Life in the training broker biz

Bruce Maples talks to the people who run The Training Associates, a brokerage firm that matches trainers with training centers or other companies who need instructors. It's the type of company that could make your training career a lot simpler.

If you’re an independent trainer, you know that there’s more to it than just delivering the training. There’s contacting previous clients to check for work, and there’s trying to get in the door of new clients. There are scheduling and travel plans to work out, reservations to find and book. And of course, there’s the ongoing financial stuff: creating and mailing invoices, documenting expenses, chasing down late payers. At some point, you’re bound to say to yourself, “I wish someone else would handle all this junk for me and just let me teach.”

What you need, my friend, is a training broker—someone to keep your plate and your pocket full, with minimum hassles and maximum exposure. And in the broker world, I’ve found The Training Associates to be one of the best.

In the interest of good journalistic practice and full disclosure, I must tell you that the Associates has been one of my brokers since I got back into independent training. I’ve always thought they were a classy group, but after spending some time talking to three of their lead brokers, I came away even more impressed! Read on to learn more about brokering done right.
In this installment of his interview series, Bruce Maples provides an inside look at how a training brokerage works. This is the first part of an interview with members of the brokerage. Next week we’ll get their thoughts on how to compete in the training world.In this series, Bruce takes a look at the training industry through the eyes of professionals in four different jobs in the field. In the first interview, he talked to Don Justice about his role as the manager of a training company. Then he got the inside view of a traveling trainer’s routine from Latifa Meena. In the last installment, Bruce will talk to a training manager.
The Associates’ way
The Training Associates was founded seven years ago by Vic Melfa. His previous company was one of the first to be an official Novell education center, as well as one of the first to offer trainers for Oracle and Sun. He realized there was a need for a company to match up training centers with trainers, and the Associates was born. In seven years, the company has become one of the leading trainer brokers in the world.

For this profile, I talked with Nate Fischer and Steve Conant. Fischer is the key account sales manager, which puts him in regular contact with the larger training chains and large corporations with extensive internal training operations. Conant is the client development representative for the central region. Conant came to the Associates from a sales career in another field, while Fischer’s background was as an MIS director for a distribution company.

Finding the right fit
Their workday, as you might expect, is primarily spent either talking on the phone or writing e-mail. Their approach, though, is more conversational than procedural.

“We don’t just do the ‘Call-Whaddayaneed-Hangup-Repeat’ routine,” Fischer said.

Instead, they work in teams, matching a client development representative with a customer service representative. The representative spends an extensive amount of time getting to know a particular training center and its operations, so that he or she can understand their needs and help them make the best staffing decisions.

Once the overall staffing philosophy and strategy are in place, the service representative then handles the class-by-class staffing needs in consultation with the development representative.

“Our goal is to work with the training centers to help them figure out the best way to handle their staffing needs,” Fischer said. “We are not just a brokerage—we also do permanent placement. Therefore, we are unbiased as to which route to choose, permanent or contract. Our goal is to be a staffing consultant for the centers. We even have white papers available on how to decide the best way to staff.”

Career development advice
The consultative effort doesn’t stop with just the training centers.

“We are also putting programs in place to help our trainers develop their career,” Fischer said. “We’re trying to keep them informed on the trends we see in the market, even to the point of advising them on possible additions they should be making to their credentials.”

Conant added, “For example, if we have an instructor who does a lot of ASP and Web development training, we might suggest she get some SQL certs on there as well, since a lot of people are looking to tie their Web site into a back-end database. Such an addition will simply make them a more attractive trainer in the marketplace.”
What trends do you see in the training industry currently? Have you taken an interesting route to your current job? Write to Bruce and share your ideas about this article or suggest a topic for another.

Bruce Maples is an author, trainer, speaker, and consultant living in Louisville, KY.

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