Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
Inspiring Business North West
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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.

fired stamp

It’s often said that staff are a company’s greatest asset. Not everyone will agree, and if your employees aren’t living up to their initial promise, you may well find yourself tempted to do some sacking and start again with new ones.

Dismissals are sometimes unavoidable, but on the whole, it’s always better to stick with your current employees than to ditch them and find new ones. Here are five reasons why:

  1. Recruitment
    Job hunting is no barrel of laughs, but finding someone to fill your own vacancies can be even more frustrating. You’ll have high hopes at first, but if your dream candidate hasn’t materialised after a few weeks, you’ll soon lose your enthusiasm for the whole process. You might well regret getting rid of your problematic former employee in the first place – at least they had the necessary qualifications!

  2. Training
    Even the most outstanding new prospect will most likely require a little training, and if you’ve already put a lot of time into training your current employees, it makes more sense to keep trying with them than to go back to square one with somebody new. Don’t let your efforts thus far go to waste!

  3. Loyalty
    Admittedly, if you’re on the brink of sacking someone, that person probably isn’t all that committed to your cause anyway. But even your least productive employees will probably have some sense of company loyalty; the person who has been with the business for a couple of years will almost always be more invested than the person who’s only just started. Loyalty is a rare commodity, and it should never be thrown away.

  4. The Team
    This point is especially pertinent for small companies. Once your staff members have been working together for a little while, they will form a tight-knit group, and introducing a newcomer to the group will sometimes leave the newcomer feeling alienated. It’s even harder for a new person to integrate when they’re taking somebody else’s place; if your remaining employees were fairly fond of their ex-coworker, they might not be all that welcoming towards their replacement.

  5. Your Competitors
    What does a person do upon losing their job? Some will use the opportunity to re-invent themselves and try their hand at something completely new, but countless others will simply look for similar work elsewhere. Unless the person you’ve just dismissed wants to relocate or swap careers entirely, they’ll probably try for a job with a local company in the same industry as you – i.e. one of your competitors. And since that person has worked for you, they’re probably capable of telling their new boss more than you’d like them to know about the inner workings of your business.

So even if your employees are causing you headaches, you should always do what you can to keep them. Talk to them about the issues you’re having, consider investing in some professional training, and only dismiss them as a last resort.

Oh, and hanging on to your employees doesn’t just mean sticking with the bad ones – it also means keeping the good ones happy! If somebody is doing good work, make sure they know it, and try to reward them appropriately so that they don’t think about leaving.

While browsing through the Leadership section of the Management Today website, I came across this article, which warns against making assumptions in day-to-day life. You can read the full piece for yourself, but basically the author received an invitation to a barbecue and decided to go along, only to discover that the host wasn’t who they thought it was. The moral (and indeed the title) of the story is that you should never assume anything, lest you be punished with awkwardness at best and unpleasantness at worst.

The story was certainly interesting, not to mention amusing, but at first it was somewhat hard to see what any of it had to with leadership. Going to a barbecue, mistaking one acquaintance for another – there’s no real relation to the world of business.

But as it turns out, people who land on that page looking for leadership advice need look no further than the article’s heading. ‘Never assume anything’ isn’t merely a helpful social tip; it’s a crucial rule of thumb for managers and leaders everywhere. The story that Avril Millar relates is just one example of where false assumptions can lead, and one hardly needs to spell out how much higher the stakes are when the situation is business-related.

Good leaders should never make assumptions. Whether it’s assuming that your employees are doing exactly what you expect of them, or assuming that a problem will work itself out given time, you need to stop assuming and start finding out for sure. Listen to what people tell you, and eliminate any ambiguity by asking questions and checking your facts. When your business is on the line, the consequences of a mistaken assumption could be far worse than an awkward evening with a forgotten friend.

If you’re looking to improve your leadership skills, OSR offer a range of Leadership & Development courses that may help. Call 0161 838 5692 to find out more.

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)

Heart and circulatory system

‘Organisational Development’ is a commonly-used phrase in the modern HR business, but unless we want it to become another empty buzzword that gets tossed around boardrooms without making much impact, it’s important to stop and consider what OD really is.

Organisational development – speaking in the broadest, most basic terms available – is all about making your company run smoother. If we may liken businesses to human bodies, and each team or department within the company is a particular organ or limb, then organisational development is designed to make all of these parts work together as a whole.

An OD expert is capable of encouraging everyone in a company to work towards one common goal. Just like parts of the body, every part of a business has a different role to play – one group will make the product, one group will market it, another will keep an eye on those two groups to make sure they’re doing everything right. Like the oil that stops a gate from squeaking, organisational development makes everything work like it’s supposed to.

But it’s not all about The Big Picture. OD also aims to help the individuals who make up the company, creating and optimising an environment that gets the best from them. Organisational development means helping an organisation to be as good as it can possibly be, and doing whatever it takes to achieve that.

As you may notice while browsing our courses, all of OSR’s training providers are experts in OD. Business training and organisational development go hand-in-hand, really; they’re both geared towards improving your business and making it all run a little more smoothly. Call 0161 838 5692 to find out more about our training and development programmes.

Image source: http://bryanbrandenburg.net/wikpedia-heart-3d/

One of the most-criticised aspects of the business training industry is the notorious ‘sheep dip’ approach to training and development. This is a slightly silly name for a pretty serious problem: when you see training as the medicine that you feed your employees once a year to keep them productive, your results are unlikely to be all that impressive. Running a business is very different to looking after animals on a farm; dipping your sheep every so often will keep them free of lice, but giving your workers the same old refresher course year after year will quickly lead to diminishing returns.

Of course, training shouldn’t be a routine, token exercise, and a good training provider will always aim to have taught their charges something new or inspired them in new ways by the end of the session. Sheep dip training isn’t something we do here at OSR; managers should invest in training because they want to challenge their employees and improve their skills, not because they have to fill some kind of annual quota. Likewise, a training course ought to revolve around engaging and informing the attendees, rather than reminding them of things that they already know.

Still, even the best training course will come to an end. Once the day is over, it’s up to the attendees to take away what they’ve learned and use it effectively. In this respect, a training course might not be what your company needs at all; you may benefit much more from business coaching.

Where a training course is a one-off burst of guidance and inspiration, hiring a business coach will give you access to ongoing, long-term advice that’s specifically tailored to your situation. The coach will work with you personally to ensure that you get results; not only will they give you far more relevant advice having had a good look at your business, they can then react to any changes and adapt their plan accordingly.

So if you’re looking for a new way to approach your work, or a means of improving a particular aspect of your business, then a good quality training course will see you right. If you want a thorough service that will really take your company to the next level, you need business coaching. Email info@olivestrachan.com today to find out what kind of coaching Olive Strachan Resources can offer you!

Training courses, no matter how thorough and engaging, aren't always the right solution for a business. A one-off, one-day session can have a big impact when delivered well, but it's rarely enoigh to turn a company around completely. If you need something a little more comprehensive, then you might well want to opt for some professional business coaching instead.

Olive Strachan has been coaching for over 20 years, and in that time she has worked with a diverse array of entrepreneurs and executives, helping them to realise their aspirations and, in short, get more from what they do. How many other people have coached the police and the fire service?

Business coaching is a more intimate, in-depth process than an OSR training course; there are no restrictions on how long your coaching sessions can last or how often you can have them. Whether you need an occasional nudge in the right direction or across-the-board guidance that will reinvigorate your entire business, OSR business coaching will bring you that much closer to success.

Olive and the OSR team know that every company is different, and to that end, we create a unique business coaching package for each client we work with. Olive is well-versed in a variety of coaching techniques and diagnostic tools, allowing her to pinpoint a company's issues and tackle them effectively.

OSR offer business coaching for individuals and teams alike. If you'd like us to work with you, call 0161 838 5692 or email info@olivestrachan.com for a quote.

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.

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