Supportive Thoughts for Your Business

What is the Best Training?

I am often asked "What is the best course you do at Strode?" The answer is not a simple one. There is a most popular course, there is the one we deliver most often, and there is the one we consistently get the best feedback about. But they are all different.

The simplest answer is that the best course is the one that benefits you or your business the most. It all depends on what you are looking for and what you want to achieve. There are clear links between training and performance. The right course, diligently completed, can improve quality, profitability and service and add to customer satisfaction and retention. But if it is not the right course at the right time then the impact quickly diminishes.

Adding to the confusion is the huge range of information available about training and cost options. If you put 'sales training' into your computer search engine you will find 163,000,000 options and 'service training' brings 427,000,000. Don't even try a 'customer service' search!

Delivery at a local level is crucial. There is no substitute for being able to speak to your tutor face to face. You need to be able to work at the correct pace, at the right time of day, with regular checks on progress and tutorials to encourage you. Also, for many gaining a qualification is a primary goal and you need to find a cost effective way to do this.

Many college courses are now delivered in the workplace with face to face support. All are tailored to the student and the business. All business courses are flexible and reflect individual needs. Some may be fully subsidised subject to certain criteria. If you want to know the best course for you, talk to us about what you want to achieve. Whether it is Customer Service or Sales Skills, Management or Marketing Skills, Finance or Supervisory Skills, or any of the wide range of courses we can offer, I am sure we will be able to help find the best course for you.



Profit from the Strode Experience

Today’s employers are demanding a more highly skilled workforce as the UK faces increasing competition from the global economy. Research shows that 1.3 million people go to work every day without the skills they require to do their job proficiently. Whether you’re a big company or a small concern your business can profit from up-skilling your workforce; benefits include improved staff confidence and motivation, higher retention rates and increased productivity.

The Business Development Unit has the knowledge and experience to handle your training needs.



Why Should I Train my Staff?

“Why should I train my staff? If I do they want more pay or are likely to leave for other jobs, or even worse a competitor.”

Ask yourself which company is more likely to retain its staff, the one that trains and nurtures, or the one that ignores development and leaves staff feeling disadvantaged and under skilled? Also which will be more successful, the company with underdeveloped managers, or the one where staff are skilled?

Gone are the days when all training involved college attendance. Let’s be honest, if your best client phoned at 5pm for an urgent order and delivery involved late working, how many would still send their staff off to their evening class? I wouldn’t. Now most training and assessment is done by distance learning on a flexible timescale and in the workplace to suit business needs. The tutor visits the learner regularly for ‘one on one’ sessions. In addition workbooks, CD roms and the internet have taken tuition to the student, whilst occasional college attendance for some management courses may simply supplement other learning. And never underestimate the power of meeting other managers from other businesses. A problem shared...

The cost issue has changed greatly too. Now significant money is available to subsidise most levels of training. For many, a basic NVQ2 qualification may well still be free and most distance learning programmes of 50 hours learning cost £60 average.

The benefits? Efficiency, productivity, cost savings, motivation, quality, customer service and of course, profitability. Oh yes, and there was that little problem of staff retention!



Creating the Right Image

As an Image Consultant Louise Lang knew all about the importance of presentation. However she needed to know more about marketing and planning to grow her business based in Street.

It was here that Strode’s tailored training was able to help. By focusing on the areas she needed to improve Louise was able to see a dramatic growth in her business.

Louise studied for the ASET Certificate in Marketing. It focuses on three core areas: ‘Marketing your Business’, ‘Advertising and Promotion’ and ‘Personal Selling Skills’.

Without a large budget for advertising Louise needed to find a way of reaching local business and Strode was able to teach her vital networking skills. Louise put these to successful use in getting to know members of the local Chamber of Commerce.

The course also showed how to create and work to a personal development plan. Previously working on her own without any structured approach Louise found it difficult to spend time chasing new business while looking after her existing clients.

By following the plan she was able to follow up new leads. One of these was a hotel where her successful idea of styling weekends led to the parent company implementing them in their other hotels.

Of course an important part of marketing is advertising and here the course at Strode showed how advertising works, how to position your business and create targeted and cost effective advertising.

And on the subject of advertising Louise is now doing work with the international agency Grey Advertising.

Now Louise’s clients range from businesses who need to improve their corporate image to mothers returning to work who would like to be seen as more ‘professional’.

But looking good is not just helpful in business. For anyone who has lost weight or never had time to shop, a styling consultation with Louise can give more confidence to know what clothes to shop for. It can make shopping fun again. And that can’t be bad. If you’d like to dress for success or dress to impress contact Louise on 01458 445046 or



Is Your Image Winning in the Workplace?

by guest contributor Louise Lang

Like it or not, we all make judgements about each other based on our appearance. And what you wear sends out important non-verbal signals to others about your competence and trustworthiness.

Which is why for managers/business owners, it’s imperative that you ensure your staff don’t look scruffy, as people may assume that you take that approach with your business. A ‘together’ look automatically suggests efficiency and attention to detail.

Think about your core customers: what are their expectations? A sharply tailored look is essential if you work in a financial, legal or traditional business. Conversely, if you’re in a creative industry, customers will value individuality, and staff should reflect this.

Ensure all personnel look current; being up to date is essential if you want your company to be seen as forward thinking and progressive. But it’s not just about looks. How do you smell? Our sense of smell is one of out most powerful and evocative senses, and light colognes on either sex are fine, but an overpowering smell can seriously offend.

Women working in a traditionally male dominated industry do not need to wear mannish suits to create an authoritative image. Good quality fabrics, classic styles and well cut items that flatter will all help to create a professional look.

Remember, it is possible to successfully fit in with the dress culture of your organization whilst still standing out as an individual, if you know the correct styles and colours for your unique physique and colouring. That’s where a personal image consultant can offer the right advice to help you get ahead.

If you run a business, invest in your company’s image as you would its marketing strategy or training programme. After all, not looking the part may mean you don’t even get the chance to prove your credentials.

For further information regarding Personal Image Consultations and Tailored Corporate Training, please contact Louise Lang Style Image Consultancy on 01458 445046 or email



Not Just for the CV….

The majority of the enquiries we receive directly into the Business Development Unit relate to business performance and the performance of staff and colleagues. We are however always happy to hear from people in a personal capacity to help them individually.

Many of our enquiries are of a positive nature, with a genuine wish to improve; some conversely are because there is a performance issue with output not reaching required standards. However there has been a distinct change recently reflecting the economic uncertainty we all face. More enquiries now relate to improving qualifications to add to the length and quality of a CV.

There have always been many good reasons to keep your CV up to date and there is lots of help available on writing a CV and a job application, plus of course facing the dreaded job interview. However the real hard work and preparation which can count for so much are done in advance and normally over many months. This may include adding a qualification in an area of skill you already possess or finding something totally new which may enable you to gain employment in a new sector. For example, the manufacturing sector has contracted and there has been a trend to re-skill with a move towards service sectors.

A typical piece of study by Distance Learning entails say 3 or 4 hours per week over 4 months, working with and meeting a specialist tutor who guides and helps and challenges with highly personal input. There are assignments to complete and then a final multiple test paper. Typical topics might include Customer Service, Sales Skills, Marketing or Finance, Management or Leadership, and Supervisory Skills. The range is large; please do let us know your personal need.

But many of these courses can also be relevant to those starting their own business where there are also specialist courses to complement the wealth of advice and guidance available. Starting your own business can be a hugely rewarding experience, but is also very daunting! So the study may not just be “for the CV” but actually to genuinely ensure improved chances of reaching the success levels you crave in your own business.

But just where do you start, whichever option you are following? A phone call or email would be a great start… whether just for the CV or not… 01458 844457, or



The Difference Between Try and Triumph...

The issue of customer service rears its head periodically and no more so than in the current difficult trading conditions across all sectors.

Customers are more discerning, choose more carefully if they will spend, and on what, and are more ready to complain. Those complaints may be justified, they may not, but each one brings the business relationship to a crossroads. Will the relationship, even just transactional, be repaired, or lost for ever?

Service levels can be raised everywhere, and in many instances with little or no cost. It may be a matter of attitude, knowledge or skill, or one of experience, and the last of those brings us to the centre of the issue. People now move jobs more often, and with less time in a job experience can appear a thing of the past. Knowledge can and should be learned alongside skills with customers. It is the only way to replace some of the experience lost, how often have we stood in an office, shop, or been on the phone to a call centre just wishing the person knew what they were talking about?

Knowledge will normally come from application and often from within the business, skills can be learned and attitudes changed. There are so many courses and so many quick wins, improving day by day should be part of a culture which changes approaches and attitudes, and led from the top.

I have been asking groups for twenty years what it is the consumer expects in defining quality service delivery. Not surprisingly the answers have not changed much in that time. We know what people want. Equally we know what a consumer does not want! Sadly it is easier to answer that question, and dwell on the horror stories which we all collect in our daily lives.

Quality service should be an obsession not an aspiration. Give me a ring and let’s talk…. the difference between try and triumph… is just a matter of umph!!!

You can contact Graeme Tucker on, or 01458 844476.



Business Dress Codes: ‘Smart Casual’ or ‘Casual Smart’ - What’s the Difference?

Now when these two phrases are bandied about the workplace, often interchangeably, I get worried – contrary to popular opinion, they do not mean the same thing. When ‘smart’ precedes the ‘casual’ bit, that means that it takes precedence! However, when ‘casual’ takes on the adjectival emphasis, then we can all relax a little more, put on our denims and let the shirt tails hang out.

But what does it actually mean in terms of what we’re expected to wear, and how do we get it right? Having a good understanding of these terms is essential if you want to ensure that you’re dressing appropriately in the workplace, catching the eye of your boss for the right reasons and fitting in with your colleagues.

In fact, ‘smart casual’ doesn’t really mean that casual at all. For men it allows the removal of the tie, and for both sexes, a stiff matching business suit can be eliminated. But nearly all formal business situations still require a degree of tailoring. So instead of the requisite dark suit, you could opt for a lighter suit – both in terms of fabric and colour (season permitting) – or tailored separates in fabrics such as tweed, linen and needlecord. It also provides the opportunity to add more colour to your wardrobe; this season’s rich reds, plums, and berries can and should be worn.

Accessories should also change with the dress code. For men this could mean a chunkier belt, a suede loafer or swapping your briefcase for an Indiana Jones-style leather satchel worn slung across the body (just remember to leave the hat and whip at home). And for ladies, here’s your opportunity to either kick off the heels and wear a slightly more comfortable yet still funky boot, or go the opposite way and wear those ever so slightly too high, too colourful platforms that you love but hardly ever wear. Adding more jewellery, and generally creating a more personalised look is also perfectly acceptable.

So, what does smart casual not mean: it certainly excludes the wearing of denim, t-shirts (particularly with slogans), trainers and sandals.

For further information regarding personal image in the workplace and corporate image training, please contact Louise Lang Style Image Consultancy on 01458 445046 or email



Flexible Study to Fit Around You

The Computer Centre at Strode College provides access for adult learners who wish to gain IT user qualifications to update their CV or learn for pleasure.

Learners are able to develop the skills they already have to become proficient at work and gain a nationally or internationally recognised qualification, or just learn for pleasure. Attendance can be at any time and for as long as required during our opening hours, which total 42 hours a week during the daytime, evenings and Saturday mornings. These flexible opening hours provide convenient access to a learning environment where qualified tutors will continually support the learner in order to achieve their personal goals.

One to one guidance and tuition is provided and this, together with the flexibility of attendance offered, provides the opportunity for students to work at their own pace and to gain the knowledge and understanding in a shorter time span than that provided in a conventional classroom environment.

Bespoke courses are also provided for businesses in the surrounding area. These have been delivered within the College and also at business premises. Further support is provided after the training using online facilities and personal contact. Maintaining and expanding knowledge in the use of IT ensures that people can work smarter, not harder.

Contact Nadine Norman at the Computer Centre on 01458 844480.