Archive for February, 2012

Here's to ewe! - Welsh lamb and beef sales are on the rise in the EU.

I was delighted to read in today’s Western Mail that the value of Welsh lamb and beef exports to the EU was up 22% on the previous year!

What wonderful timing, as we all begin to celebrate St David’s Day on Thursday.

As I have advised my oldest client, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, on marketing and advertising for over 30 years, I have grown very fond of those who make up the farming community in Wales.

They are hard-working, loyal, humorous and so proud of the animals they rear.

It is thanks to the care, husbandry, Welsh climate, and soil of course, as well as in the breeds and varieties themselves that Welsh farmers are producing such delicious lamb and beef – which consumers in Europe and the rest of the world are at last beginning to recognise and enjoy.

It’s that Welsh magic again!

Like hundreds of thousands of Welsh sports fans at the weekend I watched the highs, lows and wonderful sporting moments given to us by our heroes of 2012 – from the superb Bluebirds to Warren Gatland’s rugby giants, and the superstar fighter Nathan Cleverly.

Caerphilly-born Nathan Cleverly celebrates his win over Tommy Karpency on Saturday

The rugby and football teams, together with Nathan and his backroom support, demonstrate how well-prepared, well-disciplined, passionate members of a Welsh team can out-perform opposition from anywhere in the world.

The media coverage of last weekend’s events beamed pictures and stories to millions around the globe, and no doubt many will ask again how this tiny nation in the Northern Hemisphere produces such successful sportsmen and women?

As we approach our annual St David’s Day let’s shout out loud and clear once again that Wales is different. I am delighted to read in today’s South Wales Echo that the Welsh Government will indeed by using the day to ‘showcase to the world the very best of what our country has to offer’.

Wales has a certain magic, that helps create great Welsh men and women. From the theatre, arts and business to sport, medicine and engineering, we continually produce excellence in every sphere.

Scott Williams' try took Wales to triumph against England at Twickenham

Well done Nathan, Sam and Mark, for being truly magnificent motivators and leaders of an inspiring group of young Welshmen who brought glory to the Welsh nation last weekend.

Let’s hope Team Wales can follow this sporting lead and start really selling Wales to the world.

'Superb' - The Bluebirds narrowly miss Carling Cup victory after 120 heroic minutes

Isn’t it great to see the word “confidence” appearing once again in the business pages of our local media in Wales – and nationally. I fully endorse and support Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director of the Institute of Directors in Wales, who states in today’s Western Mail that ‘spirit and determination across Wales gave good reason for confidence’.

Feeling confident - Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Director of the IoD in Wales

Businesses have reduced costs, become leaner and sharper, and more innovative.

They must now invest in effective marketing if they are to capitalise on the first signs of economic recovery – not just in Wales but further afield as well.

Marketing expenditure has been the first cost item to be slashed in many organisations as times got tougher. But those who kept investing in this area will now reap the rewards.

Let’s hope that this new business confidence filters down to the general public, who ultimately determine when our recession will end. Once Joe Public feel that they can start spending on cars, homes, holidays, entertainment, clothes, as well as the bare necessities, we can truly say we are in recovery.


I have read with great interest in the Western Mail today about the report by a cross-party committee of MP’s on inward investment into Wales.

This follows the findings of a report by Cardiff Business School earlier this month (which I discussed in an earlier blog post).

Neither report makes comfortable reading for all of  us in business who live in Wales and who would like to see a vibrant economic future for our country.

Much has been said about the importance of a strong Wales brand and the reintroduction of the WDA. As a marketing professional who once worked for an international marketing agency with clients including Coca Cola and General Motors among other great brands, I can only sympathise with the view that if a brand (i.e. the WDA) still has global recognition even after five years of non-promotion there is huge sense in relaunching it to a knowledgeable, “expectant” marketplace.

Why not create a new advisory panel of Wales’ most successful businesspeople to work with the private sector, politicians and civil servants to produce a clear inward investment strategy, with achievable aims, which everyone involved can work towards.

Relaunch the WDA brand not just in Cardiff or the new planned inward investment offices in London but in New York, Sydney, Munich, Paris, Toronto… the list goes on!

Wales has a huge amount to offer, even if our product needs “fine tuning” through improvements to our infrastructure – air, road, rail, et cetera. If we wait for all these improvements to be made the task will probably be too great to accomplish.

Let’s follow the lead of our magnificent rugby squad, whose example under coach Warren Gatland shows that with a clear strategy, discipline, and a great team, we can achieve great results.

Strategy, dedication and teamwork - let's follow our boys' example.

Good luck to them all in their quest for another GRAND SLAM (hopefully!) on the 17th of March – I’ll be there!

This morning the Cardiff Breakfast Club was addressed by Peter Jones, Commercial Director of the PHS Group plc, who gave a revealing and humorous overview of “Wales’ best kept secret”: who they are, where they came from, and the reasons for their success.

Set up in 1963, by the 1990’s PHS had a turnover of £30 million. Nowadays that turnover is around £420 million, with the PHS brand now encompassing 18 different divisions, and making 7 million customer visits a year. Their Caerphilly headquarters employs 400 of their 5000-strong workforce, and they are one of the top 3 largest companies with a Welsh headquarters. All this is done with remarkably little PR or advertising; indeed, Peter mentioned that their marketing department was a relatively late development, and they have no formal HR department.

Peter discussed the immense variety of services PHS provides, including some more unusual ones. They collect and recycle everything from computers and cardboard to hazardous chemicals, and while their logo may be most recognisable from office washrooms, they also provide water coolers, record storage, landscaping (their hanging baskets are award-winning) – and Christmas trees! The festive foliage presents some particularly interesting operational challenges, as they deliver 7000 trees within 30 days, and collect them all within 10. And while the holiday may be far from our minds now, the PHS Christmas team are already planning and sourcing for Christmas 2012.

Peter described the Group’s incredibly positive working atmosphere, focussing around detailed planning and open communication. They may have no HR department, but managers are well briefed on all relevant HR processes, and communication with staff is key. Peter also attributed much of the Group’s recent achievement to Chief Executive Peter Cohen, whose approachable and hands-on approach has been a “major driving force” since he joined PHS in 1998. 35 percent of staff are female, including many senior managers, and the fast pace makes for an inspiring and rewarding environment for staff. Those seeking to take on a challenge have “definite opportunity” to do so.

PHS is committed to doing simple services well, an aim they are undoubtedly achieving. With £120 million spent on acquisitions in the last 2 years alone, future growth looks bright. Now operating in Spain and Holland (but not quite managing to “bring hygiene to the French”, Peter joked), sights are set on building their European presence to be “the best workplace services provider in Europe” – a mission statement that used to read “in the UK”.

With a refreshing corporate atmosphere, engaging customer commitment and appetite for expansion, PHS Group aren’t likely to remain Wales’ best kept secret for long.


The next Breakfast Club meeting will take place on the 14th of March, with Jonathan Ford of the Football Association of Wales. If you would like to reserve a place, please email 

Today I received an invitation to attend a conference hosted by the Institute of Welsh Affairs on Wales’ obesity epidemic. In association with Academy Health Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the National Heart Forum, this very important subject delivers some alarming statistics. For example, more than 50% of all adults in Wales are obese or overweight!

While I am certainly not promoting a stampede to the nearest gym, and with size and body image in the press as this week is London Fashion Week,  a true story springs to mind about an old friend of mine, who started to put on the pounds after he retired.

During his hectic working life as a Sales Director for a large company, he was prone to wearing expensive Armani suits. But as the years went by, his beloved suits lay unworn, as his extra inches meant they no longer fitted.

Whenever we met he would remark on my apparent health, and how he wished to lose weight. I advised him against joining a gym, as so many are intimidated by the ‘gym junkies’ who put them off going again.

Instead, I suggested a modest start. An idea I gave him was to walk the mile he normally drove each day to get his papers. He started slowly, but sure enough soon found it beneficial, and now walks for approximately 2 hours every day! He has lost 2 stone in the past 2 years, and can now enjoy wearing his beloved suits once more.

So as the experts debate the looming obesity crisis, and we read about the latest designer fashions worn by the supermodel-slim, may I make a suggestion. To all those members of our nation, young and old, male and female, who would like to lose a little (or a lot), just start slowly. Take a short walk every day, and see the benefit over a sensible about of time.

You will feel better, look better, and live longer, and help save our nation millions of pounds in the future!

A report published earlier this week by the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claimed that catering services in hospitals across Wales are inconsistent, and while improvements were being made, they are coming too slowly.

An area of particular concern was nutrition, which as the report stated is a ‘crucial element’ in patient care. Yet with public sector spending cuts and rising food prices, maintaining and improving nutritional standards is an ongoing challenge to hospital caterers.

Peter Marrs, Sales Director at Abertillery-based prepared meals manufacturer Tillery Valley, appeared on BBC Radio Wales’ ‘Good Evening Wales‘ to comment on the issues raised by the report. Tillery Valley produce 600,000 meals per week for catering departments across the public sector, and work closely with health trusts UK-wide to design menus to accommodate specific, and often tight, budgets.

Peter said, ‘Matching nutritional standards and dietary requirements to shrinking budgets is difficult, but not insurmountable. At Tillery Valley, our in-house dietitians build menus around nutritional requirements, collaborating with out product development team to ensure we deliver the highest-quality products within these strict criteria.

“We have a wide range of menu mixes, taking into account regional tastes, cultural preferences and specific dietary requirements. We work alongside health trusts to provide a varied menu with a range of options to make mealtimes a positive experience for patients. Although the average stay in hospital has reduced to less than seven days, a full range of healthy and balanced meals is still necessary, so that those who may experience a full menu cycle are still provided with a choice.”

Peter concluded, “Delivered meals can often offer increased patient choice through the range of options available, and improve both the quality and efficiency of hospital catering.”

Companies like Tillery Valley may find themselves in increasing demand as they continue to deliver a consistent, cost-effective and nutritionally focused service to the public sector; catering to a wide range of patient needs while delivering nutritional standards within a specified budget.

Part of the PAC report recommended that the Welsh Government monitor the progress of NHS bodies in delivering its guidance around patient catering and nutrition. Further statements on this important issue can therefore be expected in the future.

To hear Peter’s comments on ‘Good Evening Wales’, you can listen again on the BBC Iplayer website, by clicking here.

I was amazed this week to read of the latest work trend to hit the UK from the US.

Yes, it’s true, the idea of holding business meetings and making contacts while you work out has really taken off!

Dubbed ‘sweatworking‘, Fitness First and LA Fitness are already planning to trial spinning classes dedicated to networking.

It looks like this new trend could become a reality for those of us who use the gym to keep fit, followed by relaxing in the bar afterwards with a pint or two. Maybe that should be orange juice from now on – and a pair of dark glasses, so no client spots me doubled over, huffing and puffing!

Do you think it’ll take off here? After all, a round of golf or game of squash with a client or contact is not unheard of.  Maybe you are already networking while working out?

Beware Cardiff, business ‘sweatworking‘ is just around the corner. Dig out the trainers and gym kit, and be prepared!

I fully support the findings of the report undertaken by the Cardiff Business School on the role of agencies in attracting inward investment.

Wales' USP's need to be pushed, to attract both tourists and inward investors

Wales has been slipping badly over the past few years, and now we learn that only 2.6% of the UK total inward investment profits in 2011 came to Wales. In 2002 it was 11.8% – a huge difference.

As with tourism, we must attract both visitors and inward investors to Wales.

The Wales brand must be reinvigorated and relaunched, to really push Wales’ U.S.P’s – of which there are many! – to visitors and inward investors alike.

I am strongly in favour of the comments made in today’s Western Mail, suggesting the formation of an extended advisory panel to support not only the inward investment team but also those running our vitally important tourism sector.

I believe the Minister should prepare a list of the most successful Welsh businessmen and women from around the world to sit on this panel, and be given real power to influence strategy and implementation.

To engage such individuals would result in huge benefits to the nation, and those responsible for selling Wales to the world.