THE winners of TheBusinessDesk.com’s West Midlands Business Masters awards will be revealed this lunchtime at a glittering ceremony at the Hyatt Hotel in Birmingham.
Around 150 people will be attending the awards ceremony to see if manufacturers such as Sertec, Brandauer, Dunlop Motorsport and Bromford Industries will walk away with a prize.
Automotive sector supplier Sertec will be aiming to repeat its victory in the Manufacturer category last year but it faces tough competition from fellow Birmingham manufacturer Brandauer - which won the Exporter award last year - and Cradley Heath lift manufacturer Lift & Engineering Services.
In the Exporter category Coventry steering systems manufacturer Pailton takes on Birmingham aerospace firm Bromford Industries and PCMS Group, which provides IT services to the retail sector.
In the Newcomer category sports nutrition firm Grenade UK, telecoms business ROAR and social media specialist VoxPopMe have made the shortlist.
In the Innovator category the three firms fighting it out are Birmingham’s Dunlop Motorsport, Coventry’s Safety Flex Barriers and Solihull’s Koolmill Systems.
In the Pride category - which celebrates achievement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) - Birmingham signs and graphics firm Hollywood Monster is up against commercial radio group Orion Media, also based in Birmingham, and, up for its second award, PCMS.
And in the Ambassador category the three people the judges think most successfully ‘bat’ for the region are D-Drill’s managing director Julie White, Beverley Nielsen, director of employer engagement at Birmingham City University and Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro.
The winners in the six categories have be chosen by TheBusinessDesk.com readers from the shortlists drawn up by an eminent judging panel.
TheBusinessDesk.com editor Andy Coyne said: “The stage is set for a great awards event today and we will have a room full of leading manufacturers and professionals celebrating the achievements of Midlands businesses.
“We’re really pleased with both the quantity and quality of entries we received for this year’s awards and I think the judging panel has done a cracking job in selecting extremely strong shortlists in all six categories.
“It’s now nearly time to reveal the winners.”
A special ‘breaking news’ email will be sent out this afternoon revealing the names of all the winners.
People think that telecoms is a complicated business. And it is, compared to selling fruit and veg on a stall, but the main reason people think it is complicated, is because telecoms providers NEED people to think it is in order to increase the value of their consultation.
ROAR beg to differ. We believe that organisations need three main things in order to communicate effectively with the outside world.
Solid broadband. Solid phones. Solid Support. Simple.
The rest is just a matter of quantity and infrastructure. How is your company configured? How do you want your company to look? How do you wish to traffic all these phone calls? Tell us what you want to do with your phone system, and we can give you a lucid cost projection for capital expenditure, ongoing monthly rental and even upgrade and exit plans.
“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.” Richard Branson
IN recent years, more and more businesses have started to discover the benefits of videoconferencing, now accessible by the masses thanks to improvements in broadband and bandwidth, says ROAR’s Omar Budeiri.
“The platform effectively allows users to connect face to face with colleagues and clients, no matter where they are in the world.
Although videoconferencing has been well established in larger businesses for a number of years, recent trends have seen 25% of existing users begin to utilise the facility on a daily basis.
This is particularly true for those working outside of the typical office environment, with 87% of those working from home indicating that videoconferencing makes their job easier.
Available via computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone, videoconferencing has been proven to promote a better working relationship between colleagues and offers many advantages over standard communication by email, telephone and even face to face.
The main advantage of videoconferencing is that it has been found to significantly reduce the cost and environmental impact of business travel. With many companies, large and small, now concerned with reducing their carbon footprint, this allows the preferred face to-face communication without leaving the office.
In larger corporations, decisions tend to get delayed waiting for meetings to happen. Rather than arranging meetings for a date when all participants can attend a physical location, videoconferencing also saves time and allows for decisions to be made with minimal disruption to day-to-day activity.
Research shows that 88% of professionals are more likely to take part in discussions which are held via videoconference than those held via voice calls.
Connecting to a videoconferencing facility does not call for a great deal of specialist equipment, but does require audio-visual apparatus including a camera, microphone, speaker and a means of transmission.
Rather than attempting to use videoconferencing through your ordinary internet provider, it is much more productive to use dedicated bandwidth which will allow for smoother, better quality audio and video footage.
At ROAR, we advise that the bandwidth required will depend on many factors and one of the best ways to establish this is by determining the amount of simultaneous users. Generally speaking, a bandwidth of 10Mb will allow for up to five users, while 50Mb caters for up to 25.
Improvements in videoconferencing and the technology which supports it are likely to continue to progress. 69% of US businesses currently use the facility, and it is predicted that this will be replicated in the UK in the near future, with more integration of video technology within existing business software.”
READERS of TheBusinessDesk.com are today being asked to vote in the Newcomer category of the West Midlands Business Masters awards.
Last week our eminent judging panel drew up a shortlist of three companies in this category and now it is up to you to decide who the winner will be by voting via the link at the end of this story.
Votes need to be in by 2pm on Tuesday May 7.
The judges selected sports nutrition firm Grenade (UK), telecoms business ROAR and social media specialist VoxPopMe for the shortlist.
Grenade (UK) is making a name for itself partly as a result of innovative branding and a strong marketing campaign.
But this shouldn’t disguise the fact that its underlying products are proving a big hit selling in more than 130 countries in its first three years of trading.
Its products are now available in High Street stores and supermarkets despite only having a staff of six. Its directors say they are committed to making Grenade a global household name.
ROAR Telecoms is in profit in its first year despite being a new kid in an extremely crowded sector.
The Birmingham firm made the decision early on to champion hosted VoIP, developing a one size fits all platform. Its target market is SME firms of 11-50 employees.
It is building a reputation based on excellent quality products and exceptional service.
Market research tool company VoxPopMe, also based in Birmingham, was set up by entrepreneur Dave Carruthers and engages consumer opinion via the use of a smartphone app.
Brands pay to post questions on the app and receive instant video responses in return.
The idea is that VoxPopMe can compete with or complement traditional market research methods.
The winners in the six categories of our Business Masters awards will be presented with their awards at a glittering ceremony to be held at lunchtime on Thursday May 16 at the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham.
THE shortlists have been announced for this year’s TheBusinessDesk.com West Midlands Business Masters awards.
And in the Manufacturer and Exporter categories it is shaping up to be a heavyweight fight between some of the region’s big name firms.
In the Manufacturer category, last year’s winner Sertec - an automotive industry manufacturer - will compete against precision metal components producer Brandauer - which won the Exporter category last year - and Cradley Heath’s Lift & Engineering Services.
And in the Exporter category Coventry steering systems manufacturer Pailton takes on Birmingham aerospace firm Bromford Industries and PCMS Group, which provides IT services to the retail sector.
The shortlists were drawn up by our eminent judging panel which met at Birmingham Science Park Aston yesterday.
The panel consisted of Peter Mathews, chairman and managing director of Lye-based Black Country Metals, CBIregional director Richard Butler, Acme Whistles managing director Simon Topman, Birmingham Science Park CEO Dr David Hardman, Rowan Crozier, sales and marketing director of Brandauer (who didn’t vote in the Manufacturer and Exporter categories) and Dani Saveker, former manufacturer and founder of Families in Business.
In the Newcomer category they selected sports nutrition firm Grenade UK, telecoms business Roar and social media specialist VoxPopMe for the shortlist.
In the Innovator category the three shortlisted firms are Birmingham’s Dunlop Motorsport, Coventry’s Safety Flex Barriers and Solihull’s Koolmill Systems.
In the Pride category - which celebrates achievement in corporate social responsibility (CSR) - Birmingham signs and graphics firm Hollywood Monster will be up against commercial radio group Orion Media, also based in Birmingham, and, up for its second award, PCMS.
And in the Ambassador category the three people the judges think most successfully ‘bat’ for the region are D-Drill’s managing director Julie White, Beverley Nielsen, director of employer engagement at Birmingham City University and Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro.
The winners in the six categories will now be chosen from the shortlists by readers of TheBusinessDesk.com and will be presented with their awards at a glittering ceremony to be held at lunchtime on Thursday May 16 at the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham.
TheBusinessDesk.com editor Andy Coyne said: “We’re really pleased with both the quantity and quality of entries we received for this year’s awards and I think the judging panel has done a cracking job in selecting extremely strong shortlists in all six categories.
“It’s now up to our readers to select the winners and we will be giving them the opportunity to do so, category by category, over the coming days.
“Everything is leading up to what should be an outstanding event on May 16 when once again we will be rewarding and celebrating the very best West Midlands businesses.”
OVER the past few years, more and more businesses have started to discover the benefits of cloud computing; a platform which has been around for some time but has only just begun to establish itself thanks to recent advancements in bandwidth and connectivity.
Seen by many as the future of business communication, understanding the cloud can sometimes be confusing. We talk about ‘the cloud’ as an umbrella for a number of different facilities, all designed to simplify the way we use computers, but how many of us truly understand everything this online storage space has to offer?
Put simply, cloud computing allows users to store and share more of their material ‘out there’; effectively eliminating the need for internal servers and hardware systems.
An important step in the advancement of collaborative work, the cloud allows users to share data with those in their company, as well as channel partners or clients, without the use of email or USB devices. Already used by more than 80% of businesses in the US, the technology is utilised in two main ways.
The first comes in the form of data storage. It used to be that data was stored on a static IP server located in the office or home. Although very secure, the data contained on the server could only be accessed from this specific location and so if the sever was damaged, the data would become lost.
The cloud acts differently and allows users, specifically businesses, to store their data on a public server. As well as being backed up and accessible from a variety of locations, by a number of different users, this outlet can accept documents of any size and will not need to be upgraded once the maximum storage capacity is reached.
The second use is for voice and video calls. This requires a much higher bandwidth than data sharing as the companies will effectively run their telephone lines through an IP address hosted on the cloud. An investment in the correct hardware is the only necessary change in a company’s infrastructure needed to ensure that calls can be made in this way.
Available to many different users, the cloud can only be accessed via the wider area network (WAN) which requires bandwidth when uploading and downloading documents. This simplification process is only possible if your organisation has the connectivity to support it; if you don’t, it simply won’t work.
Understanding the specifications needed to use the cloud can often be a confusing process, and so connectivity providers such as ROAR ensure that they gain all of the necessary information, in order to come up with a tailored solution that will best suit the business.
Asking questions such as ‘how many active users do you have?’ and ‘how many calls are you likely to have running at the same time?’ help us to work out contention ratios, and stop us from charging businesses for connectivity they don’t need.
It’s also important to establish why the business wants to use cloud computing, and to decide whether a private or public facility suits the user best. Whichever type of organisation you are, it must be re-assuring to know that you can talk to an expert.
So let’s review. Cloud computing is an online platform which can be used to store and share data, and host telephone calls and video exchanges. Much like the technological advancements made before it, the cloud aims to make life easier for businesses; allowing access to external storage space and providing back up to valuable data and documents.
The platform is already increasing in popularity and I’d predict that as faster broadband connections are made more readily available, the amount of people we see using the cloud on a daily basis will steadily increase.
OVER the past ten years, advances in technology have resulted in business communication becoming substantially more fast-paced. How did we come to be in the position we’re in now? And what developments can we expect in the near future?
Businesses today depend on high speed internet connections and flexible phone systems, but as late as a decade ago working life was still very different.
For many of us, the days of dial-up internet seem like a distant memory, but it’s only this side of the millennium that we have begun to see a real advance, and the pace is quickening.
The first important development of the decade came with the introduction of wireless internet. First becoming popular with consumers in 2001, Wi-Fi went on to become the ‘must-have’ new technology in 2006 and has revolutionised the way we do business today.
Leading to ‘business-on the-move’, we think nothing of logging on from outside the office, and can now even access our emails and those all-important documents on the tube.
Not only was this new technology made available on laptops and netbooks, the provision of the service on mobile phones quickly followed.
Constantly looking to out-do the competition with the latest technologies and gadgets, smartphone providers are even more keen than computer suppliers to ‘up their game’ and attract customers.
Dominating the market for many years, Blackberry satisfied consumer needs with new ‘push-notifications’; allowing us to access and act upon information immediately.
Other major players over recent years have included Android and Apple, both integrating online search engines, maps, calendars and downloading facilities into not only what we want, but what we expect from our mobile phone.
Which brings us to the present day and the newest communication improvement to hit the market; VOIP.
Although Voice over Internet Protocol, also known as Voice over IP or VOIP, was in the early stages of development in 2004, we’ve only really seen the technology become popular during the past 5 years.
Working in a similar way to Skype, VOIP technology essentially offers a phone service which operates through internet connections, rather than standard land-lines.
The flexibility of this service has proven to be extremely popular with business owners in particular; specifically those who spend time at more than one location as the system allows you to dial and receive calls from the same number, wherever you are.
Although we can predict advancements in certain areas, business communication has moved at such a rapid pace over the past decade that it is almost impossible to predict the improvements that are still to come. The one thing that’s certain is that developments are happening every day, and they aren’t slowing down.
Keeping up to speed with communication is a vital part of making sure your business is future-proofed, and offering a competitive edge. At ROAR we work with businesses of all sizes to make sure they taking advantage of the opportunities open to them, to stay in front of the competition, not behind.
PHIL Millard, managing director of Tamworth-based sales training company Bluestorm Development, has been appointed as chair of the BMET Enterprise Academy.
The former academy board member will succeed Anthony McCourt - owner and director of Birmingham business telecoms company Roar - who has now joined Birmingham Metropolitan College’s governing board.
The academy is looking to build on its links with more than 100 of the city’s businesses while developing its entrepreneurial activity among business studies scholars from Birmingham Metropolitan College.
“I’m excited to be taking on this role that puts budding businessmen and women right at the heart of entrepreneurship and enterprise activities,” Millard said.
“We want the academy to continue to play its part in ensuring that our emerging talent makes an impact on the city.
“Only by providing these entrepreneurial platforms will we ensure that Birmingham and the West Midlands continue to achieve success and maintain their reputation as the country’s centre of innovation and business excellence.”
Formed in 2009, the BMET Enteprise Academy supports young business people by providing internships and mentoring opportunities, as well as workshops and lectures. Students participate in a range of business and enterprise-related activities including finance and accountancy, communications and marketing and commercial awareness.
McCourt said: “Since its inception three years ago, the academy has forged some excellent partnerships while inspiring young people to strive for success.”
This month, ROAR have decided to inject a bit of brummie-quirk into the monthly Old Bromsgrovian mixer by putting £200 behind the bar. The Chameleon will kindly provide us with lovely Mediterranean post-work nibbles and most importantly, Birmingham’s most exclusive setting.
If you feel like reconnecting with old friends, or just fancy getting back to your roots and having an after-work drink with some people you may not have seen since your adolescence, then this is your night.
I look forward to seeing you all there, man-friends and lady-friends are welcome. Bring your business cards and leave the car at home.
Omar Budeiri, School House, 1999-2004
Movember is on the way and I like to use it as a time to reflect on how unbelievably hairy I am. I know I’m not the only man in the room that is proud of the amount of testosterone his body produces.
The moustache has been a symbol of male power and dominance since the invention of the razor-blade in 1824 by Dr. Francis Razor. Since then, despite bad press from the Hitlers, Stalins, Hussains and Francos of this world the ‘tosh’ has been championed by Depp, Del toro, All four Kings of Leon at some stage as well as Tom Selleck (Magnum PI), Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and alpha males from here to Fiji and back round.
GLIDE and ROAR are combining forces in a bid to raise money for Movember. If you are man enough to raise £500, then drop me a line back and get grooming you fine specimens!
Bloggers are not the cream of journalists. We are just everyday people doing what (literate) people have done for centuries: Writing about stuff. Except last century, we didn’t post it to everyone we knew. We just kind of kept it to ourselves, like we were embarrassed or something. Now, with twitter, Facebook, multiple blogs and personal websites combined with the fact that business and pleasure have become more integrated for everyone, somewhere along the line that shame has dissipated, and been replaced with exhibitionism.
But here’s the thing. Somewhere amidst the writing, the over-communication and the posting everything we do on Facebook, the tweeting everything that comes into our head, the mindless pontificating and the hash tags, we have lost the ability to actually do anything.
Why is this? Ghandi once said: “Nothing you do is important, but it is important that you do it.” I think I agree. I go to work, like everyone else. I pay the bills, I save, I build (relatively) successful personal and business relationships and (touch-wood) have accumulated over the years, a few people that I can actually call ‘Friends.’ But looking back, nothing I have ever done has been that important. I’m sure too, that deep down, whether people wish to admit it or not, I am not alone.
So what makes something important? Well the word important in itself implies that there is some sort of hierarchy of deeds. Some things you do are more crucial in terms of shaping the course of your life, the life of those around you and ultimately, the history of the world. But let us think about history for a moment. It is the things people did for centuries that determine the way our life is now, our genetics, the clothes we wear, our social protocol and our ideology. It doesn’t stop there, because if one stops and looks around, they realise that everything around us from the trees that were planted and the paving stones we walk on to the buildings we choose to inhabit are all just a culmination of decisions people made things that people did.
Now tangibly, there is no easy way to trace back all the things we see to a source. We are not all anthropologists/archaeologists/two-thousand years old. We have lives to lead. But one thing that does resonate with us, one way we can get in touch with our past and ultimately feel like we know why we’re here and what we are supposed to be doing, is text. Hieroglyphics, script, scroll, book, magazine, letter, telegram, email, blog. Blog? And there’s the kicker. By writing about things we feel like we’re making history. We’re not though. We’re just recording it from our perspective.
In an ideal world, people would spend more time solving problems than talking about them. The real world, unfortunately, contains many people who would rather complain than take action.
Complainers don’t just waste their own time, they also usurp the time of other people (including you) who end up listening to their complaints. Complainers also spread a toxic negativity, making it more difficult for everyone to get their jobs done.
The traditional “tuning out” with complainers is OK , but difficult to implement, particularly in today’s open work environments. If you’re the boss, you’ve got to get complainers back on track before they poison the work environment.
Here’s my step-by-step method:
1. Schedule a Conversation
If a known complainer (you know who they are) comes into your work area and indicates that he or she wants to talk, do not interrupt what you’re doing in order to have the conversation. Instead, explain that you do want to hear what the person has to say, but that you can’t give the matter the attention it deserves while your mind is on your current task. Schedule a specific time in the not-too-distant future.
There are three advantages to doing this.
1. It limits the impact of the complainer on your own productivity.
2. It prevents the complainer from using your “sympathetic ear” as a way to avoid doing his or her own work.
3. It conveys respect for the complainer and a willingness to listen … at the appropriate time.
When the scheduled time rolls around, there’s a chance the complainer has been distracted by something else. If so, problem solved. But if not, go on to the next step.
2. Set the Agenda
Start the scheduled conversation with this question: “As we discuss this, do you want me to suggest solutions or do you just need to vent for a while?” This question is essential for three reasons:
It recognizes the fact that some people can’t begin to think about a solution until they’ve complained about the problem for a while.
It establishes that there is probably a solution to whatever the complainer is complaining about, even if this isn’t the right time to surface it.
It sets a time limit for the complaining, thereby making certain that it doesn’t become a productivity-sapping black hole.
3. Listen & Nod
When somebody is complaining, the best strategy is listen and communicate that you’ve heard what the complainer has to say. Even if the complaints seem ridiculous and pointless, do not roll your eyes, fidget, or check your email. Instead, nod your head and say things like, “I hear you,” or, “That must be really tough.” Eye contact helps here. If you look like you are ignoring a complainer, they will repeat themselves until they feel heard.
In most cases, complainers wear themselves out in five minutes or less, unless you’re stupid enough to add fuel to the fire by suggesting a solution. Don’t: At this point, you’ll always get a response like, “But that won’t work because …” and the complaining will last that much longer.
Remember, complainers above all need to feel that they’re being heard. They usually know already what they need to do to address the problem but can’t motivate themselves to take action it until they’ve moaned about it for a while.
4. Offer Your Perspective
Once the complainer has vented and wound down, ask: “Did it help to get that off your chest?” Whether the answer is “yes,” “no,” or “sort-of” is irrelevant. What you’re establishing with this question is that you’ve listened to the complaint in order to help the complainer.
Therefore, the complainer now owes you. That’s both good and appropriate, because it’s hard work to listen to complainers.
If the answer is “yes,” phrase your advice from your own perspective. Say something like: “If I were in your situation, I might try …” That way, if the complainer starts up again with reasons it won’t work, you simply say, “Well, that’s what I’d try.” End the conversation and get back to work. Now ask: “Do you want my perspective on the situation?” If the answer is “no,” let the matter drop, secure in the knowledge that, by listening, you’ve done what’s possible to help the complainer get back on track. End the conversation.
5. If Necessary, Take Corrective Action
The above four steps work with 95% of the world’s complainers, allowing them to get back to doing real work within a few minutes. However, if an employee or co-worker is constantly complaining, there are two possibilities.
First, the complainer may be having emotional or mental problems that are spilling over into the workplace. If so, the complainer’s manager (or HR manager, if one exists) should suggest that the complainer get counseling and/or medical assistance.
Second, there may be an insurmountable mismatch between the complainer and his or her job. In this case, the only solution for the good of the organization and the complainer alike is reassignment or termination.