Things are changing…

There’s an interesting movement in the types of planes which the large airlines are demanding.

10 years ago, the Airbus A380 or the “Super Jumbo” as it’s known, was launched with the aim to transform the airline industry by enabling up to 868 people to fly in one plane.

But things are changing and the anticipated demand for the superjumbos hasn’t materialised. Airlines are instead preferring smaller but more efficient twin-engine planes.

The most number of A380s that Airbus produced in a year was 30 but the order book has collapsed. Last week it was reported in Euronews that Airbus are exploring plans to cut A380 production to 6 aircraft per year.

Another company that has been affected by the drop in demand for A380s is the leasing company Amedeo.

Amedeo’s business model involves them buying aircraft from the likes of Airbus and Boeing and then leasing those aircraft to airlines.

Amedeo for example has purchased four A380s from Airbus and leased them on to Emirates.

The challenge for Amedeo though is that they have eight A380s in their portfolio and have another twenty on order from Airbus. Given that the demand for A380s from airlines has dried up, that’s not particularly good news for them.

However, they have come out fighting and announced that they will be launching their own airline.

Instead of simply leasing the plane out, the new business model will involve them running things as an airline. They will offer seats to existing carriers who will provide the ticketing service but Amedeo will operate the flight using their own cabin crew.

As well as offering the flights to existing airlines, Mark Lapidus the chief executive of Amedeo raised the prospect of providing flights for potential partners such as Airbnb.

Time will tell how successful this will be but it certainly is a novel approach to trying to find a solution to what to do to address the fall in demand.

It will be a pleasure to go shopping with you…

It may be stating the obvious but if you’re a retailer in a shopping centre you’ve more chance of making a sale if people are in the shop.

Retailers in shopping centres face a number of threats. Some of these are a more recent phenomenon (e.g. the rise of internet shopping) whilst others have been around for a number of years.

One of these threats which has been around for a while is something which I’m sure a number of our male readers can sympathise with.

Let me ask the male readers out there who are married a question – have you ever gone shopping with your wife and at the start of the shopping trip things were going well but it soon descended into a long and windy journey through shops which to the male eye looked very similar but to the female eye were all different and offered new and exciting opportunities to try new items of clothes?

With the wife enjoying every moment but the husband getting more and more frustrated it is only a matter of time until stress levels rise, an argument ensues and the shopping trip is cut short.

A number of shops have chairs for the men to sit on and magazines to read but over in China, Shanghai’s largest shopping centre has come up with a novel way of keeping men occupied so that the wives are free to shop without the husbands getting bored.

Global Harbour shopping centre has introduced “Video Caves”. These are glass booths with a comfortable chair, a games console and a large screen. Men can be left to play computer games free of charge whilst their partners can shop to their heart’s content. The booths are soundproof so the computer games won’t disturb the other shoppers.

All in all, a great idea to keep the both the “lady shopper” and the “dragged behind man” happy but is there a potential problem?

After all, if you ask a lady how easy it is to get her other half off of a computer game when he’s nearly reached his top score, will we start to see women looking bored whilst waiting for the husband to finish his video game…

It’s the language of…

Language schools are big business. Research from the British Council predicts that more than 1.9 billion people will be actively learning English around the world by 2020. That’s a lot of people but will a recent bit of technology result in a change in the number of people learning another language?

A small US start-up company has recently launched a translation earphone.

Waverly Labs has introduced technology that may be the first step in making the need to learn another language redundant in years to come.

They have launched a translation device which is similar to a wireless earpiece. The earpiece is linked to an app on a mobile phone and when one person speaks in for example French the words are processed by software so that the words are played back in the earpiece in another language such as English. The impressive thing is that the translation is in real time with only a few seconds lag.

The first batch of headsets will support English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish languages.

More languages are expected to be rolled out soon.

Whilst there are already translation devices on mobile phones such as Google Translate, the Waverly Labs product is the first that offers a discreet earpiece to translate so that a face to face conversation can be held without having to look at your mobile phone to understand what is being said.

The earpieces can be pre-ordered for $249 and could well be the first step in terms of making face to face communication between different languages a lot easier.

All in all, very nice.

Or should I say, très agréable, sehr schön, molto bella, muito agradável, muy agradable.

Not the best recruitment idea…

This actually happened – a European energy conglomerate recruited interns on the basis of a bikini competition.

Yes, you read that correctly. A bikini competition.

Getting an internship can be a great way for an individual to build up a bit of experience to help his or her CV and most companies which offer internships, offer them to individuals who have the right mix of skills and attitude.

CEZ’s Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic though have taken a completely different approach and asked high school graduates to send a photo of themselves in a bikini to their prospective future employers to be in with a chance of being selected for an internship.

Ten individuals were shortlisted and photos of them in their bikinis were put on the company’s Facebook page for people to vote for who should get the internship.

If you stop and think about this, there is so much wrong with it. What a person looks like in their bikini has nothing to do with how well they would do their job at a nuclear power plant.

There was understandably a backlash against the company and they have now removed the Facebook posts and apologised for any offence caused. They have also offered all ten of the applicants an internship.

The only thing that the company appeared to do right in this episode was that when they took the professional photos of the ladies in their bikinis at the nuclear plant they followed health and safety best practice by ensuring that they all wore a safety hat and enclosed shoes…

Did you break your fast this morning?

Did you have anything for breakfast this morning before you headed to work?

If I’d asked that question a few years ago the chances are that the reply would have been positive and brought back nice memories of what had been eaten earlier at home.

Things are changing though and according to a recent study for the Grocer magazine, nearly half of those surveyed who were between 16 and 34 skipped breakfast altogether. Even those who had breakfast were only likely to grab a croissant from a coffee shop on the way to the office or eat a breakfast biscuit.

The report said that “Millennials may be more clued up to food and health trends than older generations, but in terms of traditional breakfast there are empty seats at the table”.

Whilst skipping breakfast isn’t necessarily that good for your health, there are also financial health consequences for companies who produce breakfast cereals. In the UK, sales of cereal over the last 12 months are down by £40 million.

A number of companies are trying to regain some of these lost sales though.

Weetabix Limited, the company that produces yes, you guessed it… Weetabix, are now producing biscuits, bars and breakfast drinks that can be consumed on the go or taken to work to be eaten.

Weetabix has been made in the UK since 1932 but in 2012 was sold to Shanghai-based Bright Food.

Bright Food had hoped that as part of the general trend to more western eating habits in China, eating cereals would become more popular. Whilst sales of Weetabix have increased in China, the market share was disappointing as the traditional rice and steamed bread maintained their popularity for the first meal of the day.

Weetabix has now changed hands and was purchased by the US company Post Holdings for $1.7bn (£1.3bn).

Post Holdings already own the Shredded Wheat and Bran Flakes brands so the acquisition of Weetabix seems a good fit.

Back to breakfast on the go though and if you’re one of those people who struggle to get out of bed in the morning and miss breakfast then look on the bright side, if you’re getting into the office late then at least you’re closer to lunchtime.

George Clooney and $1 billion

How do you make $1 billion in 4 years?

Well, the answer is fairly straight forward if you come up with a good idea and have some good friends.

I guess it also helps if you are the famous actor George Clooney…

Mr Clooney and two of his friends – Rande Gerber (the husband of super model Cindy Crawford) and Mike Meldman the property tycoon – reportedly used to play golf together and had properties on a golf development called Casamigos (meaning House of Friends in English).

Playing golf wasn’t the only thing that they did together as friends as they also used to drink tequila. The problem was that they found that the tequila they drank was of mixed quality. Some was good but at the other extreme some was pretty bad.

It was reported that Mr Clooney suggested that they create their own tequila which “didn’t burn going down, that was super smooth and … that we could drink all day long and not be hungover in the morning”.

As a result of that idea, back in 2013 they set up a business producing Casamigos tequila and it’s done pretty well. So well in fact that the drinks giant Diageo has purchased the business for $1 billion split between a $700 million initial payment and $300 million over the next 10 years depending on performance.

Given that only 120,000 cases of the Casamigos tequila were sold last year, that’s a big figure but Diageo are obviously looking to scale up sales it up to a global audience (so far Casamigos has been targeted at the North American market).

Either way, it’s a good return for Mr Clooney and his friends and I’m sure they toasted the sale with a shot or two of tequila.

Then again, maybe they decided to celebrate with champagne and we’ll see a George Clooney champagne in a few years’ time…

Gin and whose tonic?

Drinking a lot of gin may not be good for you but it looks as though it is good for the tax authorities.

There’s been a change in the drinking habits of people in the UK.

Gin is suddenly very fashionable, especially the flavoured gin made by smaller distilleries. Last year 40 new gin distilleries opened up in the UK bringing the total distilleries crafting gin to 273.

This has made the tax man very happy. The reason he is happy is that there is a very high rate of VAT and Duty on hard spirits such as Gin compared to less alcoholic drinks such as beer and cider. VAT and Duty on a bottle of Gin accounts for more than 75% of the cost of that bottle and with designer gins such as Death’s Door gin retailing at £55 then that’s a pretty good return for the tax authorities.

This increase in demand for gin has resulted in duty receipts from spirit sales overtaking duty receipt from beer sales last year for the first time.

In 2016 the tax authorities collected over £11 billion from alcohol sales which is an equivalent amount to what a 2p increase in income tax would create.

So, they you go, the next time you wake up in the morning with a hang over from drinking too much gin at least you’ll know that the money you spent has proved a tonic for the government and helped increase their tax receipts.

What was Roger Federer wearing?

Roger Federer became arguably the greatest ever male tennis player when he won a record 8th Wimbledon title by beating Marin Cilic but did you see what he was wearing?

Now, I’m not talking about his shoes, shorts or top but rather something less associated with the sport of tennis.

Sponsorship is big business for the top sports stars and as far as Mr Federer goes he’s doing pretty well when it comes to sponsorship. Forbes named him as the world’s highest paid tennis player last year when his prize winnings and sponsorship deals earned him over £50 million.

Winning Wimbledon was a good opportunity for Federer to add to his earnings (the prize money for winning Wimbledon was £2.2 million this year) but it was also a good opportunity for the sponsors to be associated with such a successful person (and of course hope that people will buy more of their products!)

Federer has a number of sponsors ranging from Nike to Credit Suisse but back to what he was wearing though and did you notice the watch that he wasn’t wearing during the match but was wearing when he was presented with the trophy?

Another of his sponsors is the Swiss Watch Manufacturer Rolex and after Federer won the match he quickly put his £6,000 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II onto his wrist before the presentation.

The end result was no doubt a very happy Rolex company whose watch was on the front pages of all the newspapers.

Some great publicity for the company.

Will we see this trend for tennis players putting designer watches on before they are presented with a trophy expand to other sports?

Will we see the captain of the winning team at next year’s football World Cup wearing a watch when he lifts the trophy??

The battery is going on my phone…

Do you have a phone?

My guess is that most of you own a mobile phone.

Now, if you look at your phone is it a Vertu branded phone?

Probably not.

Most of you will own a Samsung, Apple or Nokia. Some of these phones aren’t cheap – the latest top of the range Apple iPhone for example retails at over £900.

But if you’re holding a Vertu branded phone then the chances are that it cost a lot more than the top of the range iPhone.

Some of the Vertu range of phones were on sale for £40,000 a few years ago. That’s a lot of money for a phone. It was a luxury brand aimed at ultra-high net worth individuals who would be willing to spend more than the cost of a new Porsche Cayman sports car on a phone.

Perhaps surprisingly it did rather well a few years ago. In 2007, it generated £150 million of sales.

Perhaps unsurprisingly though, there weren’t that many individuals with “more money than sense” who were willing to pay that amount of money for a phone. The company has had a rough ride over recent years as it’s hard to justify paying £40,000 for a phone that has been criticised in a number of areas. The Financial Times were quoted for example as saying the Vertu phones were “technologically modest”.

After originally being set up by Nokia in the 1990s with the strategic aim of building a niche market of hand made luxury phones it was sold to a Hong Kong hedge fund manager for €45 million in 2015.

In March of this year it was then sold to a Turkish businessman for €1 (he agreed to take on the company’s debt of €13 million as part of the deal).

Unfortunately though things have got worse and the company has recently gone into receivership after running out of money to pay staff and suppliers.

An interesting case study which appears to prove that being expensive by itself isn’t sufficient to make a differentiation strategy successful.

Interviewed by a robot…

The majority of you have no doubt attended an interview for a job at some stage. Some of you have also probably done the interviewing.

If you have interviewed somebody, how many interviews would you say you would be able to do before you started to lose concentration?

Well my guess is that you wouldn’t be able to do as many as this interviewer can and whilst this particular interviewer won’t be able to ask any difficult questions, one thing it can do for sure is process far more information than you or I could.

Vodafone has begun using artificial intelligence (AI) to screen people applying for jobs at their call centres and shops.

Candidates looking for a job with Vodafone have to record a video of themselves answering questions from a standard questionnaire. These videos are then reviewed by robots. OK, not real robots but computers which have been programmed with advanced algorithms which can assess the candidate’s suitability for the job by way of analysing facial cues and voice intonation.

If candidates get through this scrutiny by the computer then they are put forward for interview by humans.

Vodafone has been using this technology significantly and it was reported in the Times newspaper that about 50,000 applicants have already gone through this AI procedure.

That’s an impressive number and a significant amount of time has been saved by using machines instead of humans. Catalina Schveninger, Vodafone’s head of resourcing was quoted as saying “It takes a tremendous amount of time out of the hiring process: it halves the time and allows us to fish from a much bigger pool”. Ms Schveninger went on to say that “We are the first multinational implementing a programme like this on a global scale. This is the future of resourcing”.

I wonder though whether the AI includes the ability for the computers to detect that you are stretching the truth when you answer the question about “What are your weaknesses?” by saying that you are too hard working and too much of a perfectionist…

Coffee, doughnuts and Jimmy Choos

With celebrity clients such as Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, Jimmy Choo is one of the most famous shoe brands in the world.

It is a real success story having been started 21 years ago by Malaysian shoemaker Jimmy Choo, who trained at the renowned Cordwainers Technical College in London, and Tamara Mellon, a former editor at Vogue magazine, with a loan from her father of £150,000.

The pair started the business after Ms. Mellon met Mr Choo during her time with Vogue. Mr Choo used to make a small number of handmade shoes which the magazine used for photo shoots. Ms. Mellon saw the potential in scaling up the business and 21 years later there are now over 150 stores around the world with prices for some shoes being well in excess of £1,000.

So, why has the business been so successful?

Whilst design and quality are obviously key features, the brand arguably took off when famous celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Beyonce started wearing them.

But it’s not just shoes that they sell. They have also expanded into items such as handbags, sunglasses and scarves. In business speak this is referred to as “brand extension”.

The original founders sold their shares in the business a number of years ago and the company is now quoted on the London stock exchange with the main shareholder being JAB Luxury GmbH, owned by the German billionaire Reimann family.

They have recently announced that they were putting the company up for sale. In a statement, they said that “The board of Jimmy Choo announces today that it has decided to conduct a review of the various strategic options open to the company to maximise value for its shareholders and it is seeking offers for the company.”

It’s been reported that the company could be worth in the region of £700 million.

So why is JAB looking at disposing of a very successful fashion brand?

Recent acquisitions made by the company may give a clue.

JAB, the gigantic investment firm backed by the billionaire Reimann family has made a number of significant purchases recently.

They already have controlling interests in food and beverage brands such as Keurig Green Mountain, Douwe Egberts, and doughnut maker Krispy Kreme.

A few weeks ago they purchased the US bakery business, Panera Bread, for $7.5bn (£6bn).

It looks therefore like the owner of Jimmy Choo is more interested in concentrating on building up its food and beverage businesses than growing a high fashion business like Jimmy Choo.

I guess we’re unlikely to see doughnuts and Jimmy Choos in the same shop…

I’ve got too much on my plate to start dieting…

According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and more than 10% of the world’s population are now classified as obese.

In the UK, NHS obesity statistics suggest that nearly 60% of women and 70% of men are overweight.

The number of hospital admissions in the UK linked to obesity has increased 10 fold from 52,000 in 2006 to 520,000 in 2016.

Now whilst this obviously isn’t good news for the health of the individuals concerned it also raises challenges for businesses which are affected by this increase in weight.

Airlines for example will soon need to be looking at different sized seats or charging people over a certain weight for 2 seats.

Theatres and cinemas will also no doubt be reviewing seat sizes when the venues next come to be refurbished.

Clothing manufacturers will face higher average material costs and in the public sector, hospitals and ambulances will soon need to invest in stronger beds and stretchers to transport the larger patients.

According to recent reports for example, ambulance services in the UK are now having to purchase specialised ambulances costing significant amounts of money to transport the most obese patients. The London ambulance service has purchased 3 specialist bariatric ambulances and strechers which can take patients weighing up to 70 stone (444.5kg).

These ambulances aren’t cheap and can cost in excess of £100,000 each. Specialised heavy duty stretchers alone cost between £7,000 and £10,000 each.

These are some pretty significant costs and some people may argue that people should simply lose weight rather than rely on the National Health Service to fund these expenses.

Whether these people will get themselves down to the gym though is a different matter. Whilst there could clearly be an opportunity for businesses such as health clubs to try and target these individuals are they simply too busy to head to the gym and do they literally have too much on their plates to find the time?

KPMG fires unethical partners

Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.

You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.

Do you:

(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or

(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?

Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).

The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.

A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.

The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.

We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.

Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.

The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.

The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.

In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.

38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.

Not the brightest fraudster

There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.

Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.

Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.

If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.

This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.

His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.

Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.

These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.

Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.

He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.

He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.

He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.

Should you employ good-looking men?

That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.

Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.

The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.

This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.

Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.

Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”

He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”

He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.

Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.

A bit of a tpyo

We’ve all done it. Pressed the wrong key on the keyboard and before you know it you’ve sent an email or report with a typo in it.

Most of the time these are fairly harmless. This, together with spellcheck facilities means that normally it’s not a major problem if there’s the odd typo.

Unfortunately though, if you’re a software coder then a typo can have a major impact.

Cloud services are where companies store their data on remote servers held by companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

Last week, numerous websites which use Amazon’s cloud servers went down. These were major websites such as quora.com and soundcloud.com. Amazon subsequently revealed the problems were down to an employee who was trying to fix a software bug in a billing system but typed in the wrong string of characters.

Amazon said that “the command was intended to remove a small number of servers. Unfortunately, one of the inputs was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.”

Amazon quickly resolved the issue though and stated that they had “added safeguards to prevent capacity from being removed when it will take any subsystem below its minimum required capacity level. This will prevent an incorrect input from triggering a similar event in the future.”

There are lots of advantages of using cloud servers but as this illustration highlights there are also disadvantages.

How do you feel?

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people get sick. In the winter months especially, there can be a lot of cold and flu bugs going around.

But what percentage of working hours do you think are lost to sickness?

The ONS (Office of National statistics) in the UK has just released details of the number of sick days in 2016. The number of hours lost to sickness as a percentage of working hours was 1.9% or to put it another way, about 137 million working days were lost due to illness in the UK last year.

This may sound a lot but of the number of sick days taken has fallen over the last few years. Last year the average number of sick days per worker was 4.3 whereas when records began in 1993 it was 7.2 days per worker.

It looks like the fall in sick days could be down to a number of factors.

The economic downturn in the late 2000’s arguably caused people to “struggle on” through an illness rather than risk losing their job. Companies are also more flexible nowadays when it comes to letting people work from home. If someone isn’t feeling 100%, a lot of employers will let them work from home and even if they are not up to full speed at least they will be doing some work.

The details also show that there’s a difference between the public sector and the private sector. The percentage absenteeism in the public sector is 2.9% compared to 1.7% in the private sector.

The most common reasons for missing work last year included minor illnesses such as colds (25%), musculoskeletal problems such as back ache (22%), mental health problems including stress and depression (11.5%), stomach upsets (6.6%) and headaches and migraines (3.4%).

Your new (waggy tailed) baby

It’s a busy time for new parents when a baby comes along. Lots of employers give maternity and paternity leave for the new mums and dads but what about when your “baby” has 4 legs and a waggy tail?

Artisan Brewers BrewDog are a Scottish beer company who are very successful and sell their craft beers around the world.

They are also pretty unusual. They have grown from having two staff and two investors in 2007 to a current global team of in excess of 500. It has broken crowdfunding records with more than 32,000 shareholders.

More recently though, they became the first major company to offer their employees a week off if they get a new puppy. This will enable the humans to bond with their new pets without worrying that their work will suffer.

Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who themselves founded the company with their dog Bracken, said in a company statement that ‘Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both.

‘So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff help to settle a new furry family member into their home,’

If any employees are thinking of getting a new puppy, then they won’t be the first in the company with a dog.

As well as providing time off for new dog owners, BrewDog also allow their employees to take their pet dogs into the office and there are currently over 50 employees at their head office alone who take their dogs to the office every day.

Restaurants and children…

Nowadays more and more children are eating at restaurants with their parents. Whilst this can be great for the restaurateur, there can also be problems.

On the positive side, allowing children into restaurants with their parents should bring more family customers into the restaurant but on the negative side, if the children misbehave or run around causing chaos then some customers will be put off spending time in the restaurant.

If you head to a child friendly restaurant such as the fast food giant McDonalds then you would expect children to be children and to be loud, excitable and bouncing around.

But what about if you run an upmarket, select restaurant with clientele who are looking for a quiet time to relax over a good quality meal and fine wines. Boisterous children could damage the image and banning children from the restaurant would be a bit extreme.

Antonio Ferrari, the owner of an upmarket restaurant in Padua, Italy has come up with a novel approach to encouraging good behaviour amongst the junior member of families visiting for a meal.

He has introduced a “polite children discount” which offers 5% off of the bill if children are well behaved.

The Times newspaper quoted Mr Ferrari saying “We are not set up for kids – we have no crèche, the spaces are tight, bottles can be knocked over and we have a clientele that spends a bit of money to be tranquil while eating well.”

Has it been a success?

Well, one thing’s for sure and the discount hasn’t been offered that often.

In the 6 months the scheme has been active, there have only been 3 occasions the polite children discount has been offered.

Goodbye tax advisors?

Do you know anyone who works in tax?

If by any chance you are in Australia then if I ask you this question in 5 years’ time, as a result of Ailira the answer may well be “no, as no-one works in tax”.

“Who is Ailira?” I hear you say.

Ailira is the brainchild of Adelaide based tax lawyer Adrian Cartland and stands for “Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Resource Assistant”.

Mr Cartland created Ailira to help people with their tax affairs and believes that she could eventually replace human tax agents.

He told the Australian Business Review that “Your tax agents will probably be gone within five years”.

What was interesting was that although to a certain extent Ailira functions like a search engine, you can ask it tax questions in the same way that you would ask a person who works in tax.

Mr Cartland said that “The one thing we had difficulty with is that people are so used to doing keyword searches that they struggle to ask a question as you would to another human.

“So we did some upgrades of Ailira’s interface to encourage people to treat Ailira like a human, more in plain English.”

That’s an interesting phase “plain English” as anyone who has worked in tax or studied tax will appreciate that it’s not always possible to explain tax in plain English as the tax laws can be pretty complex.

Still, good luck to Mr Cartland and importantly, good luck to Ailira who by the sound of things may well be doing a lot of work in the future.

Unexpected delivery…

Traditional retailers are facing a lot of challenges nowadays.

If you’re selling items from a shop for example you’re facing the challenge of the ever-increasing number of people buying things online. Small retailers can find it hard to compete with the big players like Amazon who have the advantages of economy of scale and brand awareness.

In addition, some products are tricky to deliver.

Take wine for example. If you order a bottle or box of wine online and it’s delivered to you at home, what’s going to happen if you’re not in?

What’s going to happen to that box of wine if it’s left by your doorstep or with your thirsty alcoholic neighbour?

Garcon Wines, a London based vintner has come up with a novel approach to overcome this problem. They have introduced a wine subscription service which delivers wine in specially designed bottles which can be posted through the letter box.

The plastic bottles are long and slim, and come in post-box friendly sizes so after a hard day at the office you can return home and find that bottle of wine you’ve been looking for.

Admittedly, finding the wine in a plastic bottle in a cardboard box which has been posted through the letter box and is on the floor isn’t quite the same as being poured a nice glass of wine whilst relaxing in the sunshine on holiday but changing the packaging design to help with distribution is a nice idea by Garcon Wines.

I’m sure a lot of people will drink to that.

Should you be worried?

Last Friday it was the 13th and for a lot of people the 13th is considered to be an unlucky day.

“Friggatriskaidekaphobia” is the medical term for the fear of Friday the 13th and although it looks like the type of word that you’d get if your cat walked across your computer keyboard it affects a number of people and in extreme cases these individuals will refuse to leave their home on Friday the 13th.

Another tricky to pronounce word is “triskaidekaphobia”.

This is a fear of the number 13 and could have interesting implications for the valuation of property.

A report recently released highlights that if you’re thinking of buying a property in the UK then you may well be able to pick up a bargain if the property address has a number 13 in it.

According to a survey by property website Zoopla, the current average value of a house in the UK with the number 13 in it is £291,038.

This is nearly £9,000 less than the average property value of £300,012.

It’s also been reported that more a quarter of UK streets don’t have a number 13 address as some local authorities have banned the use of number 13 in new housing developments.

So, whilst people who currently own properties with 13 in the address may feel a bit cheated, if you don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia and are looking for a potential bargain then the £9,000 saving could be quite attractive.

Not very ethical…

When is a bribe not a bribe?

US bank JP Morgan Chase thought they had the answer to this question. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for all the hard-working ethical people out there..), the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department saw through their plans and found them guilty of violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

JP Morgan designed a scheme which they hoped would help them win lucrative contracts in China.

Their plan was to offer highly paid jobs to individuals who were not qualified for those particular jobs.

“Why would you pay excessive amounts of salary to people who weren’t capable of doing their job?” I hear you say.

Well, the answer was that those people they were going to pay the high salaries to were relatives or friends of government officials and those officials were in a position to offer lucrative contracts to JP Morgan.

So, in summary if JP Morgan had offered money directly to the state officials it would clearly have been a bribe. Instead, they thought they could get away with it by paying excess salary to family and friends of the officials. Over a period of 7 years, approximately 100 interns and full-time employees were employed who were connected to foreign government officials.

This enabled JP Morgan to win or retain $100 million in revenue.

A clever plan. Or at least they thought it was.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department thought otherwise though and started investigations back in 2013.

The Department of Justice called the scheme “bribery by any other name” and at the end of the investigation JP Morgan had to pay $264 million to settle the claims.

In the end, a highly unethical and very expensive way to try to win and retain clients.