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20th Anniversary

The story so far and thank yous

It’s hard to believe we are approaching the 20th anniversary of Baker Thompson Associates. I feel totally blessed by the wonderful time I am having.

It all started when I was working with Jules Burns, the MD of Granada Media, and he wanted me to have training; in those days there was nothing relevant to my role, so he trained me…


We were working out of our Manchester and London offices, but London was becoming more our base and so he decided to move there; I wanted to stay in Manchester. There were no more senior PA roles in Manchester with Granada and I was offered production work; I appreciated this but really wanted to continue my career as a PA. However, one day our HR Manager and my friend, Fliss Bridgewater, asked me “Heather, what would you really like to do?”. I replied that someone who’d actually been a PA should be out there training PAs because at the moment (1999) nobody seems to be doing that (I later learnt that Joan Burge in the USA had started before me). However, another colleague wrote an email to my manager talking about days when I would be "training"; yes, she used the quotation marks...


I took redundancy, trained as a TAP.Cert trainer with the Training Foundation and gradually got opportunities, mainly, initially, training IT. I then started to be offered courses for PAs and secretaries all over the UK, particularly with Kingsgate training (thank you Sue Williams, Kaye Sharman and Mary Dalton), and the rest is history…


In 2004 a misdirected email led to me discussing overseas training with David Cotton. Thanks to David I started working for a company that offered courses in the Middle East and they wanted to add PA training to their portfolio. I started in 2005 and that led to opportunities in the Far East. And now I have trained in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore, China and Malaysia, and look forward to visiting more destinations next year.

About this time we launched the BakerWrite speedwriting system and I was very happy when Pitman Training wanted to become a licensed training venue for this. They then licensed my minute taking book as well.


I have written three books : “Speedwriting”, “Successful minute taking: meeting the challenge” and “Successful Business Writing”; there is also a Speedwriting dictionary, put together by Jo Gutmann, another of the licensed BakerWrite trainers in the UK. Many thanks to Margaret Greenhall, my publisher, for her support.


After a brief hiatus during the credit crunch, I started training not only in the Middle and Far East, but also added regular tours of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and presenting at PA conferences around Europe.


Social media was now available and the relationships and learning opportunities multiplied.


The next step was setting up the online BakerWrite speedwriting training and becoming more involved with mentoring. I am a Prince’s Trust business mentor. I also mentor informally a few local businesses.


By now, I had met the wonderful Lucy Brazier (and later her fantastic team), who was relaunching Executive Secretary Magazine. She also introduced Executive Secretary LIVE conferences around the world to great acclaim. I am very proud and happy to have presented at these events in Dubai, Auckland, London, Johannesburg and Washington DC. This was a new chapter for the PA profession. I was fortunate to meet and become friends with many more PA trainers from around the world and to meet inspiring PAs from every type of company.


I was very happy to meet Anel Martin and Teri Wells who established Isipho Admin in South Africa; providing bursaries for young people, who don’t have access to education, to train as assistants.


What amazing experiences; these people nourish my soul. Thanks to Lucy and her team I have visited the White House and Hobbiton, cried at Soweto and sung with a choir at the top of the Shard in London and in Auckland, New Zealand.


I have become involved with PA networks that are being created around the world, in particular, International Management Assistants (IMA formerly EUMA) that was set up in 1974. I speak at other industry events such as the PA Show (formerly Office* Show). I have been invited to judge PA Awards and present trophies.


I’ve won awards too : @TheoPaphitis #sbs (small business Sunday), National Business Women’s Awards Lifetime Achievement runner-up (I’m a finalist again this year) and the North West Enterprise Awards Best Administrative Trainer in 2017, 2018 & 2019. My PA training is also endorsed by the Institute of Administrative Management.


I would also like to say thank you to : Jo Hartley, Prachi Dawar, Anusha Krishnasamy, Louise Whaites, Christine Macdonald, Emma Salveson, Laura Bullock, all the universities, hospitals and other public and private organisations who continue to invite me back, and finally, all the managers I worked with over 22 years as a secretary and then PA (including the bully; I learnt a lot from him!).


So, what next? Ian, my husband, retires from his property maintenance business and is working with me on expanding our online offerings. We are in the final stages of publishing my next book and have lots of sessions and new courses planned for 2020 around the world. Onwards and upwards and thank you so much everyone from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.

So, what next? Ian, my husband, retires from his property maintenance business and is working with me on expanding our online offerings. We are in the final stages of publishing my next book and have lots of sessions and new courses planned for 2020 around the world. Onwards and upwards and thank you so much everyone from the bottom of my heart for your continued support.