Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
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With the clocks going back on Sunday it seems that autumn has well and truly settled in, and it's already been a very busy period for me! As chair of the CIPD's Manchester branch, my schedule has been chock-a-block of late:

  • We at CIPD Manchester have started to build a collaborative relationship with corporate membership organisation Pro Manchester. Last month, I attended a reception at the Manchester Art Gallery where Nicola Quayle (the recently-inaugurated chair of Pro Manchester) was speaking about her plans for the organisation and answering the questions of almost a hundred delegates from a wide variety of industries. I have yet to meet Nicola face-to-face, but I think I speak for the whole branch when I say that we look forward to working with her over the coming months!

  • I myself was invited to speak at a number of events recently. I delivered a speech to more than 50 businesses at the Natwest Entrepeneur Breakfast in September, waxing lyrical on the subject of keeping one's employees engaged; later that month, I spoke at the Barclays North West Flexible Working Forum, as did Sarah Greasley (Client Technical Director of IBM) and Sara Hill (CEO of Capability Jane). Email info@olivestrachan.com if you would like a copy of the slides we used! 

  • One of CIPD Manchester's main aims is to collaborate with businesses in North West England and to breed fruitful working relationships with them. I recently had a meeting with the people behind The Nubian Times, an up-and-coming BAME newspaper; they were interested in working with the CIPD, and expressed a particular passion for topics related to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, I am now a member of the Talent Northwest team, a group focused on attracting and retaining new business talent.

  • I also went to a fashion show at L.K. Bennett. Life isn't all work, you know!

There are plenty of big CIPD events still to come, including the institute's Annual Conference and Exhibition in November. The event (subtitled 'Leading HR into the Future') will take place on the 6-7th of November at Manchester Central. Further details can be found on the CIPD website; the Manchester Branch committee will be speaking on both days, so do come and say hello if you are attending!

Have a great autumn,

Olive Strachan
CEO and Founder of Olive Strachan Resources 

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.

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.

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

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. 

We're in pretty high spirits at OSR headquarters today, and for good reason: our CEO, Olive Strachan, has been chosen as one of the most influential businesswomen in North West England by Insider Magazine! The Top 100 list (featured in the August ‘13 issue of North West Business Insider) is comprised of women from all kinds of different industries: PR gurus rub shoulders with media executives, and many high-profile companies are represented in the countdown, including Nichols and N Brown. 

As you can probably imagine, Olive was over the moon to see her name on the list, and this accolade is testament to OSR’s success in both the North West and beyond. The list was put together was put together by an elite group of prominent businesspeople from throughout the region; each woman who made the list was chosen for her influence on North-Western business and her contribution to the business world at large. Based on those criteria, we’d say that Olive is wholly deserving of her place on the list!

Everyone here at OSR would like to congratulate Olive on her fantastic achievement – we’re sure that she’ll pick up many more accolades in the future. If you’d like to find out more about the list and the other 99 women who made the cut, head over to the Insider North West website; if you’d like to find out more about what we do here at Olive Strachan Resources, we’d recommending starting from the homepage.

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