The Spending Review

Spending Review: Government must now shift gear from cuts to a clear growth strategy, says SCC

Commenting on the Spending Review, set out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today (Wednesday), Chaz Brooks, President of the Surrey Chambers of Commerce (SCC), said:
“Business has been clear: the deficit must be tackled, no matter what. The spending review does the job of setting out how this will be done.

“Overall, the Spending Review could have been worse for business. While we were disappointed that the Government succumbed to political ring-fencing of some spending areas, cuts to productive infrastructure investment were not as bad as many had feared.

“Now that the Spending Review is complete, our message to Government is that it is now time for a clear strategy for growth – which in turn will give companies, and especially small and medium-sized enterprises, the confidence to invest. Perceptions matter. Businesses and government must work together to deliver a real year for growth in 2011. This is the only way that the private sector will be able to take up the slack.”

Exclusive …. Home Secretary drinks whilst on duty!

Last Friday saw the launch of an initiative to boost the Town Centre of Maidenhead. The high profile campaign launch was launched by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

CBC’s newest client, Pig in a Poke, supplied the wine for the event and Enjoyment Executive (wouldn’t we all love to have a job and job title like that!) Alistair Morrell wasted no time in introducing himself to Theresa May and offering her a sample of the current Pig in a Poke vintage. She readily accepted and commented “I’m very pleased to support Pig in a Poke. It’s a great initiative and it’s good to see these ideas from a local business.”

For the record Theresa only had a small sampling glass of wine. But she said that she liked it! We at CBC say we like the wine too. And we should know a good wine when we taste one!!

Together Everyone Achieves More

Our MD, Mandy, was recently asked for her thoughts on what it means to be a Manager and how skills can be improved. …

What do you think is the general state of management skills in SMEs today?

“I think that managers have a real gap when it comes to people skills. Apprenticeships in leading and managing people – with hands-on experience in specifically that – should be necessary for anyone to be a manager.

It sounds obvious, but still in many organizations, people with good technical ability (and not necessarily any management skills or qualities) are rewarded by being promoted into management positions. A colleague who works for a large UK blue chip has told me that as times get harder, it is seen as less risky and more cost- effective to promote the technical experts in different areas into management roles. Surely this is a false economy? It is seen as a risk to head up technical areas with people who do not have top technical expertise. Surely it is more of a risk to have key technical people not properly managed.

This problem definitely transfers to SME’s. Smaller companies think that if the budget allows for a manager, then they should make sure that this person has technical on the job experience. This is almost seen as double insurance – an extra pair of hands to get on and do the job incase of sickness or holidays – seen as a necessity when teams are reduced to a minimum.

What seems to be missed is that if this person has no management experience or expertise, the gaining of one extra pair of hands in a technical manager can result in the loss of incentive and output in a whole group of demotivated employees”.

Can all management skills can be learned, or is there an element of natural ability that must be present if a manager is going to run their businesses successfully?

“I think that there is an element of natural ability but the most important thing is the ability to self-evaluate and delegate. As long as you can identify your own strengths and development areas, then you can work with people who compliment you and thus avoid a skills gap.

Are SME owner/managers continually missing key skills they need to run their businesses profitably?

“Yes. According to our Investor in People (IiP) assessor, many owners/ managers have technical skills abilities but are lacking in financial and man management skills. Whilst most owner managers would immediately identify that help was needed with the financial side of things, a vast majority would think that they could muddle through on the man management side – often with disastrous results! Many business studies degrees do not properly and practically address the art of managing people. Also financial acumen is more readily, and incorrectly, linked to profit than man management ability. But if your people are not productive and professional and on message, then your company will not succeeed”.

On Management Skills and Remote Working
“I think that people management skills need to be required, recognised and regulated in a much bigger way, particularly now that remote working has become more available. It is much more likely now that managers will be expected to manage a group of people who are not altogether all of the time.

Also with the globalization and localization needs that this throws up, the ability to work with and delegate to a diverse range of people has become even more imperative”.

One size doesn’t fit all! How to choose your PR agency

Chaz shares his tips to help businesses in making the right choice when it comes to selecting a PR agency.

• Let’s start simple. The first think to look out for in a PR agency is whether they listen to you. You will soon know by how significant their questions are.

• The second thing that needs to jump out at you is whether the PR agency (and the whole Team) demonstrates a genuine interest (and willingness) to learn about your company and your industry

• Thirdly, understanding where your business fits into a life cycle will help you foresee upcoming challenges and make the best business decisions. Any PR agency that does not consider this aspect will just not be in a position to deliver an effective campaign for you, as they will be operating only on a short term basis instead of working with you to reach your medium and long term goals.

• Tip Four – Ensure that you know if your chosen PR agency will provide flexibility when it comes to finances. Times are hard.

• My fifth and last tip concerns importance of the gut feeling. Many managers shy aware from gut feeling in preference to decisions based on logic. Once the hygiene factors are present and correct, don’t be afraid to make a decision based on your feelings. First impressions have their place in decision-making as do those mystery ingredients (X Factor!) that tell you that you will be ultimately be able to work with these guys and trust them to do a good job for you!

Have a great autumn!