Blog Post

Going from good to great

These are tough times to be in the learning industry.  Budgets are tight, time is precious, and the competition is fierce.  Independent learning providers need to stand out in order to thrive – but many don’t plan for excellence, and struggle to become key learning partners to their clients.  When I started out as a freelance trainer several, well actually more than several (!), years ago, productivity training was my speciality, along with what felt like everyone else in the world who woke up one day and thought ‘I know, I’ll be a Microsoft Office trainer’.

They were everywhere.  And like every industry, some were very, very, good & some were very, very bad indeed.

I quickly realised I needed a plan, fast, to make myself stand out from the crowd – I needed to put my underpants on over my trousers and work hard to create a great personal brand.  And in a few years, I did just that.  My business has now grown to offer my clients a team of over 180 subject matter experts, delivering productivity & business skills training internationally.  These are my top three tips to include in your Going for Greatness plan:

Be credible

You need to walk the walk in order to talk the talk.  I still deliver training – and I still love it – and it keeps me relevant and able to talk to my training team with real time knowledge of today’s learning environments and the challenges within it.

Get yourself accredited – and shout about it.  Look at industry qualifications that are relevant to your specialty – become an expert!  Look at other training providers you admire and see what their certification platform looks like and find a combination that works for you and underpins your services.  The best (and scariest) decision I made early in the lifespan of Lightning Training was to go for LPI Accreditation.  That was 5 years ago and I have never regretted it.

Be visible

Think about your brand.  Not just your logo, website & business cards – but your own personal brand.  Think about 5 key people in your industry who you admire and focus on the characteristics that you admire the most.  I can almost guarantee it won’t be having a great business card.  While we all define success in a way that means something to us personally, we often look to others for inspiration and ideas. So think about what you need to do to take yourself there as a reflection of your own personal brand.

In reality, though, the brand is the consumer’s perception and nothing more. In a similar way, your personal brand is people’s perception about you. People who do business with you have pretty high expectations about what a particular brand provides them, and they will review all aspects of you to form their perception.

Having a personal brand doesn’t mean that you have to dress in the same uniform every day (although you might dress in a consistent pattern), or that you are an eccentric individual (although you may be). It doesn’t mean that if you are an introvert you must become gregarious, and it does not require that the extroverts mask their feelings or thoughts about things., but you must be confident and comfortable within your personal brand to stand out.

Once you have focussed on your personal brand – make sure you stick to it – and shout about it.  Make sure your social media platforms reflect it, and that the content you post on them is consistent with your style.

Then get out there and make that brand work hard for you.

  • Book an official launch and celebrate the new you publicly.
  • Set up a marketing plan to purposely promote your brand. This could be something like a launch, or it might be a branded approach to specific client base or element of your client base


Most likely, and quite simply, you could make a gradual transition where you gradually adopt the things that are reasonable to you and fit within your goals, without a big announcement.

What is important is to start, and then to keep going despite setbacks or frustration.

There are a few other ways to get yourself noticed. Consider:

  • Creating a blog
  • Speaking at a conference
  • Writing press releases or white papers
  • Entering a competition (!)
  • Delivering webinars

No matter what activities you choose, make sure that they are appropriate for your business and send the right message. Anything that you put out in the public eye should be done well

Be flexible

Good communication skills are essential for independent learning providers. Being able to listen effectively, clearly express your terms, and watch for body language clues will help you ensure that there are no misunderstandings with your client and that your work can be carried out as planned.

Always be honest with the client. If you need to make changes to the project plan, schedule a meeting and discuss what’s happening. Be prepared to explain problems and solutions, as well as the impact to the project’s budget and schedule. You may also want to revise the project plan and statement of work.

Good, sound business advice.  If a bit dull.

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches – and to do that, above all, you need to be flexible in your approach.  Instead of seeing a problem – think about how you can make your client’s role in your business relationship easier – how can your business provide solutions?  Look at your business and think about how you can create a great service for your client base that allows you to be flexible in provision too – can you offer free advice or webinars?  What about having client awareness days to help them understand how your business can help them in ways you may not be currently interacting with them?  Think about developing services that help you keep this open communication & solution based approach going – traditional newsletters are great, but you can also consider private mentoring groups, coaching online & a variety of other ways to interact.

At Lightning Training we offer a free online learning needs analysis for some of our courses.  This helps us guide our clients and ensure, as best as we can, that the right delegates are on the right courses.  One person’s advanced excel is another person’s introduction after all.  Perceptions of skill are often very far removed from the reality – and this is one of the ways we can offer a flexible solution to a wide range of learning requirements – the results allow us to suggest & design learning content solutions appropriate to both the client’s needs and the skill level of their staff.

Whatever it is you decide to do, in order to be more successful, you are most likely going to have to make some changes.  Greater success will come when you incorporate successful activities that move you toward your goals.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time – make a plan – be prepared to change it, focus on where you want yourself & your business to be & how you want to get there, get your road map ready & your boots on.

Your journey from Good to Great starts now.

Start walking.



This was first written as an article for Inside Learning Technologies Magazine.  If you’d like Sheena to write an article for you, please get in touch.

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