Business Now Mag

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  • BBC Business News: Most UK profit warnings since 2008
    Profit warnings by UK-listed firms rise to the their highest summer level for six years, according to forecaster EY.
  • BBC Business News: 'Record number' of low-paid Britons
    A record five million UK workers are now in low-paid jobs, a rise of 250,000 in the last year, research from a left-of-centre think tank suggests.
  • BBC Business News: Britain must pay EU bill, says MEP
    The rest of Europe expects the UK to settle a £1.7bn EU budget demand "and that's that", a vice president of the European Parliament has said.
  • Business Matters: SMEs choose SMS for their business communications

    In the age of social media and the smartphone, it has become second nature for people to keep in touch via instant messaging (IM) applications, something that is only possible if they are able to connect to the Internet. If you really want to get someone’s attention it’s better to stick to a more ubiquitous form of mobile communication, the text message. This is certainly the case with businesses that regularly use text messaging to inform and update staff, and customers, about everything from transaction notifications and confirming deliveries to appointment reminders.

    SMS will continue to play an integral role in business communications for many years to come, and it’s not too difficult to understand why when you consider that SMS is standard on every mobile phone. It has far more reach and flexibility than online services such as email and instant messaging. Unlike IM services, SMS isn’t dependent on an Internet connection, so pre-pay mobile users can still receive text messages even when they’ve run out of credit.

    There has been a drop in the usage of person-to-person (P2P) SMS over recent years because of the popularity of social media and IM services, but simultaneously there has been an increase in the use of application-to-person (A2P) and person-to-application (P2A) SMS messaging, which is being driven by businesses. Portio Research actually estimates that by the end of this year the combined global revenues generated by A2P and P2A SMS traffic will be more than £31bn.

    Businesses have adopted SMS as a key channel to communicate with customers, suppliers, staff and other stakeholders because it is a medium that all mobile users are familiar with. The likelihood that a recipient of an SMS will read the text, and perhaps even acknowledge it with a reply, is far greater than a person receiving an email or any other form of communication regularly used by businesses. Responsiveness aside, the use cases for A2P SMS are wide and varied and SMS as a business tool is more versatile than was previously imagined.

    Take the case of Checkatrade, a company that uses SMS to offer real time feedback to tradesmen in the building industry. They encourage the tradesmen to log in and contact their clients using the SMS service, reminding them to send feedback regarding any work carried out. When a client of one of the registered tradesmen gives feedback, an A2P SMS message is sent informing the relevant tradesmen of any feedback published by their customers, in real time. This means that the tradesmen can act on feedback immediately – either by telephone, or, if still on the building site – in person.

    A second example is Dash2Do, “the concierge service of choice”. It has integrated SMS messaging into all levels of its business, from automatically accepting bookings, assigning staff and even billing customers for work carried out. Its mobile messaging infrastructure was developed to ensure an uninterrupted communication process between its staff and customers, by proactively keeping customers updated on transport schedules and costs, and the status of concierge services such as collection of dry cleaning and shopping.

    A2P SMS messaging was once the domain of large enterprises such as retailers and banks – users that regularly sent updates and notifications to customers. Times have changed and now there are more affordable solutions available. These allow SMEs and small businesses to stay in touch with customers, staff and other stakeholders using targeted SMS campaigns. Depending on the scale of the campaign, businesses can enable their systems to deliver SMS using an API (Application programming interface) that connects to the SMS gateway (the technology that enables your computer to send or receive SMS) or they can send messages from a desktop or web-based application.

    The text message has been transformed from a consumer service that mobile users took for granted to a reliable channel for business communications. This technology has been scaled to meet the needs of UK businesses of all shapes and sizes, to engage with customers, staff and other stakeholders with targeted and highly relevant messaging campaigns. Many businesses are now using this tried and trusted medium to leverage rich media content to create dynamic mobile marketing campaigns, invites and surveys, even to send invoices or statements. It is ubiquitous, direct and responsive, which isn’t bad for a mobile technology that’s more than 20 years old.

    Image: Texting via Shutterstock

  • Business Matters: Exports Decline Weighs on Manufacturing Growth

    The survey of 448 firms reported sustained above average growth in orders and output volumes. Yet the pace of growth for both in the last three months was the slowest for a year. The rate of expansion in domestic new orders eased a little, and export orders experienced their first decline in a year and a half.

    Despite this, numbers employed in the manufacturing sector continued to grow at a strong pace.

    Firms anticipate continued growth for the next three months, but there are reduced expectations for total new orders and exports growth.

    Looking to the year ahead, manufacturers’ plans for investment in buildings slipped to their weakest in a year, but in plant and machinery, and product and process innovation, they stayed well above average.

    The proportion of firms concerned that political and economic conditions abroad may limit export orders remained above its long-run average for the second successive quarterly survey.

    Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Director of Economics, said: “It’s disappointing that a sluggish exports market has taken some of the steam out of manufacturing growth, which was going from strength to strength throughout most of this year.

    “However, growth in orders and output is expected to continue ahead, albeit with expectations moderating, and domestic orders have continued to rise at a healthy pace. And it is encouraging that job numbers are growing.

    “Nevertheless, the manufacturing sector is clearly facing headwinds. Global political instability, mounting concerns about weakness in the Eurozone and recent rises in Sterling are all weighing on export demand.”

    Image: Exports via Shutterstock

  • CNN Business: Airbus unveils super yacht dream
    What do high-tech planes and yachts have in common? A lot more than you think.
  • Business Matters: Dolce & Gabbana cleared in Italian tax-evasion case

    Two lower Italian courts had found the two guilty of failing to declare millions of euros the company had earned through a subsidy based in Luxembourg.

    In April, they had been sentenced to a suspended 20-month jail term, reports The BBC.

    Mr Dolce and Mr Gabbana have always denied the charges.

    In June 2013, they were convicted by a lower court for failing to file tax declarations for the Luxembourg company, Gado, which prosecutors alleged was set up to evade paying taxes in Italy.

    The two denied the charges, and last year they briefly closed their Milan stores in protest.

    The ruling by Italy’s top court is the final ruling on the subject.

    Image: D&G via Shutterstock

  • Business Matters: Do you really know what is meant by ‘critical thinking’?

    Sixty-nine percent of college students say they’re very well prepared to take on problem solving tasks in the workplace, according to a recent survey.

    But that’s not what employers think, reports inc. The same Harris Interactive survey found that less than 50 percent of employers agree that new college grads will come to the job with the problem solving skills they need.

    Despite this gap, employers are requiring the skill set now more than ever.

    Mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009,” reports The Wall Street Journal, citing an analysis by career site Indeed.com.

    But the article’s author Melissa Korn suggests that if employers aren’t getting what they want, perhaps it’s because they’re being unclear. Especially by using the phrase “critical thinking.”

    It’s one of those words–like diversity was, like big data is–where everyone talks about it but there are 50 different ways to define it,” Korn quotes director of recruiting at Ernst & Young Dan Black as saying.

    For example, Black defines critical thinking as: “The ability to work with data, to accumulate it, analyze it [and] synthesize it, in order to make balanced assessments and smart decisions.”

    Meanwhile, Foundation for Critical Thinking president Linda Elder says it’s, “thinking about your thinking, while you’re thinking, in order to improve your thinking.”

    And to make matters more confusing, Elder argues that employers don’t actually want critical thinkers–at least in their lower ranks. Critical thinkers tend to challenge the status quo, which businesses don’t typically look to recent grads to do, she told Korn.

    Yet, young candidates are used to seeing the requirement in the job description.

    That leaves job seekers wondering what employers really want and, once on the job, unsure of whether they’re supposed to follow the rules or break them,” Korn writes.

    What do you think? Has “critical thinking” become a buzzword, or is it a skill you really need in your young hires? Let us know in the comments down below.

    Image: Concept of critical thinking via Shutterstock

  • Business Matters: EIB backing unlocks GBP 1 billion social and urban investment across London

    The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham today became the first borough to benefit from a new GBP 500m investment package for urban infrastructure, new and upgraded social housing and energy efficiency projects to be provided by the European Investment Bank. This is the first multi-sector engagement by Europe’s long-term lending institution with a group of local authorities in the UK, and was supported by the Greater London Authority.

    The first GBP 150 million of this package is earmarked for investment in Barking and Dagenham and was agreed today between Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Jonathan Taylor, European Investment Bank Vice President responsible for the UK. It is expected that a first tranche of funding of GBP 89 million will be made available for investment in the borough in the coming weeks.

    “London’s success as a global city requires considerable investment to cater for a growing population. The European Investment Bank looks forward to supporting the construction and upgrade of family homes, reducing energy bills for homes and public buildings, and improving schools in the capital. We are particularly pleased that Dagenham and Barking will be first borough to benefit from the new scheme. Urban renewal under the new programme will not only improve the quality of life and health of Londoners, but create jobs where they are most needed.” said Jonathan Taylor, European Investment Bank Vice President.

    Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council said: “This is a very welcome and innovative approach which will allow us develop and grow our borough by working with our partners in and outside London to deliver much needed infrastructure as London moves east. We are proud that Barking and Dagenham is leading the way, thinking outside the box to not only build high quality homes and a sustainable community while developing a local, skilled workforce and improve employment opportunities for our residents.”

    The London Green Fund (LGF) is a £100 million fund set up to invest in schemes that will cut London’s carbon emission. The fund was launched in October 2009 by the Mayor of London.

    Matthew Pencharz, the Mayor of London’s Senior Environment & Energy Advisor, said: “The London Green Fund does fantastic work to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and cut the capital’s carbon emissions. I am delighted that the fund is supporting this significant investment from the European Investment Bank. This scheme in Barking and Dagenham will deliver huge environmental benefits and create vital jobs in the area.”

    The investment in Barking and Dagenham will include 560 new affordable homes on the edge of Barking Town Centre to help bring a much wider investment programme including schools, leisure facilities, energy efficiency measures and help to bring more housing development. It is envisaged that all of this investment will contribute to assisting local young apprentices, low-skilled workers and long-term unemployed people from the area into work opportunities. This is envisaged as the first of a long term partnership with the EIB which will also help other sources of funding to help regenerate Barking and Dagenham.

    Last year the European Investment Bank provided nearly GBP 5 billion for long-term investment across the UK. Recent engagement in London has supported key infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, the London Overground and widening of the M25, hospital investment, improvements to electricity distribution, water supply and wastewater treatment and new affordable housing in Hackney and south London.

  • Business Matters: Wellbeing drives business innovation

    According to new research, those with a higher level of personal wellbeing are more likely to innovate new products and services, subsequently driving growth in small and medium-sized firms.

    Higher wellbeing reflects owner-managers participating in an arts or cultural activity, regularly exercising and being alert, attentive, determined and inspired in the workplace.

    Now, the MMU team’s results could help boost ‘UK plc’ by underpinning a new approach for policy makers to help small business owners by developing wellbeing intervention schemes.

    Lead researcher Dr Robert Lee, senior lecturer from The Research Institute for Business and Management, said: “Encouraging owner-managers to understand and monitor their own personal wellbeing could have important implications for creativity, the development of new products and services, and entering new markets.

    “The new survey demonstrates a significant association between positive emotions, mood in the workplace and higher innovation.

    “The data further shows a significant association between participation in an arts or cultural activity – such as museums, galleries, theatres, or concerts – and higher innovation. In addition, regular exercise is also associated with higher innovation.”

    The British Academy-funded study was conducted by surveying 1,000 business owners across the north of England. They answered a series of questions on their exercise habits, cultural activities, health, wellbeing and mood.

    The study is one of the first of its kinds to establish links between personal wellbeing and innovation.

    Dr Lee added: “Our research identifies that very little evidence exists regarding owner managers personal well-being indicators and links to innovation, and could have a major impact for the future.

    “Understanding how to help owner-managers to increase their wellbeing could be an invaluable tool for policy makers to boost the lifeblood of the economy.”

    Dr Lee conducted the research with Professor Heinz Tuselmann, from MMU, and Prof Eleanor Shaw, from the University of Strathclyde.

    Image: Swimming via Shutterstock

  • BBC Business News: Card firms 'fail' on rights advice
    Many financial providers are failing to properly explain the protection shoppers have when something goes wrong with a credit card purchase, consumer group Which? suggests.
  • BBC Business News: VIDEO: Using Facebook to get a pay rise
    BBC News speaks to the creators of Smarpshare, who want employees to become brand ambassadors for their firms.
  • BBC Business News: Used car buyers 'need more support'
    Better protection is needed for consumers buying used cars, says a commission studying the high level of complaints against the sector.
  • BBC Business News: How to reduce your Inheritance Tax
    How to keep the tax man at bay when you pass it on
  • BBC Business News: Elections highlight economic divisions in Brazil
    Brazil's election highlights huge economic disparities

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