Blog – Severn Valley Business Group
 
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Going to see a family solicitor about a relationship breakdown can seem to some to be a very serious step. On the one hand, you may feel that you need to know ‘where I stand’, and on the other, you may worry about taking advice too early or too late in the day.

There is no right or wrong answer as to when is the right time for you to take legal advice. Every case is different. Every relationship is different. Much of this will focus on when the time feels right for you, and once you have decided to take advice, we can usually arrange for you to come in and see one of our specialist family law solicitors, within a few days.

Louise Martin, Head of Family, appreciates that a relationship breakdown can be a confusing and worrying time for some people. She has put together a brief guide on when seeing a solicitor would be a sensible thing to consider, and what the client might expect from the process.

  • Do either of you consider that the relationship is salvageable?

It is often sadly the case that, when a relationship breaks down, one party has come to the decision to end things before the other may have even realised that something was gravely amiss.

A relationship breakdown is akin to a bereavement and sometimes a person’s ability to deal with matters will depend on where they are on the ‘grief cycle’ compared to the other, and whether they have or have not accepted that the relationship has broken down irretrievably.

It can therefore be a tough exercise to take legal advice when it may be relationship advice that you feel you need. The question therefore to ask yourself before you make an appointment is ‘is there any prospect of reconciliation?’ If the answer is yes, then it might be best for you to consider getting advice and support from a counsellor as the first step.

If it appears that there is no or only a limited chance of reconciliation – you may have been the one to end things, or maybe the other party has already taken legal advice, or moved out of the property, or they may even be pursuing a relationship with a third party – then taking legal advice is recommended at this stage.

You may then wish to talk to an expert family solicitor about what happens next, both in the short-term and the long-term, and gain reassurance about the path forward. At our initial consultation with you, we will provide you with advice about your particular situation and put together a plan of action to achieve a fair resolution.

Following an initial consultation, the pace of the matter is up to the parties, and we can progress the case as quickly or as slowly as is required. There is also no obligation to return for further advice and assistance, after the initial appointment.

Further details about accessing information and support can be found at http://www.resolution.org.uk/information/

  • Are there children involved?

Sometimes it can be issues surrounding where the children shall live, and with which parent they should spend time, that causes anxiety and worry in the early days. Both parties may want the children to stay with them, or there may be difficulties in agreeing contact arrangements for one parent, particularly if there is a degree of parental hostility.

It is recommended that legal advice be sought as soon as possible, so that a family solicitor can advise on where the emphasis should lie, and to ensure that any safeguarding issues are addressed.

Just taking this initial advice may well reassure parents and give them the confidence to seek to resolve the issues directly with the other parent, or perhaps even seek assistance with doing so in a family mediation setting. We can refer you to family mediation if this is of interest.

At Onions & Davies, we pride ourselves on taking a conciliatory approach to children matters, and looking at the case from both a legal and pragmatic perspective, to ensure that the best and earliest resolution can be reached in the interests of the children involved.

  • Are their domestic abuse issues?

It is widely recognised today, due to awareness and changes in legislation, that domestic abuse comes in many forms. It may be physical and/or sexual abuse, but it may also be a product of controlling and coercive behaviour, and manifest as emotional and/or financial abuse.

Many victims of abuse understandably find it difficult to seek help as a result of the fear and control exerted over them by their partners. It is recommended, however, that help should be sought at the first opportunity and we can ensure that the advice we provide is entirely confidential. We can provide legal advice as to the remedies available from the family court to protect against such behaviour.

  • Are there money issues?

We appreciate that not all of our clients have savings and cash in excess of their monthly expenditure. Indeed, it is more common to be dealing with a family of modest means, in which case, the prospect of splitting one household into two households can be daunting.

Clients may need initial advice to discuss these more immediate issues: who is going to pay the mortgage; who will be responsible for the household bills; what about the financial needs of the children; should I contact the Child Maintenance Service; etc. These matters can be addressed at an initial appointment, and clients who need help sorting through these issues, ought not to delay in taking legal advice.

  • Does only one of you own the family home?

The non-owning party may feel at a disadvantage when a relationship ends, if the house is registered in the sole name of the other person and, in this situation, a family solicitor can advise as to the implications for both parties.

If you are married, then there is immediate action that we can take on your behalf to protect your Marital Home Rights, which should reassure the non-owning party that the other cannot dispose of the asset without recognising their interest.

If you are not married, then we can provide advice as to any action the non-owning party might seek to bring to recognise an interest they claim to have in the property.

  • Are there court proceedings in place or on the horizon?

Do not delay in seeking legal advice if you have been served, or consider that you are about to be served, with court papers.

If these are divorce papers, then there may be a prospect of reaching agreement as to certain matters with your spouse or their solicitors before the papers are sent to court, if early advice is received. The court will also require a response from you as the “Respondent”, and we can assist with this.

If these are financial remedy papers or issues to do with the children, then there may be the prospect of negotiating out of court, or maybe at family mediation. The court will also list the matter for a hearing, if papers have been issued, which means early legal advice, and an assurance that your interests will be represented at that hearing, should be sought.

Louise Martin and David Lago are both members of Resolution: First for Family Law, which follows a code of practice that promotes a constructive approach to family issues. For further details, see http://www.resolution.org.uk/code/

Call our Family Legal Secretary, Sharon Moore, to arrange an appointment with David Lago, on 01630 652405. Our initial consultations are fixed-fee, no obligation and completely confidential.

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What stresses us out at work nowadays? One would hope it’s the not the actual work itself and we enjoy the work we do. After all, shouldn’t we enjoy what we do for a living?

If it’s not the work that’s stressing you out, could it be the people you work with, or customers perhaps?

For our presentation we wanted to take a look at how different members of the group who work in different industries react to problems  and issues with customers, and if indeed the problems we all have are the same. Hopefully we would all learn something and take away some useful tools to help us in our businesses.

Purpose: Get people thinking about how / why they deal with different clients in different ways and to discover the best way to deal with difficult clients & manage expectations.

Wouldn’t it be great if all our clients / customers were perfect? That would make our jobs easier! But what would make a perfect client? In our creative industry a perfect client would be:

  • One that gives us all the information we need from day one, a full and explicit design brief
  • One that gives us clear and concise answers to any questions we may ask
  • One that gives us a realistic timescale to work to
  • One that appreciates our skill and expertise and understands the benefit and cost involved in our services

Now, it’s probably unrealistic to have a client that meets all the criteria above, and unfair as most of us are only human. So, if not perfect, then generally speaking, clients fall into one of the categories below. Before we describe these categories, we need to make it clear these category names are not meant to be defamatory in anyway – some clients are unaware they fall into these categories – we understand the world doesn’t stop for us and they have other priorities with their own jobs. However, there maybe a few that are just those awkward people we have to deal with in life from time to time…

1. The Penny Pinching Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Wants a ridiculous amount of work for a derisory price.
  • Doesn’t understand the value of what we do & that we are here to help.

We probably all suffer with this type of client. We live in a world where you can always get what you want cheaper elsewhere or online. It’s a competitive market out there.

Example:

With online website build solutions becoming more and more common, it’s easy for people to get the wrong budget in mind when it comes to the cost of website design. Because “you can build your own website for just £99, or even free” with these online builders, people can often undervalue the cost of a professional website, and don’t realise the implications of an unprofessional templated website until it’s too late.

Solution:

For us, the solution for this type of client is one of the easier ones to deal with. We believe in you get what you pay for, and once we’ve explained the pros of our service and expertise, clients quickly realise what the realistic cost actually is.

When the group discussed this, the main point that was made was we have to be confident in ourselves and the prices we charge. Don’t undersell yourself just because the client has not understood that your expertise comes at a cost – and it is worth that cost. For years we used our strap line “Where design is an investment, not a cost” – if you can get the client to understand the value in why you charge what you charge, they are more likely to be understanding rather than you having to defend yourself for being too expensive.

2. The Tantrum Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Wants everything and they want it right now
  • Constantly changing mind
  • Think they’re you only customer

Example:

This client can send constant emails, and make many phone calls daily chasing their work. They need their work doing now, or by the morning.

In the past when we have decided to pull out all the stops and get it done for them as they seem so desperate, it’s only to find out the client then turns into a Ghost customer (discussed later), or to subsequently get a response similar to “Oh sorry, we didn’t need it urgently after all, panic over”, or even “we don’t need it now, something else has happened”.

Solution:

With website projects we set milestones, to keep the project running on time, so everyone knows what to expect when. We also set up a contingency plan just in case someone drops the ball.

When the group discussed this, it became apparent that most would not bow down to these demands and let something interfere with their structured work flow. Unless this client is prepared to pay up front and above the normal cost, then their unrealistic request should be treated as so. Clients need to understand it is necessary to set realistic deadlines that both parties can work to. If you customer-service focused, interrupting your already busy work flow, won’t be in the best interests of your other clients who already have work booked in.

3. The Know It All Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • Think they understand exactly what we do and tries to ‘interfere’.
  • Ignores advice only to be corrected later.

Example:

Sometimes when we get a specific design brief, the client may not realise there is a better way of doing what they want.

SOLUTION:

Sometimes when you get a client who refuses to take your advice, you have to make it clear that your price does not include any additional work that maybe required subsequently, if said additional work could have been avoided if they had followed your original advice. A tongue in cheek saying in our creative industry is “Everyone’s a designer!”

4. The Wishy Washy Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • They are indecisive
  • They can’t decide or explain what they want or need.

Example:

Part of our job is to get out what is in our clients head, on to paper / on screen. However, clients can sometimes struggle tell us what they want in terms of design. When this happens, they could end up paying more in wasted design time.

Solution:

Our solution to this type of client is a process of elimination – if they don’t know what they want or like, start with what they don’t want or like.

5. The Ghost Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • This is a client who places an order and then goes off the radar for weeks / months at a time and then potentially reappears looking for 101 other things for you to help with on top of the ongoing project you already have.

Example:

These clients will disrupt your schedule on other projects, workflow & cash flow. For us, this can be our most common type of client. As mentioned above, they don’t necessarily do it to be awkward or difficult, they have other priorities. That said, when they do emerge from the mysterious place they disappear off to, they generally need whatever they need doing straight away as they have left it too long to get back to you, and subsequently could turn into a Tantrum client. And the world continues to turn…

SOLUTION:

We find that because this situation happens far too often, that the only way to deal with this situation, is to make sure you always take a deposit. This will minimise the disruption to cash flow, and ensures you are covered if the project is cancelled due to it not being required any longer due to missed deadlines etc.

6. The Angry Client

Who are they and what do they want?

  • A client whose expectations have been managed (with proof), are happy throughout the whole project until it reaches the end when they get the finished product and it’s “not what they expected”.

Example:

An awkward one to speak about. Unfortunately, these are the occasional clients who, no matter what you do, it will never be good enough. There are people out there who are just never satisfied. Fortunately, as far as we are concerned, over the last 14 years, there have been very few.

SOLUTION:

Simple. Don’t work with these people. They are not worth the stress and anxiety they cause. And you probably will end up losing money on trying to satisfy their unfair demands. Politely indicate that you may not be the best fit solution for their needs and open the door for them as they leave wishing them luck. Never burn your bridges!

7. The Perfect Client

Our presentation concluded with the surprise announcement that the perfect client unfortunately does not exist.

There is no such thing as a perfect client, just perfect relationships that are made by how we manage the client & their expectations. Communication is key.

Presented by Nettl of Kidderminster aka Pixel Design – pixeldesign.co

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Customer Service: The devil in the detail.

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Read time 5 minutes

 

Customer service has a varying scope depending on the type of business you are running. Some businesses are a one shot deal where your product or service may be delivered once and then never again to the same customer. Of course, that notwithstanding, one customer can be the seed for many more in subsequent positive recommendations. Some businesses can generate long term multiple repeat purchases from the same customer or upsold spin offs which your company may be able to provide.  There are always numerous opportunities to deliver good customer service. Good customer service comes from attention to detail and the ability to attend to detail arises from being attentive to the customer, always.

 

Customer service is a quality many consumers will value at least as highly as the product or service they are purchasing and whilst it pervades our business endeavours from the start to finish of any relationship, no matter what business you run, there is always a start point for customer service. That point is at the first enquiry.

 

What should attention look like at that first enquiry?

  1. Respond to the enquiry as quickly as you can: Many people want instant connection and unless you have a devoted front of house, virtual or physical, you probably don’t get to make that new connection at the exact moment someone calls or emails you with their enquiry. The next best thing you can do is to respond in the shortest time interval you are able. It will reinforce the idea that your potential customer is important enough for you to prioritise them and, while your business is still fresh in their mind, you are presenting yourself back to them through your initial response.
  2. If you can’t respond quickly with enough resource to engage with their enquiry, respond with a holding message: This will make your connection and gives you the opportunity to propose a timescale of when you can connect with your customer to fully explore their needs.
  3. Once you make an arrangement do not break it: Reneging on arrangements is a fast way to annoy a customer during the critical first impression building phase. If you made the arrangement you must ensure you could keep to it, barring an act of God.
  4. When you do respond, build rapport quickly by introducing yourself in a friendly manner and with a comment of thanks for the initial enquiry: It softens your personality and makes you humble straight out of the blocks. This can be particularly relevant in the building and home improvement trades. Approaching service providers a customer doesn’t already know can take a lot of courage and create unwanted stress. This first call is your chance to eliminate that stress and make all subsequent contact something to be anticipated rather than feared.
  5. Be very specific to understand what your customer needs and wants.: Understanding will come from listening. Depending on the nature of your business, it may be your responsibility to ask cogent questions so you tease out a detailed brief from which to build your remit, but listen to every word of their response to those questions.
  6. Pay attention to the bits in between: If you’ve done a good job of point 4. your customer may share far more information than you need to fulfil the technical content of your transaction. Personal detail, like why they can’t make an appointment you initially offer or the means by which they came to a knowledge of your business or how a previous experience with one of your competitors has affected them or the periphery around their motivation to potentially engage you is all “their stuff” and taking an attentive interest in their stuff demonstrates how important they are in your hierarchy. Make relevant note of these peripheral details on a client relationship management sheet, or your diary or some other record to act as an aide memoir in anticipation of your next conversation with the customer. Later reference to a prior conversation, particularly if it was not relevant to the business you are conducting, is a powerful tool to reassure your customer that they are your priority when you are in communication with them. This is a valuable time investment and it can be at least as powerful as the quality of the actual product or service you deliver. If you make this “attention to the human” a cornerstone of all your dealings, it has the power to generate positive referral and massive leverage for subsequent leads and/or repeat business.

 

What happens if you don’t pay appropriate attention?

 

  1. If you don’t connect quickly, the potential customer may find another provider. They may quickly start to discredit your professionalism and service levels. They may dub you indifferent or just not interested in them.
  2. At the start of a new relationship, trust hasn’t been earned and, to your potential customer, you are no better than any of your competitors. If you make an arrangement then break it without a profoundly good reason you may break that fragile bond. The effect of being unreliable is profound even in just one instance at this early stage of your relationship.
  3. At your response to initial enquiry you are flooding your potential client with new information. Notwithstanding the technical exchange, you are impressing them through your choice of words and your verbal conduct. The qualities you convey through your intonation can be humility, friendship, compassion, empathy, respectful regard. Inattention or even just lack of engagement beyond the technical needs of the enquiry can be a proxy for indifference and thus this conversation can be an opportunity to un-impress if squandered through lack of attention.
  4. If you are not listening and asking the right questions you have a better chance of under-performing to meet your customer’s needs. This could be through a mis-specification, a lesser service or possibly not winning a job you may otherwise have. Even if you do complete business with the new customer, if you have given less than you could through lack of attention then you have a less powerful connection with your new customer and the life of that relationship and its productivity for your business could be substantially diminished.

It’s a fairly well acknowledged fact that people do business with people, not businesses. That is particularly true with small businesses where the standards setting /verification and CRM are often performed by the business owner directly.  Good relationship management is another phrase for good relations and good relations come from giving. Giving attention, giving care and thought to a relationship with a customer takes endeavour and motivation but if people do business with people then it is possibly one of the most important facets of what we do in business.  The customer is not always right but they are always the most important part of a transaction and our attention to detail from the very start helps ensure we echo that sentiment with action.

 

Happy Banana Drive Cleaning and Happy Banana Tree Services are divisions of Happy Banana Ltd. Service with a genuine smile from a company with the coveted “FFF”  (Friendliest in Far Forest)rating.

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Geopolitical concerns set to rule in “crabbish” 2018

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I thought that I should provide everyone with some thoughts on what is possibly in store for investors in 2018.  I have therefore decided to provide an insight into what investment managers are thinking at Redmayne-Bentley.  Needless to say this is only their opinions but it will at least provide a basis for a conversation if anyone wishes to talk about investments with me.

It was predicted to be a year of global turbulence, yet 2017 saw markets power through the political noise as the Dow Jones rose nine months in a row and the FTSE 100 closed the year at a new high. Whilst global equities are expected to deliver further returns, subdued UK economic growth and ongoing Brexit negotiations are expected to hold back UK equity markets in the New Year, according to investment management and stockbroking firm Redmayne Bentley.

Key predictions:

  • The ‘crab’ is expected to rule the FTSE 100 for the third year running.
  • Overseas equities expected to see the most gains in 2018.
  • Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust named as the favoured FTSE 100 stock for the year ahead.
  • UK GDP growth expected to be below expectations.
  • US and emerging markets predicted to see most gains with UK equities seeing most losses.
  • Technology identified as favourite sector with retail named as area to avoid for the second year running.
  • Interest rates to meet analyst expectations, but inflation expected to rise above forecasts.

For the third consecutive year, investment managers and stockbrokers at the firm said they expected the movements of the FTSE 100 to be “crabbish” – that is, neither moving significantly upwards or downwards over the next 12 months. Investment manager Bill Keen said: “Geopolitical risk is likely to remain high. “Risks include the ever-quickening pace of technological change and re-emergence of serious tensions within the EU. A worse-than-expected slowdown in China would not be entirely a surprise.”

The majority expected economic growth to be below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s forecast of 3.7%. Interest rates are expected to remain at around 0.7%, the level mapped for the end of 2018 in the Bank of England’s latest Inflation Report. However, half of those surveyed said they believed inflation would rise above the Bank’s forecast of 2.3%. Technological advancement featured heavily in 2017, with the rise of cryptocurrency Bitcoin and the launch of electric vehicles amongst other innovations. Optimism is still strong around technology as it was named as the favoured investment theme for 2018. Furthermore, blockchain projects and artificial intelligence are just two technologies expected to continue their march forward during 2018. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that technological advancement was named the top ‘bull’ issue for markets in 2018. However, more than 90% of those questioned said they believed the withdrawal of central bank stimulus would be among the “bear” issues expected to drag on markets in 2018. Investment manager Tony Oxley said: “’If we see global growth strengthen, I think stock markets will struggle as stimulus will be withdrawn. However, I do not see strong global growth. Alternatively, if it stays around current levels I think central banks will still do their best to normalise rates but it will take longer. The second half of 2018 may be a tough time due to this.”

The predictions put forward in this year’s survey were varied and it is worth bearing in mind that these are ideas, rather than recommendations to buy or sell shares in any investments or areas mentioned. Furthermore, investments, and income can fall as well as rise in value and you may lose some or all of the amount you have invested. The performance of the stocks and sectors mentioned, and forecasts for the year ahead, are not a reliable indicator of the future results or performance. Which asset class do you think will see the most gains during 2018?

 

Rank Asset class
1. Overseas equities 78%
2. UK equities 10%
3. Alternatives 8%
4. Cash 2%
5. Property 2%

Which equity market will see the most gains during 2018?

Rank Market
1. US 25%
2. Emerging markets 23%
3. Japan 21%
4. Asia-Pacific (exc. Japan) 13%
5= Europe 9%
5= UK 9%

Which equity market will see the most losses during 2018?

Rank Market
1. UK 37%
2. US 25%
3. Europe 17%
4. Emerging markets 12%
5. Japan 6%
6. Asia-Pacific 3%

Top ranking global Bull and Bear issues

Rank Bull % Rank Bear %
1. Technological advancements 92% 1. Withdrawal of central bank stimulus 92%
2. Chinese consumer growth 82% 2. Alternative Trump-related global crisis 65%
3. Stimulative Trump policy 75% 3. North Korea 63%

In general, how do you feel about the prospects for the UK economy in 2018?

Optimistic Neutral Pessimistic
17% 54% 29%

GDP Growth

Forecast: 3.7% (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
12% 21% 67%

Sterling/USD

Current Level: 1.3 (Nov 2017)                  

Above current level Remain the same Below current level
35% 37% 28%

Bank of England base rate

Forecast: 0.7%; current: 0.5%

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
27% 56% 17%

House prices

Forecast: 2% increase (Countrywide)

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
30% 35% 35%

Inflation

Forecast: 2.3% (Bank of England)

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
50% 36% 14%

Wage growth

Forecast: 2% (CIPD)

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
8% 50% 42%

Jobs/employment (ILO Unemployment Rate)

Forecast: 4.6%

Above expectations Meet expectations Below expectations
13% 66% 21%

Which three UK sectors do you expect to show the most growth in 2018 – and which are you going to avoid?

Rank Favoured Rank To avoid
1. Technology 77% 1. Retailers 75%
2. Pharmaceuticals 42% 2. Travel and leisure 58%
3. Banking 35% 3. Banking 33%
4. Oil and Gas 25% 4. Media 23%
5. Mining 23% 5. Mining 21%

How do you think the FTSE 100 will perform during 2018?

Bullish Bearish Crabbish
13% 30% 57%

Last year, 34% of those surveyed classed themselves as ‘bulls’, holding an optimistic view of the year ahead. This year, just 13% said they were bullish.

Despite the gloomy outlook, however, when asked how high the FTSE 100 would reach during 2018, respondents came back with an average predicted high of 7763. For 2018, the average predicted low point for the index is 6739.   The Favourite FTSE 100 Companies for 2018

Rank FTSE 100 Companies
1. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust (SMT) 29%
2. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 17%
3= BT Group (BT.A) 13%
3= Imperial Brands (IMB) 13%

Favourite investment themes for 2018

Rank Theme
1 Technology 75%
2= Infrastructure 33%
2= Emerging market equities 33%
2= Inflation proofing 33%
3 Japanese equities 29%

I would of course be delighted to be contacted either by email at Rupert.harvey@redmayne.co.uk or my mobile 07711 710 628 should anyone wish to discuss either their investments or how to go about investing in the markets.  Finally, let’s hope that we all have a prosperous 2018.

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Receptionist/Office Manager

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We have a vacancy for an experienced Receptionist/Office Manager, ideally with legal secretary experience, to work in our busy Market Drayton office.

The role is full-time, and the candidate will need to have strong IT, and interpersonal skills. Your role will involve interacting with clients in a friendly and helpful way, as well as having responsibility for the management of certain systems. We are looking for someone who responds positively to the challenges that the business faces, with minimal supervision. You will need to be well organised and show attention to detail. You should be able to work under pressure, be able to audio type and copy type, and be able to deal with clients both face to face and over the telephone.

Salary to be discussed at interview. We can also offer free on-site parking and a staff pension scheme.

If you would like to apply for this role, please send your CV and covering letter to Louise Martin at louise.martin@onionsanddavies.co.uk

The closing date for this position is Monday 5th February 2018.

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