AS a youngster, Jayne Leedham had ambitions to be a show jumper.

Now she is helping companies put in a faultless performance as a training and development consultant.

Jayne, who lives at The Airedale Heifer pub in Mirfield with partner Mel, has amassed a wealth of experience working for some of the region’s best-known businesses.

She launched Bliss Training, with business partner Victoria Deighton in 2010 at a time when the recession meant training budgets were among the first thing companies were cutting!

Says Jayne: “It has been a very exciting first 14 months! We launched in March last year and after the first three months we changed the way we operated. Both of us have backgrounds in the large corporate arena, but now we are operating in the SME market. We spent three months getting used to that!”

“Training budgets are bigger in large companies, but results are often more measurable with smaller companies. We wanted to make a tangible difference to the businesses, so our clients could see that it was worthwhile spending money on training. “

Says Jayne: “A lot of HR professionals are accused of being too distant from the business. We can operate with people one-to-one and in groups. And we don’t just develop people in the company, we also help people who have been made redundant to find work.

“We ask them where they are going and what they want to do. We get people prepared for the job market.

“Victoria’s background was in in-house recruitment and selection while I have been made redundant twice myself, so I understand the difficulties – people who have been out of work for long periods and people who haven’t had to undergo a job interview for 20 years suddenly facing redundancy and having to find a job.

“The emotional reaction can be extreme and some people take longer to come to terms with it than others.

“But I also know that it can be a blessing in disguise. Redundancy leaves people feeling wretched and worthless, but it is the only time in your life when you can sit back and ask yourself: ‘What do I want to do? What skills do I want to use? People can change direction.”

Bliss Training is securing more work with local authorities as public sector job losses pick up pace.

“People in the public sector have very transferable skills,” says Jayne. “They often have tremendous analytical and communication skills and good leadership skills. What we don’t see as often are good customer service skills because they may have worked in a ‘back office’ environment.

“People moving from the public to the private sector think of their job title and think they have to find another job with the same title! We help them to think about what they do and the things they are interested in rather than their title .

“We also try to get people from the public sector out of the habit of using jargon and to speak in plain English!”

Leadership is another key to business success, says Jayne. “If organisations don’t keep training their managers to lead and to see where things may be going wrong, they will not be making the best use of the skilled people working below those managers. Productivity will be down and they won’t know how to change that.”

Says Jayne: “At the age of six, I wanted to be a hairdresser and by the time I was 12 I wanted to be a show jumper.

“But I started my professional working life at the Yorkshire Building Society in Dewsbury.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I opened the Yellow Pages at ‘A’ and worked my way through. When I came to ‘B’ and ‘banking’ I thought that sounded interesting.

“I wrote 26 letters to the local banks and building societies explaining my skills. I’d worked as a waitress and a barmaid so I had cash handling skills. I got five interviews and was offered three jobs.

“I ended up spending 10 years at the Yorkshire Building Society, which is where I got into training and development. I was providing training to the branches – to the cashiers, mortgage advisers and branch managers to help them generate more income.

“Right from the start, it was about improving the bottom line.”

After being made redundant, Jayne joined Q Hotels. “The company was only a year old and had bought nine hotels, but had no training and development department,” she says, “I was there for 13 months, during which time I worked all over the country from Glasgow to Kent. When they bought out a hotel company which already had a training manager, I moved on. But I had achieved all I wanted to achieve and we had got the culture right.”

Jayne worked for Next’s warehousing operations as a consultant on a short-term contract before joining “My role at the airline was to oversee the training – training the trainers. I worked with people at director level to ensure the right training was in place. It was a fantastic experience. It is a great company employing lots of local people. I was there three years, which is as long as I had planned to stay before knowing it would be time to move on.”

Jayne is a member of the Heckmondwike BNI networking group while colleague Victoria attends BNI meetings in Leeds.

“You get to know other businesses and generate business for each other and through word of mouth. But you have to get up early in the mornings! I am assistant director for BNI so I also help another group, which increases my visibility and opportunities to develop the business.

“I hate going to networking events where you don’t know anybody. At BNI, you get to know the group because it is the same people every week and you build up trust. It really works for us and it sits very well with our company values, one of which is quality.”

Jayne also finds time to help partner Mel run his pub, The Airedale Heifer, at Mirfield. “Mornings can be early with BNI, but in the evenings the pub has darts and dominoes teams to look after – so I’m often making the sandwiches.

“I don’t try to ‘sell’ my business in the pub because people go there to socialise, relax and get away from work. But I do train the bar staff! It would be ridiculous having a landlady running a training company and not having the staff well-trained!”

Pet dogs Nanuk and Louis also demand attention. “They can’t fit into your business timetable, you have to fit in with them. I go for a walk with the dogs every day, which mans I always get 30 minutes to an hour to wind down every day.

“And it is quite nice working from home. The dogs are always a conversation starter when business clients call and they are happy curling up at my feet while I’m working on the computer.”