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- Who: Craig McFadyen
- Website: learningplanet.tv
- Course Topic: Soft Skills Training
- Interesting Stats: 24 partners in 14 countries and growing
Who are you and what digital training company have you created?
I am Craig and my background is in contact centres and sales. I first got interested in training people when I saw a gap in the market in contact centres when all that was being focused on was technology not people.
Since then I have gone to work for organisations like EY where I set up their first contact centre consulting division in New Zealand and then launched my first training company. Since then I have launched and built eight more training and consulting businesses, the current one being LearningPlanet.
LearningPlanet is a wholly online microlearning video soft skills content subscription library for English speaking business support and training.
What market does your digital training serve?
LearningPlanet was designed to meet the markets following the global financial crisis when businesses didn’t have training budgets and fewer staff so less people could be released for training programs.
We are targeting a vertical niche market of business and personal related soft skills, English only microlearning with no video over 10 minutes long. All businesses no matter where they are in the world require the same soft skills – customer service, sales, communication, coaching etc.
Our content is based under 16 different header topics common around the world. At present we have 400+ videos in the library that are currently being used in 160 countries by organisations to support and train their teams and leaders.
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your online courses?
LearningPlanet videos are short, to the point and cover a specific topic per video, there are two types of videos available – 1 minute refreshers that cover a topic in one minute and a 10 minute video module that has a workbook and quiz.
They have been designed by training experts who understand training outcomes, objectives and consistency. Once you have been through two or three of our videos you know exactly what to expect as the format is identical each time so the learners can focus on the new material not how to navigate your video.
The benefits are just in time, at your fingertips and can be used just before they are needed for example; watch a coaching video just before coaching a staff member or dealing with an angry caller or sales a presentation etc. Because the library is designed in individual videos you can pick and choose what order you want to watch them in so you can create specific targeted personal training to each individual versus a generic course in a classroom of 12 that may not suit everyone.
A lot of staff are given access to the library on their desktop so they can dive and find a video if they have a need there and then such as while someone is on hold then go straight back to the customer and apply the techniques.
How did you get into the market?
With a background of over 35 years in the training and consulting industry across three different countries and having built multiple training businesses over that time you can see the trends and shifts in the markets. Prior to the GFC we would run multi day classroom training sessions for up to 15 people at a time. Following the GFC customers started asking us what we could do in half a day or less for a few staff. As that’s not an economical model when you are using trainers for a day so I started researching and discovered this topic called microlearning. From there with a business partner we designed LearningPlanet to meet the current business market needs which were – Time and Money. So we launched an online microlearning video catalogue on a monthly subscription based on number of users.
Following the previous businesses I wanted a subscription business where you could build a good solid customer base and the money would come in every month.
We named the business LearningPlanet because my original vision was: ‘Affordable learning to world’ so businesses would have no excuse to not train their staff.
Why did you decide to create a digital training company?
Having had classroom training and consulting businesses for a number of years I wanted to get away from the need to be standing in front of people and given the leaps and bounds in technology it seemed the right way to go. I launched the first eLearning solution for contact centre qualifications in New Zealand over 15 years ago before the eLearning boom and the uptake and completion of online learning showed that’s where the industry was heading. Since then eLearning has exploded globally and the costs of platforms and content have made it available to all businesses, so it was a natural evolution in training.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you launched your training company?
No there was no doubt because we had undertaken extensive market research with our customer base and when we kept hearing the answers around time and budgets it proved the model. Then coupled with my experience in designing eLearning previously, discovering microlearning and my research showing me that video training was exploding (the current generation are the first generation to have grown up with everything on demand) it all came together perfectly to provide a video based short focused vertical market solution that was available to everyone.
What are your online courses like?
Our content is all video to meet the changing training needs of the generations. They are short so easy to keep and hold peoples focus and they aren’t talking heads but images and video clips with an audio voice over. The voice overs are all specific neutral accent voice overs so its not American or English or Australian etc. as we knew we were going global and wanted our videos to suit all markets around the world.
Our two types of videos are: 1 minute refresher and 10 minute video module.
How long does it take you or your team to create a new course?
The process has been developed over a number of years and mainly covers the topics of researching a topic, triangulating that research, writing a script, creating a voice over, outsource to our video editing consultant to put all the images and video clips to the voice over then testing and reviewing, creating the workbook and quiz then launch. On average we will release between two and four new videos every month.
After using my previous companies experience in the industry to launch our first few videos the market started telling us what they wanted to see and so it made it easy to grow the library based on user experience. Now that we have 24 partners in 14 countries it makes it even easier as I can see similar topics when I am talking with them and from there we can get a jump on the needs of the market and release content a month or two before the market even knows they need it!
Tell us a little about the process of launching your first course and getting your first enrollment(s).
That’s a brilliant discussion! We organised a roadshow and invited all the organisations we knew form our years in the business and we launched with less than a hand full of videos and told them the vision of a growing monthly library and new content and we got our first sign ups right there at the roadshow, some of which have been with us now for 7 – 9 years!
Do you have a lead magnet?
No just word of mouth and a very clear vision that I wanted to remove all the roadblocks I had seen companies use to not train their staff over all the previous years.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Third party resellers has been amazing for us.Once we had perfected the videos and the consistency of the topics and had a large enough library we then launched out to third party resellers. - Craig McFadyen Click To Tweet
We have identified the type of partner we are looking for and then research them approach them directly to see they would be interested in partners and reselling our content. This frees us up to focus on the important areas such as new topic research and partner support. We still have approximately 70 direct customers in New Zealand who assist us with feedback and new suggestions.
What online course platform are you using?
We have developed our own platform. Originally we didn’t want to get into technology as I am a people person not a tech guy. The videos are hosted in Vimeo as its mirrored all round the world rather than a server here in New Zealand as that would make the delivery to slow and laggy and when you are watching video you want instant streaming with no delays or you will just move on. Our web developers found a way that we would pull the videos through to our website from Vimeo so people could sign up, log in to the website and watch the content.
Then people started asking if features could be added and voila! Today we have a near full eLearning platform that is all based on users requests and feedback.
Do you like it?
Technology makes me a nervous as I am a people person not a tech and therefore all I see the speed of technology changing and the issues around keeping up with it.I have preferred building our own platform rather using an existing market based one simply for more control and peace of mind moving forward. - Craig McFadyen Click To Tweet
Are there any features you wish it had?
Ask our users they use it far more than I do! But yes there is always more to do and the key is to rein yourself in and not go over the top with development that could end up costing you a fortune.
What other tools do you use to run your digital training business?
We mainly use video editing tools, green screen tools etc. Our main focus now is on partner and topic research so there really aren’t a lot of fancy tools being used.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
This is huge and quite a personal topic as everyone likes different authors and topics but some of my favorites have been books such as:
Good to great, Built to last, purple cow, tipping point, outliers, what the dog saw, like a virgin, screw it lets do it, a whack on the side of the head, any books by Brad Sugars on sales and marketing. There are many many more!
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
Of course! As a business owner you are reflecting and wondering where you would be if you had changed a few things. For me after 10 years in the business some of my reflections are things like:
- Not getting an investor and going global much much earlier.
- Not signing up top partnerships programs much earlier
- Also, not increasing prices every year like you are supposed to do.
- Monthly payments over an annual license. We thought not locking people into an license would make us more attractive, it didn’t make difference.
Please share some idea of revenue for your digital training company.
On average our revenue has grown year on year in the early days we were averaging somewhere between $20-$40k a month from direct customers and now with partnerships all around the world that number exploded is and is much higher.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from running your digital training company has done for you.
For me I think it’s the freedom that I have a turn key business that practically runs itself and if I want to take some days off to go and play golf or have a holiday I can and the business keeps running.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
Yes our numbers are:
- 400+ and growing every month videos in our library in 10 years
- 24 partners in 14 countries and growing
- Our content is used in 160 countries and growing
- 1000 subscribers on LinkedIn and growing by using a marketing expert
What has creating your digital training business done for you personally?
Yes I feel I have accomplished my goal of taking affordable learning to the world. I am really proud of how far our content has been spread around the world and that we proved the change in the industry has worked and will continue to work.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
There are some really basic business rules that if you follow them will make you successful such as:
- Have a clear and burning vision of what the outcome looks like
- Don’t be put off by people telling you can’t do it
- Do your research! It amazes me how times people will launch something simply because its what they are good at but have no idea if there’s a market for it.
- Find or build your vertical niche and point of difference
- Understand the difference between being good at something and building and running a business, they are very different and if you don’t feel like you are a business person then find a partner who will have your back who is good at it.
- Get a business mentor and or coach early and use them and listen to them regularly
- Become an expert in your field, read, research, go to conferences, train, learn and become the expert in your field.
- Don’t give up!