AS an organisation which specialises in business development advice it is worth heeding what Hunter Gee & Holroyd, the York chartered accountancy firm has been doing to collectively involve its own staff in making major changes and improvements.

All 25 of the staff at Club Chambers in Museum Street were asked to volunteer to be a member of at least two focus groups.

These groups were designed to explore the possibilities of new products, improvement of client services, studying ways of benchmarking quality and price by developing uniform standards, ensuring that staff were being constantly trained; and exploring marketing and promotion ideas.

That, combined with encouragement to "be open - there's no such thing as a bad idea" is one of the reasons the firm has entered the Progress Through People Award.

Successes of the focus group system have meant the production of software sold to clients for simple accountancy and book-keeping purposes. Or client service innovations such as introduction of toys to occupy clients' children and introduction of a client satisfaction survey.

But quality benchmarking has had the most significant impact on the practice so far - harmonising different processes and working practices which harked back to when the organisation was two separate companies.

And the lifetime learning group has converted a storage room into a "learning zone" where staff are encouraged to meet, communicate and learn from one another.