Understanding the demand for training is relatively simple. Tapping into the market is a bit more complex, however. Training today takes many forms, from one-on-one tutoring to seminars, public speaking, "help desk" services, classroom teaching and even interactive multimedia instruction.
Opportunities abound, but not all opportunities are created equal. For example, says Doug McBride, executive director of the Information Technology Training Association, "there is certainly a large number of people who are behind the leading edge in terms of their technical skills. For this reason, the market for [high-tech] training continues to grow."
Specialization, and even customization, are the new buzzwords. Of course, emphasizing a specialty can be either a boon or a bane. Choose the wrong focus, and your company may never leave the ground.
Choose the right one, however, and it's possible to create a business that's not only tailored to your clients' needs but also to yours. Take Roberts, for example. She co-founded PTS Learning Systems in 1986, when PCs were just hitting the business scene. "I had a background in education, but I was really interested in the corporate world," Roberts explains. "In the mid-'80s, people were buying PCs but weren't necessarily up to speed in knowing how to use them. I saw an opportunity there and went after it."
Eleven years later, PTS employs 150 people and is active in the emerging field of interactive computerized training. Eventually, Roberts hopes to take the company public. "Because of our size and experience, we're able to offer customers total solutions," she says, including everything from individualized instruction to computerized tutorials.
In contrast, Ivory Dorsey, founder of Golden Eagle Business Services Inc. in Atlanta, prefers to keep her business small and agile. Through consulting, classes and keynote addresses, she motivates employees at corporations such as Lucent Technologies and Bell South to embrace change, champion innovation and take chances. Golden Eagle is virtually a one-woman show--and that's just how Dorsey and her clients like it.
What Dorsey does is unique. Part mentor and part evangelist, she creates individualized programs to meet client needs, whether this means working with small groups of sales executives or addressing large conferences of financial officers. If this description of Dorsey's work sounds vague, that's because flexibility is her forte. "People often call me knowing they want something but not knowing what it is," she says. And when the only guidance her clients give her is that they want their people to be at the next level, it's up to Dorsey to create a program to achieve that goal.
Dorsey's talent has won her a sizable following, but it isn't likely to propel her company to multinational proportions. Why? "To grow this business by conventional standards, I'd need to bring in other people," says Dorsey. "And I don't find many people who can do what I do."