For the past eight years Sue Plumtree, a fellow of the Institute of Personnel Management, has run her own training consultancy. It provides courses on communication skills for managers and has found a growing market, particularly among the financial and service sectors. 'With the trend towards downsizing, empowerment and flatter organisations, many companies have realised that the people who remain need to deal with each other in different ways,' she says.
Gradually, however, she became aware of another, equally pressing need: 'People would come up to me during the breaks and ask for advice on how to use the same skills to find a partner.' The result was a new consultancy, Entre Nous, and a new weekend seminar. Its come-on is direct: 'What to do when someone takes your fancy.' Now, for £85 per day, the most tongue-tied suitor - male or female - is offered the chance of becoming a model of beguiling wit and charm.
The techniques, explains Plumtree, 49, in the husky foreign tones of romantic cliche (she was born in Austria but raised in Argentina), are broadly the same as those used in business - building confidence, learning to use humour to defuse tense situations. Next year she brings out her first book, Across a Crowded Room: How to Find and Keep the Love of your Life, a distillation of the course's wisdom. It might cause confusion among would-be buyers. After all, where would you find it? Under True Romance? Or, perhaps more true to its roots, under Business?