1600 Systems - Blog

Diabetes

Diabetes anniversaries in 2021

This year sees a doulble anniversay, one personal and one global. Read on to find out more.

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Sparky

Candidate interviews

Today we interviewed seven candidates for the vacancy we currently have. Here are all seven on their arrival.

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Marketplace

Why You Need To Build Digital Experiences and Not Just Websites

A consumer’s decision to make a purchase is often made on the basis of convenience. Today, consumers are moving to the online world to buy groceries, update their vehicle licence, find entertainment, and so much more.

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Coronavirus

Coronavirus Update

Our thoughts and prayers are with all our business friends, clients and their families through these unprecedented times. It is amazing how just a few months ago we were planning to go to some very exciting events. Everything seems to have shut down very quickly.

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Company

Business Catalyst End-of-Life Extended

As the situation with COVID-19 unfolds it is clear we are in unprecedented times which has created profound uncertainty worldwide. We understand that for many clients their Business Catalyst website underpins their business and we’d like to try to help avoid further disruption where we can.

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Networking

Improving your first impression with a quality business card

If you take on board the basic principles of first impressions, you will improve your chances of closing the sale.

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Networking

Why do you need to have a holistic approach to your marketing?

Holistic marketing is an approach that looks at your business as a whole, rather than separate departments or individuals, find out how to develop your brand.

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Marketplace

Social media, blogging & website traffic

So how do you increase traffic to your website?

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Company

Facebook mistakes to avoid

With over 2.7 billion active users, Facebook has a huge built-in audience that you can market to. Find out "how not to make mistakes!"

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Company

Marketing yourself online

Your branding is your promise to your customers, telling them what they can expect from your products and services.

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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Trends 2021

Scam’s are up 400% through COVID-19! But help is at hand.

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Networking

Tips to help your business succeed in the new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to a new way of life with many referring to it as the new normal. Find out why?

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Sparky

My first day at work

The first day in a new job is always a little nervewracking. Here is an account of mine and why I need not have worried.

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Apprenticeships

Our Apprenticeship Journey

The following blogs are our own experience of looking at the apprenticeship program and are the viewpoints of 1600 Systems directors. This whole process was looked at from a Micro Business who have never taken on an apprentice before but wanted to find out what information is available and to encourage other like-minded business owners to invest in people and the apprenticeship program.

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Diabetes

Diabetes - Why Bother To Control It?

Because, quite simply, if you ignore it then you face developing some serious health issues which could become life-threatening.

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Company

Michael Janes receives FSB Award

An impressive roll call of 60 FSB volunteers who have been recognised for their fantastic contribution to FSB policy development and lobbying activities.

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Diabetes

Treatment - Now and Then

Ever since I was diagnsed, Insulin has been used to control Diabetes. But how insulin is given, and how diabetes is managed, has changed out of all recognition.

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Sparky

There is a life outside work

During the lockdown, many people have just sat and worked. It's important to still do other things.

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Sparky

We all need Lockdown Heroes

Some wonderful heroes have emerged during the last several months – Captain Tom and Marcus Rashford are two good examples. I was lucky to be able to interview one of my very own heroes for this blog.

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Diabetes

From C to D: Don't let Covid lead to Diabetes

We are all aware of the problems which have occurred during the pandemic and lockdown. But have you considered what the knock-on effect might be?

As a regular contributor to online meetings, I have heard so many people complain that the past year has had a bad effect on their eating habits and that they have put on weight.  People have had less opportunity to get out and have had less exercise - again contributing to their weight issues.

Your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes depends on a number of risk factors.  Some of these you cannot change - such as your ethnic origin.  Others you can - such as your weight  and hence your BMI.  The more overweight you are, the higher your risk of developing Type 2. 

We are all aware of the effect of lockdown on the mental health of so many people and how levels of depression have risen.  Depression can increase your risk of developing Type 2 - in younger adults it is believed that depression can increase the risk by as much as 25%.  And it's a vicious circle - developing Type 2 may well cause depression, even if it was not a factor in the onset of the condition.  And of course many people admit that eating more is one of the ways they deal with feeling depressed.

Many people think that what you eat, and how much, is what determines whether or not you put on weight, but that is only part of the picture.  When you eat it is also significant.  Do you sometimes decide to skip lunch and compensate at teatime?  After about 5 or 6pm your metabolic rate starts to fall.  Also - what do you do about breakfast?  You could try eating breakfast within the first hour or so after getting up.  And you should try to avoid things which will cause spikes in your blood sugar level.

Another thing you might consider is Glycaemic Index (GI), which applies to food with carbohydrate (i.e. sugars) in them.  The higher the GI, the faster the sugar is absorbed.  However, it can be misleading - some foods with a high GI are healthy and some with a low GI are not.  And because fat lowers GI, chocolate actually has quite a low GI rating.  Another point to consider - for example - what about bread?  Different types of bread have different GI values - multigrain bread tends to have a lower GI than plain white bread.  You might decide to experiment - some people find that eating food with a lower GI leaves them feeling fuller for longer, which of course means they are less likely to snack during the evening.

And finally consider alcohol.  You may be surprised by the number of calories in some types of alcohol.  For example, a litre of vodka contains about 2,200 calories.  Drinking one pint of a 5% beer will give you about the same number of calories as a standard Mars Bar.

It's a complicated subject and if you feel it impacts on your life you might want to seek expert advice.  Hopefully though I've given people a few pointers for them to start to consider.

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Sparky

We all need Lockdown Heroes

Some wonderful heroes have emerged during the last several months – Captain Tom and Marcus Rashford are two good examples. I was lucky to be able to interview one of my very own heroes for this blog.  This is what she had to say.

Hi, I’m Rosie. I’m a Golden Doodle and I live at Dogs Trust at West Calder, near Edinburgh. Until Sparky asked to interview me, I didn’t realise how alike we look! We are now soul sisters! Actually, I do have a nickname – Roo Roo! I love West Calder, because I get time to bounce around the assault course and I love playing Hide And Seek with my carers.

However, I must admit that I’m nervous around people I don’t know, which is why life here suits me, at least for the time being.  My carers know all my little quirks - especially my love of Schmackos!

On a more serious note: Dogs Trust - formerly known as the National Canine Defence League – is a charity doing fantastic work with dogs who do not have a home – in some cases because their owners have decided to give them up – and the number of cases of that has risen significantly during the pandemic. Where it is possible a new home will be found for these, but sometimes Dogs Trust take on dogs which for one reason or another cannot be rehomed. They never put a healthy dog down, so in these cases Dogs Trust is their sanctuary for the rest of their days.

Many people help by sponsoring a dog – Rosie is actually sponsored by my wife. Please consider doing this, or helping in some other way, if you are able. The Dogs Trust website can be seen at https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/

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Sparky

There is a life outside work

During the lockdown, many people have just sat and worked. It's important to still do other things.

One thing I like to do, and one which amuses my family and friends, is to do impressions.  I may not be Jon Culshaw, but I am quite good at it.  Here I am doing one which family and friends find particularly amusing.  It is my impression of Kenneth Branagh when he appeared in the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics.  You're doing well if you can spot which is which.

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Diabetes

Treatment - Now and Then

When I was diagnosed, I spent three weeks in hospital.  When I was discharged, I went home with the things I needed to both treat and monitor my diabetes.

Like most people with Type 1 Diabetes, I had a glass syringe and a handful of stainless steel needles.  I stored these in surgical spirit in a glass butterdish.  Once a week I wrapped the syringe in a hankie and boiled it, together with the needles, for 20 minutes.  Whilst it was boiling I discarded the surgical spirit, gave the butterdish a real clean and then filled it with new spirit.

In those days, home blood tests simply did not exist - the only way I could monitor my diabetes was to do a urine test twice a day - see the images below.  I would collect urine in a sample bottle and then put measured amounts of urine and water into a test tube.  Drop in a tablet and the mixture would quickly start to boil.  Once it stopped, I had to shake the test tube and compare it to a colour chart.  Dark blue meant that my urine contained no glucose, dark green meant it contained a little.  The time to worry was if it was yellow or orange, because then there was a lot of glucose present.


Nowadays life is very different.

In 2015 I stopped doing multiple injectons each day and switched to using an insulin pump - up to that point I had done about 60,000 injections.  Now, instead of urine tests, I get a drop of blood from my finger and apply it to a test strip inserted into a special meter.  Five seconds later it tells me just how much glucose is in my blood.  What's more, if my blood glucose level is high, the meter sends this to my insulin pump, which then automatically adjusts my insulin the next time I am giving myself insulin when I have a meal.  The test meter stores several months results and every so often I can send them to my diabetes consultant who then has a detailed picture of how my diabetes has been doing.  This has been especially useful during the lockdown.

My insulin pump is about 8cm x 5 x 2.5 and weighs about 150 gms.  Now and again I think it's a bit inconvenient with it hanging from my belt or pyjamas 24 hours a day.  But then, I look at the image below of the first-ever insulin pump, and try to imagine what it would be like spending your life connected to that!

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Company

Michael Janes receives FSB Award

Last week Michael Janes received an award at the National FSB Conference.

Michael said, “I was truly humbled when my image appeared in the presentation at the #FSBVolunteerConference2021. I wanted to thank everybody who nominated me for the award. To me this award is a very special achievement.

I wanted to say thank you to all the FSB family in the area as this award is more about them for the achievements of all the local activists serving the business community.”

This award was given to Michael for all the events activities in the area. Special mention must also go out to Jayson Gurney, Andrew Read and Mark Coleman for their support and help with the events over the past year. The events have supported so many businesses to keep on moving forward through very difficult times.


 Award certificate 2021

But Michael is not the only one in the region to receive an award. The following are fellow FSB activists that have received various awards this year. An impressive roll call of 60 FSB volunteers who have been recognised for their fantastic contribution to FSB policy development and lobbying activities.  Huge thanks and congratulations to all the FSB team.

Here are a list of the North East Yorkshire and Humber award winners:

Allen Creedy @Ethicalpartnership https://www.ethicalpartnership.co.uk

Lee Harris-hamer @harris_hamer https://www.whitehorsecleaningservices.co.uk

Richard Askew @richaskew https://www.askewbrook.com

Merewyn Sayers @SayersSolutions https://www.sayerssolutions.co.uk

Justine Forrest @JustineForrest6 https://www.justine-forrest.co.uk

Michael Janes @1600systems https://www.1600systems.co.uk

Gareth Alexander @Garethhull1

Irshad Akbar @bizbuddyirshad

Simon Monaghan @ctmbusiness

#FSBVolunteerChampions

#ProudtobeFSB

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Diabetes

Diabetes - Why Bother To Control It?

One of the reasons I have tried to remain in control of my diabetes is because, right from the start, I saw what might happen if you don't, and I did not want to go in that direction.

I was diagnosed a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday.  I had a cousin who was a year older than me and he had been diagnosed even earlier - aged nine - and he never paid any attention to the advice given to him by healthcare specialists.  It is easy to understand why a chld of nine might rebel - "Why me?" - but it is a real problem if they are still doing it fifteen or twenty years later.  He would totally ignore any guidelines about diet - someone with diabetes putting three spoonfuls of sugar into a cup of tea is not a good idea.  At regular intervals, he would just decide to stop doing his insulin injections.  I lost count of how many times he was admitted to hospital by ambulance, in what at that time was called a "diabetic coma".

Eventually this took it's toll.  Whilst in his twenties he suffered two of the most common problems which can occur - with his eyesight and his legs.  Before he was thirty he had had one leg amputated near the knee and had had laser surgery on both eyes.  The problems with both eyes and legs continued into his thirties and he also developed both heart and kidney problems.  He died in his early forties, a few days after refusing the option to have his other leg amputated.

Someone I did not know personally, but know her story well, was a girl who was diagnosed with type 1 when aged eighteen.  She totally refused to accept the situation.  At one point she said "I don't do needles."  She died from complications due to diabetes when aged twenty.  Just two years from diagnosis until the day she died.

But enough of the gloom!

In the previous blog I talked about having a long and active life with diabetes.  With modern treatment and testing, it is possible to still enjoy the odd naughty treat - it simply needs to be balanced against your insulin.  And it is still possible to do most things - I would never have got a pilot's licence, but I still drive an SUV and I tow a caravan.  My 25th anniversary of living with diabetes saw me walk from Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire to St Bees Head in Cumbria - Wainwright's famous Coast-To-Coast Walk - 200 miles in two weeks.  I've climbed some big mountains across Europe.  I've skied in Norway.  If you want an example of how the sky really is the limit, look at Henry Slade, a regular in the England Rugby Union team - he too has type 1 diabetes.

People develop the complications if they ignore their diabetes.  Do not make that mistake.

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Coronavirus

Advice from the local authority

The current picture of COVID-19 within Stockton-on-Tees is a serious one. Since May 2020 there have been over 11,000 cases of COVID-19 across the Borough, with 2,000 people admitted to hospital.

Unfortunately, since November 2020 we have seen a significant, sharp increase in the number of deaths from COVID-19, the number of admissions into hospital and the number of patients requiring ventilation while in hospital. The intention of this letter is not to scare you, but to underline how serious our current situation is, and to ask for your help.

Every action businesses and staff can take now to reduce transmission and the number of new cases in Stockton makes a significant difference. The single most important action we can all take at this moment is to follow the national guidance and to stay at home wherever possible.

Please act responsibly and share the following information and messages with your staff.

There are a number of ways in which businesses can contribute. Operating virtually or working from home if possible are key, as well as ensuring covid safe working. Please see here for further information on covid safe working https://www.stockton.gov.uk/our-economy/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-and-guidance-for-businesses/. Our local covid marshals are available to provide direct support.

Please let us know if you require further information or advise. This could be how to promote covid safe messages, any queries about cases, outbreaks and self-isolation, or financial support. You can find further information on our website https://www.stockton.gov.uk/ or you can contact us via https://digital.stockton.gov.uk/covid19-contactus.

Get tested! Around one in three people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms but can still spread the virus. Stockton has 3 local testing centres for anyone without symptoms who is living or working in Stockton. Tests are free, take only a few minutes and can be taken up to twice weekly. Please book online https://www.stockton.gov.uk/our-people/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-testing/

Anyone with covid symptoms should book a test online at https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or via 119.

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Diabetes

Diabetes anniversaries in 2021

2021 sees a double anniversary, one personal to me and the other of global significance.

In March I reach the milestone of having lived with Type 1 Diabetes for 50 years. 2021 is also the centenary of the first successful use of insulin to treat diabetes, although this was in dogs, and it was not successfully used with humans until January 1922. In-between these two anniversaries, there is also national Diabetes Awareness Week, which is always in June and this year runs from the 8th to the 15th.

Although I do not claim to be a saint, I have always tried to draw a sensible line in managing my diabetes. As a result, I have avoided the major complications which can result from diabetes and still lead a very full and active life. Sadly, many people do suffer serious complications, despite having it had it for far less time in many cases.

Over the course of this year, I want to document some of my experiences and also some of the experiences of others I have met. My aim is to try and help other people better manage their diabetes, and to help them avoid the complications which can seriously impact on their lives and can become life-threatening.

At the moment, there are more than 4 million people in the UK who have some form of diabetes – so it is highly likely that you know at least one person who has some form of diabetes. Probably about half a million are not yet aware that they have it. Over the past twenty years the number of people with diabetes has increased significantly, mostly in terms of the number of people who have type 2 – obesity is a common cause of type 2. Moreover, the age at which it is being diagnosed is getting ever lower. It is estimated that about 25,000 people die prematurely each year because of diabetes.

Diabetes UK invests around £30 Million each year in research, towards two goals: to reduce the number of people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and ultimately to find a cure for diabetes. If this sounds a lot, bear in mind that the NHS spends more than this in treating diabetes-related problems every day of the year – each year this amounts to about £14 Billion. On top of this, workdays lost due to diabetes-related problems cost the UK economy a further £15 Billion each year Of the NHS amount, about 60% is spent treating avoidable, type-2-related problems.

Advances made from research will improve the health of people suffering these problems, will reduce the pressure on NHS budgets, and ultimately will reduce the financial burden on every tax-payer in the country. So, if you are able, please consider making a donation to help this cause. You can find out much more by clicking on https://www.diabetes.org.uk/and can also donate via the website.

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Apprenticeships

Our Apprenticeship Journey

The following blogs are our own experience of looking at the apprenticeship program and are the viewpoints of 1600 Systems directors. This whole process was looked at from a Micro Business who have never taken on an apprentice before but wanted to find out what information is available and to encourage other like-minded business owners to invest in people and the apprenticeship program.

How do you start the journey towards the apprenticeship route?

Ask yourself the following questions first!

Why do you think apprenticeships are right for your business?

What are my expectations and requirements from a new apprentice and member of staff?

What commitment should I expect to give to the apprentice and how does it differ from a new full-time member of staff?

Are there any differences in contract of employment, insurances, training?

What support do I need to make the apprenticeship a success?

We started on a journey and we tried to map out how we get from concept to acceptance of an apprenticeship program.

From the outset I had extra experience, contacts, and passion for apprenticeships, but I still wanted to outline what we went through. To document issues, stumbling blocks and things that we had to do to take on our first apprentice.

We contacted the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network. My contact as Area Leader for the Federation of Small Businesses has meant that I have met some interesting people along the way. Alan supported us and talked through the issues we would face. We were able to ask those awkward questions and gather some information before we talked to the training providers.

To give a full and open background we already found someone that we wanted to bring on, so we had no real recruitment issues to find a candidate. Harry is the nephew of Mark Coleman director of the company. So that was the easy part. Recruitment of the right candidate is essential for the role in a micro business as Harry would be 33% of our staffing. A big percentage of the workforce and you need to think in that mindset. Harry is a member of our staff and we will treat him with the same commitment as any employment opportunity within the company.

Our first steps were to ask our contacts that I trust in the business community and world of apprenticeships. What should we expect, what questions do we need to have answered and what pitfalls to watch out for? I knew we would need a training provider to support Harry with training, qualifications, paperwork, enrolment into the apprenticeship program, but we wanted someone that would fit with our business and ethics.

Here is a list of questions we used to start the conversation:

  1. How flexible is your programme?
  2. What we need as a business out of the apprenticeship program?
  3. What does the provider want from the relationship?
  4. What support is provided? How often and how is it provided?
  5. Can we shape the content of the standard? IE Languages taught? Python?

https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/?routes=Digital

  1. Do you work to the new current digital standards?
  2. What funding is available?
  3. Can we provide the candidate, and can they be from outside your normal area? (With working from home, they do not need to be local. Remote working is the new norm)

So, we looked at what was available, and we looked at the following websites:

How to find an apprenticeship provider.

https://findapprenticeshiptraining.apprenticeships.education.gov.uk/

Here are some answers that I found when looking at answering some of the questions.

What funding is available?

You have local funding provided by local councils or combined authority.

Local:

https://teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/business/business-support/tees-valley-apprenticeship-support-for-employers/

Apprenticeship Support Grant

Apprenticeship Support Grant is available to SME’s identified by Tees Valley Combined Authority as being in one of the above Priority Sectors: Max three per company.

Apprentices Aged 16-18 – Grant of £3,000 is available

Apprentices Aged 19+ – Grant of £2,000 is available

For any employers who do not fall into one of the above Priority Sectors, the following Grant is available:

Apprentices Aged 19+ – Grant of £500 is available

The employer and Apprentice must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an SME (249 or less employees, across all sites) (Priority Sectors only)
  • Be an SME (49 or less employees, across all sites) (Non-Priority Sectors)
  • Business must have been trading for a minimum of 12 months (up to Apprenticeship start date)
  • Apprentices workplace must be located in Tees Valley (see postcode checker available on the website)
  • Employer must commit to paying the Apprentice at least the Apprentice National Minimum Wage for their age, including time for off-the-job training
  • Employer must ensure the Apprenticeship is being delivered by an approved training provider (see Register of Training Providers)
  • Apprentice and Employer must commit to completing a minimum of 12 months or the time it takes to complete the Apprenticeship

Apprentices must start their learning from 1st February 2020

Funding that was available was six Month wage subsidy. This was fully subscribed by end of Sept 2020. Hopefully, new announcements on incentives in early 2021.

For further information on Local grants to support apprenticeships then contact: louise.jackson@teesvalley-ca.gov.uk

As Harry is outside the Tees Valley, I questioned if the local funding was applicable and is this funding available for the business in the geographical area or does the location of the apprentice have to be with in the Tees Valley? The answer was that the apprentice needs to be working at the business location and both is expected to be in the Tees Valley to qualify for the local grant. So, because we found Harry outside of the Tees Valley we did not qualify, however national funding is available.

So, looking at the national support we started at the national apprenticeship program websites.

National

What national apprenticeship support is available?

  1. Government Age grant. £3000 16-18, £2000 19+
  2. 95% contribution for training with 5% contribution from business

Our software course will be costing £15,000 - 95% covered by levy contribution. Cost to business £750 plus wages, NI, ETC.

What is the draw down funding for stages in the apprenticeship funding? After 12-14 weeks the first stage payments are sent through and then the final payment upon completion of the apprenticeship program.

What are the issues from COVID-19 restrictions for apprenticeships?

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-apprentices-employers-training-providers-end-point-assessment-organisations-and-external-quality-assurance-pro

What are the national minimum wages for an apprentice?

Wage band

Current rate from 1 April 2020

Previous rate (April 2019 to March 2020)

25 and over

£8.72

£8.21

21 to 24

£8.20

£7.70

18 to 20

£6.45

£6.15

Under 18

£4.55

£4.35

Apprentice

£4.15

£3.90

Why pay national minimum wage over Apprenticeship wage?

1600 Systems wanted to pay more than the apprenticeship wages so that it shows commitment and respect to the apprentice. Treat them as any normal employee and the long-term benefits to the business will help bring loyalty and commitment by the apprentice to the business.

Who did we choose?

We looked at several training providers and decided on (after getting the above questions answered) Baltic www.balticapprenticeships.com because:

  1. They used the latest digital standards compared to others that quoted 2016 standards.
  2. They are already set up for remote learning around the country while others still had no technologies or ability to do remote learning in place.
  3. They also provide an additional Microsoft qualification for the apprentice. So better value for money.

Once we decided on the right fit for a training provider, we started the paperwork. So, we asked even more questions!

What is required of the business in paperwork and systems?

Answers!

  • Job description. This could be one of the first things a business could do before they start on the journey.
  • There are a couple of documents needed for getting the apprentice inducted onto a programme:
  • Health and Safety Document
  • Service Level Agreement (Standard contract for services from the training provider outlining responsibilities from both sides for the apprenticeship)
  • Workplace Curriculum Document (An outline of how the role will fill the requirements of the standard) This was the hardest document to do but was a good exercise as it outlines our responsibilities to the apprentice over the next 15 months.
  • A copy of your Employers Liability Insurance Policy

The candidate goes through a screening process ready for them to start the apprenticeship.

  • You will need to set up a DAS account for the reserving of the training funds

Link Here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/manage-apprenticeship-funds

This was fairly straight forward but will require the login details for HMRC for the business.

Most service providers will support the businesses to complete the setup process.

You will need to enter both the apprentice details and the training provider details.

  • You will need to complete a workplace activity document (Ours was for the Software Development programme) by providing detailed examples of how the apprentice can gather evidence in the workplace to complete their assessment plans to the highest possible standard.
  • Read through the Service Level Agreement document, then be signed digitally.

We then asked one of the most important questions. How can we support the apprentice to be successful in the training?

Recommendations:

Any apprentice will need to evidence the role and training. Getting the foundations of gathering evidence from day one and documenting the process is essential to gain a higher pass mark. Start as you mean to go on and encourage the level of documentation in a structured way.

We have implemented Microsoft Teams and created a special channel that will have a structure of learning for the apprentice. This can then be shared with the learning provider and assessors going forward.

Use this as a template for the next potential apprentice or employee. Document the learnings for future members of staff. If you need to do it for the apprentice, then think how this can be used for future candidates.

Here are some useful websites to look at:

www.apprenticeships.gov.uk

https://www.tlevels.gov.uk

https://amazingapprenticeships.com/yaan/regions/north-east/

https://teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/business/business-support/tees-valley-apprenticeship-support-for-employers/

https://teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/skills-employment/skills/apprenticeships/

https://www.teesvalleycareers.com/students/career-pathways/apprenticeships/

Things that could have been better?

We were disappointed in a local council website for information compared to others.

On the local website there was no information about how to start an apprentice or pages offering support to Micro businesses even using the search box gave no evidence on how to set up your first apprentice. We need to think small businesses for apprenticeships, but we need to support the micro businesses with documentation, guidance, support on how to set up a good apprenticeship program in the first place. Plan to succeed with the apprentice and your experience of the process will be a good one.

Final thoughts.

We are open to discuss with any local business the process we went through for our first apprentice. We believe that it is a journey, and you need to understand that investing in the apprentice from day one gives better commitment, prospects, and learning experiences. You are inputting into someone’s life so they deserve the best of what you can offer and do not treat them as cheap labour for just a job. Make it a career. You never know what the rewards will be for your business, for your customers and your reputation.

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Sparky

My first day at work

Today was my first day at work.  I felt really nervous first thing in the morning but I need not have worried.  Everyone was so nice to me, I got several breaks outside and our canteen served me a great lunch of tripe and kibble!  The only problem with a lunch like that is, it makes me want to doze off in the afternoon...

Anyway, my job description has been sorted out and I'm very happy.  It seems I will be very much a publicity member of the team and will help to maintain our company blogs.  Keep watching this space and follow us to see how I do over the next several months.

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Networking

Tips to help your business succeed in the new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to a new way of life with many referring to it as the new normal.

Although lockdown may be easing in some countries, many businesses are still working remotely. Everyone is rushing to push their companies online so that they can continue to support their faithful clients and, of course, continue to bring in sales.

In the new paradigm, business may feel that they are suddenly faced with many challenges. We see this incredible leap to the online market as an opportunity.

Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

  • Build more personalised pages for your clients
  • With many brick and mortar companies shut down, some temporarily and some unfortunately for good - more and more are looking to move their companies' presence online.
  • Today, simple brochure sites just will not cut it.
  • Competition is heavy, and the market is packed to the brim with the likes, and now more than ever, businesses need to stand out against the online crowd.

What does this mean to you?

The reality is that sites may take longer to match the ideas of your clients - and even longer to build. But how are you going to use this to your advantage? Simple.

Mix and match will never fail! With user-first digital experience, it is best to have a similar approach to all projects, so that you can ensure the best user-experience for all.

  1. Take sites apart and in pieces to create a customised combination for your clients, using resources and other sites as templates.
  2. Make your work replicable. Find the simplest way to do what you need to do and make sure you keep track of your shortcuts.
  3. It is time to focus on Social Media and SEO now more than ever before. Everyone has flocked indoors and if your clients were not online before the pandemic, they are going to be now!

Online is a busy world, and today’s consumer is a sceptical one.

Overwhelmed with YouTube ads, search engine ads, ads on their typical browsing site - they may not see you amid the chaos, and they are unlikely to go past page one in google to find you.

What does this mean to you?

Spend this time boosting your SEO as much as you can and making it a top priority for all your marketing campaigns, not just for yourself, but also for your customers!

Ramp up yours - and your clients social media marketing. Ultimately, it comes down to the consumer trusting your brand and both SEO and good social marketing will help!


Showcase the value that your business can bring to your clients

I am sure we can agree that we all know someone who’s had to go on furlough, who’s lost their job, or who’s taken a huge financial hit.

When this happens, we automatically move to survival mode to cut off what we do not need. Even those companies that can no longer operate in their typical environments will be careful to hand over precious pennies, even if the hit was small. With their conscious mindfulness of money, they may not see the value in paying an agency to help them move online.


How could you change that?

  • Zone in on what makes your business stand out.
  • What can you achieve for your clients?
  • Show off! It is not time to be modest. Show them how you can save their business and make money for them.
  • Refresh your skills and embrace the new

The online world has become increasingly busy since the onset of the pandemic, and it is a good idea to refresh not only your skills, but the skills of your clients, and in turn their clients.

In today’s new normal, many are looking to learn more, and it is online where they are looking! How about adding courses to your clients’ industries? Give your clients a one-stop place for information, services and products and increase the business of your customers and, in turn, your own.


How could you do that?

  • Create courses for your clients and their clients
  • Create resources for your clients to use
  • With Siteglide, you can create courses that seamlessly enhance customer experience using enterprise software.
  • Be more busy than normal in the new world
  • Clients will be asking for more bespoke sites, and it may feel like it is a lot to keep pressing on. Will your business survive or fall during the new normal?
  • How to make sure you can pass with flying colours?
  • Now is the time to improve your organisational skills. These are the things that will save you.
  • Define your priorities.

Only 20% of the work that you do accounts for 80% of your results. So quit the unhelpful tasks and start spending more time on that 20%.

So, let us recap


How are you going to succeed in the new normal?

  • Re-use: and mix and match old and new ways to build responsive sites
  • SEO and social media are of high priority
  • Showcase the value of your business and what you can bring to the table
  • Create a course for your clients and their clients
  • Prioritise and become an expert in organizing

Be bold in your business and keep on moving forward.

Source: Siteglide Team

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Marketplace

Why You Need To Build Digital Experiences and Not Just Websites

A consumer’s decision to make a purchase is often made on the basis of convenience.

Today, consumers are moving to the online world to buy groceries, update their vehicle licence, find entertainment, and so much more.

It makes sense that, if the consumer is online, you need to be a business that is online too.  In today’s uncertain times, expanding a business so that it has an online presence is one way to maintain relevance - and for any business that is not online, it should be a ‘when’ not an ‘if’.  When moving a clients’ business online, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your consumer and to consider the sustainability of the site that you are building.

For our clients, they should think of their site, not as a website, but as their actual business, where they place their consumer at the heart of any online decision they make.  A simple brochure site will get overlooked - and in the long run, may cost. Look at building a Digital Experience Platform (DXPs) that integrate with the latest tools and technologies and that provide the customer with a seamless, and enjoyable, brand experience.

So, why is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) important?

USER-FIRST DIGITAL EXPERIENCES

When building a DE, you should consider using a User-First approach that focuses on building client-centric rather than brand-focused experiences. Consider what the consumer wants, and how your product or service will help them meet their needs. Then, look at how you can build experiences, and integrate offerings - all on one site, to offer the best experience. A user-first approach can be a win-win for all parties involved - brand and consumer - and it will allow your customers to reap the rewards of brand advocates, repeat customers and a growing list of new customers.


PREDICT THE CONSUMER’S NEXT STEPS

Today, consumers are calling the shots. They expect a seamless experience, not just for the buying part of their customer- journey, but at every point of interaction with a business - whether it’s an online payment; signing up for a course; downloading of information; or even, if it comes to it, a customer complaint.

Building online experiences that connect with your client’s customers throughout their lifecycle can boost relationships and reputation around your clients’ brands and position them as a leader in their industry. Siteglide DXP can provide the necessary tools needed to anticipate the next steps of a customer, enabling them to place trust in a brand as their go-to - because today’s consumers want to be heard. This can boost customer engagement and relationships, as well as build a reputation among existing and potential customers.


FUTURE PROOF

If this year has taught us anything, it is that this world is unpredictable and ever-changing. It is key when building an online presence for your client’s, that you look into the future and prepare for it.

Online businesses should be ready to upscale, or downscale, if necessary and a DXP will allow you to scale, keep up to date with the latest consumer buying trends, or expand a business offering.

A DXP is flexible and ready for change.

THE BIGGEST BRAND ADVOCATE...THE COLLEAGUE

A company's internal team is an important aspect of creating and improving Digital Experiences. When building sites for your clients, bear in mind that the best brand advocates are the people that are selling a product or service. Create digital experiences where teams can work smarter in less time, allowing for collaboration and working towards a common goal - making not only a work experience an enjoyable and rewarding one, but also paving the way for happy customers.

ARE YOU READY TO FOR YOUR DIGITAL EXPERIENCE?

Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) are paving the way for the future and will soon make brochure sites obsolete.

With Siteglide at the core of your website, we build and manage User-First Digital experiences - we put the user at the core of the Siteglide system, which creates opportunity for personalisation, automation, and richer web experiences.

Contact us for your first steps in providing a business online not just a website.

Source: Siteglide Team

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Sparky

Candidate interviews

Today was a very busy day with our interviews.  Seven candidates in all - Blossom, Cooper, Daisy, Jasper, Rose, Rustie and Sparky.  We did interviews to assess how each would fit into the team and also gave them programming aptitude tests.  A couple of them admitted afterwards that when they applied they had bitten off more than they could chew.  It was a close-run thing, but we came to a decision - welcome to the team, Sparky!

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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Trends 2021

What a year to have been through. 2020 has brought new phrases such as “You're on mute!”, “How about a zoom coffee”, and with so much uncertainty with health, wealth and safety like no other year, it is not surprising that cyber security is just another worry. Scam’s are up 400% through COVID-19! But help is at hand.

Our friends from NEBRC (North-East Business Resilience Centre) offer FREE Core Membership to become more cyber aware. Keep up to date with the latest issues to keep you and your business safe.

If you want to see more technical information on trends facing the business community then look no further than our partners ESET.

Tomáš Foltýn From ESET said;

2020 has been a year like no other in living memory. It will go down in history for many things, but they all pale in comparison to the disruption wrought by the gravest public health crisis in a century. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, laying bare our collective fragility and causing many of us to lose whatever sense of control we had over our lives. Even though we’ll soon step into the new year, the world remains firmly in the grip of the virus, making any projections into the future more difficult than ever.

But difficult doesn’t equate to impossible. One ‘thing’ that’s sure to spill over into 2021 is our reliance on technology for various aspects of our daily lives. The virus has made social distancing a way of life, keeping us tethered to our homes all the while throwing many of our plans out of the window. In so doing, it has made us not only hyper-concerned but also hyper-connected, as technology is now more than ever woven into the fabric of modern life.

This includes the world of work, where some pre-existing trends were kicked into overdrive amid the inevitably pell-mell rush to remote working. Worryingly, this shift helped create a near-perfect storm of cybersecurity challenges, as organizations and their newly distributed workforce had to swim (or sink) in the largely uncharted waters of remote work. It’s only natural, then, that one section of this year’s Trends report should examine the potentially indelible mark that the pandemic has left not only on our working habits, but also on the myriad cyber-risks faced by organizations and their off-site employees.

Download the full report here

Whatever happens stay safe and secure and have a prosperous 2021. I look forward to normal networking in the Summer of 2021.

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Company

Marketing yourself online

One of the key components for marketing yourself or your business is your company’s branding. When we say branding, we use it as a collective term for your company logo, strapline, colour scheme, iconography, typeface etc. – these can be applied to your website, printed material, e-mails, letterheads and promotional items (e.g. pens or notepads).

Your branding is your promise to your customers, telling them what they can expect from your products and services. Your brand is who you are, who your customers think you are and who you want to be. Branding extends to every aspect of your business, including e-mail signatures, social media profiles, staff uniforms and dress codes and how you answer the telephone and introduce yourself to customers.

While branding is more than just a logo, your logo is the very foundation of your brand – it is the key aspect that will stick in your customers’ minds and will be easily recognisable and relatable to you and your company.

Create a great logo for your business, place it everywhere – the more commonplace your logo becomes, the more likely it is that customers will recognise and remember you.

It is also important that you create a “voice” for your brand, which is used in all forms of written communication, including e-mails and social media posts. The vocabulary and tone used needs to reflect your company’s values; are you formal or friendly? Are your products aimed towards adults or children?

Some advantages of branding include:

  • Awareness – The more work a branding company puts into their work, the more awareness can be created. Memorable aspects of branding such as colours, shapes, iconography and straplines can stick in the consumers’ minds and will ensure that they remember your company or product.
  • Consistency within the marketplace – The more often your branding is seen by consumers, the more often it will be considered for use or purchase. If the branding and identity are kept consistent throughout, this will reassure your customers that the quality of your products or services are also consistent.

Conversely, some disadvantages of branding include:

  • Can become commonplace – While the goal of branding or re-branding a product, company or service is to become the standard, the goal is not to become a generic term for a product or line or products – e.g. “Coke” is often used by people who want any cola drink offered.
  • Negative attributes – If a product or company is involved with some negative event or publicity, this can easily ruin the reputation of the product or company and thus will cause consumers to associate their branding and logos with said negativity, potentially causing loss of profits and customer base.

It is more important than ever that your voice reflects the brand you are creating. Spend time reflecting on what you want to be and your tone in the marketplace. Then encourage the use of this tone through all your marketing channels.

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Company

Facebook mistakes to avoid

Creating a Facebook page for your business is a free and effective way to engage with your audience as well as find new potential customers. With over 2.7 billion active users, Facebook has a huge built-in audience that you can market to. Social media pages and profiles can easily be linked to and shared on your company website and can be used to engage with your customers on a regular basis, posting information and updates that will interest them.

The following is a list of Facebook mistakes you should avoid making on your Facebook business page. Some of these mistakes are easy to overlook but can drastically impact the way your audience views your company and your brand. If you are going to use Facebook as a way to promote your business, try to avoid making the following mistakes:


Create a page, not a profile

Profiles are for people, pages are for businesses – it’s as simple as that. Pages come with built in modules to include your address and a map or directions on how to find you, your contact details and your opening times. Customers are also able to post reviews to a page and “like” a page – a profile cannot do any of these things, as they are designed for the personal use of an individual.


Check which account you are posting from

Facebook requires you to have your own personal Facebook profile in order to create a business page – thus you only need one login to access both your personal account and the pages that you manage. However, when posting to your business page, make sure that you are posting AS the business, and not as yourself – you can check this in the upper-left hand corner of the screen, this will tell you who you are currently using Facebook as.


Try not to leave boxes blank

When setting up your page, try to fill in as many of the information boxes are you can. The more information you provide your customers with, the more they can learn about you and your business – and providing multiple contact methods increases the likelihood that they will get in touch with you if they feel that your services will benefit them.


Ensure your photos are high quality and of suitable dimensions

Profile and cover photos are what express your company’s branding and values to your Facebook audience – make sure that you use high-quality images and that they are scaled to the correct size to ensure they do not become blurred or warped – a page with poor quality images does not reflect well on the business. A guide to Facebook photo dimensions can be found here. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/ultimate-guide-social-media-image-dimensions-infographic


Publish a variety of posts

When posting, make sure you post a wide variety of different things – photos, website links, blogs, articles, videos, polls or simple text updates – using a variety of posts will help engage your audience, particularly if you encourage their participation via comments or providing their opinions. If you just post text updates or just post photographs, your audience will soon become bored – but it is important to experiment with different types of posts to find out what your audience enjoys interacting with.


Post outside of your business hours

Most people use Facebook during their leisure time, most often at home – so post updates regularly throughout the day, not just during your business hours. Facebook’s news feed will show customers the most recent stories, making it likely they won’t see a post that was published early in the morning if they check their feeds in the evening.


Avoid neglecting your page, monitor posts and comments and remember to post regularly

If a customer asks a question, it is imperative that you answer them – not answering them on Facebook gives the impression that you ignore your customers. It is also important to set your publishing options appropriately – do you want to allow customers to post to your page or only allow them to comment on the posts you publish? Also, plan ahead how often you are going to post – leaving your page blank for too long will give your customers the impression that you don’t use Facebook much and that it isn’t worth ‘liking’ or following you.


Use negativity to your advantage

If a customer uses your page to post complaints, use this to your advantage – interact with them, offer your sympathies, offer a replacement product, offer a complementary phone call or e-mail – make an attempt to solve their problem. Responding to them will show your audience that you are concerned about customer satisfaction, as well as proving that you are regularly engaging with your audience.

Most of all have fun with your online presence. Be relaxed informative and yourself. People buy from people.

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Marketplace

Social media, blogging & website traffic

Most website dashboards include an overview of your traffic – the amount of visitors who have found your website and clicked on your link. In addition to tracking your website’s traffic, most dashboards also allow you to see where in the world your visitors are coming from, what keywords they used to find your website on a search engine or if they clicked a link to your site, where the link came from, whether they visited from a PC or mobile device and what web browser they used.

So how do you increase traffic to your website?

One of the easiest ways is to incorporate the use of social media – create a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page – the more websites you are active on, the more likely you are to raise your company’s online profile. It is imperative however, to ensure that all of your social media pages use the same branding, logos and imagery and have the same or similar URLs and page names – namely for continuity, SEO and recognisability.

Regular updates on social media, news articles and blog posts encourage your audience to engage with your content more often. Doing this regularly has shown how social media engagement affects website traffic. Consumers will soon get tired of visiting your website if you do not post new content regularly to keep them engaged. Likewise, websites such as Google can lower your page rank in search results if your website goes a long time without any changes or updates. Websites that maintain their page 1 place in search engine results tend to be active users of social media sites and post regular news articles and blogs packed with SEO backlinks.

1600 Systems offer advice on the best way to make the best use of your social media pages and can help you set up profiles, blogs, and pages if you are unsure of how to do so. If you are interested in how social media can increase your website traffic, feel free to arrange an online consultation telephone us on: 0333 344 0871

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Networking

Why do you need to have a holistic approach to your marketing?

Holistic marketing is an approach that looks at your business as a whole, rather than separate departments or individuals, ensuring that everybody is actively aware of their contribution in developing the brand. In order to make sense of a holistic method, we have broken it down into four categories:

• Internal marketing

• Integrated marketing

• Relationship marketing

• Socially responsive marketing


When you are providing a product or a service, customer satisfaction is always a top priority. Internal marketing is used to motivate all possible functions used to satisfy your customers. It is important to ensure that your staff always provide a high level of customer service in order to retain potential buyers, as well as encourage repeat buyers.

Integrated marketing, meanwhile, is a technique that aims to collaborate many different marketing methods such as one-to-one marketing, mass marketing and direct marketing. The main objective of integrated marketing is to both complement and reinforce the market impact of each method.

Relationship marketing aims to emphasise on customer satisfaction and retention, rather than wholly focusing on their sales transactions. As a business, it is always imperative to build strong relationships with your customers to ensure your business can grow via recommendations and word of mouth.

Socially responsive marketing looks to find out how your products and services can affect the best interests of society. Businesses that are socially responsible should always aim to produce desirable products that simultaneously provide immediate customer satisfaction in addition to long term benefits.

Here at 1600 Systems, we are passionate about providing the highest quality level of service to both you and your business. In addition to the products and services we offer, we also have many free resources available to use. These include marketing plan templates and control sheets that you can tailor to your own business.

We also provide comprehensive business advice in order to maximise your profits and bring in more customers. We believe in forming close bonds with all of our clients and their businesses and aim to always promote their services to any relevant parties. If you are interested in the services, we provide call us on 0333 344 0871 to arrange an online meeting with us.

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Networking

Improving your first impression with a quality business card

Those who know me understand the importance I place upon networking. Networking is a crucial part of being in business. People buy from people and I guarantee that if you take on board the basic principles of first impressions, you will improve your chances of closing the sale.

The first part of any good first impression is the outward appearance, but what some people forget is in order to make a lasting impression you need to accompany your outward appearance with a business card that reflects you as a person but also reflects your brand. Many times I have been in a networking environment and people have poor quality business cards. I believe you need to reflect more than what you do, but also reflect the quality of the products and services.

Mistakes to avoid on your business cards:

  • Only have details on one side of the business card – you have two sides on your business card, make sure you use it all to its full potential
  • Have a generic card in which you hand write your name and email on it – this will look unprofessional; it is worth investing in a pack of decent printed business cards to hand out
  • Use less than 400gsm card – thin card feels cheap and may give off the impression you aren’t willing to spend the money to properly market your business
  • Have outdated information on the card – if the information you provide is outdated or incorrect, how will your potential clients/customers contact you?
  • Have a QR code on the card – not everybody will know what QR codes do and not everybody will want to install a reader on their device in order to scan it
  • Your picture on a card – it is more professional to feature your company logo or iconography, you’re selling your business, not yourself

The best business card practices: Have the following minimum contact details on the card

  • Name
  • Job Title
  • Company branding and logo
  • Company strapline
  • Telephone number
  • E-mail address (Personal company, not info@ or similar)
  • Full postal address or PO Box address
  • Web address
  • Additional options include: Other phone numbers, i.e. mobile number and office number
  • Fax number
  • List of services,
  • Social media URLs (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc.)
  • Quality standards
  • Partnerships’ logos
  • If you export or have dealings in other countries, make sure you internationalise your cards. This may mean having multiple cards in different languages or one side dedicated to a different language.

Remember that this is the one thing that means somebody has your details to strike up that important conversation with you. It allows for a second meeting, or by giving multiple cards to people you meet, they can introduce your services to people they know. The best way of creating a lasting impression is to ensure your cards are appropriate and unique from the huge array of sameness which plagues many networking events. In order to create something different you’ll need to hire an experienced graphic designer or creative agency that can help you adopt a clear brand message across all your communications, that is both consistent and creative.


What does it cost to print good quality cards?

Quality doesn’t always mean expensive. However, quality counts and can impress your potential new clients. I like Spot UV with a subtle mark on the card. I have noticed so many times the body language of a person as they’ve looked at my business card and noticed the shine of the spot UV logo. They then begin to tilt the card to see the light revealing the varnished area. This means they are concentrating on your card and that means they will remember who you are and what you do. Dress to impress with quality business cards.

However, the best practice is to make the business cards part of your everyday life. Always carry around your card in a little wallet even when you are not at work as you never know who you might meet. Be sure to look after your business cards because if they are creased or scratched, they detract from the company image.


But when is a business card not a card but an advert or leaflet?

This is a fine line to draw. Should you use a folding business card to have more space on it for information or refer them to your website? I have seen many cards that become a promotion for the goods and services. Understanding the core principles for a business card is to reflect who you are and your corporate image in the marketplace. If you think they should have an advert, hand out leaflets instead.

I hope that these hints and tips will resonate with you and help you do more business through quality networking.

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Company

Business Catalyst End-of-Life Extended

Important Update: Business Catalyst End-of-Life Extended


As the situation with COVID-19 unfolds it is clear we are in unprecedented times which has created profound uncertainty worldwide. We understand that for many clients their Business Catalyst website underpins their business and we’d like to try to help avoid further disruption where we can.
We do remain committed to our goal to discontinue the platform, but to try to alleviate the stress as we all come to terms with working under these new circumstances, we are announcing an extension to Business Catalyst End-of-Life date by six months. The new end of life date is now 26 September 2021, after which date the service will be taken offline.

For further information regarding End-of-Life, refer to: https://businesscatalyst.com/.

Our team is here to support you during these challenging times, and we hope this helps you with your site migration plans. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.

Stay safe and healthy,
The Adobe Business Catalyst Team

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Coronavirus

Coronavirus Update

Our thoughts and prayers are with all our business friends, clients and their families through these unprecedented times. It is amazing how just a few months ago we were planning to go to some very exciting events. Everything seems to have shut down very quickly.

Who would have thought that in such a small space of time our world would have been turned upside down? Today, instead of inviting our customers to join us for coffee, we are working out ways to keep everyone safe and healthy when they want to meet up to discuss their business ideas.

Sadly, the first step has been to cancel all future events and meetings until we are certain that it is safe to proceed with even small gatherings of people. With some of our family members being in high-risk groups, we have decided to self-isolate as per the government’s recommendations.

However, we are now putting together further technical measures to support our clients so we all can move through this: Our structure already supports a “Working from Home” policy and we are contactable on 0333 344 0871. This is our Voice over IP telephone system which allows voice calls to anywhere around the world. We are available on our mobiles, emails and WhatsApp.

We can now access video conferencing with audio for clients through several systems. We are already setup using Microsoft Teams, centralising our systems with our clients. This allows central collaboration on projects.

We are available Monday to Friday as normal so please contact us with your requests. Bespoke systems and technology are our business, we implement systems for yours.

We are so very grateful to all our customers and staff who are still supporting us during these unprecedented times and hope that our new measures will help to reassure you that our staff and client's health and safety is always top of our priority list.

During these unique circumstances, please follow the guidelines suggested by the World Health Organization, your local government authorities and health organisations.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice and guidance for small businesses and the self-employed See FSB

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