Thursday, 1 August 2013

Board Room Briefing: Training Needs of Growing Businesses

Board Room Briefing: Training Needs of Growing Businesses

Everything has changed, but nothing has changed...

We live in a different world…
After five years of recession it is clear that growing businesses are living in a very different world. 
1.    The business environment has changed: confidence, the competitive environment, customer demand, technology and access to finance are very different today. *1,*2
2.    The training and consulting world has changed: more suppliers are chasing fewer ‘willing’ clients *3,*4

But is it so very different?
With so much change around, and in a search to find the new magic bullet, has so much really changed? Our research suggests that nothing has really changed in what growing businesses are looking for to help their businesses. *5,*6 The essentials of running a business are the same (delivering a legendary product/service that serves a need, strategy, marketing, teams, external advice and finance.) *7,*8,*9 The essentials of running an effective workshop or training programme are the same. *10

So, what sort of training is (still) wanted?
Our 2008, 2009 and 2013 surveys are consistent showing that the majority of growing businesses want help in the following areas and in the following order:
1.    Customers(More customers /More sales) – clear fave30%
2.    Strategy(Strategy /Planning)14%
3.    Money(More Profit /More Cash-flow)12%
4.    Networking10%
5.    Leadership9%
6.    Social Media9%
7.    Time Management8%
8.    Teams8%

Training Preferences of Growing Businesses

What Businesses Want from Training Days

Initial thoughts
Customers (ie marketing and selling) clearly occupy the prime position accounting for a clear 30%.

The Top Three represented 77% of the 2008/9 poll but only 56% in 2013. In other words, the ‘other five’ or the ‘others’ are getting relatively more important as they move from 33% to 44% of the total. 

The only significant mover (in the order) is Social Media moving up the list.

Some basic observations
Head and shoulders above the rest, people want more/better customers, more profit/cash, strategy/planning
People want to know how to get more sales, more money and how to put all this together. Everything else seems to pale into insignificance, but that isn’t to say that other topics aren’t of more importance to individuals.
If people are your “greatest asset etc” then why do they poll so poorly?
The usual caveats apply
This is more of a finger-in-the air review of what was on top of the mind for these 3,500+ respondents.
What people say they want and what they need are very different
Over time the mix within each category does change
Eg cash-flow has become progressively more of an issue.

Choosing the right seminar subjects
Based on the survey results and follow-up interviews, it has been decided to launch two half-day seminar titles:
  • Strategy and Money
  • Marketing and Sales

An underlying theme
A random sample of respondents was followed up with phone interviews to discuss the thinking behind the choices made. A series of themes were clearly ‘front of mind’: raising prices, getting more better/customers, improving engagement, creating a legendary customer service mentality, being more decisive. The theme that seemed to be the consistent one was the creating of legendary service as this would enable the other themes to be implemented.

Background commentary
This was never intended to be an intellectually rigorous piece of research but simply a privately-funded survey to get an understanding of some of the key behaviours and drivers in this field.

Additional information
In May 2013, The Directors’ Centre carried out a simple survey (189 replies) to understand the training needs and wants of the owners and directors of small and medium-sized business. These were then compared with earlier Directors’ Centre surveys from spring and autumn 2008 (1,721 respondents) and spring and autumn 2009 (1,678 replies) carried out to see if there had been significant changes in training needs and wants.
Robert Craven

For further information
The Directors’ Centre – the consultancy for growing businesses
1 The High Street, Woolley, Bath BA1 8AR 
Tel: +44 (0)1225 851044   Email: 

*1Disrupt.Inc – How young people...Dellot & Thompson, RSA, 2013
*2Growing Your Business,Lord Young, 2013
*3Will New Business Consultancy Programmes…R Craven, 2011
*4The Changing World of the Trainer,M Sloman, 2007
*5Management Training in SMEs,OECD, 2002
*6Entrepreneurship and SME Training,DJ Storey, 2008
*7The Magic Million Survey,Directors’ Centre, 2008
*8Growing Your Business,Burke et al, 2008
*9Kick-Start Your Business,R Craven, 2003
*10Getting More From Your Training ProgramsMcKinsey, 2011

Next steps/Call to action
As a result of this survey, The Directors’ Centre will run a series of small and intimate half-day seminar/workshops. The two titles are ‘Strategy and Money’ and ‘Marketing and Sales’. To find out more about these events, go to or contact Tricia on 01225 851044.
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