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Lessons Learned

Choosing a personnel trainer you can count on.

When your employees need training and you don't have the expertise, it's time to bring in an outside trainer. But how do you know you'll get what you need--and what you pay for?

"Although your relationship with an independent trainer is brief compared to your relationship with your employees, you need to be as thorough in screening and selecting a trainer as you are in hiring [employees]," says Ed Campbell, president of The Global Leadership Institute, a comprehensive business training and consulting company in Altamonte Springs, Florida. He offers these tips:

  • Determine exactly what you need before you begin your search, and be specific from the outset as to what you expect.
  • Always examine the trainer's credentials, and be sure they match your needs. "With critical training issues, rarely does one size fit all," says Campbell. "Be sure the prospective trainer has a working knowledge of your business or the specific things you need taught."
  • Ask for written proposals. When something is in writing, there's no question about who will do what or for how much. You'll be able to determine whether the trainer truly understands the scope of the project and whether he or she has the resources to meet your needs.
  • Check references. Find out what type of projects the trainer has done in the past, and contact both current and former clients. Ask if previous clients have provided a performance review, such as evaluation forms or other summaries describing the quality of the trainer's work.
  • Ask to see work samples. If you need a trainer to create manuals or other types of training aids, look at the items he or she has produced in the past. Remember, confidentiality agreements may restrict the trainer from showing you everything he or she has done. If the samples aren't what you have in mind, find out if the trainer has the capability to handle something different than that to which he or she is accustomed.
  • Ask for a demonstration. "Invite the prospective trainer to give a 15- or 20-minute sample presentation
    or ask to sit in on one of his or her sessions held elsewhere," Campbell advises. "If neither option is available, ask for a videotape."
  • Develop a project timeline. Put all your deadlines in writing, and make them part of your contract.

To find a trainer, ask colleagues for referrals. You can also check your local Yellow Pages under "Consultants" for a particular subject matter or look under "Speakers" or "Training." For more information, contact the National Speakers Association at (602) 968-2552 or visit

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Lessons Learned.

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