March 26, 2014

In Monday’s post, we examined the first big trainer/vendor mistake. We’re now ready to address the second “killer.” In many ways, the arguments are similar to the one’s we made two days ago — only, this time, the fatal mistake comes from a trusted employee or loyal customer.

For example, an educator or a trainer listens to a respected colleague, who expresses an idea that seems to make sense. Or, in the case of a vendor, an important customer proffers an idea that, on the surface, appears to be a winner. And, away they both go!

It is important to remember that even the best intentioned and best informed people make huge mistakes in their lives. In fact, it is often the most knowledgeable individuals (who may even have your best interests in mind) that err in the sight of their own good ideas.

Just because something seems to make sense doesn’t signal “go ahead full.” Just because individuals you respect may have a good idea, it doesn’t mean “run with the ball.”

The assumptions behind those good ideas must be thoroughly examined. A genuine need for those good ideas must be practically present. And, after you check all that out, you’d better also determine if the need is widespread enough to be educationally or commercially viable — and that there are no unseen limitations that the “good idea” did not recognize.

I’ll give you a personal example. Many years ago, when videotape was the only media training choice, our research indicated that there was a real need for “Maintenance Management” training. Many of our customers indicated both their need and their willingness to consider a purchase.

So we produced a six-part series.

What happened?!?

We sold two and took a financial bath.


The approving authorities in those interested facilities said, “NO!” — because of the very small number of people that needed the training. Alternate training methods were financially preferable because the cost/benefit analysis did not justify the expenditure for our videotapes.

Moving blindly ahead with a good idea is foolish, unless you’ve done your homework — and that should include a brutally honest assessment of the population or market that the good idea purports to serve.

Even your best friends — and your most respected customers — can unwittingly mislead you. They may mean well, but all they are offering you is a starting point for further objective research into the actual needs and limitations. Just “because you can” doesn’t necessarily mean, “you should!”

There you have it! The two fatal mistakes that have destroyed more than their share of training initiatives and entrepreneurial companies.

More on Monday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning