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  • 24 August 2016

    Mind Full or Mindful?

    Unless you have been living in a cave without TV, radio or the internet, you cannot have failed to notice that the Olympics have just finished.

    In all seriousness, you cannot help marvel at the physical fitness and dedication of all those sports people (and horses!) who have taken part; many breaking personal, Olympic and world records.

    This lead me to think about another sort of fitness; one that most people do not even think about - the fitness of the mind. An important part of each and every one of us.

    Let’s just think about walking the dog; an activity that is encouraged, even if you don’t have a dog, as it gets you out for some fresh air, exercise, and some Vitamin D - when the sun is shining anyway.

    However, if you think about taking the dog out, it's most likely that it's only the dog that is mentally ‘in’ the park. The human will likely have their mind elsewhere; thinking about work, family, what's for tea even - thoughts racing about 100 miles an hour, potentially leading to feelings of anxiety, stress and possibly depression. So while the walk may be benefitting them physically; unless the human is able to free their mind, the holistic effect of the walk may well be lost.

    So, what is being mindful? Mindfulness is a thought process that allows us to pay attention to, and clearly see what is happening in our lives at present. While it cannot eliminate life’s pressures, it can be a good way to help you deal with them in a calmer manner that is beneficial to your overall well-being.

    There are numerous websites available that discuss and promote mindfulness and mindfulness techniques including meditation:

    NHS Website: Mindfulness

    Free Mindfulness

    So, if all the excitement of the Olympics has made you take up some extra exercise or take part in a new sport, great, but spare a thought for your mind too!

    Healthy Body + Health Mind = Happy Life!

  • Les Beavis (front right) collecting one of FMB's first IIP Awards
    Caption: Les Beavis (front right) collecting one of FMB's first IIP Awards
    Director, Gill Forrester and Practice Manager, Karen Dickinson, with FMB's new Silver awards (2016)
    Caption: Director, Gill Forrester and Practice Manager, Karen Dickinson, with FMB's new Silver awards (2016)

    Ahead of Our Game…

    In 1996, FMB’s MD, Les Beavis, read an article about the relatively new Investors in People framework. As his PA, he nominated me to be the “champion” and find out more about what we needed to do to achieve the award, and whether it was worth our time and effort.

    I attended a couple of seminars and found that the standard reflected the best practices in high-performance working and was recognised worldwide. It was evident that this was something FMB could benefit significantly from and so, we decided to enquire further.

    We eventually met with a trainer/assessor who helped us complete a “gap analysis” which was essentially a self-diagnostic on where we believed we compared against the standard. The results from this formed the baseline for our assessment.

    The next stage required us to produce a portfolio of evidence, which at the time was extremely time-consuming, but it was greatly beneficial as it made us analyse the business from many different perspectives.

    The final stage of the process was the actual assessment where our assessor reviewed our business, processes and our people. The assessor selected several members of staff and management to interview and also evaluated the evidence we had collected as well as other materials we had within the workplace. The idea being it’s a full 360 appraisal; it’s not just what the directors think or say, it’s how it is viewed at all levels so there is no faking it and isn't down to just being well-rehearsed on the day. We were elated to be accredited on our first attempt making us one of the first IFA's in the North-West to achieve the award, and we wore the IIP badge with pride!

    2016's Success…

    Investors in People believe that times have changed, and with this, they felt the need to reassess the standard. In September last year they launched the Sixth Generation Standard which comprises of a four stage performance model, and nine new indicators based on the features of organisations that consistently outperform industry norms - leading, supporting, improving and organisation ambition. They also introduced new levels of accreditation; Standard, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

    As with all other IIP accredited firms, we have to be reassessed every three years. This year, we were assessed in line with the new standard, and we are ecstatic to have achieved the Silver accreditation on our first attempt - and we were even close to achieving Gold! Amazingly, 2016 is also our 20th year of holding the IIP accreditation. We remain one of only 15,000 IIP accredited organisations across 75 countries worldwide.

    Investing in our staff’s training and development is essential for us to provide our clients with the best service possible. We believe that our IIP accreditation indicates to our clients that we are constantly looking at ways to better ourselves to, in turn, better their experience. IIP also highlights to prospective employees that it’s not just the Directors and managers that think we are a great company to work for, but so do all our people, and that's why it’s been endorsed as such.

    We are now a better business for having gone through this process. Yes we have learnt that we do a lot of things really well, and that was pleasing to see, but the real value was because we learnt a lot about what we could better, and already we are making even more positive changes in our business.

    For other businesses, I cannot recommend Investors in People strongly enough. The benefits are tremendous; we have learnt a lot about our business, our people and leadership and also how they are perceived by others. Perhaps you won’t learn anything new, or perhaps what you learn could make your business great!

  • 26 July 2016

    Brexit and Bicycles...

    It's been just over a month since we learnt that the UK had voted in favour of leaving the EU. Understandably, the nation has been inundated with TV and press coverage ever since so I have found it rather refreshing to have a break from it all by watching the Tour de France over the last three weeks.

    The Tour de France was established in 1903 with an aim to increase sales for the magazine L'Auto. It has been held annually since, except when it was suspended during the two World Wars. As the race gained popularity, the race was extended and its reach began to extend around the globe.

    The Tour de France is usually overshadowed by European riders, so I was amazed that this year, the year of the Brexit vote, we have witnessed the dominance of British cyclists. Out of 21 stages, British riders have won seven of them.

    Mark Cavendish won the first stage of the 2016 Tour de France to Utah Beach and with it, the coveted Maillot Jaune. This was Mark’s 27th victory at the Tour, keeping him third in the all-time stage winner rankings, one behind Bernard Hinault.

    Chris Froome pulled off the unexpected by advancing on the descent of the final climb on Stage 8. He took the stage victory and overall lead on day eight, which set him up for a defence of his Maillot Jaune for the rest of the Tour. On Sunday 24th July, Froome proved he belongs among Britain's cycling elite after claiming his third Tour de France crown; making him one of only eight men to have won three Tours.

    Also, Adam Yates was awarded the Best Young Rider Award and is the first ever British winner of the Tour’s white jersey. Yates ranked an impressive 4th overall.

    Over the last three weeks, we have seen a great deal of liberté, égalité and fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity) - hopefully, traits we will see much more of, as a nation, in the future!

    A date for your Diary

    Stage 2 of the Tour of Britain (Carlisle to Kendal) will finish at the top of Beast Banks in Kendal on Monday 5th September.

    See the route map at

  • You may have seen news stories about property fund suspensions. Should we be worried that this is a sign of impending financial Armageddon?

    It might just be worth explaining how property funds work. Obviously the key investment is property, but usually these funds also have ready cash available to pay a steady stream of investors who may want to cash in their investment. This cashflow is also supported by new investors to the fund. Property is not a liquid investment, it cannot be easily or quickly bought and sold. In normal circumstances it doesn’t have to be. However, if investment confidence drops and suddenly more investors want their cash out than can be borne by the cash balances and inflows to the fund, then this creates a problem. The worst thing for investors would be a quick “firesale” of properties which is why the decision to temporarily suspend the fund is taken.
    Investing in property funds carry some risks, we have seen suspensions before after 9/11 and the 2008 crash so nobody should be convinced otherwise. They can however provide a high yield and as long as rents keep coming in then that will continue. Again this is not without risk.
    However, it’s important to put thing in perspective. For many clients, this is not an issue as there are ways to gain exposure to property while avoiding these liquidity risks.
    Where clients do have exposure to open-ended physical property funds, this tends to form only a small part of our clients’ portfolios, typically less than 10%. Accordingly, this means that they are still able to access income and capital from their portfolios if they need to. This is why diversification is such a powerful investment principle and one that we abide by as a firm.
    We are long term investors, not short term speculators and our clients’ portfolios are designed to withstand tough market conditions. We continue to keep our eyes on events in these challenging times for investors.

  • With the news currently being dominated by economic and political events I thought I would write a somewhat more light-hearted blog for this week about something completely different.

    One of the benefits of living and working in the South Lakes is that we have the Lake District national park right on our doorstep. For those who like to enjoy a good fell walk we have access to numerous fells from countless paths from Ambleside right through to Keswick. Those inclined to set off with the objective of reaching another summit can be spoilt for choice. However for those who are less adventurous or if you're like me and have children who "do not want to go for another walk this week", occasionally we like to do something a little different.

    This year anyone with at least a moderate sense of exploration can enjoy the lakes and support the Calvert Trust by trying to complete the Herdwick Trail. This is a really entertaining public art trail which stretches from Bowness to Keswick with the objective of finding 60 individually decorated life size Herdwick sheep and 48 lambs. These have been painted and positioned throughout the lakes but within easy reach of anyone as they are predominantly located within the town centres of Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside, Windermere and Bowness. A donation of £4 for maps and an activity book pointed us in the right direction and its fair to say that my boys have had hours of fun trying to find them. Yesterday we spent a full day in Keswick trying to track them all down and the sense of achievement my boys had made for a very enjoyable day. We are already looking forward to making a trip to Grasmere and Ambleside next week to find some more.

    The sheep and their lambs will be there throughout the summer until the 4th September before they are auctioned off to raise further money for the charity. So if you fancy a day out in the Lakes, doing something a little different whilst supporting a very good charity why not have a go?

    Further details can be found at

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