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The Independent Online

A rising star

Andor Technology, a Belfast-based producer of high-quality digital cameras used in medical diagnosis, drug discovery and other specialist fields, has been named Rising Star of the year in the Cathay Pacific Business Awards, which are designed to acknowledge and celebrate UK businesses succeeding in China and Hong Kong.

The company, which was set up in 1989 and spun out of the city's Queen's University, develops, designs and manufactures the cameras in Northern Ireland and employs 190 people in 15 offices around the world. The company, which enjoyed a turnover of £24.7m last year, has a portfolio of 70 products and sells to 10,000 customers in 55 countries.

However, sales director Aislinn Rice says that the Chinese side of the business has expanded especially fast as a result of the Beijing government's decision to fund extensive medical research. Since establishing a local partnership in China, sales have more than trebled, she says.

Tough talk

Everybody knows we are in a tough economic environment and that things are unlikely to get better soon. But what does the harassed small business owner do to survive? According to authors Patrick Forsyth and Frances Kay, "the worst possible reaction" is to behave as if shell shocked and wait until things improve. In their book Tough Tactics For Tough Times (Kogan Page, £9.99), they urge business owners to "take stock – and then take action". They deal with such areas as marketing, customer service and organisation, and offer advice that is succinct, but always worth considering. Though they urge swift action, the authors are also keen to stress that they are not preaching doom and gloom: "We take the view that you can make a difference. Some of the ideas here have negative connotations and need a certain amount of decisiveness... but the overall outcome... is a positive one."

Informed decisions

Any successful business depends on information. Managers need to know which parts of the business are performing and which are not – and why. They install computer systems to help them, but often this only compounds the problem because managers are drowned in data rather than information.

Turning the data into useful information is the speciality of Kalido, a company that began life seeking to harmonise data from 1,000 separate locations within the oil company Shell. Kalido claims that the combination of automation of data collection with its business modelling abilities enables closer collaboration between IT departments and managers and so aids the linking of business information and decisions.