Sunder Ramachandran, who leads the training academy vertical for Jardine Lloyd Thompson in India, offers his success mantras for those in the business of training people.
I meet several training & development professionals who plan to start their own training firms. While this idea is exciting, being an external consultant presents a completely different set of challenges as compared to being an internal training manager / consultant. Having been on both the 'Sell & Buy' side of the training business, here are my top 7 tips to succeed if you plan to start a training firm.
1. Invest in your learning
Attend (paid) sessions of other trainers / companies inside as well as outside your domain. Tools, style, method, tricks, there is so much to learn. Caution: Do no use / copy their content. Instead be creative and make your own content based on your learning! It's much more effective, fun and gratifying. Plus you befriend the trainer you attended (instead of creating war / bad blood by stealing). Simply give them credit for the idea in your session.
2. Demo sessions & feedback
Demo sessions are door openers. Do not stop doing them even if you /your company grows in size & revenue. Try and document feedback for each session including demos. Use online survey tools to document and share these reports with clients.
3. Ask for references
Never hesitate in asking for references from your clients. This can be a huge revenue source for you. Keep excellent connections with anyone in training, HR, any level of management and as a matter of fact even management students! You never know who can get you the next big break.
4. Work diligently with independent contractors
You need the support of independent contractors to gain traction, demonstrate operational readiness and serve your clients. Ensure that you sign a contract and a Non disclosure agreement with them. Put some performance based clauses in the contract and incentivize higher performance.
5. Demonstrate thought leadership
Use every opportunity to demonstrate your expertise & thought leadership. This can be achieved through articles, white papers, resource guides and Webinars. Tools like gotomeeting.com make it real easy for you to host webinars in a cost effective manner. A well planned webinar can lead to multiple workshops and training sessions.
6. Ask for advance and keep following up
Do not hesitate to ask for advance before the first paid session to book slots. Do not hesitate to ask for the balance payment right after half of your sessions are complete (may be in the form of post dated instruments). Try and get paid as much before the end of your offering. The bigger the firm, the more complex will be their system of releasing payments. This can easily impact your account receivables. If you are not comfortable following up, have someone else from your office do it for you. Don't ever assume that payments will be made without following up. You must ask and ask often to ensure that you have the money flowing in to keep the business running.
7. Price your offerings right
Remember that pricing is critical to how you are perceived. Make sure that you don't out-price yourself and at the same time are also not the lowest bidder in contracts. Good proof of work, positive references and a mid range pricing strategy are sure shot door openers and will keep you in business for long.