Educational Software Serves as Training Firm's Foundation
Schmitt, Anne, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Anne Schmitt Daily Herald Business Writer
Owners: Elizabeth "Bette" Tomaszewicz, 53, president and CEO; Judy Decker, 52, executive vice president, sales and marketing; Janie Rice, 51, vice president, business development; Jeff Sienkiewicz, 47, vice president, product development
Business: Teach.com, a multimedia training company based in Elk Grove Village
Revenues: $12 million in 1999
Philosophy: "My philosophy is never give up. Be persistent in everything," - Elizabeth Tomaszewicz.
At first, shopping for an established company seemed like a short cut for building a technology-based training firm.
"We looked at 12 different companies. We even went to India," recalls Elizabeth "Bette" Tomaszewicz, president and chief executive of Elk Grove Village-based Teach.com.
But with a year lost and no good match found, Tomaszewicz and her partners thought maybe they had made a strategic mistake. Maybe they should have spent the time developing their own training program from scratch.
But persistence and luck combined to lead Tomaszewicz and the rest of the management team to the Silicon Valley software firm that became the core of their new company.
Tomaszewicz, a 20-year veteran of the training industry, knew of Anderson Soft-Teach. The Los Gatos, Calif., company had won several training awards for its software, which incorporates audio and video into its training software.
"They had spent several million dollars on engineering the best product, but they didn't know how to get the product to market," Tomaszewicz said.
Tomaszewicz and her team did. The four - Tomaszewicz, Judith Decker, Jeffrey Sienkiewicz and Janie Rice - each had two decades of experience in the training industry. They all had worked at a training company in Arlington Heights starting in the late 1970s.
Thanks to some good timing and the financial backing of two venture capital firms, ARCH Venture Partners and Ohio Partners, they bought Anderson Soft-Teach in November 1997 and immediately set out to build a sales force around the country.
Anderson Soft-teach was generating about $4 million in revenue with about 17 employees when Tomaszewicz took it over. Today, Teach.com has $12 million in sales.
The other thing the new owners did was make the CD-ROM-based training material compatible with the Internet. That way, customers could distribute training through the Internet or company intranets, Tomaszewicz said.
Technology-based training programs have become more popular as companies search for ways to provide training to busy employees in far-flung offices, Tomaszewicz said.
"They're all over the country and all over the world, so how do you train these people?" Tomaszewicz said.
Employees can fit the training into their own schedule. Teach.com's SmartTrainer also lets companies track what courses each employee has taken, how much time they've spent with each course, and their performance on short pre-course and post-course proficiency tests, she said. …