The actor who's now training staff through role play
My Big Idea
Rita Smith left a career in human resources to train as an actor. While living in London she came across an idea that allows her to combine both skills. Her Dublin-based company Role Players For Training provides companies with actors to help with corporate training through role play.
"I was always interested in performing arts but for the first part of my life it was just a hobby. I spent my early career at Bank of Ireland in human resources. But in the late 90s I decided to take a gamble and train as an actor. I left the bank and trained at the Gaiety School of Acting.
I came across the idea for what is now my business while in London. I was there working on a play, and afterwards picked up some temporary work at a financial institution.
The team I was working with were designing a training programme for new staff, to teach them how to conduct interviews. They wanted an experiential element in the training. One of the guys knew my background and asked me to get involved.
I then started working for a very large role-playing organisation in London where I learned the ropes and worked with some huge companies. When I moved back to Ireland, I realised there was an opportunity.
The beauty of corporate role play is that it allows participants to learn by experimentation, where they can 'try out' and be coached in new techniques or approaches in a safe, positive and constructive environment.
The concept hadn't taken off here at all when I first started so there was a real lack of knowledge about this method of training. It was a challenge to get the idea out there and build my name but slowly and surely business took off. I joined the Irish Management Institute and my local chamber of commerce and went to lots of networking events, like Ulster Bank's Business Woman Can group, which really helped.
Now I have about 40 to 45 freelance actors working with me, from all over the country. They all have professional acting backgrounds but also offer a rake of other experiences - some have worked in finance at one point, some in nursing - so understand the corporate world.
We work with all kinds of organisations, not limited to companies. One of our biggest clients is an executive education provider who uses our services to deliver its curriculum."