When Fleur developed a course for blind students to learn languages at the school where she was teaching, she ended up creating a training and education specialist.
What is it the company does?
PET-Xi Training delivers highly engaging training to learners of all ages across the UK.
Working with businesses, schools and directly with individuals seeking employment, relentlessly upbeat teams and innovative programmes combine to create PET-Xi’s signature “explosive inspiration” style which delivers impact, inspiration, productivity and value.
PET-Xi helps businesses make the right investments in skills. Learners are upskilled and increase their confidence, productivity and overall performance. A better-performing workforce delivers a return on investment and adds value to the business, making it more effective and enabling it to achieve its goals.
In schools, PET-Xi delivers intensive, motivational results-based interventions for young people who are at risk of not achieving their academic potential. Excellence in learner engagement and carefully designed programmes across all subjects deliver positive impact on learner progress from primary to GCSEs. To date, PET-Xi has helped over 100,000 young people nationwide reach their academic potential in an ever-changing educational landscape.
PET-Xi also trains and upskills individuals on their journey to first-time employment or in returning to work. PET-Xi’s high-impact motivational programmes break barriers and the cycle of disadvantage, showing that education is the strongest, surest means to rebalance social justice.
PET-Xi operates nationwide from offices in Coventry and Sheffield.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I am ultimately responsible for ensuring that every single training programme delivers our “Xi” (explosive inspiration).
I am responsible for the outcomes of all departments, from the successful financial health of the company to the educational quality of our training and the performance of our training teams.
I develop new opportunities, such as our Firing Up Young Minds Roadshow which travelled the UK promoting social mobility, delivering career opportunity workshops to young people and providing role models and mentors.
I spearhead our community activities, working directly with learners and young people which is the part closest to my heart.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
When I was studying for my degree, I taught English in Paris where there was a huge amount of unemployment and students’ expectations of obtaining a job were low. It was great to see their confidence increase as they realised they could achieve their dreams.
I returned to England and started working as a teacher in a school – the experience of working with blind students and helping them to break down barriers and flourish in learning a language was instrumental in setting up our training courses.
The business was launched from a spare bedroom in my house in 1995 and for the first five years, I was working as a teacher as well to ensure a regular income as well as running the business.
It has grown steadily and we rented various premises before moving into a new 8,300 sq ft headquarters at Westwood Business Park, Coventry, in January 2017 as an investment in our future for our 500 full-time and part-time staff.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I believe in putting people first and being prepared to give second chances – this has developed from working with young people where it is particularly important for those who attend our courses who have not always had the best start in life.
I believe in showing loyalty to staff in good and bad times which every business experiences and not forgetting why the business was set-up in the first place. The core interest of my personal and professional life is helping people to develop and progress, specifically women and young people. I still participate on our courses every week and act as a mentor to two students at a special school in Coventry.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
A number of years ago, the government changed its educational policy, making redundant the vocational courses we ran which provided the majority of the business’s income at the time.
I had a new-born baby who was in intensive care, and I designed and wrote a series of new GCSE revision programmes in time for the new school year in September.
It was tough but while our little girl was fighting, I wanted to prove to her that her mum also didn’t give up and just as she now flourishes at school, these High-5 revision courses are now our flagship products.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I play the piano, go to spin classes, walk our four dogs and spend time with my husband and three children. I love going to watch ballets and shows at the Birmingham Hippodrome and I have become a regular at Wasps netball matches.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always loved people and loved being with them. As a child I wanted to be a teacher or a doctor which was fitting with what I am still interested in now – helping people and working with people
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I started the company with my husband, Chris, and my mum and dad still help out as well so I work to ensure that the company always has a family feel in the wider sense. I don’t like cliques in the workplace and to prevent this we have hot-desking so that everyone gets to know each other in different departments.
I also think it is important women act as role models for other women and don’t like it when women in senior positions don’t offer the same opportunities to other women to progress. This is part of our company make-up and policy and everyone is encouraged to support each other in this way.
When I was starting the business, I often took our children to meetings. We provided childcare in one of our meeting rooms in the six-week school holidays to help out our parents who had childcare issues.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Our business plan is focused on doubling the size of the company, largely through growth in the business training market.
We are one of only three centres in Europe chosen to run the Microsoft Office Specialist programmes in three different markets – schools, business and vocational – which teach and accredit highly-employable IT skills in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. This is an area we wish to expand because companies can improve the skills of their employees and it increases the employability of adults who are not currently working.
We will continue to build on our success in our revision courses for students and – as we have always done – we’ll be front and centre of changes in the curriculum and in educational policy as well as constantly evaluating how we can adapt to the evolving needs of the schools and academies we work with.
What advice would you give to an inspiring business leader?
I’ve thought about this a great deal since being fortunate enough to be awarded Businesswoman of the Year 2017. My single most important piece of advice is to never give up because there is always a way to solve problems. It is easy to question yourself and ask whether you are making the right decision but stick to your beliefs and if you believe in your business, then you will find a way to resolve a situation.
I also think it is important to act as mentors to inspire other women to start their own business or help other women to progress up the career ladder.
Another piece of advice to hold on to in everyday working life is that people do business with people so it is vital to prioritise face-to-face meetings and high communication levels because that is the best way to generate and develop business and relationships.
What do you wish someone had told you when you had started out?
Follow your instincts. Don’t over plan – just be receptive and responsive when things go wrong or when new opportunities arise. Don’t think you’re not good enough because you’ve never done it before or because you’re young or inexperienced. You have everything in you to make it work if you are passionate about what you’re doing, just go for it!
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