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Quality training enhances teamwork

How Ruth Noah has built on the legacy of her father, Jack.

Ask Ruth Noah what makes her store in Wallington so magical and she’ll tell you it’s having a great team. Push her further, and she’ll emphasise the importance of regular, quality training.

Her team of eight part-time staff includes a qualified nutritionist, a newly qualified herbalist and Sylvia, the 83-year-old bookkeeper (“a real gem”) who worked for her father, Jack Noah (see panel).

Says Ruth: “I'm fortunate to have a great team behind me and they all work well together despite everyone's unique personality. They are keen on training as they have a genuine interest in the health food business.” All are offered the opportunity to study for the HFI Diploma in Health Food Retailing.

A true health food legacy

Noahs Health Food Store in Wallington was established in 1970 by Ruth’s father Jack Noah who ran the business for 32 years and was very much involved in the HFI and NAHS. He studied and completed the HFI Diploma in his mid 80s, one of the oldest students at the time.

He was a well known and much admired character, duly acknowledged when he received the Henry Cook Award for his contributions to the health food trade, and today has the annual HFI Jack Noah Memorial Lecture named after him.

Ruth took over the business in 2003, initially making interior changes and introducing a broader product offering.

“Noahs is a healing hub and I love it because at times it’s truly magical,” she says.

Ruth herself completed the HFI Diploma Level 1 a few years ago and learned so much from it despite having run the business for several years. “It's the attention to detail the course offers with a focus on individual disciplines providing the opportunity to study certain areas in more depth,” she says.

Now she’s midway through the Level 2 Diploma, the most recent module being Sports Nutrition which gave her the confidence to understand and sell more sports performance products. Next in line is homeopathy which will build on the seminars she’s attended, such as Weleda’s.

“We are very fortunate that within our industry there are numerous opportunities to study and learn,” she adds. “I have completed several courses over the years, and in particular enjoyed the Bioforce/A.Vogel course on herbal remedies and body systems. I've attended lectures in Scotland and luckily once in Switzerland too. The masterclasses by Solgar over the years have been excellent. I have also been to numerous lectures by Viridian, Pukka and Pharma Nord, to name just a few. I encourage all of my staff to attend as many as possible.

“The HFI courses make a real difference, raising questions and starting conversations between staff about specific topics, and most importantly giving them a better understanding of what they are selling. I frequently earwig on the dialogue my staff have with the customers and I'm often very pleased to hear them reeling off something they have learned and putting it into practice. It takes confidence to pass on the knowledge and they may occasionally ask for my help or opinion.”

The HFI courses are thoughtfully planned, she says, with a straightforward format of reading then answering multiple choice questions. At the end of each level there is a more detailed assessment. The first modules of Level 1 are geared toward newcomers to the industry who may not have worked in a health store or even in retail. Later modules include sales training, the legal aspects of selling (including the health store protocol), product quality, H&S and body systems. “The body systems module is like a great biology lesson,” says Ruth.

“Level 2 covers food commodities which is fascinating if you're a real foodie like me. The herbal remedies module has been my favourite so far.” Others include sports nutrition and homeopathy.

“The courses help staff broaden their understanding of not just the products we sell but why we choose to sell those products and for what purpose. This is critical to the training.”

Ruth would recommend that all retailers do the course themselves and offer the course to all staff, whether new or old. “It even benefits students who may not be planning on staying for long but can at least do a few modules to help them understand the business and the products you sell. Often they come back to cover holidays in the summer and so on, so it can be well worth the effort.”

HFI course details: email [email protected], tel 0115 9767280 or visit Discounts are available for NAHS member stores.

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