Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
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I recently attended the 2016 IoD Director of the Year Awards at the Gala dinner ceremony at the Hilton in Manchester.

The Institute of Directors exists to inspire leaders and support organisations. It is the UK's largest and longest-established membership organisation for directors and professional leaders.

The IoD Award ceremony recognises the achievements of business leaders across the region, from entrepreneurs driving innovative start-ups to global organisations with multi-million-pound turnovers.

It was an evening of laughter and joyfulness for the winners and their organisations, and those of us not nominated for an award were just really pleased to be there to support entrepreneurs and be part of a really positive and joyful occasion.

In a beautiful room at the Hilton, there were 350 of us dressed in our finery and doing something we all love doing: celebrating success.

I was invited by Clive Drinkwater from UKTI (encompassing my role as Export Champion), and we were seated at the front of the auditorium, near the stage - which was great because I like to be near the action!

One of the Directors commented on recognition and that resonated with me. He mentioned Maslow and how important it is to receive recognition for your efforts. Whether you use Maslow, Herzerg, or Neuroscience to understand what drives and motivates us, Directors - just like anyone - need someone to say 'well done!'

When I was working in recruitment back at the start of my career, we would view the 'Directors' of the organisation with envy as they walked through the office in their lovely suits. In preparation for their visit, we had to wear our uniforms, have the office cleaned from top to bottom, clear our desks of any paperwork, and sit in anticipation of possibly being the member of staff they spoke to during their visit. I would look at the Directors and think 'what do they do?' After they had gone, there would be lots of grumbling about how privileged they were because the visit would normally end with our manager taking the Director to the best restaurant for dinner before they departed. From my point of view at the time, Directors did not need any recognition as I felt that their salaries, cars, and all the other benefits they received were reward enough.

Fast forward 20 years and I am now the Director of my own business, with staff, offices, a bank loan, two children, and a mortgage. I now have to be the swan: serene above the surface whilst pedalling furiously below. The training market is a turbulent one; as the saying goes, when money is tight, the first thing to go is...training.

My company, Olive Strachan Resources, has weathered two recessions, and this involved sometimes having to make tough decisions (and, consequently, staff redundant) in order to survive. At the height of the recession, I used to go home every night unable to sleep; my hair started falling out, and I was constantly worried. During these difficult times, friends - no matter how loyal they are - eventually get  bored with listening to you sharing your distress, and so this is the time when you need a mentor or a coach to keep you keep on track. 

I would recommend that every director should avail themselves of a coach or mentor at some point in their career. As someone who has run a business for the past 18 years, I also coach and mentor others helping them to reach their full potential.

Fortunately, OSR have been able to withstand two recessions - I am extremely resilient and, with the help of UKTI, I was able find new markets abroad, win an international contract, and bounce back.

My point is that being a Director can be a lonely experience. You have to be a risk-taker and live with the consequences of those risks. When things look impossible, you have to somehow have a vision of how to make it better, think of a solution and mobilise your team to achieve your goal.

So any opportunity to champion business success, recognise and congratulate Directors for demonstrating strength in leadership to drive their organisations forward is extremely positive.

A great source of pride for me was the number of female Directors recognised on the night: Chartered Director of the Year Jo Rizema of WCF LTD, International Director of the Year Emma Sheldon of Vernacare Ltd, Public Sector/Third Sector Director of the Year Yvonne Harrison  of GreaterSport, and Diane Modahl who is CEO of the Diane Modahl sports Foundation she received her award for Director of the Year Leadership in Corporate Responsibility. It was an excellent event and I left feeling extremely positive! 

Olive Strachan profile

Olive Stracahan is the founder of Olive Strachan Resources, established in 1998 and based in Manchester, United Kingdom. Since setting up her own consultancy, Olive has delivered training that makes an impact all over the world. OSR creates bespoke solutions for any size of business, delivers cost-effective open programmes, and provides specialist advice for companies that do not have a dedicated in-house HR resource. 

Olive is an International Management Consultant, Expert Trainer, Motivational Speaker  and Executive Coach who started her career in the Recruitment industry working as a manager and coach for Reed Employment, Blue Arrow and Addeco.  Olive then pursued a career with Video Arts Training, establishing their first learning resource centre in Manchester. In essence, Olive has been developing Managers for over 25 years. 

Working in over 20 countries has given Olive the experience and understanding of International Business. This experience, combined with a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management, ensures that she is able to understand the issues that face organisations. Olive has travelled extensively and is an experienced facilitator; her main niche incorporates and develops managers, directors and working with individuals to reach their full potential. 

Olive Strachan has received all kinds of awards and accolades for her work as a training consultant. Many different organisations and institutions have acknowledged Olive’s achievements, and her twin talents for training and business coaching continue to earn recognition from all corners of the globe, including awards for:

  • Showcase Volunteer CIPD PACE Award 2014
  • One of the most influential Women in Business in the North West 2013/2014
  • The EMBF North West award for International Business
  • Recognised by the Worldwide Who's Who

Olive has worked with national organisations including Astra Zeneca, The British Council and Manchester City Council, Keele University, Packaging Automation, Irwell Valley Housing, Brand Additions, and international organisations within sectors such as pharmaceuticals, the financial sector, retail, banking, and education. She was also involved in developing the volunteers for the Commonwealth Games when it was held in Manchester. Olive has recently achieved an ILM Level 7 in Coaching and Learning, and she is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. An ex-Chair, of the CIPD Manchester Branch, Olive is presently an HR Leader for the Branch and a CIPD Council Representative.

Olive Strachan the founder of OSR Global Training Providers has been named one of the top 100 most influential women in business by the Business Insider North West. 

Throughout the recession Olive has continued to expand her business Global OSR internationally and has successfully held the position of Branch Chair of Manchester CIPD - a very commendable accolade indeed. 

As a Global Entrepreneur, Growth Coach and HR Professional Olive sits comfortably amongst the other 99 women selected, all from different industries representing both the public and the private sector. Many high-profile and prestigious companies are represneted in the lineup, including the White Company, BBC, Trafford Council and The Cooperative Group.

This prestigious accolade is testament to OSR's global success, something which we are very proud of. The list was collated by a selective committee of prominent business people from throughout the region and every woman who was elected was chosen for her influence on the North West business and her contribution to the world of commerce. 

Olive is also a member of the Professional Speakers Association and her name can also be seen in the 'World Who's Who List of Influential Women'. 

Olive's success has been reported on Industry Today and Briefing Wire. This marks yet another fantastic achievement for Olive and OSR Global Training Providers. 

OSR logo with shadow

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.

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.

In her previous blog post, Olive Strachan shared some of her early experiences in the world of work, and offered some advice for women who are starting their careers. In this second post in the series, Olive talks about establishing Olive Strachan Resources, her own training business.

Image credit: Tribalicious

I worked for Video Arts for two years, advising clients on a range of training resources, running events around ‘Learning at Work Day’, and generally building good client relationships. Video Arts then decided to centralise the operation back to London, and this was the catalyst for the creation of my own business. I walked down Deansgate in Manchester, armed with my Barclaycard and an overwhelming feeling of excitement that I had taken the first step in shaping my own destiny. I moved into my office and OSR (Olive Strachan Resources) was officially founded in July 1998. At the same time, I completed my Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management at Salford University, which I attended in the evening over a 2 year period.

I had always had success in my career previously - I am known for my tenacity and drive - but owning one’s own business is a different kettle of fish entirely. I spent the first month sat in my office with the Yellow Pages, calling up and booking appointments with all the large companies in the area. I had a lot of rejection, but did not let it deter me. I also got in touch with the Manchester Evening News, who after many phone calls ran a story about me (complete with picture!)

So if you’re just embarking on a brand new business enterprise, I can offer you two important tips:

  1. When you’ve just started a new business, do everything you can to get the word out.  Networking is key; speak to anyone and everyone who might be able to give you an early boost, from newspapers to radio stations to established companies. Do a few laps of your social circle - you’ll find that there are influential people in the most unexpected of places. Talk to your friends, acquaintances, and family members, and even if they can’t do anything for you, they might well know someone who can. Oh, and get connected! Twitter and LinkedIn didn’t exist when OSR was getting started, but they’ve become essential tools for getting a young business off the ground.

  2. Be confident and stay positive. This is important in any situation, but especially crucial at this early stage. You’ll make a better impression on potential clients if you appear confident, strong and determined, so believe in yourself and everyone else will soon follow suit. And no matter how many issues you encounter, don’t let them faze you. Be patient, and remember that success takes time; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you let slow going or minor setbacks bring you down, you’ll never achieve your business goals.

Nikos Kazantzakis once said that “In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.” Turning your fledgling business into a success will be difficult, but if you work hard to make yourself known – and keep smiling in the meantime – then you’re sure to do better for it.

Next week, Olive’s blog post will focus on her first big business triumphs, and there’ll be more great advice for women who want to grow their company. Watch this space...

Over the coming weeks, Olive Strachan will be sharing her thoughts and advice on the subject of becoming an influential woman. In this first blog post, Olive talks about how she got started in the world of business.

Image credit: Lee Jordan

The first step is always the hardest, and that's especially true in the world of business! Starting from scratch can seem like an impossible task, but bear in mind that every business has to start somewhere. Even Bill Gates was an unknown, once upon a time.

The first thing you'll need to do is identify your own skills and abilities. I spent many years in the recruitment industry with companies like Reed, Blue Arrow, and Ardecco, for whom I worked as a manager and trainer. Relatively early in my career, I realised that I was able to match the right person to the right job with uncanny precision. I also discovered a talent for building long-term relationships with people in both social and business contexts.

It wasn't long before my employers spotted these skills, and they started giving me the new recruits to train. I saw many of the people I mentored go on to have successful, illustrious careers, and my work in the recruitment field really helped me to build my confidence and self-belief. "If I can do this for an organisation," I thought, "why not do it for myself?"

After being turned down for promotion on the ground that I didn't have a degree, I decided to strike out on my own. The next step was self-improvement: it was time to acquire some new skills. I started taking night classes at Salford University, where I successfully completed a post-graduate diploma in Human Resource Management. It was around this time that I realised my true calling: the development of people. I found a job with the Video Arts training company, who were opening their first office in North West England and needed a manager. By combining my own natural talents with study and self-improvement, I had found a career that suited me, and set myself up to succeed in the world of business.

In her next blog post, Olive will be looking back to the birth of OSR (her own training company) and offering a few tips for women who are looking to get a new enterprise off the ground. Don't miss it!

Insider North West recently included Olive Strachan - OSR's founder and CEO - in their list of the 100 Most Influential Women in Business. Olive established her own company in 1998, and since then she's expanded her reach into the four corners of the globe, delivering training sessions all over the world and growing Olive Strachan Resources into a truly international training company.

Over the coming weeks, Olive will be sharing her thoughts on being a woman in the world of business, as well as offering some tips for women who wish to become influential in their chosen industry. This series of blog posts will cover everything from getting a company off the ground to gaining a foothold in the international market, and we're sure that her tips will prove helpful to budding businesswomen everywhere.

Here's a message from Olive herself:

There has been much research regarding women in business and, sadly, women are still perceived as a risk. My belief is that the problem stems from a lack of confidence in ourselves. In my series of blogs about how to become an influential businesswoman, I will share with you some of the challenges I have faced and how I overcame them. I will also write about the amazing experiences I have had that led to my inclusion in Insider Magazine's list of the 100 most influential women in business. 

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