So what does it take to craft a successful training business?
Director Will Edwards shares the Bluewood story to give us an insight into why the company was founded, how it has become so successful and his plans for the future.
Why was Bluewood Training created?
Before we began Bluewood in 2006, there were a few training companies operating in the market already, but they either suffered from a lack of quality trainers or they tried to offer everything to everyone – if you wanted a truly tailored service you would have struggled to find it.
Some of the trainers in the market were running a small business themselves and delivering each course that came through the door – this worked ok for some clients but it invariably meant they: a) couldn’t be as flexible as most trainees needed and b) they just couldn’t provide the level of service that was expected of them, if they were in a day-long training course their voicemails and emails were left unanswered.
“We thought there had to be a better way of running a training business that could really provide clients with the quality and service they needed.”
We set-up Bluewood Training at the end of 2006 to provide tailored media and presentation training and coaching but we wanted to do things differently – we wanted to create a business that focused on specific areas to help people who wanted to communicate at their best. Slowly, and carefully, we built up our trusted team, ensuring that they could each deliver the quality of the session that clients expected. We also made sure that we worked on and continued to evolve the way we run those courses behind the scenes, ensuring that the pre and post-course service was something we would be proud to deliver.
This ‘quality control’ role was part of my job, as well as winning business and keeping in close contact with clients, helping them find solutions to problems whenever they came up, often at very short notice.
Did you encounter difficulties during the early years and how did you overcome these?
Some bumps in the road did arise and soon after Bluewood started we all found ourselves in the midst of the 2008/2009 financial crisis which did cause tough times for many organisations, but by then we were used to working hard to win and provide for clients and it actually became clear to us that businesses needed the type of training we provide as much, if not more in the hard times as they do in the better times.
Another result of this period was that we honed and perfected our crisis media skills training courses, as more and more clients saw what was happening in the news and wanted to ensure their team were aware of what could happen to them, and to know how to handle it if their company faced a threat to their reputation.
We continued to work with a range of clients, often in the financial services market throughout the years and also started to do more training for professional services firms who were also assisting companies through and beyond the tough years – it was just as important for them to gain their fair share of coverage in the press and to show they had the expertise to help organisations find solutions to their problems.
Another specialist area we became busy in, was a specific area of presentation skills – we had been helping senior executives deliver their messages and clearly communicate to their audiences from 2006 but we were increasingly asked to work with pitch teams in marketing and sales departments in PR and marketing agencies, as well as corporations, to help them refresh their approach to business development. Our clients were keen to do everything they could to ensure they were at the top of their market and they wanted to equip their staff with all the skills they’d need to get there and stay there.
Our pitch training courses were tailored to each client focusing on their USPs and what they wanted to achieve – we worked with them on their marketing/branding materials and helped them to deliver clear messages with confidence. The result made them stand out in pitch presentations, helping them to win business and build their own companies even further.
What’s your focus for the present and future of Bluewood?
Our focus today is still the same as when we started out; to help people become first-rate communicators.
The two main areas of training we deliver are also the same; media training and presentation training, but we now deliver a large amount of messaging training (helping companies distill down what they want to communicate into the best way) and pitch training too. The techniques and methods we use to help people in sessions have evolved and adapted over the years, but there is more of a need than ever for the courses we provide.
My advice to anyone wanting to start their own business is to really understand your target market and don’t try to offer everything from day 1. Map out a clear starting point focusing on one key area, establish your business goals and research how you can help your target market to ensure you are delivering value from the very beginning. Once you have tested the water with your product/service you can then consider branching out and offering more. Also, don’t let bumps in the road put you off, most businesses will encounter challenges along the way, but you can learn from these and always consider how you can adapt to stay relevant.
Will Edwards, Director