Town Business. Networking & Branding in Denbighshire Towns

This article is part of a series of interviews  giving examples of the range of great businesses there are in our town centres.

Trefor Jones clothes shop

Tudor Jones is the owner of Trefor Jones clothes shop in Ruthin, a well-established family-run business which has been open for 40 years.

The firm offers a range of top-quality menswear including casualwear, formalwear, footwear, wedding hire and accessories.

Mr Jones, whose father founded the business, said: “We are a well-established local brand. We work hard and we have a diverse customer base. We try and have a diverse range in the shop, you have to move on and be flexible.

Tudor Jones owener of trefor Jones

“It is important to move forward and stay relevant, we have a very busy hire department and we have moved into footwear. You have got to have different things going on, we don’t sell as many suits as we did 20 years ago. It is about diversification and still keeping quality products, being different from multi-nationals. Having knowledge and experience and being able to help our customers helps us get repeat custom. We have a reputation and we get customers from the Wirral, Cheshire and the coast.

“There is a great business community in Ruthin. Online shopping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. People still want to try things on, they want to touch and feel a product.

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“In places like Ruthin there are nice places to eat, there is history to the town. It is a destination as well, shoppers can come to us and spend an afternoon in the town.”

Rhyl Town Centre Plan

You may have heard that Denbighshire County Council is undertaking a programme of engagement to support a plan for the future of Rhyl Town Centre.

Businesses are a key group that we want to talk to as part of the project, as they will play a key role in shaping and supporting the future of Rhyl Town Centre. Local businesses are a vibrant and important part of our community, whether you’re based in the town centre or not, you have ideas and knowledge that can help us make it better for local people, visitors, other business and for the wider benefit of Rhyl.

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How to get involved

We’ve already spent much of March for Business speaking to local businesses from across Denbighshire, which has been great. You’ve been telling us how you’d like to see the town centre change, what you think works at the moment and what issues you’d like to see us address.

There will be more opportunities to get involved throughout the Spring and Summer. If you have a spare couple of minutes now it would be great if you could  complete our business questionnaire online.

If you have something to say about Rhyl Town Centre, we want to hear it so If you’d prefer to discuss the town centre directly with one of our team you can contact us.

More information

You can find out more about the project by visiting: www.denbighshire.gov.uk/rhyltowncentreplan

How do digital skills free up time and money?

The Economic and Business Development team embraced the information age long ago. The research data we collect from national and local sources, informs all activities that we do to improve the economic well being of Denbighshire.

Last year we completed the Denbighshire business survey for the third year running. This annual survey takes the temperature of Denbighshire’s economy and business health to find out how business owners are feeling about their situation, their future and what we can do to make things even better.

In Denbighshire we can see the digital skills gap closing as the clever businesses save time and money through new skills.

An important part of the business survey is to find out how business life is changing and what skills businesses now need to stay ahead of the competition. The business survey has shown that 8 out of 10 businesses value skills over attitude when hiring new staff. Is this because businesses desperately need new staff with digital skills in their businesses? A survey by Fujitsu has shown that 77 percent of 1,400 UK employees believe their organisation’s future success hinges on the effective use of digital technology. Yet a separate survey shows that 49 percent of UK SMEs face a digital skills gap.

In Denbighshire we can see the digital skills gap closing as the clever businesses save time and money through new skills. By looking at the ways businesses market themselves we can see that the smallest businesses, with the least time and money to spend are far more likely to use Facebook to present their business to the world on the web. As businesses grow there is more information to be shared and a business need a website; and by the time a business is medium sized, web advertising is even more popular than word of mouth.

But there is still work to do.

Most businesses can’t just hire digitally literate staff. If businesses are to close the digital skills gap it takes a little work for a big gain, and it looks like Denbighshire businesses are up for the challenge. When asked what skills businesses would like to learn over three quarters of businesses wanting training said they want to learn e-commerce and well over half want to learn social media.

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LEARN ABOUT MARCH FOR BUSINESS 

Denbighshire’s March for Business month returns

A major month-long series of events to support businesses returns with its biggest ever schedule.

Denbighshire County Council’s March for Business month returns with 23 varied events offering almost 100 hours of content at venues across the county.

The business month, held throughout March, features social media training, networking events with the Federation of Small Businesses and West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce, an event for young entrepreneurs and sessions on exporting, Welsh in business and a showcase of local food producers.

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Cllr Hugh Evans OBE, Leader of Denbighshire, said: “We designed this year’s programme to meet the needs of businesses in the county.

“March for Business offers firms the chance to network and get expert advice around issues that matter to them.

“They can then take this knowledge forward and help grow their business, making a real difference to the county’s economy.

“The focus of March for Business was devised following feedback from our annual Business Survey and shows the Council is listening to businesses and offering them support to suit their needs.”

March for Business is part of the Council’s work on developing the local economy through its Economic and Community Ambition Strategy, which includes a number of high priority projects to help businesses succeed.

Carole Derbyshire-Styles, 57, has run Corwen’s Vintage Home Styles, selling vintage and antique furniture, for the past two years.

She said: “I attended March for Business last year and it was very informative. I took a course around social media marketing.  It gave me ideas how to market my business better. We have increased engagement and people find us online and then phone or call in, we have people coming from as far as Birmingham.

“It was beneficial for me and for the business.”

Mrs Derbyshire-Styles, who also received a grant from Denbighshire County Council to revamp her shopfront, is now set to open a warehouse on the site of Corwen’s former auction house to keep up with demand.

She said: “I can’t keep up with what people are asking me for, the warehouse will have space for more items.

“We will be attending March for Business this year and I would recommend other businesses take advantage too.”

Lizzie Peters, from Phoenix Optical Technologies, an optical manufacturing firm based on St Asaph Business Park, attended the Denbighshire for Growth event at last year’s March for Business.

She said: “The event was a great opportunity for local businesses to network. I found out about companies I hadn’t heard of previously and gained new connections in training and other industries. The talks were very informative and it was interesting to hear the future plans for St Asaph Business Park. We had a great response to our stand on the day, we were advertising our Armourdillo Toughened Glass and as a result I was asked to speak and give a presentation at the Wales Festival of Innovation.

“I’d encourage businesses of all sizes to take advantage of the varied programme for March for Business as there are sessions tailored for all sizes of businesses.”

For more information or to book visit www.denbighshire.gov.uk/marchforbusiness

Town Business: Brunning and Price Q&A

Restaurant and pub company Brunning and Price was started in 1989 by two friends Jerry Brunning and Graham Price. Since then it has grown into a family of pubs spanning the country with a host of locations in North Wales, including the Corn Mill in Llangollen and the Dinorben Arms in Bodfari.

We asked Andy Barker, manager of the Corn Mill, about the firm’s approach and why it has invested in Denbighshire.

Andybarker brunning & Price

Brunning and Price has opened two restaurants in Denbighshire, out of six in the whole of North Wales. What attracted you to Denbighshire?

When looking for new Brunning and Price pubs we are always seeking something that little bit special. That might be a charming building or amazing historical architecture or a wonderful location with a stunning view. Denbighshire is beautiful and packed with history, so it seems a perfect fit for us.

Denbighshire has a great selection of local produce – what type of producers do you work with in the county and how does that benefit you? We show our ‘ale miles’ on boards above our bar and strive to make sure that we use as many local brewers as possible, supporting the local industry – but also providing a quality product. We also love to use local cheeses so like to seek out great producers nearby.

What do you think makes a strong market town?

We are really into ‘people’. Without our people and the atmosphere they bring to our pubs we wouldn’t have anything to offer and a market town is the same. It’s essential, having markets and shops, these just bring people together to form a community and it’s

that that makes for a special place. We like to think we help out with community by sitting at the heart of things, as a meeting place for people to chat and stay in touch with each other.

What are the benefits of being located in a thriving town like Llangollen?  How does the proximity of a vibrant selection of local and independent traders help your business?

Llangollen just offers so much with the canal, the river, the railway, the walking and all the other outdoor pursuits that are now available via many different operators. It is a huge help to be part of a thriving community that has certainly become more popular as a tourist destination over the past twenty years. The main benefits are that there is a huge footfall through the town and that gives us exposure to a huge amount of people from lots of different regions. The town and community sells itself very well with all the independent retailers and different events that go on and we are glad to be a part of that.

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The firm has enjoyed tremendous growth over the last three decades, what has been behind it?

We have very much stuck to what we do best and the principles that we first started with. Our pubs are run by the teams there, with an owner operator feel, head office is there to help the crew in the pubs do what they need to do to offer a great experience for the customers. We try to keep things very simple, not deviating from our goal of running great pubs. Even though we are bigger we are still a family and that’s the main thing, just a bigger family. Everyone treats each other as they would like to be treated themselves.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

I guess you will have to ask our customers that. We tend to concentrate on what we are doing rather than look to others to compare. We would say though that fresh food, designed by and for individual pubs is pretty hard to find outside of ‘independent pubs’. Our head chefs work with local suppliers, so for example we source sausages, meat and cheese from North East Wales. The rest of the teams design their own menus which change slightly daily – that’s pretty rare as it’s so tough nowadays keeping all of the allergen information up to date.

Customer service is an important part of your business – how do you ensure everyone stays on message and keeps smiling?

We strive to be at our best all the time. The main thing is to employ lovely people – we can teach them the rest, but if they have good hearts in the first place hospitality comes naturally to them. There is no message to stay ‘on’ – we just find nice people, treat them nicely and they in turn are happy to be at work and interact happily with the customers.

Stephen Dodd / bigcheese.co.uk

Stephen Dodd / bigcheese.co.uk

For more interviews with Denbighshire businesses, hints and tips for success as well as advice on important topics facing traders in the county, such as networking and promoting themselves through social media read the Town Business e-magazine here

 

It’s not What You Know, but Who You Know!

Business Networking

There are many opportunities for businesses in Denbighshire to join networks and groups with other like-minded business people; Town Centre business groups, Chambers of Trade and trade associations are but a few. As well as the opportunities to network offered by attending Events, Conferences and Shows,  there are also free online networks such as LinkedIn which are quick easy to become part of.

Choosing which to participate in can be a personal choice but the principles of Networking for Business remain the same. It’s good for everyone’s business!

 

Gareth Wyn Jones

Gareth Wyn Jones Farmer and Presenter

Networking offers the chance to:

  • learn new things
  • gather information
  • get help with problems from people with appropriate knowledge
  • find out what competitors are doing!
  • meet potential new clients and customers and form new alliances

It can also help your business keep up to date with latest trends, new regulations or general industry developments. It’s not just about getting sales but sharing information and helping other businesses too.

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Hints and Tips for Networking at Events

  • If you’re attending an event talk about it. Use Twitter and LinkedIn to spread the word
  • Make the most of the event by inviting clients and customers
  • Read the attendance list and choose 2 or 3 people you’d like to meet, and find them
  • Allow plenty of time to meet people and distribute business cards
  • Make your business stand out and do a one minute elevator pitch at the event
  • Don’t just talk, but listen, and be prepared to share your knowledge
  • Smile and get yourself into a photo,  you never know where your face might show up!
  • Make sure you follow up with any contacts you make within a couple of days
  • Join a business group and share contacts and referrals

The Business Benefits

  • Staying current and knowing the market is the basis of a good business plan
  • More leads, business opportunities and potential suppliers or customers for the business
  • Improved business reputation and confidence
  • Improved bottom line
  • More fun!

Finding Events Near You

Keep an eye on websites and Twitter for up and coming events and workshops. Visit Business Wales or Denbighshire County Council for Business, LinkedIn, Twitter or Eventbrite to keep up to date with local events. Take the leap – talk to your fellow businesses and see what is available in your town or area.

 

 

Game Over

Nothing can match the stomach churning, sweat inducing panic that you feel when you know you have lost all your data. Think of the lost hours, the lost money and the lost information and what that could mean for your business.

If that hasn’t made you squirm a little, let me tell you a story of how the digital animation giant Pixar almost disappeared. Not with a magic spell but with one tiny bit of code.

/bin/rm -r -f *

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Back in 1998 a small crew of Pixar’s animators were working against a hard deadline to produce Toy Story 2 in time for launch. In a project like this every animator is working on the same computer network. One person may be altering the lighting of a shot, whilst another is adjusting the movement of Woodie’s hat in the same scene. As the animators worked, elements of the scene started to disappear. First a texture looked odd, then a character’s face disappeared and then the whole world started to crumble as bodies, props and scenes vanished. By the time the server plugs were pulled only 10% of the original film survived. By mistake someone had entered the master delete code. As the animators’ screens froze and they went to lunch, the gravity of the situation had not yet sunk in.

Every company which holds data should have a backup system. However, according to the Guardian 48% of UK small businesses admitted that they had no regulated plans in place and 78% said they didn’t have a mobile data recovery plan. According to the British Chambers of commerce 93% of businesses who suffer data loss for over 10 days file for bankruptcy within the year.

Fortunately, Pixar had a backup system. Back in 1998 backups were stored on tapes – when one tape was full this would trigger an alert to replace it. However on this occasion no alert was triggered. This meant that as newer work was written it began pushing the older work off the tape, deleting the older more fundamental structures on which the newer animations were based. When this came to light the panic started, the cold sweat ran and an emergency meeting was called.

Today backing up your files is easy. Many online services can backup your data to their own servers and provide a guarantee of data security and quality of service. If you cannot spare the budget for a paid service or would like to organise your own data the UK Data service and ready.gov  provide guidance on how to back up data and what to do if you lose it.

Back at Pixar, with the Toy story 2 project and the fate of the entire company hanging by a thread, one employee shouted “I have a machine back at my house”. It so happened that the Supervising Technical Director on Toy Story 2 had been returning from maternity leave, and working on the film from home, where she had an almost complete copy of the film saved on her hard drive. A team was sent out to collect the machine which held the fate of the entire company on its memory banks. Pixar didn’t go bankrupt that day, but went on to produce some of the most magical films of the last decade. The story could have ended very differently.

Will you be this lucky?

How Prepared is your Business?

Any business can experience a serious incident that prevents it from carrying out its business as normal. For example cyber-crime, power failures, floods, fire, major transport disruption, or even acts of terrorism.  It may not happen to you directly but it may be an occurrence your business becomes caught up in and affected by.

‘The Federation of Small Businesses and Climate Ready at the Environment Agency found that a third of businesses in the UK have no business continuity insurance and nearly 60% have no plans in place to deal with extreme weather – despite two thirds having been affected by snow, drought or floods in the last three years.’ Source: BITC.

For small businesses in particular the impact of a serious incident can be devastating. To help a business cope in an emergency it is advisable to prepare a continuity plan. A business continuity plan describes the practical steps your business needs to follow if a particular problem arises.

As FedEx rather bluntly  put it, ‘Do more than cross your fingers’!

Cyber-crime has been identified as a growing problem but help and advice is available for businesses. Check out the events programme at Denbighshire’s website HERE. Or contact the Superfast Broadband team at Business Wales. See their recent BLOG post on steps to help protect your assets.

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However cyber-crime is just one example and businesses should prepare by having an overall business continuity plan in place. This makes a business better prepared to cope in a crisis, and should help speed up the recovery process making the businesses more resilient.

The Business in the Community website has practical advice and a series of hints and tips and ‘ten minute templates’ that are aimed at small and medium sized enterprises. Things such as keeping a list of emergency contacts and back-up copies of key information are a starting point. You can find more help and information HERE.

Business Wales can also provide advice on Business Continuity Planning and they can be contacted on 03000 6 03000 or visit the website http://www.businesswales.gov.uk/.

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Welsh in Business

The Welsh in Business pilot project has made a big difference to a number of small businesses around Denbighshire. By bringing an awareness of how bilingualism can benefit a business’ bottom line the Welsh in Business project has produced a change which we hope will last. Here is just some of the positive feedback we received:

 

In September 2016 the Economic & Business Development Team commissioned IAITH: the Welsh centre for language planning to deliver  a ‘Welsh in Business’ pilot project that aimed to test the business benefits of bilingualism by promoting the use of Welsh as a business tool to improve economic performance. The pilot project worked with businesses in Prestatyn, Llangollen and St Asaph for a limited period of time in order to understand the need and appetite for Welsh language assistance within businesses. It will be following up with those businesses later in 2017 to test what difference the actions taken by them have made to their bottom line.

Early finding s from the pilot project suggest that the Welsh language gives businesses an overall competitive advantage through being able to communicate bilingually with customers. More specific benefits revealed by the pilot include:

  • The use of Welsh provides a business with a unique quality of authenticity. If you see a product or service which relies upon location for its value, using Welsh will reinforce the feeling of authenticity.
  • It is courteous and often essential to provide Welsh language translation in a business for those whose customers’ first language is Welsh.
  • Speaking Welsh and providing Welsh signage can open up new markets.
  • Use of the Welsh language shows an advocacy for local produce and can create associations with wider attempts to market Welsh / local produce. E.g. LoveLiveLocal, Welsh Lamb etc.

 

As part of the Welsh in Business project IAITH undertook a number of actions in order to firstly understand the amount of Welsh spoken in our towns and then recruit businesses eager to learn how bilingualism can benefit their bottom line.

Face to Face initial meetings within each town gave the project a baseline from which to work and gave a feeling for how Welsh is already being used in our county.  This work began to give useful insights from the start, indicating that many businesses already understood the connection between Welsh language and an authentic tourist experience, but many did not have the language skills or confidence to use them in order to make a difference in their business.

The project then recruited businesses from each town to take part in a number of Welsh language and business workshops focusing in the spoken language, bilingual signage in store and use of the Welsh language online and on social media. These sessions brought a number of new ideas to many businesses and left them with tools to continue to use in their day to day business.

These workshops concluded with a final workshop open to everyone as part of March for Business.

 

Since these workshops concluded a number of the lessons learned by businesses have been implemented. The most impressive is from Oriel house which is a hotel located on the Upper Denbigh road near to St Asaph. The staff in this hotel now wear the cymraeg lanyard to show that guests can converse in Welsh, and Oriel house now also offers a Welsh wedding package as a new service.

 

There is now a new programme designed to support and deliver Welsh language training for the workforce.

 

Work Welsh offers fully-funded, flexible Welsh language training. From beginners to fluent speakers, Work Welsh has something for everyone.

 

Work Welsh consists of four elements:

 

Information and advice for employers.

Online welcome/reception courses.

Intensive courses.

Tailored residential courses to improve confidence.

High Street Rate Relief for Denbighshire Businesses

Earlier this year we told you about the Welsh Governments High Street Rate Relief Scheme. This targeted relief scheme is new for 2017/18 and has been designed to help high street retailers, including those which have seen an increase in their Business Rates bill as a result of the 2017 revaluation undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency.

Denbighshire County Council have now successfully applied the Welsh Governments High Street Rate Relief scheme to all eligible properties in the County. In total, 638 eligible Businesses in Denbighshire have saved £528,812 from their bills. Individual businesses will have seen relief of up to £500 (Tier 1) or up to £1,500 (Tier 2).

 For more details on the scheme and eligibility criteria read the High Street Rate Relief Guidance.

If your business is eligible you will have received a revised bill with the discount having been automatically applied to your account.

If you have received an amended bill and do not wish to have the HSRR applied to your premises, you need to fill in and return the opt-out form enclosed with your bill.

Alternatively, if you believe you should have qualified but have not received the relief and want us to review your case please contact the Business Rates Section at: businessrates@denbighshire.gov.uk / Telephone: 01824 706326

Welsh Government are currently devising the new rate relief scheme(s) for 2018/19 onwards and we await further guidance with more detail expected in Autumn this year.