Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
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Has 2016 served you well from a business point of view? What would you like to happen in 2017?

New Year 2017

Over the forthcoming Christmas period, give yourself the gift of reflection and consider the possibility of a new challenge for the New Year!

Because I run my own business, I tend to use December as a month for reflecting and setting myself fresh goals going forward. When it comes to reflection, here are a few key things to think about:

1. Review your client relationships. I examine my list of clients and the work we have completed together, and review the feedback I have received. I ask myself the following questions:

  • Have I implemented any recommended changes?
  • Is this relationship a good one?
  • Do I need to move things forward in any way?
  • Should I book review meeting over coffee or lunch?

2. Review your product / service. We design and deliver training courses and provide consultancy and coaching. Each December, I ask myself: do we need to...

  • ...update?
  • ...change?
  • ...refine?
  • ...add new programmes?

3. Are your tools fit for purpose? Take a look at your resources (including equipment). Are contracts due for renewal? Do you need to update anything? This year, I am updating my latpop and software ready for next year; all transfers will take place over the holiday period, causing me minimum disruption in the process.

4. Tame the paperwork tiger! Have a mega 'filing and chucking' session - go through those magazines you were going to read and the files you were keeping 'just in case', and decide whether or not you need each item. Of course, the information you have to keep for legal reasons will have to be stored; I myself have 7 years' worth of accounts in my attic. But all the 'stuff' you are holding onto just causes clutter and can block creativity - so get rid of it!

5. What is your ROI (Return On Investment)? Examine your suppliers and other business relationships. I can get lazy sometimes and stick with the same supplier for years purely because I am comfortable - they know me well and understand my requirements, so why should I go to the trouble of starting again with somebody new? But step away from that mindset for a moment and ask yourself: are your suppliers delivering what you want and what your business needs? If not, it could be time to say goodbye. This can be hard, especially if you and the supplier have a long-standing business relationship that has moved into the realm of friendship. However, in these challenging times - we have been warned that there could be a rocky road ahead as we transition through the Brexit process - it's important to take ROI (Return On Investment) seriously. Ask yourself whether the relationship is beneftting you or your business; often, a fresh perspective can give your organisation that extra push it needs to move to the next level.

6. Are you a product of the product? I was always told that you need to dress like the person you want to be, so ask yourself: does your look reflect you and your business? Or is it time to invest in a completely new look? There is nothing like well-cut clothing that flatters you, whatever your shape.

7. Do you have the stamina to run a business? If you are not mentally and physically fit, you may be unable to put the necessary energy into your business. Take stock of your health this December - after trying every diet under the sun and various forms of exercise (including the gym and latterly a yoga class, where I fell asleep!), I have finally discovered the joy of walking. I love it! Fresh air the beauty of nature...you can go at your own pace, and there are many health benefits. To help me achieve my goal of 10,000 steps per day, I have asked my hubby to buy me a Fitbit for Christmas. As someone who is very goal-driven, I know that this will incentivise me to reach my target.

8. Have you lost your mojo? Feeling a little stale? Do something new! Set yourself a fresh challenge! After 18 years of running my own consultancy (Olive Strachan Resources), I have now opened a second business through which I represent a successful global health and wellness company. It is completely different, but uses some of the same skill sets; it is fun, a lot of it involves having parties and socialising with people, and it has given me a lot of joy and a brand new impetus. So look at adding something new to your list of accomplishments in 2017.

9. Spend some time with the people you love. For me, time spent with people - friends or family members - who genuinely want to be with me is a soothing balm to all the stresses that come with running a business. Laughing over a glass of Prosecco and a lovely meal always leaves me on a high. So get on the phone and arrange that meeting, go to that part, and generally kick back and enjoy yourself!

10. Take a break! Over the years, we have spent Christmas and New Year in the UK, the Caribbean, and Europe. Wherever you spend it, turn your phone off, stop emailing people, and allow yourself to recharge those batteries. For me, the ideal break is somewhere warm where I can push my toes into the sand, feel the heat of the sun, and run into the warm sea - utter bliss! When you return to work in the New Year, you will be ready to face anything. So give yourself the gift of time - time for yourself - because you deserve it!

Have a fabulous break, and I hope to catch up with you all in 2017!

Or are they?

In my capacity as Chair of the Manchester Branch of the CIPD, I have been asked by the Career Academy UK to present on the topic of a CIPD report called 'Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus'.

The report identifies that there is a direct mismatch between the expectations of employers for young people during the recruitment stage and the young people's perception of what employers expect from them. Are they worlds apart? In essence, the processes are deterring the young people's entry into employment, and this is a prime factor in the skills shortage that currently faces UK businesses.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, commented: "When it comes to recruitment, it can feel as though young people and employers are on completely different planets. Too many young people are struggling to finish their first job, whereas many employers are finding it difficult to get the skills they need. This mismatch needs to be addressed, not only to reduce youth unemployment and the long-term impact it can have on young people, but also to ensure that UK businesses are equipped with the right talent for the future."

Of course, we must also look at the employer's perspective; many employers suggest that their roles require 'experience', even for relatively junior roles, which then creates a mundane sequence for those young people who do not have access to employment opportunities.

The presentation will take place in Manchester at the Cooperative Building, Ballon Street, Manchester. Starting at 5.30pm and concluding with a Q&A session at 6.30, the event should prove to encourage a lively debate. The employers in attendance will include Barclays, Jaguar Land Rover, Deloitte, Aircelle, M&S Bank, and SMEs.

I very much look forward to working with Career Academy UK and supporting them on their journey to unite employers and young people to ensure that they are ready for the 'world of work'.

The full report can be accessed at www.cipd.co.uk/publicpolicy, and the agenda for the presentation is available to download at www.olivestrachan.com/content/pdfs/cauk-flyer.pdf.

Further information on the Career Academy UK can be found here: www.careeracademies.org.uk

LED light bulb

Regardless of which business you’re in, innovation is always a big deal. While it might well be possible to coast through the dark waters of your industry without making any waves, those who want to make it big will need some big ideas.

Many people have a pretty two-dimensional view of what ‘business innovation’ means. Come up with a great idea for a cool new product, develop and market that product as best you can, and ringing cash registers will soundtrack the rest of your life. Sure, sometimes it is that simple, but invention is not the only way to innovate!

In truth, more or less everyone has the opportunity to be innovative. You might wish that you worked in a more ‘creative’ capacity, but you don’t have to be a designer or an artist to get creative. From data entry to senior management, all lines of work can benefit from a little bit of innovation. It’s hard to imagine the company that considers ‘creativity’ to be a negative trait in their employees, and if such a business does exist, their office must be very dull indeed.

A lot of businesses put a lot of emphasis on innovation when it comes to products and services, but innovative management and creative business operations are far less sought-after. No matter what line of work you’re in, a bit of innovation is no bad thing!

Attending OSR’s Emotional Intelligence training course is a great way to breathe new life into your managerial style and bring a little innovation into your business. Our next course will take place in Manchester on the 12th of September, 2013 – call 0161 838 5692 email info@olivestrachan.com today to book your place!

Photo courtesy of Karl Baron (via Wikimedia Commons)

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