Mark Richardson
Mark Robert Halper Mark Richardson

A number of years ago, I sat on a panel of speakers addressing a group of MBA students about growth strategies. The speaker just ahead of me was describing the key ingredients to his organization's success with a chain of restaurants. He said something that has stuck with me and has been instrumental to our company's growth and success."Training is a growth strategy," he said. "If you want to grow an organization, you must adopt a commitment to training. Without this commitment, sustainable growth is impossible."

Prior to that point, I had certainly believed that training was useful and beneficial, but essential to growth? Wow! That takes training to a very different level of importance. At the time, growth was one of our company's prime objectives. When I framed the issue in this new way, I had no choice but to act on a renewed commitment to training.

It was the beginning of a process that ultimately led to a whole series of internal training programs, including culture training, sales and sales management training, time management training, leadership workshops, and many others. Our company might have grown without all this training, but I'm convinced it would have taken longer, with more missteps, had we not put so much effort into these education programs.

Custom Programs

While I believe that training is essential to growth - now more than ever - I know that not every company needs the same kind of training programs our company uses. Training programs should fit both the immediate needs and the long-term goals of your company. Most companies will find that one of the following two approaches to training works best:

  • Strengths and weaknesses. Examine each function within your company - sales, design, estimating, marketing, production, and so on - then design training programs that not only reinforce what you do well but also improve performance in areas that need help.
  • Job evolution. Growing companies need to continually replenish leadership positions. Look at current staff to see where the best opportunities for advancement lie, then design training programs that target specific jobs and the people most likely to fill them. A quick way to get started without having to set up an elaborate internal program is to take advantage of educational programs available at trade conventions, attend computer skill seminars, and hire private sales consultants. Certification training by one or both industry associations is another way to jump-start a training program without having to start from scratch.

  • Teach and Learn

    You may find it most helpful to train for specific systems or processes by designing an in-house program using senior staff. If you or a team member have knowledge and experience in a specific subject area but want to move to the "master" level, this type of program doubles the value because training others is also a wonderful way to learn.

    However you go about it, you'll learn a lot just by watching how your team members respond to being given training opportunities. Obviously, if they embrace the chance to improve themselves, that's a sign that you've hired the right people and made the right training decisions. But if they resist or drag their feet, that's a red flag. Either your training program isn't meeting the needs of your employees, or the employees in question may not represent a good long-term investment for your company.

    I personally do a lot of training in our company, and I occasionally feel a little stressed about the amount of time I invest. But when I ask myself if I think I have ever overtrained anyone, the answer is a resounding "No." In fact, I more often find myself thinking that, with some new courses and a stronger investment in training, I can help make my team more successful."

    Mark Richardson is president of Case Design/Remodeling, Bethesda, Md. and the author of 30 Day Remodeling Fitness Program. He can be reached at (301) 229-4600