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Meet Paul Pirie

Paul Pirie, I CAN’s Business Development Manager, talks about his passion for I CAN and how Licensed Tutors can strengthen I CAN’s mission.

Q. What inspired you to pursue a career in I CAN?

A. As Business Development Manager for I CAN, my aim is to use my expertise and experiences from social enterprise and the charity sector to be an agent for change.

An American political advisor once said that there are many ‘wet finger politicians… they wet their finger and stick it in air and see which way the political wind is blowing and go with it’. I want to be a ‘climate changer’ for communications and help I CAN create a climate where all children can receive the communication support they need to make the best start in life.

Throughout my career I have always strived to make a difference and we have a real opportunity with speech and language to transform the lives of children, young people and their families.

Q. What role does the Business Development Team play at I CAN?

A. The Business Development Team are using social enterprise techniques to not only build a team of Licensed Tutors to help us reach tens of thousands and possibly millions of children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN), but also provide a sustainable income stream to I CAN – to fulfill its core mission from the sales of our evidenced based training and resources

Q. Why do you think Licensed Tutors are so important to the issue?

A. I CAN is the leading children’s communication charity…and we have to be canny with our resources.  I CAN’s Licensed Tutor’s bring vast amounts of expertise, experience and knowledge in a local context.

Our licensees therefore, once trained by I CAN, are helping us scale up our operation significantly. Never in our 125 years history have we reached so many children in such a short space of time than in the past twelve months – a direct result of Licensed Tutors delivering our Talk Boost language delay intervention for 4-7 year olds.

Over 180 Licensed Tutors are helping us reach thousands of children around the country who require support in developing their communication skills, and this number is growing each day.

Q. What simple things can Licensed Tutors do to improve their success rates?

There are three things that I feel are of paramount importance:

1. Understand the audience.

Find out who makes the decisions at each school or setting you are contacting – a simple phone call can provide this information. Find out what makes these decision makers tick? i.e. Why do they buy in certain training and not others? Who makes the decision to purchase training? How do they prefer training to be delivered? What amount of money do they spend on training in a given year? How often/what time of year do they plan their training? Also identify who in a school or setting are key influencers or the decision maker(s)…etc.

2. Build relationships!

Marks and Spencer, for most of their existence, have never advertised because they believe in looking after their customers. By caring for their customers they come back time and time again and so advocacy has played a vital role in their customer retention strategy.

Likewise word of mouth in the education sector is a powerful ally and very cost effective in driving ‘sales’. Therefore, ensure you make your ‘customers’ feel special with attention to detail. There are three or more stages to training – a. Pre training, b. Training and c. Post training. Remember to contact the school/setting well in advance to ensure the lead has the right equipment, space, refreshments etc.

Always phone a few days before the training to check with the lead and ensure everything is on track and everyone has everything they require – this may include maps to the training venue, timetable of the training, a note for the organiser of special diets, a list of materials each delegate needs or will be provided etc. It’s important to never assume anything.

When the training takes place, consider having a tick list of things to take. The number of times we forget the basics because we thought it was in the boot of the car! Ensure that delegates have details and opportunity to contact you after the training. You can also try to contact each delegate individually thanking them for their time and input.

3. Add a personal touch and stand out from other trainers

You may wish to send a personal handwritten card (for the staff notice board) to thank the lead contact and staff for their time. Consider a follow-up email/phone call one month and three months down the line to see what differences the training you delivered made. This will help you create opportunities for them to feedback so you can make improvements to your training.

Include all past trainees in your Christmas card list, it’s a nice way to bring your name and organisation back into their minds without a ‘sales push’.

Remember, not all communication with your past trainees and potential customers has to be for a ‘sale’. Consider sharing good ideas, news about your services, news about changes in the sector, news about changes in staff in your organisation – like any relationship you have to nurture it!

Q. What is it about the I CAN programmes that you feel the most passionate about?

A. I am equally passionate about all of them; they all have evidenced benefits for children of different ages and abilities. To highlight one above the rest would be a little myopic as they all have the power to transform lives. At I CAN we are in the business of giving the 21st Century life skill of communication to all children.

Q. What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

A. In words of Frank Sinatra…’The best is yet to come’. Some may think I say this glibly, however, I do believe that we at I CAN have only just started to scratch the surface of our potential to reach thousands of children, parents and practitioners with communication support. So yes, the best is yet to come!