Updated 20.04.20 at 9:00am

Businesses and the people who make them are really up against it right now. There’s no doubt that it’s a challenging time.

Whether you’re an SME, larger business or an organisation within the creative or arts arenas, new, much-needed support is being brought to the table daily.

To make it easier to navigate the support landscape, we will be providing updates on the information and resources available that can support your business. Keep checking back to stay up to date.

Support for small businesses

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

  • This scheme will help any viable businesses with a turnover of up to £45m to access government-backed finance of up to £5m, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees.Businesses can access the first six months of that finance interest-free, as the government will cover the first six months of interest payments. The scheme is available through more than 40 accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website.
  • https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/

Venture accelerator (our scheme)

  • At Agent we are part of European Regional Development Fund, which offers free support to small businesses in the Liverpool City Region. We can offer a variety of different options to support your business through the funding. If you’d like to find out more information, please email george@agentmarketing.co.uk.

Future Fund

  • The ‘Future Fund’ loan scheme is aimed at high-growth early stage companies and set to run from May to September. The government will commit an initial £250m with the private sector set to contribute the other £250m.
  • Companies can apply for loans of £125,000 to £5m. To qualify, they must have raised £250,000 privately in the last five years. Any contributed government money must be matched by private investors.
  • If the money is not repaid, the loans will automatically convert to equity in a start-up’s next funding round.
  • You can find out more information, here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund

£750m R&D Fund

  • The R&D fund will be a £750m pot for SMEs focusing on research and development and will be issued as loans and grants by innovation agency Innovate UK.
  • The first payments are expected to be made in mid-May.
  • You can find out more information, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk

Support for larger businesses

Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

  • This scheme is a cost-effective way to raise working capital for companies experiencing severe disruption to their cashflow. It is open to firms that can demonstrate they were in sound financial health prior to the coronavirus pandemic.https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2020/march/the-covid-corporate-financing-facility

General advice and guidance

Liverpool City Council

  • Liverpool City Council is offering a wide range of advice and various schemes including the Retail and Hospitality grant scheme where up to £25k is available. You can find out more information here: https://liverpool.gov.uk/covidbusiness

MSB Solicitors

  • MSB can offer advice on a wide range of issues, including guidance for employers and businesses, as well as individuals who are concerned about their employment rights. You can find out more, here: https://www.msbsolicitors.co.uk

National Cyber Security Centre

  • The team at the National Cyber Security Centre is offering free advice on how you can prepare your organisation and staff for working remotely, as well as advice for spotting COVID-19 scam emails. Read more, here: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/home-working

High Performance Consultancy

Arts Council Funding

  • The Arts Council is making £160m of emergency funding available for those organisations and individuals who will need it during this crisis, It has also changed the funding requirements for individuals and organisations currently in receipt of its funding. You can find out more information, here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19

Growth Platform

Form Studio

  • Funding awarded for new national digital learning programme
  • Award-winning CIC develops new platform, SWITCH, to help people into jobs
  • Funding awarded as part of the Department for Education and Nesta’s CareerTech Challenge

North West-based, award-winning learning organisation, Agent Academy CIC, has been awarded £150,000 by innovation foundation, Nesta and the Department for Education, to expand its existing offer nationally, supporting those whose jobs are at risk across the UK through an innovative online platform.

Research by Nesta suggests that more than six million people in the UK are currently employed in occupations that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear by 2030 due to automation, population aging, urbanisation and the rise of the green economy. It has also been found that the coronavirus crisis has intensified the importance of this problem. Recent warnings suggest that a prolonged lockdown could result in 6.5 million people losing their jobs. Of these workers, nearly 80% do not have a university degree.

Agent Academy delivers industry-designed, action learning programmes for young people, aged between 18 and 25, who find themselves, post-further/higher education, without the skills to begin their careers in the digital, creative or tech industry.  Alongside industry training, participants work on a real-life client brief, offering a practical approach to learning to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running and successfully kick-start their future careers.

This funding will allow Agent Academy to develop a dynamic online training platform, Switch, taking elements of its existing programme and translating them digitally with a range of new features, to support people over the age of 25 and without an existing degree throughout England. Agent Academy will design and develop unique personalised learning content delivered through a digital platform, using “real world” scenarios to increase employability of learners through automatically generated work portfolios that can be attached to the user’s CV.

Zoe Wallace, director of Agent Academy, said:

The accelerating development of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics, is expected to have a more dramatic impact on people’s jobs in almost every sector. We want to transform retraining and upskilling to prepare adults for the changing world of work.

Over the past six years Agent Academy’s various programmes have served hundreds of learners to gain the skills and experience to move into the digital sector, generating over £2.7 million in annual salaries; it is individually empowering and transformational for the industry. Now, we are creating a platform to achieve these outcomes at scale.

We want this to be the platform of choice nationally, for learners to get the skills and support needed to make the switch from an at-risk career into a digital and creative career.

The funding has been awarded as part of the Department for Education and Nesta’s CareerTech Challenge, supporting the National Retraining Scheme, in which grants were offered to those who could devise innovative solutions to support people who will be hit the hardest by an insecure job market over the coming years.

Through the platform, users will have the opportunity to work on real client challenges set by high profile brands, which they will be able to add to their portfolio, helping improve their chances of employment.

Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Nesta’s Executive Director of People and Performance said:

In these unprecedented times we want to help people understand which skills will be in demand in the future, and learn new skills to secure employment. We are excited to work with Agent Academy who already have demonstrable track record in delivering quality courses for the marketing profession, and support them to provide their innovative programmes to a new audience.

User engagement, consultation and design has begun, with the new digital platform set to launch this summer. To register for early access, visit learnwithswitch.co.uk.

With a large team, collaboration and co-creation are key to everything that we do. Staying connected with each other and being aware of the work others are doing is vitally important, as work inspired by the ideas of 25 minds, is often stronger than that which is done by one individual.

As we all adapt to the challenges of distributed working, this is especially true. it’s important to ensure that we all stay aware of what is going on across the business. Particularly as many of our client projects rely on a number of different Agents, working simultaneously on different elements of the same project.

This year, we have introduced a series of new internal initiatives, to ensure that everyone in the team has the chance to both share the great work that they’re doing, but also has the opportunity to share knowledge, insights and ideas.

Briefings at Breakfast.

One of the initiatives we’ve added to the Agent diary is Briefings at Breakfast, otherwise known as BABs. This is a fortnightly, 10-minute presentation or talk given by one of the team, on whichever topic they choose (usually whilst the rest of the team are having a Danish).

The topics can be directly related to their discipline or just something that they find interesting or are passionate about. The aim of this is to make sure that as a business, we are sharing our knowledge with those we work with. This is hardly a new idea of course…cough…TED. But, it’s invaluable experience for the Agent presenting and a good opportunity to share the vast array of knowledge and interests that we have across the team. The hope is that some of these talks help spark ideas that can improve or inform our work in the future.

Also, it not often that you’re required to stand in front of 25 of your peers to tell them a story or to teach them something new. For some people this would be the most daunting thing you could ask them to do. But a big part of our work is helping our clients to tell their stories and to do so in a way that captures the imagination, so it’s great practice.

If you were asked to give a guest talk for 10 minutes to a crowded room on something that fascinated you, what topic would you pick?

Choosing a topic to talk about can also be tricky. We all have interests and things we find fascinating, but how many of these could we talk coherently about for 10 minutes? If you were asked to give a guest talk, what topic would you pick?

There are only three rules for the talks;

  • 10 minutes (maximum)
  • Slides must be images only
  • You can’t present work that you’ve done

These rules were put in place so that for those who would find this task easy it’s a bit tougher, and those who find it tough it becomes a little easier.

Following each talk, our presenters will be writing a blog that summaries their presentation and has some key takeaways that we will share here on our website. So, look out for them and if you want to know more or are interested in a particular talk, get in touch and we’d be happy to share more.

At Agent we’re all still very much working hard to maintain business as usual, via our virtual HQs. For now, our BABs have also shifted online. Staying connected and communicating constantly across the whole team is more important now than ever. Ensuring that we are doing so both for work purposes, but just as importantly, socially as a team is fundamental to how we work.

We look forward to sharing our BABs insights with you!

Flashback to June 2017, I had just graduated from the University of Manchester with an Architecture degree in hand, without much idea what to do with it. My passion for what I thought Architecture was, (three years prior), was somewhat naïve – eventually leading me to a sure-fire decision that I didn’t want to train for another four years to be fully qualified. While Uni is a great experience that gives lifelong friends, it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to figure out exactly what you want in life, and how to get there.

After applying for a variety of design related roles for a while, I had an internal chat with myself and a few career meetings to realign my creative path to focus purely on Graphic Design opportunities. I always loved branding and typography more than anything in the creative realm; this was the road I knew I had to walk.

Following a year-long journey of self-improvement and realignment of my skills through internships in the northwest, I had a solid, fresh, portfolio to hit the job market with. Here I come! Almost immediately, I found there was a lot less of a struggle in landing interviews in London, which conveniently tied into my idea of a new chapter in my life.

London

This brings us to October 2018, when I made the jump to what was going to be an exciting, culture shocking, expensive, value gaining, life lesson learning extravaganza!

I was living a comic book nerds dream, designing DC and Star Trek graphic novels for a large publisher in West London. While my first proper job was teaching me a lot in the design world, I was slowly learning valuable life lessons from the harsh reality of living in the busy capital. Eleven months, four flat moves, barely any savings and zero new friends later, I realised I was in a bit of a funk. In a way, I escaped to London for a fresh start and by staying there any longer, I was choosing an opportunity over happiness. Now came the decision to choose what was best for me, not my CV. I realised everything I needed for a happy life was available at home, with half the price and time taken!

Once back in Liverpool, I was fortunately, able to freelance for my employer in London whilst working from home and job hunting. I knew it was going to be difficult to land a job in a much smaller creative industry, so I had to put time into learning new skills like UI and motion design. A multitude of applications and interviews later, I clicked with the Agent family, who saw my potential and took me off the market. Woohoo!

I’m on my tenth week now, and it’s safe to say it’s been the most amazing and unique experience I’ve ever had in my employment history (bearing in mind I was used to an office in London where you only chat with four people out of 120). Within the Agent family, there is a strong sense of teamwork and helping each other learn and grow, both skill and personality-wise. The culture and environment really brings the inner extrovert out of you and helps with so much self-improvement.

Agent

I love that everyone makes the effort to get to know one another and there is real sense of team spirit. Now to make things even more interesting, our team is in our fifth week of working from home due to COVID-19. Having already worked from home, I’m having a bit of de-ja-vu! As a team, we make sure communication and wellbeing is a priority. We video call each other every day and make sure we virtually keep the office culture alive.

Looking back at my journey from graduation to today, I’m extremely proud of the challenges I’ve overcome and the decisions I’ve made to chase happiness and do what I love for a living. For now, I’m taking a break from my nomadic journeys and staying in Liverpool. I can see clearly how much I’ll develop as a designer and a human being over the next few years with the Agent family, and I can’t wait for it all to unfold.

At Agent, the mental health and wellbeing of our Agents is of upmost importance. That’s one of the reasons we treat our Agents to monthly massages, give them access to flexible working hours, and even have Leo, the office dog as our Head of Security.

However, following Government advice, the Agents, like many people in the UK, and indeed across the World, have now been forced to work from home, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This puts many of us in an unfamiliar situation, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

In this blog, Mind lists five ways to wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn and give, and I think there’s plenty more that we can take on board from this during our time WFH (working from home). So, here are some useful tips from Agent on how to adapt and remain productive, positive and overall less anxious during difficult times.

1. Be social (virtually)

We love being social at Agent, we encourage meet ups to discuss our work, love learning from one another, and sharing our expertise. We also enjoy frequent team lunches, nights out and away days.

In the current situation however, staying connected has become more of a challenge, and although it’s business as usual as far as our work is concerned, it has become more important than ever that the team stays connected whilst physically distancing themselves.

Agent HQ may be closed for now, but we are very much open for business as usual, using email, phone and various project management systems to communicate effectively with our clients and each other.

We’ve therefore adapted and become more creative about how we communicate, utilising tools such as Microsoft Teams to run our meetings. Remember, we’re all in this together, so we’re taking extra care to ensure that we’re all doing okay, plus the video calling makes for a much-welcomed laugh together.

2. Be active

We already know that regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, and that’s why we have bikes at Agent HQ for Agents to use when desired.

Being confined to the space at home may stop us from staying active for now – but the team has been sharing home workout tips with each other in our WhatsApp group.

In the past, we have practiced yoga and Pilates as a group, so we’re more than prepared to get creative about finding ways to stay active. Many gyms have now closed down, but don’t worry as many of them are now offering classes via video call.

3. Be mindful

The Agents recently completed our mindfulness training with Mindfit, learning how to pay attention to the present moment, to your own thoughts and feelings, and the environment around us, and how that can improve mental well-being.

Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ of your environment and others can directly enhance well-being and improve the way you work. At Agent HQ we have several ‘break-out’ areas, mood lighting, plants on our desks and more to ensure the space is comfortable, inviting, and ultimately somewhere the team enjoys working.

As we work from home it’s therefore important to create a healthy home-working environment, so get a plant for your workspace, or have a ‘clear the clutter’ day, consider lighting and sound – create whatever space you need to succeed.

4. Be structured

A sudden change in working environment or schedule can be disrupting, so practice setting goals, this will help to limit distractions and keep you on track. If you struggle to create clear boundaries between work and home life at the best of times, then what happens when both of these are taking place under the same roof? Try where possible to keep all work in one place and create separate spaces for work and leisure.

It’s also worth trying to follow your ordinary routine as closely as possible and use the time saved from activities such as commuting to do exercise, research, or catch up on recent events. You may even wish to use this time at the end of the day to wind down from work, try reading a book or listening to music.

5. Learn

Learning is hugely important at Agent, it’s what keeps us ahead of the game and up to date with any developments in the creative and digital industries.

That’s why we’re keeping up our PAM (Peer Advisory Meetings) sessions via video call. These sessions are designed for us to share what we’ve been working on around our growing team of Agents, giving us a glimpse into the day-to-day of members of other departments, helping to understand each other’s roles and identify opportunities for collaboration and partnerships.

We’re learning more about each other too, aside from work conversations we’re sharing images of our pets, recommending playlists and sharing our best WFH tips.

6. Be giving

Be giving to yourself and others and you’ll feel better for it. It’s important to make time for (at least) one self-act of kindness per day, these can be simple things like taking a coffee break or listening to some music, maybe even enjoying a (healthy) snack! We love our snacks at Agent.

Taking a designated lunch break away from your home desk is an absolute must, and make sure to eat well if you can and stay hydrated.

We’re always looking out for one another at Agent, but more so than ever in the current circumstances. When anxiety levels may be higher than usual it’s important to take notice of how colleagues are feeling or acting and make sure we still take time to continue our KIT (Keep In Touch meetings), mentoring each other and supporting each other.

We’re here to help others too, thankfully Agent is in a privileged position where we’re able to work from home with little disruption, and as a giving agency we are always open to helping others, if you know of a person or organisation in need of assistance just get in touch.

Finally, I reached out to a connection on Twitter (the power of technology in these times of social isolation) to Jake Mills, Chief Executive of Liverpool-based mental health organisation Chasing the Stigma, who offers the following advice:

“Working from home in isolation with kids, pets, partners and a whole lot of anxiety surrounding the outside world can have a real impact on your mental health.

“Our top tip would be to devise a schedule for yourself, so there is a structure to the day. This will help maintain a sense of normality.

“Give yourself regular breaks and carry out stress-busting techniques, exercise (a lot of gyms have switched to Instagram live classes – home exercise doesn’t have to mean lifting tins of beans but if that’s what you’re into – go for it!), take a bath or pick a new box set to start. Do something you enjoy, bake, dance, play Cluedo… whatever you love doing but never get the time to do – now is your chance!

“If you’re finding the anxiety and stress too much, there are services you can access. Head to the Hub of Hope to find relevant services near you. The Samaritans are always open to talk, and many charities who focus on individual issues have their phone lines manned. If you’re not big on telephone calls, text HOPE to 85258 to access our confidential text service with Shout.

“In an emergency, always call 999. The NHS is very busy at the moment, but that doesn’t mean your life or that of another person isn’t worth saving if they or yourself are in crisis.”

7. Be in it together

Following the latest updates relating to Covid-19, we find ourselves in uncharted territory for the first time in our history. In the interest of safeguarding our team and our clients, we have taken Government guidance and are working remotely from home.

Our usual home at Agent HQ will be temporarily closed, but we are very much open for business and will be contactable via email and telephone as normal. Our contact details remain unchanged, as will our working hours.

All of this means that we now have multiple HQ’s! Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing some top tips from each of our team members on our social media and also in these blogs.

Below are the first of our team members to share their working environments and a few words of wisdom for keeping productive at home.

paul

Paul Corcoran – CEO

Our CEO, Paul, says:

My focus is ensuring our team continues to connect & collaborate with our clients; Microsoft Teams has been the perfect tool and the video calling makes for a welcomed laugh together!

Harriet Holbrook – senior communications consultant

On working from home, our senior communications consultant, Harriet, says:

I work best by sticking to a routine and setting out my priorities first thing, making it my aim to get through the day’s to-do list so that I can have a clear beginning and end to the working day.

harriet
sarah

Sarah Pates – senior project manager

Reporting from home, our senior project manager, Sarah says:

As a project manager, online project management tools are playing such an important role for working in virtual Agent HQ! Our internal system, Asana allows us to plan, track, delegate work and manage team capacity

Zoe Wallace – Agent academy director

Discussing working remotely, our Agent Academy director, Zoe, says:

Stay super connected to your team. Start your day together with a team video call to set your daily objectives. Having shared goals is important for a focused day!

zoe
mick

Michael Cottage – senior creative consultant

Some insight on working remotely from our senior creative consultant, Michael:

To make sure I maintain my levels of creativity and stay focused, I drink lots of coffee and listen to loads of music (no listening to the news…!)

Jeanette Gill – campaigns director

On working from home, our campaigns director, Jeanette, says:

Make sure you take regular breaks and keep in touch with your team and clients – sometimes a simple message or phone call can make the difference to your day and ensure you feel connected.

jeanette

We hope you have enjoyed reading through some of our top tips. The biggest advice we can offer to everyone during this trying time is to stay safe. Follow the Government guidance and protect yourself and your loved ones.

We’ll be sharing more of our working and environments and top tips in part two of “Our New HQ’s” blog next week. Keep your eyes peeled!

Following the latest updates relating to Covid-19, in the interest of safeguarding our team and our clients, we will be taking Government guidance and working remotely from home.

Agent HQ will be closed, but we are very much open for business and will be contactable via email and telephone as normal.

We will be monitoring the situation and will be providing updates as soon as we have them.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.

Thank you

The Agents

On Friday 6th March, we brought together over 80 leaders from across Liverpool City Region and beyond to celebrate International Women’s Day at our IWD Connect event, in partnership with MSB Solicitors, The City of Liverpool College, Hope Street Hotel and Beckoration.

Hosted at Hope Street Hotel, guests were treated to a three course meal and some incredible views of Liverpool, for an afternoon of celebration and an opportunity to shout about the contribution that women make, as well as to address the need for more progress in terms of equality and diversity throughout all walks of life.

Jeanette Gill, campaigns director at Agent and Zoe Wallace, director of Agent Academy, kicked off proceedings to welcome guests to the event and to share their thoughts on what International Women’s Day means to them.

Zoe said: 

“In the digital and technology industries, the latest insight shows that 23% of the people working in STEM roles across the UK are female, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women and 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in tech.

“That said, the industry and the people working in it are taking action to change this. It’s really encouraging to see brilliant initiatives happening to tackle gender disparity.

“At Agent Academy, all of our cohorts have a 50/50 gender split, as well as being diverse in every other sense of the word. The young people we work with are the future workforce, so it’s extremely rewarding to see that throughout our programme we are literally changing the face of the industry.

“By celebrating International Women’s Day, we can bring people together to encourage change and lead by example, ensuring that we are positive role models for the female leaders of the future.”

Zoe Wallace at IWD Connect

Emma Carey, managing partner of MSB Solicitors, acknowledged the progress that has been made, but pointed out the need for more to be done. She said:

“Statistics show 48% of our profession are women. But sadly, only 28% of partners in law firms are female. We still have a long way to go. We need to ask why these female lawyers aren’t achieving. It isn’t because they aren’t intelligent or good lawyers. It’s because they face barriers to progressing.

“I’m incredibly proud that at MSB, we have an Equality and Diversity Committee, an equal gender partnership and our management board is made up of 70% women.

“It’s not enough for us to hope that what we want will filter into our organisations. We have to take action to make it happen.”

Elaine Bowker, principal of The City of Liverpool College, commented on the role that education has to play in creating opportunities for women in the world of work:

“We all want our city region to be the best it can be. But we can only achieve that if we truly value talent.

“Education should be the sector that is opening up the opportunities, but we still don’t see enough females in senior positions in the industry.

“We all have a responsibility to empower women and to ask ourselves, how are we helping women and creating opportunities for them to succeed? It starts with us all. As leaders, we need to check our own behaviours and lead from the front to make a change.”

Elaine Bowker at IWD Connect

Closing the event with an incredibly moving and inspiring speech was Emma Degg, CEO of NWLP, who called for a change. She said:

“It is a fact that women, when on a balanced board, deliver 33% higher productivity for their company. So why is it that more females are not in leadership positions?

“If you want to switch up productivity, you have to switch up the diversity of your leadership teams.”

Thank you to all of our partners, clients and friends for joining us at IWD Connect. It was a fantastic event and we left feeling empowered and inspired to champion the women in our personal and professional lives, not just on International Women’s Day, but every day of the year.

In a world where everyone has a smartphone and technology is more present than ever before, we’d like to take a moment to celebrate World Book Day, and share with you why reading is so important to us here at Agent.

Everywhere you look, whether it’s on the train, the bus, in restaurants or walking down the street, most people are consumed by their smartphones.

Books can hold and keep all kinds of information stories, thoughts and feelings unlike anything else in this world. Could words and fictional worlds be all that great for you and your health? Indeed, it can, and it is a timeless form of entertainment and information.

For years, reading was the only form of personal entertainment, and perhaps this is why it has been in the spotlight for such a long time and isn’t going anywhere fast. Reading has survived the years, and luckily, the benefits have survived right along with the books.

Below are just a few of the benefits reading can bring:

  • Cognitive mental stimulation and brain exercising
  • Vocabulary and knowledge expansion
  • Lower levels of stress and tension relief
  • Memory improvement and better focus
  • Strengthens your writing abilities
  • Boosts your sleep
  • Helps to broaden your mind

Reading is extremely important to us and our team, helping us do better both in and out of work.

We hope World Book Day inspires you to pick up a book and get reading! If you need some inspiration, here are a few of our favourites…

  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
  • Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
  • Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Essays in Love by Alain De Botton
  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson