The Incestuous World of Training

It’s a rum old world.

I was speaking at a conference today, but the client kindly invited everyone to dinner last night. There wasn’t much formality about it but I found myself sitting next to one of the other speakers, who also ran his own business.

We started talking about training, how business was going and all the usual stuff. At first it seemed that everything we were saying to each other had happened to the other. His customers were the same kind of people we work with, especially in corporate world, he had similar challenges and his outlook was pretty much the same.

But differences began to emerge as the conversation developed.

For example, my colleague won much his business by being an associate of other businesses – they win the piece of work and then contract him to deliver it. He lived in a world of feast or famine. As a one person operation, when he was delivering training he was earning money (happy days). But when the project finishes he has to find another or hope one comes in from his contacts.

I have to say, he was pretty cool about it but he did say that it worked for him as long as he didn’t think about the fact that his diary was empty from March onwards. He also said that if he did any sort of analysis on his business he would become an awful lot more stressed that he is right now.

Our business model is different; Renee (the other director of the business) and I joined forces nine years ago to try and get out of the ‘feast or famine’ cycle. Having two people at the outset meant that one person would be delivering training and the other could be developing the business.

The other thing we decided to do was to go for longer term business, which is why we work in franchising so much. We develop long term relationships, agree fees covering a period of time and spread payments, which is great for our cash flow and seems to work for clients, too; they get rid of large, one-off costs.

Having said all that, I don’t think one model is better than the other; it’s just what works for us and what works for my colleague.

But it got me thinking about business and business training.

Talking about the different models underlined for me that it’s vital a business has a plan and a model from the outset, otherwise there’s the danger of ‘drift’; of being neither one thing nor another.

It doesn’t mean a business can’t change; it should – because evolution and change is part of business.

The point is that a business needs to have clear focus so it can measure progress and decide what comes next.

I brought this point up at the conference I was speaking at and a slightly irascible character shouted out that there was no point in planning because plans are always wrong and, I have to say, I agree.

But Eisenhower put it perfectly:

Plans are useless, but planning is essential.

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