The SureTrax self-marketing and personal enterprise programme has been developed to give people the tools and confidence to take ownership of their own professional destinies and to take the action to make it happen. SureTrax, which has recently been accredited as an IOEE Academy, was born from an extraordinary personal journey, when its founder and CEO Tony Osborne needed to make a fresh start after retiring from his high-flying corporate career. This month we chatted to Tony about adding value, going digital, and starting over from scratch.
Seven years ago, Tony found himself in a group counselling session where they were all asked to partake in a creative exercise; an exercise that would ‘accidentally’ give Tony what he now calls his ‘lightbulb moment’. The group was given a whole host of art supplies and 30 minutes to both reflect upon their present lives and visualise their futures, and they then had to create a piece of art that was representative of this, before presenting it to the rest of the group.
The personal journey that had led Tony to this counselling group had been an exceptionally difficult one – divorce, leaving his lucrative job, the loss of a family business, financial ruin and a near nervous breakdown. He felt that he had lost everything. Tony says:
“I had a really high-pressured job, based in Houston in Texas, and I was responsible for business acquisition in an extremely large company. I was very successful, but it got to the point where I was spending most of my time running around the world and that was my life. It affected my relationships and my marriage, and eventually everything fell apart. I went to a very dark place, my marriage had collapsed, and I found myself living in a caravan with very little money, not knowing what was going to happen. One real positive was that my two young sons gave me the spirit and motivation not to completely give up all hope.
“So, there I was in this counselling group doing this exercise, and everybody made these creative pieces of art, and I’d just doodled a sort of border around the edge of the page. And that’s when I realised what I’d done, highlighting this blank piece of paper. My life was literally a blank canvas.”
Tony began starting over by doing voluntary work for organisations – “Well, I was retired, and I didn’t like gardening, so I thought I’ll have to find something else to do!” – and came across the employability sector, which he spent around 18 months working in before setting up on his own. However, it was this experience that gave Tony the inspiration for SureTrax. He says:
“The companies I had worked with had very good intentions, helping vulnerable people to get back on their feet and into employment – youngsters with issues, the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, that sort of thing – but what I witnessed was that all of these people were getting everything done for them, and weren’t actually learning how to do anything for themselves. For example, they were just getting their CVs written for them and interviews arranged for them and not having a clue how to do it on their own in the future, so what use is that to them? It was incredibly frustrating, and one Friday afternoon I packed up and decided to move on. I just knew that it needed to be different, and I wanted to try and do something about it.”
Fuelled by his business and sales background and first-hand experience and research of the employability sector, Tony created SureTrax; designed for people who are looking for a job, a career change, a promotion, to start a new business, grow and existing one, or progress into further or higher education. He developed the business with SFEDI and worked alongside its Head of Quality, Nic Preston, to create the enterprise programme that is delivered in colleges and training bodies across the UK. As Tony explains, SureTrax is for everyone, because everyone is a businessperson:
“It’s frustrating when people tag us with typical employability programmes, because we feel that it’s more than that. Think of that saying – give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. That’s why we say that SureTrax is ‘a process for life’, because our learners get lifetime access to our learning resources and it has been designed to use whenever you need them, to match life’s progression and changing circumstances. SureTrax gives people the tools for self-reliance, so they have the skills and knowledge to create the careers they want, and not just fit in with somebody else’s plans.”
Having delivered its programme to school leavers, sixth formers and university graduates looking to take their first career steps, to the long-term unemployed and prison inmates making the transition back into work, SureTrax has grown and evolved significantly over the years since it first began.
Four months ago, SureTrax took a big leap into the digital world, making online, blended and distance learning available to its customers and students. Tony is incredibly proud of the company’s achievement in getting its online programme adopted by colleges and training providers, as well as Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Tony says:
“Our customers have been delivering our courses manually whilst we’ve been developing it on the technology side, and we’ve now been approved as an HMPPS whitelisted website. There are over 80,000 prisoners in the UK and, of course, there are rigorous protections in place so that prisoners are only able to see what the authorities allow them to see. And we are one of those websites, so going for a digital delivery means that we’re able to reach many more vulnerable offenders in rehabilitation.
“However, although I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved so far, I’d also like to see our transition into the online marketplace help to work more as a preventative measure in the education sector as well as a cure for unemployed people, and this is something that we are passionate about doing moving forward.”
It is clear that Tony’s passion for getting people to take hold of their own destinies, like he did, is a strong driving force behind SureTrax, and he is inspired and motivated by helping people to find that confidence and take action. Tony says:
“I was in a shop recently and said something to the young lad at the counter, who replied, ‘are you a businessman?’, and I said, ‘yes – and so are you!’
“Whether you work for yourself or someone else, we are all working, we are all in business. You’re marketing and selling, whether it’s a product or yourself, and recognising that and learning how to do that is the essence of what our programme is about – adding value, whether its value to a business as a whole, or to yourself as an individual. You need to get out there and talk, network, try new things and step out of your comfort zone. The key is to start thinking like an employer, not a job seeker, and to access the whole employment market, including both the proactive hidden and the reactive visible job markets. If you’re writing a CV or making a pitch, that is essentially a specific proposal to a potential employer, so you’re selling yourself. You need to differentiate yourself from your competition; and you achieve this is by understanding and researching your product’s value (even if your product is You), carrying out extensive market research, and meeting your customer’s needs.
“If you set up a business, you have a vision and a mission, a strategy and a plan, but you can also do that for your personal and professional goals too. Whether you’re looking for a job, a career change, a promotion, to start or grow a business or to progress into further or higher education, you will always have customers, and all of these business principles and mindsets are essential to achieving your objectives. Promoting that entrepreneurial mindset and enterprising culture and being proactive is what SureTrax is all about.
“So, my professional advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is: 1) Recognise value, 2) Sell that value, and 3) Deliver that value. And my personal advice? Well, I could use a load of fancy entrepreneurial terminology here, but it would probably be, ‘Get over it and get on with it!’ Maybe I shouldn’t say that, but you just have to take action if you want to make things happen!”
SureTrax recently became accredited as an IOEE Academy, and Tony tells us why this is so important to him:
“We are so proud of this achievement. We now have that credibility and stamp of approval, and it means that we can provide that level of quality assurance to the people delivering our course, and to the people undertaking it. There are so many connections and opportunities for our business that come with this, but it also gives our customers and students more too. If you’re an employer looking at CVs and you see that an applicant is an IOEE Study Member and has gained a Certificate of Achievement for completing the SureTrax programme, then they’re going to stand out and go to the top of the pile. Being an IOEE Academy adds a lot of value to us, but also to our learners and customers too. This could make all the difference.”
Find out more about IOEE’s new Enterprise Academy by visiting: https://suretrax.co.uk/