Barry Phillips is managing director of employment law training specialists Legal-Island. He says the recession hasn’t damaged business.
How has your business coped during the recession — have you managed to keep growing?
The recession has been one of the best things ever to happen to Legal-Island. We’ve become leaner, fitter and much more healthy.
As a team we’ve grown much closer together too. Everyone here now understands completely the importance of
hard work, quality standards and customer focus. We’ve managed to avoid compulsory redundancies and we look set to start recruiting again soon.
Has demand for legal training and the type of information businesses want changed during the downturn?
Yes it has. Many companies are now purchasing only training that is considered to be absolutely necessary. However, slowly we’re seeing more customers buy training that is not so much about necessity but providing them with a competitive advantage. Some organisations understand that usually the easiest route to outperforming competitors is to upskill their workforce.
Why is it essential companies continue to educate their workforce and those managing them?
Education at work is essential for the people of Northern Ireland. We have to accept that learning doesn’t finish at school or university but is a feature of the workplace and, indeed, life in general.
We’ll become much richer as people if we maximise the personal development available at work.
What has been the highlight for the business to date?
Since the company started in 1998 we have won 10 awards for either our customer service standards or for being the best place to work.
We also do a lot of work with local business start ups, mentoring and coaching as well as charity work in Malawi which gives us a great buzz too.
What are the biggest challenges the company faces?
Our biggest challenge is to keep innovating and finding new ways to bring learning to organisations. It’s easy to write in one
sentence but to deliver is altogether much more difficult.
There are so many new methods of learning about to enter the market. Nearly all will flop but one or two could prove revolutionary. Obviously, we’re trying to work out which are likely to be the winners.
What are the short term and long term hopes for the company?
Short term we have to re-organise to meet the demands made of us by the new economy. Long term we plan to grow and hopefully continue to give as many opportunities to staff and others as possible.
Do you have any big projects or new products in the pipeline?
We do. We always have loads of things going on here.
Currently we’re interested in mediation and what it has to offer for Northern Ireland as well as new training courses for those in the education sector here.
What are the big legal issues of the moment in Northern Ireland?
Having a Justice Department here in Northern Ireland is fundamentally important and a major development. There have been many changes in employment law which merit careful attention too.
The Department for Employment and Learning’s support for mediation as a way of resolving workplace disputes is significant too.
How is the company using new technology to improve business?
Effective and innovative use of technology has always been core to our business |development. We are currently trying out at least three new prices of technology that we hope will help our business develop significantly.
Could the Government be doing more to assist your sector?
Absolutely not. It’s entrepreneurs who will get us out of this downturn not Government assistance.
The sooner we all stop depending on the Government to help us the better.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Visitors to our offices see the following quote on a wall when they swing into the car park: “You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down but the staying down.” It’s by Mary Pickford, the 1920s film star and philanthropist. Another I like is: “Winners lose more than losers do”.
Between them both indicate the importance of effort and to keep trying.