The global recession of 2009 actually began in late 2007 with the financial liquidity crisis in the United States. At around the same time that we were moving into our new office (see Optima Training (Part 3): A new home) the American housing market bubble was bursting. As the decline accelerated in 2008, Optima Training was somewhat insulated by the government funded work that we were involved in, but the change of government in 2010 marked the start of a new funding landscape that removed half of our revenues almost overnight.
I still believed that our approach of providing training based on an effective and accurate analysis of needs, linked to specific targets of our clients business, was the right thing to do. But, perhaps as training is an unregulated industry, it is still an activity that often suffers first from budget cuts when times are hard. I took a long hard look at the business and made some tough decisions.
We looked at our costs and decided that the three man office had to go. Looking back, Mark had spent very little time there over the past two years and we really didn't need so much space. We moved into the excellent shared office accommodation at Newark Beacon and have stayed there ever since.
The Newark Beacon Innovation Centre is operated by Oxford Innovation. They provided us with a coach, completely free of charge, who helped me to refocus and refine our value proposition. Our work with him coincided with our decision to invest in the website and the further development of our online Learning Zone. There were a few sleepless nights over whether to invest so much in this technology development, especially with the recession looming large in the background, but the coaching and our belief in Optima’s future kept us going.
Ironically, the recession also helped Optima Training to win its next big contract. Mark was asked to step into a role at Irfab, the research team at the PRA, leading a study that examined the impact of the global downturn on the global industrial coatings market. This project would last for almost two years and helped to sustain the business as we continued to refocus on commercial work.
The light at the end of the horizon appeared in 2012. We had been working hard to develop our relationship with the UKTI in the East Midlands and were now delivering German language and culture tasters for them on a regular basis, as well as supporting them at conferences. Our work on refocusing the business brought with it more multinational clients and there was a huge surge in demand for Business English from employees relocating to the UK. I was also asked to be part of a small team to work on a high profile teaching and learning development project at HMP Dartmoor. The revamped Learning Zone was popular clients and, much to our joy, helped us win the Newark Innovation through Technology award at the end of 2012.
Things were looking up again.Find out how the Optima Training story ends in the final part of this thrilling saga - Optima Training (Part 5): The return of the goodtimes