation, but they’ll be nothing for you to have,” he said.

    Mr Murphy believes it’s time to consider whether there should be a penalty on the directors of limited companies set up for the purposes of abusing the tax system.

    None of the tax experts the BBC spoke to were surprised that this scheme was operating within the recruitment industry.

    For years this sector has been dogged by allegations of tax avoidance and exploitation of low paid workers. The Treasury is consulting on ways to clean up the sector’s shady practices.

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