Safety eLearning business seeks a special client or two …
I’ve never participated in online dating. I tried it once, lasting quite literally 16 hours with a trial membership and a profile carefully crafted with one or two dear friends. (You know who you are.) It was not, alas, for me.
I have also, once or twice since starting my first business over 23 years ago, cold-called a prospective client. Also not my jam.
Sales and marketing plan? Not so much. My clients have always just sort of happened. Word of mouth, client recommendations and that sort of thing.
There are far more similarities in these two processes than one might think.
So here we are at PCS. Healthy and growing steadily, with a great team in place. Creating documented processes and “don’t do that agains” when we hit a speed bump. We just finalized a website refresh. Building new content that makes us proud. A new LMS partner to house our client’s training after almost two years of hard work searching and implementing to meet our clients’ needs.
Time to ease off the throttle and just stay the course.
Slow down, work less, ride more, play more, travel and live it up with friends and family, relax a bit. After all, life is short, and I’ve been working hard for, by golly, almost forty years now!
Reach out to the universe for another client or two.
There’s that same sort of ‘starting to date’ vibe to the situation.
Do I put myself out there?
[For the record, I am very much taken in the romance department. Tom made me add that here. In fact, we recently got engaged.]
I’m definitely not seeking just any client. After all, we are a catch. We form partnerships with our clients that are more than short-term or transactional. Years or even decades in some cases.
I have a healthy list of what I don’t want. Deal breakers. Swipe left factors, if you will.
I don’t want clients seeking to check a box for safety training with no real regard as to whether it is actually relevant for their learners. Thanks, but no, although I can give you a list of companies who provide rock-bottom pricing on generic training that is not good. [I wrote “painful” and deleted it, for the record.]
Clients who want to be given a sugar-coated message are also not for me. I am the straight-forward type. I’m comfortable walking straight into important conversations about critical decisions. We are in the safety business after all; I am not selling the latest earbuds or flower arrangements. In some cases we are making life-and-death decisions or ones with serious legal ramifications. That sometimes calls for tough conversations.
Someone on our team laughed at me after a client Zoom call once.
“Man, you are tough! You told them everything you predicted might go wrong on the project! And we haven’t even started it yet.”
Oh yeah, that’s me. I’m going to give it to you straight, I’d rather we avoid potential pitfalls by talking about them and avoiding them than trying to pull you out of the ones I saw coming. I’m a risk-averse sort of girl.
For as long as I’ve been in business, my clients are almost always overworked, super-motivated safety or HR professionals with a pretty impossible gig. They work for medium to large companies that are growing and they’re spread so thin that some of them lie awake at night knowing that they need to off-load some ballast to do their job well.
They need to buy time. Time to walk around checking on contractors and employees, time to coach their team, time to work with Engineering to solve a safety design problem, time to review a lockout/tagout procedure or oversee a confined space entry or evaluate a fall hazard.
Unless they can be cloned, or a budgetary wallet opens, spilling dollars to expand their staff exponentially, they do not have time (or energy) to provide great, live, site-specific training to all their employees and contractors on every technical topic.
Likewise, they do not have the time or resources or skills to build web-based courses and often have no LMS (learning management system) software to house that training, even if they did.
They need to find someone who understands this dilemma and can help them solve it using as little of their precious time as possible. They are buying time and peace of mind.
These people. These are my peeps. My professional tribe. My clients. Very frequently my friends.
I was this client at one time earlier in my career.
Theirs is exactly the dilemma my business was created to solve.
We built a little tutorial that reflects this: https://pcscustomtraining.com/wp/elearning/
Not long ago, I drove 20 hours round-trip for a one-hour client meeting.
Originally it was a road trip with several stops, and dinner with a niece, but life happens and the schedule shifted. I contemplated cancelling the last remaining meeting.
Something told me to go. So I did.
I sat in a crowded and messy office –I mentioned my clients were super-busy, right? — with three safety professionals, two from a capital construction project, one from the factory where that project was taking place, and a young engineer far techier than me.
We shared ideas to improve things for their contractor safety course. We laughed. I did my canned 4th grader explanation of how a LMS works, a frequently trotted-out primer.
I apologized for a software hiccup, owning it hook, line and sinker, because that’s what you do when you own the business.
We talked football (go Bills!), someone’s upcoming wedding, the challenge of ensuring contractors were complying with rules, and how we were going to handle a delicate topic when we edited their course. How long their capital project was going to last. Both on paper and based on its current pace <wink, nudge.>
I took roughly 1/3 of a page of notes for follow up. Actual work stuff. Decisions made. Follow ups and who was going to jump on each, and by what date.
Back in my car, I texted Tom before starting the long drive home.
“Worth the drive?”
I do not, despite reading a couple of books, and listening to some podcasts, have a real marketing plan. I never have.
I suspect I’ll find new clients, if I do, the same way I found love. Through someone I know, or a long-time friendship, or an existing relationship. This way is organic, it is built on existing trust.
I am not convinced I want to scale my business and grow it – this despite PCS happy hours on Zoom, with my team scattered all over the country, working virtually – where I’ve joked more than once–
“Next step, worldwide domination.”
Perhaps another client or two to keep us happily solving a new problem, creating a new course or library of courses, or re-imagining an existing one, keeping my team gainfully employed, making some safety manager’s job easier. Giving them some time and peace of mind.
Perhaps that is enough.
It is a good problem to have, and I am grateful.
Sharing a story here by Courtney Carver, about a Mexican fisherman, because it resonates with me these days.
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.” The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
There is something very real about “enough.”
So back to the dating analogy and seeking new clients …
Am I interested? Yes, for sure, but I’m not dating for the sake of dating, if you will.
I am not casting a net for just any fish.
For twenty-some years the sales and marketing plan of “put it out into the universe and see what comes of it” has worked well for me.
I suspect that will be enough. It always has been.