A BUSINESSMAN with a background in theatre is helping to put a Huddersfield company at the top of the bill.
Matt Cleve has taken the stage as learning development director for Juice Learning.
And the skills he honed running professional shows have provided an ideal experience for dealing with the challenges thrown up in the business world.
Says Matt: My mother had a theatrical background. She was a ballet dancer. My grandmother was a seamstress at Covent Garden.
I was born in North Lincolnshire and after leaving school I went to work at Lincoln Theatre Royal on the technical side of things. I also went on tour with various shows as stage manager.
The theatre at Lincoln was a touring house which meant we would have a new show every week. That meant being able to deal with problem-solving and finding solutions, thinking on your feet and working to deadlines.
It was always fun working with talented professionals whether thats the performers or the specialists in different fields behind the scenes. You had to work together to get a show on. If you didnt do your job, the performers couldnt go on stage and do their job.
Matt worked with stars including magician Paul Daniels and during panto season actors such as former Emmerdale favourite Fraser Hines and Anne Charleston, who played Madge in Neighbours.
Now Matt has put those theatrical experiences to good use in the field of training and development as a partner and director of Juice Learning.
He is joined in the venture by sales and marketing director Morgan Wilson, client services director Claire Awty and creative director Mark Knight.
The company, based in sprawling Brookes Mill in the centre of Armitage Bridge, use techniques including theatre, film, e-learning and live workshops to provide training to companies and other organisations in areas such as customer excellence, equality and diversity awareness, behavioural health and safety and leadership.
The team designs each programme individually to suit a clients requirements and give employees the skills, knowledge and the motivation to make a positive and lasting difference to the organisation.
Clients include Scottish and Southern Energy, Barclaycard, The Premier League and Football League, Broker Network, Yorkshire Housing, South Tyneside Homes, Plymouth Community Homes and various NHS Trusts.
For the football authorities, Juice Learning produced an NVQ Level 2 training pack for stadium stewards which is now used by 120 clubs across the country.
Our strength is our range of skills, says Matt. I started doing this kind of thing about 10 years ago. As a team, we have a lot of experience in designing and running training programmes for all sorts of companies in both the public and the private sectors.
Marks media skills mean we can provide a blended form of training encompassing live film and animation as well as theatre.
Matt says business is brisk despite the generally-held view that companies cut back on training and development during difficult times.
We are busy, he says. We havent had to worry where the next job is coming from. Companies that have survived the recession have come out stronger , but they face new challenges. They also know their workers have to be ready for those challenges.
Companies are looking for cost-effective ways to carry out training, which is where we have been successful. Five years ago, companies would put money into conferences and big all-singing-and-dancing events.
Now they want a solution that is sustainable over time. They want to convey information to their workforce, customers and stakeholders.
There are some organisations that run along traditional lines and dont understand that things need to be run differently to the way they were 30 years ago.
But the majority of organisations are realising what good practice in areas like customer service, employee engagement and communications can do for them.
They want to be in a position where their employees feel they have a stake in the business and want to contribute rather than having an us and them situation. It is more effective to work together and get the best outcome for everyone.
Matt says public sector organisations will also need to rebuild employee goodwill as they emerge from the debris of the cutbacks.
And hes relishing the opportunities to come.
My life has been an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary process, he says. If I look back, it is hard to point to where things changed. It was a case of grabbing opportunities that came up and taking one opportunity often leads to another.
Matt says teaming up with Morgan, Claire and Mark seemed the natural thing to do. And he adds: Eighteen months ago when we formed the business, I dont think we could have envisaged things being any better in terms of how it has grown so far.
In terms of our business plan, we still have a long way to go. We have more developments in the pipeline.
Matt says the team has learned the valuable lesson of what not to do. He explains: We know you have to keep your overheads low and keep your wage bill low. We also know not to be afraid to ask for help and advice.
We dont profess to know everything about running a business.
We are continually asking our contacts what they think about what we are doing regarding our website and marketing strategy.
I dont think you can get too much advice as long as you can filter out whats right for you.
Says Matt: We are in a bit of a niche market and that is a good place to be. Its all about making sure in that niche market that we are the best on offer.
However, Matt and his co-directors are also getting ready for new players to emerge from the wings.
Now we are thinking ahead to identify the growth markets and as they grow working out where we can help, he says.
We can see a couple of sectors which look likely to be strong in the next couple of years. We are figuring out how we can get into these markets or increase our presence in these markets.