Keystone Business Improvement Ltd
Cranford House, 1 The Pavilions
Knutsford Business Park
Mobberley Road
Knutsford
Cheshire
WA16 8ZR
Telephone: 07710 447 827

The Key to Improved Business Performance

By Providing Strategic Direction To Over 150 Companies, We Help Them Achieve Aggressive Growth Targets

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About Us

What Can We Do For You?

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We are proud of our direct and honest approach and have helped many organisations to be the best in their industries. We understand our business and we will understand yours.

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KEYSTONE is an established group of highly experienced specialist business advisors with impressive track records. Our focus is entirely on assisting with the delivery of improved business performance and increased profit.

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Business is tough. And no-one knows that more than we do. Our clients come to us when they need our in-depth expertise - whether that be to help with a major operational step-change or for strategic advice and guidance.

Fred Stone

FRED STONE
BUSINESS CONSULTANT, COACH & NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
"Utilising our expertise, you can add value to your business by
identifying how best to grow and achieve your business objectives."

why

Choose Us?

We've delivered successful projects spanning multiple industries 
and functions and can pull on our knowledge to help you too.

Established in 2003, Keystone rapidly expanded its business network and has provided consultancy services for over 115 companies across the North West, becoming the benchmark in SME consulting advice.

Keystone is an accredited GME and WRAP provider, in addition to being members of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, The Business Network and the IoD.

With our broad reach across industries and functions, we speak our clients language. We live where they live. We understand their business. We are Keystone.

Latest News

Setting you on the path to Achievable Growth

Mixing Up New Ideas With The Old In Manchester

17/11/2014

At the last K-Club event of 2014 in Manchester, attendees were inspired and enlightened by two very successful, yet very different speakers. Martin Ainscough, Chairman of the Ainscough Group gave an honest, lively and truly inspirational talk about his varied career which began in his father's Lancashire-based family scrap metal business, which evolved over the years to become the UK's largest crane hire operator.  Working alongside his siblings, he helped to grow the business into a multi-million pound independent affair, by creating a streamlined and efficient operation, and enjoying a substantial profit to boot!  With all 5 of his children running their own businesses, Martin still finds time to support charitable causes and give his wealth of expertise to see others flourish in their industries.Richard Harrison of Reputation.com continued to feed the audience's desire for inspiration with his up to the minute overview of building an e-business.  With the growth of the internet and online activity, it is apparent that the use of social networks to build modern businesses is most definitely the way forward.  The ability to measure visits, interactions, sharing and hits on websites enables businesses to keep up with their audience and target markets, ensuring that they deliver things that will be well received.  The staggering statistic that people under the age of 30 spend more time watching YouTube videos than they do watching TV showed just how things have changed since Richard started his career selling computer products from a thick printed catalogue!Both speakers took questions from the floor and left attendees with plenty to consider in their own businesses.

Mixing Up New Ideas With The Old In Manchester

17/11/2014

At the last K-Club event of 2014 in Manchester, attendees were inspired and enlightened by two very successful, yet very different speakers.  Martin Ainscough, Chairman of the Ainscough Group gave an honest, lively and truly inspirational talk Read More

Marketing & Motivation in Manchester

26/09/2014

At the latest K-Club event in Manchester the complementary talks given by Hale-based speakers Nathan Smith of Smith and Smith PR and Neil Clough of NWC Consultancy gave attendees plenty of food for thought. With the changes in the way consumers in both B2B and B2C marketplaces now prepare to buy, Nathan Smith explained how it's vital that businesses keep up with these and make shifts in their own offerings in order to gain new business.  No longer is it sensible to offer a 'one size fits all' enticement on a website - consumers are far more savvy and want something that speaks to them as an individual in a 'segment of one'.  The increasing use of 'inbound marketing' appears to be one of the best ways to boost interest in a product or service.  Coupled with interesting and informative content, the offer of a free product such as an e-book or report in exchange for an email address, allows businesses to communicate with consumers more effectively.  Find out more by downloading Smith and Smith PR's free e-book. Neil Clough asked the audience "Why do you do what you do?" and suggested that they find their 'yellow shorts' in order to stand out from the crowd.  Telling his own story from semi-professional footballer, to sales & training consultancy at NWC Consultancy; via call-centres, a purple Porsche, and of course his time with Lord Sugar on BBC's The Apprentice, he talked about using his common-sense approach in business along with his drive and self-belief.  His confident approach has helped him to continue on his journey and he is committed to helping businesses to achieve results in a timely and cost-effective manner.  Neil also shared a secret or two from The Apprentice whilst answering questions from the floor.  

Marketing & Motivation in Manchester

26/09/2014

At the latest K-Club event in Manchester the complementary talks given by Hale-based speakers Nathan Smith of Smith and Smith PR and Neil Clough of NWC Consultancy gave attendees plenty of food for Read More

Your Business Challenge Solved

29/08/2014

Our regular Keystone meetings offer Associates a place to share their business problems and challenges, and to ask for help in certain aspects of their work. Attendees have the option to throw a business challenge out to the group and to receive ideas and feedback from those present - call it a mastermind group if you will.  The most popular challenge as voted for by those in attendance is investigated further, allowing for a number of ideas and suggestions to be offered to the person with the challenge.  A summary of the discussions is issued and feedback is given at a later date as to the progress made. If you are looking for support and direction with your business strategy, why not get in touch to see how we could help you grow your business. 

Your Business Challenge Solved

29/08/2014

Our regular Keystone meetings offer Associates a place to share their business problems and challenges, and to ask for help in certain aspects of their Read More

A Strategy for Sales

14/07/2014

As part of their continuing professional development, the Keystone Associates got together last week to undergo Sales Strategy Training, with expert guidance from their own sales guru Charlie McIntyre of CM Services. With a clear structure, objective and plan, and using the right kind of questions, delegates were able to review their current technique, apply what had been learnt, then create their own format for future sales dealings. Distinguishing between the features and the benefits of products or services offered by each Associate was a key aspect.  It is important to remember 'why' a potential Client would be interested in buying - "what's in it for me?".  Clarifying where one can add value to the offering could be the make or break of a sale. Charlie explained that by qualifying who you are talking to, finding out who makes the buying decisions, and being clear on the process that needs to be followed, you will be much better positioned to create a successful outcome in this process. 

A Strategy for Sales

14/07/2014

The Keystone Associates refreshed their sales techniques with the expert guidance of sales guru Charlie Read More

The Need for Entrepreneurs & Knowledge in Manchester

07/07/2014

At June’s Manchester K-Club, attendees were treated to some useful tips on property as well as anecdotes from TV gone-by. Martyn Markland of Tenant Advisory Group exposed the myths behind the Manchester commercial property market.  Those newspaper reports which suggest that property is being filled and the market is moving, may not always be true!  He explained the difference between ‘Take Up’ being all about the activity in the market, whereas ‘Absorption’ is more about the reality.  A building may not have any ‘vacancies’, if it is leased to a Client, but it may still be ‘available’ if it’s not actually being used.  This is where TAG can help.  They understand who to talk to when it comes to sourcing office space; they know about the places which might not yet be available on the open market, which leases are due to expire, and with their expertise, they have the opportunity to leverage a good price.  So the key message is you are looking to source new shop, office or industrial unit; don’t make assumptions as it can end up being a costly experience.  Knowledge is power, and TAG have that knowledge. Next we were entertained with recollections of times gone by in the TV industry from Mike Taylor.  Having started out in the accounting team for Granada TV, he worked his way along the cobbles to become Head of Design Services; responsible for costumes, sets, props and so on for a number of highly-acclaimed productions.  During this time he had to negotiate with, support, and motivate a number of very difficult people - always reminding them ‘we’re in the entertainment business!’  Following a very flexible period of work which included overtime, double time and beyond, he implemented a complete overhaul to make Granada TV become ‘Fit for the Future’, with improvements in staffing, procedures, and structure.  With ITV and BBC staff combined within 3SixtyMedia, Mike has ensured that managers will be rewarded for the success of their teams.  Innovative and entrepreneurial people across both the public and private sectors are needed in the UK to shake up and disrupt the market for the future. 

The Need for Entrepreneurs & Knowledge in Manchester

07/07/2014

At June’s Manchester K-Club, attendees were treated to some useful tips on property as well as anecdotes from TV Read More

A Fine Mix of Business for the NorthWest!

30/06/2014

At the latest gathering of the K-Club Liverpool, delegates were able to listen to two very different business areas, with one speaker joining us from the USA especially for the event! David McRobbie, Economic Ambassador for South Carolina – and originally from the Northwest of England – told us how the communication channels have changed; and improved significantly, since he made his move ‘across the pond’ to set up his business in 1990. The US is very much ‘open for business’, especially for the manufacturing industry where British products and brands are considered to be of high quality, so it’s no surprise that the UK is currently the largest investor in that country.  Complex regulations and a highly litigious environment aside, getting started is relatively easy for new businesses coming on to the USA.  In South Carolina alone, there are over 400 foreign-owned companies representing over 25 countries with a $1billion investment in the state, with the automotive and aerospace industries playing a big part, and David’s home County of Spartanburg actively encourages investment into the area.  Not only does David work with the University of South Carolina to provide business and entrepreneurial development support, but he also provides assistance at Liverpool John Moore’s and Manchester University. Most people will be familiar with the webuyanycar.com commercials, but not necessarily the man behind the business; Richard Harrison.  Another Northwest born and bred ideas-man, Richard took us on a journey through his career at PC World; moving product catalogues from hard copy to online and turnover from £100k to £100m, via a short stint at O2, to changing the way we buy cars from ‘cash for cars’ to ‘we’ll empower you to buy the car you want’ and purchasing over 3000 cars per week as MD of webuyanycar.com.  The culmination of his experiences across all of these businesses, coupled with the rapid growth of the internet, led him to create Reputation.com, which allows business owners a way to manage their outward reputation in a positive way.  Review management, privacy protection, search management and reputation scoring are all key ways to ensuring that prospective customers get to know the right information about a business; positive and relevant.  Richard is clearly an enthusiastic supporter of all things online, and quotes Steve Jobs in saying “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” 

A Fine Mix of Business for the NorthWest!

30/06/2014

At the latest gathering of the K-Club Liverpool, delegates were able to listen to two very different business areas, with one speaker joining us from the USA especially for the Read More

Big Business Learning at K-Club Manchester

09/05/2014

Local entrepreneur and Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones, gave an informative and thought-provoking talk last week at the Manchester K-Club event held at Salford City Stadium.Over 50 delegates enjoyed a cooked breakfast, with time to meet like-minded business-people, before settling down to hear his talk 'Growing Pains - What Small Businesses can learn from Big Businesses'. Phil explained that even though more than 30,000 new customers come to Brother UK each month, their vision remains to continue to grow sales through growing others.  It was clear that efficiency, process and vision are the driving force of everything that they do, and the ideas shared by Phil were things that ANY business - whatever size - can consider, utilise and implement in order to grow successfully.The key mission for a business should inspire its main efforts, taking it towards its goal or 'end state'.  Having a back-up plan, knowing the areas of strength, prioritising actions, and a well planned diary are all important parts of running a business well.  Being sure of what drives your 'economic engine' will help business owners to succeed.'Don't confuse activity with effectiveness' and 'Your diary is your statement of intent' were just two of many key messages that delegates took with them.

Big Business Learning at K-Club Manchester

09/05/2014

Local entrepreneur and Managing Director of Brother UK, Phil Jones, gave an informative and thought-provoking talk last week at the Manchester K-Club event held at Salford City Read More

Liverpool K-Club - All about Sales!

30/04/2014

Last Thursday saw a great turnout for the Liverpool K-Club breakfast meeting at Liverpool Innovation Park.Attendees from a wide mix of industries spent time getting to know one another, before listening to 2 keynote speakers; Nathan Smith of Smith & Smith PR and Steve Myatt. Nathan Smith presented 'The death of the salesman; how inbound is changing the face of marketing'.  He explained to the audience how the shift in marketing techniques used by many businesses - from the small start-ups to the big players, such as Amazon - have moved from outbound 'cold calls' from business to consumer, to consumers willingly providing personal data with businesses in exchange for tips, guidelines, demonstrations, and the like - all for free.  With an overview of how potential customers move through the sales funnel, his talk provoked many questions and observations from the audience.  The key message - think of what your customers would want to know from you and offer at least some free material that answers their questions.  A small amount given freely gives customers confidence in your business offering and can often lead to future sales. Steve Myatt then gave the audience a whistle-stop tour through his career; including his time turning around the fortunes of Warbreck Garden Centre in Ormskirk, by introducing associated products to their offering and using some innovative marketing techniques including carrots!  He also covered his involvement in the import of BBQs and similar outdoor appliances from New Zealand and his stint on the QVC sales channel. He is now a mentor & facilitator for the Garden Retail Success programme in the UK, helping all kinds of businesses to improve and excel in their industries.

Liverpool K-Club - All about Sales!

30/04/2014

Last Thursday saw a great turnout for the Liverpool K-Club breakfast meeting at Liverpool Innovation Park.  Attendees from a wide mix of industries spent time getting to know one another, before listening to 2 keynote speakers; Nathan Smith of Read More

Manchester based Heatons Merger

08/04/2014

European law firm Field Fisher Waterhouse's merger with Manchester-based Heatons LLP went live on 1.4.14.Heatons is a commercial law firm with 8 partners, 12 associates and 6 other fee earners. Its turnover for 2013 was £3.42m. The firm's areas of expertise are in line with Field Fisher Waterhouse's, and include intellectual property and technology, corporate, dispute resolution, employment, renewable energy, real estate, real estate finance, construction and retail.The managing partner of Heatons, Matthew Fleetwood, became the managing partner of the new joint Manchester operation and has the mandate to drive the firm's growth in the North West. Following the merger, the Manchester office of Field Fisher Waterhouse will be amalgamated with Heatons and will be based in Heatons' offices in the Free Trade Exchange building. Field Fisher Waterhouse Managing Partner Michael Chissick said:"This is a positive step forwards for the firm. By expanding our presence in Manchester, we will have a stronger presence in the North West market, which will also allow for greater flexibility in the way we price and deliver our services to clients. I am delighted to welcome Heatons' team to the firm, and look forward to delivering future success together."Matthew Fleetwood added:"We are delighted to join with Field Fisher Waterhouse, and welcome their Manchester-based lawyers to our offices. Having established a reputation for excellence in the North West market, this move will give us the platform to expand our client base and achieve further success. We are all enthused by the prospect of working together with our new colleagues to provide a great service for our clients."

Manchester based Heatons Merger

08/04/2014

"We are delighted to join with Field Fisher Waterhouse, and welcome their Manchester-based lawyers to our offices." says Heatons Managing Partner, Matthew Read More

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"Keystone's experienced Associates are able to help you with many business issues. For a free half-day consultation with any of the Associates CLICK HERE"

Meet The Team

fred stone

Keystone
Chairman

FRED STONE
BUSINESS CONSULTANT & NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

matt townsend

Ultimate Creative Communications
CEO
Keystone
Director

MATTHEW TOWNSEND
BRAND, CREATIVE & WEB DEVELOPMENT

BRIAN WOOD

CORINTHIAN TAX
Partner
Keystone- Director

BRIAN WOOD
TAX ADVISORY
 

PETE DOYLE

Laheen Systems
Director

PETE DOYLE
IT CONSULTANT
 

SUE WEIGHELL

Delta Solutions
Director

SUE WEIGHELL
FINANCE DIRECTOR
 

CHARLIE MCINTYRE

CM Services
Director

CHARLIE MCINTYRE
SALES TRAINING CONSULTANT

NATHAN SMITH

Smith & Smith PR
Managing Director

NATHAN SMITH
PUBLIC RELATIONS
 

TANYA SIMISTER

Total Justice Solutions
Director

TANYA SIMISTER
LEGAL SERVICES ADVISER

JIM TRUSCOTT

Heatons
Partner

JIM TRUSCOTT
COROPRATE LAW
 

ANDY RAMSDEN

Brown Shipley
Private Client Director

ANDY RAMSDEN
PRIVATE BANKING
 

Elspeth Kinder

Elspeth Kinder
Family Lawyer

Elspeth Kinder
FAMILY LAWYER
 

AMANDA MANSON

Orderly Office and Home
Owner

AMANDA MANSON
PROFESSIONAL ORGANISER

why

Reasons

1

We've delivered successful projects spanning multiple industries and functions and can pull on our knowledge to help you too.

10

1+1=3 We think the sum of our parts is greater than the whole. We can provide a full range of consultancy services, meaning you don't have to search for experts elsewhere.

9

Cost effective - We operate on an Associate basis - which means that we can charge considerably less than the -big five- consultancy companies. However, that doesn't mean that our quality is compromised - we provide a world class level of service at a price that works for SMEs.

8

Award Winning - Our Associates and clients have established a reputation for being the best and have won environmental, innovation, business and industry specific awards.

7

Brand Awareness - We understand that brand equity is a very valuable commodity. Our experienced design team create professional design materials and websites to reflect this and we work hard to maximize opportunities for exposure. Take a look at some of the brands we have worked with.

6

Professional staff - We have a fantastic mixture of analytical, creative, technical and managerial talent. All team members are the best in their industries, are highly educated and undergo rigorous ongoing development to keep them at the top of their game. Meet our team.

5

Expansive network - Our Associates are well connected, which means that you not only benefit from their knowledge, but also the knowledge of their networks. That's an awful lot of brain-power at your disposal.

4

Money Matters - Finance, Funding, Banks, Investors, Government Grants, Venture Capitalists - you name it we've done it. Why not put us to the test?

3

Executive Appointments - the experience our Associates have had working as Non-Executive Directors means that we have an impressive track record of working with Board members.

2

ROI focused - We always get results, and don't just spend your budget. By putting in place rigid KPIs, we can track the success of consultancy projects and you can see it's been money well spent.

Who Do We Work For?

We work across a select number of clients throughout the North West region - particularly focusing our skills and experience in the SME market.

Keystone helps create an IT strategy with a difference

Keystone IT consultant Pete Doyle has recently completed a project to help create an IT Policy and Strategy for Intercare Distribution Services Limited. Based in Crewe, Intercare have for over 18 years provided a range of specialist transport services primarily to the NHS and the wider healthcare sector. In this time their use of IT to support their business objectives has grown, but in an ad-hoc manner, not uncommon in many SMEs. Nigel Parry, Intercare’s Founder and Managing Director, explains: "Our Information Technology has become core to our business and whilst we have some excellent IT service providers, I’ve always struggled to find the best way to document what we already have and to then ensure our IT can support our future aims and challenges."

Keystone were commissioned to define the broad content of an IT strategy but more importantly also a process for Intercare to follow to ensure the document will be kept up to date and hence moves forward with the business. "Too many strategic plans are merely a snapshot taken at a high level and then gather dust on the boardroom shelf," says Pete Doyle of Keystone. "I believe the real value comes in the planning of the IT strategy rather than in the plan itself."

To this end Keystone worked closely with Intercare and their existing service providers to firstly understand what IT was already in use by means of reviewing asset registers and existing documentation. Keystone then designed a short assessment questionnaire which Intercare senior managers completed internally with each key member of staff who used IT in any way. Typically areas for discussion and feedback included security, communication and data and reporting. This then provided a good view of what was working and what wasn’t and also where the users felt they might need further systems or solutions in the near future. The final strategy document was then completed, but with clear, regular, scheduled action plans for a range of staff to implement in order to create a process of continuous improvement for IT within Intercare.

"I’m much more confident now that our IT will support our business growth and we will not have any surprises going forward. I can budget much better for IT investment and the strategy document is also an ideal way to communicate our intentions to the whole team. I’m really delighted with Keystone’s help and certainly couldn’t have made such swift progress without them."

Pete Doyle adds: "A good example of an area which had been overlooked previously was that of Business Continuity. Intercare are now much clearer on the critical areas of business that rely on 100% availability of IT and have introduced some fault tolerance and disaster recovery procedures to ensure their high levels of customer service are maintained."

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