Last week we took a road trip into rural Dorset to visit Newlands Training, which reaffirmed what everyone already knows: when it comes to being strong in business, women are a force to be reckoned with.
Newlands is a long-standing client of Zeta’s, so when we learned that the business was expanding, we decided to get the lowdown on how the digital strategy and website that Zeta created back in 2005 have played a role in the success of the business.
Our journey prompted a conversation about a remarkable figure in Dorset’s local history; Lady Mary Bankes. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t overly familiar with the one-time guardian of Corfe Castle, but since then I have done a bit of research and she’s quite an inspiration – how many people do you know who have singlehandedly defended a medieval fort under attack from an army of 300 bloodthirsty Parliamentarians? I expect you’re probably wondering how this anecdote fits in with the Zeta ethic of digital wizardry and cutting edge design – stick with me, it’s not as tenuous as it sounds!
After hearing about Lady Bankes and her defence of Corfe Castle, I couldn’t help but think that there were similarities to be drawn between her and the client we had just visited, due to the way the owner of Newlands Training, Lesley Simpson, has fought to grow her business into the success story it is in 2012.
Back when Zeta built the Newlands website, the business was one of the first in the agricultural training industry to move onto the web – a bold move back then, especially for a small, rural-oriented firm in darkest Dorset – but as I found out, Lesley is no stranger when it comes to facing the unknown.
Newlands Training was established around 27 years ago, under the auspices of the now defunct Agricultural Training Board. When the government scrapped the ATB in 1994, Lesley made the decision to plough on ahead anyway: “The funding had stopped, but I realised that there must still be a demand for the local agricultural industry to stay competitive in exactly the same way as before: by keeping skills current, efficient and safe.” Returning to the old barn she used as a premises, Lesley picked up the phone and spent a week ringing round her previous clients to inform them that she had taken the decision to go it alone: it was business as usual for Newlands Training.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength; Lesley has a client base that includes the RSPB, Dorset County Council and the National Trust. Her qualified instructors offer industry recognised courses in forestry and arboriculture, agricultural vehicles, grounds maintenance and workshop skills to name but a few. The days of operating from ramshackle barns and tumbledown sheds are long gone; Newlands Training is now situated at Enterprise Park in Piddlehinton, with enough office space for Lesley and her small team to operate from comfortably; surrounded by beautiful Dorset countryside. After meeting her, I’m left in no doubt that her success is down to sheer determination and, to be frank, quite a lot of balls in the face of such a male dominated industry. During our conversation I’m surprised at how old-fashioned some people in the industry are in their attitudes towards women: “I’m used to people looking around for the owner of the business when they meet me – when they realise there isn’t a man in charge they look surprised and ask; “is this your business?!””
And if that attitude sounds more outdated than Internet Explorer 6, imagine if you will, some of the comments our other Dorset heroine, Lady Banks, must have received back in 1643 whilst single handedly defending Corfe Castle during the English Civil War.
A historical issue
Similarly to the way in which Lesley has battled hard for her business to survive in the face of government opposition, Lady Bankes fought off a 300 strong army of Cromwell’s soldiers, aided only by her six daughters and a servant. The details of how she fought off the siege are murky – some say the small group of defenders heaved hot stones and embers over the walls of the fort to keep the attackers at bay. There’s also records of the Parliamentarian forces melting lead from the village roofs and pipes of the church organ to make bullets.
Here in the Zeta office we’re looking forward to starting work on an update of NewlandsTraining.com and working on a digital PR strategy. If you would like to hear how we can give your business a fighting chance with our online expertise, why not give us a call? 01202 901 108