Basic Training

Head Of The Class

Fortunately, the scale of Dorsey's business suits her just fine, just as Roberts' burgeoning company fits her aspirations. And though this field is not for everyone, the wide range of formats accommodates a spectrum of entrepreneurial types.

Are you born to teach? Take a cue from Dorsey and Capacchione, and go to the head of the class. Or consider curriculum design, creating training products that duplicate or enhance the work of great teachers. Is marketing your best subject? Hire or contract with talented trainers, and focus your efforts on sales.

Of course, successful entrepreneurs in this field possess some degree of both educational and marketing savvy, and most are good students, to boot. Keeping the working world up to date means staying current yourself--both in terms of trends and client needs. "[Clients] are more motivated, more demanding and less patient today," says Roberts.

New entrepreneurs who expect to tap effortlessly into a geyser of opportunity may be in for a jolt. While it's possible to launch a training business with little inventory, a modest location and meager amenities, undercapitalization is a serious threat to fledgling firms. "You have to allow a significant amount of time to establish clients or design your products," says ASTD's Schroer. "Ideally, new entrepreneurs should have a year's worth of income available to them."

Marketing costs may also be substantial. David Holcombe, co-founder of technology training firm Influent Technology Group in Framingham, Massachusetts, initially sent out 120,000 information packages to launch a series of interactive technology seminars. "The only practical way for a company like us to come in is as a boutique player," says Holcombe. But niche playing may also necessitate an expanded geographical reach. As a result, says Holcombe, "the barrier to entry is higher."

In fact, expectations are high overall in this field. Workers and companies alike may be eager to learn, but they're also discerning about how their time and money are spent. Firms that don't deliver won't survive for long.

On the other hand, those who can offer skills, guidance, knowledge and support to a lightning-paced workplace find that the market is ready and the rewards are rich. Those who can, teach.

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This article was originally published in the June 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Basic Training.

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