A whole range of obstacles can stand in the way of a newly established training company: psychological, financial, and marketing-related. Some appear in earlier stages, others will surface when your business starts growing. Usually, you don’t have the luxury of dealing with one challenge at a time. They come together, causing each other and requiring your attention all at once.
These obstacles are in many respects the same as for other industries. However, each industry has its own specifics, making common points slightly different. The more you know about the barriers you can face, the better you can understand how to start a training company without spending too much time on dealing with them.
Psychological barriers to starting a training business
To successfully grow a training company, you need to develop a business mindset, adjust your own lifestyle and the way you communicate with people.
Learn to manage time
One of the basic skills any entrepreneur should be proficient with is time management. You are standing at the top of your company, and there is no one watching your work. If you have employees, they depend on your decisions and your ability to allocate time properly. Relationships with customers, your reputation, and the well-being of your organization — all of these are affected by how well you can plan your work.
Planning can be especially tricky at the very beginning when you have to keep an eye on everything at once and your schedule hasn’t been settled yet. It’s better to lay the foundation of your business before you actually launch it: write a business plan, fine-tune a training program, study your potential audience and competitors, prepare marketing materials and content for publishing beforehand. Think out organizational details, too: where you are going to conduct classes, how you will accept registrations and collect feedback. Trying to solve these matters when you’re already looking for prospective clients or have an event to run will distract you from delivering a high-quality training session.
All tasks requiring your attention as a company owner can be divided into several groups:
- Training-related matters: writing a training program, preparing exercises, and tailoring training material for the needs of a particular customer. If you’re going to deliver an off-the-shelf workshop, this burden will be lighter, giving you a chance to focus on other aspects. But if you plan to respond to the training needs of each customer, you will have to find enough time for customization. It includes not only adapting learning content but also researching more about the customer.
- Administrative routine: accepting registrations, sending notifications to each learner, requesting feedback, and issuing certificates. Some of these actions can be monotonous and error-prone, asking for your undivided attention.
- Marketing activities: promoting yourself and increasing your brand awareness. You can do it by being active in social media, publishing content, creating promotion campaigns, and attending conferences. It certainly helps if you already have an established reputation as an expert in your niche, but even then marketing efforts shouldn’t be neglected. Just launching a promotional campaign is not enough. Regularly track down how it goes, analyze data, and make necessary adjustments to increase effectiveness. For those starting out, it makes sense to create a presence beforehand to back up your claims later. In case you plan to take part in social gatherings, make sure to keep an eye on events worth visiting.
- Financial management: planning a budget, setting prices and collecting payments, calculating income and expenses, and paying taxes. Your financial situation is what defines all other activities. It indicates how many classes you need to run and how much money you need to earn, whether you can relax a little bit or it’s better to put more effort into marketing.
In the beginning, you will probably have to be the jack of all trades, managing all these tasks by yourself. Set priorities to be sure that all of the essential parts are covered.
Hire the right people
Time management is your personal hurdle, which you can overcome by transforming your way of thinking. However, owning a training company means hiring other people and finding the right way to communicate with them. Although there are one-man companies too, most organizations allocate roles to different specialists.
Many leaders struggle with delegating their jobs to others at first. Especially those who are used to working alone. When the time comes, they find themselves reluctant to let go of the job they put so much effort into. You know that you do your work responsibly and by your standards. But how can you be sure that another person is as diligent as you are? Will they be emotionally invested in their job? Will they understand and uphold your values?
When you finally find the right people for your company, you will see that it’s growing even faster than before. And the right person is not only a person who shares the vision with you. It might also be someone who brings new ideas helping you look at your job from a different perspective.
If you plan to hire staff, define for yourself the most important criteria your future employees must meet, such as:
- Being good in what you are hired them for.
- Taking care not only of the job being done but being done well.
- Having standards similar to yours.
- Being able to make decisions on their own and offering their own ideas.
In other words, it should be a good specialist, with a strong sense of responsibility and passion about what they are doing.
You might need to fill in the following positions in your training company:
- Marketing Specialist
- IT Specialist
One person can combine several of the roles above, or it might be you shouldering part of the responsibilities. It all depends on your qualifications and proficiency in these aspects, the time you have, and your vision for your company's future. For example, you prefer not to manage a huge organization with a big staff base, but work in a small team of like-minded people. Then you probably will take most of the tasks upon yourself instead of hiring a different person for each position.
Not all specialists mentioned above need to burn with the same passion as you, although it will be good if they do. For example, people working on technical or financial ends might be part-time employees or organizations providing relevant services.
Of course, when it comes to trainers, mutual understanding is extremely important. Here comes another challenge you need to solve.
To what degree do your and other trainers’ visions should match? The overall goal needs to be the same, but should the details be, too? How exactly to conduct class? How to communicate with students? How to design training-related documents and materials? You need to define standards and limitations trainers should adhere to. Will it be a strict set of rules they should follow? Or rather an overall concept and a list of recommendations to help them?
Both ways have their own pros and cons. Strict limitations will increase your brand awareness, and you can be sure that everything works the way you intended it to. At the same time, you will have to spend more time monitoring compliance with rules and defining them to the very detail to be sure everyone understands how it needs to be done. In addition, you might limit the potential of some of your trainers, not allowing them to try their own ideas.
Letting people do things their own way helps unlock their potential and create more diversity. Each client will be able to choose what works best for them. It can attract talented trainers who are looking for a place where they won’t be constrained. On the other hand, giving too much freedom might result in some of your employees straying too far off the initial goal or providing services contradicting your standards. If you choose this path, it’s extremely important to work out and convey values that must be followed in any case. This way would require mutual understanding, so you could trust each trainer enough. If you license training materials instead of hiring full-time employees, this might be the way for you.
Choose the right software
Work can be delegated not only to people but to machines and software. Just like with people, finding the right software takes time:
- The one that has all or most of the features you need for this task
- The one that can fit into your budget.
- The one that can free your time instead of making you spend hours to understand how to make it work.
In this day and age, there is software almost for everything. Except for delivering high-quality engaging training — that’s what you need to focus on. You can create a website using the constructor. You can do your accounting in special apps. Various services will help you with promotion and analyze the market for you. And finally, you can deal with administrative routines like accepting registrations, gathering feedback, and issuing certificates using training-management software, like Workshop Butler.
Automating your job can save hours of your time if you choose it right and invest some effort into learning it.
Financial barriers to starting a training business
When thinking about your own business, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that you get to do what you want, not what someone else forces you to do. However, you will also have to deal with things that employees don’t worry about and that you might not be good at. Accounting is probably at the top of such a list.
Getting your finances straight is crucial before you launch your company. You need to plan your budget making sure that you have enough money to set everything up and to get you through the initial stage when you will be looking for the first clients. It’s also important to roughly estimate when you will be able to make a profit enough to support your further activities.
The first step to this is setting a fair price for your workshop (or course, coaching session, etc.). The price that would satisfy both a trainer and a client can be quite an elusive matter, that will take some testing. Experiment not only with the sum itself, but with the overall ticketing strategy too: ticket type, payment methods, and discounts. A flexible pricing system will cater to a wider range of individuals and organizations.
Including future profit and expenses in your budget is not enough, there are also taxes. They can affect the price you set making it higher than you prefer it to be. And what’s more important, calculating and paying taxes on time might prove to be an extremely time-consuming task.
You can use financial software if you are not ready to deal with this yourself.
And if managing finances seems too much of a burden even with automation, it’s better to entrust it to an accountant.
Properly handled finances are an indispensable part of any business, so we recommend thinking out every step carefully. Even with knowledge of how to do all accounting, you might not find enough time for it. And if you’re more of a visionary, it could be a good idea to find someone who will balance your inspiration with strict numbers.
Barriers to marketing a training business
Marketing is a barrier that stands in the way of many good business ideas. Just being passionate about what you are doing is not enough. You need to find a way to make your voice heard, drawing the attention of the relevant audience and convincing them.
The first and foremost condition for successfully selling your services is to clearly understand what exactly you’re selling. In other words, to find your focus. There are two main reasons why it’s so important. First — it will help you stay on track and notice when you are deviating from it. Find the niche you will be working in and become an expert. Because having to say something on every topic often means that you cannot share anything profound on any of them. There will always be someone better at each of these topics. Here lies the second main reason — your customers need to understand when they can turn to you for help. If you establish a reputation in a certain niche, your name will be associated with it.
Determine your target audience
Almost any guide and article on marketing will tell you about pinpointing your audience. This is the basis of all your marketing efforts. Determine who will need and buy your services and target your promotion activities towards them. Sometimes, the audience you are marketing your services to and the audience who will be receiving them can differ. For example, you might target your corporate training marketing campaign towards HR managers and executives who are looking for an employee training program.
Your target audience will dictate the choice of words to describe your event. Knowing who your potential client is will allow you to address their pain points in the marketing campaign. It will also help you find out where your customers usually spend their time so that you know where you should place your ads or where you can meet them.
Understanding your audience makes it easier for you to decide what format to choose: online, in-person, or blended learning. Your course might already be designed for a certain format, but it might still be a good idea to consider your audience’s preferences.
Research your competitors
Information on your competitors is another essential piece of data. It will give you a chance to learn how they find clients and to better understand the specifics of the chosen niche. You will also see how you are different from them or what you are doing better so that you can show this uniqueness to your potential customers.
Once you explore the niche both in terms of your target market and your competitors, determine how to run your marketing campaign. Making your voice reach the ears of those you intended it for is one of the toughest challenges. Use every opportunity to strengthen your presence and build a reputation.
- Get yourself acquainted with your potential customers. Nothing beats personal acquaintance and informal talk at conferences, where you can discuss common points of interest and potential cooperation.
- Networking is also great for collaborations. By combining your ideas and methods with others you can attract more customers. And if you manage to work with a prominent expert in your industry, you will gain a great marketing asset.
- Your website is your main base of operations, where you can tell everything you need. Spending time designing a pleasantly looking website with clear navigation and organized information is a great investment in the earlier stages.
- Publishing different materials covers two goals: attract attention and show your expertise. You can choose the medium most convenient for you or most popular among your potential clients: write blog articles, publish a book, record a podcast or take part in someone else’s, send out newsletters, or write interesting posts on social networks. There is a wide range of ways to show the world what you’ve got.
- Real results are more convincing than mere words. If you have ever successfully applied your knowledge into practice, let the world know about it by creating a compelling case study. Show your future customers that the skills you teach them work.
Conclusion and more recommendations
The barriers standing in your way to creating a successful training business may differ depending on your skills and experience. We’ve tried to list the most common obstacles a business owner in the training industry might face. Knowing them beforehand will help you lay a better foundation and prepare for possible difficulties:
- Learn how to manage your time for professional activities (providing training services), background work (managing finances, staff, marketing, IT, etc.), and rest.
- Determine which positions you need to fill in your company, and hire the right people for them.
- Understand to what degree you want to control your employees and other people you work with.
- Learn to entrust your job to automation and to choose the right software for your purposes.
- Manage your finances from planning a budget to paying taxes.
- Find your own niche and keep focus on it.
- Determine your audience and the way to address them.
- Create an effective marketing campaign.
When writing this article, we used insights shared by the Training Business Anatomy podcast guests. We recommend listening to it to hear more about the first-hand experience of people who successfully dealt with these barriers and are now managing flourishing training businesses:
Lisette Sutherland: about finding and keeping your focus
Jason Little: about automation, constraints, and the possibility of handling all the necessary tasks by a small team.
Tatian Trippmacher: about the most important thing in marketing.
Mehmet Yitmen: about creating a market from scratch.