Guardian Small Business Network launches - The Guardian Guardian Small Business Network launches - The Guardian

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guardian Small Business Network launches - The Guardian

Guardian Small Business Network launches - The Guardian

The Guardian Small Business Network has launched today in association with Lloyds TSB Commercial.

The Network will provide resources such as online Q&A sessions, expert blogs and case studies to support the owners and employers of small and medium businesses. It will follow in the footsteps of the Guardian's other digital-led Networks such as Guardian Sustainable Business and the Guardian Teacher Network, providing an online forum for debate as well as live events for networking.

The inspiration for the site came from the Guardian's commitment to provide a professional product for its readers. Realising the difficulties that small businesses face in the economic climate, the site aims to give them instant access to resources which can help them shore up and build their businesses.

Defining small business as any company with a turnover below £15m means the site will provide advice not just on starting your own business but also on growing sales, exporting to new markets and managing cashflow. In particular it will focus on giving readers access to the expertise that will help support their business in the future. For example, whilst small business owners will be experts in their own business they may not have specialist knowledge about marketing or accounts management. The Guardian Small Business Network will suggest ways they can grow their contacts book to find this support outside their own offices through joining professional bodies, finding a mentor or improving their networking skills.

The Network is made up of three main components. The site itself will contain blogs from professionals discussing their experiences and the lessons learnt. There will also be live Q&As where readers have the opportunity to quiz a panel of sector experts on specific topics, gaining instant access to people who can help them handle the day-to-day problems that come with running your own business.

The best practice exchange will feature case studies from businesses across the UK. Any company which believes it is doing something innovative or different in the four categories of winning new business, cashflow, exporting to new markets and starting up, can submit its case study to the judging panel. All those that meet the criteria will be published on the Guardian Small Business Network within the best practice exchange, and the winning entries for each category will be featured in the Guardian.

Finally, the Guardian Small Business Network will also provide readers with a chance to build their contacts book by attending one of twelve breakfast seminars that will be taking place around the country. Run with the Institute of Directors these events will give business managers a chance to hear from industry experts and to network with their peers.

Readers can become a member of the Guardian Small Business Network for free by signing up here. Members will receive all the latest from the network including a weekly newsletter, updates on our regional events and Best Practice Exchange.

Small business is big in southern Minn. - Albert Lea Tribune
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Business needs to loosen grip on power to reconnect with society - The Guardian

I jokingly asked the chief executive of Kingfisher the other week if I would have more sex if I bought a power tool from one of his B&Q stores.

This was after a comment from a member of the audience at the London part of Sustainability 24, which Guardian Sustainable Business ran alongside Accenture, that sustainability needs to be made more attractive and sexy to consumers.

Ian Cheshire playfully responded that I stood more chance if I joined one of the company's pilot community-based leasing schemes, than if I bought my own drill. The reason for this is clear. I am more likely to find intimacy if I am part of a community than if I am living a solitary life.

Behind the banter was a serious point. In western society, we have been taught to value comfort in our lives above all else. This generally translates to having enough money to buy the goods and services that allow us to stand on our own feet.

While we may treasure our independence, we are also learning that it comes with a high price in terms of increasing levels of loneliness. We tend to cover up this painful feeling with even more consumption and distrust of the world around us. Further strengthening this self-imposed exile is our fear of what will happen if we step off the treadmill. The more we have, the more we fear losing it all.

The wife of a finance sector professional I know responded with alarm when he said he felt he was living a lie and wanted to change direction. She quickly closed the conversation by saying she could not possibly do without the level of income he brought home.

It's not just the money of the elite that is a problem but how they value their status. Wealth has become associated with exclusivity and separation. Go to any expensive part of a city and you will be confronted with gated communities and often an eerie silence.

In contrast, those who have little tend to share more because they need to depend on each other to survive. They also tend to have a much more open approach to life because, paradoxically, they live a lot closer to death.

If we are to build a sustainable future, it is vital that the wealthier and more powerful members of society re-connect to a common sense of community and shared destiny. That is not only within their local communities but also to the people who produce the products and services on which they believe their lives depend.

How do we achieve that in the west?

Some parts of the world have been convulsed by popular uprisings but there is little sign of this in the developed world. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, said he believes the situation will need to become a lot worse before people are shaken out of their dream-like state.

"Why are people not out on the streets demonstrating?" he asks. "Perhaps things have not got bad enough for enough people. Life is still too comfortable."

While Greenfield believes we need an environmental crisis to force the pace of change, this will not necessarily lead to a positive outcome. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone in their book 'Active Hope' point out that while a crisis can pull people together, it is by no means a certainty: "Unfortunately, shared awareness of a problem does not inevitably cause people to come together as a community of mutual support. When the danger is only vaguely sensed and not understood, this can lead to distrust, hostility and scapegoating. In adversity, people can pull together or push apart, step outside their bubbles or retreat further into them."

So what can companies do to ensure we head in the direction of collaboration rather than conflict.

First and foremost, companies need to understand that their long-term success has to be linked to the success of society in general.

That is easy to say but represents a revolution in the way most companies think and behave. Time and again during Sustainablility 24, speakers pointed that what will help is if businesses rediscover a sense of meaning that is beyond making money.

But Greenfield says the desire to consume has trampled over spiritual values and that companies that do talk about returning to a sense of purpose are often doing so only to retain their profitability: "It is very difficult to make that change as it involves moving away from what you know has been successful even if you believe it will not be successful indefinitely in the future," he says. "It is pretty scary to do that. It is much easier to be wrong and follow the crowd because no-one holds that against you."

A shift in behaviour

So it seems pretty clear that radical change is possible only if companies recognise they can are no longer in control of the reins of power.

What is helping is the rise of social media, which allied with the traditional press, is making it easier to hold corporate power to account. Companies now recognise that they are less likely to get away with irresponsible behaviour.

That feeling of vulnerability, which companies so desperately seek to avoid, is paradoxically what will help save them. As many poor people recognise, it's when we feel at our most vulnerable that we are able to touch the humanity within ourselves, which in turn allows us to connect to those around us in a spirit of equality.

We are starting to see the first small signs that more progressive companies recognise the importance of re-knitting themselves into a broader societal framework, with talk of shared value and social impact, rather than philanthropic cash handouts.

But more often than not, this still comes from a place of companies looking at the world from the perspective of power-over rather than power-with.

Language is important here. Would the conversation change, for example, if we talked about 'shared values' rather than Shared Value, and 'social cohesion' rather than social impact?

The corporate sector would do well to heed an old Danish folktale, as told in 'Active Hope' about the two very different types of power. In a meeting between two kings, one says to the other: "You see that tower. In my kingdom, I can command any of my subjects to climb to the top and then jump to their deaths. Such is my power that all will obey."

The second king, who was on a visit, pointed to a small dwelling nearby: "In my kingdom, I can knock on the door of a house like that, and, in any town or village, I will be welcomed. Such is my power that I can stay overnight, sleeping well without any fear for my safety."

Greenfield says it is possible for businesses to see their role as helping the needs of society but he is not holding his breath.

He sees the corporate sector as still being stuck in the idea that doing good is only about helping the economy, providing jobs and making breakthrough products that make peoples' lives better.

"That is just scratching the surface of helping society," he says. "You can be neutral or a taker or you can be a contributor," he says "and business is generally neutral to a taker. It is not a builder."

To see the full interview with Jerry Greenfield, click here.

This content is brought to you by Guardian Professional. Become a GSB member to get more stories like this direct to your inbox

Stocks close 1.96% higher on Spain bank bailout - Japan Today

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Stocks closed up 1.96% on Monday, tracking a broad regional rally driven by the eurozone’s decision to lend Spain up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to rescue its banking system. The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange added 165.64 points to ...

Viewing Financial Crimes as Economic Homicide - New York Times

R. Allen Stanford, who was found guilty of operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is likely to receive a sentence later this week that will require him to spend the rest of his life behind bars. If that happens, it will continue a pattern in which white-collar defendants convicted of committing large-scale fraud have received long prison terms, far longer than what has been meted out in the past.

In March, Mr. Stanford, a Texas tycoon, was convicted on 13 counts of fraud and money laundering related to the collapse of Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua. Investors lost billions of dollars in what were billed as high-yield certificates of deposit but turned out to be largely worthless. Thousands of victims throughout the United States and the Caribbean were affected.

In a sentencing recommendation filed in the Federal District Court in Houston, prosecutors asked Judge David Hittner for 230 years in prison, the maximum permitted by federal law for the convictions. Not surprising, Mr. Stanford is seeking a much lower punishment that would effectively result in a sentence of time served since he was jailed after being charged in 2009.

I’m not really going out on a limb by predicting that the actual sentence will be somewhere in between those two recommendations. But how high is the sentence likely to be?

Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the recommended term for the convictions is 360 months to life in prison. The guidelines are driven in large part by the amount of the losses caused by the fraud, which can easily drive the potential punishment to what is doled out to major drug dealers and serial killers. Although the guidelines are only a recommendation, federal judges have to justify any sentence that falls outside the recommended range, and many are reluctant to be too lenient in order to avoid a government appeal.

One reason prosecutors have asked for such a startlingly high amount for Mr. Stanford is that a court can only sentence a defendant to the maximum permitted under the statute. Thus, prosecutors have asked the judge to impose separate sentences for each violation, totaling 230 years in prison.

If Judge Hittner follows the government’s recommendation, the sentence would exceed the 150-year sentence imposed on Bernard L. Madoff for perpetrating the greatest Ponzi scheme in history. Such a long sentence could never be completely served, so it would be largely symbolic, intended to reflect the impact of Mr. Stanford’s crimes.

While it is unlikely that Judge Hitter will impose the statutory maximum term the government is seeking, it would not be surprising to see a sentence of at least 30 years – and perhaps as much as 100 years. That would fit in the pattern in recent financial fraud cases in which federal prosecutors sought long prison terms and judges have agreed to punishments that put white-collar defendants in jail for the rest of their lives.

Other defendants found guilty of financial frauds have received stiff sentences. Edward Okun, who was convicted of defrauding customers of $126 million through his tax-deferral service, received a 100-year prison term in August 2009 after prosecutors recommended a sentence of 400 years. Thomas J. Petters received a 50-year prison sentence in April 2010 for defrauding investors of approximately $3.7 billion after prosecutors recommended he receive the maximum term of 335 years. Lee B. Farkas was sentenced to 30 years in June 2011 for his role as an executive at the mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker after prosecutors urged a sentence of 385 years for a fraud that resulted in the collapse of Colonial Bank.

Mr. Stanford faces two significant hurdles in seeking a shorter sentence. First, he has not exhibited any contrition or remorse that can sway a judge. He has maintained his innocence at trial, and he plans to appeal the convictions.

A second, greater problem is the attitude of many judges after the financial crisis. Many have come to view financial frauds as crimes worthy of the type of sentences that was once reserved for violent offenders. White-collar defendants are no longer given light sentences because they were not viewed as threats to society.

The financial harm inflicted on small investors is the type of evidence that prosecutors often marshal to show a judge that a defendant who has no previous criminal convictions or history of violence should be incarcerated for the rest of his life. At Mr. Madoff’s sentencing, many investors testified to the devastating effect of his Ponzi scheme on their lives. It was persuasive evidence in leading to his 150-year sentence.

Similarly, Mr. Stanford’s bank had thousands of investors who plowed their life savings into the high-interest C.D.’s.

Prosecutors often speak of the deterrent value that a long sentence will have on other financial executives who will be chastened to avoid defrauding investors and clients. As I discussed last year in a piece on Mr. Farkas’s sentencing, that is a message likely to be lost on other corporate executives because they do not view themselves as engaging in the type of misconduct that can lead to convictions, or life sentences.

Sentencing a white-collar defendant to a substantial prison term is really more about expressing society’s outrage at a misconduct that took advantage of investors and destroyed their financial well-being. These types of fraud are akin to economic homicide, and courts are treating them more and more as such.

Whether punishment should be used this way is a much more difficult question to answer. For Mr. Stanford, his sentencing comes at a time when lengthy prison terms for white-collar offenders have become more commonplace as a financial fraud’s harm to society is measured in the millions, or billions, of dollars.

US v Stanford Government Sentencing Recommendation June 6 2012

Peter J. Henning, who writes White Collar Watch for DealBook, is a professor at Wayne State University Law School.

Business News: Arches Industrial Estate goes from strength to strength - Coventry

European airlines could go out of business, warns economist Brian Pearce - Daily Telegraph

The extent of damage being wrought by the European banking crisis was demonstrated by the latest IATA forecasts, which were unveiled at the industry's global summit in Beijing.

IATA, which had previously predicted European carriers would lose £385m, has nearly doubled the losses it expects this year.

Last year the same airlines were able to make a combined net profit of £321m. It was the second successive year in which they had made money,

But the latest forecast reflects growing pessimism over Europe's prospects within the industry at a time when aviation is maintaining its profitability in other parts of the world.

"For European carriers, the business environment is deteriorating rapidly, resulting in sizeable losses," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general.

"The biggest and most immediate risk, however, is the crisis in the eurozone. If it evolves into a banking crisis, we could face a continent-wide recession - dragging the rest of the world and our profits down."

However, thanks to the strength of aviation outside Europe, airlines across the world are on track to make a profit of £1.9bn this year, which is less than half the £5.1bn they made in 2011.

North America appears to be on course for a better year, with airlines forecast to make a combined profit of £900m in 2012, a modest increase on the £840m of 2011.

Elsewhere, carriers in the Asia-Pacific region are predicted to make £1.3bn in 2012, less than half the £3.15bn they earned last year.

Airlines have been helped by a weakening of the oil price, which, according to the industry's latest calculations, accounts for a third of the industry's running costs.

But Mr Tyler warned that the industry was under threat from punitive taxes, such as Air Passenger Duty in Britain, along with rising airport and air navigation charges.

STOCKS NEWS EUROPE-Tesco underperforms after Q1 update - Reuters UK

Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:20am BST

Shares in Tesco gain 0.4 percent, underperforming a much stronger advance by the FTSE 100 index, up 1.6 percent, as the world's third-biggest retailer reports a drop in quarterly underlying sales in its main British market, leading Seymour Pierce to cut its target price for the stock to 320 pence from 350 pence.

The supermarket group, with over 6,000 stores in 14 countries, says consumer confidence was subdued across all of its markets, with total sales up 2.2 percent including petrol in the 13 weeks to May 26, its fiscal first quarter.

Seymour Pierce says Tesco's Q1 sales were broadly in line with market expectations and thinks there must be some relief that despite the well flagged negative UK like-for-like sales, the firm's management is advising no change to full-year 2012/13 expectations.

"We continue to believe that Tesco is still a strong business with an unassailable market leading position in the UK that has temporarily come off the rails  Nevertheless it is hard to see anything other than pedestrian earnings growth from the company over the next three years," the broker says in a note.

"UK profits are unlikely to grow while the company has to invest in its proposition to defend market share, and overseas, which still only accounts for circa 25 percent of operating profits, will not significantly move the dial," Seymour Pierce adds, retaining its "hold" rating on the stock.

Reuters messaging rm://

Stocks To Watch For June 11 - Benzinga

Some of the stocks that may grab investor focus today are:

W.W. Grainger Inc (NYSE: GWW) is projected to report sales results for May. GWW shares dropped 0.03% to $189.93 in after-hours trading.

Shares of Optical Cable Corp (NASDAQ: OCC) jumped 30.14% on Friday after the company reported a 28% surge in its second-quarter sales. OCC shares rose 0.26% to $3.81 in the after-hours trading session.

Wall Street expects Finisar Corp (NASDAQ: FNSR) to report its FQ4 earnings at $0.21 per share on revenue of $242.6 million. FNSR shares gained 0.54% to $14.96 in after-hours trading.

Shares of Quiksilver Inc (NYSE: ZQK) surged 12.30% on Friday after the company reported a narrower Q2 loss. ZQK shares closed at $2.74 on Friday.

Telefonica SA (NYSE: TEF) agreed to sell a 4.56% stake in China Unicom (Hong Kong) Limited (NYSE: CHU) for around 1.13 billion euros ($1.74 billion). The buyer is China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd. TEF shares declined 0.33% to $12.22 in the after-hours trading session, while CHU shares fell 0.51% to close at $13.55 on Friday.

Tags: Stocks To Watch

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