A Year in Review at London Speech Workshop

We sat down with CEO & Founder of London Speech Workshop, Emma Serlin, to chat about her highlights and challenges she's faced over the past year, as well as how LSW is fitting into and adapting to the ever changing world of communication workshops.

What do you consider to be the most significant achievements for LSW in the past year?

"I'll pick three. Firstly, one of our biggest achievements was becoming a B Corp.

It's been a long held dream, and I recently came across a blog that I wrote about my desire to become a B Corp back in either 2019 or 2020. There were various points in the last three years where I thought we might not get there, because it's really difficult to do with the needed manpower and time commitment. After three years, during which it was an on-off priority, we achieved it! For me, the reason why it's such a big achievement is because it's a statement of intent about the kind of company we are and the kind of company we are committed to being, in a world that massively needs purpose driven companies. It’s very much like a manifestation of my belief system - in an established form - and we truly have put our money where our mouth is in terms of buying into and stepping into being a purpose driven company. This is the very beginning of that journey and I'm very, very excited to have what feels like a real badge of honour to run with. It’s onward and upward from here, because for us, the label is very nice, but it's really about what it says about us and our intentions in the world.

Secondly, the hiring of Caroline Evans, who's our new Managing Director.

That process started in March with a headhunter called Emma Farran. We spoke to a few, but she really seemed to understand that it's basically like matchmaking - it’s an art, as anyone in the recruitment world knows. She went off and found Caroline, which means that we’re moving into the next phase of our development, or adulthood, as a business. This is because Caroline brings with her this huge wealth of experience that I don't have, and also enthusiasm - which I definitely do have. We have this shared vision, and it's very exciting to utilise our collective skills, passions, talents and drive to move forward at a pace that's already begun! White-knuckle ride, ladies and gentlemen!

Thirdly, over the last two years, we've been developing an offering for the B2B, or corporate market, and everything that we've delivered has become honed from a more scattered state. When we do this type of workshop in communication, to some degree is what we're calling the ‘Four Pillars’, it's a really comprehensive offering that covers what we think are all the different communication needs that we should all value in the workplace. It's gone down with amazing impact in the very big and small, but all beautiful, companies we’ve worked with. What I've wanted to do for a long time, what there has been demand for for over a decade, has been something really formulated for our clients who've done the first part of the journey with us, but want to continue working and improving with us. I am so delighted because we’ve got the ‘Accent Softening Advanced', which took about a year to develop, and then these ‘Four Pillars’, having been a few years in the making, which will be ready to launch in January. Creating those and training the coaches with that new content, and realising how special they are, like the original method is, I'm very proud of it, and it's creatively been incredibly satisfying."

How has the landscape of communication and training changed in the last year? And have there been any ways that LSW has adapted to these changes?

"I think since the pandemic there has been a massive and significant change in what companies consciously know they need and are looking for. It went from a more superficial - we need presentation skills - through to, we need connection and coherence and really beautiful collaboration within our teams and people. They’ve begun to understand that there's something about authenticity and kindness that could be missing in their organisations. They might well have the intention, but how do you actually create a culture that supports people to be themselves and to be kind to each other? I think because of that, that's why we haven't needed to seek out clients. At present, we've still done no outbound, even having worked with Airbnb, Disney, Booking.com, AstraZeneca, John Lewis, Sales Force etc. I think it's because companies are saying, along with the people within them (HR teams and managers), I want something that matters, I care about my team and something's missing. I want to find providers who care in the same way. That's really why we came full throttle into this space, even though we've been around and delivering for 13/14 years. It was the realisation that the companies need this and that's what has made it all really exciting. To answer your question - yes, I do think there's been a change."

Are you aware of or can you share a particularly memorable success story or moment or client transformation from the past year?

"There’s a Google review that came through the other day which made me well up because the lady described how she had such a terror of delivering presentations, that she would even be close to fainting. I used to have something a little similar. I'd get really panicked and breathless, and as you can imagine, that was heightened by imposter syndrome. Our method was really good but I was asking myself; can it work for me? In fact, it did, and that’s why I really connected with this lady's experience, where she said she came in terrified but now has done her first presentation to a room full of over 100 people. Not only did she not shake and quiver and feel like she was going to faint, she actually enjoyed it, and then thanked the coach for changing her life. Reading that, I felt wow, that's the work we're doing. That was really beautiful because for us, we're helping people to live their fullest life. We have a Bursary Scheme, enabling us to work with people from all walks of life. We're increasingly making it so that money doesn't need to be a barrier, and that will be something that grows as we grow. But I think the key is, this is for people who want to be bigger and better and need a bit of support to shine in anything they can and want to do."

What were some unexpected challenges faced in the past year? How did you overcome them?

"For me, one of my big drivers is that we've always been doing good outwardly, but I've wanted to be a reflection of that intention inwardly, as a company, so that there's a concurrency there. That's been so important to me. Figuring out how to do that with integrity is challenging because you also have to run a business and you also have to make a profit. This means you have to be able to be tough on people and you have to be honest and let people go - I've not got that right a few times. There’s still a big journey ahead about what kindness means in a high performing, dynamic, ambitious, purpose driven company. It's not all about being lovely to people all the time - it's also about being honest and caring for the company as well, staying true to kindness, whilst also making sure that your company is high performing. It has definitely been a challenge that I've met and we're overcoming it, and I've definitely found ways to overcome it so far, but it's not been as straightforward as I thought. I thought you could just be kind and then it will all work out but, it's not as simple as that."

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