A More Efficient Marketplace for Learning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoug Harward, the founder and CEO of Training Industry Inc. didn’t really plan on becoming an entrepreneur.  In 1999, as the head of training for Nortel, he had a large part in planning and executing a 760 million dollar Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) deal. After completing the deal, Harward recognized the business trend to use more outside resources for training, and he also saw an opportunity.

“They really needed help in understanding the business of learning and understanding how to do a business deal as it related to training, because most training professionals, good or bad, look at training as an academic exercise, as opposed to a business exercise,” says Harward.

In 2003, Harward founded his company Training Industry Inc. The company originally started as an advisory services company for training outsourcing services.  However, it evolved into a marketplace for buyers and sellers of training processes. In June of 2004, the website Trainingindustry.com was launched to spotlight the latest news, articles, case studies and best practices within the training industry. Its focus is on helping dedicated business and training professionals get the information, insight and tools needed to more effectively manage the business of learning. The online portal, created by Harward and his business partner, Ken Taylor, quickly became the core business for Training Industry Inc.

Harward notes, “The reason it became the core business was there was such a demand around the world for companies that were spending a lot of money in training to understand how to get the most value for their training.”

Trainingindustry.com provides an online information portal for the global training marketplace. Over 2,400 training companies from around the world are currently registered. These training companies are accessed and evaluated by Training Industry Inc.’s clients who range from Fortune 1000 companies like Cisco and Boeing, to smaller companies that are focused on the supply side of the business.  Trainingindustry.com services nine learning communities: training outsourcing, IT training, learning technologies, medical education, sales training, professional education, content development, leadership, and workforce development.

“I’d like to say we followed the market instead of changed the market,” says Harward.

“Obviously we’re not going to drive the market completely, but in some regards we are still considered the primary source of information in training outsourcing services around the world. We’re 40 percent U.S., and about 60 percent international.”

In addition to its website, Trainingindustry.com, Training Industry Inc. also publishes a magazine, Training Industry Quarterly. However, Harward says that he sees his company as much more than a publisher of training material.

“We don’t really like to think of ourselves as a publishing company, even though we look like a publishing company, because we have the online portal and we have a magazine,” he explains. “The best way to understand what we do is to think of us as a marketing services firm for the training industry.  Most of the services that drive revenue for us are focused around promotional services.”

Several of Training Industry Inc. clients, both suppliers and buyers, view the company and Harward as analysts. Following thorough research and analysis of hundreds of learning organizations, Training Industry Inc. produces an annual top 20 list for each of the learning communities it services.  Furthermore, Harward feels that is it very important to represent both suppliers and buyers. This attitude is reflected in the fact that Training Industry Inc. does market research for both the buy and the supply sides of companies. One of Training Industry Inc.’s goals is to increase the efficiency of connecting a potential buyer of training services with the right training supplier. This philosophy is evident in the company’s mission statement.

“Our mission statement is to create a more efficient marketplace for learning.” states Harward. “I created that real early on because what we found was the training industry is a terribly fragmented, highly inefficient market.

Harward explains how this mission statement impacts his company. “There’s an entire philosophy around what we do and why we do it.  That’s our litmus test.  When we choose to go into a new line of business, the decision is around does it meet our mission statement?  Is it helping create a more efficient marketplace?  Does it positively impact the price of procumbent, and does it impact the cost of sales for suppliers?”

Training Industry Inc. is also involved in supporting mergers and acquisitions in the training industry.  In this regard, they perform organizational assessments.  Harward and other staff at Training Industry Inc. use their knowledge and experience in the business training environment to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a training company for potential investors.

“We’ll actually do an assessment of that company’s capabilities, and to some regard we operate it like an insurance policy for those investors.  We help them understand what’s really going on in the company- where the strengths and capabilities are, as well as any weaknesses.” explains Harward.

Moving forward, Harward sees his biggest challenge is dealing with the international markets.  He acknowledges that the vastly changing and evolving international markets can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is in the opportunity for providing American “know how” to a growing number of international markets.

“Many of the countries in the Middle East, are aggressively trying to hire companies from America to come over and do the training,” says Harward.  “So, why is everybody so interested in American know-how? Well, because we’re the business hub of the world, and if you’re going to do business on a global basis, you’ve got to do business the western way.”

Harward plans to keep current with and use new technology such as social media.  He is always looking for new technologies for helping buyers find the training they need and for suppliers to position what they do more economically.

Training Industry Inc.’s free referral service has also helped them overcome challenges in all the marketplaces they serve. It also allows them to stay in touch with the kind of training requirements their clients are looking for.

“I think one of the most important things that we do for the marketplace, is we provide a free referral service,” says Harward. “We get emails and calls from companies all over the world.”

He also understands that the language barrier is an obstacle to the international training marketplace.  Harward views training professionals as being able to monetize intelligence for use in training material such as courses or training manuals.

He sees opportunities in South America and Russia, but that opportunity is hindered because of the language barrier.

“Their biggest hindrance right now for those two areas is the spoken word,” he says. “If you think about the rest of the world, they speak English.  English is the international language.  Russia and the South American countries are way behind, and that’s hurting them internationally.”

Even in these trying economic conditions, Training Industry Inc. is still expanding and adding staff. Harward’s advice to other entrepreneurs or to those looking to start their own business are words of wisdom he received when he started Training Industry Inc.

“A very successful entrepreneur told me two things,” he says.  “One was, ‘Make sure you are yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not.’ And the second was, ‘Make sure you properly capitalize.’ If you’re going to do something, make sure you’re prepared to do it. Make sure you have the funding, and you are careful not to put yourself in harm’s way by trying to bite off something bigger than what you’re prepared to do.”

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