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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

How a Meccano Set Became the Mother of Invention

In Business, Government, Ideas, International Trade, Invention, Social History, Trading, Trevor Baylis on 4 September 2011 at 13:39

“Achievement is more important than qualifications.”

Bob Bluffield meets the inventor Trevor Baylis

The most obscure things can often shape our futures and for Trevor Baylis it was the fortuitous discovery of a deluxe box of Meccano on a rubbish tip while foraging for scrap metal as a young boy in wartime west London. By adding the wide range of pieces to the cherished basic set his father had bought him presented him with the opportunity to extend his creativity. By his own admission, Trevor was not in the least bit academic. He considers that “achievement is more important than qualifications” – a policy he has adhered to throughout his long career without causing himself any undue harm, even though he couldn’t have thought this when he and his mates took every opportunity to bunk off junior school. Instead of class work they preferred to pursue more boyish adventures and during the Blitz there was plenty of opportunity to do just that. They collected shrapnel from the enemy raids of the previous night and bits of scrap that could be sold for smelting to aid the war effort. When they weren’t scavenging, Trevor and his friends were preoccupied with swimming even though this was in the foul smelling effluent water of the nearby Grand Union Canal. After discovering he had a natural ability to float, Trevor became a first class swimmer and by the age of fifteen represented Great Britain, but became disappointed when he missed out on a place in the 1958 Olympics.  When the time came to leave school, Trevor claims he could barely read and write but was offered a job at a soil mechanics laboratory where he had the opportunity to study mechanical and structural engineering on part-time day release.

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Is Your Garden Plagued by Slugs?

In Business, Food & Drink, Gardening on 10 July 2011 at 11:41

While wandering around the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (the worlds largest) last week I met Mr and Mrs Messina a charming couple who had invented a simple, yet highly effective, device known as the Slug Bell. This is a cheap, low-cost and attractively colourful little gadget that is used to ‘feed’ slugs with deadly pellets to rid them from your garden.

The Slug Bell was designed as a safe, environmentally friendly and efficient way of keeping toxic slug pellets out of reach of animals and children and was devised after Mike Messina had become ill after eating part of a slug pellet that had remained on a lettuce that had been thoroughly washed several times.

With prices ranging from £8.49 to £9.99 the all-metal Slug Bell represents excellent value for money. The product consists of a simple spike that is placed into the ground that contains a small mesh feeder partway up the spike that is used to bait the slugs. Pellets are placed in the bowl and the hungry slugs, attracted by the odour given off from the pellets, have no trouble climbing the spike to devour the bait. A small bell-shaped hood, available in an array of patterns and colours to blend in with your garden, is then placed on top of the spike to hide the slug pellets from prying pets and children and to provide protection from the rain.

Slug Bells are already in use in the gardens at Highgrove and Mike Messina proudly showed me a letter sent to him by a member of HRH Prince Charles’s staff praising the value of the products. Mike has also been interviewed by researchers from the ‘Dragon’s Den‘ programme.

The Slug Bell is available on line at the company’s official website.

Fallowfields sets news standard in fine dining

In Bartercard, Business, Fallowfields, Food & Drink, Hotels, Restaurant Reviews, Wine on 1 May 2011 at 15:43

Fallowfields Hotel and Restaurant has always had an excellent reputation for food and hospitality.

They have just announced the arrival of Shaun Dickens as Head Chef. Shaun’s sparkling career has taken him to a Who’s Who of Michelin starred restaurants; with three years at Oxfordshire’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (two Michelin stars), two years at Per Se in New York (3 Michelin stars) and L’Ortolan (1 Michelin star) where he worked with Alan Murchison for the last two years. Additionally, he spent short periods with Gordon Ramsay in London and New York, Michelle Roux Junior at the Gavroche and Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniels. In 2009 Shaun was a finalist of the Young Chef of the Year Competition, and in 2010 won the title for the South West Region and came 3rd overall nationally.

The world of Michelin seems open for Shaun, almost wherever he has chosen to go. So, why did he choose Fallowfields? “I am at a point in my career where I needed a project”, says Shaun – “and Fallowfields, with its farm, orchards and kitchen garden, is a chef’s dream turned true. So when I saw Fallowfields was looking, I just knew this was the job for me”. There was a sense of passion about Fallowfields that struck me when I first came, that matched my own – you could feel it – and with the passion that I as chef will bring, the future of Fallowfields is unlimited. The journey starts here, today the 26th April.

Anthony Lloyd, owner of Fallowfields commented: “This is an unparalleled opportunity for a good business to become a great business. We are food led and Shaun’s arrival has been anticipated with much excitement in the last few weeks. Right from the days when my wife Peta cooked in the kitchen on an Aga and we planted our vegetable garden and orchards and then starting the farm three years ago, Fallowfields has almost been sitting waiting for a talent like Shaun to come along to make it come alive”.

Orange takes the biscuit for dreadful customer service

In Business, Customer Service, Email providers, Orange, Telecoms on 11 February 2011 at 15:42

I am at the end of my tether with Orange. Over the last few days I have been unable to receive any emails on my Broadband setup and I understand others are experiencing the same problem. This is the latest in a whole catalogue of complaints I have made to Orange over faults with their system over the last six months but it is difficult to move my service provider because I have to change so many resources including my Blackberry that are used to promote my email address. Last year the system kept emptying my inbox of all mail and then in their wisdom Orange has told me that I am on a ‘pay as I go’ account and, despite a week-long exchange of emails, this still has not been resolved.

Calling the help line is a thorough waste of time and effort and I can feel my blood pressure rising.  If you call from a landline or mobile it can be expensive to boot just to get Orange to provide the service I am paying for. The call centre … guess what … is in India and without being accused of causing a racial issue, I have found that many of the operatives are extremely difficult to understand. Although I have been aware of other subscribers that are experiencing the same email problems, nobody at Orange is prepared to admit that anything is wrong. I have been told they will take 3-5 days to investigate the problem that they are not admitting exists, and when I explain that having no emails is like losing a limb they merely repeat over and over ‘that they will investigate in the next 3-5 days’ as if it is their mantra. Yesterday I was prompted to ask whether I was actually talking to a person or robot, but the call centre operative missed the point and now, as we roll into the third day I am receiving spasmodic batches of emails during parts of the morning, things come to a grinding halt during the afternoon.  Now that the weekend is here I guess I will not even get this barrage of day-old correspondence.

I have resorted to writing several emails a day to customer support (now that is a joke!) using my msn connection but it takes the a day or more for Orange to respond and then all they will tell me is that they either have no record of my account (I had inherited Orange after Freeserve was taken over) or the engineers will be looking into the problem. As the same person never deals with an issue, for much of the time you have to go over what you have said previously.  I have written several letters to their CEO who hides behind his customer relations team, who delight in saying that the CEO does not read customer letters. Well he bloody well should as he might discover just how diabolical his company’s customer service is.

It is all extremely unsatisfactory and frustrating and in the end I guess I will have no alternative but to change service provider with all the inherent problems that will entail.

If anyone out there can recommend a reliable email provider please let me know.

The Joys of Barter

In Bartercard, Business, Food & Drink, Hotels, International Trade, Networking, Trading, Uncategorized on 5 February 2011 at 12:41

Bartering has been around ever since man began trading and despite an in-bred scepticism in the UK it can be a much more satisfying way of doing business especially when money is tight. I enjoy bartering and use it extensively to obtain goods and services that I need. It is a particularly useful way of doing business during periods when cash trade is scarce or you have excess capacity or stock that you want to shift. With the advent of the internet, most countries now have an organised barter trading system and mega businesses, even governments are not averse to trading in this way. I once worked for a client in the construction industry who regularly took payment for their projects in Nigeria with tankers of crude oil in place of hard cash, that was later sold on to one of the major oil companies.

Communities have grown using the bartering system with various levels of success on a local level, but by far the most successful bartering organisation is Bartercard, an international trading portal that operates in six countries and has 75,000 trading members. Bartercard simplifies the trading process by matching the requirements of members to appropriate suppliers of products and services that they require. Payment is conducted using Trade pounds, thus when I make a sale the payment for my services will be credited to my account enabling me to spend on anything I need to buy from other member businesses. This means when I want to eat out, stay at a hotel, buy items that I need – even pay for my private dental treatment, I pay using Trade Pounds instead of spending cash. Bartercard makes its money by charging fees on every transaction, but these are tiny compared to the equivalent cash spend you might otherwise make. It is a great way of doing business and it is all ‘above board’ – with members paying tax and collecting VAT on transactions in the normal way. Being a Bartercard member also acts as a social networking forum that forges firm friendships and working relationships with other businesses.

The only downsides are that you cannot buy fuel, or use Bartercard to buy food in the supermarkets, but it is something the major companies should consider. The reserved nature of the Brits still casts a suspicion over anything innovative that can really help their businesses. But it really is time that all businesses woke up to the benefits Bartercard has to offer as an alternative to paying for everything using cash.

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