Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why not celebrate our Yorkshire roots?!

By Amanda Vigar, Managing Partner, V&A Bell Brown LLP

Earlier this month, we celebrated Yorkshire Day (August 1) – a day when us Tykes joyously celebrate our roots! It’s a day when Yorks dialect and heritage is revelled in. Yorkshire people worry that it has become a media and marketing jamboree, perpetuating stereotypes of whippets, black puddings and flat caps. But I say, why not celebrate a day dedicated to God’s own country?

You don’t have to be too long in the tooth these days to remember a time when everyone knew everyone else. Relatively recently geographical loyalty was almost ingrained into the national psyche. TV series like ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ celebrated Yorkshire pride and plucky regional spirit. Back then, anywhere outside Holmfirth where the rag tag characters lived, was seen as a bit foreign; everyone existed in a microcosm. Everyone knew everyone else and everyone else’s business. Or that’s the way it seemed.

Skipton was recently lauded as the finest place in Britain to live because of a combination of low crime rates, top-class schools and great transport links. It also, like Holmfirth on a smaller scale, has a thriving high street that is not dominated by national chains and identikit facades. But there’s no denying that places like this have changed from years ago.

There’s a refreshing change in that newcomers to an area can feel accepted within months rather than a lifetime.  There are however many good things to lament about the death of belonging. The absence of a sense of community may lead to alienation among the younger generations, in particular. The lack of jobs and the non-existence of a ‘job for life’ facts can lead to problems in formerly close knit communities.

One of the ways of increasing the feeling of belonging is to try and put the people back into business. This can be achieved with a more customer focused approach with the aim of building up long-term working relationships.
In my own accountancy practice, we like to put the people back into business. In practice, this means that we work with numerous people in all sorts of trades and occupations; we have built strong relationships based on trust with our clients; clients know they can meet with the same person every time and are not simply assigned to whoever is available; and we value each and every client, no matter how big or small.

On balance, these days we probably have a better deal. Today, we can celebrate our Yorkshire roots, without feeling trapped by them. We can enjoy our heritage without feeling defined by it. We can celebrate all that is best in our county while welcoming neighbours and those who are attracted to settle here. We haven’t got everything quite right, but we are certainly on the right tracks.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

West Yorkshire Business Jury delivers unanimous verdict in favour of new flexible working rules

The West Yorkshire Business Jury , which is run by Holmfirth firm of accountants and business planners, V&A Bell Brown, has delivered a unanimous verdict in favour of new flexible working rules. 

The jury, which is made up of business owners and directors from the West Yorkshire area, returned a 7-0 vote in favour of the recent announcement that allows all employees to request flexible working hours from their employers.  

Business Battle-axe Amanda Vigar, managing partner at V&A Bell Brown, who delivered the ruling, believes that flexible working arrangements can help with staff morale and motivation. 

She said: “I have allowed staff to have flexible working arrangements for some time now, and it has worked very well. As long as flexible working doesn’t have an impact on the bottom line, then it could be good for business. 

“It may well be difficult for smaller businesses to accept flexible working arrangements but larger small and medium sized companies are more likely to be able to afford to be flexible with staff. There are numerous benefits to flexible working including increased staff morale and well-being and numerous studies have shown that this can impact positively on the bottom line by decreasing levels of stress and increasing levels of motivation.”

Mark Sanderson, director at QED Finance, agreed with Amanda as he feels that the new rules will help firms recruit loyal workers and retain their best performers.

He said: “Extending the right to request flexible working will help to create a cultural shift towards more modern, 21st century workplaces where working flexibly is the norm. Firms that embrace flexible working are more likely to attract and retain the best talent and reap the benefits of a more motivated workforce.”

Charles Brook, of Brook Business Recovery, agreed with the new rules in principal, but believes that it may prove to be more difficult for smaller firms to implement. 

“From an employer’s perspective, it’s good to have staff who feel they can legitimately approach their employer. However, because of the close relationships small employers have with their employees, they may feel unduly pressured to agree with these arrangements, whereas larger employers will have less emotional pressure to agree with requests.”

Mike Funnell, of Power Tool Services, also believes that it is a good idea, but some professions may not be able to grant employees such flexibility.

He said: “Obviously, it is very good news and will help with staff morale and productivity. Although employers would love to grant flexible working hours, it depends on the process and nature of work. Then again, the employee knew what hours they would be expected to work when they agreed to do the job.” 

David Richter, of Coral Homes UK, feels that the new flexible working rules will be beneficial to staff, as long as it doesn’t conflict with efficiency.

David said: “In general, I have no issues with the revised flexible working rules as long as it doesn’t conflict with efficiency. Businesses have worked hard during the economic downturn to progress, which has been achieved through increased efficiency in difficult conditions, so what you can’t have is people undermining this and only wishing to work flexible hours to suit themselves.” 

Morgan Wilson, of Juice Learning, believes that flexible working hours are fundamental for organisations, but only if the employee is willing to show their employer the same level of support.

He said: “I am absolutely for the new flexible working rules, which can be a massive help for employees, especially those with families, so long as it isn’t taken for granted. Employees should be prepared to give the same back to their employers when patterns of work increase, for example.”

Max Earnshaw, of Earnshaw Kay, rounded up the verdict by agreeing with Morgan, as he feels that it is a good idea, especially in small and medium sized businesses. 

He said: “As a matter of course and wherever it is possible, we operate flexible working arrangements for our staff. I think in a small and medium business environment it is general practise, as long as it is viable and doesn’t impact on business.”