South West Training Blog

Articles, tips, guides and blogs around business skills, training, professional courses and development in addition to South West relevant news.

Five Traits of a Successful Sales Person

Five Traits of a Successful Sales Person

Excellent salespeople are like gold dust. Businesses with a detailed understanding of what it takes to do well in sales, use this understanding to build high performing sales teams that consistently win business and drive company success.

So what does it take to be a winning salesperson? Below, we have outlined the most important traits:

Trait Number 1: Passion

From prospecting to closure, passion is an essential driver across all elements of the sales cycle. Passion is emotionally contagious and a salesperson, passionate about the product or service, will, no doubt, pique the interest of their prospect.

Likewise, a passionate approach to dealing effectively with objections and moving prospects towards closure will drive a healthy moving pipeline; rather than a stagnant pipeline characterised by ageing prospects.

Trait Number 2: Empathy

An empathetic salesperson is well placed to discern both the spoken and unspoken cues within prospect engagement.

Unspoken body language, for example, presents a wealth of information for salespeople endowed with the ability to actively discern their prospect’s feelings and to see things through their prospect’s lens. By picking up on unspoken objections, or really taking the time to see things as their prospect might see them, the salesperson is positioned to handle the objections to resolution and to anticipate and manage other concerns that their prospect might have.

Trait Number 3: Organisation

It’s essential that salespeople are organised. Since the sales cycle requires the completion of key steps prior to closure, it’s important that members of the sales team are able to capture what needs doing when and to map where prospects sit within the cycle. Capturing details at all stages of the sales process ensures  potential clients don’t fall through the net and that opportunities aren’t lost by forgotten or delayed responses from the salesperson. A properly organised approach keeps prospects happy and engenders trust.

Trait Number 4: Responsibility 

A good salesperson takes responsibility for the success, or failure, of their sales performance. They don’t blame failure to convert a sale on external factors. Instead, they acknowledge failure to convert the sale and make the effort to understand how they might have managed things differently. For example, they may question whether the service offering could have been presented slightly differently, whether the prospect had particular needs they hadn’t picked up on or underlying time concerns.

By analysing and taking accountability for success or failure, the salesperson is able to apply their understanding of what does / doesn’t work to future scenarios.

Trait Number 5: Product / Service Excellence

It’s essential that salespeople have a thorough, inside out outstanding of the product or service they are selling as this enables them to pitch effectively, handle objections well and to suggest alternatives for poor fit products or services.

Since confidence in a salesperson’s pitch is an essential element of a prospect moving to closure, a professional command of all elements is critical.

With businesses in Devon and Cornwall alone turning over in excess of £14 billion per annum, the South West is already home to many successful salespeople. As more sales people endeavour to adopt the behaviours and characteristics of role model sales staff, productivity in the South West will continue to thrive.

If your teams need support to move to the next level in their sales activities, then contact us to arrange a training event. Our trainers take the hassle out of sales training by customising courses to meet the specific and unique needs of staff and delivering it on site; saving staff the need to travel.

With sales training so accessible, why are you waiting? Whether you’re in Bath in Somerset, Exeter in Devon, Bournemouth in Dorset, or Truro in Cornwall, we have a team of qualified, experienced trainers to meet your training needs.

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Five Super Time Management Tips!

Five Super Time Management Tips!

Time management skills are an essential attribute for successful employees across all business roles. It’s a fact, that savvy time managers are more productive, climb the career ladder more quickly, demonstrate greater professionalism and competence, have more spare time within their role to participate in training programmes and sufficient time to invest in building and maintaining strategic professional relationships. 

As such, if there’s one training course that should be at the top of your list this year, then make it time management!

In the meantime, the Training South West team have prepared six fundamental time management tips to get you on the right track:

Invest in an energising morning routine!

Let’s image two colleagues, both of whom perform the same role in the same organisation. Colleague A repeatedly snoozes his alarm, falls out of bed late and then races to work having only had a coffee. Colleague B, however, wakes up early, and follows a routine that puts her in a great state of mind for the day ahead. Who do you think is going to perform most effectively when they arrive at work? Colleague A or Colleague B?

People rarely see the value presented by using the morning time effectively. This pre-work phases offers a fantastic time to get you into the right mindset for the day ahead, which in turn, will make you productive and keep you on focused.

Establish a morning routine that isn’t excessive (otherwise you’re unlikely to do it) but this is constant, positive and which puts you in the right mindset for the day ahead. Exercise should be an essential part of this routine, followed by a healthy breakfast, the planning of essential goals for delivery at work that day and perhaps mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or visualisation.


Super Time Management Tip 1

Apply yourself!

Many people spend time looking at internet news, drinking coffee, chatting to colleagues and perhaps checking messages when they first arrive at work. Avoid this and, instead, apply yourself from the outset.

Set your day into ‘uninterrupted’ time zones (UTZ) of at least 30-minute chunks. If you take a break either side of this, then that’s your prerogative, but aim to get maximum output from your UTZs. When you’re entering an UTZ, be clear about:

  • What you’re going to achieve in that period
  • Set a timer (not on your phone)
  • Ask your colleagues to only interrupt you if essential
  • Turn off your email and phone and;
  • Deliver on your goals!

As few as 6 UTZs a day can pay boundless dividends when it comes to productivity and achieving your daily objectives. 


Super Time Management Tip 2
Set goals that are measurable

Ensure the goals you set in your UTZ are measurable. They should be goals that deliver a tangible and specific result.

Email surfing, or engaging in online chat with colleagues, formatting a report that doesn’t really need to be formatted, making coffee for colleagues etc. are not measurable tasks. Instead they are just ‘floater’ tasks that focus you on unimportant activities throughout the day. When embarking on your goal, you should be clear about why you are doing what you’re doing, what your deliverable is and how you’re going to do it. Ask yourself ‘what is the most important thing I can do, that will get me the best outcome for the time I am I investing?


Super Time Management Tip 3
Don’t allow people to steal your time

Your time is valuable. If you see time as having a financial value, then you’ll be more guarded about giving it away unnecessarily. Only use your time to deliver outcomes for others if this is essential and necessary. Be frugal with your time and spend it on tasks that will advance you. Be confident about saying ‘no’ to others if you are being asked to do things that move them closer to their goals but not you.

Clearly, there will be some tasks delegated by others that are incumbent on you and part of your job role. Where this is the case, then set a particular time in the day – ideally during a UTZ, to complete these tasks in one single chunk. They shouldn’t be allowed to distract you from your core tasks throughout the day.


Super Time Management Tip 4
Assess your performance

Although it may seem counterintuitive, completing an adhoc day account is a great way to assess your time management success. Record how you spend your time; look at how much of your day was productive and how much was wasted or spent on others. Be honest with yourself when you complete it. Those at the outset of their time management journey are often surprised at just how unproductive their days are…..


Super Time Management Tip 5
Be aware of time traps

Start becoming aware of the traps most likely to steal your time. This could be doing the tea / coffee rounds, chatting about non work-related topics throughout the day, tiredness (perhaps due to a poor start to the day and unsubstantial breakfast), drifting through tasks without goals, procrastination or avoidance.

Once you’re aware of the traps you should think through the ways in which you will manage them and limit their negative influence on your day.


We’ve given you some great tips to get you started. If you implement and adhere to these tips, then you’re bound to see a significant increase in your productivity and your performance within your working role.

If you work in a team that would benefit collectively from time management training, then contact the Training South West team to discuss your needs further. We deliver customised training courses to businesses across the South West. Whether you are in Yeovil, Somerset, Bournemouth, Dorset, Truro, Cornwall or Exeter, Devon, we have training courses and trainers to meet your needs. With all our business training courses delivered on site, we take the hassle out of training.


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It’s not just a beautiful place, Dorset has some of the best companies to work for in the UK!

It’s not just a beautiful place, Dorset has some of the best companies to work for in the UK!

There’s a good reason why our training company is headquartered in Dorset – and that is, that along with other parts of the South West, we believe that Dorset is one of the most beautiful places in the UK.

A vibrant county with entrepreneurs, multinationals and small family businesses bustling together against the backdrop of a stunning landscape, it’s fair to say that Dorset is the place to be!

Adding to the many reasons to celebrate Dorset, is research carried out the by the Indeed Job Search website, which has ranked a number of Dorset companies in the top ten list of best companies to work in the UK. 

Let's look at who the companies are and why the managed to make it in the top ten list: 

Ranking at number 3 is Agincare, a care provider based in Portland.

Agnicare has been praised for providing a culture of work life balance and supportive management. Starting life as a single care home in Weymouth in 1986, Agnicare now boasts 3,500 staff in over 50 locations.

Ranking at number 5 is Lush, a cosmetics company based in Poole.

Known for its commitment to animal welfare and its strong stance against animal testing, the company is now a common feature in most UK high streets. Starting life in 1995, Lush has grown both nationally and internationally. It now has over 12,000 staff based in over 450 shops and 900 outlets globally.

Lush was praised for putting the welfare of staff at the heart of its business. Parental leave was not only encouraged, but doubled, childcare allowances were paid to staff returning to work from maternity leave and wages were brought in line with the Living Wage. This increase resulted in over 1,000 workers in Poole receiving a financial increase of just over £2,000.

Coming at number 7 and number ten respectively, were the larger multinationals Barclays and JP Morgan.

Barclays employs over 1,000 staff in Poole, while JP Morgan employs over 4,000 staff in Bournemouth.

UK Managing Director for Indeed, reported that reviews posted by employees put considerable value on areas such as work life balance, employee support and a positive work culture.

A positive work culture is essential to retaining staff, driving productivity, ensuring morale and driving teamwork. It also reduces key areas such as sickness leave, time off work and failure to meet targets.Training and development and a visible commitment to helping staff ‘grow’ are essential ingredients to creating a positive work culture. A commitment to training demonstrates an investment in staff and provides a fulfilling framework in which staff can develop new skills and feel a sense of achievement.The cycle of training and the application of new skills and know how back into the workplace allows staff to feel that they are gaining something of value back from their role – in essence, that they are personally benefiting from being the role incumbent.

The research carried out by Indeed is great news for Dorset businesses and demonstrates the reason why Dorset has seen an increase in people of working age relocating to the county.

Training South West provide business relevant training courses to South West based businesses. Whether you are in Devon, Cornwall , Dorset  Somerset or Wiltshire, we have courses and trainers to help grow your staff and business.

Contact us for more information.

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Top Tips to Help you Become an Effective Presenter

Top Tips to Help you Become an Effective Presenter

With increased export portfolios, relocations of large businesses to the South West region and entrepreneurs choosing the South West over other parts of the UK, business is thriving. In fact, it’s estimated that businesses in Devon and Cornwall alone, turnover in excess of £14 billion per annum.

It’s a fact that strong businesses need strong presenters to ensure growth and promotion. If you work for a South West business, then the ability to present successfully is a fantastic skill to have.

The guidelines below will go a long way to helping you develop the skills you need. We look at the key steps needed to create and deliver a presentation that successfully delivers your desired outcomes.



The most important part of delivering an effective presentation lies in your preparation. Ideally, you should spend more time planning your presentation than developing it and preparing slides. If this step is rushed, or given insufficient attention, then your presentation is likely to lack the impact needed. Don’t be tempted to jump straight in and start creating your PowerPoint slides, take the time to think about what it is that you’re hoping to achieve. Consider, for example:

  • Why are you doing your presentation? Are you planning to educate people, spur them to make a decision, solicit opinions or to provide general information?
  • What are the objectives of your presentation? What do you want to happen at the end of it?
  • What information do people need to know to enable them to take the actions you need them to take?
  • How should your information be structured to ensure maximum impact?
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your audience and take the time to think about their existing understanding of your subject, the type of engagement you might need from them during your presentation, the types of information needed to spur the outcomes you require. Once you’ve done this, consider the nature and structure of presentation needed to meet their needs.
  • What interactive activities can you include in your presentation to engage your audience and spur interest?
  • What questions are your audience likely to have at the end? How will you answer these questions?


Create your Content

  • Start by stating your central theme, then creating your subtopics.
  • Next scope your structure and order of content.
  • Now start creating your presentation slides. At this stage, your slides can be bursting with information and text heavy – the plan at this stage is merely to get your information down.
  • Once you’ve completed this, you need to start slimming your slides down to ensure only essential text and prompts are included. A good presentation avoids text heavy slides with excessive wording as they risk boring and distracting the audience. Instead, your slides should be punchy and visually appealing. Think about the design of your slides and aim to include graphics and other stimulating aids where possible.
  • If you’re presenting to an unknown audience, then use the first part of your presentation to introduce yourself.
  • You should then state your objectives to reaffirm to your audience the purpose of their attendance.
  • Before going any further, include a slide or prompt to tell your audience how you’d like them to engage throughout. For example, is this a relaxed conversation where your audience can ask questions as and when they arise throughout the presentation, or, will you allow for questions at the end. Let your audience know if they will be required to participate in interactive activities.
  • Now blend your presentation into your ‘final’ product.



  • Recruit a volunteer to watch you delivering your presentation – their feedback should provide you with valuable tips and advice for potential changes.
  • Time your presentation to establish how long your presentation will take and to assess whether content needs to be added / remove.
  • Add 30% additional time onto this calculation as, typically, the presence of the audience invariably adds time to your presentation. 



  • Arrive early and make sure that your laptop and any other equipment / tools are working effectively. The success of a presentation can be instantly destroyed when an audience has to sit waiting for the presenter to sort out any issues.
  • Greet your attendees as they arrive – this will be particularly helpful if you’re a nervous presenter. Other techniques to manage nerves include establishing eye contact with members of your audience and focus on one person at a time. It’s also important to be conscious of where your hands are – don’t engage in subconscious nervous actions. Try to channel any nervous energy into enthusiasm.
  • When you start your presentation take the time to welcome everyone and smile. Smiling will help relax you, establish rapport with your audience and signal that you are ready to start.
  • During the presentation, keep focused on your body language and the body language of your audience. If, for example, members of the audience at the back of the room appear to be sitting forward in their seats, then raise the volume of your voice. If people look bored, then think about the rapidity of your speech. Audience boredom often happens because the presenter is rushing or failing to animate or engage. If you feel you’re rushing, then stop. It’s a good time to take a sip of water and re-establish yourself if you feel this is happening.


Wrap Up

  • At the end of your presentation, summarise what’s been covered and open the floor to questions if needed.
  • Think now about your outcomes.  If the audience now need to do something on the back of your presentation, then state this and ensure they know how to do what you need them to do.


If you need further presentation training support, then why not consider our Presentation Skills training course? Our qualified training team deliver fully customised training courses, onsite, to individuals or teams. All our trainers have an expert understanding of the courses they deliver.


Whether you are in a based in Cornwall, Dorset, Devon or Somerset, we can provide quality onsite training, customised to meet your unique business needs!

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Tips to secure employee buy-in to company training programmes

Tips to secure employee buy-in to company training programmes

Working with businesses across the South West, it’s fair to say that securing employee buy-in to company training programmes is a common challenge for many learning and development staff.

The attitudes of reluctant trainees are typically rooted in past experiences, such as previous enrolment on poorly scoped training programmes, working within a company culture that devalues training, or enrolment on courses that were a bad fit for their role.

As most learning and development staff realise, these attitudes can be incredibly damaging due to their ‘contagious’ nature. Not only do these attitudes serve as self-fulfilling for the negative learner when attending training programmes, but their lack of engagement and motivation can have a knock-on effect on fellow learners.

Below, we’ve given a series of bite sized tips to help you get the training buy in you need from your staff:

Engage staff at ground level

Get feedback from staff on what they believe to be training gaps or training needs. A sense of involvement at the planning phase goes a long way to reducing the sense of top down enforcement.

Engagement at this phase may also help shape your training initiatives in unexpected ways – you may enter the process assuming you need X but actually come out with an XY type approach.

Make training an important part of your company culture

Place value on training throughout the company. For example, talk about training plans and share training success stories in company communications, make training an important part of progression and promotion activities, create department / team / individual learning paths, actively talk about the benefits of training to business productivity or the financial bottom line.

Ensure training is relevant

If learners can’t readily apply most aspects of their learning within their roles, then the chances are that the training wasn’t relevant.  Task staff responsible for developing training content with the need to demonstrate the way in which learners can be translated back in the work environment and then assess the degree to which this has happened through post training evaluation checks.

Ensure training delivery is engaging

Training works well when it requires learners to actively engage.  The use of games, group challenges, quizzes, case studies, group discussions etc. are essential methodology for any training course.

Provide additional ‘add ons’

If you’re running the training in house, then consider additional opportunities to add value to the training.  If for example, attending learners don’t get to see each other very often, then ensure the lunch session is strictly social and that an appealing lunch buffet or equivalent is provided. Perhaps arrange for post training drinks in a local pub..

Evaluate training

Ensure that training programmes are evaluated and that any feedback is taken forward and used to shape future programmes. Where possible, ensure feedback is anonymous so that people can be honest in their feedback.

The tips given above are essential ways to start getting your staff interested in company training. Once the foundations are in place, steps can then be taken to further enrich the learning culture and drive further engagement within the workplace.  

At Training South West, we develop the skills of staff across industries and locations within the South West (e.g. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset). Our training programmes are tailored to meet the specific needs of learners and delivered, on site, to groups of up to 15. For more information, contact us.

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It's Essential that South West Companies Protect their Expats

It's Essential that South West Companies Protect their Expats

HMRC Regional Trade Statistics show that exports from companies based in the South West of England are continuing to rise. Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall may not be obvious locations for international business activities, but the region is performing outstandingly when it comes to their exporting efforts. 

When exporting, it's naturally important that companies send members of staff to target countries to manage business processes and relationships on the ground.  While some businesses are adept at preparing and training international staff in advance of their moves, unfortunately, many other companies fail dismally in this duty of care.

The lack of training given to outbound staff has created plenty of fodder for the media which is awash with accounts of individuals who have been arrested on foreign shores for misdemeanours that are seemingly innocent in the UK, but, which have life changing punitive implications in other countries. Although many of the individuals arrested claim cultural and local ignorance, this rarely counts for anything anything when their case is put before the courts. 

Take for example, the following:

• A British man, caught in possession of alcohol during his time in Riyadh, was sentenced to over a year in prison and narrowly avoided 350 lashes. 

• An Egyptian expat was imprisoned, before being deported for sharing his break with a female colleague in Saudi Arabia.  His employer also faced repercussions for his role in preventing this act of 'indecency'. 

• A British Iranian national was arrested and deported following a visit to the UAE for defamatory comments, relating to a UAE resident, posted on social media three years prior to her visit to the country. 

• An expat worker of unknown nationality was arrested after speaking to a female Saudi woman who approached him in a fast food restaurant. He was charged and punished for having violated the kingdom’s norms and values.

• A British expat was arrested, jailed for six months and then sent back to the UK for raising his middle finger at an Emirati driver following an incident in the UAE. 

• A young British man sharing a journey with his girlfriend, was driven straight to the police station by their taxi driver when the driver saw the man 'peck' his girlfriend on her cheek.  The couple were subsequently imprisoned for a month and deported for committing an act of indecency.

Suitably trained and prepared staff are far less likely to experience the bad side of the law. Understanding behaviours likely to put them in jail and the severe consequences typically result in the expat navigating their new home with care.  The young man and his girlfriend, mentioned above, were traumatised by their experiences. Their families also suffered enormous distress and became liable for large sums of money to help support the legal processes of their loved ones during their ordeals. There were no repercussions for the company however.  Although they failed dismally in their responsibilities for preparing and, subsequently, protecting their staff member, the only repercussions faced related to the loss of a member of staff.  

The local laws in many countries are very different and it takes very little to train outbound employees. Take for example, the Prosecution office in Saudi Arabia, which regularly advises travellers to the country to ensure they learn about the laws. Country specific training courses which help individuals to understand the culture and expectations of locals and business colleagues, for example Saudi Arabia Cultural TrainingChina Cultural Training, UAE Cultural Training, Japan Cultural Training or Thailand Cultural Training, are not only essential to keeping your staff safe, but will also help them to maximise their productivity through a critical understanding of the local business culture.

Whether you are in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset or Somerset, our country specialist trainers have the expertise needed to prepare your staff for their move. 


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Mindfullness and Training

Mindfullness and Training

Janet Street-Porter gave her views on ‘Mindfulness’ meditation in the Daily Mail this week. At the risk of ‘outing’ my love of a good trashy read when I’m drinking my coffee first thing in the morning, I was caught by the title: ‘Can Mindfulness really make you Live longer’?

It caught my eye as ‘mindfulness’ is a term which is increasingly quoted on public forums. As a concept, it’s taken on a life of its own and it’s bandied about by psychologist, therapists, government bodies, NHS and celebrities alike. From a training perspective, mindfulness as a subject has started to dominate the training space and it’s a course that we are increasingly being asked for.

What does mindfulness mean though? If you ask a selection of people you’ll probably get a huge variety of responses. I’ve had a go at breaking it down into some of the key uses of the term 'mindfulness' on public forums. Hopefully this article will help you to appreciate the direction from which people may be coming when discussing this topic. 

Mindfulness as a Meditation Tool

In the article, Janet Street-Porter has a go at using mindfulness as a meditation tool. Apparently, using mindfulness in meditation can ‘reduce stress’ and potentially help you live longer. Ruby Wax and others are fervent followers of this technique and suggest that it is has helped them to overcome issues such as depression and anxiety.

Danny Penman, an author on the subject, states that ‘to practice mindfulness…a person must focus on what is happening inside their body and mind in real time’. This practice is known as ‘full conscious awareness’.

It seems that this technique is open to us all and that it can be done in just one minute per day. By regularly sitting still in a chair, focusing on your breath, and bringing your attention back to your breath each time it wanders, you can generate an inner calmness. It won’t happen overnight, but even fleeting senses of ‘stillness’ are valuable.

This sounds great, but I don’t know many people who would realistically have the patience to dedicate to this. A good website for those that are interested however is

Mindfulness as Living in the Moment

Mindfulness is also used as a technique to help people actively ‘live more in the moment’. This technique is active rather than meditative and encourages individuals to focus on perceptions as part of their active day. If they find themselves worrying about potential future problems, historic stresses etc. then are required to refocus attentions back to the ‘here and now’ using techniques such as ‘the cloud technique’ to dispel negativity.

How does this work? Essentially, individuals imagine their worries and anxieties as clouds passing overhead. They recognise them and then visualise them dissipating and moving on – as such, helping to banish them from their minds. Individuals must also be open to positive events too. If something worthy happens, then recognise and consider it, even something as small as the smile of a passerby.

Mindfulness in the Training World

 When we are not ‘mindful’ we become ‘mindless’, living in a world of pre-established habits, behaviours and categories. Small changes and positive events may happen, but if we are mindless then we fail to recognise them; purely living on through pre-established rules and codes.

Although, within a business training capacity, mindfulness training can take many shapes and forms (including that of meditation and active mindfulness), in essence we help individuals to think about the way in which ‘mindlessness’ restricts our realities to the constructs which have been borne in our mind through years of habit and social shaping. If something doesn’t fit within our entrenched realities and categories, then we simply filter them out; hence missing out on the rich potential that life has to offer.

Through our training courses, we help people to understand the way in which are thoughts, actions and behaviours are constructed, the way in which these constructs may rigidly dictate our actions (even if the action taken isn’t the best action to take) and the way in which we may fail to perceive and learn from events taking place around us.

The training encourages people to be more sensitive to their environment, to welcome new information, to appreciate that there are many different perspectives in problem solving, in working together and in achieving successful outcomes. It encourages people to be mindful of the perspectives from which their colleagues and counterparts are coming and not to assume they are ‘wrong’ merely because they are approaching something from a different angle.

Within a cultural awareness training perspective, ‘mindfulness’ of one’s own cultural frameworks is an essential prerequisite to engaging in cultural training. How can we appreciate the cultural nuances of our peers if we can’t perceive how we ourselves are the product of such constructs?

Take for example an individual who would fall entirely under our ‘mindless’ label. As an extreme case, this individual perceives the world entirely as their experience of it. If people don’t behave and act within their own sense of reality then they are there purely to be tolerated and perhaps overlooked. In essence they deny themselves the rich reality of the world around us and they shun the opportunity to learn from an international human experience. Within the work place, it is possible that they operate within isolated frameworks for problem solving and see no benefit in doing things differently. Equally, they are likely to be irritated by people who do things differently to themselves; finding it harder to find synergy with their colleagues to arrive at positive outcomes.

By being mindful therefore, we appreciate these differences, we welcome them and are able to tune into the perspectives of those around us who may do things differently. Mindful people don’t just rely on the spoken word to do this, they attend entirely to the context to really appreciate what is happening. They are more likely to understand and empathise with the person with whom they are interacting and hence respond appropriately. For a mindful person, life is also more likely to be something that we learn from – developing new ways of doing things; leaving behind the ‘old’ and welcoming innovation and progress.

Bringing them Together

Relevant to all these key practices / interpretations of ‘mindfulness’ is ‘living in the moment’, being aware and conscious of ourselves and our impact on those around us. Adherents to all three of the practices outlined above would undoubtedly agree that you shouldn’t be lost in the past, anxious about what has already happened or worrying about what might happen in the future. Live for the present and be fully aware of what is happening around you. Hone into the good things that happen and leave yourself wide open to new experiences, people and viewpoints. Take the positives from situations and learn from those who might be doing things in a better way. And critically, remember at all times, that we are all products of our past and habits. Challenge the way you think and check that your thinking patterns aren’t holding you back and preventing you from growing and learning from those around you.

Training South West provide management training across the South West, with expert training teams delivering training across Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.



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Make your Training Company Tender Questions Relevant

Make your Training Company Tender Questions Relevant

Part of my role as a Training Coordinator at Training South West is to tender for training contracts within the Dorset, Cornwall, Devon and Somerset areas. Although the initial documentation phase can be rather painful at times, a number of businesses use this phase as a basis to select companies who perform well against criteria to take part in a subsequent face to face process. I really enjoy this part of the process as it provides a fantastic opportunity to increase my exposure to the diverse range of South West businesses and I’ve met some really interesting people because of it.

Having considerable experience commissioning HR services in a buyer capacity, I can honestly say that I far prefer being on the bidding side of the table. My experience of running tender processes is that it’s hard work, demanding and extremely time consuming.

Plus, let’s be honest, the documentation submission phase never makes exciting reading! This phase resolutely erases personality and human dynamic and instead presents the buyer with pure operational data coupled with criteria descriptions and weightings. Analysing huge numbers of responses can result in buyer apathy for even the most committed people.


Having been through a detailed analysis of the initial phase and selected a number of those who meet the criteria, is not unusual for buyers to view a potential face to face phase as the ‘finish line’ without even sufficiently preparing; with an obvious impact on question quality and focus. On a personal front, I’d always suggest that businesses appoint a staff member with no involvement in the initial stages to help frame and deliver this phase as this keeps the momentum and energy going and helps ensure the business makes the right decisions.

One of the most effective ways of establishing questions to be used during the face to face phase is to speak to as many internal users of training services as possible.  Whether previous training delegates from across the organisation or Managers who have actively identified and overseen the delivery of training needs, these individuals will all have a view on what they believe works well for the organisation and areas which have maybe not worked so well.  Get as much feedback as possible as this will generate detailed insights into a broad spectrum of perspectives which will undoubtedly yield areas of relevant focus.  Consider also reviewing the long term impacts of previous training courses.  In what way did the courses impact the organisation?  Was there sufficient follow up? Was there a strategy in place to ensure that key learnings were further consolidated upon return to the office?

It may also be beneficial to draw upon your local business network to establish additional additional themes with which to discriminate between training providers. Since the training industry is constantly evolving, so too are the questions being asked of them.

In the meantime, here are some questions which I have either asked or been asked:

  • How will your trainers ensure they deliver the most impact within our business?


  • How will your trainers utilise their role to engage with our staff in a way that may otherwise be compromised by the hierarchy and structure of our business?


  • What will your trainers do to ensure that the training delivery methods used by your team constantly evolve and engage our staff members?


  • What methods will you use to assess the long term efficacy of your training interventions?


  • What might you do to address an imbalance between short term and long term training value?


  • The learning preferences of our staff can be very different. How will you ensure the training process is valuable for all our staff members?


  • How will you plan your training sessions to ensure that they are business relevant?



Training South West provide in-house and open training courses to businesses across Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. .

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Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

Is Financial Illiteracy Costing you Dearly?

According to research by the think tank ‘IPPR’, British people love going it alone. They estimate that over 14% of us now work for ourselves.  There’s clearly a huge attraction to working independently (not least being able to manage your own holidays and working times) but the realities of being a sole worker without the backing of all the functions that typically support a larger business can be tough.
Not only does the individual need to excel professionally within their chosen specialism but they also need to be adept at marketing, sales, administration systems and processes, website management, IT, HR and finance. Arguably, financial literacy is one of the most critical assets as, without it, the success of the enterprise becomes at best compromised.  Poor financial literacy is, without doubt, one of the major reasons that so many self-employed enterprises fail within the first few years.  

Take for example an individual who has excellent turnover. They assume everything is ok because their sales ledger tells them it is but this individual has an insufficient understanding of cash flow. Despite successful sales, they have not forecast creditor needs and general expenditure such as annual tax payments and their business starts to suffer.

Although financial literacy is an essential skill, most schools do not teach it and neither do the majority of parents.  As such, an individual may leave academia with a praiseworthy understanding of their chosen speciality and establish their own enterprise but the inability to understand and reconcile their P&L, decipher assets from liabilities and truly understand their Balance Sheet jeopardises the potential of their business.
Financial training is therefore one of the most important investments that self-employed individuals should make if they are to successfully drive their enterprise.  Self-Study via internet sites is better than nothing and there are some great resources out there which will at least equip you with a basic understanding. Operating in the absence of a detailed knowledge and pressing ahead regardless could be something that the individual regrets later down then line when financial poor management catches up with them.
If you are yet to embark upon financial training or study, then here are some practical frameworks in the meantime:

•    Ensure you have excellent record keeping, including fully comprehensive sales and purchase ledgers.  Absolutely everything connected to the business and bought on behalf of the business should be tracked in detail (with receipts where necessary) and equally all sales made on behalf of the business should also be tracked.  Reconcile these ledgers weekly if not daily to ensure that income is meeting outgoings.
•    Prepare a budget – what out of the ordinary expenditure will be due?  This may include for example annual insurances, tax payments, IT renewals, professional membership renewals.  Review against purchase and sales ledgers.  Has enough money been put aside for these payments?
•    Consider the credit terms you offer to clients; does the speed at which you collect payments allow you to meet creditor demands?  If you are giving credit to clients then always reference their credit worthiness. There are plenty of companies online providing this service. Where possible take payments in advance.
•    Avoid taking on debt. Where possible defer large purchases until such a time as you’ve generated sufficient net profits to make the payments. Debt is a sure way to burden your business – often unnecessarily.  
•    Consider how best to develop your financial skills – whether this be via online research, online courses, mentoring from someone within your network or face to face training, it is essential that you put a development plan in place.  At the very least develop a detailed understanding of terms such as cash flow, profit margins, assets, liabilities, net profit, gross profit, balance sheet, expenses, operating costs and depreciation.
By prioritising the need for financial literacy you have already increased the chances of your business succeeding.  Get this fundamental skill under your belt and you give yourself a significant competitive advantage.

Training South West supply business training to companies across the South West, including Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire.  Courses may be tailored specifically and delivered in-house, or, via open settings. Financial courses include 'Introduction to Finance Management' and 'Advanced Financial Skills'.

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Hero or Villain? How would you be Portrayed in an Online Customer Care Story?

Hero or Villain? How would you be Portrayed in an Online Customer Care Story?

The Somerset County Gazette featured an article on 24th September outlining a family's disgust at the accommodation they were placed in when visiting a holiday site in Burnham on Sea (a seaside resort in Somerset).

The family report what can only be described as a nightmare for any family who has spent money in the anticipation of a relaxing holiday.  Stomach turning photographs and the family's account of cigarette ends under the bed, an ants' nest, filthy hob,insect clad skylight and a lack of safety equipment all add to the horror of the story. To add further damage, the report outlines the alleged lack of customer care by the company in question when responding appropriately to the family's issues.

Since, the British have an appetite for stories of this nature then, you wont be surprised to hear that it's been 'liked', 'shared' and commented on by hundreds of people.  

Although the company defend their position, the damage has been done and the situation truly reflects the impact of such stories surfacing on the internet and social media streams. Failure to deal with a customer complaint immediately and to the satisfaction of the customer does - and will continue to result in individuals using the internet to air their grievances.

The impact of such stories comes at a significant cost to the company and can undo years of positive PR very quickly. The stories can result in cancellations by people with existing future bookings and also a decline in the repeat business of individuals who would otherwise frequent the resort regularly.

Since the potential for an individual to provide toxic PR for your company through a poor customer care attitude is boundless, then a well communicated customer care plan coupled with strict customer care expectations for all staff members is essential.  Customer care training should be a core commitment of all businesses with a recognition that the business is nothing without its customers.  This commitment should be manifest in management behaviour and attitudes and training should be compulsory for all staff members. Staff should fully understand the customer care standards that the company has in place and methods for responding appropriately to even the most difficult customers.  It is paramount that they appreciate the significance of protecting the reputation of their company in such interactions and the damage that can potentially be done by mismanaging the situation. Managers should then monitor the situation closely; listen to how staff deal with customers, understand the potential impact on the customer and intervene if they feel that the customer has not received the level of customer care promoted by the company.  Ideally, there should be zero tolerance for any negligence in managing customer care needs.

Companies should also consider formal complaint procedures which allow complaints to be formally documented.  Formal complaint documents allow a company to identify trends.  For example, is this issue repeating itself?  If so, what preventative actions should be put in place to stop it happening in the first place or, if it's an issue which cannot be prevented (for example the Burnham on Sea complaint involves the invasion of ants which is common on agricultural land) then what robust contingent actions should be in place?  It may also transpire that a particular individual is involved in an excessive number of complaints.  Where this is the case,  increased customer care training becomes essential.

Good customer care stories make the news too. For example, an incredibly uplifting story, published by the Metro, in which a McDonald's employee took the time and care to help a disabled customer eat his meal went viral recently. Although this story is a genuine act of respect and kindness by the employee, it makes fantastic positive PR for McDonald's. McDonald's are certainly the hero of this particular article. Even in the event of a complaint,  a company's commitment to good customer care makes it more likely that the company will receive positive PR. For example, individuals communicating via Trip Advisor, Facebook or other avenues may report that 'despite x,y or z being an issue the company were quick to resolve the situation and took the complaint seriously'. Such stories result in potential future customers feeling assured that if an issue were to happen that the company would take immediate action to resolve the situation and they are more likely to trust making a booking with the company.

It is paramount therefore, that you protect your company from the type of bad PR experienced by the company in Burnham on Sea and ensure that your customer care processes work effectively and that your staff have equal buy in to the importance of the standards and procedures. Check your processes regularly and consider a 'secret shopper' to assess the degree to which your staff promote your standards.

Training South West provide Customer Care training and related business training to companies across the South West, including Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Wiltshire. 

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Are your Presentations Presentable?

Are your Presentations Presentable?

Did you know surveys have shown that people fear delivering a presentation more than dying or divorce?  The good news for those of you who are not seasoned presenters however is that good preparation and confidence in your materials can go a long way to reducing potential presentation anxiety.

Follow these simple tips and ensure that not only are your presentations of value to your audience but that you also enjoy delivering them:

•    When preparing your presentation try to use a variety of different media; come equipped for example with a tangible product if possible to pass around, maybe incorporate a short media clip, or use a prop to demonstrate a point. Variety helps to retain participant interest.
•    Ensure that your presentation is short and snappy.  Each page should be to the point and not text heavy. The purpose of a presentation is for you as the presenter to deliver the content, not your slides. The slides are there merely to add emphasis and clarification to what you are saying. They are not there as a crib sheet and you should avoid reading from any length off them.
•    Use slide animation tools to enable each segment of information to appear separately upon individual clicks.  This will help you structure your presentation more effectively whilst also avoiding participants reading ahead and losing sight of what you are saying.
•    Use graphics to break up the text and to lighten if the mood if the topic is very dry.
•    Use a distinct font and not one that is artistic and hence possibly distracting. You should aim for your headers to be size 20-26 and for your main text to be 16-18.
•    Use the ‘bold’ font rather than underlining or capitals as the latter can be distracting.
•    Proof read your presentation thoroughly before delivery and ask a colleague to do a double check as there’s nothing worse than being mid presentation and finding errors.
•    When introducing yourself, keep calm and don’t rush.  If you gain participant confidence within the first 30 seconds of your speech and manage to keep good control, then you should find that the rest comes naturally as your audience will give off visible signs that they are confident in you.  Rehearse your introduction repeatedly to ensure that you have it under your belt.  Inject a little humour if you feel it’s appropriate but avoid telling jokes. Incorporate for example a humorous quote which is relevant to your topic.
•    If you feel nervous at first, then do not relay this to your audience by apologising as they will start observing you for nerves and feel on edge themselves.  Take a deep breath, smile and carry on.  
•    You may want to incorporate an activity at the very beginning and get people on their feet doing something; using for example, a two minute icebreaker relevant to your theme.  This takes the attention off you for a short while and puts it back on the participants – a great tactic if you are feeling a little anxious at the very start.
•    Be aware of the speed at which you are speaking.  It’s not uncommon for people to unwittingly leave their audience behind as they race through their presentation.  Be aware therefore of how long you want to spend on each slide and ensure that you give each slide its fair due.  

If you come to your presentation equipped with a well-structured presentation, remember to smile and make good eye contract then you should find the rest comes naturally. Reinforce business skills such as delivering presentations with plenty of practice, as we all know, practice makes perfect!

For further guidance, why not read this more detailed blog on preparing an excellent presentation! 

Training South West delivers business training courses  and presentation skills training courses to companies across the South West, including Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. 

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Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl: Good Prices and Great Training!

Lidl is planning to add an additional store to its current South West portfolio by creating a second store in Yeovil. Its portfolio has grown rapidly in this part of the world with stores across Somerset in key locations such as Bristol, Bath and Dorchester, Dorset.

This latest expansion has been met positively by the local community who can not only expect the prospect of additional jobs working for a market leading company, but also a full ‘living wage’ – putting Lidl’s shop floor workers at a distinct wage advantage when compared to other local supermarket competitors.  Good pay and additional employment opportunities are not the only reason for the local community to be happy.  Lidl also operate fantastic in house training schemes, which when delivered well, provides employees with the skills to do well in future roles regardless of whether or not they remain with Lidl.  

Adopting a ‘layered’ training approach, which encompasses the whole business entity, Lidl centralises training planning into a single dedicated in-house department.  Staff within this department are responsible for identifying training needs and developing training events, materials and systems in response.

Direction and tools flow from this department into the stores and supporting areas. Within the stores, Lidl operates a ‘Buddy’ system which ensures that new recruits are given on hand support within their immediate working vicinity making individuals who have the skills to mentor and support accessible. This approach is key to all businesses who wish to integrate their staff effectively into the business. It enables them to gain key skills on the job and avoids undue classroom attendance.

From the ‘Buddy’ system, Lidl then have formal ‘Training Mentors’ who are responsible for supporting store managers in the roll out of staff training initiatives, all of which then feeds into the Regional Training Managers who are responsible for overseeing training on a regional level and promoting a healthy learning and development culture across the business.

Lidl may be a cut price store, but a training approach such as the one outlined above at its core, certainly puts Lidl on a par with the non-cut price stores. Training flows from all levels of the business and is a key aspect of company culture and delivery.

Walker Information (an Intelligence Consultancy firm) identified training programmes as a key retention tool.  Staff who feel that they are being valued through training and development are more likely to stay within their roles.  With ‘happiness’ being an emotional contaigent, store workers are consequently more likely to impact positively on their customers; leading to greater customer satisfaction.

From a training professional perspective, we therefore welcome the news of an impending second store in Yeovil as every business counts when promoting a culture of learning and skill development within the South West.  

With the quality of company training programmes playing a critical role in the retention and productivity of staff, Training South West provide customised business training courses to business across the West.  With training courses rooted in key business areas, such as finance, hr, management and leadership, international business and communication, you can be sure that our expert team will be equipped to deliver courses that both meet, and surpass, your needs. 

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Youth Theatre - Helping Kids to Perform Better

Youth Theatre - Helping Kids to Perform Better

The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, Somerset will soon be entertaining families from across the South West with their festive production of Sleeping Beauty. I can't wait!! I love the pantomime and take the children every year without fail.  The cast are always fantastic and the kids always leave having had a great time.

I love the theatre.  Not only does it bond and entertain the local community but it also contributes to the economy and provides local dancing / acting schools with opportunities to include talented youngsters in productions. No doubt local children will be included in the Octagon Theatre production of Sleeping Beauty.  

Youth Dramatics groups are fantastic for young people.  I participated in such groups for years as a child and developed skills that would otherwise not have been developed until joining the world of work. If you have a child bounding with energy who needs an outlet, then consider getting them involved in a local group and I’m sure they’ll experience the same benefits that I did as a child. Yeovil is host to some great performing arts group and so too is Bristol which is home to the Bristol Youth Theatre Studio and the Bristol Old Vic Young Company amongst others.  Without doubt additional groups will be thriving across the rest of the South West.

The following areas outline just some of the key benefits for a child:

Rehearsing and performing in front of others teaches a child confidence.  This is a fundamental skill which most adults only develop as part of formal training when they enter the work place - typically in the form of 'Presentation Skills' training.

Every member of a theatre group, regardless of the size of the role, is a vital member of the team. This validation contributes greatly to a child's self-esteem, particularly when being applauded at the end of a production.

As with Presentation Skills training above, Time Management and Prioritisation are also courses that an adult will typically engage in when they enter the work place. Participating in youth theatre groups helps a child to develop these skills at an early age as they must learn to manage their time to allow for attendance at rehearsals and productions.  Ensuring that their personal time is well scheduled, ensures that they can give their maximum to their theatre group.

Team Work is another essential part of youth theatre. Not only must children work effectively with both peers and adults but they must also operate cross functionally; interacting with those who manage the stage set, lighting, artwork, costumes etc.  The beauty of team work in this capacity is that it is non-competitive.  It gives children a chance to engage with others on a basis that requires everyone to come together as equals without competing with each other.  This is often a welcome change for children who are otherwise immersed in competitive activities.  School itself tests children from an early age; ranking them in order of performance.  During tests, collaboration is forbidden and children must perform on their own merits.  During real life however, the world doesn't work like this. To exceed in the work place, collaboration and teamwork are essential to success. Being part of a theatre group enables children to acknowledge this and develop their skills through the fundamental role played by the team in delivering a fantastic production. They are certainly not penalised for drawing on the skills and expertise of their team mates as they would be in a school test setting.

Self-discipline is another skill developed by children who are part of theatre groups.  They may, for example, have to sacrifice hanging out with friends or going out for pizza for the sake of their theatre group. This is a hugely valuable personal asset.

This list is not exhaustive (I have failed to mention the opportunity to develop skills such as problem solving skills, creative thinking and abstract thinking amongst others) but at the very least it gives a good insight into the value that membership to a theatre group presents to a child.  

Without a doubt, theatre groups help your child acquire skills at an early age which put them at an advantage when it comes to harnessing opportunities in their adult lives. So, if your child is bounding with energy and needs a channel to direct this energy then consider getting them involved.

Maybe next year they'll be part of the cast of children supporting the Octagon Theatre Christmas pantomime!

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Are Written Skills really so Important?

Are Written Skills really so Important?

Growing up as a child in the 70’s, grammar and punctuation were instilled in lessons and, along with my classmates, errors were not acceptable and we would be penalised for making them. We were repeatedly told that our written work represented us as individuals and that it should be as well presented as our physical selves.

When I became responsible for recruiting teams however, it quickly became apparent that these standards no longer hold the same weight that they did when I was a child.  Following my recruitment of my first few employees, one of whom was degree qualified, it became immediately obvious that they lacked writing skills.  They were bright people who had performed fantastically during the interview phase and had some great attributes but their written work was not of the standard that would allow us to send it to clients without first checking and amending it. A training course in writing effective business communications became an absolute must for the individuals in question.  

Our realisation that written skills were an issue within our target recruit market made it necessary for us to implement a testing system to assess written English standards. The test did not discriminate, but merely enabled us to establish the type of support and checking systems that might be required should an offer of employment be made. The fact we had to do this was a shock.  We regularly employed individuals from overseas and their standards of written English and knowledge of grammar and punctuation far exceeded that of the young English recruits coming through the door.

The possibility that our educational systems are not properly preparing our children became evident during a parent – teacher meeting whereby I raised concerns that my older child seemed to have very few frameworks when writing.  He rarely applied capital letters, sentences could amble on for half a page and commas would be thrown in haphazardly with an almost artistic intention. Not only did his teacher seem surprised when I asked how we might further support him at home to ensure he acquired his written skills but she then proceeded to tell me that if we thought these skills were important that she’d focus more time on him.  Had I been discussing my 6 year old child, then this conversation might have been appropriate as content is of the essence and formal written skills come later – but I wasn’t.  My child is a year off entering senior school.

I don’t believe that the relaxed attitude of this particular teacher is typical of all teachers but it gave me the momentum to discuss it further with other educational professionals.  One individual that I spoke to said that she didn’t put too much emphasis on written skills as this puts children with challenges such as dyslexia at a disadvantage. This shocked me.  Was the individual expectation of this particular teacher that our written English standards should be obliterated to accommodate children who have a natural reason for struggling with them?  I feel absolutely not.

There are many amazing British entrepreneurs and academics with dyslexia but their condition has not stopped them doing incredibly well.  I’m confident, for example, that Richard Branson would not send out a communication littered with errors but would instead delegate someone within his team to make the necessary checks and amendments.  A previous employee within one of my teams had advanced dyslexia.  As a specialist in her field, she would write fantastically informed pieces which would then be proof checked before they were dispatched.  A simple task which involves team work.  She would equally guide and educate others in respect to her own unique skills.

With these examples in mind, I maintain my view that written skills are essential. Poorly written content does not sell a company and people are less inclined to read material that falls over at the most basic levels of grammar and punctuation.  Emails littered with errors do not inspire confidence in the recipient and could potentially affect customer retention.  Why should an individual trust the quality of the product or service if the communications are error strewn?

As both a trainer and an employer, I firmly believe it is essential that companies support individuals who need to further develop their needs in this area. Formal written skills training will go a long way and enables an individual to focus on skill development away from the office.  However, internal arrangements can also be made whereby someone with the appropriate skill set is made responsible for mentoring the individual on an ongoing basis and checking their written work before it goes out. At Training South West key material never goes into the public domain unless it’s been checked – regardless of the writing skills of the author. My written skills are acceptable but I still rely on my team members and colleagues to double or triple check my work. 

Failing to support staff members in this respect and overlooking poor written skills means that their chances of gaining traction, successfully delivering the objectives of their written work and positively protecting the reputation of their company are diminished.  Everybody deserves good written skills.  Ensure  you honour this with your staff and you’ll increase their confidence and productivity no end.

Training South West deliver training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Exeter and Bristol.  Contact us to discuss your needs.

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Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

Calling on South West Businesses to Accommodate Remote Working during the Winter Months

I am fortunate enough to be abroad and working at the moment and I am not looking forward to coming back to Dorset, which my family have written to say is already becoming rather cold.

I wrote an article recently on behalf of Training South West which urges businesses in the region to allow more people to avoid the nightmare of commuting during winter months and accommodate remote working arrangements.  

For some people it's essential that they attend the work place but for many others it's not critical to their role at all.  They can probably get a far better job done at home.

Urge your business to look at possible remote working options for you and your colleagues - the benefits to both you as an employee and the environment are even more pronounced for the employer.  They will have a happier workforce, reduce costs, enhance employee retention and increase the geographical scope of the talent pool that they have to chose from.

It's a win win all round!

Training South West provides business training courses to South West companies

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Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Our Dedicated Somerset Training Venue

Training South West has traditionally delivered its training from a dedicated training venue in Crewkerne, Somerset with beautiful, light airy training suites and great facilities. Delegates have always commented on the rooms as allowing a pleasurable space in which to learn.

Due to the way in which we work with our clients and the broad area covered across the South West, we have decided that dedicated training venues have value but that they are not always the right solution for our clients.  Why?

Our clients do not necessarily have the luxury of time to enable them to travel to a training destination which is not 'on their doorstep'.  For a client in Dorset, for example, taking a day out to travel to and from Crewkerne; whilst also battling peak hour traffic certainly does not make their life easy.

Since there are fantastic venues across the South West which are able to accommodate training delivery needs excellently then we have decided to make more use of them, particularly for our 'open' courses.  These venues are well established, have great facilities, catering on tap and happen to also be on the doorstep of our clients.  It makes more sense therefore, for the Training South West staff to do the travelling and hence remove the pressure off our clients. It's not uncommon for our clients to need to pop to the office before or after the course and for those who just want to enjoy a bit of a lie in and a slightly earlier finish then doorstep training is great!

Additionally, the venues which Training South West are now making more use of are local businesses and from a South West business perspective, why not also contribute to the businesses of our neighbours?

It's a win win all round.

If you have a venue that you feel would be great for our local training delivery then let us know.  Essentials on our ticklist include a large airy room equipped with projector, white board and 3 x flipcharts, two breakout rooms and catering facilities.  

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Training South West makes Happy People even Happier!

Training South West makes Happy People even Happier!

To make sure we get our business offering right, it’s essential that we truly understand our South West neighbours and their potential training needs. One of the best ways to map training needs is to ensure that we stay on top of reports released from entities such as the Office for National Statistics or UK Trade and Investment.

Reading ‘Portrait of the South West’ which was compiled by the Office for National Statistics, I came across some noteworthy facts which I thought would make interesting reading for any of our South West based blog readers. Here goes:

•    Did you know over five million inhabitants reside in South West England; making the population bigger than Northern Ireland and Wales combined?
•    The South West has also been recorded in recent times as having the fastest growing population in the UK.  Since this growth is driven by people migrating into the area, the South West clearly has lots to offer – it’s the place to move to!  I’ve attended lots of networking and training events in Somerset, Bristol and Dorset and had the opportunity to meet many people who have migrated to this area from large cities such as London.  Most cite the outstanding natural beauty of the South West as their reason for moving here, coupled with excellent Broadband connection.  I’d say that a good 90% of these individuals are self-employed and hence not dependant on employment opportunities
•    The South West has more people of pensionable age and above than any other part of the UK
•    Almost four out of five employees in the South West work in the service industry. From a training perspective therefore, this makes customer services training an essential part of our offering
•    Restaurants and hotels in the South West contribute more to the economy than any of their UK counterparts
•    The South West hosts more domestic tourists than any other part of the UK and is the fourth most popular choice for international tourists.  From a training perspective, this finding makes cultural awareness training and international sales a key offering
•    Employment rates in the South West are one of the highest in the UK with high numbers of self-employed individuals.  As trainers, this makes finance related courses key as it’s essential that self-employed individuals are financially literate and able to navigate documents such as P&Ls and Balance Sheets.  Equally, this also makes Sales an essential training course – if you can’t sell your business then the P&Ls will make for dismal reading!
•    The numbers of people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance is lowest in North Dorset, West Dorset and West Devon.  The fact that our business operates in the Dorset and Devon areas is great as the only other companies offering business generic courses are based as far away as Exeter and Bristol, making our training offering a valuable doorstep commodity
•    With absolutely no relevance to training whatsoever (we don’t train people in how to live longer!), but interesting reading; life expectancy for women in the South West is higher than anywhere else in the UK at 83.1 years of age and for men, it is the second highest in the UK at 79 years of age

Having lived in Somerset and now living in Dorset, reviewing this report made me proud and happy to live in the South West.  It is clearly a place that people want to visit and move to it is a ‘happy’ place to live – why else would people live longer than in any other part of the UK?!

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How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

How well do you Performance Manage your Team?

For those of us, fortunate enough to have worked under great managers early in our career, we rarely forget them and aspire towards their management attributes as we progress within our careers. I recall a conversation not too long ago with members of the team in which we discussed the ‘best managers’ for whom we’d worked and one colleague in particular was adamant that all her management skills were learnt from the manager that she held in such high esteem. She remained connected with him and would often approach him if in need of management advice or mentoring.

Management roles present us with an opportunity to really make a difference to an individual and to become that person that positively influences and shapes the development of team members as they progress within the organisation.

If you are new to managing a team, then be sure to get as much support as you can in the early days as this will undoubtedly shape your management success.

Open training programmes are a fantastic start as they give you the opportunity to meet other individuals new to field and to gain an insight into their experiences. These training programmes will also equip you with the fundamental, core performance management skills and challenge you with scenarios and case studies which you will undoubtedly have to deal with as part of your role.

For those of you not in the position to participate in training, here are some key considerations to help you along the way:

·         Ensure you fully understand the roles of your team members.  Where necessary, take the time to sit with them with and shadow them as they do their role.  Understand the challenges of their roles, the tools they use, the way in which their role is integrated with other roles across the organisation and also the success measures of their roles.  Why has the organisation invested in these roles?  What must these roles absolutely deliver in order for them to be of value?

·         If not already mapped, then map out Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your team members. KPIs are the key objectives of the role; collectively the KPIs of individual roles help the overall organisation to meet their broader objectives

·         Since poor communication can often underlie performance issues, then be sure that all your team members understands their KPIs and what you expect of them – clearly prevention is better than remedy

·         If at any time it becomes apparent that one of your team members is having a difficult time with their role then speak to them immediately.  Performance often becomes an issue if managers leave the individual to it and hope they will find their feet.  Again, prevention of an issue is certainly easier for you and healthier for the self-confidence of the employee concerned if potential problems are averted

·         If discussing performance with any of your team then always ensure that the discussion is as open as possible. It should always be the individual and not you that dominates the conversation.  Failure to listen and failure to facilitate an open discussion will undoubtedly result in the core issues remaining undetected.  The issues are not always what you might assume they are as a manager, do don’t attend the meeting thinking that you have all the answers.

·         During this discussion, you will ultimately want to understand where in the cycle of their role they are finding challenges. On this basis, why are the challenges there?  Is it an issue with training?  Is it an issue with communication (perhaps the needs of the role have not been sufficiently clarified with the individual)? Does the employee lack the tools or materials essential to do their job properly?  Perhaps these tools or materials are not fit for purpose?  Do they need to be further developed / amended? Are other team members being helpful?  Is anyone inadvertently making the role of this individual more difficult than it need be by not fulfilling their own role adequately? Is the individual managing their time properly?  Could they benefit from time management training?

·         Undoubtedly, this conversation (coupled perhaps with additional shadowing of their role for a defined period) will throw light on the issues which need to be addressed. Discuss your findings with the individual and ensure that they are in full agreement with both the issues and your suggested solutions.  Can the individual further add to the solutions?  Is anything missing?

·         Create a shared document with the individual and outline each issue clearly; adding the activities which need to happen in order to correct the issue.  Discuss the document regularly with the individual and take a keen interest in their progress.

It is most likely that the activities outlined above will go a long way to addressing the situation; winning the respect of your team member and the preservation of their dignity and self-confidence.

Where these actions do not correct the situation and where the issue continues, it may be necessary to implement the formal disciplinary processes of your organisation. It is a legal obligation in the UK that companies have formal disciplinary processes in place and that these are followed as required. 

If you need any formal training support in this respect then do not hesitate to get in contact.  We partner South West businesses to deliver Business and Management related training courses across Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucester and surrounding areas.   

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Do Blanket Training Policies Work?

Do Blanket Training Policies Work?

Training approaches differ greatly across companies and with experience working across large corporates through to small privately owned companies, I’ve found that the value and nature of the respective policies vary greatly in tandem.

Within the corporate world, my experience has been that there is a tendency to ‘pin everything down’ – if it can’t be measured, quantified and reported on, then the attitude is that efficiencies are lacking.  With the luxury of ample training budgets, the corporate world has the ability to arrange regular training courses which are delivered by fantastic trainers.  One would assume that the courses would be well received but my experience suggested that these programmes were not.

Often the training policies in place operated a blanket approach which ensured that staff working in particular areas would be trained in a, b, or c; regardless of delegate willingness.  I appreciate this is a need when health and safety or basic job training are at stake, but, what happens when they are not?

Having been a delegate myself on endless courses, I witnessed many people attend merely because the organisation expected them to attend and not because the delegate had opted to.  It was a day out of the office and a chance to have a buffet lunch with colleagues coupled of course with the opportunity to finish early (training often finishes by 4pm). I found that when the ‘want’ factor is taken away from the delegate then the return on investment expected by the employer wanes. They dutifully attended the training session, learn less than would be anticipated and then return to work for business as usual.

Ok, this might be a really negative perception and it’s not as black and white as I write, but there is a great deal of truth here.
When working in a smaller (and often more creative environments) where there was an absence of prescribed training programmes, I found that staff were more motivated to train.  In these particular environments I found that staff members would find something applicable to their roles, that they really enjoyed and would then request training.  The training would then be arranged in response to something that the staff member really wanted to do.  They were motivated to learn and got more from the programme.

When training works from the outside in, i.e. pouring information into a vessel that isn’t necessarily keen to be there, then some (if not all) the information often pours out through the other end.  When, however, the need is generated from inside out i.e. the individual has personally recognised a need for the training and has requested it, the vessel holds far more information. Learning is more likely to be retained and the individual is more likely to apply their learning within the work environment.

Note also the use of the word ‘learning’.  Within this context, learning can be perceived as individually inspired whilst ‘training’ can be perceived as externally instigated. I’m not saying ‘don’t have a training policy’, instead I think companies should really think through how the policy is applied.  Does training really need to be something that is quantified across the board?  Do all courses really need to be mandatory? Perhaps there’s a little freedom that companies can apply when thinking through their policy.  My preference is to present an environment in which, during one to ones and appraisals, employee and employer engage in a conversation which has as little ERTT (Employer Talking Time) as possible and enables the employee to talk about how they are doing in their role and personally identify potential learning paths which meet either current gaps in know-how with their role or learning opportunities to meet the needs of future roles to which they aspire.

As such, my ideal training policy is to ensure that managers know how to facilitate good quality discussions with their staff and are able to promote the learning topic as a key feature of their discussions with their employees.  If the employee recognises a need (and if it’s relevant to the company or the employee’s role) then consider allowing the employee to investigate possible learning or training environments.  It may even be that training which is not entirely related to a role is sanctioned as a retention tool.  A number of times in my role as Manager I have sanctioned Diplomas and other post graduate courses, not because they have directly benefited the role, but because I’ve known that the employee has a deeply held interest.  As such, sanction of such courses has become a retention tool in kind as the employee feels valued and perceives the employer as caring about their personal development.

In the most recent training policy I developed, I also ensured that staff returning from training / learning opportunities shared their learnings with other staff members.   These events are a great way to get teams together and to allow them to share knowledge and learning within an open environment with people they trust.  The sessions should be employee led and open floors should be allowed to ensure that other employees can contribute their opinions or experience of the subject matter. It also helps consolidate delegate learning through the action of relaying it to others.

To summarise, yes, training is important but I question training policies which are structured to such an extent that training is ‘imposed’ blanket like on employees.  My belief is that regular discussions in respect to learning and development are vital to identifying needs and allowing individuals to reach their own conclusions as to learning needs. Finally, bringing the training back into the work place and allowing the discussion of training points lends itself to greater training consolidation for the delegate and team building for the broader team.  

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How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

How Reciprocity is Effectively used in International Business

Reciprocity is a word many people have heard of before however few can define the mechanisms of this concept in business even though they may experience it all the time and as it happens right in front of their eyes. The purpose of this blog is to explain why one feels the need to return favours and how businesses or anyone can take advantage of the phenomenon.

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