Aug 9th 2018

CSR for SMEs

CSR for SMEs

CSR for SMEs can be part of the everyday running of your business. Here’s how.

When I started in business over 30 years ago, one of the first things I did was help organise a Manchester charity event raising funds for a much-needed cause. I was delighted to offer my skill set to help the charity. Ever since, CSR activity has been an important part of my business. I took the opportunity to use my contacts and expertise, which, given that my company designs and produces events for clients in the UK and around the world, seemed the most natural thing to do. For SMEs linking up with a charity or implementing a CSR policy, it can be a daunting prospect. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s a myth that giving back to your local community, or a cause close to your heart, takes big chunks of time out of the business. We all know that there are endless pressures on SMEs. It’s a constant balancing act of time and resources, all focussed on ensuring customers are happy. A commitment to developing a CSR policy doesn’t require huge time investment.

The next myth – you need you have huge budgets to donate or large teams to make a difference. Not true. The key is to work out what and how your specific company can give back, no matter how large or small, and stick to it.

CSR for SMEs

Firstly, decide on a CSR programme that makes sense for your business, setting yourself an achievable goal. Think about what areas you are interested in and match your company ethos. It could be the environment, education, recycling, nature or health. If it’s a charitable aim, then decide on the specific charity that you want to donate to and how much you want to raise. It doesn’t always have to be a monetary donation. Lots of charities are also looking for time and expertise – ‘sweat equity’ as our US counterparts would say.

Start this in a small way. Try releasing a staff member to volunteer at a charity for the day. Then, as time allows, make it a team activity. We once went to help a charity sell Christmas cards for a day. It was a brilliant way of focussing the team and working together in a completely different environment. So many untapped skills came to the fore! Consider the easy changes. When entertaining clients, choose to do this at charitable events rather than dinner at a restaurant. Finding small ways to help, that don’t adversely affect the running of your business, is the key for managing CSR for SMEs

Measure the activity and build on it year after year. Everything counts.

Occasionally, because we can, we go all out for a much bigger contribution that channels my team’s creative and organisational skills. For example, TLC is producing one of the biggest charity events that Manchester has seen in September. Gary Barlow joins forces with Gary Neville to raise funds for Child Bereavement UK and Red Sea Pedestrians. I have high expectations that we can make a considerable donation to these two fantastic charities, from which people in the north west will benefit.

A company doesn’t always have to have a charitable goal though. Giving time to speak at school careers days has been part of my CSR plans for years. I love to share my story, and I hope, it offers some inspiration (they seem to like it!). I lecture annually at MMU and sit on the Business and Enterprise Advisory Board at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.

Happily, I have been a guest speaker at many young enterprise initiatives and was a NW fundraising committee member for the Princes Trust for many years. Many of these opportunities have brought me face to face with excellent business contacts. They have also allowed me to give some of my experience back to support young people in the north west. A double win for a busy SME!

Always ensure that you celebrate success. When all the company or one member of staff has spent a day helping clear up a local park, or riverbank, or helped out for half a day at a local charity shop, then celebrate it with your team and share the experience and key learnings. A programme of CSR for SMEs can reap huge rewards in terms of staff motivation and staff retention, as well as reinvesting valuable time and energy into local communities. Remember, starting small is not a crime. Consider it your foundation for the future.

If you have found my thoughts on CSR for SMEs – check this out this business advice on making your conference or meeting  interactive 

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 Aug 2nd 2018

Yorkshire’s 5 best luxury boutique hotels

Yorkshire’s 5 best luxury boutique hotels 

TLC were proud sponsors of the award for Best Organised Event at the 4th Yorkshire PA of the Year Awards held at Leeds United Football Ground earlier this year. While in this picturesque county we took the opportunity to check out some of the region’s most luxurious boutique hotels. We were spoiled for choice. If you’re heading there this summer, you’re in for a treat. Here are Yorkshire’s 5 best luxury boutique hotels, and our favourites places to stay.

Middlethorpe Hall

As we head into racing season at York, there is no better place to relax at the end of a day at the races than nearby Middlethorpe Hall. Built in 1699, this stately red brick country house, sits in 20 acres of private gardens and parkland. In includes a wonderful sheltered wall garden. A Victorian summer-house in the grounds has been restored to house a state of the art swimming pool and spa. The stately interior of the house is spacious and characterful. The elegant wood-panelled restaurant, overlooking the neatly mowed lawns, has twice been awarded Restaurant of the Year in the Visit York Awards and offers a 2AA rosette fine dining tasting menu. And with only 29 bedrooms, this boutique historic hotel feels both exclusive and homely.

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Goldsborough Hall

The rich history of this Grade II listed stately home stretches back 400 years and was once home to royalty. Yet it was just over a decade ago that current owners, Mark and Clare Oglesby bought the hall. It had spent 20 years as a nursing home and a further two standing empty before they began restoring it to its former glory. Now both their family home and a luxury boutique hotel, it is once again a residence fit for a princess. Indeed, it is a fairy-tale location for a wedding. It has 12 deluxe suites/bedrooms and two bridal suites. Set in 12 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland and offering 2 AA rosette fine dining, this romantic retreat is a hidden gem, located only five miles east of Harrogate.

Goldsborough Hall

The Traddock

Third on our list of Yorkshire’s 5 best luxury boutique hotels is a family-run, Georgian country house. It is our top choice for walkers who want to reward themselves with a fine, locally-sourced dining and a luxurious night’s sleep. Located in the village of Austwick it is the ideal base for hiking the Tree Peaks of Whernside, Pen-Y-Ghent and Ingleborough, or taking the Wainwright walk from Austwick to Crummackdale. This boutique hotel has been run by the Reynold’s family since 2002.  It has an intimate, friendly atmosphere with quality personal service and a big heart. Its 2 AA Rosette restaurant is partnered with local artisan producers to supply the kitchens and the hotel prides itself on its environmental policies to preserve the stunning natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales in which it sits.


The Yorke Arms, Nidderdale

Definitely one for the foodies. This former 18th century shooting lodge has held a Michelin-star since 2003. Run by Frances Atkins, one of only 6 Michelin starred chefs in the UK, the Yorke Arms is a destination restaurant with rooms, where the stay is all about the food. Its 16 rooms, while never overtly luxurious, always offered a traditional and comfortable stay. The venue recently changed hands and has undergone a full refurb. The essential ingredient, Frances’ 8 course tasting menu, is still the main attraction.  The restaurant is open again now. We’re looking forward to seeing the upgraded accommodation when it opens again this summer. Situated in the picturesque village of Ramsgill, overlooking the green, it is a charming setting from which to explore the Nidderdale Valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The Yorke Arms, Nidderdale


The Star Inn, Helmsley

Last, but not least on our suggestion of Yorkshire’s 5 best luxury boutique hotels is another destination restaurant, The Star Inn. It is one of those places that once sought out will no doubt stay on your list of luxury retreats. Tucked away on a country road a couple of miles outside the market town of Helmsley. The Star Inn serves a Michelin-starred menu on one side of the road and offers quirky, luxury accommodation on the other in the linked, Cross House Lodge. Each of the 9 bedrooms has a unique selling point. One bedroom has a bath at the end of the bed, another has a private snooker table, while another has a piano. Chef-proprietor, Andrew Pern serves contemporary-Yorkshire fare. Local specialities include, apple brandy from Ampleforth Abbey, watercress from Pickering, herbs from the Kitchen Garden, fish and shellfish from Whitby and the Coast, pork from Thirsk, and honey from Harome.

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 Aug 1st 2018

6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties

6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties

In the UK it seems we’re forever complaining about the weather. After an exceptionally long and cold winter the sun is shining brighter than we can remember and up and down the country people are feeling the heat. So, unless you want guests to retreat indoors to the comfort of air-conditioning, you’ll need to plan how to keep them cool as temperatures soar. Here are some of our favourite ideas with 6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties:

1. Create shade

At outdoor parties you’ll often find people heading for the shade of the largest tree. Mature trees provide natural shaded areas but not all outdoor parties will be able to take advantage of this. Thankfully there are much more flexible ways to create a cool canopy. Gazebos come in a range of colours and sizes. But for a more bespoke look, we love brightly coloured shade sails, created simply by stretching material of your choice across firmly placed poles.

6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties 6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties  Private Parties Venues Organised by tlc limited

2. Misting area

If you can’t jump into a pool to cool down a misting area is the next best thing. Popular at music festivals, the misting machine cools the air using the natural cooling effect of water evaporating in warm air. Choose a fine mist setting.  It should cool guests without the need for a towel. Another option is to offer small bottles of facial spritzer for an instant refresher.  It nourishes and hydrates the skin, without removing make-up.

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3. Hydration station

Stocking a good choice of enticing soft-drinks can often be overlooked when planning parties. But while you plan your frozen cocktails remember in hot weather guests will need to drink more soft drinks to keep hydrated. Adding cucumber, raspberries or melon to iced water stations. It not only makes it look more attractive, it adds a delicate flavour that makes drinking water more appealing too.

6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties

4. Hawaiian shave ice

Hawaii is no stranger to the sun. The island is the perfect place to look for inspiration for summer coolers. Say aloha to shave ice, an ice-based dessert served in a tub with fruit syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Not only does this dessert hit all the right taste buds in hot weather, it looks fantastic too. Made by shaving a block of ice, to create a fine, snow-like texture, having the ice shaver on site is a terrific focal point.

6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties

5. Frozen foot baths

This one may sound crazy, but trust me, when guests’ feet start to swell they’ll thank you for the opportunity to retreat and soak their feet in bowls of iced water. It’s best to set-up this area away from the main swell of the party, and provide seats and towels for guest to dry off afterwards. Remember to replace the water after each use.

6. Hand-held fans

There is usually a good reason for traditional methods standing the test of time. Few things beat the simplicity and instant cooling of a hand-held fan. Fans can be custom printed to fit in with the theme and décor of your event. They can be used as an opportunity for branding or opened to reveal a photograph and memorable writing for guests to take away as a memento of the day.

I hope our ‘6 ways to keep guests cool at sizzling summer parties’ helps with your party plans. Enjoy the summer!

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