The need to challenge stereotypes, in particular negative perceptions around disability, seems to have been in Jane’s blood for at least the past twenty years (and, I suspect, more) – not just disability, but “difference” in a wider context – age, race, sexual orientation, religion, culture, gender and all the rest of it.
When Plan A (to be a musician) took an early nose dive, Jane says there never really was a Plan B so a series of accidents took her down the route she’s travelled so far. On the physical side she has an incontrovertible point. Yet I’d take gentle issue with the career progression side because it makes perfect sense (or is that with the benefit of hindsight?) We’ll start with a quick recap of how she got to where she is now and you see what you think.
Jane’s work in residential child care, gaining a professional social work qualification and rising through the ranks, led to training other social workers. After the birth of her second child in 1990 Jane became a freelance trainer in a range of soft skills, putting herself through further and higher education to fill in gaps where necessary and focusing on race and gender issues combined with disability awareness training and consultancy.
A spinal injury in 2004 left her moderately disabled and, by now being an experienced trainer and knowing the public sector inside out, she set up Public Sector Providers the following year to offer training on Equality & Diversity, Leadership & Management Development, and Professional Development: She would now work on the business rather than in it.
Initially run from home, the company grew to over 30 practitioners as the clients soon realised that, far from being warm and fuzzy or just ‘being seen to be compliant’, there were very real Returns On Investment in terms of equipping and motivating staff to produce tangible, measurable and sustainable improvements in performance.
2008 saw high and low points: Jane was a finalist in the Stelios Disabled Entrepreneurs Award. Four days later she undertook radical experimental spinal surgery which not only cost her £40,000, it also failed.
“Having promoted the benefits of employing disabled people for years in my professional role, I ironically became much more severely disabled myself following failed radical spinal surgery last year. Now was the time to prove to the world (but firstly to myself) that a woman who couldn’t sit, bend or lift, and could barely stand or walk, could continue to run a successful business! My condition basically meant I could do little but lie flat for nearly 24 hours a day.”
As if that wasn’t enough of a blow, global financial meltdown kicking in around the same time didn’t help matters. With the double whammy of the recession and adjusting to her new severe disability, Jane was determined that her business would survive and grow.
Onwards and upwards
Regular visitors and readers here will have clocked from her own posts and comments on others’ that Jane ensures she is well up on a number of market trends and topical matters that resonate with her.
It was time for her to apply this approach to her own market place and she was no slouch …
As public sector spending was drying up, the private sector came under her scrutiny. First she found out what development funds were available and has since used them for ongoing and very detailed research into diversity and leadership management in the private sector.
Industry sectors, company size and company ethos went under the microscope. Because of the existing track record, quasi public sector areas such as housing associations, further and higher education were the more obvious targets yet the legal profession may turn out to be a potential front runner: ignorance about the laws governing diversity, after all, is no defense in the eyes of the law; somebody has to advise on the answers…
While this was going on, experience, expertise and success stories she had in abundance but the company name wasn’t right so The Diversity People was swiftly born (4 weeks rather than nine months gestation ) followed soon after by The Leadership and Management People.
… it’s more about ethos than industry. Companies who want to be employers of choice and/ or provide goods or services to the public sector (and therefore already holding Investors In People) and those who have a named training manager are a good indication of prime clients for Jane.
Training can be all the way from strategic and start at the very top with the company vision through middle management, team leader, 1st line manager to frontline shop floor worker, and anything in between. The offering is completely flexible, tailored to suit the client’s needs and can count towards accreditations.
Realistically we’re looking at the Medium of the SMEs: 50 to 250 employees. There is a lot of research evidence that of the £600 to £800pa invested in individual employee training currently, 50 – 80% will be spent on leadership and management.
I like dealing with figures: So, for argument’s sake let’s take a middle of the road example: a company with 100 employees investing £700 in training anywhere between fifty to all of them, and that half of that is on leadership and management.
You’d have a budget of £17,500 to £35,000. Would that invested with your company, Jane, produce substantial improvement in productivity and profitability? Would it pay for itself?
“Yes. We’ve worked wonders with a lot less and a lot more… ”
We’ve only scratched the surface here so why not fire away with your own observations, comments and questions?