Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
Inspiring Business North West
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And why doing it right is so important!

Customer service, put simply, is the art of giving people what they want. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? And yet customer service is one of the most talked-about aspects of running a business; books have been written, lectures have been given, and – most pertinently of all – training courses have been delivered. And it’s all in the name of improved customer service.

It’s often been said that ‘the customer is always right’, and while baristas and shop assistants up and down the country are gritting their teeth in disagreement right now, there’s a lot of wisdom in that proverb. After all, customers are the only reason you’re still in business, and if you’re not doing right by them, you can kiss your company goodbye. If you don’t already acknowledge the value of good customer service, it’s time you started!

Customer service doesn’t necessarily mean doing everything right, but if you do make a mistake or encounter a problem, then good customer service means that you will resolve the issue in a quick and friendly manner. According to zendesk.com, the average customer is most concerned with these three factors:

  1. Speed (How quickly was the problem solved?)
  2. Friendliness (How nice was the person who helped me?)
  3. Directness (How many people did I have to speak to before the issue was resolved?)

As that article points out, it seems that The Perfect Customer Service Interaction doesn’t necessarily end with the customer getting their way – it’s far more important to be nice, and to handle things quickly and efficiently.

And if you don’t hit those three targets, the consequences could be dire. Customer service has always been important (‘happy customers have deep pockets’ is a saying that should have been coined centuries ago), but it’s arguably more crucial than ever nowadays. In the age of social media, information spreads fast, and nothing will get people talking like bad customer service. The last thing you want is a disgruntled customer tweeting, blogging, and waxing lyrical about your company’s many shortcomings. You’ll soon have a bad reputation on your hands, and that will make new customers all the harder to come by.

So it’s time to embrace the true meaning of customer service, and that’s as follows: being good to your customers. Treat them nicely, work hard for them, and you will be rewarded with five-star reviews and glowing recommendations galore. If you’re keen to kick your customer service skills into high gear, get in touch with OSR today. Our next Customer Service training course is happening on the 15th of October; email info@olivestrachan.com or call 0161 838 5692 to book your place.

Hungarian Telephone Factory 1937 Budapest

It’s been said that everyone is a salesperson. Your job may not involve selling things to people in a literal sense, but the sales department isn’t the only place in which good sales skills can come in handy. If you’re in charge of a business, you’re bound to find yourself trying to ‘sell the product’ at some point; whether you’re putting together an advert for your hair salon or trying to convince a potential client that your graphic design skills are worth paying for, a talent for salesmanship  never ceases to be useful.

Job interviews, too, are all about how well you can sell. You have to convince the interviewers that you can contribute to their cause, and sometimes, they’ll have to convince you that their company is a good one to work for!

Boosting your sales skills will benefit you in all kinds of ways, and that’s why OSR’s sales skills training course is so utterly essential. While the course will have a positive effect on every aspect of your selling, we concentrate on arguably the most challenging way of making a sale: doing it over the phone.

It’s a lot harder to sell something on the telephone; with no eye contact or body language, connecting with your potential customers can sometimes seem impossible. That’s the issue we attempt to tackle on this course, improving your ability to get things done on the telephone and bringing your techniques right up to date.

Our next sales skills course will take place in Manchester on Tuesday the 15th of October. If you’re interested in attending, download a booking form now. Or, if you’d like to find out more, you can call 0161 838 5692 or email info@olivestrachan.com.

Image by Takkk

Insider’s international trade breakfast took place in Manchester last week (Wednesday the 3rd of July), and Olive Strachan, CEO and founder of OSR, was among the guest speakers. She was joined by experienced professionals from a variety of fields: Sandra Thomber from UK Trade & Investment, Denver Hewlett of Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, and AppLearn CEO Mark Barlow, to name but a few.

The big topic of the morning was global growth, and the ways in which a small company might expand into a larger market. Olive and the other speakers talked about their experience in this area; as the founder of a flourishing global training company, Olive Strachan is something of an expert when it comes to doing business on an international level!

The breakfast was a great success, with Olive and the panel fielding questions from a large gathering of North West business owners. Many issues were covered, including international export, expansion, and government funding for businesses. Olive Strachan was proud to be included in such a prestigious panel of guests, and we hope that all attendees left feeling confident about the opportunities that await their business in the world at large.

Here at Olive Strachan Resources, we pride ourselves on being an international training company. We may be based in rainy old Manchester, but our training courses have taken us all over the world, from Belgium to Bosnia to Bahrain.

And while we could just sit here and boast about all the beautiful places we’ve visited, we’re not going to do that. As enlightening as it is to see all of these different countries, it’s their similarities that are truly inspirational.

The amazing thing about providing training courses on a global scale is this: the same values tend to hold true no matter where you’re preaching them. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking to project managers in Portugal or CEOs in Serbia, our tried-and-tested management training methods will almost always apply.

At the end of the day, managing a business is all about communication and making good decisions, and that ethos is valid no matter where your business is based. There are some differences, of course, and language barriers can sometimes be difficult to overcome, but the message at the heart of our training programmes can generally be exported to any and all corners of the world.

To learn more about our internationally-acclaimed training courses, email info@olivestrachan.com or call 0161 838 5692 today.

The main focus for any new business will be growth: building a client base, establishing an image for your brand, getting started with social media, et cetera. But while you’re trying to get word of your brilliant new cake shop to potential customers, it’s important to keep an eye on the people who are making the business tick. Very few entrepreneurs are capable of running a successful business single-handedly, and you’re almost certain to need a little help when you’re starting up.

It’s important to look after the people who have been with your company since the very beginning. This could mean your trusty secretary, your ever-vigilant accountant, or just the posse you rounded up to do the manual labour for you; all of these people are valuable to your business, and it’s better to hang on to them than to let them go and replace them with inexperienced new folk. Your initial cohorts are likely to have an emotional attachment to the business, a sense of loyalty that will probably be absent from any future recruits. After all, these people played a part in the company’s creation, and they’ll want to do what they can to keep it afloat!

So the lesson is this: look after the people you start with. A lot of managers encourage their employees to see them as a co-worker rather than The Boss, but this dynamic becomes much harder to achieve when you’re a multi-millionaire business tycoon who works in a separate office with an ensuite bathroom. If you’re keen to create a good relationship with your workforce (and you should be), it’s best to do so when your business is still in its formative stages. In a nutshell, be nice to your employees; this will make them more likely to stick around, and when you do start expanding and adding new faces to the team, the newcomers will be more than happy to get involved in the friendly, all-for-one atmosphere that you’ve been cultivating since the beginning.

  • The people who helped to get your business off the ground will have an emotional stake in the company, which means that they will take a closer interest in your continued success than new recruits will.

  • Keep an eye on your loyal employees. Make sure that they're happy in their work, and that they are content with the way you're handling the business.

  • Remember, it's always better to hang on to a reliable old employee than to replace them with somebody new! Do your best to keep everyone happy (within reason), and you should find that your staff retention stays high.
If you'd like to improve your capability as a manager, there are several OSR training courses that can help. The Effective People Manager course is ideal for people with a lot of managerial responsibility, while the Managing Teams training day can help you to stay on top of your business as it expands and grows. Small business owners are welcome at both events; go to the individual course pages for details. 

As a business manager, you've almost certainly done your fair share of training. Training comes in all shapes and sizes; you might be getting a new recruit up to speed, or helping your more experienced employees to do something a little more advanced, or taking your entire staff out into the wilderness for a full-blown teambuilding weekend. No matter what form it takes, training is pretty much unavoidable. If you want your business to prosper, you're going to have to train somebody, in some way, at some point.

But what of your own training? Being at the top of the corporate heap doesn’t necessarily mean that you know everything there is to know; as Sherlock Holmes once said, “education never ends”. Regardless of what business you’re in, there’s always something else you can learn, and another set of skills you can master. Why rest on your laurels when you can continuously improve your abilities and boost your company’s success?

And it’s not just a matter of moving onwards and upwards. The world of business is always changing, and skills that were highly marketable yesterday could become obsolete by tomorrow. The digital age has shaken everything up, and if you want to make your mark as a business, it’s now nigh-on impossible to do so without mastering the mysterious art of social media. Nobody knew what Twitter was ten years ago, and look at us now.

So by all means train your workers, but don’t forget to train yourself, too! The new skills you’ll acquire could do wonders for your business, and self-improvement always feels good. Give OSR a call on 0161 838 5692 and discuss management training options today – who knows what you might learn?

Leadership is important when you're managing a business. If you’ve seen that Call Centre programme on BBC3, you may remember Nev (the centre’s eccentric boss) comparing himself to Napoleon. While HR headaches and people management aren’t quite on a par with the things Monsieur Bonaparte had to deal with, he’s certainly a healthy role model to have as far as leadership skills are concerned. A good leader is capable of uniting his troops/employees and bringing them all closer to their common goal. Here are a few ways to improve your own business leadership abilities:

Communication is Key

If you want your employees to meet the goals you set for them, make sure they’re clear on what those goals are. If somebody isn’t currently performing as well as they could be, you may find that a quick chat is enough to set them straight. Talk about what you expect from them, and the things you want them to accomplish over the course of a day, week or month. And remember: communication is a two-way street, so listen carefully to anything they have to say too!

United we stand...

Have you ever used the phrase ‘rally the troops’? Because that’s what you want to do every day when you’re managing a business: rally your troops and make them feel as though they’re all working towards something important. Ideally, your employees will work together as a unit, communicating effectively with each other so that everything is nicely co-ordinated. Unifying your team is easier when the team is small – it’s difficult to get hundreds of people working together like a well-oiled machine, but with good management and a little patience, it can be done. A regular team talk is a good way to motivate people and keep them abreast of what you’re currently trying to achieve.

Be nice!

Employees will be a lot more company-loyal if they’ve got a good opinion of the person in charge (i.e. you). Breathing down necks and threatening employees with dismissal may work for some managers, but the atmosphere in your office will be far more positive if you’re friendly and approachable. Some people will tell you that you have to be nasty to make it in business, but you’ll make a far better leader if the people you’re leading actually like you.

If you want to learn more about business leadership, an OSR training course could be exactly what you need. We are running an Influencing & Persuading Skills course on the 20th of June, as well as a Handling Difficult Situations programme on the 27th. Both will do wonders for your leadership skills; if you’d like to book a place on either course, call 0161 838 5692 or email info@olivestrachan.com for more information.

We run so many courses here at OSR, it can sometimes be hard to keep track of them all! If you feel like trying a little training this month, here's a handy list of the courses we'll be delivering in Manchester this month. If you see something you like on this at-a-glance guide, click the course title for more information - or just ring 0161 838 5692 to book your place!

11th June – Interviewing Skills
A good employer-employee relationship starts with the interview. Develop your communication skills and learn how to ask the right questions!

11th June – Managing Workplace Problems
Problem solving is a crucial management skil. Improve your ability to tackle problems and conflicts as soon as they emerge.

12th June – Sales Skills
Selling something over the phone is harder than doing so in person. This course will help to make you a better salesperson!

13th June – Essentials for Managers with Experience
Management and leadership are two different things. This course covers a variety of skills that are central to both.

18th June – Managing Teams
Work together with your team members, and encourage them to work together with each other!

19th June – Performance Management
It’s not the work you’re doing, it’s how well you’re doing it. Boost your employees’ (and your own) performance with this course.

20th June – Influencing and Persuading Skills
The ability to influence other people is a great skill to have in your arsenal. Increase your powers of persuasion and build better working relationships.

25th June – Managing Effective Appraisal
The annual performance review doesn’t have to be tedious and unpleasant. With the skills you’ll learn on this course, you can ensure that your appraisals are geared towards development and improvement.

25th June – Time Management
No matter what your job is, good time management is essential. Learn to prioritise and avoid those last-minute panics!

26th June – Assertiveness
Being assertive doesn’t mean being nasty. There’s a big difference between assertiveness and aggression, and this training day will help you to assert yourself in all the right ways.

27th June – Handling Difficult Situations
Empathy is key if you’re managing a business. This course will help you to understand the people who work for you and resolve any problems you might be having.

If any of that sounded interesting to you, don’t waste any time – course places are limited, and it’s first come, first served! Ring 0161 838 5692 today, or email info@olivestrachan.com.

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personal Development) is an illustrious HR association - Europe's largest, in fact - and it gives us great joy to announce that OSR's own Olive Strachan has been made Chair of the CIPD's Manchester branch! Olive was inaugurated at the institute's annual meeting in Fallowfield, and she's keen to embrace her role with open arms. 2013 is set to be a big year for the CIPD; it was founded in 1913, which means that the association is celebrating its one hundredth birthday this year. It's a busy time to become Chair, but Olive is certainly up to the task! Here's what she had to say about this new role:

Chair of CIPD Manchester is just the latest addition to Olive's increasingly diverse resumé. This press release refers to Olive as an "HR professional, coach, mentor, and global entrepreneur" - if anyone has the experience necessary to fill such a prestigious role, it's Olive Strachan! Olive has been a member of the Manchester CIPD committee for years, and she acted as Vice Chair for some time before her recent appointment as Chair.

So what does Olive have planned for the CIPD? Well, one priority is to maintain and strengthen the institute's relationships with universities and students in the Northwest, as well as working together with businesses to push forward new initiatives. Olive will be chair of the CIPD's Manchester branch for the next two years, and this period will hopefully see all kinds of expansion and improvement. Congratulations Olive - here's to the future!

Managing people effectively is no mean feat. The job of a line manager is to keep everything running smoothly, and if you’re employed as a line manager then you already know how difficult this can be at times. Managing everyone else’s work as well as your own...it can often feel like spinning plates!

Our Effective People Management course (next date: May 29, 2013) is especially designed to cater to the needs of the line manager. If your work revolves around managing other people, this training course is perfect for you! This management training programme is one day long, and the training consultant leading the course will focus on the following topics:

  • Understanding your role as a line manager
  • Working within the rules
  • Developing your staff members
  • Setting high standards
  • Maximising resources
  • Establishing good working relationships with staff
  • Managing your time more productively

The most important thing to remember when managing people is that they’re only human. Our Effective People Management training course places a lot of emphasis on what we call ‘The Human Factor’, and over the course of the day, you and the other line managers on the course will learn a variety of new ways to make life easier for both you and your staff.

The next Effective People Management course will take place on the 29th of May in our Manchester training centre. The cost is £350 per person; our courses are always enjoyable and informative, so your money will absolutely not be going to waste! If you’d like to book a place on this course, you can download an OSR Booking Form from the Effective People Manager course page. Alternatively, you can book your place over the phone – just give us a call today on 0161 838 5692.

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