Irene Waters and Poppy George have been friends since school days, with a shared experience of growing up in the Greek communities of Port Melbourne and Willliamstown; not far from Station Pier where their parents arrived more than 50 years ago.

Today, Poppy and Irene remain close to that same pier, running their boutique business empowerment company Instyle Training from a light and airy office overlooking the industrial edge of Port Melbourne. The confident look of their company’s accommodation suits them down to the ground; these two ladies are as confident about what they do, and how they do it, as anyone I’ve ever met. Instyle Training opened its doors four years ago and now has a regular client base of 20 major companies. It’s a clever idea: design government funded training to meet the needs of business clients; from major retailers through to finance companies, to large manufacturers, service industries and not-for-profits.

“From from Occupational Health and Safety through to sales training, the government wants an upskilled nation in these areas,” says Poppy, who oversees the training workshops.

“What we do is find out what the company lacks and hopes for, in their people, and we map it across.” Irene handles the sales side. “We started at home. Coming up with ideas and making it happen. We’re about supporting businesses to achieve whatever their dream is, in terms of coaching, nurturing, developing their people,” says Irene. “If their focus is on servicing customers and they’d like to do that better; if it’s about increasing their sales acumen, that’s when they bring us in.”

The energy and enthusiasm Irene and Poppy show for their mission is completely infectious; no wonder their website has so many glowing testimonials from clients. What’s clear is that what underpins their business, and their training, is a deeply felt mission to heighten the self-awareness of their trainees. “We touch the hearts, we get in deeper,” says Poppy, who started out as a teacher, but left schooling to eventually lead Telstra’s national training team. “It’s about awareness and being open. It’s about knowing who you are, and how you’re perceived. You’ve got to push buttons and say ‘ok, you’re not happy with the result’. Instead of laying the results out there and playing the blame-game saying ‘I wish everyone else would change’, you need to take the power to change yourself, because that’s all you can change.” Developing communication skills is the other crucial ingredient for the Instyle recipe – from the written word to the most basic actions of human interaction

“An example might be the way you write an email, says Poppy. “What is your intention and what’s your required outcome? The way an email is written will attract a certain result; the first sentence, the subject line, the importance of white space, how you sign off. The same thing applies to how I present myself at a first meeting,” she adds, “how you handshake. Smile? Not smile?” “It doesn’t matter if you’re the MD or CEO; whoever you are,” adds Irene, “if you don’t have those key communication skills it’s not going to happen for any company.”

As Irene and Poppy expound on their tried and tested approach to nurturing other businesses, it’s easy to see how their own individual drive is key to their own success. “We don’t just speak it, we live it. We are what we do,” says Poppy. As I hear this, I wonder how much their cultural upbringing influenced their own entrepreneurial growth. “I was so driven by mum and dad to finish university. There was always that push to be successful,” says Irene. For Poppy the experience was similar.

“They were really ahead of themselves compared to others of Greek background. They were very open. They would say, turn your life into something that matters. When people would say to mum ‘why isn’t your daughter married?’ when I was 23, mum would say, ‘because she’s at university studying’.” From 101 tips for avoiding procrastination and building customer loyalty, to avoiding ‘quick-fix’ sales mentalities and dealing with difficult colleagues, Irene Waters (nee Stougiannos) and Poppy George, (daughter of Terry and Vicky Georgopoulos), never forget what is at the heart of their business and their success:” These are people we’re talking about,” says Poppy. “Let’s care about them.”

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