As we came to the end of Optima Training (Part 2): Becoming a limited company we were running out of space and needing to expand our team. Mark was looking for office space that would allow us to grow the business and in early 2007 he put on his hard hat and visited a partly finished Newark Beacon Innovation Centre. Having agreed terms, we were the third company to move into the premises in August 2007.
It wasn’t long before we were joined by Rea, our new Business Administrator. Rea later became my sister in law so we are still truly a family business. Rea took over the day to day administration of Optima Training so that Mark could focus on process development, delivering teacher training to local colleges and designing vocational learning modules to be delivered under the Train to Gain programme. At the same time he started to work within the commercial team of a local University, project managing a refresh of their website.
I was building our client base and planning for the future. As well as growing the language side of the business, I was working on the government funded Teaching and Learning programme, managing a team of consultants and developing training for teachers across England.
Moving to Newark Beacon Innovation Centre had a huge impact both on a personal level as well as on the business. Meetings about work were held at work, the back bedroom became a family space and, more importantly, we began to establish ourselves much more locally. Since 2007 we have developed relationships with other businesses at the Beacon, some of whom have become clients, and we have also used the premises to hold our own training events.
I became a Business Language Champion and started to work with, what was then, the Grove School in Newark to encourage kids to learn languages. With the help of the teachers and local business people, we set up a Dragon’s Den style project where pupils worked in teams to produce presentations aimed at inspiring people to learn languages. It was hosted by the Newark Beacon Innovation Centre and was so successful that it became an annual event, which led to Optima winning Newark’s Commitment to the Community award in 2009. We are utterly committed to helping kids learn languages and expand their cultural horizons so just give us a call if you have any exciting ideas for projects that we can get involved with.
Having real office space must have given Optima Training more credibility as a commercial training provider as business really picked at around that time. After successfully completing his website redesign project at De Montfort University, Mark was asked to project manage the initial validation phase of a £4.2 million project funded by HEFCE to promote employer engagement. Ironically, this took him away from our new office as he was embedded with the project team in Leicester.
The period from 2007 to 2010 was incredibly busy and we were winning plenty of work. Even as things slowed down in 2009 amid concerns of a global recession, we were maintaining contracts and we were heavily involved in the delivery of public sector work. It was also a busy time from a family perspective as we were also expecting our second child. Erin was born in February 2010 and, like her sister, she was an early arrival. She started to let me know that she was on her way whilst I was actually working with the education management team at HMP North Sea Camp. Luckily I made it out of prison and off to the hospital in plenty of time!
However, the end of the Labour government also saw the beginning of the end for a lot of the government funded work that we were doing. It looked like the recession was going to affect us after all and we started to prepare for a fundamental change to our business model that would be needed with such a significant loss of revenue.
Could this be the end for Optima Training as we know it? Tune in to Optima Training (Part 4): The recession strikes back to find out.