Thursday, 7 August 2014

Why MPs’ Tech Attitude Needs to Change by Lawrence Jones of UKFast

We’ve all heard about the growing skills gap in the technology sector and while small steps are being taken to protect the UK’s technological future by businesses affected by the gap themselves, we are still seeing outdated attitudes toward technology in the bowels of Westminster and I believe that’s hindering any progress we might make.

Our governments’ lack of real tech knowledge was highlighted by a recent software upgrade that left MPs confused and, unfortunately for the country’s reputation as a tech-leader, shamed in the press for the whole debacle. But there are actually politicians flagging up this issue, pointing out that some of their peers are still stuck in the digital dark ages. You’ve got Boris Johnson at the launch of a new tech space saying he’s forgotten how to download apps to his phone, along with regular instances of ministers using tech jargon incorrectly. Earlier in the year it was reported that, during a parliamentary debate, one minister described an IP address as “an intellectual property address”, which led fellow MP Julian Huppert to say that when it comes to technology, “The vast majority of MPs simply do not get it.”

Whilst I commend the handful of politicians who’ve got to grips with technology, the general lack of digital knowhow and the apathy across the board is of great concern. How can these people choose how to drive our country’s technology education forward when they don’t have a grasp of the basics? Whether it’s more training that’s needed or a shift to a ‘can do’ attitude, I don’t know, but it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. How damaging it is to our reputation as a digital nation, not only have our MPs lacking in knowledge, but also openly announcing it? I think they run the risk of making Westminster look completely out of touch whilst giving the impression that they’re completely clueless! I’m not sure how this affects the way other countries see us, but it can’t be the best advert for Britain, can it?

This absolutely isn’t to say that UK isn’t innovating new and exciting technology, as I think we do have an incredible amount of home-grown talent, and there have also been steps in the right direction when it comes to educating young people and creating the next generation of tech pioneers. The change in the IT curriculum at schools, for example, was a welcome move and I think the emergence of careers colleges is another one. UKFast is working alongside Oldham College to develop the UK’s first Digital Career College, which will help to equip young people with the skills that tech businesses actually need.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a discussion at the House of Commons with Lord Baker, who came up with the concept of career colleges, and it’s great to see initiatives like this. I also think the very fact that the government is asking for businesses’ contributions is a good sign and the career colleges are just one of many education projects that we are involved in. However, there’s a lot to be said for leading by example, and if the majority of MPs are struggling with technology, it’s a bit of a threat to their credibility. They’re undermining themselves.

Ultimately, I think it stands to reason that if we want to operate at the forefront of technology and compete at a global level, our government leaders need to make more of an effort to understand how the digital world works… or at least be able to download an app!

Lawrence Jones is the founder and CEO of Manchester-based internet hosting company UKFast. Providing colocation, cloud and managed hosting services to thousands of clients from its data centres, UKFast has earned recognition for its commitment to customer service. Lawrence, named Ernst & Young's Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013, has taken the firm from a two person venture in 1999, to the 220 employee strong, £30m turnover business it is today. To find out more, visit and follow Lawrence on Twitter.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Ending Your Marriage At Costa by Davey Stone

Author and blogger, Davey Stone writes about the 'Twin Peaks' side of life where occasional, everyday events can be unintentionally strange... and funny. It's not surprising that this recent post went viral.

I’ve only been at Costa for ten minutes, and I’m just about to write a really scathing attack on a well-known supermarket when I suddenly overhear:

“So, you wait until we’ve got four kids before you decide it’s her you want and not me.”

I don’t turn around. I sit back in my chair, very slowly, and put down the mocha I’d raised halfway to my lips.

Immediately, my mind scans back through the people I’ve seen arriving at Costa since I’ve been in my seat. This couple is obviously sitting just behind me, out of my sight, and there’s no way I’m turning around when they’re obviously about to have such a serious and painful discussion. I want to go and sit somewhere else, but the place is packed and the only other free chair will trigger my back problem.

So I stay seated….and I think. Immediately, I know which couple it is. I’m a people-watcher, and I distinctly remember them being two places behind me in the queue. I know this because the woman has a distinctive lilt to her voice which rather curiously makes her sound cheerful even when she’s saying things that must evidently be very difficult to say. She was also quite attractive (yes, I know, but I’m a guy and little Dave does a lot of my thinking for me) whereas her partner had a pinched sort of face, as if he was made of Playdough and someone had rolled out his head just to make the nose. If I had to guess, I’d say they were in their mid thirties…which is a bit impressive if they have four children.

All this runs through my head before she makes her next statement, in a much lower voice:

“I feel like I don’t matter to you at all.”

I suddenly get a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I hate seeing people in pain, or hearing it. My mind tries to focus on the blog I’m writing, but I’m now officially grading this guy optimistically. I decide his name is Jim, and that he’s a good guy who has made a terrible mistake.

Then she says:

“Were you f*****g her while I was on the operating table?”

I’m really trying to root for Jim, but this new horror – coupled with the fact that he hasn’t said anything in reply – is quickly reclassifying him in my judgmental cortex as possibly a bit of a dick.

There’s a brief pause where neither of them say anything, and then she ploughs on.

“You were with her on my birthday, weren’t you? That’s the reason you got those theatre tickets for my mum and insisted I went with her. You filthy piece of s***.”

Part of my mind cannot believe they’re doing this at a Costa Coffee, but mostly I’m racing to alter my view of Jim, who has now slipped slightly below ‘not a nice guy‘ and is heading straight for ‘tosser’.

It’s then that I notice the old lady sitting opposite and slightly to the right of me. She has a coffee cup halfway to her mouth, and looks absolutely delighted. I mean, seriously delighted, by the whole situation. My jaw drops, and I just gawp at her. I can’t believe she is openly enjoying the misfortune of some poor couple she’s never even met, and I immediately decide she’s a wicked, cacky-fingered old crone who spends her nights stroking some tiny green iguana and writing poisonous letters to her grandchildren. I glare at her. I mean, really glare: teeth out and everything. She notices, offers me a strange half-smile and quickly returns her attention to the magazine she’d been reading (Spiteful Knitting Monthly).

The couple behind me haven’t said anything, and I’m guessing this means the situation is actually getting worse….something that turns out to be correct when she says:

“If I’m going to lose everything, I might as well just kill myself.”

The old woman looks up, and grins again. This is beyond belief. She can actually *see* them – she’s looking right at them – and she’s enjoying their pain. It’s just horrible. What’s WRONG with people in the world today? I stare her down, praying that Jim is about to make everything better for his poor, suffering partner, hoping against hope that she’s wrong and that he will say something, anything to save the situation for his children. Then she practically explodes:

“Aren’t you going to say ANYTHING? Seriously? Come ON: you’re obviously a terrific bloody actor, so SPEAK.”

“I’m sorry,” he says, finally. “I can’t really remember any of it…I just…”

Even from where I am, I feel her lean forward: I hear the coffee cups rattle as she hits the table. She says:

“Well you better start learning some of this stuff, because you were supposed to say ‘I still love you’ after I said the thing about the kids.”

I immediately spin round and look behind me. She has a book open. They’re rehearsing for a play. A play.

A f*****g play.

My heart is pounding, and I feel angry: actually, genuinely furious.

That’s when I look back at the old woman, who winks at me. It turns out she wasn’t enjoying a messy break up at all, she was enjoying the look on my face because she knew I thought it was all real.

I feel myself flush bright red, and I pick up my laptop.

I can’t write under this sort of pressure: that hideous old crone has made a complete fool out of me.

David Lee Stone is a best selling author with over 25 books in publication. He writes for children, teenagers and adults. To read his blog, visit Follow him on Twitter @DavidGrimstone and Facebook.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Sports Day Poem by Natalie Trice

Natalie Trice blogs about bags, coffee, shoes and her boys. This poem is her ode to Sports Day.

The grass is cut

The air is sweet

The mums and dads are there to meet

They talk about the day ahead

Some wish they had stayed in bed

The children walk out one by one

Fingers crossed no rain, just sun

The track is straight

The lines are bright

We hope our little ones will do alright

A sea of faces looking keen

A whistle sounds, sharp and mean

Legs and arms moving fast

Little red faces shooting past

A bean bag here

A hoop there

Please come first, if you dare

A sticker, a kiss

A photo for the ones who missed

A picnic lunch

Food to munch

Cakes shared, juice passed

A moments glory in which to bask

Sports day is so much fun

Don’t you agree, everyone?

This poem was originally published on Just Because I Love. Find out more about Natalie, the wanna be novelist and blogger, by visiting and You can also follow Natalie on Twitter @natalietrice.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Caroline Garnham, founder of Family Bhive, the one-stop shop for Trusted Advisors and UHNWIs

 ‘Good ideas’ are not good business. Coming up with a good idea especially one that is unique, does not mean that you have sown the seeds of a good business. A good business is finding what is being done already and doing it better. The UHNW community is a little understood minority with a lot of spending power.

From numerous conversations I have had over the years with wealthy individuals as a private client lawyer, they have said that what they want is one platform which provides them with all they need in one place at one time, filtered to their preference, which is why I created for them But how to monetise it? So we looked around for what these people were doing already and then decided to do it better. Both communities want to meet, but the rich don’t want to go into a room full of advisors; they will, however, tolerate one or two sponsors. But they also want to meet each other – they are human just like everyone else and want to meet people like them.

There are now numerous organisers of events which host family office conferences, where the UHNW sit in rows and listen to speakers. But the rich do not like sitting in rows, listening to one talk after another, which is often a thinly veiled product push, they want to meet and discuss deals. This is why I host soirees at my home where the rich can meet and discuss deals for which a sponsor pays a handsome price. The advisors also want to meet each other in the hope that advisors will recommend them to their clients. They attend lots of ‘networking events’. In fact 20% of their time is spent meeting each other, but 40% say it is not very productive and that they always meet the same people time and again.

So this year we formed for them a Trusted Advisor Academy for them to meet a broad cross section of advisors, where they can hear inspirational speakers on how to make their marketing more productive. Both events are sponsored which is good business, we also provide them with the tools they need to improve their marketing; our handbook ‘Eight Simple Steps to Success’, and a ‘Guide on how to Present a Good Case Study’ – good business while at the same time teaching them what the UHNW community want from them! Furthermore it is simply not true that the UHNW don’t look at the websites, they are three times more likely to look at comparison websites than any other community.

Only 1-3% respond to a product push. Everyone who starts a business complains about how slow it is to start, but we sometimes forget that we are human. There is an innate fear in all of us of the influence of strangers, which is why regardless of what you are selling and how much it is needed, only 1-3% will respond to the first approach, whether a cold call or at a meeting. This means that 97% will either not remember or have been put off. This is why businesses to start with are always slow.

It takes 5-12 'touches' to overcome this innate fear of the influence of strangers. How is it possible to build up the requisite number of ‘touches’ when only 1-3% are showing any interest?  There are four ways to overcome this fear:

• Education - Education needs to be distinguished from training. Education is what does my target market want to know more about – and training is what do I want to teach them. If you are selling shoes, what interests the avid shoe buyer;  fashions in shoes over the years, the story of Hush Puppies, what goes into making a good shoe, what makes a shoe comfortable? Education must be pitched at the right level to gather interest.

• Aggregation - If there is a crowd of competing brands, such as at a trade fair, fear is reduced. Retailers understand this which is why similar shops cluster together; Bond Street for luxury, Tottenham Court Road for techy stuff and the Burlington Arcade for cashmere.

• Reciprocation - What can you give someone for free? What the wealth advisory industry forget is that a recommendation from their network to a client is something for free and it builds trust, as is a one hour free consultation. It also indicates that the seller is not just focussed on getting but on giving as well, which helps build trust.

• Case studies  - show me don’t tell me. The increase in interest in case studies is 1,227%, and everyone is doing it. Journalists put a human example into every article whether it is on insurance or the plight of Syria, charities do it all the time, as well as politicians. To increase interest further it should arouse emotion; fear, lust or empathy, have a plot; hero or connection, and social proofing, who else is doing it or has found it works.

Put all this together and you have the makings not just of a good idea , but also of a business.

For further information please visit Caroline Garnham is a former lawyer and service broker to the ultra-high net worth community. When a multi-millionaire neighbour complained about the lack of multiple services for the ultra high net worth community, this inspired Caroline to create Family Bhive, an exclusive networking club that caters for the UK’s wealthiest, connecting the UK’s wealthiest with the calibre of advisors who are best placed to manage such substantial affluence - a one stop shop for the rich, if you will, unifying lawyers, accountants, hedge fund managers and reputation specialists, right through to exclusive travel agents, real estate experts, art dealers, auction houses and private plane companies.

Caroline’s first book, Eight Steps to Success: a Culture of Care, is published in September, but a more condensed manual is out now.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Join In and ITV team up to support local sport

The team at Join In blogs about this summer's initiative to get more people involved in sport.

From the World Cup in Brazil to the Tour de France, we have an amazing month of sport ahead. But  no one lifts a World Cup or wears a Yellow Jersey without starting out at a local sports club – and being supported by lots of incredible volunteers.

That’s why ITV are teaming up with Join In. They want to inspire and empower their viewers to get active, be a part of the action, and make a difference in their local communities.

The new ITV Local Heroes campaign aims to encourage more volunteering in local sport – with a target of generating interest in volunteering in community sport from a further 100,000 new volunteers.

Our research suggests that every volunteer allows 12 participants to enjoy community sport (read our story here), so a boost of that kind could mean up to 1.2 million new participants involved in sport in their local clubs.

The ITV Local Heroes campaign kicked off on 4 June with a promotional TV advert (above) during England’s pre-World Cup friendly against Ecuador starring England football legend Ian Wright. The promo for the ITV Local Heroes campaign will highlight the importance of volunteers within community sport.

Local Heroes will also be brought to life in ITV Fever Pitch, ITV’s World Cup beach football fan park in Manchester. During the World Cup, games will be screened every match day in a beach soccer stadium – and in the mornings, a community programme will run where schools from the North West will come down to receive beach soccer lessons from professionals.

“Join In is thrilled to be working in partnership with ITV,” says our Chief Executive, Rebecca Birkbeck.

“ITV Local Heroes will put sport at the heart of communities by encouraging thousands of people to volunteer at local sports clubs and groups across the UK.

“We believe that this collaboration will inspire 100,000 new volunteers to lend a hand and encouraging more people into sport – and ultimately leading happier and healthier lives.”

For more information and to sign up to become a Local Hero, see ITV’s Local Heroes site and information on Join In, visit, on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Beyond The School Run

As the kids take a break from their studies, can the summer be a time to rediscover our talents and skills? Louise Webster, Founder of thinks so.

I was stopped this morning by a mother at my son’s school, who I have past regularly for the past year.  She stopped me and asked if I was the person who set up and told me she had been following it since launch. She said her youngest child will be starting at school in September and now seemed like the time for her to start thinking about engaging with her skills again and yet how would she do that within the hours available to her.

It made me think about how important this summer break from school can be for us all in starting to think, question, investigate ways in which this can work. This is not a well-trodden route (as I know) so we need to create new paths, explore, test and keep going.  Each of us will make a difference in our choices and inspire others. I was inspired this week when I met a mother from my daughter’s nursery who has been running her social media business in the evenings and is ready to grow it once her daughter starts school this September.  We really can learn from one another, share our experiences and grow together if we can only just open up the conversation.  

Let’s make this summer a time of fun, sun and exploration!  I for one will be looking to share as many opportunities, ideas and connections to you via the website and newsletters this Summer – so just register at and together we can make the greatest difference to our lives and the lives of others.

Follow Louise and Beyond The School Run on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

2014 - The Year of the Women Entrepreneurs by Lisa Gagliani, CEO of Bright Ideas Trust

Women still haven’t reached true equality with men in the business world. This was confirmed when the UK government recently set a target of 25% female representation on the board of FTSE 100 companies by 2015. Although the figure has now reached 20.7%, predictions say that the target may fall short by just 1%.

It is a similar case for small/medium businesses and startups, with fewer women founding or managing businesses than men.

There always has been, and continues to be, a shortage of female-led companies. However, it is becoming clear that change is slowly but surely happening. The number of women being promoted to higher roles, taking on the role of managing director or starting their own business is growing. In fact, Forbes magazine went as far to say that 2014 will be the breakout year for female entrepreneurs.

But the question remains, why is the number of women in business still not equal to men? In order to find solutions and answers, it’s important to look at the obstacles that women face, from balancing work and family, to securing financing and gaining support.

As CEO of Bright Ideas Trust, a charity that helps people start their own businesses and learn essential business skills, I have spoken to many women in senior roles, who express the difficulties in balancing a home life with work and how they feel guilty about missing important family events because of their job. Starting their own business and feeling in control of their own time is a tremendous boost for women to retain their talent and contribute towards the economy.

But lack of confidence in themselves and their business startup can greatly affect their chances of achieving success. Women-led startups generally ‘compensate’ by researching ideas more thoroughly and seek out the support of others as defacto mentors. This tendency can and should be seen as an advantage and make women-led startups more investible.

Through continued support and guidance, a woman’s business can flourish. This can be through mentors and trusted advisers who can offer insight from many different industries. I have always seen huge value from this and it’s why we ensure all our beneficiaries at Bright Ideas Trust are assigned a mentor and are offered business lessons to help them learn and succeed.

Moreover, funding is crucial to many in order to sustain the growth of a business and even small loans can make a big difference. But when it comes to finance, women can face particular hurdles. This can be because of a lack of collateral, to feeling uncomfortable in asking for a large amount of funding, to ingrained gender bias – the nurturer clinging too tightly to the purse strings (unless we are buying shoes!). Add this to the fact it is now extremely difficult to borrow money from the bank, and you can understand why getting the right amount of money a startup may be difficult.

However, acquiring funding is less of a challenge now due the Government backed scheme run by The Start Up Loans Company, delivered by many, including us. We can fund many startups, no matter the product or service they sell. This scheme has made applying and receiving funding less difficult for entrepreneurs, and in turn we are seeing an influx in successful startups, run equally by men and women. We can already see this at Bright Ideas Trust, with 45% of the startups being women.

The correlation between the rise in charities and organisations that support people who want to start their own businesses, and the rise in women-led businesses, is no coincidence. Yes, more progress still needs to be made to encourage more women to conquer their inhibitions and follow their dreams in the business world but the future looks bright for women entrepreneurs.

Women’s empowerment will be front and centre in 2014 as more companies, communities and countries invest in female entrepreneurship. And I’m convinced that startups that are run by women, will in turn lead to a rise in number of investments in other companies led by women. Moreover, female business leaders will inspire others, make flexible working the norm, not lose senior talent at board level and encourage more to pursue their dreams and start their own companies.

Lisa Gagliani is CEO of Bright Ideas Trust, a charity that helps young people in London who aren’t in employment, education or training or who haven’t had the same chances as the rest of society to start their own companies and learn business skills that will stay with them for life. It helps by providing funding as well as advice and support from its team of dedicated business mentors and expert advisors. Since January 2013, Bright Ideas Trust has been delivery partners for The Start Up Loans Company. To date, Bright Ideas Trust has helped over 120 new startups achieve funding worth £500,000 and expert mentoring from the commercial world. Follow Bright Ideas  Trust on Twitter and Facebook.