Learning – is undoubtedly a unique process. It can be both conscious and subconscious, while it helps us become smarter and better every day. However, people still don’t know all the details about this process, which makes it ineffective in most cases. For instance, US companies spent more than $70 billion on employees training in 2016, but the final effect was significantly reduced due to several reasons. Among the most widespread ones are the lack of workers interest, limited time and costs spent on sessions, information overload, poorly-planned process and inappropriate technical support.
Staff training as a service
How to deal with all these drawbacks and make staff-training really effective? We talked to Peter Horwing, CEO and co-founder of Chart Learning Solutions. As this company is about five years on the market, it was interesting to know why their distance approach is more effective compared to traditional training, and what became vital during the annoying pandemic.
“We are performance improvement company in professional development,” began Peter Horwing. “Chart Learning Solutions is focused on developing sales skills, leadership, customer services, and building high-performance teams, which is usually needed in all types of companies. If you are an entrepreneur, there are always skills that need to be added ad you grow. Our primary goal is to define the best training sessions and micro-courses that will help in the particular case to upgrade the performance of the employees and overall firm’s success.”
What companies need skills’ upgrade?
We asked to explain in more details how the process in Chart Learning Solutions is organised. “All types of companies are working with us; it could be small firms, startups, or fastly growing businesses as well. We do one thing differently from any other online learning company – we have an underlying learning methodology the Performance Assurance System™, which combines online learning with live virtual coaching. It is designed to make the overall development more effective through practices and how to apply skills in particular situations. As training leads to behavioural changes, we help people become successful.”
What preconditions (except COVID-19) do exist?
It is always interesting to know how founders see the preconditions of their success and CEO of Chart Learning Solutions explained this aspect. “If you look at the global trends right now, there are two major ones. The first is that the world is going online, which leads to blended learning. For instance, if you look at all corporates and major universities, it’s a mix of offline and online training and coaching. So, that is the first trend why such solutions are flying and becoming widespread,” stated Peter.
“The other trend is that the world is going towards freelancing. The estimates are that 50% of workers around the world in most of the countries will be some sort of freelancers soon. In order to become a successful freelance, such as a consultant or coach, you need to have appropriate methodologies, tools, and course material. We provide all these tools to consulters and coaches around the world so they can run their businesses based on our learning technology and with our 200+ courses.”
“The estimates are that 50% of workers around the world in most of the countries will be some sort of freelancers soon.”Peter Horwing
The way to the current status
Switching from idea to practice, we asked about the first steps that were made to create the firm. “We founded this company in early 2015. I joined up with one of the US most prominent developers in soft skills like leadership, sales, and customer services area. She has been training people for 15-20 years and has a massive amount of experience while I had an extensive background in the technology side and working globally. So, that combination of technical knowledge with practical experience of developing soft skills and building courses allowed us to work productively together to make a perfect fit.”
Is offline learning dying?
One of the traditional learning approaches is by visiting educational institutions, where meetings with teachers help to upgrade knowledge and skills in practice. On the contrary, Chart Learning Solutions doesn’t use any offline teaching. “We are working online only. We developed a unique technology platform, and we are one of the international premium suppliers of soft-skills content. It was achieved by the creation of more than 200 online courses, while our methodology allows having coaches around the world. However, you can still (which Covid-19 allows) run class-room training but you use the online material and then have a facilitator to discuss how to apply the skills. This is a great way for people who are new to technology.”
Online approaches attack all spheres
As COVID-19 facilitated the world to go online, it seems to be an advantage for the firms that have already been working remotely before and have a well-set process. Peter confirmed: “We are one of those who are positively influenced out of pandemic. As face-to-face training sessions have been muchly reduced, everyone was looking for online learning. So, all our analysis right now is focused on transforming all this madness into better online training and dealing with clients.”
Also, we asked about Peter’s look at the future of online activity in general, which now is gaining momentum in diverse spheres of human life. “You are going to see a big shift to the online, especially business and universities will be moving forward to the remote performance. Before the coronavirus, we were always sitting in the offices and had one to two meetings a day with a few of us flying around Europe or wherever. Right now, one can run five to ten Zoom meetings with clients or team members, and actually, one received even better outcomes out of this isolation. So, yes, it’s going to change.”
“Right now, one can run five to ten Zoom meetings [instead of a few personal] with clients or team members or whatever, and actually, one received even better outcomes out of this isolation.”Peter Horwing
Globalisation in action
What is interesting, relying on online activity was an initial idea. “When I started this company, I had a few ideas. The first idea was to be virtual, which means to be able to run the company wherever I am. So, even if I am not in the office or even in another part of the world, I should be able to manage the firm. It led to having a subsidiary in South Africa where we have employees, while our technology is developed in India. At the same time, we have content development in the US. Actually, everyone is working from home nowadays, and it’s quite simple to run this company remotely.”
Who are the coaches in Chart Learning Solutions?
As teaching online isn’t an easy task at all, the issue of recruiting appropriate staff is even tougher. “We have specific application forms because we require experienced people. Going back to the trends highlighted above, almost all coachers in our team are freelancers. For us, it’s normal to be 45+ years old with leadership, sales, and customer service experience. Also, we hire people who have University teaching experience or those who are good in their sphere and can explain a subject well. We provide these coaches with all of our course material, Chart’s Intellectual Property.”
However, Chart Learning Solutions went even further in finding the needed staff. “Right now, our firm is initiating a collaboration with one of the Indian Universities. We actually provide training for future coaches among students, so those elder collegers can coach and train younger ones in soft skills. The idea is to prepare them for future roles in leadership, sales, and customer services, as having only some technical degree can be rejected by the market. Actually, right now, we are addressing the younger generation for the coaching roles because as soon as they receive this real experience, it will be easier for them to become trainers themselves. One needs to be trained to train other people – there are no other ways to do that,” concluded Peter Horwing.
“One needs to be trained to train other people – there are no other ways to do that.”Peter Horwing
Happy customer as a key to the overall success
Every startupper has its own parameters for measuring success, and CEO of Chart Learning Solutions agreed to share his ones. “There are three primary metrics. The first one is the need for stable growth. Then, as I’m a founder of the old school, I don’t want losses, so we always try to run the company on minimum zero. The third parameter is to keep customer satisfaction. Those three aspects seem to be a good combination: if we have a happy customer, we can continue our growth and keep a positive financial balance. In such conditions, we are able to continue investing in the company without any scare as adding money is an obligatory aspect for further development.”
Funding source: investors vs clients
Funding is always amid the essential issues for every young entrepreneur, especially in the first stages. Explaining his vision, the interviewee moved from general to specific. “The absolute best way you can always do is to form your idea and receive funding from customers from the beginning. My suggestion is to try to build your company together with customer projects and build it from there because then it leads to immediate revenues and cash flow. Then, depending on how scalable your idea is, choose the best way for further development. For instance, if the project is highly scalable, then it is reasonable to work with investors no to lose marketing potential and clients,” explained Peter.
“I am still the 100% owner, and I’m also behind the seed investment into the company as such,” continued the CEO of Chart Learning Solutions. “As we showed sufficient potential, right now, we are able to cooperate with partners from all over the world. However, we are generating enough revenues to grow with our customers instead of going and giving away the company externally. Of course, we tried quite a lot in the early stages to get external funding, but we saw a simple dependence at some point. Investors want to see customers, so if you don’t have the clients, you don’t get funding. As we focused on customers, we suddenly received a funding source instead of external investments and still use this approach.”
“We are generating enough revenues to grow with our customers instead of going and giving away the company externally.”Peter Horwing
Online training is helpful for all businesses
What relates to clients, Peter Horwing respects all of them and sees customers as the most exciting aspect of the company’s traction. “At the end of the last year, we launched all our content to the latest standing online learning and right now, we are interacting with the biggest e-learning companies, resellers, and so on. Moreover, we have attracted both small companies and even very big banks, which also need leadership training. Actually, our courses and training are cross-industry, and every company needs to have it.”
We asked to clarify why companies of diverse scales need to use such courses, and Chart Learning Solutions CEO gave a few examples. “For me, the most interesting thing is that we see the traction from entrepreneurs and firms of different types and sizes. Since you are directing yourself to entrepreneurs, they can run this extremely cost-efficient and receive a needed training session. They usually learn about valuable messaging, how to do negotiations and get the references, simply improve their selling abilities via the training. If they want to have even more support, we can add on the coaching to them to become really good in the appropriate components.”
How to get the first paying customer?
Traditionally, the story about the first paying customer is always unique and deserves special attention. According to Peter, “it was actually a manufacturing company from the US. They started from the leadership training, which was successful. So, they continued with sales training, and then they tried our customer service training. After all, they have renewed their staff and still use our services for their training. They have had such a magnificent growth for themselves, so I think this goes very much hand-in-hand: we need to do something that brings success for the customer. What is interesting, this client came to us as an outcome of an email campaign, while marketing and customer recruitment look different nowadays.”
Are there any risks for online services now?
Currently, a lot of startups use LinkedIn as one of the primary marketing platforms from their services, and Chart Learning Solutions is not an exclusion. Moreover, the interviewee sees “too little marketing as the biggest threat right now. Coming back to the funding, the desire to run business with your own money can also be a risk as in such conditions it’s too easy to lose staff or market influence, and it can affect the whole startup. The biggest risk I see is too little marketing due to the current obstacles, which interfere with normal functioning.”
Work, family, and how to maintain a balance between them
Our traditional question about ‘potential working activity if not building this startup’ wasn’t surprising to the interviewee. “Well, I’ve been in managing roles in various companies for many years, and I always had a dream to build my own company. However, due to family situations, kids were growing up, and so on, I had to wait. Nevertheless, if not this company, I think I would be another startup. Actually, it could be another story but about work, undoubtedly.”
When Peter mentioned his family, we’ve decided to ask about maintaining a good work-life balance, which is usually a challenge to passionate startuppers. “As I have three kids, I guess that is all about understanding with the family what you are doing. I mean, on the one side, you have the freedom to do whatever you want, even wrong things, and they will support you. On the other side, you always have to find the time to spend with family, weekends, for instance. However, even weekends can also be dedicated to working sometimes, so it’s always important to have an agreement with your family what you are entering and how it will affect all of you.”
“However, even weekends can also be dedicated to working sometimes, so it’s always important to have an agreement with a family what you are entering and how it will affect all of you.”Peter Horwing
Inspiration and knowledge sources
Almost everyone nowadays has a social media personal page and follows someone, so it was interesting to know who are the inspirational leaders for the CEO of Chart Learning Solutions. “I’m following quite a few as it shifts over time actually. Right now, there so much technology advancements in the learning industry. For example, it’s a lot around what Microsoft and IBM are doing, and some other big firms. Then you also can see a lot of smaller companies arising, so it’s more about firms rather than particular leaders, while it’s still interesting to listen to many of them.”
Another aspect that helps to describe an interviewee relates to books that he or she reads. In Peter’s case, he gave a bit of double advice. “There is a book called ‘Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance.’ Whatever we can talk about, all in all, every startup is all about sales. So, you should have a product that is good enough, and then you have to possess sales skills and processes. What is interesting, that is, actually, what we are training a lot of people (smiling), but this book is a good one.”
Learning and training cannot harm
COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most mind-shaking events of the last decades. Thus, people felt crucial limitations in personal interaction, while most businesses suffered because of restricted human activity. However, the coronavirus also showed that a lot of aspects like learning approaches could be changed. Peter Horwing knew it much earlier, so maybe it’s time to listen to smart people and try distance training or think about it at least?