Welcome to Ruff Trade – a training company that transforms business by transforming people.
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
~ William Shakespeare

Ruff Trade Training started with a question: “Why is there a ‘soft skills’ shortage in this country; and why is the UK rated third most popular destination in the world yet 13th for quality of welcome?”

"I will be a fool in question, hoping to be the wiser by your answer.”
~ William Shakespeare

The answer we came up with is simple: to deliver training for people and organisations that creates customer service professionals instead of servers; hospitality Michaelangelos instead of bored baristas; VPs of Brand and Customer Experience instead of ‘payroll’.

“My heart is ever at your service”
~ William Shakespeare

We are different because our approach is different.
This is what we deliver:

Helping people to be the best version of themselves
Harnessing the power of storytelling and performance
Focused on Return On Investment (ROI)

We are Ruff Trade Training because our workshops are delivered by actors (our troupe of Ruffians) who understand business, and know how to teach and inspire stagecraft and storytelling – so that every customer interaction becomes a whole-hearted performance.

“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you”
~ William Shakespeare

Training Courses

We offer short courses, full day workshops and in-depth development programmes to suit every budget and transform employees and managers into inspired teams of confident, customer experience professionals.

At the heart of our programme is our cast of characters (The Players) - art truly imitates life as “All the World’s a Stage”.

Whatever your business, effective communication is vital to successful teamwork. “All the World’s a Stage” is a simple, fun and practical concept, designed to inspire dramatically better understanding between colleagues and customers. “All the World’s a Stage” reflects the reality of every workplace – that everyone is different, and therefore has a different view of the world around them.

Our Players will guide every participant to a deeper understanding of human behaviour, leading to better communication, teamwork and customer interactions:

The Bard

The Bard

Fount of all wisdom, able to interpret the behaviours of his troupe, to get the best out of each individual.
The Governor

The Governor

Is a big picture kind of person who won’t let details get in the way. A monster for driving results. The eye is on the big prize. Mood ~ Determined Expectation ~ To take control Wants ~ Success Physical Attribute ~ Credible
The Minstrel

The Minstrel

Is a bag of energy that radiates to those around them. Highly creative, they are often the starting point of project, the dreamer. Rocket fuel of a human. Mood ~ Energetic Expectation ~ To be liked Wants ~ To impress Physical Attribute ~ Approachable
The Alchemist

The Alchemist

Does not miss a thing! Nothing gets past their attention to detail and critical thinking. Rigorous learning outweighs in importance any trace of showmanship. Mood ~ Reserved Expectation ~ To own the details Wants ~ To be certain Physical Attribute ~ Credible
The Nurse

The Nurse

Has a high level of emotional intelligence, is a brilliant team player and brings out the best in others. If people are performing above expectation a nurse has probably worked their magic. Mood ~ Calm Expectation ~ It will be alright Wants ~ Universal Happiness Physical Attribute ~ Approachable


The Bard is assisted in his task by MEW the Magic Cat ~ who will share the secret of how to know what every customer is thinking.

Training Programmes

Management development programme
Lead, and grow leaders, with confidence.
Project STARS customer service charter + induction workshop
Motivation, loyalty, and focus on the customer.
Storytelling is Success
Transform your presentations and customer interactions.
Experience is Everything
Learn to be customer experience professionals.
Selling is service
Transforming frontline employees into confident salespeople.

Case Studies

Experience is Everything

The National Trust for Scotland 1998-2004

Setting the Scene

In 1998 the National Trust for Scotland needed to change. It was facing mounting costs of conservation, and ever-increasing competition which were eroding its supporter base and financial sustainability. Stephen’s brief was to create a strong service culture that began and ended with the visitor’s needs. Adapting the model to a disparate organisation with over 120 sites, the length and breadth of Scotland, thousands of staff and volunteers, and no service culture, the solution involved developing a new approach to customer service that had been successfully implemented at MoMA in New York, based on the Disney Service Excellence Model.

The Action

An in-house training programme was developed to drive through the culture change. To address the concerns of those staff and volunteers who objected to the ‘Disneyfication’ of the Trust, the programme was called ‘Conservation Through Customer Care’ and emphasised how, the better the visitor experience, the more likely visitors would support the conservation Mission. Equally, to ensure that regional and site managers would support the programme, it was designed specifically to improve performance against budgets and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as upselling memberships and guidebooks.

The Reviews 

Over time, the quality of the visitor experience became consistently on a par with, and often better than, the competition, and the Trust started winning awards for customer service. Membership conversion rates increased as did commercial revenues. Staff and volunteers were more engaged and had better conversations with visitors and members. The organisation had turned a very important corner on the long and winding road to financial sustainability.

Project STARS Customer Service Charter + Induction Workshop

The Emirates Air Line Cable Car, 2012

Setting the Scene

Stephen led the development of the passenger experience for the first urban cable car in the UK, linking two key venues for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The cable car would carry upwards of 30,000 passengers every day (including athletes, volunteers, spectators, tourists, and commuters), between The O2 Arena and the ExCel Exhibition Centre.

The Action

Facilitating the merging of eight partner brands into one very simple articulation of the passenger experience – “Inspiring Journeys” – over 100 new team members were recruited to deliver that experience. Many of them had never worked in customer-facing roles before; for some, this was the first decent opportunity they’d ever had in life. By bringing “Inspiring Journeys” to life for them, the vision became reality.

The Reviews 

The cable car was awarded, after just three months of operation, the accolade of “Best Passenger Experience” in London, as voted by passengers.

The method was to see the potential, create a compelling vision, and to inspire the team to make it happen.

Selling is Service

Port Lympne Reserve and Howletts Wild Animal Park 2017

Setting the Scene

These award-winning parks wanted to increase conversion rates of day ticket visitors to members. The previous year the membership offer had been developed to replace an annual pass. Membership offered a variety of additional great benefits but was more expensive, and there was a perception in the team that it wasn’t as good value. 

The Action

We spent a day at both sites working as part of the team in the gatehouses. This enabled us to experience first hand the challenge of upselling visitors from tickets to memberships and to work out the best communications to get results. 

We then ran a series of our “Selling is Service” workshops for all the frontline teams, developing specific membership communications and scripts for their sites. 

We also put together a document to compare and contrast their membership offer against a series of similar organisations and competitors. This highlighted how good a deal their membership actually was, instilling a sense of pride and ownership in it. 

The Reviews 

The teams at both Port Lympne and Howletts beat their targets by increasing onsite membership sales from 3.5% to more than 5% of visitors over the summer peak season. 

Storytelling is Success   

England’s National Parks 2018

Setting the Scene

England’s National Parks wanted to develop a programme to attract international travel trade. The decision was made to create and pilot a programme of unique, behind-the-scenes experiences, led by the National Park Rangers. 

The National Park Ranger Experiences are a brand new offering for 2018 - giving participants the opportunity to experience the National Parks, their communities and special qualities through the eyes of the Rangers. 

The Action

After attending the Vision XS conference and seeing Bala deliver "‘A Masterclass in Presenting; a Showcase from the UK’s Best Attraction Shows and Talks’", England’s National Parks engaged us to work with their Rangers to help them add stories and great storytelling techniques to their experiences. 

We brought the Ranger teams from around the country together to meet, share stories and talk about how they would deliver their experiences. We also led our interactive storytelling workshop, teaching how to construct a story whilst making it interesting and engaging. Following this we spent a day with each of the teams at their National Parks, putting the work into practice. 

The Reviews 

The 2018 Ranger Led Experiences sold out, and the feedback was very positive with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5. The pilot initiative is currently being evaluated, with exciting announcements of the next stages coming in 2019. 

Management Development Programme

Crealy Adventure Park & Resort 2018

Setting the Scene  

Crealy Adventure Park & Resort is South West England's largest family theme park, with over 60 rides, attractions, live shows, a zoo and a variety of accommodation options. Crealy's management approached us with the goal of developing their team’s skills and nurturing future leaders within the business. They wanted a project that would have a wide-reaching effect and create a real buzz throughout the organisation.

The Action

We held a series of focus groups with participants from a cross-section of departments, both senior and junior team members. This gave us a good understanding of feelings and attitudes and what was needed to develop a strategy for the project. We then consulted with the senior team to develop the Management Development Programme. We designed and delivered the training content through a series of “Apprentice”-style events; one event per month for six months, culminating with an awards ceremony and punctuated with sessions with the senior team to share feedback on the participants' development:

Event 1 – Setting Goals

Event 2 – Building a Team                              

Review Session with Senior Management

Event 3 – Improving Crealy’s Guest Experience (Awayday)

Event 4 – Presentation Skills                     

Review Session with Senior Management

Event 5 –Being an Effective Leader                        

Event 6 – Critical Thinking

Review Session with Senior Management 

Awards Ceremony

The Reviews 

As a result of the project a series of significant changes were made to Crealy’s business. These included merging the Grounds Team and the Cleaning Team to create a new ‘On Park Services’ department, and it was decided to invest in a new digital system to record and monitor ride maintenance. Also, several participants were promoted immediately as a result of the work they produced during the programme, including to Head of Department and Duty Manager, Crealy’s most senior ‘On Park’ role.

We’ve worked together for over five years on a multitude of projects, there’s no one else I call for training.
Eddie Kemsley, CEO, KidZania London
The feedback from Angela and her team is that the training was superb and exactly as sold which is no mean feat given the impressive way it’s packaged on your website!
Mark Rowley - Commercial Development Manager Lee Valley Regional Park Authority

Look who we've been working with

  • Aspen
  • bnp Paribas
  • Crealy park
  • Croatia
  • Dreamland
  • Emirates
  • Englands Parks
  • Guoman
  • Horniman
  • Kew
  • National civil war centre
  • NTS
  • Port lympne

About us

Frau Susi Freitag,
a business impresario of Sussex

Susi honed her event design and director skills at Central School of Speech and Drama and whilst there was chosen to produce and direct a cabaret of Brecht classics representing the London University colleges at the international conference of dramatic arts.  

As creative director Susi took English classics and original work to Europe particularly to Duma in Prague, many contemporary venues in Berlin and frequently the Edinburgh Fringe.  A self penned musical theatre production based on Faustus transferred to London and Susi was a guest director at the Young Vic before jumping ship to work in event design and production; where she has conceived and developed numerous immersive events and shows from film premiers to corporate hospitality events, product launches and VIP private parties. 

Susi is also the Managing Director at Boo Productions. Boo launched in 2004 and are an award-winning Production House and Staffing Agency who design, build and produce immersive events, parties and shows, and provide staff.

Roles played:
Shakespeare’s Performances: Always cast for comedy Susi roles included Juliet’s Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and a marvellous Malvolio in Twelfth Night.
Favourite quotation: Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.
(Twelfth Night, II, I)

Mr. Stephen Spencer,
a customer experience maven of Oxfordshire

Stephen Spencer is an experienced Customer Experience consultant and has worked for or with many of the UK’s most prestigious Retail, Tourism, and Hospitality brands, including Hamleys, the Royal Collection, Historic Royal Palaces, the National Trust for Scotland, Hamleys, The Royal Opera House at Thurrock, The O2 and the Science Museum Group. He has led, developed and facilitated hundreds of profitable Customer Experiences, delighting over 30 million customers along the way.

He created “the most successful souvenir shop in Britain” (according to Mary Portas) for Her Majesty The Queen, ran a rock ‘n’ roll museum for legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith, and developed the team that opened London’s first cable car, linking two of the busiest London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venues. He has also led a haunted underground street into Edinburgh’s top five visitor attractions, and re-positioned a chocolate-themed attraction to engage and inspire its visitors.

Stephen helps ambitious Heritage, Tourism, Retail and Hospitality organisations to increase sales, productivity and profitability through creating unique, appropriate and sustainable Customer Experiences.

Roles played:
Thaliart – a lord of Antioch, Pericles; A (bleeding) Captain, Macbeth
Favourite quotation: There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
(Hamlet I,V)

Mr. Bala McAlinn, 
a performance thaumaturge of Lambeth

Over the past 20 years Bala has gained a great deal of experience performing and producing many international shows and tours as far and wide as London, Russia, USA, Romania, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He has written and directed shows for London Zoo and the Science Museum, helped to create tours for the Olympic venues and recruited, trained and managed thousands of staff for shows, promotions and events, as well as the in-house teams for many visitor attractions. He is passionate about creating unique, engaging and exciting experiences that inspire and entertain a diverse range of audiences.

He is also a Director at Boo Productions. Boo launched in 2004 and are an award-winning Production House and Staffing Agency who design, build and produce immersive events, parties and shows, and provide staff. 

Roles played:
Duke Vincentio, Measure For Measure; Caliban, The Tempest; Hamlet – The Prince of Denmark, Hamlet.
Favourite quotation: The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
(As You Like It V, I)


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Alternatively please email us on info@rufftradetraining.com