Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Using Local Resources for Small-Business Training

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Using Local Resources for Small-Business Training

Article excerpt

Using Local Resources for Small-Business Training

Small businesses defy all marketing principles. Ask firms that have tried to market products to small businesses, and they will tell you that it is a get-rich-slow scheme. Banks have wrestled for years with the unprofitability of small loans to small businesses.

The reasons it's difficult to market training to smaller concerns are numerous. For one, the majority of small businesses have 50 or fewer employees, which means that the workload is tremendous and responsibilities are not always clearly defined. Because training and human resource professionals are often nonexistent in smaller companies, training is mostly on the job. And because they're so small, these companies sometimes can't afford to have employees absent even for a day. Most small businesses run in a crisis mode and often are short of good cash flow, which makes training a real luxury in the owner's mind.

One of the major reasons training marketers haven't been able to tap into the small-business market is that owners of these companies generally are not joiners. No one has figured out a way to register each small business, a practice common in several other countries. This would help trainers identify small businesses that might need help getting started. Many small businesses aren't even registered with governmental entities. Ask your community to come up with a list of all its small-business owners, and you have just asked for the moon.

Finding a way

For the past two years the Indian-apolis Chamber of Commerce Training Advisory Committee has hosted a program for its membership, which is 80 percent small business--the majority under 50 employees. The committee is staffed with Indianapolis-area ASTD members.

The programs have been very successful, but there have been plenty of growing pains--just about the time the marketing plan seems viable, another caveat appears. In the past year, however, some concerete information has emerged; the committee now makes an annual assessment of the membership.

The assessment defines topic areas in which courses should be offered, the most convenient day of the week and time of day for the courses, and how long sessions should run. It also determines whether single-subject or series-type programming is appropriate. Programs rarely fail because we give our member businesses what they want. The following techniques have worked best:

* Four-hour programs in the morning.

* Programs on Friday mornings.

* A price of $35 per program.

* Series--our supervision series was sold out.

* Trainers willing to work for low wages--$200 per session or $10 per person enrolled.

Because series are very popular, the committee has created several. For example, the small-business series deals with business-related topics such as marketing, cash flow management, hiring and firing. The successful-supervision series deals with six topic areas that are important in supervision: becoming a supervisor; motivating employees; delegating; interviewing and hiring; doing performance appraisals; and communicating in the work environment. And the secretarial series focuses on the necessary skills for secretaries. Remember, even though the successful-supervision and secretarial series are appropriate for businesses of all sizes, the majority of the Chamber's members are small businesses. …

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