You’re Hired: Perth apprentice tops charts for business support


Christie Duff (21), a modern apprentice who works at Perth based MDG Group, has placed second in a nationwide contest run by computing giant Microsoft.Christie Runner up

The Microsoft Modern Apprentice of the Year attracted over 1000 entries with fierce competition to make it to the shortlist of just nine candidates from across Scotland. For the former Bell Baxter High School student, however, her 18 months’ tenure at MDG Group in Perth had stood her in good stead and she placed runner up in her award category of Business Support.

The Microsoft Modern Apprentice of the Year Awards recognise the importance of Modern Apprenticeships to Scotland’s economy. Each year over 25,000 people start a modern apprenticeship combining academic qualifications with on the job training. It is estimated by Skills Development Scotland that 92% of modern apprentices are still in full time work 6 months after completing their apprenticeship.

Christie’s route to Modern Apprentice started when she completed an SVQ Level 3 in Business Administration at Perth College and joined MDG under the watchful eyes of YouTrain, a Scottish based provider of training and apprenticeship solutions. Now, having worked at MDG Group for 18 months and completed her apprenticeship, Christie has already been promoted to the role of Account Manager within the business and is continuing her career progression working for one of Scotland’s leading business cost consultancies.

Managing Director of MDG Group, Douglas Reid, said:

“Christie was our first ever Modern Apprentice and she has really impressed us all with her energy and talent. She has made a real contribution to our business and we were not surprised she made the shortlist. We’re delighted she’s staying with us and we will continue to develop her talent as the company grows.”

For more information on MDG Group visit


m3 Networks has 7 year itch to grow

Perth based IT support company, m3 Networks, has announced it is on plan to support over 1000 PCs by the end of the year, leading to new job creation and further expansion of their premises in Perth.

Supporting 110 locations for 89 different businesses, m3 Networks currently employs a team of 9 people and has ambition to become the biggest IT support company in Scotland over the next 10 years. Their biggest client has already rolled out use of their services at all 14 of their sites across the UK and the Perth-based IT support company is already signing up cost-savvy London customers who are taking advantage of technological advances to source their IT support from outwith the M25.

Founded seven years ago this week, m3 Networks was established by entrepreneurs Mark Riddell, Mark Lamb and Mary Brodie, all of who had been made redundant from their respective roles just as the UK plunged into a deep recession from which it is only now, seven years later, emerging. Named after the initials in the three directors’ first names, m3 Networks has grown its turnover sevenfold in seven years, and now provides managed IT support to business across the UK.

Mark Riddell, Managing Director of m3 Networks, explained their growth strategy:

“I’ve always believed that you should behave like the type of company you want to be and, as such, m3 Networks has invested in its market leading support infrastructure right from the outset, using systems often reserved for companies considerably bigger than us, but which give us a real competitive edge in our market. As we have grown this approach has paid dividends. Simply by putting smart technology into our business we have been able to expand geographically and support businesses right across the UK.”

From its very first clients taking a chance on a fledgling IT company that started overnight when Caledonian Computer Solutions in Perth closed its doors in 2009, a passion for putting the customer first and exceptional attention to customer service, have underpinned the growth of m3 Networks.

Mark commented:

“Customer service is vitally important in our industry. The biggest complaint most businesses have about their IT provider is that they don’t communicate. We take a proactive approach to managing our customers’ technology setups and our customer satisfaction ratings are consistently over 30% higher than industry averages as a result.”

Based out of Inveralmond Business Centre in Perth, m3 Networks recently expanded its footprint in the building, taking on additional space to accommodate the growth in team and projected growth over the coming year.

“This has been a strong year of growth for m3 Networks and we’re looking forward to what 2017 has to bring. After seven successful years in business, we’re just itching to get onto the next period of growth, expanding the team and continuing to expand.”

For more information about m3 Networks visit

Photo credit: Phil Lidstone Photography

How to keep your cool in the office when temperatures soar

As the country gets ready for a last-minute bout of summer heat, employers should be taking a good look at temperatures inside the office, says Tayside based solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry.

Those heading to work as temperatures soar may well be asking themselves: How hot is too hot? And that applies to commutes to work, as well as the workplace.

The benchmark often given is that people work best in temperatures between 16°C and 24°C, but in the UK there is no fixed minimum or maximum temperature requirement for the workplace, says Miller Hendry.  Instead, the Health & Safety Executive says that the temperature should be ‘reasonable’.  Defining whether a temperature is reasonable, however, will depend on the type of work and workplace.  It means that an office where workers are generally sitting down will need to be warmer than a factory where strenuous manual labour is going on. Similarly, a food cold store or a bakery will each take temperatures to extremes that wouldn’t be reasonable in other environments, and may require protective clothing.

Alan Matthew, employment expert with Miller Hendry, said: “For any company that doesn’t have a clear policy on extreme weather, which covers everything from summer heatwaves to winter snowstorms, this hot spell is another prompt to undertake risk management in this area. What comes out of that will determine any special provisions that may be needed.

“What’s important is having a clear policy that everyone knows about and then being consistent in how it is applied. It doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly the same for everyone, as some groups may need special treatment, but it needs to be fair.”

Here is Miller Hendry’s advice for dealing with temperatures in and on the way to the office:

Make provisions for employees getting to work Generally, hot weather shouldn’t be a reason to avoid travelling to work, but public transport does occasionally grind to a halt in extreme temperatures and it’s worth having a policy in place so that staff know what they should do if cancellations are expected or delays happen. As with working conditions, for some groups of workers it may be appropriate to make special provisions.

Take into account special cases Special consideration should be made for anyone who may experience greater problems in extreme temperatures because of medical or other conditions. If someone is pregnant or on medication, they may need more frequent rest breaks and be given a personal solution, such as a portable fan or air cooling unit, if there is no fixed air conditioning.  Similarly, those working under direct sunlight or in specialist protective clothing may need special consideration, as working outside without adequate protection may increase the risk of skin cancer and working in heavy protective clothing could increase the risk of dehydration.

Encourage wellbeing It’s important to avoid dehydration in hot weather so it’s a good idea to make sure there is easy access to drinking water and to encourage staff to swap their morning coffee for a cool drink.  The average recommended daily water intake of 2 litres for women and 2.5 litres for men should be increased during heatwaves. It’s also worth reminding everyone to avoid heavy meals and to stay out of the midday sun, both of which can lead to health issues such as plummeting blood pressure or sun stroke.

Tempers can rise too And finally, it’s worth making sure that managers watch out for tempers that rise together with the temperature. The connection between hotter than average weather and higher levels of aggression is generally acknowledged, even if the reason why it happens is still up for debate, with physiological and psychological reasons in the mix. At the other extreme, high temperatures can mean a loss of concentration and increased tiredness, making workers more likely to put themselves or others at risk.

Alan Matthew added: “Also, for companies with a strict dress policy, it may be worth considering offering a dress-down option during hot weather. It doesn’t have to mean you end up with a beach code but it could make a major difference to comfort levels for staff, which will have a direct impact on the dynamics in the workplace.”

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends the following temperatures for different working areas:

  • Heavy work in factories: 13°C
  • Light work in factories: 16°C
  • Hospital wards and shops: 18°C
  • Offices and dining rooms: 20°C

For further employment law or other legal advice visit


Five stars for exceptional Famous Grouse Experience


Crieff-based distillery and Visitor Experience of the Year, The Famous Grouse Experience, has again been awarded five stars after a recent VisitScotland assessment found Scotland’s oldest working distillery to be ‘exceptional’.

The five-star rating has been awarded after two years of investment at the traditional distillery, which prides itself on being the only place in Scotland to still produce malt whisky using the traditional hand mashing process. In 2014, a £250,000 refurbishment of key visitor areas was given the Royal seal of approval after it was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In early 2015, The Famous Grouse Experience achieved its prestigious WorldHost status, a globally recognised training programme for outstanding customer service.

VisitScotland have been conducting Quality Assurance testing on Scottish tourist attractions, accommodation and restaurants since 1995 and covers all areas of a visitor experience, from pre-arrival to catering, retail and toilets. In order to be awarded the highest ranking of five-stars, visitor attractions must score above 85%.

Commenting on the fantastic achievement, The Famous Grouse Experience General Manager, Stuart Cassells, who joined Glenturret Distillery in 2014 and has picked up the accolade of Whisky Experience Manager of the Year along the way, said:

“I’m absolutely delighted that VisitScotland has again officially awarded The Famous Grouse Experience five stars for being outstanding and exceptional in every area of our business. I’m hugely proud of the team here, who go above and beyond on a daily basis to give our visitors the very best experience.

Stuart continued:

“We’ve worked incredibly hard over the last couple of years to make sure our customer experience isn’t just five-star but exceeds our visitor’s expectations. The fact that we were scored so highly in all our offerings, from our distillery tours to our shop, as well as our café-restaurant, really shows that we provide our visitors a really exceptional experience across the board, putting us on the map as one of Scotland’s must-visit tourist attractions.”

It is not just VisitScotland who have recognised The Famous Grouse Experience’s commitment to providing visitors with a world-class experience, having recently been named ASVA Visitor Experience of the Year 2015. With three UK Icons of Whisky Awards, a commendation in the Global Icons of Whisky Awards and a second-year-running TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, it would seem its five-stars all round for the Perthshire distillery.

For more information or to visit The Famous Grouse Experience visit

In today’s sharing economy, do we share the same views on workers’ rights?

With the success of ride hailing app Uber – a pioneer of the new ‘sharing economy’ – comes a conundrum, according to Tayside solicitor and estate agent Miller Hendry: What happens when society doesn’t share the concept of workers’ rights?

American-born company Uber, which operates in 13 U.K. cities including Glasgow and Edinburgh, has won attention for revolutionising the taxi business worldwide. But it is now grabbing headlines for different reasons, following legal action by drivers claiming workers’ rights. And it’s a problem that other employers could face as they rely on ever-flexible workforces made up of consultants, contractors and freelancers.

The GMB Union brought the action on behalf of a group of Uber drivers, described as self-employed ‘partners’ by Uber. The action argues that as Uber pays the drivers and effectively controls charging rates and the route taken, they owe the same responsibility as any employer does to its workers, including the minimum wage, paid leave and making sure drivers take rest breaks. If successful, Uber could be forced to compensate drivers for past payments, as well as future.

Anything Uber-related attracts attention, following its meteoric worldwide growth, but the problem highlighted is one that UK companies need to consider as they seek efficiencies in staffing, warns Miller Hendry.

Many organisations do not recognise that even where someone is not an employee, they may still be categorised as a ‘worker’ and be entitled to certain rights such as the minimum wage and paid holiday. Employees are also ‘workers’, but with extra employment rights and responsibilities. To tackle the problem, the Government has launched an online tool to help employers and individuals to identify their status.

The definition of a worker in the Working Time Regulations 1998 is someone who works under a contract of employment, or any other express or implied contract, to provide work or services personally for a reward and who cannot send someone else to carry out the task. There are some exceptions on sub-contracting of work, and also where services are provided by an individual through a limited company. However, it means that many casual, freelance or self-employed workers may be treated as workers.

In one case that reached the Employment Appeal Tribunal, a self-employed joiner working exclusively for a firm of building contractors was found to be a worker, despite providing his own hand-tools and paying his own tax and national insurance.

Similarly, many think that calling someone an intern will confer a special status, but it’s much more likely they too will be a ‘worker’ or an employee. So, what counts when deciding whether an intern is due to be paid?

* If someone is acting as a shadow, watching someone at work, and not undertaking anything on their own that could be seen to be of benefit to the company, they are not likely to be a worker

* If they can come and go as they please, and are not required to do a certain amount of work, they may not be classified as a worker. A shorter term placement is also likely to support this.

* If they are a student and undertaking work experience of less than a year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course, they are exempt from the national minimum wage, although the Government is encouraging all employers to pay interns irrespectively.

* Voluntary workers may not be entitled to the minimum wage if they’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation, associated fund-raising body or a statutory body and they receive only limited benefits such as travel or lunch expenses

Said employment law expert Alan Matthew of Miller Hendry, with offices in Dundee, Perth and Crieff: “When employers come up with different ways of contracting for services and staffing to make efficiencies, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for workers, who may themselves be seeking greater flexibility, for example. However, both sides need to be clear. What’s important is recognising that the way that the company and an individual interact will determine the outcome on employment status, rather than simply the title that’s given to someone.

“It’s a complex area, and even something that seems clear-cut may not prove to be so – such as a case where someone working through an agency has been able to satisfy the conditions for employed status. If it reaches an employment tribunal, they will be looking at the intentions of both sides, as well as whether a person provides their own equipment, has some form of financial risk or is integrated into the business.”

For further advice or information on employment law or other legal issues, visit

Perthshire marketing firm Volpa shortlisted in The Courier business awards


Perth-based integrated communications agency Volpa has been shortlisted in The Courier Business Awards as Small Business of the Year.

Volpa joins four other finalists in the category and more than 50 of East Central Scotland’s cream of the business crop.

The news follows a string of success and accolades for Volpa, set up in 2002 by Perth serial entrepreneur and marketer Tricia Fox. It was recently ranked as one of the top 50 small independent marketing agencies in the U.K. in a census by the Recommended Agency Register (RAR) and The Drum magazine. Volpa came in at number 44, a jump of 66 places in a year. And in a win for agencies north of the border, Volpa was the top Scottish agency in its category.

Volpa was also recently shortlisted for two Chartered Institute of Public Relations PRide Awards, for Outstanding Small Public Relations Consultancy and Integrated Campaign for its work on The Enchanted Forest sound and light show that takes place each October near Pitlochry. Volpa has also made the shortlist for Marketing Strategy of the Year in The Drum Scottish Event Awards for The Enchanted Forest.

Volpa, which promises its clients cunningly good publicity, is celebrating a year of growth both with clients and staff. It provides public relations, marketing, digital and design services to clients that include The Famous Grouse Experience, Scone Palace, Inveralmond Brewery, St. Andrews Aquarium, Culture Perth and Kinross, the Crieff Hydro group of hotels, Horsecross Arts, Stirling Venues and Scottish Squash.

Now with a team of 12, Volpa has tripled its staff in 18 months. This year alone the firm has taken on five new members of staff including Yomego’s Steve Richards, who was appointed to enhance its digital offering. The award-winning agency also celebrated its 8th year of being listed in the national Recommended Agency Register (RAR) of marketing suppliers with an impressive 14 services receiving recommendation from clients.

The ceremony for The Courier Business Awards, sponsored by Henderson Loggie, takes place on October 29. In the newspaper’s 200th anniversary year, it is promising the biggest and best event yet, to take place in Dundee.

Tricia Fox, Founder and Managing director of Volpa, said:

“This latest shortlisting from The Courier is testament to our growth this year, both in terms of staff and clientele. This has been Volpa’s busiest year yet and we look forward to another exceptional year delivering our unique marketing and communications service to growing roster of clients.”


Crieff Highland Gathering boosted by Crieff Succeeds BID

Sunday’s Crieff Highland Gathering was not only a success for the local community, it was proof that Crieff Succeeds BID – an initiative to boost the town’s business and culture – is working.

The Crieff Succeeds BID donated £3,000 to the Crieff Highland Gathering as part of its commitment to support community projects, from the arts to business grants.

The grant money helped pay for the pipe bands which appeared at Sunday’s event, and is part of a £10,000 payout this year by the town’s new business development organisation. Crieff Succeeds BID plans to invest a further £70,000 in grants with local event organisers over the next four years of the BID

This year alone has seen Crieff Succeeds BID award £3,000 to Crieff Science Festival and almost £2,000 to Kids’ Week, which took place in Crieff last month. As well as supporting Crieff Highland Gathering, Crieff BID has awarded £2,200 to the Crieff Arts Festival, £610 to Crieff Hogmanay and is in discussion to support the  Drovers’ Tryst Walking Festival.

Alan Rankin, Interim Manager at Crieff Succeeds BID, said the organisation welcomed more applications:

“Crieff Succeeds BID is all about promoting Crieff to new audiences across Scotland and putting our town and all it has to offer in the spotlight. We were delighted to see our grant money being put to good use last weekend to support Crieff Highland Gathering and we welcome applications from more events and businesses who are doing good things for Crieff.”

Those wishing to submit an application should email


The Famous Grouse Experience shortlisted for Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Business of the Year

The Famous Grouse Experience at Glenturret Distillery has been shortlisted at the 2016 Courier Business Awards in the Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Business of the Year category.

The prestigious award recognises businesses across Dundee, Perthshire and Fife who show exceptional commitment to the region, encouraging service excellence and a dedication to adding value to the area. With over 80,000 visitors a year, The Famous Grouse Experience showcases a vibrant combination of whisky heritage, Scottish culture and exceptional food, drink and entertainment at their picturesque site at Glenturret Distillery in Crieff.

It has been a busy year for Scotland’s most popular whisky visitor attraction, who have been recognised by ASVA as Best Visitor Experience 2015 and Icons of Whisky for Best Whisky Experience 2015. The last 12 months has seen the introduction of a new range of Tasting Experiences, as well as an increased retail offering in the successful ‘Famous Shop’ and the partnership with local caterers Wilde Thyme flourish in the Café-Restaurant.

Stuart Cassells, General Manager at The Famous Grouse Experience, said:

“We’re delighted to be shortlisted for the Courier Business Awards and acknowledged for our commitment to both the tens of thousands of visitors we welcome every year and the region we call home. To be recognised in the Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Business of the Year category is a real testament to the hard work of everybody who makes The Famous Grouse Experience what it is, from the tour guides, retail staff to the excellent service in our Café-Restaurant.”

The team at The Famous Grouse Experience will have to wait until October 29th when the winners will be announced at a glittering award ceremony at Dundee’s Apex City Quay Hotel.

For more information or to visit The Famous Grouse Experience visit


Enchanted Forest reveals new creative talent behind shimmering new show

If you caught this year’s Edinburgh Festival opening ceremony, you’ll have got a taster of another of Scotland’s favourite annual spectacles: The Enchanted Forest.

Perthshire’s multi-award-winning sound and light show in the woods is set to shimmer this October with its most ambitious display to date. Among the creative talent is 59 Productions, the team behind the Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time, which launched this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. The spectacular public artwork saw Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock transformed into a vast canvas for digitally animated projections inspired by the city’s past and set to a specially compiled soundtrack by rock band Mogwai.

Now in its 15th year, The Enchanted Forest sound and light show at Faskally Wood, Pitlochry prides itself on raising the creative bar with a changing theme each year. While the details of this year’s show, SHIMMER, are still under wraps, visitors can expect a host of new creative talent and shimmering displays including a larger-than-life character and a walk-through ‘wall’ of light.

59 Productions, one of the UK’s leading digital animation companies, has opened the last two Edinburgh Festivals. Other credits include the War Horse musical and the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. 59 Productions is working on a projection which, promises creative director Leo Warner, will stay close to the theme of an enchanted wood. For Leo it’s a welcome return to the Pitlochry area. 59 Productions’ very first video installation featured at Pitlochry Festival Theatre in 2003.

Vision Mechanics, a Leith-based design agency with clients that include National Museum of Scotland and Scottish Opera, is behind one of the larger-than-life characters that will appear at this year’s show, designed by creative director Kim Bergsagel. “We build big stuff and we try and make interactivity an element so people can get involved,” said Symon Macintyre of Vision Mechanics. One of Vision Mechanics’ most recent art projects, Drift, was installed on beaches in Norway and recreated the feelings of being adrift and alone at sea, inspired by the true story of Betty Mouat, a Shetland crofter who was cast adrift in the North Sea for eight days.

Also involved in this year’s Enchanted Forest are digital artists Squidsoup, who are building an immersive, walk-through light installation that builds on previous works they have exhibited around the world. “My background is in digital media but I’ve always been frustrated by the screen and the fact that you can’t go in there and touch anything,” explained Anthony Rowe, founder and creative director of Squidsoup.

This year’s Enchanted Forest event, which runs from Thursday 29th September to Friday 30th October, is led by the multi-award-winning creative team of Derek Allan as producer and creative director, Kate Bonney and Simon Hayes as lighting designers, and RJ McConnell and Jon Beales providing sound design and composition. Last year the show attracted a record 62,000 visitors and smashed box office records. This year, more than 65,000 tickets went on sale. Organisers The Enchanted Forest Community Trust are advising customers to book early to avoid disappointment.

The event, which extended its season due to popular demand, brings in an estimated £2 million to the local economy. It was recently shortlisted in two categories of the Scottish Event Awards, and beat off stiff competition from Scotland’s top tourism businesses to win the coveted Scottish Rural Award for Tourism & Hospitality 2016.

Ian Sim, acting chairman of The Enchanted Forest, said:

“The exciting, and challenging, thing about The Enchanted Forest is that it changes theme each year. We’re particularly proud of the creativity that is going into the SHIMMER show. We think this will definitely light up the woods and we encourage both locals and tourists to make the trip to The Enchanted Forest to witness the magic for themselves.”

For more information and to book tickets visit

Shot in the arm to Crieff Highland Gathering is latest community boost by Crieff Succeeds BID

The Crieff Succeeds BID is continuing its support of local community events with a £3,000 shot in the arm for the Crieff Highland Gathering, which takes place this Sunday 21st August.

The grant money issued by Crieff Succeeds BID, which will contribute to funding the pipe bands who are appearing at Sunday’s event, is the latest in a £10,000 payout this year by the town’s new business development organisation and a planned £80,000 in community event and business grants over the next five years.

This year alone has seen Crieff Succeeds BID award £3000 to Crieff Science Festival and almost £2000 to Kids’ Week, which took place in Crieff last month. As well as supporting Crieff Highland Gathering, Crieff BID plans to donate £2,200 to the Crieff Arts Festival, £610 to Crieff Hogmanay and £100 to Drovers’ Tryst Walking Festival.

Alan Rankin, project leader at Crieff Succeeds BID, said the organisation welcomed more applications:

“Crieff Succeeds BID is all about promoting Crieff to new audiences across Scotland and putting our town and all it has to offer in the spotlight. We’re delighted to see our grant money being put to good use this weekend to support Crieff Highland Gathering and we welcome applications from more events and businesses who are doing good things for Crieff.”

Those wishing to submit an application should email