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Blog : Be the best you can be - but above all be yourself


Be the best you can be - but above all be yourself

MJ Flanagan, Training Director brings the X factor to the finance industry.

This weekend I sat watching the X factor with a glass of wine. I wanted Olly to win although I knew Joe would. But it was Stacey who stole my heart. Here was this beautiful girl from Dagenham, who sang like an angel and spoke pure Essex. When she met Whitney Houston she said, 'Oh, if I had known I would be meeting you I would have painted my nails!' And when asked about her favorite part of the journey she said she 'just liked singing with all the famous people'. Admittedly I am sure we would all like a duet with Michael Buble!

This made me think about my life; here I am a pure caterer in my heart and soul. Yet I am running our business services division where we take the lessons from 5* hotels and translate them to the city. The first time I had to present to a well-known bank in Canary Wharf I was petrified. The building was like an aircraft hanger and all the women were very poised and in control, how did this 'bar person' end up in the world of finance? I asked myself. During half term I asked my husband and son to come and meet me in the office of Goldman Sachs; based in the beautiful but imposing ex Daily Express art deco building on Fleet Street. I wanted my son to get used to this financial world so that if he ever finds himself having to come to a meeting here he will feel more comfortable than I did.

I was determined to remain me but a more toned down and polished version, I learnt business speak and to control my mannerisms. This did not change the level of passion I had but I chose how I would say it. Some of my clients love my enthusiastic nature and I know whom I can really ramp it up with. Some actively employ me because of my energy and verve, which is so different from the usual trainers they employ. There are definitely many lessons the world of hospitality can offer facilities and the corporate business world: our dedication, hard work, enthusiasm, and above all our people focus. Although I have learned to moderate my style I admit there have been a few times when Jane (our Managing Director) has had to kick me under the table to remind me of where I am.

However, this week I went back to my roots and helped the team at Aramark open their new bar and restaurant concept, Mitchells - at Southampton Airport. It is a fantastic site and one that I will certainly use if I fly out of there. The minute I got behind the bar to train the team in bar skills I felt I had come home. The biggest grin stretched across my face and in I went:

  • How to pour a pint,
  • Look after the back of the queue because the front of the queue looks after itself
  • Always carry three pens: one to lose, one to use and one to give away
  • And many more tricks of the trade

In addition I was asked to train the team in tray skills, and how to carry the big American trays and stands. This was something I had taught myself many years ago when running Down Mexico Way. But it is like riding a bike.

As we get older we have to learn to adapt to our environment, we might have to change out styles and sometimes be politically correct. But how I envy Stacey and her ability to just say it how it is. I suspect at some point she will have to take elocution lessons. If she does I hope it does not dampen her spirit. Oh, and just to warn you if you see a woman at five o clock, in a well know bank in the city shouting 'OK lets be havin' you!' it won't be Delia it will be me remembering my roots and relishing my background.

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