09 December 2018

Celebrating talent and diversity with the Asian Apprenticeship Awards

Just over a week ago, I had the privilege of being in the room with over 500 talented apprentices, their employers and learning providers at the Asian Apprenticeship Awards. It was a hugely memorable night and there is still a warm glow in our office as we read the many emails and social media messages from winners excited about the opportunities that winning a national award brings.
However, our aim in setting up the Asian Apprenticeship Awards was so much more than creating a feel good factor. This is the third year that our team have run the awards. We set up the event on the back of government research and targets to get more British Asians to consider the apprenticeship opportunities. The cause is important as British Asians are significantly underrepresented partly due to misunderstanding and a certain stigma around this subject.  The aim of the awards is to recognise and celebrate the best and as I have come to appreciate, the best people to promote apprenticeships is apprentices themselves. This is why we need to bring out the best of the best, and a competition in the form of awards is a great way to do just that.

Too many British Asian young people are making an automatic decision to go to university without fully considering the alternatives, and then finding their options limited upon graduation. Just as there is an under representation of British Asians considering apprenticeships, by contrast there is an over-representation going to University. We also need to dispel the myth that apprenticeships are only for the less academic it is more about gaining the right experience while developing the skills to thrive in a modern workplace. Many of our winners this year are of graduate calibre, either taking the apprentice route to their degree, or becoming an apprentice after graduation. We hope the winners will share their journey and story and encourage others.

Now we are in year three we have awarded apprentices from all around the country and from many sectors. Our winners are change makers and role models, their talent is world class. They all have a story of determination and hard work, many have overcome family concerns in their chosen career path, and all are conscious of the influence they have in encouraging other young people to consider the apprenticeship route. It was a pleasure to meet them, and many of their proud parents, and I say again, congratulations to them.
Many of our winners named particularly supportive colleagues and managers in their entries. The commitment of the employers who were in the room is to be commended, it is their support that enables their apprentices to thrive. We often hear that employers are the backbone of our country and there is no doubt about that.  It is these businesses that we need to step up further as these great businesses will make great apprentices, who in turn make great businesses.

So many organisations have been highly supportive of the Awards and the vision we are aiming to achieve. In their centenary year, we were delighted to have the RAF as our headline sponsor. Each category has its own sponsor, many of whom have worked with us tirelessly in tandem with us. My, thanks to APM, ICQ, NOCN, AELP, Pathway Group, Severn Trent, Dudley College, Birmingham Met College, BAME Apprenticeship Alliance and the East and West Midlands Ambassador Network who continue to support the awards through challenging times for many in our sector.

Finally, my personal thanks to all involved for another successful event. We plan to be back next year and look forward to your support again but in the meantime, the full list of the 2018 winners is on our website and the full photos from the evening are also available as below:

15 September 2018

Culture over Cash by Safaraz Ali in a #CannyBites format

How can smaller business compete with the larger multi-national companies in its ability to attract, retain and develop a high performing team?

How can you position your company culture at the forefront of the hiring process?

A company culture is often confused with having fun and games.  Its more to do with how the team works with each other, the mindset of the people who you keep and the ones you need to let go. The true test of culture for any business just boils down to its ability to attract, retain and develop a team of people that just knows what needs to be done and understands the picture - both the big and the small.

In this Canny Bites video titled "Culture over Cash" we discuss this a little more. Please feel free to also share your thoughts and views below.

#businessculture #cannybites #pathway2grow #culturedevelopment #culturechange #cultureovercash 

24 June 2018

Talking about People and the most important qualities I seek - a new video

Running a business is not a "One man Show" and No one is "self-made" in that respect.

We all need people and we have all had the support of others in our lives to help us in some shape or form. The key is always finding and working with the right people for you.

My view is that the best of your team work themselves - in that they work for their own self respect, values and ambition.

They are self-motivated and want to do the right thing so nobody has to push them, drive their performance or mico-manage them. They themselves are keen to make their mark and make a difference in everything that they do. It is these people that we want in our business - I look for people that are humble and hungry (from my 3H system).

These people are true assets and benefit all around them including the wider community. They are hungry (ambitious) but not ruthless or arrogrant in their beliefs and attitudes. They are loyal, patient and are working towards the long run and lasting success.

27 May 2018

The 3 Hs of Hiring - the 3H Management system by Safaraz Ali

This is an original concept created by myself back in March 2015 and used by my team at Pathway Group in its recruitment and company culture:

The H3 Model talks of three key attitudes that when synergised produce high levels of engagement and productivity.
Hunger – motivation and more importantly the drive Habits – positively reinforcing and encouraging good practice Humility /Humbleness – The understanding that even as the mentor you are still a mentee. See video above:

28 April 2018

Do you need to come up with new ideas?

In the fourth of my video series that I am referring to as "Almost too good to share", This one is about ideas and asks the question: Do you need to come up with new ideas?

There are many thoughts on generating ideas including some well know quotes:

• Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

• The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

• Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.

• It's not about ideas. it's about making ideas happen. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.

So in general views on ideas can be grouped as follows:
(1) They are hard to come up with
(2) They are easy to come up with, but hard to implement
So whatever your thoughts are, I have come across a site that can assist in this process – https://answerthepublic.com/
have a look and let me know your thoughts. Take a look at my search results below on “apprenticeship levy” and this tells you what people are searching for on google around this subject matter: https://answerthepublic.com/reports/538a65b1-96d6-4287-a7b1-bd095cad4190

see the video here: https://youtu.be/b6AFTebGAQY

12 November 2017

Lessons of Priti Patel’s resignation

Recent news of Priti Patel’s resignation as International Development Secretary leads me to ask the question: is there any lessons from the resignation and what can we learn from it?

Well to start with Senior Tory - Crispin Blunt stated that "Patel did not have a grounding in Ministerial Experience". Now, whilst she may have broken ministerial protocol, the question is, was she aware of the wrong she was doing? Did she have the necessary support in terms of mentoring and guidance within her role to give her the knowledge she needed?

In terms of overall political experience - Patel has been involved in politics for a while; she was appointed to William Hague’s press office during his Tory leadership however, she left politics for a career in public relations. She was unsuccessful in winning a seat during the 2005 election; however, she was regarded as a potential MP by former Prime Minister David Cameron and won the Witham constituency in Essex in 2010 election. In 2014, she was appointed as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury and following the 2015 General Election, she was appointed as the new Minister for Employment at the Department for Work and Pensions and then moving into her last post as International Development Secretary in July 2016, that to me seems like a fair amount of ‘grounding’.

Crispin Blunt also suggests that Patel was ‘accelerated’
to the Cabinet position because she was an ‘Asian representative in the Conservative party’. The Parker Review urges business leaders to better represent their employee base and the communities they serve through improving the ethnic and cultural diversity of UK Boards. Although this was implemented by the UK Government, it could be inferred that the requirement to bring more diversity to the Cabinet may have led to important training and mentoring to be overlooked.
Improved diversity in the workplace is something we can be proud of – businesses thrive on diverse experience and ideas from its workforce, but if people are not employed based on their skillset, which can be honed and nurtured, problems can arise. I’m unsure of Blunt’s allegation in the case of Priti Patel as she did have previous senior level experience in the industry however the actual allegation of ‘fast-tracking’ to her senior position in the Conservative party was described as a great asset for the party as she was an ‘advocate for the whole community representing the Tory party’ and her obvious enthusiasm for the role highlighted her capabilities. So, if this was the case, was this fast-tracking justified?

Something we can argue and possibly agree on is that although Patel was acting in what she believed to be in the best interest of the country, she failed to follow the correct protocol, something that may be down to a lack of mentoring and ongoing advice.

I think we can learn a lot from this. We need to recognise generally that there is so much value added to businesses that employ a diverse team, but we must provide the support to help them grow in their own capabilities, which will benefit the business as a whole.

If we were to look at the talent we have in our workplace, how can this talent be best nurtured and developed? Is there an effective mentoring programme in place? Are we aware of and honing the strengths and supporting the weaknesses within our workforce’s capabilities to ensure we have both a well-balanced, diverse and informed team?

In terms of the Parker Review recommendations, its generally understood the importance to promote diversity in the workplace allowing organisations to better connect with their customers and also to increase the bottom line, as well it being the right thing to however how does one mitigate and reduce the chances of it going all wrong and accusations of “fast-tracking” for diversity and targets and cultivating the right people

I’d be interested to hear your views below, or tweet @SafarazAli.

Kind regards,


08 August 2017

Do you need to come up with new ideas?

Do you need to come up with new ideas?

There are many thoughts on generating ideas including some well know quotes:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

Capital isn’t that important in business. Experience isn’t that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas.

It's not about ideas. it's about making ideas happen.

The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.

So in general views on ideas can be grouped as follows:
(1) They are hard to come up with
(2) They are easy to come up with, but hard to implement

So whatever your thoughts are, I have come across a site that can assist in this process - http://answerthepublic.com/ have a look and let me know your thoughts.

Take a look at my search results below on “apprenticeship levy” and this tells you what people are searching for on google around this subject matter: http://answerthepublic.com/seeds/3484fc8001bc1dc38962

24 May 2017

From Apprentice to Executive Series: meeting with Peter Marples one of the most influential people in apprenticeships

Peter Marples is one of the most influential people in further education and apprenticeship training. He is a big ambassador of apprenticeships and a real example of huge success achieved via the Apprenticeship route, it is an apprenticeship that started Peter off and now he is the head of 3AAA (Aspire Achieve Advance) and therefore an ideal individual for our video series: “From Apprentice to Executive”.

However, the man who use to help his mum and Dad run their village post office in the Derbyshire Peak District should not be here. In May 2007, Peter should have been in a helicopter with his close colleague and friend Phil Carter of the training provider Carter and Carter with which Peter’s business Assa had merged.

But in this great game called life; God’s will, Lady Luck, call it what you will, was on the side of Peter and he was not on the flight that killed Phil Carter and his 17-year-old son Andrew.

After coming out of early retirement which only lasted a few weeks, Peter has gone on to be the founder of the highly successful training provider 3AAA (Aspire Achieve Advance) along with Di McEvoy-Robinson, a former principal of West Nottinghamshire College.

It has achieved significant success and expansion including an Outstanding Ofsted report, creating 40 training centres called academies nationwide and is now one of the largest apprenticeship providers in the country employing over 500 staff itself.

Peter’s early days:

As a child in a family that ran a Post Office, Peter Marples was used to handling money at an early age and it seemed a natural step for him at the time to take an accountancy apprenticeship with Derbyshire County Council at the age of 16.

After this he joined the Audit Commission. This led to him being head hunted by KPMG where he ran the education section advising the Department for Education and the former Further Education Funding Council. It was only following this that he went into a business career that has seen a lot of success.

Peter Marples made news initially when he led a consortium to buy ‘his’ football team, Derby County, after the club went into administration.

In one way it was a great success because ‘the Rams’ returned to the Premier League but in others ways it did not work.
The problem was that he had thought running a football club would be like running a business but it did not work out that way.
“It was probably the craziest thing I have done,” he said.
“It’s one of those things that you get caught up in the emotion of buying the club you support and when you get into it you realise it is not what it seems.”

However, if running a football club did not work out entirely as he might have been hoped, there is no question that Peter Marples plays in the Premier League when it comes to being a successful apprenticeship provider.

This is not a man to make his private life public but it is known that a passion for cars led to him making a £75,000 donation to BBC ‘Children in Need’ in order to drive Ferraris belonging to DJ and television personality Chris Evans.

Face to Face

In my meeting with Peter at his head office in the heart of Derby we spoke about a number of topics including his core beliefs, his leaderships style, building teams creating a business culture and growing a business as well as the changing landscape including the apprenticeship levy. Peter said “I was never motivated by money” and “I am very passionate about apprenticeships” these are the formulas to making a business successful and it is why Peter’s 3AAA is very successful and as he jokingly said 3AAA’s success also comes because “being in the top of the alphabet is a huge advantage”

To add, speaking about the new levy Peter says “the levy is here to stay” and that “the levy is going to be transformational” Peter believes that the new levy is a new change for the apprenticeship world and it’s not going anywhere.

Since, Peter himself started as an apprentice I asked if he has any advice to give any younger people who are thinking about doing an apprenticeship. He replies by saying “I would advise 14-15 year olds to start early, start going to career fairs or even providers like ourselves”. And with regards with making choices in a business perspective, Peter believes that “if your going to make fish and chips be the best at making fish and chips”

To say the least, it was a pleasure meeting and interviewing Peter and it is no wonder why 3AAA and Peter are thriving in success because Peter has a mind of a true entrepreneur and a real passion for the work he does.

Connect with Peter here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-marples-4a413317

Thank you to all the team at 3AAA and Peter for taking time out to support our promotion of Apprenticeships via the “from Apprentice to Executive” video series.

16 May 2017

CHARLIE Mullins will tell you that apprenticeships are the way forward.....

CHARLIE Mullins will tell you that apprenticeships are the way forward for everybody- businesses and for employees. In addition, that building a successful business is not as complex as many might claim and believe!

And he is a man worth listening to because after leaving school with no qualifications Charlie became Britain’s first millionaire plumber with a business now employing more than 300 people and turning over tens of millions and with no signs of slowing down at all.

Charlie openly supports Apprenticeships at any given opportunity, it is the apprenticeship that started Charlie off in his business, and this is the reason for my visit to his head office near Lambeth Road, to meet with him to discuss Apprenticeships but also entrepreneurship and business.

So, what does a man who certainly ‘walks the talk’ think makes for success in business?

“The way I run my business isn’t rocket science, its common sense,” said Charlie, who after leaving school at 15 – he believes his mistake was not to leave a year earlier – went on to do a plumbing apprenticeship.

Now comes the rub: “The only problem is that common sense isn’t that common.”

Charlie was the typical ‘man with a van’ and when he started in business that is what he had – second hand of course - along with a bag of tools.
Being young in the age of moon flights, Concord and the early pioneering of medical advances such as heart transplants, Charlie had his feet very much on the ground and from just nine years of age he wanted to be a plumber.

“I set out to change the image of the plumbing industry and get rid of the stigma of plumbers always turning up late in rusty old vans, no uniforms and with the arses hanging out their trousers, bad workmanship and ripping off the customer,” he said.

For Charlie plumbing is a trade that should run as a profession with high standards and it is an ethos that he expects from his employees.
His smart blue liveried vans and staff in uniforms have a corporate look.

His firm is regarded as the plumbers of choice for the stars, the rich and famous ranging from former Prime Minister David Cameron to stars of stage and screen and many more.

Apprentice training is part of raising the status and standing of plumbers. He is unhappy that anyone can call themselves a plumber and would also like greater regulation of plumbing including licensing.

In some respects, Charlie Mullins is a man of contradictions and is completely proud of this.
Born and raised on a London council estate, he is proud of his success and not ashamed to wear his money with a love of cars including a £300,000 Bentley. He has a number of homes and admits to spending a lot of money on holidays.

With a keen interest in politics, Charlie believes Margaret Thatcher helped to make it possible for people like him to ‘better’ themselves and set up businesses.

He has advised Government, including former Prime Minister David Cameron and the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
However, he is much less enthusiastic about Prime Minister Theresa May and believes Brexit will prove to be a bad mistake.

He is a great believer in young people and a champion of apprenticeships. Charlie is a Patron of the Prince’s Trust and has setup ‘The Pimlico Apprenticeship School’ that he has put to Government and believes would help to dramatically cut youth unemployment.

Charlie is also a sponsor and fund raiser for The Rhys Daniels Trust that provides a home from home environment at Children’s Hospitals.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to put something back into society by helping others,” added Charlie Mullins.

But whilst being a strong advocate and champion of young people, Charlie has a huge regard for age and experience.

He makes no secret of the fact that he is keen to employ older people and someone over 100 and another in his 90’s have been on his books.
“Employ older people because their experience is priceless,” he added.

Experience and learning, at times from mistakes, is at the core of Charlie’s business success. He admits that borrowing from a bank was a huge error that almost resulted in the business going bust.
Perhaps it is because common sense is usually a product of age and experience and learning from the ‘school of hard knocks’ that it is not that common.

Charlie Mullins is in his early 60’s and put me to shame with his is very youthful look but what impressed me most was his energy levels shown in his enthusiasm and ambitions which include growing the business to an annual turnover of more than £100 million and having it recognised as the UK’s leading plumbing and service company.

I must say that in meeting with him, I found him truly inspiring, as he is the best kind of inspirer – doing it by example.

Please also review his take on my meeting with him on their website with the link below:

He is an avid user of twitter - connect with him on:

Thank you to all the team at Pimlico and Charlie for taking time out to support our promotion of Apprenticeships through “Apprentice to Executive” video series and the Asian Apprenticeship Awards.

14 April 2017

A personal message from Safaraz for Pathway2Grow Business Community that attended our AGM

Pathway2Grow held its AGM -our Annual General Meetup (and not a meeting) on Thursday 6th April at Birmingham City FC.

The note below is my personal message to all:

For those that came to Pathway2Grow Annual General Meetup on Thursday 6th April at Birmingham City FC, thank you for joining us and for your continued support and those that weren’t able to this – look forward to seeing you soon.

I portrayed to the audience of over 160 business supporters that I am so proud of all the achievements of our business community across the various formats that we operate - Coffee and Natter, Chutney and Chat, Samosa Saturday and Peer Meetup.

The video below was produced for the event and I utilised it as it as I believe it would get the message across more eloquently than I ever could of our achievements and the journey of Pathway2Grow.

I stated that quite simply our Tag Line: #Network #Learn and #Grow, is the bedrock of our community. We Network at events, We Learn from each other and the fantastic speakers that we bring to the events and this leads to personal and business growth-simple as that!

Any business owner regardless of the size of the business knows that running a business is not an easy task, and it can be a very lonely experience. However, having the right people around you makes it a lot easier. This is where networking comes to its own. Not only does it allow you to meet new people and find opportunities, but also it’s a pathway to forming long standing relationships, enhancing your reputation and building a support structure for yourself and your business.

At Pathway we are ambassadors for networking as a whole and are strong believers in partnerships and strategic alliances. We believe we are an alternative offer to other networking organisations however we do not position ourselves as competitors. I personally believe organisations such as the Chambers, BNI and 4N are all models that work. But like with everything you only reap what you sow, So you have to work at it, to make it work for you.

The P2G platforms are here for you, with no formal membership application process, no joining fee and no annual membership costs. We aim to provide an open, friendly, flexible, no pressure environment and more importantly a supportive environment.

We are proud of our Model and hold it very close to our heart. It has stayed the same since we launched in 2012. It is a fantastic opportunity for business owners to leverage and maximise the opportunities available to develop and grow.

A key part of agenda for the night was to recognise and celebrate the achievements of our members. We are where we are because of the activities and engagement of our members so thank to all of you continued support. I would like to congratulate the shortlisted nominees and the winners for the evening

Award Winners of the night by votes casted were:

Best Elevator Pitch: Haider Mustafa
Keynote Speaker of the Year: Justice Williams
Business of the Year: Leap Minibuses • Male & Female Drivers
Networker of the Year: Aftab Adam Muhammed
Overall Contribution to Networking: Naeem Arif

A special award was given to Mr Nazir Awan for Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to supporting business owners.

Congratulations and thank you all.

I finished off by saying a big hearty / heartfelt thank you to all the P2G team. It is their hard work and effort that make events happen and bring us all together. As most of the business community are aware, they volunteer their time because of their passion and dedication to the community and I truly believe I and the community all owe them a debt of gratitude for this.

Thank you P2G team :-) Abid Khan, Nadia Rasul, Lyn Calver, Mike Gardner, Edwin Ladd, Shan Ghoshal and Ian Preston.

Thank you to all our Ambassadors and regular supporters and finishing off with big thanks to the support team - you guys are the backbone Kasim Choudhry, Brad Edwards and Hira Malik . Thank you.

Best regards


10 April 2017

How do you evaluate your investment in PR?

How do I evaluate my investment in PR? This is a question I have been pondering for around a year now since I came out with the concept of the Asian Apprenticeship Awards last year and started working with PR business. Since then I have read many an article and a few books on this matter as well. I am taking this opportunity to get a few points across in the post. Please let me know your thoughts as well on this as it is a subject that I am hugely interested in.

The way we evaluate the success of PR has evolved and developed over the past few years. Measuring the success of PR is certainly no longer as simple as counting the number of press releases that are published and the circulation. With print continuing to decline, circulation is no longer the main indicator for PR success. Instead we look to indicators such as website hits and social shares.

Who you’re trying to reach is of course also very important. Coverage is far more valuable if the media outlet’s readership consists of your target audience. For example, the Sun has a much larger readership and circulation than the Times Educational Supplement, but for a company like Pathway, for example, an article in the TES would have much more value because it would be much more likely to the read by the ‘right’ people.

Measuring the success of your coverage
The beauty of the majority of media now existing online is that it’s far easier to measure the success of your coverage. Tools such as Coverage Book allow you to view a number of metrics such as reads and social shares. If a piece of online coverage includes links to your company website, you can check in your Google Analytics account to see how much traffic to your site these links generated.

One of the methods that has been used in the industry in the past has been to calculate the value in terms of what it would have cost had the space of the article been paid for as an advertisement. Because of its perceived independence, an item of editorial is generally regarded as being six to 10 times the value of an equivalent value of the same advertising space, but this is regarded a very crude and outdated measure by modern PR professionals.

Quantity or quality?
Whilst high-ranking sites will generally drive more traffic to your site and therefore more actions from your target audience, achieving coverage on smaller sites is also important. Quantity is still important in PR as it creates a buzz around your company. The best way to make sure you’re achieving both quantity and quality is to split your target media into two lists. Your Tier 1 media list should be the ‘quality’ publications. They should have a strong Alexa ranking, good social following, and their readership should be made up of your target customers. Your Tier 2 media are still important, as they will make up your ‘base level’ of coverage, but will likely be made up of smaller sites. When planning a campaign, set a goal for how many pieces of coverage you’d like and how many of those should be Tier 1 and how many should be Tier 2. A 70:30 split is often considered a healthy weighting to ensure quality coverage.

Of course, this method works for controlled campaigns, but negative coverage is a different story. If a training provider received a terrible Ofsted or if the police were called in because of allegations of sexual assault, we can be assured of national coverage and numerous mentions across many platforms but that would be hugely damaging. Quantity in this instance would be the last thing you would want!

Monitoring coverage
It can be difficult to track coverage. Set up Google and social media alerts so you can track whenever your company name is mentioned. Searching your company name in Google at least once a week and ordering the results by ‘most recent’ is also good practice to ensure you haven’t missed anything.

Of course, good relationships with media help with this. Journalists will often send you the link or coverage clipping if you have a good relationship with them. Or just simply ask!

PR success doesn’t happen overnight
PR is a long term strategic activity, and often, you won’t see the benefits until 3-6 months into beginning PR activity. It takes time to build up strong relationships with relevant media, and figure out the sort of campaigns that work best for your company. For example, for the past decade, if you had exercised almost every day, you would have no doubt that this has benefited your health and wellbeing but can you quantify the value – in reality, you would not even try.

Advertising, for example, is easier to measure almost immediately. If I am selling chocolate bars and spend £500 on an advertisement and in the following fortnight my sales increase by £1,000, then whilst other factors may have played a part in this increase, it seems reasonable to calculate the ROI as 2:1. Measuring PR’s ROI is more complex. Success in PR is a measure of brand exposure and positioning as well as a measure of sales. If your PR activity successfully positions your brand, you will see a steady incline in sales. If you sell anything online, you can also set up your Google Analytics to track how many sales come from PR coverage.

For many business owners, the benefits of PR can seem as intangible as concepts such as goodwill, integrity and reputation, but they are in fact measurable and also hugely important. Brand is probably the most important asset any business has and PR is an effective way of maintaining and enhancing it.

As I stated above kindly let me know your thoughts as well on this as it is a subject that I am hugely interested in.

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