Posts Tagged ‘business’

Ratio Law loves Manchester

Posted on:

Ratio Law has been located in Manchester city centre for over five years, with its latest home on Charlotte Street. With Manchester Day on 14 June, two of Ratio’s partners – Joanna Norris and Gisella Alberici – give an insight into what they love about the city.

Joanna Norris

“I first came to Manchester as a student in 1993 until 1996 – it was a great place to be during the 90s – and I moved back in 2003 as a solicitor. The weather definitely isn’t the best thing about living in the city (although we do have some sunny days, promise!). Manchester is a really nice size with lots of different areas with their own personalities; I lived in London for a bit and I found it was too big to handle. For anyone visiting Manchester, I would suggest they spend some time simply wandering around the city centre and see where it takes them. My favourite restaurant is Rosso at the top of Kings Street and when it comes to football, I support Bury FC!”

Gisella Alberici

“I’ve lived in Manchester for 15 years. It was the music that first attracted me here – I loved bands like New Order and the whole ‘Madchester’ scene and used to come here to go to gigs and clubs. There is a great atmosphere in Manchester and there’s always so much going on. It’s an attractive city with really nice surrounding areas too. If someone was visiting Manchester for the weekend I’d recommend going to a football match – I personally support Manchester City and Bury FC, but of course there’s Manchester United at Old Trafford too – followed by a meal at one of the many excellent restaurants we now have in the city centre. My favourite restaurant is Sam’s Chop House. The next day they could go for a lovely walk in the Peak District with a pub lunch to finish off.”

The Ratio team would love to hear what your favourite things about Manchester are – tweet us @RatioLaw!

Is your business ready to be franchised?

Posted on:


Whether you’re a retailer, estate agent or in the hospitality industry, franchising can be an effective way to grow your business. But is your business right for this type of business model – and are you ready for the unique challenges it would bring? Here are 10 key points to consider.

  1. Is your business already tried and tested? If your business has been running for a number of years, you’re happy with your offering and confident it can be rolled out to other locations, then franchising may be a suitable option.
  2. Have you researched the market? Your business may have proven successful in one or two locations, but is there the demand for your products and/or services elsewhere? Are there any other businesses or franchises offering the same or similar to you? If so, how are you going to set yourself apart?
  3. Can you let go? If you like to have control over all aspects of your business, franchising may not be the best option. While you can choose your franchisees and train them, you can’t manage them as closely as you can direct employees.
  4. How will you encourage team spirit? Although it may be in all of your franchisees’ interests to work together for the greater good of the brand, some may not see it like that as ultimately they will be concerned with their own profits. You will need to find a way to make each franchisee understand the importance of the wider team and company.
  5. How will you protect yourself? If you are going to franchise your business, you will need to seek legal advice. A solicitor who specialises in franchising will advise you on protecting your intellectual property rights and help you draw up a comprehensive franchise contract. You should also draw up operation and training manuals and programmes to help maintain a consistent level of service across all franchisees.
  6. Have you completed a test run? While it can be tempting to dive straight in and start franchising your business, it is worth running a pilot operation to test it will work. This will help you refine your strategy and identify any potential issues.
  7. How will you manage the finances? If you franchise your business, you benefit from the capital investment and fees paid by your franchisees. However, you need to decide what level to set your fees. It may be a good idea to consider keeping fees relatively low to start with in order to help your franchisees succeed.
  8. Who will be your franchisees? Many people opt to become franchisees because it’s a way of running a business without all the usual associated risks. However, this means some necessarily won’t have a proven track record in business. There’s no need to rush into any decisions though and you should weigh up each applicant and their skills, knowledge and experience in the same way as you would when recruiting employees.
  9. What if things go wrong? Identifying any issues with franchisees early on will give you the opportunity to resolve them before they spiral into anything bigger. Even if a problem can be resolved easily with a face-to-face conversation or top-up training, it is always worth keeping a written record of what happened in case it happens again. For bigger challenges, seek legal advice as soon as possible.
  10. Where to turn for help? The British Franchise Association is a brilliant resource for advice and information. Your solicitor can also provide support and help.

If you’re thinking about franchising your business and want legal help, contact Ratio Law. 

Is it a yes or no for the Greater Manchester mayor?

Posted on:

Since Chancellor George Osborne announced at the beginning of November that Greater Manchester is to have an elected mayor in a devolution deal worth £1 billion, there have been debates and discussions around the pros and cons of such a move.

Part of the Chancellor’s plans to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the elected mayor – who will be voted in during 2017 – will have powers over transport, housing, planning and policing. On top of this, further powers will be devolved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including support for business growth, as well as joining up health and social care budgets.

Much of the criticism surrounding the move stems from the feeling that the people of Greater Manchester haven’t been consulted on whether or not they want an elected mayor. In fact, it was only in May 2012 that voters in eight cities – including Manchester – declared they didn’t want elected mayors.

The Manchester Evening News provides a good summary of the pros and cons of an elected mayor and points to New York City, where an elected mayor has made a notable impact. It’s interesting to see the newspaper’s online poll, asking readers “an elected mayor in return for £1billion in devolved powers – are you happy with the deal?” currently (26 November 2011) stands at 73% yes and only 27% no.

Like it or not, the decision to give Greater Manchester an elected mayor is a huge shift in power and should enable the region to prioritise and refocus resources based on its own objectives. It will be interesting to see who steps up to be considered for the role (with reports already that celebrities and business owners are among those who will be in the running), what they campaign for and how engaged the people of Greater Manchester become. Hopefully Greater Manchester residents will be enthusiastic and willing to use their vote so we can all be confident in a meaningful outcome.

A yes for Scotland, a no for renewables?

Posted on:

By Ratio Law’s Stuart Stones 

With only a couple of weeks before Scots vote on whether they want to stay united with the rest of Britain or become an independent nation, both supporters and critics of the ‘yes’ campaign are voicing their views. There is a lot of discussion about what impact an independent Scotland would have on business in general, however what has particularly caught my eye is the debate around how it would affect the renewables market.

Scotland has an extremely prosperous renewable industry, boasting 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resources and an estimated 25 per cent of its tidal potential. Scotland has set itself the ambitious target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of gross annual electricity consumption through renewable energy by 2020, and it was recently announced the amount of heat generated by renewable sources in Scotland grew by 17 per cent last year.

Should Scotland go independent, the rest of the UK would have to work hard to meet its EU commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. But while some may think this is the main reason why critics of the yes campaign are standing against it, there are other factors to bear in mind.

If Scotland wants to truly establish itself as an international leader in green energy, it needs to secure funding to finance new projects and the new technology to drive them. However, there has also been a lot of uncertainty for potential investors, with a report by Citigroup urging “extreme caution” over investing in Scottish renewables. Even before the vote takes place, with such uncertainty around the future of the country and how it will ensure investments are secure, a lot of potential investors may have already been put off parting with their cash.

Finally, cost is always, unsurprisingly, a key consideration with any business issue. At the moment, a third of the UK’s renewable subsidy goes to Scotland, but Scots only contribute one tenth of the cost. It has been estimated that if Scotland goes independent, and subsequently loses this financial support, it could increase household energy bills by as much as £189 a year by 2020. Businesses wouldn’t be exempt from price increases either, with a medium-sized manufacturer expected to see bills rise by as much as £608,000 per annum.

A lot still remains unclear in terms of how Scotland will ensure it keeps bills affordable for consumers and businesses, and how it will encourage investors to spend. While Scotland has an abundance of renewable energy sources, it remains to be seen if it has the ability and gravitas to manage international relationships, secure investments and drive the market forward.

Regardless of whether Scotland goes independent or not, if the whole UK cannot work together to build a powerful, sustainable and effective renewable market then it risks missing out all together on some of the exciting opportunities available in the market.


Could you benefit from the changes to business rates?

Posted on:

By Joanna Norris, Partner at Ratio Law

If you run a business out of a non-domestic or commercial property, chances are you will have to pay business rates. These are paid to local authorities and go towards funding local services.

Business rates can be a considerable cost – especially for smaller businesses. Since the start of the new tax year though, the government has introduced a few changes to help companies and ease some of the financial pressure off them.

So what are these changes, and could your business benefit from them?

  • 12 monthly instalments

Business rates used to have to be paid over ten monthly instalments. Now, businesses can opt to pay them over 12 months instead. This should give companies greater control over their cash flow.

  • Rate relief

For 2014-15 and 2015-16, shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars that have a rateable value of below £50,000 may be eligible for a £1,000 rate relief.

  • Empty retail premises

Businesses that move into retail premises that have been empty for a year or more can benefit from a 50 per cent business rate discount. The discount will be applied for a maximum of 18 months, between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016.

  • Capped increase

Normally business rates increase in line with the Retail Price Index, but it is currently being capped at two per cent.

Business rates can be contentious topic, and while these changes should be a bit of welcome news for some businesses, there are some who argue more needs to be done. From basing rates on sales rather than property value, to eradicating them all together, there are lots of different views and we’re undoubtedly going to see more changes to the system over the coming years.

For more information and details on how to calculate your business rates, visit the government website here, or, if you’re about to sign for a new commercial property and want some advice on business rates contact one of the Ratio team.

Can an independent Scotland really stand on its own two feet?

Posted on:

By Ewan Mackay, director of SGM Property Consultants

 The Scottish referendum has brought a lot of uncertainty to businesses in Scotland and I, for one, am concerned.

Supporters of the yes campaign argue that going independent will bring all sorts of opportunities to help the country prosper, but I’m not too sure. There are too many unanswered questions relating to our currency and tax, as well as our place in the EU, to be anything but hesitant and nervous about breaking free from the UK. And these uncertainties are leading to a lot of major businesses – who employ thousands of Scots – drawing up contingency plans and planning their escape route for if Scotland does go independent.

As a country, we have a lot to be proud of and many successful industries. Our beautiful landscapes and strong heritage help make our tourism industry worth a staggering £11 billion; our world famous whisky results in £4.27 billion of exports; and our renewable energy market supports 11,000 jobs. But what would happen to these industries – along with our strong finance, construction, textiles, electronics and fishing markets – if we were to fly solo?

There doesn’t seem to have been any thought given to logistics. How will businesses continue to work with the rest of the UK and Europe if Scotland does go independent? Breaking free from the rest of the UK will undoubtedly add to the complexity and cost of working with other countries. While bigger organisations – at least those that decide to stay in Scotland – will be able to plan and prepare for these changes and additional costs, it is smaller businesses that will suffer.

If Scotland does go independent, businesses will of course fight and evolve in order to survive. But I worry about the short term impact. With little or no guidance, support or clarity, it will be make or break time for a lot of businesses. And with the recent recession still fresh in our minds, we know only too well how quickly and easily a business can break.

I struggle to see how independence can be better for our economy; we work better as a bigger nation, with the security and support of the rest of the UK. Businesses, jobs and Scotland’s economy are massively at risk at the moment and not enough has been said or done to assure me otherwise.

It has been a turbulent few years for businesses in general, and we are finally beginning to see the benefits of improved market conditions. A yes vote could put us significantly back if it is not handled correctly, and it is the next generation that will have to bear the brunt of this.

Alex Salmond may be a good politician and be able to romanticise the idea of going independent, but we need to be realistic. A lot of our jobs, investments and new business opportunities are made possible because we are part of the UK. It is difficult to gauge exactly which way the vote will go at the moment, but I really hope the people of Scotland – and businesses in particular – see that we are stronger as one and vote accordingly.