By: Bill Kimball, Founder/Owner
Safety Management & Response Training Associates
Those who know me personally know that I have a rather typical (i.e. cubicle-bound/corporate) 9-to-5 job. Evenings and weekends are split between my two loves – my family and teaching safety-related programs. However, despite being passionate about my business, I wasn't running it like a business.
I was simply executing a training curriculum per the basic defined standards, and not much more. To clarify, it's perfectly acceptable to deliver programs such as CPR and First Aid without adding anything to the course. With that said, however, I recently realized that I wasn't utilizing my business skills to add value to my courses for my customers. Previously, I viewed the two professions as completely separate.
That changed one evening when my wife asked, "If you were to begin training full-time, how would you do it?" It occurred to me she wasn't asking how I would train, but how I would be successful at it. As I set out to answer the question, my business analysis skills came to mind.
First, I needed to know my customers, and therefore organized them into groupings such as 'parents,' 'school teachers,' 'daycare providers,' and 'youth organizations.' Then I began to conduct an analysis, identifying problems and motivators. What emerged was a model with which I was able to add value to specific groups of customers, charge a premium for that value, position myself as a solutions provider, and increase traffic to my business.
Beyond running a business, most safety-training instructors are also attracted to this field based on a desire to help and give back to our communities. For smaller training centers (such as my own), it may be difficult to see the line of demarcation between operating a business and 'giving back.' As a result, we may fail to see our customers as consumers, and further, we fail to see ourselves as vendors.
In a marketplace flooded with training centers, our customers not only have more choices in their 'vendor,' they also have more ways to find training centers (Facebook, Internet searches, Twitter, etc.). They have high expectations and, while our consumers want high value at a low cost, they are willing to pay more for items they deem more valuable. Therefore, how do we add value, sustain a relationship with our customers, and set ourselves apart from the competition?
The experiment that followed my wife's question resulted in a balancing act between a renewed understanding of my consumers, and a repackaging of the services I was preparing to offer. In this case, I began to offer additional training modules on top of the basic core curricula. For example, I began adding topics such as household safety, evacuation planning, seasonal safety topics, and 'stranger danger' tips when conducting CPR and First Aid training for parent and youth groups. I also began applying incremental rate increases to the per-person fee.
This new approach was a distinct success. Not only did I receive zero complaints from my consumers (because I was meeting their needs and providing added value), I was also able to increase my rates and word-of-mouth referrals.
The purpose of this article is not to suggest that we dispose of tried-and-true curricula or that we write our own curricula without regard for established protocols. The point is to demonstrate a way to distinguish one training center from others, transforming it from simply providing training to becoming solutions providers.
This will not work in all situations, and my method is far from perfect. But I will continue to apply the lessons learned from my day job and regularly iterate my offerings based on a solid understanding of my consumers, markets, colleagues, and competitors.
Additionally, this article does not provide a roadmap for implementation at your training center; my intent is to simply plant the seed in your heads, stimulating thought and discussion of these suggestions. I am certain there are plenty of other training centers already servicing their customers in this fashion by creating value while simultaneously driving revenue opportunities.