Special Feature: Looking Ahead 2015

By Dean

14 Jan 2015

In the January / February issue of Lancashire Business View we've engaged the county's businesses, their representatives and public sector leaders to lay out aspirations and opportunities for the year ahead.

In association with

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Deals are being done, properties are being bought and sold, leases are being granted and taken up, companies are being sold as part of owner/management exit strategies and entrepreneurs are buying when they see the right opportunity.

Lancashire has always been a great place to do business purely because of our ‘can-do’ approach and we are naturally entrepreneurial. After all it was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and as the Chancellor has pledged investment to grow the Northern Powerhouse, this can only present us with opportunities. However, there are bound to be a few banana skins on 2015’s economic pavement – there’s a rate rise on the cards and we don’t how the Eurozone is going to perform. So as business leaders we must execute a degree of prudency - but not to the detriment of growth.

[quote-author] John Whittingslow, partner and head of commercial division, Napthens solicitors.[/quote-author]

John also adds: "The buoyancy in the business and local communities around us means a busy time for Napthens as our clients become more active and that of course is a very pleasing position to be in. We’re predicting a marked upturn on last year’s activity across our services, but complacency must always be guarded against. Napthens is looking forward to the future with renewed confidence as we continue to go from strength-to-strength."

What are the opportunities for your business over the next year and what is the outlook for your sector?

Gillian Bardin, managing director, Taylor Patterson

As a sector the outlook for financial services is optimistic as more people will require guidance and advice with regard to retirement income options.

Paul Billington, managing director, Gconnect and chair of the Lancashire Digital Network

Gconnect’s opportunities for 2015 are very exciting. Many businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on connectivity as they push more critical business applications over their internet. With experienced and highly skilled individuals in our team we have some great opportunities ahead.

Mark Hope, director, Stonehouse Logic

Ruth Connor, chief executive, Marketing Lancashire

This will provide a new strategic plan to unlock further success for the county and give added focus to the work of Marketing Lancashire, especially in relation to opportunities in our food and drink, great outdoors, events and business tourism sectors.

Daniel Rich, general manager, Barton Grange Hotel

This year’s business is already looking strong and with the refurbishment message reaching potential clients, we are set to see an increase in visitors to the hotel in both corporate and leisure markets, and to our new-look conference facilities.

Gerry Kelleher, vice chancellor, UCLan

2015 is going to be an exciting year for UCLan. We will begin the construction of our Engineering Innovation Centre, an ambitious and exciting project that will enable us to provide a long-term economic asset for the area by supporting the industries that are the foundations of Lancashire’s economy.

John Kersey, owner, Kersey Hairdressing and chair, Institute of Directors Lancashire

My business now employs more staff than two years ago and with that we have ongoing investment in training, so I believe the outlook for my business is very good.

Graham Wilson, partner, Beever and Struthers

The outlook for our sector is exciting, already we are seeing an upturn in business confidence and we are seeing the firm attract new clients at an unprecedented rate. The challenge is to ensure we have the people to deliver our services and much time and effort has therefore been devoted to recruitment and training.

What will your business do differently in 2015?

Steve Smith, managing director, Scancapture

Tom Ashworth, technical director, Nublue

Michelle Mellor, operations director, Cummins Mellor

Recently introducing very simple diagnostics to gain a better understanding of each team individual and their colleagues has been at the top of our list to drive the business forward and will continue this year.

James Saunders, managing director, Simon Jersey

One of the most significant changes for us this year will be maximising our partnership with Team GB. Winning the contract was a huge vote of confidence in our design capabilities and shows our ability to bring one of the UK’s most diverse teams together. We plan to involve our customers and people in Lancashire every step of the way. In line with our fresh thinking and outlook, next year will see us launch a new-look catalogue with an updated style and more than 230 new products influenced by customer feedback and current trends from a range of different sectors.

If you were Chancellor, what would be your election year pitch to Lancashire business?

Keith Melling, partner and head of corporate, Napthens

Ruth Connor, chief executive, Marketing Lancashire

To continue to increase the number of visitors and their spend in Lancashire, I would cut the 20 per cent tourism VAT to enable us to compete with overseas destinations. Britain is one of the few remaining European countries without a reduced rate for the tourism sector. This would make a significant difference to our industry encouraging even greater job creation.

John Kersey, owner, Kersey Hairdressing and chair, IoD

Throughout Lancashire there are many large infrastructure projects planned for the future, many of them will bring jobs to the region; I would like the Chancellor to make provisions perhaps in the form of tax incentives for a significant number of local SMEs to be included in the supply chain, creating employment opportunities and securing long term employment prospects for the workforce of Lancashire.

Mark Schofield, director, Haworths Chartered Accountants and president, North West Society of Chartered Accountants

I would tell businesses that the first round of ABG (accelerating business growth) funding is coming to an end and money is starting to run out, but as this was a fantastic boost to Lancashire, we are going to do it again!

Gary Lovatt, regional chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

The Chancellor has done a good job of offering support to the business community against a backdrop of austerity. Stability has been a cornerstone of the current parliamentary session, with increasing numbers looking at growing their business as a result. Measures to tackle late payment as well as further action to get finance through to those businesses that most need it for growth should be key elements of future policy.

Andrew Botham, chief executive, Mayes Accountants

As Chancellor, my election promise will be to provide a further incentive to increasing employment in Lancashire. For all businesses registered as employing 2-250 employees on 1 September 2015, I will give a £5,000 incentive against PAYE payable. Any companies who have increased their full-time equivalent employee head count by 31 March 2016 will receive a further £5,000 incentive.

John Stanworth, corporate director, Barclays

Greater support for business, especially those looking to expand and add value to the economy through job creation, innovation and overseas trade. One of the key concerns for our clients is the link between the education sector and workplace and the need to bridge the gap by supporting local colleges and universities in engaging with the business community.

Jonathon Shaw, partner, Anderton Gables

If I were Chancellor, my election year pitch to Lancashire businesses would be that we will see more powers devolved to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and that the ongoing reform to help SMEs bid for government contracts is speeded up and that cumbersome pre-qualification questionnaires be standardised to simplify the whole process and stop it being so costly.

Lis Smith, principal and chief executive, Preston’s College

I’m passionate that we, and training providers as a whole are able to play our part in supporting and sustaining a highly trained, exceptionally employable workforce.

Mike Hartley, managing director, Praetura Asset Finance

It’s essential, however, that companies don’t grow too quickly and over-trade, which is why asset finance provides an ideal solution, releasing equity that is already held within a business to provide cash where it’s needed  

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