Breakfast Frenzy

May 14, 2009

This week has been a bit of a time shift for me simply because I am one of the worst people I know for early starts. Monday was the usual wake up at half seven, wake up again at eight then rush about getting fed and making myself presentable before leaving at quarter to nine. Tuesday came with a six o’clock start, rolling out of bed half an hour later and struggling through the usual routine nearly ninety minutes too early for my brain to recognise where, who or what it was. It was the day of the Inside Business Magazine Open Forum breakfast at The Winter Gardens . That was a dry affair, from the breakfast bap with a couple of greasy slices of bacon to the debate which turned out to be a chance for the board to talk at the audience. The breakfast which preceded the sit down forum was little more than a large foyer with a table of bacon baps and danish pastries served by two members of staff and accompanied by a coffee or tea. This meant standing and talking whilst trying to juggle a paper plate and a china cup and hand out business cards all at once. Not a wise idea and I’d recommend perhaps seating as a minimum.

The forum wasn’t. It was billed as an open debate but realistically would have required a full day of debate rather than the hour or so that we had. The panel were all very educated in their fields but didn’t actually answer many of the questions the audience were asked to submit beforehand. The range of subjects that were covered was very limited, mainly due to time constraints. A much lengthier debate would have received greater plaudits.

After that, I returned to my day job as a mild mannered retail store manager, filled another day with paperwork, customers and fair trade coffee before going home to a hot meal and a night of bad tv and emails.

The following morning was another six o’clock start for my own Chamber breakfast. In conjunction with Michaela at The Alasia Restaurant, Weston Chamber, or rather just myself, had organised a breakfast to encourage more interaction between town centre businesses and to draw more members for the chamber itself. The publicity for the restaurant was an added advantage and the chance to link up with a new chamber member in Michaela made it all very satisfying. As opposed to the previous day, the feast on offer was incomparable. We were greated by the owners themselves and offered a hot drink on arrival. The restaurant offers a vast range of teas and a very good coffee and as we were encouraged to our seats,grouped in fours, we found platters to share filled with exotic and fresh fruits. This was follwed up with plates of mixed toasts and a selection of preserves. During the breakfast, I introduced the co sponsors, hosts and speakers for the event. Andrew Brown and Lawrence Russel of Albert Goodman Financial were welcomed as speakers and gave us some very useful insights and advice whilst Debbie Staveley of b Clear Communications held us all rapped as she drew us into the inner macinations of the PR world.

Our sponsors, without whom the breakfast would not have been possible were Chawner Grey Solicitors and Buildbase builder’s Merchants. Both sponsors were very generous and made very welcome partners in the first breakfast of this kind the chamber has organised. We hope to work woth both sponsors in the near future and to repeat the undeniable success of this venture.

Mayor Horler , his fiance and myself in front of the Weston Wheel

Mayor Horler , his fiance and myself in front of the Weston Wheel

I was invited to join the other local dignitaries at the opening of The Weston Wheel today. It was an opportunity to promote the Chamber and Weston itself, with the added benefit of a fun afternoon out.
The wheel is a smaller replica of the London Eye, from the same manufacturers. In it’s first week, the Weston verson has been taking more money than any of the other 12 models across the U.K., including the London Eye.
The Wheel opened just in time for Easter and the start of the holiday season and immediately the queues started and they haven’t stopped yet.

The Wheel is 40 metres in diameter and at night is lit by thousands of tiny ice blue lights. The view from the top of the wheel reaches out far across the bay towards Cardiff via Steep Holm and Flat Holm.

We were joined by various dignitaries representing the Town , the County and the Hoteliers and Restaurant Association. Councillor Parker,Mayor Horler and his fiance Camilla and Sophie Michael, from the Hoteliers Association took a ride in the first V.I.P. pod, after we all enjoyed a champagne reception and Councillor Parker cut the ceremonial ribbon.wheel-and-plot-160409-0091 Whilst we enjoyed our champagne and chatted with the organisers and staff, I was pleased to discover that most of the staff were recrutied locally and more are being trained to further expand the team. We, Gail and myself, filed into the pod after it completed it’s first full run, accompanied by Keith Fern , The president of the Hoteliers and Restaurants Association and his colleague. The trip, for want of a better description, was paced to feel comfortable but neither too slow or too fast. We went round a full four times, which gave us the chance to pick out all the landmarks and take plenty of pictures. There was a commentary which unfortunately was drowned out by the noise of the air conditioning, a necessity on a sunny day.

Keith Fern, President of the H.R.A.

Keith Fern, President of the H.R.A.

The normal pods hold up to eight people but I would recommend no more than six adults and two children from a comfort point of view. The V.I.P. pods hold five due to the difference in seating and trim. The seating in the normal pods consists of two facing bench seats  whilst the V.I.P.’s get leather two tone fully upholstered seats, with a large arm rest between the two seats on the one side and a full couch on the other side. The V.I.P.’s also get a DVD player, although I couldn’t see why they’d need one unless it was for a corporate product launch, a cooler for champagne bottles and small insets for champagne flutes to sit in.

Newsflash!

April 9, 2009

Latest news: I can confirm we now have two sponsors for our inaugural town centre business breakfast. Buildbase Wsm and Chawner Grey Solicitors Wsm.
Venue will be The Alasia Restaurant, West St Wsm.
Speakers to follow.

The Party’s not over..

March 28, 2009

Good couple of meetings this last few days.

First was a big black tie do. My first big do as President and my first black tie event full stop. Had to beg, borrow and not steal the gear to wear. In the end my director at work (Living Homes of Somerset, U.K.) happens to be the same height and build as myself and happily offered his suit for the purpose.

My eldest son offered, just before I as due to leave the house, to be my transport in return for ten pounds of fuel, leaving me the opportunity to have a couple or two glasses of house red, for which I am very grateful. The fact that I had been telling everyone who had ears that I was going to this auspicious event still left him puzzled as to why I was, at 6:45 pm on a Thursday evening, sat in the lounge at home  in a full dinner suit. It was only when I mentioned why he offered his services. Maybe it was the fact I mentioned needing to put some petrol in my car that pricked his ears up. A chance to get someone else to pay for petrol is always an incentive!

The meal, The Bristol Chamber Annual Dinner, was a wonderful event with some very informative and friendly fellow diners and a highly entertaining guest speaker in Sir Richard Needham.

The second meeting I enjoyed for some of the same reasons and for a few different ones too.

This was one of our many business breakfasts, held at Rookery Manor http://www.rookery-manor.co.uk/

in conjunction with our sponsors for the breakfasts, Burroughs-Day Solicitors

http://www.bd4law.com/

We always get a good turn out at the morning meetings and this is not in any small part due to the organisational skills of Eleanor Rendall and her team from Burroughs Day. They normally drum up a decent enough speaker, last time it was the West of England Agents for The Bank of England. This time we were lucky to have our local M.P.

Now, that in itself doesn’t sound too bad but the bonus is that our local M.P. has recently been promoted to Shadow Ministerfor Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. So, with the present financial crisis seeing the government suffering badly,  having the opposition minister for business speaking at our event was a  bit of a coup.

John Penrose spoke well, didn’t dodge any questions and explained things well and the guest diners were all very keen to fire questions his way.

The minister didn’t use the opportunity to attack or blame the opposition, or to push a sales pitch for the Conservative Party, but did admit that Whitehall was partly to blame for the present situation. He explained just how and why the country is in the mess it finds itself in, not laying the responsibility at the feet of just the banking fraternity or the government or Whitehall but also explaining that in order for banks to lend such ridiculous sums as 125% mortgages, there had to be a demand from business and the house buying public.

It was felt by all after the meeting that we in the business world and the public in general need a change of thinking, a whole new mind set where greed is no longer good. Gordon Ghecko has left the building.

Our next scheduled chamber evening meeting will be held at Howard’s Honda dealership in Weston-super-Mare and will start at 7pm on Wednesday the 15Th.

I attended a Business Club meeting on tuesday evening and, despite being let down by one speaker due to communication errors, we all left with a strong feeling that a lot of the present crisis was not only brought upon by the greed of a few, but could have and should have been easily avoided.

The main talk was given by Andrew Brown of Albert Goodman Financial planners.

Andrew is by nature a gregarious and exceptionally contagious person, his manner of discussing things that would leave most highly qualified financiers baffled in terms that the layperson can relate too is beyond comparison.

He brought along a small handout detailing some basic advice from another associate from Albert Goodman, Nick Hancock, which read:

Approaching the Tax Year end and many company accounting year ends, it is worth while considering tax planning.

The following are a few ideas;

  • Pay pension contribution prior to 5th April

  • Utilise full £50,000 Annual Investment Allowance

  • Use full £9,600 Capital Gains Tax Annual Allowance

  • Create a capital loss from sale of assets

  • Delay sales to following year

  • Bring forward revenue expenditure, for example repairs of buildings

  • Issue dividends pre 5th April

  • Pay spouses and/or children wages

  • Consider profitability for Tax credit purposes

  • If profitability is falling,consider reducing tax payments on account

  • Think about spreading tax payments over 12 months

These points in themselves raised a few eyebrows and prompted some serious questions, all which were dealt with comprehensively by Andrew as were the many, many questions that followed.Some of the points that were explained were how and why we got into this crisis, what it has meant positively for us and what we can and need to do now to limit the devastation.

One thing that has happened, quite clearly and publicly , is that the rate of inflation has collapsed. The pound in your pocket is worth the same as it was  some months, even a year ago. The halt in inflation and the collapse of the housing bubble has meant that first time buyers are once more able to take faltering steps towards the housing market, something that was unthinkable as little as 12 months ago ,unless you were a commune.

When the changes brought in by the Thatcher years allowed ordinary working people to buy their own homes, we all thought it was a great thing, a liberation for the masses. In reality, what has happened is that those with the money have bought up all the available property , forcing the prices up beyond the reach of those ordinary folk creating a baron landlord society with the few owning the majority.

The collapse has brought prices back down to a level where the process can restart.

Variable rate mortgages have disappeared, withdrawn by susceptible banks and leaving many people now paying little more than interest only mortgages. The extra spending power that brings may, it is hoped, kickstart the retail economy .

Car manufacturers are struggling to keep factories open to the extent that they are in some areas offering new cars at below cost prices, choosing to lose less money by not closing factories. Also , contracts are now being offered on shorter terms to those who hire company cars or vans, again at below cost prices of up to £100 subsidies.

It may feel as though we are heading into bleak times, but don’t be too distressed, every silver lining may have it’s cloud but there are some bargains to be had, just take the time, and importantly professional advice, and manage your accounts closely. You may find that your lifestyle costs can be dramatically cut, your mortgage minimised and some debts cancelled if you were miss sold a mortgage or endowment package.

Some people were apparently so pressurised into taking up new credit cards that they never received the proper paperwork to read and agree to at the time. If you were one of those people, contact Andrew or Albert Goodman Financial advisors, you may be able to write off that card debt entirely.

After his impressive talk on Tuesday, I have asked Andrew, already a Chamber member , to give a talk at a future Chamber meeting. I will of course, alert all readers nearer the time.

A good start to the year.

January 15, 2009

bec_crunch_6

Last night (14/01/09) we co hosted our biggest meeting so far, with 50 people in attendance from businesses and groups of all sizes and levels of success.

Christopher Batt of the Weston College Business Centre, organised and hosted the evening with speakers from King’s Ransom, Barclays Bank and the H.R.Department as well as Christopher himself.

The event was held in The Bistro , Knightstone Campus , a wonderful venue , and started promtly at 7:15pm after a short introduction from The President, Chris Knight.

The theme for the evening was Commerce in the Credit Crunch.

A buffet was provide midway through the event and refreshments were at hand throughout. The President thanked everyone and brought the evening to a close at 10pm although guests were invited to stay and network after.

Our netx meeting will take place at the new venue, The Royal Hotel,on February 18th at 8pm for members, 7pm for executives.

Speakers will be present.

bec_crunch_1bec_crunch_3

After a progressive and successful year, with many new members and a successful joint meeting behind us, the chamber continues to grow. We saw the business breakfasts attract a record number of attendants, not in some small part due to the excellent standard of speakers.

Our guest speaker at the December meeting was John Mayer from Tax Assist. He gave us a full history of his franchise and the work they do, including business advice and accountancy. He also informed the members that Tax Assist offer a free consultation to Business Link members, subject to conditions.

The January meeting will be held at Knightstone Campus and will be hosted by Weston College Business Centre with The Chamber. It will be an open seminar, open to all members and non-members who might benefit from some credit crunch advice in the New Year. Speakers already confirmed include Barclays Bank Business, Kings Ransom debt recovery and the HR Department.

It takes place on the 14th of January at 7pm for 7:15pm.

All businesses in the Weston area are invited to attend. Please contact the organiser, Christopher Batt either on: 01934 411 594 or by email at:Christopher.batt@weston.ac.uk

A Darling idea

December 16, 2008

Sometimes in life, we are forced to question the wisdom of those we have burdened with the responsibilities of our nation and to ask ourselves if they really are in touch with the people they are elected to serve. That may be when rash decisions about the law or immigration are made. It may be when horrifying miscarriages of justice are discovered or nightmare abuses come to light that were continually ignored by those paid to prevent them as has happened all too recently but one thing has made me sit back and seriously consider whether some of the ivory towers we have built for our representatives need lowering to street level.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling M.P.  has tried to breathe life into the retail economy by reducing the rate at which V.A.T.  is charged. Now, when many retailers are reducing by as much as 70% in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy, a huge drop in taxation may well spark a return to the manic pre Christmas rushes we are more familiar with but a reduction of just 2.2% is next to insulting.

As an example of the benefit the customer will see from this token gesture, we can look at a typical furniture purchase.

If customer A buys a side table at normal price and pays £129 for it, they stand to save just under £3 from V.A.T. reduction.

If customer A waits until the winter sales begins, they could buy the same table pre tax reduction for £125 or with the V.A.T.  adjustment, £122.

Now, bearing in mind that customers are familiar with prices ending in a 9 or 99, most retailers round prices up or down to a 9. In psychometric terms, it is a ‘pretty’ number. It looks good to the buyer.

Therefore, if the retailer follows the normal pricing custom, the side table is always going to be £129. Some retailers use 5 as a rounded number too, so the cheapest this item is ever going to be is only £4 less than normal price, regardless of V.A.T.

If a larger purchase is made, for example a car at £17999, then an adjusted price would save £383.

If they negotiate a reasonable discount with the dealer of 10%, they would save £1800, a figure not unusual in these financial times. V.A.T. adjusting would bring that to £15854, a further saving of just £345. A fair figure but not enough to compare with free delivery or upgraded wheels or trim.

In short, in comparison with the discounts being offered by many desperate traders, 2.2% makes little if any difference. The costs of implementing the change in pricing structures and labelling goods will however prove the final nail in the coffin of a lot of small companies. 

Mr. Darling has consequently not only failed to save the economy but also, in his bungled attempts, helped to finish off many of the small businesses that were suffering before.

At least hose small business owners who have a mortgage can feel some benefit: The other change was to allow a longer period for mortgage arrears to be settled before repossession takes place.

As a guide, here is how the V.A.T. change is calculated:

Original price divided by 1.175 to remove tax at 17.5%

Add new tax by adding 15%

Alternatively, subtract 2.127% from old price to give same result.

Before I finish one by line. If a retailer wants to have a period of genuine sales, they must first establish the ‘normal’ or ‘usual’ price. This price establishment period must be a minimum of 28 trading days. If a store opens seven days a week, that’s just four weeks, but if they trade on six days and close on the Sunday, then it is 28 trading days not including Sundays.

If they change prices on display within that period then they must again wait 28 days longer from the date of change. Therefore, if your local shop has changed its labels on Monday the 1st of December, they cannot have a sale before the 29th if they open seven days per week.

Let’s wait and see how many retailers will still be holding Boxing Day Events this season.

Things have been moving, somewhat slowly and underground, at Weston Chamber and we are beginning to see results. As with all things involving large numbers of busy people, they are taking a while to get activated but they will happen.

After the meeting at Cadbury House, our next big event was at Rookery Manor. Now, during the Cadbury event, the visiting members of Bridgwater Chamber voiced a desire to return the compliment and to host a joint event in the New Year. Now, that has begun to materialise. We have been invited to be part of a joint meeting  at Rookery Manor. It happens that the Manor is situated almost midway between both locations so serves well as a location for the venture.Hopefuly this will take place in March.

Elswhere, Weston has been working on a new location for non-hosted meetings, those meetings which I hesitate to call normal meetings. Ordinary also sounds wrong so I guess usual meetings would be correct. Until we have settled into our new location, I will resist calling it our home.

From February we will be meeting at The Royal Hotel, Weston-super-Mare.

December sees us as guests of Howard’s Motors at the Citroen Dealership next to Hildeshiem Bridge when we will be hearing words of advise and encouragement from the guys at Tax Assist and hopefully other speakers to be confirmed.

January brings us Knightstone Campus and The Weston College Business Centre hosting. Again, speakers to be confirmed but to include Barclays Bank Business Managers.

Late January is the proposed timing for Bridgwater and the Murder Mystery Evening they are arranging. Weston hope to send along a crack team of amateur sleuths!

We have had more success with new members approaching us via the website so things are working in that field but sadly, we are at present slightly hindered by a lame Secretary. Helen, our erstwhile scribe, fell whilst preparing to join us for the xmas mel last month and , as a result, now has a cast on her broken right wrist!

Get well soon Helen and keep up the good effort!

Rising against the tide.

November 23, 2008

As we fall deeper into a global recession, with jobs being lost all around us and industries taking big hits, it is refreshing to see the activity of the Chamber growing in size and in importance. We recently held a breakfast meeting at Rookery Manor.

Now, I seem to have hit on a strange coincidence in business, that the best day for a business breakfast happens to be the best day for me to take as a day off each week. Perhaps the fact that we have dealt with anything from the weekend before and have a break before the weekend to come makes Thursday an ideal day for leaving the office but it also means, unfortunately, that I have to wake extra early on the one day I get the chance for a lie in!

Anyway, my moans aside, the second breakfast in as many weeks was to be jointly hosted by the chamber and Burroughs-Day Solicitors, a large company of legal and financial advisors based locally. The location was ideally situated just off the motorway between Weston-super-mare and Bridgwater, making it accessible from Bristol or Taunton too. The site is huge and one level so easily navigated by those with limited mobility. Rookery Manor is set within its own ground and has great parking facilites so all our guests were easily accomodated. They were met by the team from Burroughs-Day and handed their badges before being shown to the lounge bar for networking before the main event began.

I managed to make a few new contacts myself but my main job was to introduce the speakers and sponsors after the breakfast itself. The food was excellent, with toast and preserves being ready at the table when we took our designated seats and coffee flowing from the hot jugs delivered as we started eating. The plates of either continental or full english were proffered to the guests at their tables as the conversation flowed unniterrupted. I, being a host and President, sat alongside the other hosts and the guest speakers.

Before we knew it, the nerves kicked in as we were ushered to the top table ready to begin the main event.

As it happened, I just said a few garbled words and handed the slightly tempermental radio mike to Fiona Derwent, my co-host, to follow on and introduce the speakers. These were Geoff Harding and Kevin Butler, two gentlemen from the south west region of The Bank of England.

Kevin took control and gave us a detailed and highly accurate report on the recent past, present and hopeful future of the economy and its part in the global financial recovery. Needless to say, we were all transfixed throughout and the question and answer question ran dangerously close to overtime as the listening masses grilled the speakers. All questions were answered honestly and graciously.

Fiona nad I discussed who was going to do the wrap up, thank the guests etc., and at first I opted out but then had a change of heart and put myself forward, my thinking being that I had mumbled through the opening and needed to redeem myself.

I did better this time and hopefully didn’t embarress myself. The number of guests was very encouraging, being in the tens rather than teens as some previous meetings had been at othervenues. This I can happily say was in no small part due to the organisational skills of the team from Burroughs-Day. As far as I can tell, all those present enjoyed the breakfast meeting and took away something encouraging. I can’t tell you just what we were told due to reporting restrictions,(no, seriously, this is The bank of England after all), but I am a bit more confident that we will at some point come out of this dreadful downturn.

Contact Christopher Turner at Rookery Manor for a tour and more information on:

chris.turner@rooker-manor.co.uk

or T: 08454090909 F: 08454090908

Contact Burroughs-Day Solicitors via: http://www.bd4law.com/