As we finished Optima Training (Part 1): A growth story, we were at a point where the business was getting ready to grow. Optima Training (UK) Limited sprang into life on the morning of 12th November 2003.
I fretted for days over the choice of name, worrying that I should have chosen something with more of a language focus. But Optima Training isn't just a language training company. We are a business training company with the ability to develop and deliver a variety of programmes in different languages. Optima is the plural of Optimum – an ideal name for a company that works hard to deliver the best training outcomes every time.
Optima Training was still based in back bedroom, albeit much larger as Mark, my husband and the other company director, was starting to take an active role in the development of the business. As anyone who is involved in a family business will know, this wasn't easy and we had to set up some ground rules to ensure that work didn't encroach on family and home life. No talking about work after 9 pm was one of the golden rules which, I must admit, seems to have extended to 10.30 pm and later these days!
We grew our team of associate trainers, offered more languages and began to really develop our client base.
We had a daughter, Caitlin, who was born in 2004, and life became a juggling act of work, family and large glasses of wine whenever possible.
I was being asked to train other trainers and teachers from various organisations and was in and out of prison on a regular basis. No … it’s not what you’re thinking. I had begun to develop a niche consultancy area in the offender learning sector – I have now worked with around 35 prisons in England to help develop education for offenders.
At the same time, Mark was successfully developing and delivering vocational learning materials for FE Colleges, creating apprenticeship support materials, training teachers and using his business experience to work with education providers to enhance their employer engagement strategies. He was also delivering internal audit services to ensure that public funded programmes were delivering on expected outcomes. As I said at the start, Optima Training is so much more than a language training company!
We reached a point in 2006 where we were inundated with work having attracted some great new clients; we simply ran out of space. Also, as with many family businesses, the lines between business and family were becoming more and more blurred - we needed help to maintain our growth.
Up until now, our team had grown through a network of good and trusted associate trainers. Now we needed to recruit our first permanent members of staff. We considered our options and quickly realised that we did not want to make the changes needed to turn our home into a safe working environment for others. We also felt that a home address was sometimes limiting our opportunities to win new business. And besides, with a family and business competing for rooms, we had just run out of space.
What next? Find out in Optima Training (Part 3): A new home.