Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Leverage your strengths by amplifying your businesses unique selling points.
In the current climate, all aspects of running a business can feel like a risk. The latest Quarterly Economic Indicator published by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce in June, highlights that persistent economic uncertainty is forcing businesses to put investment decisions on hold. Signalling a challenging prospect for medium and long-term growth, and overshadowing performance across the business community.
The ability to respond swiftly to a volatile and complex business environment, with the intention not only to survive but to thrive is a key factor to success when times are tough – but the ever-present challenge remains, how do you stay relevant in a world that is constantly changing?
It can be tempting to experiment with lots of new ideas, products or services in difficult times in the hope that something works. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum feel stuck and overwhelmed by the pressures of uncertainty and the mere fight to keep the lights on.
Experimentation and risk can of course be rewarding, but to maximise potential for success it’s important to know what you stand for, where your strengths lie, and of course, where you outperform competitors.
Separating your business from the pack is a key factor for success, but how do you ensure your business stands out from the crowd?
My advice is to hone in on your bespoke selling points, your core ethos and what makes your business unique. Every business has an individual story that sets it apart. Use this to leverage your strengths and amplify your authentic business voice; emphasising your vision, values, and journey to create a connection with customers that resonates beyond transaction. A compelling narrative can captivate your audience, drive sales and help build loyalty.
In the North Highlands, we tend towards humility, keeping quiet about our talents and accomplishments – as the saying goes “to hide our light under a bushel”, but our thriving and resilient business community has plenty to celebrate and shout about! In a crowded marketplace, and today’s rapidly changing world – it’s more important than ever that your business stands out, confidence in your story is key to this!
We are delighted to be working with communications specialists, Nicky Marr and Kate Hooper, on a one-day intensive workshop this September which will explore exactly this.
Supporting our members and the local business community to succeed and thrive is a key objective of the Caithness Chamber, and we offer a diverse range of support to businesses in the North Highlands. From events and access to funding, through to our business support programme and continued advocacy work, we offer a unique opportunity to access expert knowledge, advice and network opportunities. Times may be uncertain, but Chamber membership is something you can rely on.
Fiona Levack, Business Development Manager, Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Stand out from the crowd and tell your business story!
Part of my core role at the Caithness Chamber is to develop our programme of events, tailored to the needs of our members. From our annual dinner to our supply chain events and business development and skills-sharing events, there is never a dull moment! Recently I have had the pleasure of working with two Highland businesswomen, each with many decades of experience in media, who have joined forces to develop ‘Tell your business story with confidence’, a workshop for North Highland businesses.
I took the opportunity to talk to them about what their interactive workshop will cover and how will it benefit our business members.
Kate Hooper, who is a former Senior BBC Producer and co-director of Inverness-based StrategyStory, explained: “There are four key elements; Connecting with business audiences, working out your business story, getting your pitch sorted, and Telling your business story with confidence.”
Kate has teamed up with broadcaster, writer, coach, and event host Nicky Marr to create and deliver the session.
Kate said: “We are combining our different experiences in media and communications to bring a unique day which gives business leaders ‘time out’ from the day-to-day running of their businesses, to focus on how they reach and convince potential clients, customers, and stakeholders of the merits of doing business with them.
“We get it. You’re already working more than full time on your business, so there’s little time to lift your head and think, strategically, about how to reach new audiences.”
“This day will give a business a full day to think about their business story and focus on how they will use that story to reach new customers, attract new markets, and ultimately boost the bottom line.”
Nicky added: “Working out how to communicate clearly and concisely what a business does, and the impact it can have on others, is an entirely different set of skills from what a business might usually do. Taking a day out to think through their approach and story could be the best investment a business could make this year”
Delegates will leave with a beautifully crafted business pitch and new-found confidence and presentation skills, which they can put to immediate use.””
OSP with modular containments. Credit: JGC
Businesses across Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney aiming to enter the rapidly expanding offshore renewable energy sector can apply to a regional Fit For Offshore Renewables (F4OR) programme for the first time today (12th September 2023).
The industry leading F4OR supply chain growth programme will be delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, and supported by £125,000 from offshore wind developer, the West of Orkney Windfarm.
F4OR Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney will provide up to seven companies with the opportunity to take part in the rigorous 12-18 month development programme, designed alongside offshore wind industry experts, and focused on improving business readiness for the offshore renewable energy market.
Davood Sabaei, F4OR Programme Manager at ORE Catapult, said: “We are excited to be launching our first ever F4OR programme in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney, and we look forward to working alongside local companies on their journey towards success in offshore renewables. It is also fantastic to have endorsement and support from offshore wind developer, the West of Orkney Windfarm, as part of this programme.
“F4OR Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney will build on the success of five F4OR regional programmes delivered by ORE Catapult in the North East of Scotland, North East of England, East Anglia and Suffolk, alongside national programmes run across Scotland and UK-wide, with over 100 companies supported. Participating companies experience an average 28% increase in turnover, and many have gone on to secure a wide range of new contracts.”
Last year, the ScotWind leasing auction created a multi-million pound opportunity for offshore renewable energy projects around the Scottish coastline.
Stephen Kerr, West of Orkney Windfarm Project Director, said: “We’ve been engaging with businesses and organisations in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney for a number of years, and although construction of ScotWind projects will not ramp up until the latter half of this decade, early engagement with the local supply chain is critical. Participation in this F4OR programme will equip forward-looking firms with the attributes they need to compete successfully for future contracts.
“The West of Orkney Windfarm has already committed to a £105 million investment initiative that will be enhanced to £140 million by third parties to support the offshore wind supply chain locally, in Scotland and across the UK ahead of a Final Investment Decision in 2026.”
JGC Engineering and Technical Services, based in Caithness, previously took part in a F4OR pilot programme.
Stephen Sutherland, Director of JGC, said: “JGC already had a presence in the offshore renewables market with some key industry leaders. However, as we were transitioning from existing markets into this new marketplace, we wanted to demonstrate to prospective clients we had the standards in place required to supply within these new and upcoming markets.
“For JGC, the programme did help us focus on areas we had not focused previously, which has also helped. What F4OR does is give your business a standard that you can market against within the renewables sector, giving prospective clients confidence in the standards you work to within your business.”
Applications are encouraged from established companies, with products or skills that are relevant to the offshore wind sector. To find out more information, go to F4OR and to apply, fill out an expression of interest form here.
Companies have until Tuesday 31 October to express their interest in taking part in F4OR Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney. The programme will start in December 2023.
- The West of Orkney Windfarm and ORE Catapult will attend a multi-developer supply chain event at the Robert Rendall Building, Franklin Road, Stromness, Orkney from 9am on Tuesday, September 12, hosted by Orkney Islands Council.
- On Thursday, September 14, West of Orkney Windfarm will also host a supply chain event at the Pentland Hotel in Thurso, in partnership with Caithness Chamber of Commerce where local businesses can meet members the project team.
Left to Right: Nigel Scott (Denchi Group CEO) and Emma Thomson (High Life Highland’s highlife Development Manager) shake hands at Inverness Leisure to announce corporate membership deal
Thanks to recently taking out a corporate deal, Denchi employees across the Highlands now have discounted access to all High Life Highland leisure facilities.
Emma Thomson, High Life Highland’s highlife Development Manager, said: “High Life Highland is excited to be partnering with Denchi to support the health and wellbeing of their staff by giving them access to the many leisure facilities, and hundreds of activities taking place every week across the Highlands.
“Denchi is the most recent in a growing number of Highland businesses I am working with to arrange corporate membership access for their staff. To have yet another high-profile Highland business joining our corporate membership is a brilliant step forward.
“Staff health and wellbeing is becoming one of the highest priorities for responsible employers and I’d be more than happy to have discussions about how High Life Highland can support businesses to, in turn, support their staff.
“It is important to note that High Life Highland’s corporate membership offering does have the option to include staff family members – an extra perk to ensure that staff are getting the most value out of their membership.”
Nigel Scott, Denchi Group’s CEO, added: “At Denchi, the health and wellness of employees is a high priority. We want to encourage our staff to make healthy lifestyle choices which create a positive work environment, improve morale, and keep people focused.
“Several support systems are already in place, including a ‘Wecare’ 24/7 support network giving access to GPs, mental health support, an online get-fit programme, and financial guidance support.
“Signing up to subsidise staff membership with High Life Highland – for individuals and families – is the next step in supporting staff health and wellness.
“High Life Highland has a fantastic range of sports facilities, lessons, and fitness sessions. With High Life Highland, there are additional benefits and discounts through member access to fitness facilities across Scotland and discounts to many local and national companies.
“It feels like the right thing to do for the company and its Workforce. Signing up for the corporate membership is easy and straightforward, and High Life Highland are there to help every step of the way.”
Steve Walsh, High Life Highland’s Chief Executive, concluded: “More than ever in this post-pandemic world, it is important to prioritise and look after the health and wellbeing of staff, another reason High Life Highland is delighted to have Denchi on board with the corporate membership offering.
“As a charity with the core aim of making lives better, High Life Highland hopes to see more Highland organisations signing up for corporate memberships so that their staff can take full advantage of the discounted access to leisure facilities and other benefits the highlife membership offers.”
For any businesses interested in offering their employees discounted access to all of High Life Highland’s leisure facilities, please contact Emma Thomson on the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce calls for extension of the Wick-Aberdeen PSO, during keynote address during the 49th Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner.
In the speech to Caithness Chamber of Commerce members and the North Highland business community, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, called for:
- An extension of the Wick-Aberdeen Public Service Obligation (PSO) to provide certainty of connectivity for businesses and residents of the North Highlands.
- The business community, public sector, and others, to get round the table to agree on a minimum of 10 years support to develop and build up this commercial asset for the long-term.
- Government to ensure that equality and fairness are enshrined in major policy areas such as connectivity, energy, and housing, recognising the North Highlands as a major powerhouse of Scotland’s economy.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the 49th Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner
Commenting, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, said:
“In my visit to Caithness and the North Highlands, l was inspired by the creativity and resilience of local businesses who have consistently felt isolated in more ways than one in recent years. Threats to connectivity, housing shortages, failure to make full use of its vast economic potential, are all concerns voiced by businesses in the region.
“It is clear that these businesses deserve leadership and partnership which ensures that the diverse economy, and future of their communities continue to attract, retain and build on fantastic enterprises and investment. We call upon the key players to get around the table and make it happen. This part of the world is ready to be a central powerhouse for many future industries, but it needs action taken now to ensure that it won’t be left behind with no repeat of the mistakes of the past.”
The lifeline air service between Wick John O’Groats and Aberdeen airports is operated under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) between The Highland Council and Eastern Airways. The return of scheduled air services culminated on April 11 2022, with the first flight to Aberdeen leaving Wick Airport since March 2020.
Caithness Chamber of Commerce, with funding from Dounreay, developed the original business case for the PSO from Wick John O’Groats Airport, and alongside key stakeholders has continued to play a pivotal role in the partnership efforts to safeguard, develop and grow the service.
Grave concerns have been raised following indication from Transport Scotland to stakeholders that commitment made for the final year of financial support for the service, until April 2026, will now need to be re-justified beyond the previously agreed stipulation of increase in passenger numbers.
Providing access to vital business, leisure and healthcare opportunities, the service is predicted to carry over 11,000 passengers during the 2023/24 funding period, forecasting a forecasting a rise of between 20 and 25% on 2022/23 figures.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce with Drew Murray of Far North Aviation at Wick Airport.
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said:
“Air connectivity is vital to businesses and communities across the North Highlands and it remains clear that this is an essential component in the overall transport connectivity to and from the region.
Connectivity is a major factor in securing economic growth, attracting new opportunities, employment and sustaining flourishing communities for our region, and indeed imperative for retaining our future generations.
Our region is one of the most diverse economies in Scotland and we deserve both the equity and the stability to be able to maximise and build upon the opportunities presented to us. Air connectivity is crucial to this, the PSO must reflect confidence in the long-term vision of our region.”
During her visit to Caithness, Dr Liz Cameron CBE met with Drew Murray of Far North Aviation, which has provided aircraft handling services at Wick John O’Groats Airport since 1991 including refuelling for the significant levels of ferry flights which layover at the airport.
Liz also spent time with joint managing directors Gavin and Scott Bremner of Ashley Ann at the state-of-the-art kitchen manufacturing facility and trade showroom in Wick. A major local employer with an overall workforce of over 200 staff, Ashley Ann’s bespoke designer kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are exported across the UK through its nine retail showrooms, independent and kitchen retailers and directly to property developers and house builders.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce with joint managing directors Gavin and Scott Bremner of Ashley Ann, at the new trade showroom in Wick.
CC Chocolatier of Bower and North Point Distillery in Thurso win awards at the Caithness Chamber of Commerce 49th Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony.
On Friday, September 15, 2023, guests gathered for the highly anticipated Caithness Chamber of Commerce 49th Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony, held in the Norseman Hotel, Wick. This event holds a special place on the local business calendar, consistently drawing the region’s most influential business personalities every year.
An inspirational keynote address was given by Dr. Liz Cameron CBE, Director & Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and highly regarded as one of the most influential, informed and authentic business leaders within Scotland’s business community. In her speech Liz commended the invaluable work and commitment of the Caithness Chamber and its members, acknowledging the significant contribution made to Scotland’s voice for business at national and international level. The speech went on to acknowledge the North Highlands as a major powerhouse of Scotland’s transition to renewable energy and celebrated its diverse economy showcasing entrepreneurial excellence, in food, drink, manufacturing, engineering, space technologies and tourism.
Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the 49th Caithness Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner
It has been an incredibly turbulent year for businesses across the North Highlands, the dinner brought a welcome chance to connect, build relationships and celebrate the strength and resilience of the diverse North Highland business community.
Guests were treated to a surprise performance by the Singers Secreto’s singing waiters, who burst into the event and got everyone up on their feet to lively renditions of ‘500 Miles’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘New York, New York’ and more.
The annual awards were introduced by longstanding patron of the Caithness Chamber, Rt. Hon. The Viscount Thurso, Lord Lieutenant for Caithness.
Winner of the Young Business Award in the Micro category, sponsored by West of Orkney Windfarm, was awarded to CC Chocolatier, founded in 2019 by Mandy Boydell, a former head chef at the Castle of Mey. The Bower-based business offers personalised chocolates, handmade gifts, and celebration cakes alongside signature chocolate-making and luxury afternoon tea experiences.
The young business was recognised for the quality and craftsmanship of its handmade products, using the finest of homemade and locally sourced ingredients to ensure the freshest and most authentic flavour and its unwavering commitment to excellence and continuous learning.
North Point Distillery was awarded the Young Business Winner in the SME category, sponsored by Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm. Established in 2020 by business partners Struan Mackie and Alex MacDonald, trading began on the 1st of October 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with one still, three members of staff and three products; a Cask Aged Rum, Spiced Rum and London Dry Gin.
From its base in Forss Business and Energy Park, the growing business has more than quadrupled production since 2020, with three stills registered, and a further still on the way. With over 32 awards to date, the business is going from strength to strength, the ambitious young distillery and its products have been internationally recognised for excellence in quality, design and sustainability. To date, North Point Distillery has secured over half a million pounds of inward investment into the Far North of Scotland, creating fourteen jobs within the first three years of trading and a commitment to adding new roles through apprenticeship and graduate programmes.
A huge thank you to generous contribution of the events sponsors, The Caithness Collection, Dounreay, The Highland Council PSO, Jacobs, JGC Engineering & Technical Services Ltd, M2 Procurement & Commercial Services, Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm and West of Orkney Windfarm.
To discuss membership, please reach out to our Business Development manager, Fiona Levack. You can contact Fiona by email: email@example.com. You can read about membership on the website using this link.
If you’re already a member but would like a reminder of how to get the most from your membership, Fiona will gladly go over that with you too.
The West of Orkney Windfarm will be hosting a supply chain event in Thurso on September 14 where local businesses can meet members of the project team and learn more about how to bid successfully for future work packages.
The event, which has been organised in partnership with Caithness Chamber of Commerce, will be hosted in the Pentland Hotel
Jack Farnham Development Manager West of Orkney Windfarm with Trudy Morris, CEO, Caithness Chamber of Commerce at Scrabster Harbour.
“We would like to encourage companies from across the north of Scotland to come along to this event and engage with the West of Orkney team,” says Rob Heaton, Supply Chain and Local Content Lead.
“Although construction of the wind farm will not ramp up fully for a number of years, we believe early engagement is critical in helping local firms understand how work will be advertised and procured, and in enabling them to bid successfully for future contracts,” Rob says.
In addition to the Caithness event, the West of Orkney Windfarm will also be participating in a number of other supply chain events in Aberdeen, Inverness and Orkney this Autumn.
The West of Orkney Windfarm has already committed to a £105 million investment initiative during this initial phase of the project to develop the supply chain that will be enhanced to at least £140 million by match funding from third parties.
“We will be making announcements in the coming weeks on specific initiatives which will create opportunities for the supply chain in Scotland, and I would encourage companies to come along to one of the supply chain events to meet the team and understand more about our project,” Rob concludes.
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce commented:
“We are delighted to be working alongside our premier partner, West of Orkney Windfarm on this event. This early engagement offers a fantastic opportunity for our local supply chain to gear up for the work ahead.
Alongside developments for the operations and maintenance base at Scrabster, the development is expected to offer significant opportunities to local companies during both the commissioning and service of the onshore support network.
Our Chamber Supply Chain Directories encompass a wide range of businesses from engineering, construction and fabrication through to consultancy and accommodation providers, showcasing local supply chain capability and services available in the region. These are the types of services developers such as West of Orkney will require to support their projects.
The North Highland region is fundamental to Scotland’s transition to renewable power and meeting the nation’s ambitious net-zero targets. We encourage local businesses to register for the supply chain event so they can learn more about the project and see how they can get involved.”
Bookings can be made via Eventbrite here, for further information contact Fiona@caithnesschamber.com
Elaine McInroy and Coll Murchison-MacDonald, Saffery.
Saffery Champness, the accounting and advisory firm, has reached a major milestone in its more than 165 year history as it launches its refreshed brand and becomes Saffery.
Founded in 1855, Saffery is one of the oldest accounting firms in the UK to remain entirely independent, and its new brand and supporting visual identity – optimised for digital environments and experience – builds on this unparalleled heritage and positions the firm to grow and succeed alongside its clients into the future.
In Scotland Saffery has had an office in Edinburgh for 37 years and in Inverness for 43 years with a current headcount between the two locations of just over 130 partners and staff.
Over its long history the firm has been widely regarded as the pre-eminent adviser to private clients, their families and business interests – including some of the UK’s largest and most valuable landed estates. History underpins the firm’s focus on tailored solutions and client relationships that stand the test of time.
These principles have seen Saffery evolve to also become a trusted partner to creative, innovative, dynamic organisations and individuals: from the biggest film and TV productions and international talent to entrepreneurial companies, real estate businesses and charitable entities.
The updated Saffery brand epitomises this combination of deep-rooted values, agile approach, and bold spirit.
The brand also aligns the firm more closely with Nexia, a leading network of independent accounting and consulting firms of which Saffery is a founding member and leading UK firm. This reflects an increasing focus on and demand for cross-border advice and services from globally mobile and multi-jurisdictional clients.
The Saffery network of 10 offices across the UK and Ireland – which together support a team that has grown to over 1,000 people focused on the firm’s core areas of expertise including Audit & Assurance, Business Advisory, Corporate Finance, Tax, Trusts, and VAT – all adopt the new branding from today.
The firm’s independent fiduciary business, which has offerings in Guernsey, Switzerland, Dubai, and the Cayman Islands, has also rebranded as of today, moving forwards as Saffery Trust.
Complementing its new brand, today Saffery has also launched a new Employee Value Proposition, further enhancing the firm’s offering to its people and reinforcing the firm’s position as a destination-of-choice for the best talent in the market.
Elaine McInroy, Partner in the firm’s Edinburgh office said:
“This is an exciting development. The Saffery name is well established in Scotland but this is another step up as we continue to build and grow the firm’s reach and presence north of the border.”
Coll Murchison-MacDonald, Partner in the firm’s Inverness office said:
“Progress is important and the firm’s business in Inverness continues to move from strength to strength as we respond to the needs of our varied client base across the north of Scotland and beyond.”
Matthew Burton, Managing Partner of Saffery, commented:
“This is a hugely exciting time for the firm. A key pillar and commitment of our 2022-2026 business plan was to seize the opportunity to revisit our brand to better reflect the modern, forward looking firm that we are. This includes our international outlook, supported by our relationship with our Nexia colleagues around the world. Launching a fresh brand, alongside our new employee value proposition, was a key strategic priority for us and I am immensely grateful to all those involved for their efforts and for delivering a brand that everyone in the firm can be proud to be part of.”
“Our history and our longevity as an independent firm is integral to our business Stretching right back to 1855 we have always focused on building long-term relationships. This means being guided by our heritage and values as we look and move forwards in a fast-changing world – which is both increasingly international and digital-first. Just as the needs of our clients and people are changing and adapting, so are we. We have achieved significant growth in recent years and our evolved business is perfectly captured and supported by our new brand. It builds on our heritage and supports our ambitions for the future.”
The Defence Technology Exploitation Programme (DTEP) has been designed to help SMEs join defence supply chains and collaborate with larger suppliers to solve defence problems. On the 7 September 2023, Cycle 3 of the DTEP programme will be closing, Cycle 4 will open for full proposals and Cycle 5 outline opens.
For an SME, DTEP not only offers funding but also the opportunity to deliver new innovations into the UK defence supply chain and a way to develop and scale up their business.
Applications to DTEP can be made by UK-based SMEs looking to form a collaboration with a UK-based higher-tier supplier to help integrate and take the novel solution to market. The key areas of interest for proposals are detailed on the DTEP portal.