Stanley firm to create 100 jobs after securing £1.95m investment

A Stanley-based firm has secured a total of £1.95m of investment, with the majority of the cash coming from funds managed by Maven Capital Partners.

The North East Development Fund has invested £1m in Dyer Enginnering, based in Stanley, while £750,000 was secured from Durham County Council’s Finance Durham Fund. A further £200,000 was raised from a local private investor.

Dyer will use the cash to support its growth plans across multiple industries while creating 100 jobs in the process.

Graeme Parkins, managing director of Dyer Engineering, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this investment into our company. We have a vision to create a world class engineering business here in the heart of County Durham providing world class metal components and structures to our customers and world class jobs to our employees.

Jamie Fraser, investment manager at Maven, added: “The joint investment is a fantastic example of how Maven’s regional funds can work together effectively to provide a local business with a substantial funding package to enable it to grow significantly. We look forward to working with the team and supporting their vision of becoming a world class engineering business.”

Find out more about Maven Capital Partners.

Routes to contract success – free support for County Durham businesses

Are you a business based in Durham looking to win new contracts?

These half-day workshops will help you set a winning focus, equipping you with the right approach and insights to successfully win contracts and grow your business. It will cover:

  • How to get a clear understanding of your market and how it works
  • How you can ‘be the right business’, even on ‘national’ contracts, whatever your size
  • Where to find opportunities, including lower-value quotation level contracts
  • Practical tips and clear step-by-step guidance on how the tendering process works, how it is changing, and what you need to succeed
  • Secrets of Success – how businesses like yours have won

The events are led by Garry Stone of B2B North. The B2B North team have helped secure over £300m in contract wins for local businesses through their bid writing and training. As respected specialists the team has built solid trust with public and private sector buyers, including Local Authorities, NEPO, Crown Commercial Services, Health Service Commissioning, and the Cabinet Office.

Get more details and dates.

Date announced for EMCON 2019

EMCON, the region’s biggest engineering and manufacturing expo, will return in 2019 on a new date.
Historically the networking exhibition has been held on the third Thursday in October, however in response to exhibitor and delegate feedback the event will be now held on Thursday, 10 October.
Organisers of the event are hoping the move will help attract even more national interest, as the popularity of EMCON continues to grow each year.

David Land, Chairman of the Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN) which organises the event, said: “Each year we speak to our exhibitors, attendees and sponsors to find out their thoughts about EMCON, and if there are things we can change to make it an even better showcase for companies within the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

“Feedback last year suggested moving the date forward a week to avoid clashing with a national event would enable even more companies to get involved and, given each year we’re attracting more and more companies from outside of the North East, it’s a move that makes sense. So, we’re now looking ahead to our 2019 event and the planning team is already working on the itinerary for the day to ensure this year’s EMCON is our most successful yet.”

Find out more.

FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2019

The hunt is on for the best small business in the North East. From exporters to start-ups, from innovators to green businesses, and from family businesses to the best young entrepreneurs, small firms are being encouraged to enter FSB’s 2019 Celebrating Small Business awards.

Winning a FSB Celebrating Small Business Award is a great way to showcase business achievements and celebrate business success, brilliance and innovation. The awards are free to enter and are open to all small firms.

The North East finals will take place at the Sage, Gateshead on 26 March 2019, with the closing date for entries Wednesday 13 February.

To enter your business go to www.fsbawards.co.uk.

In the spotlight. Modex Security Services Ltd

In the spotlight. Drum roll please for….Paul Bell of Modex Security Services Ltd.

How would you describe your business in one word?

Reliable…Our business is built on reliability and trust, after all, we install our equipment at times without a contract, just a phone call is enough. We protect millions of pounds worth of equipment and property.

Tell us about your customers.

Our customer base has grown over the years. We now protect several well-known building developers constructing housing developments with over 50 houses. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you who they are; we are a security firm!

What are your plans for the future?

We intend to expand our company and recruit staff who will add to the quality of our service.

Why is the Drum Estate your place of business?

The Estate’s location is perfect for our needs. Access to the A1 motorway is essential with much-needed parking and storage facilities.

What motivates you?

Every job is different. When I wake up every morning there’s a new challenge to overcome. Positive customer feedback always helps.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?

Control your cash flow and look after your staff.

And what’s the best advice you’ve given?

If you can finish a job on the day you will sleep a lot better.

Tell us about your most difficult challenge so far.

Getting a foot in the door. Starting a business is very difficult, just keep trying, it pays off eventually.

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?

“He who dares wins Rodney.”

Supply Chain North East launches to help firms diversify and find new clients


A new multimillion-pound programme aimed at businesses wishing to diversify and grow their customer base has been set in motion in the North East.

Supply Chain North East plans to work with more than 800 businesses over the next three years.
It will work with individual business leaders and their teams, to help build on core competencies, understand improvement needs and identify suitable opportunities in new and existing markets.

Delivering an opportunity review, Supply Chain North East will also help businesses make the most of new technology, to drive productivity and innovation in new products and services.

The scheme will play an integral part of the North East Growth Hub and will be led by four companies: RTC North; Generator; the North East Automotive Alliance and the North East Process Industry Cluster.

Colin Bell, business growth director at the North East LEP, is leading the North East Growth Hub.
He said: “Supply Chain North East has been created to enable more collaboration across multiple sectors. For example, often we see smaller businesses wanting to work within manufacturing or automotive but don’t know how to penetrate the market.”

Register your interest.

Rebrand for County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network

A network which supports businesses within the engineering and manufacturing sectors has rebranded to reflect its growth regionally.

The County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network will now be known as The Engineering and Manufacturing Network (EMN).

The name change is to reflect the organisation’s position within the North East, and its ever-increasing network of North East members.

Ben Gilhespy is operations director of EMN. He said: “Since we launched over two years ago our membership has grown rapidly and we’re firmly established as a regional organisation.

“We’re certainly not changing our focus and are still very much here to help businesses within County Durham, however our membership covers the entire regional landscape and our previous name didn’t reflect that. The Engineering and Manufacturing Network is a better fit for us and we feel now is the right time to adapt.

“We now have over 300 members from a diverse range of sectors and looking ahead to 2019, our number one priority is to support each of them with their continued growth.

“It’s an exciting time for the North East. There’s no doubt as a region we’re becoming more and more innovative, backed up by the fact so many businesses in the North East are making products that are being used all over the world. Hopefully 2019 we’ll see that positive trend continue with The Engineering and Manufacturing Network at the heart of it.”

Snowdrop the hedgehog inspires £8,400 donation

A little white hedgehog called Snowdrop has helped raise thousands of pounds for Drum Estate-based North East Autism Society.

The society was chosen as one of four charities to benefit from the 30th and final Durham Shopping Extravaganza after organisers met author Peter Barron and illustrator Jonathan Raiseborough at last year’s event.

Peter and Jonathan were signing copies of their book, Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler, which was published with the support of NEAS. Peter and Jonathan have gone on to become NEAS ambassadors, and Snowdrop has been adopted as the charity’s new mascot.

The story inspired the Durham Shopping Extravaganza joint chairs, Kira Bayne and Nicky Swan, to find out more about the work of NEAS with a visit to New Warlands Farm.

A year on, NEAS has been presented with a cheque for £8,400 after the last Durham Shopping Extravaganza raised a record-breaking £35,000.

Over the past 30 years, more than £500,000 has now been donated to 100 charities and countless individuals.

This year’s final event, at Ramside Hall Hotel, again featured an array of stall-holders donating ten per cent of their profits from goods sold.

The other charities to benefit were Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services, Grace House, and PHAB.

Nicky Swan said: “It’s sad to be coming to an end after 30 years but we wanted to go out on a high and it’s a joy to have been able to raise so much money.”

Kira Bayne added: “We wouldn’t have known about the North East Autism Society had it not been for Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler and we are delighted to have been able to support such a wonderful charity.”

The cheque for NEAS was received by Marketing Manager Lisa Taylor, who told guests at the presentation ceremony that the money would be used to launch new toddler groups and for additional family support.

“Thank you so much – this will make a huge difference,” said Lisa.

Peter Barron added: “I’m absolutely thrilled that Snowdrop The Spikeshuffler has played a part in generating these vital extra funds for NEAS and I know Jonathan will be immensely proud too.”

New network to support food producers


A support programme for food and drink producers in County Durham who need help getting their products to market has been launched.

The Durham Food and Drink Network, which is an initial 12-month programme, offers a minimum of 12 hours of business support for food producers based in the county.

It is the fifth key strand of the Durham Business Opportunities Programme (DBOP), which is part of Business Durham, and is being delivered by the county’s three enterprise agencies, East Durham Business Service, CDC Enterprise Agency and the South Durham Enterprise Agency.

Steve Robson is from South Durham Enterprise Agency. He said: “We know there are food and drink producers across the county who are making fantastic products but are struggling to find a route to market. What the Durham Food and Drink Network will do is identify those people or companies who could most benefit from assistance to take their business to the next level.

“The food industry is a significant contributor to County Durham’s economic prosperity, however there are still many barriers that exist which are preventing some of our smaller producers making the impact which their products have the potential to achieve.”

Durham Food and Drink Network will offer businesses the opportunity to take a minimum of 12 hours of support, some of which is funded and some of which must be paid for; however subsidised rates will be applied when businesses are making contributions.

Guy Bashford, business engagement officer with DBOP, said: “For all there have been a number of initiatives to promote and support County Durham’s food and drink industry, it’s clear we’re still lacking behind our regional counterparts in Cumbria and Yorkshire. What we want to do is identify companies within the sectors, and work with them to identify what factors are preventing them from growing. This could be a lack of understanding of how to properly label or market a product, a lack of resources within the business, or perhaps funding or cash flow issues which are holding a business back.

“We know there is enormous potential for the food and drinks sector in County Durham; the key is offering businesses within it the support which could enable them to take their product to a larger and more diverse audience of customers.”

Tap into armed forces skill sets

Finchale Group is a charity that works to help former service personnel, ex-offenders and other disadvantaged groups tackle money and mental health problems, drug and alcohol misuse and housing issues.

Newly located at Belmont Business Park, the charity has recently renewed its pledges to support the Armed Forces Community by signing the Armed Forces Covenant.

The team provides the support, skills, and qualifications veterans need, to gain the employment they want, and looks to match them with North East businesses looking to take advantage of Ex-forces personnel as assets to their organisations.

Find out more.

 

In the Spotlight. Electron and Tritec

In the spotlight. Drum roll for….
Gary Haines, managing director of Electron and Tritec.

Tell us about your businesses
Electron Systems Ltd was established in 1999. It’s part of the Tritec Group manufacturing and installs electrical control panels and all electrical services to the manufacturing sector including many blue-chip companies.

How would you describe your business in one word and why?
Teamwork. Being flexible and always working closely with our customers is the best way to ensure that, together, we produce high quality services and drive customer satisfaction up.

Tell us about your customers
Our customers range from small and medium businesses to numerous blue-chip companies based all over the North East of England. In particular, we work with the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and automotive sectors and have built a solid portfolio of repeat business from our loyal customers.

What are your plans for the future?
To continue our year-on-year growth providing complete electrical automation solutions with our sister company, Tritec Systems Ltd, providing the bespoke automation software.

Why is the Drum Estate your place of business?
The company has a long history of being based in the North East of England and we have a fantastic selection of local people working for us The Drum Estate is ideally placed for the staff to commute and enabling Electron to service all our customers efficiently.

What motivates you?
Happy customers! We pride ourselves on an extremely high percentage of repeat business from our customer base. The old adage that “you’re only as good as your last job” is very true and we strive to ensure that the customer is always happy with the quality and value of the work we do for them.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
Earn their trust. Whether it’s a customer, a co-worker, a supplier or a boss, once you have earned someone’s trust, new opportunities, information and co-operation come your way.

And what’s the best advice you’ve given?
Work hard, play harder. Life is too short to allow yourself to be dominated by work alone.

Tell us about your most difficult challenge so far
Delegation. Overcoming the desire to be involved in every aspect of running a business from day to day, allowing other team members to take on responsibility and make decisions can pay dividends for your sanity and allow you to sleep well at night!

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…” – Mark Twain.

Get skilled staff

Local employers are using an innovative approach to recruiting apprentices and staff aged 16 to 23 where benefits can include: up to £5,000 toward salary and other costs; free training to help the new employee be valuable immediately; and a work placement of 100 hours with no salary to pay.

Working closely with the Skills Academy Group, based in Chester-le-Street, employers can access these benefits while helping young people achieve their career goals.

Liam, from Birtley, had worked for agencies in a variety of roles but always wanted to be a motor mechanic. The Skills Academy Group programme supported him in a range of skills and searching for a suitable job vacancy. After the free three-week trial, Nightingale Coaches in Stanley employed him and are now training Liam to be a mechanic.

Lucy, a recent school leaver, had a passion for hairdressing and makeup but admitted she had not performed well as school. However, as someone who had drawn a line on her past and was highly motivated to succeed, she worked hard during her five weeks in the training centre, improved her work skills, passed her English and Maths and is now more than half-way through her apprenticeship in hair and beauty.

The Skills Academy Group train candidates in general subjects such as teamwork, health and safety, and problem-solving as well as job-specific skills and qualifications.

Short courses to help employers improve staff performance or adhere to legislations, such as first Aid, are also available. Quality is assured as they are approved by NCFE, Qualsafe and the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Contact Dawn Nixon on 0191 388 8200 for more information.

 

New workshop for Drum framing company

Bespoke picture framing company has moved into new premises on the Drum Industrial Estate.

Framing Unlimited, which has taken a three-year lease at Unit 1A Drum Industrial Estate, has grown since the proprietor, David Worsfold, bought the business in 2014.

The new workshop, located just two doors from the original unit, is open to the public, offers free on-site parking, and is more suitable for the company’s future plans.

David said: “I’m delighted to have secured the new workshop, which is perfect for providing the professional service for my customer’s picture framing needs.

“I frame just about anything, from military and sporting memorabilia, paintings, certificates and photos and the new workshop provides excellent facilities to create and showcase my work. It’s now my mission to dress the workshop walls with fantastic art!”

David is also supporting local charity, Destiny Streetworx, in their mission to offer practical support for the homeless. The Framing Unlimited workshop has been listed as an official drop off point for food and clothing.

Reboot your tech

County Durham based registered charities and social enterprises can access low-cost computer equipment through the Digital Durham Reboot scheme.

Durham County Council has partnered with Protech City to offer computer equipment that starts at just £75 for a desktop and £105 for a laptop.

A quarter of Durham County Council owned desktops and laptops are replaced each year to ensure they are technically up to date and perform well. Some of these devices are suitable for reuse and are being offered through this scheme.

All equipment comes with Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Business software and a Windows 10 operating system that includes anti-virus. Protech City also provide a 90 day warranty on the devices supplied.

Get more details and the application form.

Are you ready for Gigabit?

Full fibre broadband offers the fastest and most reliable speeds available; and as part of its vision to see a full fibre Britain, the government launched a £67million Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme.

Through the scheme, registered businesses can claim up to £2,500 towards the installation of a full fibre broadband connection, providing download speeds of up to one Gigabit (1,000 Megabits per second).

Businesses can claim a voucher individually or as part of a group project which can include other SMEs and/or residents who may claim a voucher worth up to £500.

Residents can only benefit from the scheme as part of a group project which includes businesses on a ratio of one SME to up to ten residential properties. This means that vouchers can be used collectively to contribute towards the installation costs of fibre broadband to a community.

The scheme will run until March 2021 or until all the available funding has been allocated.

Find out more about the process and how to apply.

How to host a good work party


Work events such as the annual Christmas or summer party can be a great way to boost morale. They bring everyone together in a relaxed and social environment. It also gives you the opportunity to take a break and get to know your employees better.

Sounds fun right? What could go wrong?

Well, quite a few things actually! And if you have decided to supply alcohol at such an event, beware the open can of worms that could follow. From cringeworthy conversations to loose lips and raised eyebrows, inappropriate behaviour or even boiling tensions. What started out as an innocent off-the-clock social has the potential to end up becoming an extremely awkward situation.

The embarrassment that a merry employee might experience after some out-of-character behaviour, which itself is a troublesome matter, is bad enough. But as their employer, you are responsible for the actions of your staff at work events and could be found legally liable for any incidents that occur.

Vicarious Liability. This can even include what happens on their way home from the event or at an impromptu after-party. Take the recent case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd for example. After a boozy Christmas party, taxis were provided to an after-party where the MD ended up punching and seriously harming an employee. Due to the seniority of the offender and the company’s involvement in providing the alcohol and transport, the Court of Appeal found the employer to be liable.

Although people can be unpredictable, it shouldn’t deter you from going ahead with a social gathering for your staff. You can protect yourself and your employees and still have a good time with some careful planning.

How to host a stress-free work event. Get the message out there early. By having a policy for work events and communicating it to your staff in advance, you can reiterate behavioural standards. It would be wise to remind your employees that whilst the event is intended to be fun, it is an extension of the workplace and similar rules will apply.

If you are providing alcohol for your party, there are some things to think about. Some employees may not drink due to religious or health reasons. Consider an equal reward to cater to their needs. For those that are drinking, it would be wise to limit consumption and think about assigning a manager or two to keep an eye out for any untoward behaviour.

You’ll also need to think about the safety of your employees, and so the location of the event should be accessible to all those invited. Consider how your employees are getting to and from the party.

Lastly, you’ll likely want to make it clear that no-shows and unauthorised absences the next working day will not be tolerated. You could encourage employees to use their holiday allowance (if they have any remaining) in order to reduce the risk of this happening.

Work events can be heaps of fun when done right. Speak to your local HR Dept before hosting yours to ensure a good time can be had by all.

Don’t fall victim to the seven deadly sins of the Christmas party

Christmas parties are a wonderful opportunity to bond and reward staff for their hard work. But wrath, pride, lust, greed, envy, sloth and gluttony can all strike! And employers can be held liable for the actions of their staff.

Businesses can be, and are, held vicariously liable for the wrong-doings of people at Christmas parties. Alison Schreiber, from The HR Dept Durham discusses the risks and solutions.

Alison said: “The seven deadly sins summarise what can go wrong at a Christmas party rather succinctly. From being a glutton with food and particularly drink, to acting the sloth the next day with a hangover. Making unwanted lustful advances or succumbing to wrath with fisticuffs. Exhibiting greed and envy by inappropriately cornering a boss to discuss a pay rise or co-worker’s promotion, or pride in attempting to drive home after a drink.

“Unfortunately, these are something of a cliché at the Christmas party, which is sad for any victims of bad behaviour. But there needs to be greater awareness of the risk that the company can end up being a victim too, as they can be found legally liable for incidents that occur at their events.”

In a recent court case, a company was found vicariously liable when the managing director punched an employee, leaving him with brain damage. Because of the seniority of the offender and that the company had paid for the booze and taxis from the Christmas party to an afterparty, a sufficient link was made for vicarious liability.

Alison advised: “This is a very real risk, but there are ways to manage it whilst still hosting a good party. Remind staff beforehand of expected behaviour standards and that discipline and grievance policies will still apply at the party. Encourage people to book holiday the following day if they think they’ll overdo it. But never summarily discipline a miscreant at the party. Deal with it properly on the next working day. Now you can pop your corks!”

How to spot and stop workplace bullying

It is sad but true that bullying is still a significant issue in many organisations. The TUC reported in 2015 that nearly one third of people are bullied at work, with women being more at risk than men. If left unaddressed, workplace bullying can manifest and have a devastating effect on victims, teams and businesses. The damage can be widespread and irreparable.

Employers must act to stamp out bullying in the workplace, and proactively encourage a culture that does not allow for bullying or harassment of any kind.

The HR Dept tackle the what, why and how of eliminating bullying in the workplace in support of #AntiBullyingWeek.

What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying can present itself in many ways, and can sometimes go on behind the scenes. Even behind screens. Cyber bullying has grown to become an issue both in and out of the workplace. Emails and instant messaging apps are easy to hide behind. Social media can be great for opening lines of communication, but if misused, it can cause someone severe emotional distress.

Other forms of workplace bullying can include unwanted physical contact, verbal abuse, unwarranted criticism or embarrassment. This can not only happen between colleagues but can also come from the top through an abuse of power. Take the recent case of British businessman Sir Philip Green. He has been blasted for his attempt at silencing former employees who brought a string of allegations against him, including harassment and bullying.

Why is it so important to eradicate bullying in the workplace?
The persistent, antagonistic behaviour associated with bullying can very often have a detrimental effect on a person’s mental and physical health. As an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide a duty of care to your employees under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974. So for this reason alone you will want to eliminate any hostile behaviour like bullying from your organisation.

Aside from the health risks and potential loss of productivity due to low morale, a case of bullying can destroy your business reputation. Taking sexual harassment as one example of bullying, it has the potential to be a PR disaster if it is not dealt with properly.

Since the rise of the #MeToo movement there is massive public interest in supporting victims of sexual harassment. This comes with a demand for cracking down on perpetrators and cultures which let them get away with it. What might seem like a small internal issue can quickly become news on a global scale – unless it is dealt with effectively.

How to prevent bullying at work
Fortunately, there are established approaches that you can take to proactively protect your employees and your business from workplace bullying. Let’s start with your company culture.

Watch out for phrases such as “I was only joking” or “Don’t be so sensitive” being used in jest. These can help you to identify a potential problem. One person’s sense of humour can vary greatly to that of someone else. So you’ll want to encourage a conscientious and inclusive workplace culture that leaves little room for misinterpretation or offence.

You can communicate this with your employees through leading by example. You may also consider offering training. And we would advise having a clear and accessible policy which outlines the behavioural expectations of your employees and managers. It is also a good idea to detail any disciplinary or grievance procedures associated with your anti-bullying policy in your company handbook.

Finally, being approachable for your line managers and employees lets them know that they can come to you for help should a situation become unmanageable.

Bullying in the workplace can be a complex and sensitive issue. Speak to your local HR Dept adviser to be clear on where you stand.

Top tips for recruiting seasonal temps

As the merry folk in your workplace get caught up in the Christmas countdown and ask all sorts of burning questions such as “When are the decorations going up?”, you are quite possibly focused on another countdown.

It could be counting down to the biggest and busiest period for your business. Or the big red X on your calendar could be signifying a major end-of-year deadline. How will you get it all done and still find the time to join in on Secret Santa or show your commitment to Fun Fridays!?

Luckily there is a proven solution. It will not only get you and your workforce through the seasonal highs, but also see you smiling on the other side.

We’re talking about seasonal temps.

For many industries, hiring seasonal temps can be a quick and flexible solution, giving organisations a boost through their busiest period. With the potential pressure of time sensitive tasks or high demand for customer service, temporary staff can seem like a welcome lifeline.

Does recruiting a temporary super team seem like it could be the right fit for your business? Or have you tried it before and want it to run more smoothly next time? Then read our top tips below on getting it right with seasonal workers.

Don’t delay!

We all know that the early bird catches the worm. But an early recruitment strategy can go one better – and catch the juiciest worms to continue the metaphor. By planning ahead and starting your seasonal recruitment process early, you can not only increase your chances of attracting recruits. But you can also narrow down your search to secure the best talent, before they are snapped up by a competitor.

Desirable skills for your temporary team will likely include, a positive, can-do attitude and the ability to adapt well to change. Early recruitment is a good way to secure employees with these skills.

Cross the T’s and dot the I’s

Although you can probably afford a streamlined induction process for temporary workers, we advise you not to neglect the paperwork process. It is vital that all employees, temp or permanent, are assigned the correct employment status in their contracts. This is where zero-hour and fixed-term contracts are the perfect answer. Remember to do all the correct “Right to Work” checks or you could face a hefty fine.

Encourage permanent staff to support your temps

Temporary staff usually have limited time to get to grips with the how’s and why’s of a new company. They are also typically only given a crash course in on-the-job training.

So before bringing temporary employees onboard it could be a good idea to remind your existing staff that they need to help and support the temps. This way, if your temporary employees are learning by example, at least you can have peace of mind knowing it is the right one!

For advice on targeted recruitment and how to attract the best temporary talent, get in touch with your local HR Dept today.

Steelcraft expands into Europe

Drum Estate-based metalwork firm sets out ambitious plans to expand with a new online brand.

Family-run company, Steelcraft Ltd, specialises in supplying architectural metalwork with a portfolio including balconies, railings, gates, handrails, stairs, ramps and secondary steelwork.

Through the launch of its new online brand, Forjj, the company will offer ready-made products, manufactured in its premises in Chester-le-Street, throughout the UK and Europe.

The move is expected to increase the company’s turnover by 5% in the first year, equivalent to about £90,000.

Matthew Rodgers, Managing Director, said: “It’s great for us to have found a way to sell outside of north east England without needing to establish a physical office in another region. This means that the future expansion of our manufacturing operations can stay in the North East and provide more jobs and supplier opportunities in the region.”

Steelcraft accessed support from Digital Drive County Durham, a programme part financed by the European Regional Development Fund to help businesses in the area make best use of digital technology.

Matthew said: “We’ve had the idea for this project sitting in a file for years. Advice and funding support from Digital Drive inspired me to dust it off and modernise the plan for 21st century purchasing habits.”

The first range of Forjj products available are Juliet balconies, narrow railings that sits outside a window or French doors on the upper storey of a building, and they have plans to expand the product range swiftly over the course of the next year.

Dave Armstrong, Technical Director, explained: “The balcony styles on the website are just a small selection from our portfolio. New balcony designs will soon follow and 2019 will see products such as railings and gates added to the catalogue.”

Customers can order balconies to be delivered direct to their door straight from the workshop. Instructions and advice are provided to allow for self-installation, or to be passed to the tradesperson or contractor.

Help! My employee doesn’t want to work their notice period!

Whether or not you saw it coming, an employee leaving can present a problem for your business. Even more so if they declare that they are leaving quite suddenly and do not intend on working their contractual or statutory notice period.

Your initial reaction is quite possibly going to involve pointing out a clause in a contract. Or you may have even gone the whole nine yards and signed off with – see you in court!

Once you are over the annoyance and inconvenience of it all, it is time to consider your next steps. These should probably be to work out how to keep business as usual, how to replace the departing employee and what preparations you can have in place should this happen again.

When it comes to how best to deal with your sudden leaver, see below for some top tips:

Seek first to understand
Ask questions to understand why your employee wishes to leave at short notice. Are they joining another company who is pressurising them for an early start date?

If they have been a good employee and their position is relatively easy to fill, you may agree an early termination date and save yourself their pay during the normal notice period.

Alternatively, if they are leaving to join a competitor you could put them on garden leave. Or if you feel they would be problematic, pay them in lieu of notice. You’ll need appropriate clauses in their contract to do this.

Notice periods
The employee’s notice period will depend on their length of service and contractual terms. Employees must give their employer a minimum of one week’s notice once they have worked for one month. This minimum is unaffected by longer service, whereas the notice an employer must give is affected by length of service. But be sure to check the employee’s contract to understand the length of notice they are obliged to give.

If you’ve not seen them since they handed in their notice, you’ll need to attempt contact with them to find out if they intend on coming back at all. If they are sick, they are still entitled to the same sickness procedures as any other employee. So it’s in your best interest to find out and avoid making assumptions.

However, if they have told you that they have no intention of returning to work their notice period, you are within your rights to refer to contractual agreements. You can explain that they are in breach of contract and won’t be paid for the time they do not come to work.

Some contracts have an express clause that allows you to deduct pay from an employee not working their notice, to cover costs you incur such as taking on temporary staff.

Escalating it to court
It’s possible that the employee leaving can cause a lot of disruption for your business, and you may be considering the legal route. If an employee has breached their contract with you, you can take them to court.

It’s worth noting that this can be a costly and drawn out process. If your claim states that the employee’s sudden departure puts your business at a loss, you’ll need to be able to prove this in court.

Need to know for next time
There are a few steps you can take to make your life a little easier should this happen again. These include having your contracts updated to ensure you are protected and have legally permissible choices to handle difficult situations.

Call us today for expert advice on notice periods
Would you like further discussion on what to do when an employee won’t work their notice, or to discuss the possibility of you not needing them to work their notice? Call your local HR Dept today and we will talk you through your options.

Drum kebab manufacturer gains SALSA

Family-run Istanbul Meats Ltd, one of the nation’s leading doner kebab manufacturers and based on the Drum Industrial Estate, has achieved certification of the SALSA food safety standard at the first time of asking.

Founding partner, Nuran Adiguzel, said: “The kebab industry has suffered from a terrible reputation over the years with horror stories about the contents, manufacturing processes and transportation of the meat widely reported in the media. At Istanbul Meats this reputation couldn’t be further from the truth; we’ve always worked extremely hard to not only meet but beat food industry standards and our focus on product quality has been the driving force behind our success. We wanted a way to prove our quality to the industry and the SALSA standard gave us the opportunity to do that.”

The SALSA standard was written by experienced food safety experts to reflect both the legal requirements of producers and the enhanced expectations of ‘best practice’ of professional food buyers. Approved certification is only granted to suppliers who are able to demonstrate to a SALSA auditor that they are able to produce safe and legal food and are committed to continually meeting the requirements of the SALSA standard, the scope of which covers all aspects of the company including; products, processes, premises and people.

Atalay Adiguzel, who joined the company after completing a masters degree in business as the position of General Manager, added: These are exciting times for our company, my parents have done a brilliant job of growing the company and I want to build on the excellent reputation that we enjoy and drive the company forward. We’ve recently invested heavily in a manufacturing unit to keep pace with the growing demand for our products and the SALSA standard gives me a useful benchmark from which to continually improve the business. Being able to pass the audit at the first time of asking really is testament, not only my parents but the commitment and professionalism of the whole team here.”

With a growing order book from customers both in the UK and the EU, the signs are good for the continued growth of the company responsible for many of the nation’s favourite late night take away snacks.

One Sports Warehouse celebrates second birthday


Specialist sports retailer, One Sports Warehouse, based on the Drum Industrial Estate in Chester-le-Street, marked its second year of trading this summer.

The retailer, which specialises in hockey and sports equipment, recently announced its expansion plans, including a deal with ASICS Group to feature its sporting footwear range in their store.

The company celebrated its two years in business with an event showing live hockey on a big screen and providing customers with prosecco and cupcakes.

Simon Lee, Managing Director, said: “We wanted to say a huge thank you to all of our loyal customers without whom we wouldn’t be where we are now!

“We’re thrilled to mark our second anniversary and are very excited about our future plans, which include expanding our retail range even further to include netball sportswear and equipment.”