02 March 2017

My new personal website journey

It is said that, ‘571 websites are created within a minute online, every day’.

With Pathway and other businesses, we have built scores of websites but usually this involves a team of people including our digital and marketing team. However recently I have launched my personal site and experienced a more hands on experience and I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. The website is now live at: www.safaraz.co.uk

Firstly, It’s a good idea regardless of your position and present knowledge to learn about the digital scene, changes and updates that are taking place in this market place so that you can understand, challenge and make better sites, posts and of course videos.

Here are the top 3 things I think we should all keep in mind:

STOCK V REAL: First of all, YES- Images are paramount to every website. But there seems to be an ongoing debate about whether we should be using stock images, or not.

For me, authenticity is key. And images that are unique to you and your business, are far more likely to connect with online consumers. By using original photographs on your website, you’re ‘humanising’ your brand, and portraying it in the best light.
Think about it, a snapshot of your HAPPY team hard at work, is more appealing than that photograph of an (unknown) model, who has been heavily enhanced on Photoshop.
You’ll find that I’ve shared a great deal of images on my new website- all of them are of myself, my friends, and my associates. All of them demonstrate who I really am.
I’d recommend that you avoid a search on stock photo sites and instead, ask your team mates if they’re up for a photo shoot, also link your images to your Instagram account too, so now whenever I upload to Instagram, it automatically displays on my website as well.

VIDEO CONTENT: If you’ve been in business for long, you will have definitely heard the phrase, ‘content is king’. Here’s the other thing: Visual marketing is SO IMPORTANT. In fact, it’s video marketing that’ll be the real hero of your website.
Videos have become a staple in our everyday lives and are a must now, if there is no video then the site is automatically considered “dated”

I have tried to do a lot more with videos recently with work on my own youtube page and with my website I’ve dedicated a separate section for videos of myself and my recent projects- please feel free to take a look. We all know that the attention span of online customers is short- and they don’t want to waste time by reading too much text and in some cased reading at all. However much more importantly than that video content on your website will develop the trust between your business and potential customers.

MOBILE & SPEED FRIENDLY: Half of all internet visits are done through a mobile device and this figure is rapidly.
In a digitally advanced world, it is important for us to ‘keep up with the times’ and ensure that our websites are mobile friendly and we navigate easily as well bearing in mind the long the site takes to load – speed is really king now!
So, there’s my tuppence worth, let me know once you’ve take taken a look and at www.safaraz.co.uk.

Thank you once again for your time.


Safaraz Ali (Saf)
p.s above everything else - ensure you come across as relatable (or some may say authentic) on your site and posts. The content on my website is frankly from the heart, so I’d love to hear your valued feedback.

01 March 2017

Employee Personal Brand vs Business Brand: Can They Work Hand in Hand?

Most businesses are aware of the considerable benefits of having employees with strong personal brands; and this is now often encouraged.

As well as the practical benefits of having a strong business brand (such as brand recognition), employing individuals with established personal brands gives organisations that certain ‘human touch’. This is vital for building trust between businesses and consumers.

We are normally drawn towards people with compelling personalities, and those we can build a rapport with. For this reason, most businesses are keen to invest further in employees with a good online presence and following. They are interested in the development of their staff, and would rather work towards them becoming ‘thought leaders and influencers’ in the market place.

At times, these individuals can attract the attention of other customers, new recruits and even competitors, because they are successfully sharing knowledge and expertise through their own platforms. The aim for business owners/ the executive board in this case, is to harness the power of these unique brands, and turn them into advocates of their respective companies.

From a business perspective, however; there comes a point where an individual’s brand can become less of an advantage and more of a threat to the business. This can be due to several reasons, including:

• The individual’s brand could overshadow the business brand. The employee may be perceived as a ‘rock star’, whilst the business remains in the shadow and is eventually forgotten.
• Employees could be abusing the resources and the platform given to them by their employer. This may be for their own personal advantage of self- promotion, rather than in the interest of the business.
• The possibility of personal-branded employees being head-hunted by competitors. The employee may also feel that they have outgrown the role and the business, and decide to move on.

Any form of external attention sought can create internal pressure and is likely to create conflict between the employee and the business. It may be a matter of ‘asserting dominance’, for example, the employer might be trying to weaken the presence of the personal brand, or wanting to control how the employees present themselves online. This could result in the employee feeling resentful towards the business and in turn, bad mouthing the employer to key stakeholders and other associates.

This is usually a far worse outcome than the risks initially predicted by the employer. So, how can business owners negotiate this situation and still harvest the benefits of an individual’s personal brand?

The simple truth is that business owners are better off encouraging a persona brand, as opposed to actively suppressing it. In a world where our social media presence can make or break a career, employees will be trying to develop their unique identities regardless. And when they have reached ‘success’, you will want them on your side.

The key is to take a relaxed approach, and sometimes this is easier said than done. It all boils down to the relationship, and the stronger the bond between you and your employee, the better- for both parties.

Give time, and genuine respect to your employees, and turn them into even greater brand ambassadors, who truly respect the business and would like to see it (and ultimately, themselves) succeed. As the saying goes, “a customer cannot truly love a business until its employees do”. So, it is worth valuing this relationship, meaning respecting the fact that their personal brand is important to them. Whilst being associated with this person, as their reputation grows, so will yours.

What do you think? Can employee’s personal brands and company brands work together for the greater good? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thank you once again for your time,

Safaraz Ali

22 January 2017

Join us on January 25th 2017: Coffee and Natter Birmingham - Free business networking

A heartfelt thank you to all our supporters and event attendees during 2016. To help kick things off for the new year, we will be welcoming our special friend Micheal de Groot to guest host the show.

Come and join us on January 25th 2017 at Coffee and Natter- A free business networking event where we are proud to have Adrian Taffinder as our keynote speaker:

The agenda for the day will be as follows:
13:00-13:30 Registration and Networking
13:30-14:00 Introduction & Welcome: Delegates will be given a one minute slot to make an impression, and introduce themselves to the group.
14:00-14:45 Main Key Note Speaker - Adrian Taffinder
14:45-15:10 Book Review of Daniel Priestley “OverSubscribed” by – Ralph Watson
15:15 Open Networking, Photos and Video Testimonials

Book via: http://tinyurl.com/CNJAN17

Pathway2Grow’s Coffee and Natter events enable like-minded entrepreneurs to network in a friendly, professional, and ‘no pressure’ environment. Each event is centred around a credible guest speaker, who share their expertise in a certain area of business. The presentations provide value to those who are looking for self-development, as well as personal and business growth- regardless of their industry.

Although we encourage members to take part in the ‘introduction slot’ and make the most of this networking opportunity, it is not a requirement to actively get involved. Whether you are looking to initiate professional relationships, or simply want to learn from our experienced guest speakers; our events will meet your personal requirements and networking preferences.
We’re proud of our growing online and offline business communities. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, simply pick a means of communication that best suits you:
WhatsApp Networking Forums: Send a message to 07825 751 635

You can also enquire about our growing Facebook and LinkedIn groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/pathway2grow/ https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8243224

Or ask about our monthly meet ups.

So come and join us, to #Network, #Learn, and #Grow

My best wishes


p.s Book your FREE ticket now: http://tinyurl.com/CNJAN17

05 December 2016

Brand of the Year - its the people who make and are the brand

Pathway Group is honoured to have been recognised as ‘Brand of the Year’ at the Pakistan Achievement Awards 2016. This is a celebration of the collective efforts from each of our team members and as I have said before its the people who make and are the brand.

In addition in theapt words of author and keynote speaker Brian Solis: ‘We live in a time where brands are people, and people are brands’.
And without our ‘people’ at Pathway Group, this highly-esteemed accolade would not have been within our grasp.

We pride ourselves in creating value for trusted business communities. Our Pathway2Grow forums are testament to this as they enable business owners to connect, and build long-lasting professional relationships. We manage our networking groups on a ‘no strings attached’ basis, so members are never asked to ‘sign up’ or pay any form of a subscription fee- All we ask is that our affiliates share their advice and expertise, and participate in online and off-line engagements where appropriate.

We have successfully launched our networking platforms in various cities across the country. Our most recent debut event was the launch of Bromsgrove ‘Coffee & Natter’- a monthly business event which takes place on a weekday afternoon. For those who prefer to network during the evenings or at the weekends, we have set up ‘Chutney and Chat’ regionally, as well as ‘Samosa Saturday’ a networking forum open for ladies only.
Our regional directors have advanced greatly through managing our networking groups, as they have built and raised awareness of their own brands and businesses. We are currently looking to launch our Pathway2Grow groups in other areas of the UK. Not only will this encourage further professional networking, but it will also allow us to create mutually beneficial partnerships with like-minded entrepreneurs.

As leading apprenticeship training providers, Pathway Group has paid particular attention to the upcoming government changes for 2017. The most fundamental transition being the ‘apprenticeship levy’. With the concept of educating employers and apprentices firmly in mind, we have collated useful information about the levy and relayed it in print documents, and at various events. In the run-up to the apprenticeship levy being introduced, we will focus on advising companies on how to prepare for the changes, and take full advantage of them.
In addition to this, Pathway Group is proud of having hosted the ‘Asian Apprenticeship Awards’ in Birmingham, and being able to successfully highlight the achievements of the younger generation. Although this inspirational event was the first of its kind, we are keen to make it the first of many and have plans to relaunch the awards ceremony towards the end of 2017. We look forward to welcoming even more keynote speakers, and celebrating the plethora of opportunities, that apprenticeships provide.

The Brand of the year was presented to myself on behalf of Pathway Group by Baroness Warsi with audience members from the Pakistani Business Community across the UK there on the night. A heartfelt thank you to the supporters of Pathway Group, and to those who share our aspirations. We approach the new year with our continued belief in recognising potential, encouraging teamwork, and of course, the celebrating the value of ‘people’.

14 November 2016

Proud moment with The Asian Apprenticeship Awards

THE very best in apprentices from the British Asian community have taken a bow at a very special awards presentation. The first ever Asian Apprenticeship Awards took place on the 10th November 2016. These awards aim is to celebrate and showcase the best of British Asian Apprentices and the people that employ and train them.

Background and context

Apprenticeships provide value for individuals, businesses, and the economy. Over the last 5 years, more than two million apprenticeship courses have been delivered; the government is now aiming for another three million recruits by the year 2020.

For those who are involved within this particular field, the ultimate goal is that the prospect of higher education, no longer outweighs the opportunity to embark upon an apprenticeship. And with the expansion of Higher, and Degree Apprenticeships available, this seems more likely than ever before.

The opportunities for apprenticeships are rapidly increasing every year. With an immense rise in specialised and highly skilled apprenticeship courses being offered. The government has also put employers in the driving seat – groups of employers, large and small are working together to design apprenticeships so that they respond to the needs of their industries. Current apprenticeship frameworks are being replaced by standards. The aim is to increase the quality of apprenticeships- introducing more rigorous testing at the end of the apprenticeship to ensure that the apprentice is fully competent and grading to challenge and stretch.

There is also the additional change to apprenticeship funding with again the employers being in the driving seat with funding shifting towards them and for employers taking a central role of their own budgets. The first of these changes is planned to take place in May 2017 with these additional changes there is no doubt that apprenticeships will shift into main stream language and culture.

There is a universal commitment in the UK of being able to extend opportunities for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, or religion. In this respect, a number of government targets have been placed to improve the labour market chances for all. These include increasing the quantity of apprenticeships taken on by young people deriving from BME backgrounds by 20%, and then increasing BME employment by another 20%, by the year 2020.

British Asian community is under represented

Most of us recognise that for the success of businesses and therefore the economy and the country as a whole we have to be able to draw upon a skilled and motivated workforce.
It is also clear that our apprentices are vital to providing those skills. But it is also clear that there are not enough of them and especially not enough of them from the British Asian communities.
So the challenge for us is how to help address this issue.

The Asian Apprenticeship Awards are all about doing something practical to make a positive difference and we will continue to do so by highlighting, recognising and celebrating apprenticeship success both with individuals, employers and learning providers that support them.

As the Founder and Chair of the Asian Apprenticeship Awards I stated that “Apprentices are vital to our future but the British Asian community is under represented and “The best way to raise awareness and to encourage others is to show what can be achieved and we have been delighted by the response from apprentices, employers and sponsors.” “Without the support of our apprentices, the people who employ them, our sponsors, judges and ambassadors this event would not have been possible.”

It is envisaged that the Asian Apprenticeship Awards which had representation from across the country and industries will become an annual event.

25 October 2016

My meeting with Rami Ranger at the offices of Sun Mark in London

On the morning of Saturday 22nd October, myself and my team of five went down to see Dr Raminder Singh Ranger commonly referred to as Rami Ranger at his offices & Distribution centre in London. Rami is genuinely a truly inspiring and a very down to earth person. We met for over 2 hours and discussed his participation at the Asian Apprenticeship Awards for the 10th November 2016 amongst many others. A video interview was shot where we discussed many a thing including his views on the economy and the future of entreprenuership.

Background to Rami:

Rami heads a business empire with an annual turnover of in excess of £200 million and operating in 130 countries.
Rami has a remarkable story of a man whose father was assassinated before he was born at the time of the partition of India.
Rami came to the UK in 1971 to study law expecting the ‘streets to be paved with gold’ but when he found that he could not take forward his ambition he took the only job available which was cleaning cars.
His philosophy with that job like, everything else he has done, was to make sure he did it well in order to ‘stand out from the rest.’

“If you cannot do a small job well then how can you be trusted with a big one,” said Rami.
Other jobs followed including working for Kentucky Fried Chicken, the electrical retailer Dixons and running a family convenience store, off licence and Post Office.
But the big change came in 1987 when based in a shed and armed with only a typewriter and £2 he started to help customers export electrical appliances.
A seconding marketing business ‘Sun Mark’ followed along with five consecutive Queen’s Awards for Enterprise as well as one for Exporting.
Still working hard and with no plans to retire, Rami Ranger spends more time on community based work including a leading role with the Princes Trust helping young people.
He is a Government Ambassador for Apprenticeships and also advises the Prime Minister on the subject that is close to his heart.
“I am not a believer is high flyers but want people who can learn and work their way up from the bottom growing with the business as it grows,” said Rami.
“Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for people to earn and learn.”
But he believes that there is a huge job to be done ‘educating’ young people, their parents and employers about the value of apprentices.
In particular he wants to help to address the under representation of young Asians when it comes to apprenticeships.
“There is a view that apprentices only work in manufacturing and that it is in some way a second class qualification and this is totally wrong,” he said.
It is in order to help spread the word that Rami Ranger is supporting the Asian Apprenticeship Awards and coming to Birmingham to speak.
His story ‘From Nothing to Everything’ is truly inspirational and shows what can be achieved with qualities that include hard work, vision, empathy with others and a desire to work in partnership with suppliers, employees and customers.
“I work with my customers to help them succeed because if they are successful then I am successful,” he said.

Thank you Rami for your support and assistance.

05 July 2016

Under pressure: How to be a confident leader, originally published on Medium 01 July 2016

This was my article that I originally poseted on my medium account here: https://medium.com/@SafarazAli/under-pressure-how-to-be-a-confident-leader-88f36be5d969#.49dw4qarz and I am reposting on this platform to get additional reach. The full post is as below:

Amongst all the political chaos of the past week or so, Jeremy Corbyn has come under mounting pressure to resign as Leader of the Labour Party. Despite mass resignations amongst the Shadow Cabinet and a vote of no confidence from the vast majority of his Labour MPs, Corbyn says:
"I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Boris Johnson unexpectedly announced he would not be running for Tory leadership, after Michael Gove decided he’d prefer to go it alone and run for leadership instead of backing Johnson’s campaign.

It appears Johnson doesn’t have the confidence to take on Gove; he buckled under the pressure and decided to take a step back. Both Corbyn’s and Johnson’s situations have got me thinking about how we can remain confident as business leaders, no matter what pressures we face.

Do you buckle under pressure?
The majority of people do, but there are ways to train yourself to cope with, and even thrive on, pressure. Pressure is inevitable, and how you react to it can be your make or break as a leader. So what can you do to become one of those leaders who appear cool, calm and collected in the face of pressure?

Put pressure on yourself
This seems like strange advice but the best leaders put pressure on themselves to always improve. Personal pressure to be a better leader can help to focus and motivate you, far more than the pressure others may put on you can.
But give yourself time to breathe
Whilst you should put pressure on yourself to be constantly improving, make sure you allow yourself free time to step away from your leadership role. If you’re constantly putting pressure on yourself, you’ll end up making bad decisions. A break can help you recharge and think creatively.

Be comfortable in yourself
Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, your values, and what you would or wouldn’t compromise on. If you have conviction in what you believe in, you’re less likely to be swayed by the pressure of others.

Delegate to the right people
If you’re feeling unnecessary pressure, it’s likely that you have taken on too much. Delegating tasks to the right people in your organisation is a sure-fire way of relieving some pressure, and will free up your time to do what you should be doing – leading. Leaders who feel the most pressure are those who feel they must do everything themselves.
How do you deal with pressure? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below or you can tweet @SafarazAli.
Kind regards,

28 February 2016

A yatter about changes in the UK government funded skills funding sector…….

I think back to when I was 17, and my first work experience was working for Halfords, whilst studying at College. Training was on the job and a manual was given to us to read and we were trying to help with car bits and bobs, that I didn’t have a clue about, just like the funding rules and all the bits and bobs we have to learn very quickly.

When I look back, my two most proud moments in the industry were achieving the prime contract status for Skills Funding Agency and also becoming a subcontractor for the work programme. Looking back, both seemed impossible when I started off.

Just like the Apprenticeship Levy and the Trailblazers it looks like a big challenge! This includes changes from the Adult Skills Budget and planned changes to the New Adult Education Budget (AEB).
These new moves will see funds go over to Local Enterprise partnerships for the priority local area needs and with further education colleges taking the lead. Also the councils will also play a very large role in this area, in the initial stages it appears to ignore the special place local Independent training providers and community Interest provision can play.
This will help those furthest from learning or the workplace. For learners with a legal entitlement, the Government thinks it is right that government specify the qualification offer that will be available. They expect providers to work with a range of local partners and stakeholders to ensure that the local learning offer meets local needs.
As the head of an independent training provider I look at several things around funding and I have learned it’s not just all about the money. Although of course it is very important.

The first is of course the quality of learning for the learner’s journey, I think we need to look at how we can both improve partnership working and share resources to both add value but cut down costs and improve quality of the learning experience.

We need to look at flexibility within our own staff and look for additional training to equip the staff to move from one project to another, both quickly and effectively. We need to do this in a much more formulated way to give more security to the staff, in this ever changing landscape.

With the trailblazers changes in funding, this will probably mean staff having to be brought in with specialist knowledge where they have very much more focus on specialist industry knowledge. Along with this is managing frameworks with very little structure in terms of the old criteria format. Also I feel that many items we use need to be looked at for price reduction by buying in a collaborative way.

Additionally, the uncertainty of the costs of the end assessment’s is going to mean to some very interesting items, like the effect on cash flows as self-certification will disappear. This is an item I am sure you will need to know more about, as will I.

We have been informed early about the changes underway for 2016 to 2017, which is much better for planning than waiting until July which is the case on previous occasions.

The overall situation is one which we will all have to look at with a plan A and a plan B, I am even thinking of a plan C.

27 September 2015

A personal perspective of social media by a Self Proclaimed “Moderate Social Networker

I have heard over the years people say Facebook is for fools, Twitter is for twits and Linkedin is for losers.

What I say is forget about what you have said in the past – even if it something your were adamant you would never do, break your rule.

I tell you from a personal perspective you are missing out on the online community and conversations, you are missing out on further progressing your relationship with your friends, relatives and colleagues and also missing out on developing new relationships.

You are missing out on the education and self-development opportunities that are presented as well as potential business or career progression opportunities. You are just missing out!

Allow yourself to change your view and be comfortable with changing it.

Safaraz Ali (Saf)

17 September 2015

Social Selling – The Future of Selling

We all need to be open to looking for opportunities
We all need to be comfortable with Sales
We need to understand that this is our the lifeblood of our business
What do we need to do?

We need to embrace Social Selling!

Some background first….
Social selling has changed the way we buy. Social selling is a journey rather than a product.
People will go online to search what they will buy. In most cases the customer would have researched about the product/service and would know much more about it than ever before.
What does this mean for Sales people and what should we do?
A 2015 Forrester report which is the most conservative states that 22% of B2B sales people will be finished by 2020, other estimates even suggest that this figure could be as much as 80%.
B2B business is already being conducted and will be further conducted by your previously non-traditional sales people. Buyers and anyone who is in a position of being a Buyer generally avoid traditional salespeople and other key people in the business are now getting in most of the sales – starting off from the MD/CEO / OD/COO/ FD/CFO to all levels of Managers and 1st line of Team leaders.
Now, Social media and use of social media is being encouraged so that relationships can be formed, trust can be developed and business to be had as well as a tool for learning and information.

Old School Thinking: Sales People Sell
Now: Everyone sells and non-traditional people sell more without selling

Old School Thinking: Prevent access to social media as it’s a time killer
Now: Get C Level as well all Levels of Managers on there and embrace it first and then utilise it and get better at it.

So what should you do?
Set yourself up and look at personal branding. LinkedIn is Key here - In the past, people tend to have their LinkedIn profile just to get the next job or more to do with job hunting.
Nowadays a LinkedIn profile is about educating, sharing and also connecting as well as networking. It’s not about Job Hunting. It works best with other forms of communication – meeting/Telephone call an
Have a buyer-centric profile. If there was a buyer out there, they would be interested in what you’re saying. You need to have a photo and an output of what your product does.
Whether you’re Quality or Operations, say what you do. An output of what you’re doing for your customers.
When you’re online, be authentic. People want to deal with individuals not corporate suits.
You want to build trust and rapport. There’s nothing wrong with talking personal – it states who you are.
In Sales, you either win a deal or you lose a deal. You can get competitive advances by having a good LinkedIn profile.
From a B2B perspective -certainly from an enterprising level, for me- LinkedIn is the most important social network.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me.

Safaraz Ali

11 August 2015

Step up your Game

You’ve had the big eureka moment but how do you transfer all that greatness in your head into reality? Many business owners are teeming with great ideas that could drastically improve business but they simply don’t have the expertise or the funds to develop their ideas further. If you want your idea to be a game-changer, then do not be afraid seek help.

The UK has rapidly changed into an ideas economy. We manufacture in a different way and SMEs are at the heart of this. SMEs are crucial in the development of the UK’s economy. We can’t afford to sit on our ideas and let them go unnoticed. They need to be developed and implemented, not just for the good of your business, but in order to contribute to an improving economy. SMEs need to stick together, taking advice from each other and looking out for each other’s interests, for the good of the whole economy.

So how can you grab your opportunity to step up your game? There are two main issues that businesses come across – funding and expertise. This post will explore the ways you can overcome these hurdles.


I have recent experience of one particular funding scheme. Pathway is now collaborating with Pera Technology on a record breaking new product development fund to support innovation in European SMEs. The scheme, promoted by Pathway Group and backed by Pera Technology, is part of the EU Horizon 2020 initiative which has committed a massive €82 billion to furthering research and innovation in organisations with a particular focus on SMEs over the next 5 years. Individual businesses will be able to claim up to €3 million for new product development, so it is a wonderful opportunity to turn an idea into reality.

The funding scheme is much easier to access than previous budgets, and UK SMEs have been particularly successful in accessing it. SMEs have been identified by the European Commission and national governments within the EU as the source of future economic growth, so funding is more of a priority than ever.

A funding scheme could be the boost your business needs to take things to the next level. The EU Horizon 2020 initiative is not the only scheme available, of course. There are many options, and it all depends what you wish to achieve from funding. If you want to explore your options, checking out other people’s experiences here is a great place to start.


Funding may not be your main issue. A lack of knowledge could also be holding you back. There are plenty of places you can turn to for advice online, such as www.smallbusiness.co.uk. You can become a member of The Guardian’s Small Business Network for free (https://register.theguardian.com/small-business/) to receive regular expert advice. Joining a Local Growth Hub can also be very beneficial (http://www.lepnetwork.net/about-leps/the-network-of-leps/). Local Growth Hubs bring together public and private sector partners to promote, co-ordinate and deliver local business support and provide a mechanism for integrating national and local business support so it is easy for businesses to access.

If that doesn’t quite cut it, you may wish to consider getting an expert in to assess your business and discuss your ideas. For example, you may have an idea to improve your business’s online presence but aren’t entirely sure how to execute it. Expert advice from a digital marketer could make all the difference. Investing in expertise from consultants will pay off in your business development in the long run. Pathway Group can offer advice and guidance to help you get on in business.

Don’t miss your chance to contribute to the UK’s ever-growing ideas economy. Your next light-bulb moment could take your business from good to great.

Share your thoughts with me by via twitter: @SafarazAli

05 August 2015

Giving an Internship - Why Bother?

It’s tough for young people entering the working world. They often find themselves in the Catch 22 of needing experience to get a job, but not being able to get a job to gain the experience! Why should you help? Interns and volunteers are a burden, right? Plus, you’ve heard horror stories like this. But have you ever considered an intern could be doing you and your business a favour? It may be a great boost for their CV but it can also be a boost for business. So what are the benefits your business could reap from running internships or traineeships?

Manage your workflow more effectively and increase productivity

Simply put, more hands mean more productivity. Your employees will benefit from the extra help, allowing them to be more productive.

Try before you buy

Just because a candidate shines in an interview doesn’t mean they will be perfect for your team. Running an internship programme gives you a chance to assess how someone fits in with the way your business operates and how they get on with other members of the team, before you commit to hiring them full time. It’s also a chance for an intern to try your business out.

Build your business’s future

You will often find after ‘trying out’ an intern that they are a great asset to your business and you wish to keep them on as a full-time paid employee, making your recruitment process a lot more efficient.

Bring in new ideas

Young people have a fresh take on things, are technologically advanced and are full of innovative ideas that may give your business the refresh you didn’t even realise you needed. Invite interns to team discussions and value their contributions. It’s a chance for them to partake in business brainstorming, and for you to possibly gain a brand new perspective.

Give something back

Your business probably relies on the local community in some way so why not give something back to them? By taking students or graduates on as interns, you are giving a boost to the local educational system. Your business will gain a great reputation for lending a hand to young people trying to get on the career ladder.

Introduce your team to management

Interns and volunteers need training and guidance, which is where your staff come in. It presents the perfect opportunity for staff to hone their management skills and get better at what they do, which is of course good news for business.

Whilst the advantages are great, you must keep in mind that by hiring an intern you are committing to training and developing them – it is not just an excuse for free labour. If you or your employees cannot dedicate time to guide and mentor an intern, then you should reconsider. You will not reap the benefits if you cannot spend the time training. Remember, in the long run, interns should save you time as they can help to effectively manage your workflow by taking on those extra tasks you never quite get round to doing properly. With your mentoring and guidance, interns will help grow your business and accomplish your future.

Has your business had experience with interns? I would like to hear your thoughts.

Kindly provide your views and comments and if you would like to read my future posts then please also consider subscribing.


03 August 2015

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends - Forming Strategic Alliances & Joint Ventures

I have found strategic alliances to be very beneficial over the years. For example, Pathway has a strategic alliance with a number of Accountants which is great for both sides. Both businesses work with small business owners which need and we refer them to one another, each gaining a bigger client base and more recommendations.

Your business may use a strategic alliance to:

• Share resources and information. Your businesses may be in the same field but you are likely to have expertise in different areas. Both businesses will grow stronger through sharing knowledge and learning from one another.

• Increase access to innovation and new technology. Another business may introduce you to a tool that totally changes how your business functions, which you may never have discovered without them.

• Reduce competition. By joining forces with a like-minded business, you will not only immediately lose them as a direct competitor, but you will also be creating a competitive advantage over other similar businesses by the pooling of both businesses’ resources and skills.

How do you know who to form a strategic alliance with, and how can you ensure success?

It can be difficult to let new people into your business world after doing things in a certain way for however long. How do you know who to trust? If you’re thinking about linking up with another business, check out these tips:

Select your partners carefully
Look for peers who are like-minded and share your ethics. You can make contacts in many places; at networking events, online groups or social networking, and even with or via your Advisers: Business Coach, Bank Manager, Solicitor, or Accountant.

Be clear about your expectations and desired outcome
Identify the kind of alliance you want and of course it needs to be a win-win. Can you both commit equally to the project? It would be wise to negotiate a formal contractual arrangement for further peace of mind.

Keep communicating
You will need to stay in regular contact to maintain a strong and successful alliance. Many business relationships fail because of faulty assumptions and poor communication. Make sure all communications are documented and don’t just assume your partner understands everything without explanation and rationale.

Set specific timelines
Set trial timeframes to get an idea of your partner’s work ethic, management style, attention to detail, and true commitment. It’s important to test the waters before fully committing.

And if things do go wrong…

Be sure to establish an exit clause when setting up an alliance. Decide upfront on an exit strategy that will suit you both should the alliance fail. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm possible best and worst case scenarios.

So do your research to make sure it’s the right strategy for your business, and target a strategic and motivated alliance partner. It may be tough but the benefits for your business, and your partner’s business, could be endless. By sharing resources, costs and risks, your strategic alliance may catapult your growth in a way you might never achieve on your own.

Kindly provide your views and comments and kindly connect via twitter: @SafarazAli


24 July 2015

Driving your business forward with a business dashbard

Imagine your business is your car for a moment. Would you get in your car and start a journey without a functioning dashboard? How would you know when your petrol was low and needed topping up? You would check the dashboard, just as you would check a business dashboard to assess the level of cash flow. What about speed? You can easily judge how fast your car is travelling from a glance at the dashboard, but are you aware of the pace your business is travelling at? The data on your business dashboard will tell you if your business is progressing as quickly as you’d like it to, and if it’s headed in the right direction. It’s a basic principle - you need the correct tools and knowledge to run both a car and a business effectively.

What is a business dashboard?

A  business dashboard is an information management tool that is used to track key data points relevant to your business. Through the use of data visualisations, a business dashboard will simplify complex data sets to provide users with at-a-glance awareness of current performance.

The benefits of using a business dashboard

Saving Time: Having all the data you need in one place will save precious hours searching for the info you need. Business dashboards can automatically run reports, saving you from compiling all the data yourself!

Visibility: Great visibility and insight, and knowing exactly what’s going on in all aspects of your business, allows for better management. Allowing your staff to see how the business is performing will also push them in the right direction. They can see where they need to improve and what they are already doing well.

Improvements: Business dashboards allow you to measure your performance throughout your organisation and thus improve it. You can easily see where you’re doing well and where you’re lagging behind and need to improve.

Check If Your Business Plan Is Working: As a business owner, it’s more than likely you, and your employees, follow a business plan. How can you be sure you’re sticking to this plan and achieving your expectations from it? Business dashboards automatically show your goals from your business plan versus your actual, real-time results.

Employee Performance Improvements: When employees know their performance is being judged in a dashboard, and can see their results, they innately start to improve their work. There will be no hiding!

Who does it well?

Call centres are a great example of businesses that use business dashboards effectively. They can monitor a variety of KPIs, including call abandon rates, average speed of answer, first call resolution, average handle time, and much more. All businesses should be target-driven, so why deny yourself easy access to how your targets are being achieved?

I use this throughout with any project and any business however I am most proud of our dahboard for our industrial kitchen cleaning company ‘Pathway Cleaning’ and have found it to be extremely beneficial. We judge new business and assess the business’s efficiency from our dashboard. From my personal experience, I would highly recommend using a business dashboard in your business if you want to travel onwards.

Share your thoughts with me by commenting below. If you would like to read my future posts then please click 'Follow' at the top of this article and kindly connect via twitter: @SafarazAli

21 July 2015

Mind the gap and treat your staff equally

If you’ve been paying attention to the news recently, you will have noticed a lot of talk about the gender pay gap(GPG). David Cameron has made a pledge to push forward with plans to eliminate the gap ‘within a generation’. Within the next 12 months, the government plan to introduce a policy that requires firms with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay of male and female employees. The hope is that employers javascript:;will feel pressure to change and pay their staff equally if the discrepancies are available for public judgement.

The GPG seems like a very out-dated concept in 2015 and many refuse to believe it still actually exists. However, the statistics speak for themselves. In 2014, the European Commission revealed their research on the GPG in the EU. They found that although women make up 60% of university graduates in the EU, they will earn, on average, 16% less than men per hour.

There are many complex factors behind the GPG; discrimination, work in different sectors, and traditional gendered family roles, for example. So how can you work around these factors to eliminate the GPG in your business, and why is this so important to your business’ success?

Strategies to address the GPG will understandably vary substantially from business to business, depending on factors such as industry and size, but there are some general tips a small business could follow.

Ensuring women are represented at all levels of management is a good start in wiping out the GPG. By this, I don’t mean kicking out all the men and filling every senior position with a woman! Simply ensuring all managers are fully committed to reflecting your business’s equal values and representing your staff’s best interests by providing them with training in this area can help. And of course, having a mix of genders at senior level where possible is a positive.

A review of your pay structures and recruitment methods may also be necessary. Does your current system ensure equity across all salary levels and work types? If not, then work towards amending this. Does a potential gender bias exist in your recruitment and selection process? Try to create a balance between both genders when you interview candidates. The same applies for promotions and pay rises. Ensure both genders have equal access to furthering their career, regardless of their current position in the company.

As I mentioned, strategies will vary depending on your business, but following tips such as this and making a conscious effort to change organisational culture if necessary can go a long way to reducing the GPG within your business, which will in turn have a flow-on effect to the broader economy. The government also hope to offer free software to all UK companies, which will enable businesses to calculate their GPG easily, and identify issues that may be preventing women from rising up in the business.

As well as helping to create a more equal society, closing the GPG makes good business sense. It pretty much goes without saying that if you treat your staff equally, they will be happier working for you. Employees are more likely to stay with an employer where they consider that remuneration is fair. Treating your employees equally will create a positive work environment and gain the confidence of your workforce. A happier workforce equals a more productive and competitive workforce, loyal to the business and keen to contribute to its success. Organisations that pay employees fairly, regardless of gender, will have access to a broader talent pool and be better able to retain talent. Gender equality in your business is also essential for your public image. A better public image means a wider and more satisfied customer base. You know it makes sense for your business!

Finally, and crucially, research points to a significant increase in success of businesses when there is a gender balanced team leading and running the business. The varied and valuable input from different genders, ethnicities and backgrounds creates a business much more in line with the society we live in.

Share your thoughts with me by commenting below. kindly also connect via twitter: @SafarazAli

28 June 2015

Start engaging and don't just be a follower anymore:

The way ahead is to overhaul the traditional social media thinking, this involves a complete change in habit from being a Consumer which is basically a follower and observer that consists of searching and reading to being engaging that is finding and sharing, reading & sharing, thinking & sharing.

It’s all now about embedding sharing in your routine; even if it’s useful content to one person in your network; it might be the one which make a huge difference.
Being busy is an excuse, make it habitual and start sharing today.

26 July 2014

Lets talk Apprenticeships

Have a look at: http://www.careersbox.co.uk/
for Career Films on the web

12 April 2014

LinkedIn for small businesses – why bother?!

LinkedIn is a phenomenon – started from a bedroom it now boasts over 250 million users worldwide and 15 million in the UK. But is it just a big waste of time for small businesses, or can it be effective as a networking and business development tool and how can it be used efficiently without it being a time drain?

Make a choice and do the basics well

The first thing to say that if you’re not going to use LinkedIn regularly and maintain a high quality profile, then you’re
better off not using it at all. LinkedIn effectively creates an online CV for your clients or prospective customers and partners to view. You wouldn’t send out a second rate CV, so why would you have a poor online profile.
So, in order to ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to scratch, then do the basics well.
Your LinkedIn headline: This should not be your job title – this should be a one line description of what you do thinking about the keywords which others may find you for.
Your LinkedIn summary: This needs to capture in an easy to read way exactly what it is that you do to help your clients or your customers. Focus not on what you do on a day to day basis, but the results that clients want from you.

A complete profile: The more high quality information you can include on your profile the better, this doesn’t have to be small essays on your career, but make sure you capture your key roles and achievements, and if you have been with one company for a long time, document the different roles and key projects you have worked on. Why? Because LinkedIn is a large search engine, and if you want people to find you for your specialisms, then you need to use keywords in your description and then back those up.
Expanding your network

If you’re on LinkedIn, then network. What’s networking? Keeping contact with interesting contacts, sharing information with your contacts, expanding your connections based upon introductions, following up from face to face meetings or connecting with people you haven’t spoken to for some time.
If you are reaching out to new connections, there is one golden rule you need to follow: Make it personal.
LinkedIn includes standard copy which you can use to invite others to connect, because this is so heavily used, it is highly unlikely to generate meaningful contact. It’s the equivalent of walking around a room giving out your business card without talking to anyone!

Instead, replace the content with a personal note, reminding the person of how you met, or the reason why you want to connect. This is likely to generate a follow up and therefore make the connection meaningful and useful.
The second rule, is to connect with people you know. That might sound obvious, but we probably all have connections who we either don’t know or can’t remember why we connected with them.
If someone you don’t know or can’t remember tries to connect with you, reply to them and ask why they’d like to connect and how you might do business together. This will sort meaningful LinkedIn connections from time wasters.

Using LinkedIn regularly

With the last two sections, we’ve ensured that our information is high quality and made an effort to ensure that our network is valuable and up to date.

How do we then actually leverage this network and make use of LinkedIn. There are 3 key areas:

1. Post regular content/information – in order to stay front of mind with our network, and to remind them of what we do, we can use the status updates to post blogs from our company, comment on news or ask questions. Don’t bombard, but a regular flow of information will keep you front of mind on the subjects you want to be known for.

2. Reach out to contacts – Make a habit of looking to set up a meeting with a member of your network once a week. As long as this is a meaningful contact, then these meetings will turn your virtual networking into real meetings and therefore more likely to create business

3. Respond to ‘people who’ve viewed your profile’ - LinkedIn shows us people who’ve been viewing our profile over the last week. Why not take 5 minutes to review this once a week and if someone you haven’t spoken to, or don’t know very well has viewed your profile, drop them a line via LinkedIn to see if you can help.
So, is LinkedIn a waste of time? Not if you use it effectively. Take 5 minutes a day to look after your LinkedIn account, and the benefits could be significant.

02 November 2013

Avoiding the friends and family trap when recruiting staff

Avoiding the friends and family trap when recruiting for a new member of staff

You are looking for a new member of staff. You mention it to your friends and family, and all of a sudden someone is suggesting that their son or daughter etc is perfect for the role. They might be. They might not.

What can follow is a difficult scenario to deal with, and hurt feelings can ensue.

If you are going to recruit a member of family or extended family, or even a friend you have known for a long time, make sure you treat that working relationship the same way you would any other: Define roles and responsibilities before you make any hiring decisions. Agree on the financial compensation and absolutely put it in writing.
State, up front, how you will exit this working relationship if things don’t work out. Handled right, strong people with personal ties to you can be the foundation of a fantastic team.

Usually, people who recruit through this method are looking for a cost effective (free) way to recruit staff, and so they turn to the people they know.

There is a way of avoiding this situation though, while still keeping that vital (free) element in place.
The Pathway Group are a work programme provider, delivering free recruitment services across Birmingham and Walsall. Our work programme brand is called Pathway2work.

We work with businesses of all sizes, but particularly SMEs, to help them find the right candidates for their growing business.
Not only do we provide a commission free recruitment service, but we advertise your job on the popular job websites free of charge, we match your job with our existing database of candidates and once we have received applications, we then review the CV’s and pre-interview a selection of candidates before sending them through to be interviewed by you.
Once you have chosen the right person for your team, we then work with you to help that staff member be successful, by supporting both you and the new employee in their new role.
Pathway2work is a free recruitment service that removes the hassle of recruitment, and avoids the pitfalls of other recruitment methods such as family and friends.

If you are seeking staff in Birmingham or in the Walsall areas then find out more about our service via http://pathway2work.co.uk/ otherwise contact another Work Programme provider in your region for assistance.

On a final note, word of mouth when recruiting is not to be dismissed – leaning on people you trust to recommend others can often be an excellent way of finding great people to grow your business, just don’t get caught out.

22 June 2013

Be a Creator of Light, Rather than a Reflector of Light / Time is More valuable than Money..

As Jim Rohn says “Let’s not be moons, the reflector of the light. Let’s be suns. Let’s be the creator of the light – the creator of ideas. We all have the capacity.” www.Pathway2Grow.co.uk Network Learn and Grow- Business Networking