Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
phone +44 (0) 161 209 3950

Managing Teams

This workshop, provided by OSR, is aimed at leaders who want to inspire teams to work together. Our team management training will help you to deliver results and services better and more cost-effectively.

Course Date: 24th October

Book now to reserve your place! Call 0161 838 5692 or email info@olivestrachan.com to book.

"Olive provided very informative, exciting sessions on the Managing Skills Training programme in Egypt. I benefitted from her expert knowledge and creative presenting of her skills programme. I would recommend Olive and OSR Training Consultancy for any company or business who would like an injection of fresh ideas and fun in the complex art of management skills and training."

- Sue Cole, Director of Studies at British School, Melfi, Italy

In her last blog post, OSR founder Olive Strachan discussed the work she did for some of the company's earliest clients. Today, she moves forward a few years to talk about recognition: the appreciation and accolades that make all the hard work worthwhile...

A couple of beauties from the OSR trophy cabinet!

As anyone who runs their own business will tell you, the whole affair can get pretty lonely at times. Fortunately, I love what I do – just being part of the Learning & Development/Human Resources industry gives me a great deal of pleasure, and all the hard work and long hours seem more than worthwhile when you begin to garner some recognition for your efforts!

OSR won its first award in 2004. In recognition of the high-quality training delivery that my company was providing, the Learning and Skills Council chose me as the winner of their Women in Business award for that year; the ceremony was a grand affair, involving a trip to London and a rather luxurious stay at the InterContinental Hotel. My husband came with me for moral support, and after receiving the award (having been chosen from hundreds of potential winners) I came back to Manchester with renewed vigour and a feeling of euphoria!

Such is the boost that recognition can bring. Days, weeks, months and years of effort are validated in an instant when you realise that your work has made an impact. Recognition needn’t come in the form of a trophy, either (although it’s certainly nice when it does!) – a little positive feedback from clients is often enough to completely reinvigorate my sense of purpose. As you can probably tell, on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I score very high on recognition!

Our second award didn’t require a trip down to London – the ceremony was right here in the northwest of England. By this time, we had delivered training in over twenty countries around the world, from Germany to Thailand to Uzbekistan, and in recognition of this, the Northwest Regional Development Agency awarded OSR the prize for Achievement in International Business. This one was even more of a nail-biter, as the winner was decided on the night via an interactive audience polling system. The five nominees were introduced, and then it was up to the audience to choose the winner. The other nominees and I simply had to wait and see how many people voted for each candidate, and I must admit that I nearly leapt out of my chair when I realised I had won. It was a wonderful moment of my life, and one that I will always look back on with fondness.

It takes years of hard work and dedication, but if you are doing good work, then recognition will come. I love knowing that, whether by coaching, mentoring, or training, I have made a difference to someone’s life, and it is this feeling that has kept me enthusiastic about my work through the years. My job is still as rewarding as ever, and I still love hearing back from the people and businesses I have helped!

For more information about the recognition that Olive and OSR have garnered over the years, take a look at our Awards & Achievements page.

Image Credit: Official GDC

If you’re a freelancer or you own your own business, it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of business networking. It’s not just about making new friends (although that is one of the potential benefits); it’s about getting the word out, creating opportunities, and building lucrative business relationships.

 

If you aren’t already making a conscious effort to network with other professionals, here are three reasons to start doing so. If you’re already acquainted with the joys of networking, here are three reasons to network harder!

  1. You’ll make a lasting impression
    Advertising is an important part of any serious marketing campaign, but good quality networking is often far more useful. People are more likely to remember a business whose owner they met and spoke to in person than a business they’ve read of or heard about from other sources.

  2. You'll be making new contacts
    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Even if the person with whom you’ve just exchanged business cards don’t call you up and hire you, you’ve still made a new contact, and so your time was not wasted. Even the most low-profile contacts come in handy every so often!

  3. You're linking with other businesses
    Unless you and your networking chum work in precisely the same field - i.e. you are each others competitors – there’s almost certainly a way in which your businesses can scratch each other's back. Whether it’s a Facebook post urging people to ‘Like’ your page, a link back to your website from their own, or a fully-fledged collaboration between the two enterprises, there are all kinds of ways for small businesses to help each other out!

Want to improve your networking skills? OSR’s Business Networking training course will help you to be more confident and more cunning when approaching a potential networking opportunity.

Barclays Flexible Working

After speaking at the Natwest Entrepreneur Breakfast earlier this week, Olive Strachan will be appearing at another high-profile business event next Friday. Olive will be a guest speaker at the Barclays North West Flexible Working Forum on the 20th of September, and this occasion promises to be just as enlightening and as enjoyable as the Natwest breakfast.

The main focus of this seminar will be the subject of flexible working. Speakers will discuss the commercial benefits of flexible working, and attendees will have the opportunity to share their own best practices. You will of course have the chance to network before and after the event, and since some of the top employers in the North West are expected to attend, this could be a great opportunity for you and your business.

The invitation to the Flexible Working Forum can be seen below, along with details of how to book your place. Lunch will be provided, and the speeches are sure to be very illuminating indeed; our own Olive Strachan will be offering her viewpoint, along with Sarah Greasley (client technical director of IBM) and two representatives from Capability Jane, an up-and-coming recruitment website. We hope to see you there!

Barclays Invitation

Click image for full-size version.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has recently been focusing its research on three primary themes: work, the workplace, and the workforce. All three fields are experiencing a great deal of change at the moment, and all are key concerns for business owners and managers. They’re very closely related, of course, and if you’re having problems with one it will likely have a negative effect on the other two. For example, an unpleasant workplace environment can result in an unhappy workforce that produces sub-par work.

These three subjects are undeniably useful when looking to the future of work – that’s why the CIPD are basing their research around them - but they can also be beneficial to your business in the here and now. If you’re experiencing problems in the workplace, try sorting those problems into these three categories:

  • Problems with Work
    The work your company does is getting sloppy, or it’s not getting done as quickly as you’d like. Perhaps people aren’t sure of their own roles, or perhaps they’re using outdated technologies. Even if they do everything right by you, you may find that their hard work isn’t having the desired effect. Some of these issues are merely symptomatic of other problems (with the workplace or workforce, perhaps) but if the root of your trouble lies with the work itself, that’s the area you’ll want to address. Don’t punish your employees or waste money on a new office when it’s your process that’s at fault!

  • Problems with the Workplace
    The work environment you provide isn’t working for you. It’s uninspiring, it’s disorganised, it’s not conducive to productivity...in a nutshell, it just isn’t a nice place to be. Note that this can go beyond mere surroundings; ‘The Workplace’ covers every aspect of an environment, including the conditions you place on your employees. Enforced silence, excessive red tape, and general over-strictness can all ruin an otherwise perfectly pleasant workplace. Resolving a workplace problem might mean an office makeover, or it could mean a slight relaxation of the rules, but one thing is certain: you need to change your environment.

  • Problems with the Workforce
    These are people problems, so if someone isn’t pulling their weight, or two colleagues have fallen out, or someone is consistently doing things wrong, you’ve got a problem with your workforce. Is it an issue with the team as a whole, or one person in particular? Don’t assume that sacking the problem person represents a good solution here; some corrective training or even just a brief chat can often be enough to sort everything out, and these tactics will be less damaging than an outright dismissal.
As mentioned above, there can be quite a lot of overlap between these three categories, and one problem can often be caused by other, more fundamental problems. When trying to solve problems, remember that communication is crucial, and jumping to conclusions foolhardy. Dig beneath the surface, and you might be surprised: what first seemed like an environmental issue may prove to stem from the workers themselves, and it may transpire than a suspected slacker is in fact as diligent as can be – they just haven’t been working as productively as possible.

If you would like more advice on solving your workplace problems, why try OSR’s Managing Workplace Problems training day? The next course is scheduled to take place in Manchester on the 22nd of October; email info@olivestrachan.com or call 0161 838 5692 to book your place.

Last week, Olive Strachan told the story of how she founded her own business, offering a couple of entrepreneurial tips along the way. This week, Olive reminisces about her first few clients, and highlights a great approach to growing one’s customer base.

Of Mascots and Medals: Olive's souvenirs from the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

There is a saying: ‘Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.’ Even after 15 years, I still get out of bed every morning with a sense of anticipation!

My very first piece of business was a two-year contract with Terminix, an international pest control company.  I met the training manager at an event and we bonded straight away; my experience in the recruitment industry appealed to her and after an initial trial (which was met with extremely positive feedback), I was brought in to deliver training all over the UK and in Amsterdam. This training covered customer services, sales, and negotiation skills among both the team and the managers. There were some surprises along the way - I would arrive at one of their venues to set up and I would hear the tapping of tiny feet. It was the rats, Henry and Henrietta, happily playing in their cage! And then there was the sound of all the beetles and bugs, scuttling around in various glass containers...

Collecting Feedback

I asked the Terminix training manager to put her positive feedback in writing, and used this initial testimonial to demonstrate my abilities to new prospects. I would recommend this practice to anyone in any industry; if you collect written feedback and testimonials from your satisfied customers, you’ll be able to present a far stronger case when trying to attract new business. Positive feedback is even more useful nowadays, because you can display it on your company’s website and social media accounts. You can even ask clients to recommend or endorse you on LinkedIn.

The Terminix testimonial attracted several new clients, including Thomson Holidays; I trained their whole call centre on how to build good customer relationships, and this gave me great insight into the travel business! Once again, I requested feedback in writing and this, in turn, attracted a client who has since become one of the biggest debt management companies in Manchester. I delivered training to the entire call centre for two years, and then I completed a train the trainer course with three members of staff who set up an internal training department.

Reaching New Heights

My list of satisfied customers continued to grow and one day, as luck would have it, the team organising the 2002 Commonwealth Games walked into my resource centre. They wanted to discuss the resources required to train their volunteers, and I offered some recommendations. Once again, I made a connection, and the team asked me if I could deliver training – an offer which, after going through the correct channels, I enthusiastically accepted. Before I knew it, I was delivering ‘Crew Culture’ training to hundreds of volunteers! And that’s not even the best part: at one point, a film crew came into the room and started filming my session. The following week, I was on TV!

The run-up to the Commonwealth Games was such an exciting time; I made some lifelong friends, and to be part of something so special makes you feel very fortunate indeed. As a thank you, the organisers gave OSR a commemorative medal, a mascot, and a few other goodies. It was an experience that I will never forget.

And how did the Commonwealth organisers find me? Through a recommendation from another client, of course! If there’s one thing that’s sure to attract new customers, it’s making your existing customers happy – that way, they’ll sing your praises to everyone they know, and they’ll give you some great feedback that you can use to grow your business even further!

 

Don’t forget to check back next week for more stories from Olive’s illustrious career.

On Wednesday the 11th of September, OSR founder Olive Strachan will be speaking at the Natwest Entrepreneur Breakfast Seminar in Manchester. The seminar will focus on the topics of engagement and flow, and how businesses can use the FISH! Philosophy to really engage their staff.

At this point, you may be wondering what exactly the ‘FISH! Philosophy’ is. It may have an unusual name, but the big idea behind FISH! is universally pertinent – quite simply, the philosophy is built around the assumption that people do better work when they enjoy their jobs. As for the peculiar piscine name, that’s because the FISH! Philosophy started in Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle, a stall that’s become internationally renowned for its excitable fishmongers and outstanding customer service. The staff shout orders to each other, fling the customer’s fish around the stall, and generally do everything in their power to put smiles on faces.

The aim of Natwest’s seminar is to get businesses thinking like the Pike Place fishmongers. Olive’s speech will be all about ‘flow’ and how to achieve it – if you’re enjoying your job, and thoroughly engaged with the task at hand, you’ll get into the ‘flow’ and lose all track of time. This is the perfect state of mind for productive, creative work, and the Entrepreneur Breakfast will help you and your employees to get in the zone, achieve a pleasant sense of flow, and do better work than ever before.

The Natwest Breakfast will take place on the 11th of September on the 7th floor of the RBS Building on Deansgate, Manchester. Breakfast refreshments will be available from 8am onwards; Olive Strachan’s speech will begin at 8.30. To RSVP to this event, email Julia Chisnell at professionalsunit@rbs.co.uk

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