Episode 1

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Epi 1: Why Automating Employee Training Will Change Your Company Forever – Chris Ronzio, CEO of Trainual

Learn more about Trainual at: https://www.trainual.com 

Find Chris Ronzio on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisronzio/

JC: Welcome to another edition of The Future of BizTech. I’m your host, JC Granger. And I have Chris Ronzio here with me, the founder and CEO of Trainual. As a quick transparency, I’m a client of Trainual, I love Trainual, that’s why I have him on. So, Chris, thank you so much for coming on. I love what you guys are doing. Why don’t you tell the rest of the audience here other than myself, what you guys do and who you help out?

Chris: Yeah. Awesome. Thanks, JC. I appreciate the invite and the endorsement from the get-go here. So Trainual is a simple system, that’s really the playbook for a growing business. So when you think about all of your policies, and procedures, your standard operating procedures, just how you do what you do, Trainual is a place where you can put that all, you can onboard your new team members and train your existing team on what their role entails. So training, SOPs, knowledge management. It’s kind of all that stuff in one.

JC: What would you say has been the biggest pain point for the clients you guys have? I mean, we use it a lot and I’ll go into more about how we use it later, but what do you find is the biggest thing people go, Holy crap, how did I ever go without that?

Chris: Yeah. I think every business gets to a certain size where they’re just dealing with chaos and there’s disorganization of who does what? There are overlapping responsibilities. People are doing things inconsistently. And so at some point in every business, you start to feel that, and you have this tendency to want to jump back in, and fix the way things are supposed to work. And so, at that time it makes sense to document, formalize how things are done.

And so you start to work on these things, but often you’re doing it in documents, and email templates, and all over the place. And so, that’s really the pain point, is when you start to lose the grip on how things operate, and you want to make sure things are done consistently, that’s when it makes sense to start to invest in this stuff.

JC: What motivated you to start Trainual? I’m just curious more or less, if you know what usually comes out of a pain of your own sometimes, right?

Chris: Absolutely. So my first business I started when I was 14, it was a video production company. We did youth sporting events and I ran it for 12 years. So all through high school, all through college, set up an office after college set up a second office, and we were doing events in all 50 States. So we had a little over 300 camera operators doing events for us. And so I was feeling that pain of how do we operate consistently when we get an event in Chicago versus in Los Angeles or New York or Boston. And so we developed this online training, and checklists, and policies, and how do you operate like a franchise would? So I was just really passionate about that, and did it for my own business.

And when I sold that company, I started consulting for all other businesses on that, on systems and processes, and being efficient in scaling. And it really just all came down to my clients, and my story was centered around like, you can only scale when you’re doing things consistently. And so I was frustrated that everybody’s just using documents, and random ways to patch together how their business works. It felt like there’s got to be a system that’s designed for this. So Trainual initially was just like a prototype for my own consulting business for my clients. And as more of them started using it, I thought, okay, this thing could really take off. Let’s go all-in on this offer.

JC:  What was that turning point? I mean, there’s always that day, we were like, Holy crap. This can be a thing now. I mean, do you remember like what that moment was, when you realized that you guys were going to really make it even if accidentally because it wasn’t even supposed to be this kind of business model?

Chris: The moment initially when I decided we should go all-in on this. So my consulting business, I had five employees and we could only work with like 10 or 12 companies at a time. And we had this big aspiration that we wanted to work with 25,000 businesses. That was like the BHAG, that I put out there. And I thought that the way to do it would be hiring other consultants, and licensing my consulting model to people in different cities. And so the first two consultants I brought in, I trained through Trainual. I had this internal tool, and I thought that’s how I’m going to train them. And they loved the system. And so more and more, me and my employees were saying, I wonder if this is the thing that could really grow. And so it was December of 2017, we decided let’s just give this a go.

And so we put in notice with all our consulting clients, and the next month, January 2018, we were all in on the software business. So we span out, Trainual as its own entity and we didn’t take on any consulting projects. And we just said, let’s give this a go. And for me, the validation was when strangers were using it, people that weren’t friends of friends, it was just random people from Facebook or from wherever else found us and were paying monthly for this tool. That’s when I really felt like we had something.

JC: Yeah. So that’s that good feeling, right? When all of a sudden it becomes almost completely out of control, it’s not like you’re going after people, and there was a process and whatnot. Now people just… Like you said, strangers are coming in, kind of became a monster, had a life of its own. For the audience… So I heard about you guys, I think through a Facebook ad. I think something like that. I think I just saw the Facebook ad, and I own a marketing agency and our biggest issue was… So we’d have a lot of contractors that would come on initially, a couple of years ago we would try to onboard contractors, and whatnot. And I was okay, we were having trouble with our system and our process to get them on.

What would happen is, for example, we’d bring one on and I’d say, okay, great. Now sign the contract agreement. Cool. And then it would just fall off as far as where they got in their training, they’d say, “Oh yeah”. Some people they’re… “Well, I don’t understand how to do this”. I’m like, “Wait didn’t we send you that video?” And just the whole thing was messed up. So I see Trainual. I’m like, “Oh, okay. That looks interesting”. And I start looking at it, and the more I looked at it, the more I’m like, Holy crap. If I upload this stuff, one time, if I just spend a little time up front, then after that I can just invite someone, and then they just go through each thing, each module, whichever one, we assign them, and I’d be able to track their progress.

Right. So then it became so easy. So we saved so much time and complete chaos, and pulling our hair out from, bringing on contractors. Now we’re bigger. Now we have more, W2 employees and in-house and whatnot, but we still use it though for training them. So we have less people to train now, but it’s a really great tool that we use. And it’s funny, there are two systems. There are two tools that I say changed my life for my agency. First one is Gusto. That thing is great. They’re a payroll company and it’s so user-friendly, and has been so easy to onboard for employees, everything like that. And the other one’s Trainual. And I tell people, listen, if you’re trying to scale, may the difference between you being, a two, three-person team or 20 plus team is going to be Trainual basically.

Because there’s otherwise, you guys are just going to fall through the cracks. There’s just no way you’re going to be able to take, and handle that. And so then when, and I’m not sure… I know it was recently, I said, when we started this podcast where I think you are maybe our sixth or seventh guest on it, and we have a pretty large audience that we have a marketing-wise, but I was like, “who do I want that real keynote one to be” And I was like, I’m just going to reach out and see what happens if I just reach out to Trainual, and there we go. So it’s awesome that you’re on, I’m geeking out on your soft. I love B2B, SAS stuff, especially things that can save time because the time is money.

Chris: That’s amazing. Thank you so much. First of all, I love that you use it for contractors because that was like the story of the first couple of companies that were on it. We had this moving company, they still use it today, but they hired moving contractors all across the US to move kids in and out of college. And they needed a system to just… every season is like this new batch of people, and they need to get them up, and running on how they did that. And so Trainual was amazing for them when they were growing.

And then we have this other business, that is worldwide graphic design service. They’ve got remote designers, contractors everywhere, and they use a system of hire hundreds, and hundreds of those designers. And so it’s so cool that you started that same way. And now agencies, whoever’s listening, B2B type services, like exactly what you said. If you want to automate and streamline, how you explain? How to do something? So that you don’t have to do it over, and over again, if you just want to explain it, once you write it down, you put the time into documenting it once and then it’s really just like turnkey things. So I love that you got that experience.

JC: Yeah, well, the one thing I realized too is, we really wanted to scale on the sales side. I’m good at sales and whatnot, that’s great, but ultimately agencies can be crushed under the way of their own sales success. And the only way to get out of that was to be able to scale the delivery side, proportionally, because if you’re good at sales, that’s great, but you bring in 10 clients in a week, that’s a near impossibility for some sized companies to be able to deliver on immediately. The only way to get that delivery was to be able to scale bringing more help in fast, right? Because the second they sign that contract, you owe them work right now, you buy yourself a week or two with other things going on. But if you need to find someone to help deliver on that, because your other people are at the end of their bandwidth, you’ve got to have a system that can get them up and running.

And we play everything in there from like culture stuff too. It’s not just training on processes. We talk about our culture, our communication policies, and we talk about our mantra as far as, design and just things that are more existential, not necessarily A to B to C to D kind of thing. Sometimes it’s just I put in, I upload, sometimes I have a section in Trainual. I also realized it’s funny when I used Trainual first, you have this section where you can upload videos right? Now, If you make your own videos, that makes sense. Well, what I was doing, and this was smart to me at the time, I would take the other softwares that we use, and I would go to their tutorial section. I would download their videos, and I upload them in the Trainual.

Well, that was awesome in the beginning until they started updating their videos. And now our videos were out of date. So I was like, wait shit. So what I do now, is I just put a link to whatever vendor software we use. So there are videos and that’s just the Trainual section. And it’s like, click this link, and then whatever’s there, watch all that. You know what I mean? So even I had to figure out how I wanted to do it myself, but you guys have all those options, which kind of let my brain, run wild. I mean, I made my own mistakes within it, but I quickly learned my own lesson. So I thought that was fun.

Chris: Well, man, you’ve got to dial it in. I mean, from teaching how to use other tools to your culture, and your brand and your communications, whoever’s listening to this can learn a lot, but what you said there about the problem agencies have, I think is really key. So a lot of people swing like this pendulum between sales, and delivery, and you put all this effort into sales, and then you get a bunch of work. And now all your effort goes into delivery so that you don’t mess up the delivery. But in the meantime, you’re not selling any more work. So then you finish those jobs, and you come back to selling. And so in a scalable business, the ideal state is that both are operating scalably all the time.

And so if you want to grow your delivery team, and you want to grow your sales team so that you’re not the one doing it, and jumping back, and forth, then you document both of the processes, for how to close deals, and how to do calls, and how to book appointments, and how to present proposals. And then on this side, for how to put the deliverables together, and have client meetings, and have team meetings. And if you can get there, then the business just operates. And that’s, I think the ideal state that most of us want.

JC: Yeah. We had a lot of peaks and valleys early on, and then bringing in systems like this allowed us to do both at a steady pace, which was nice.

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JC: Definitely as much as I love the software, now I’ve actually been able to hand off software to my own people. Since, I don’t deal with it as much anymore, but I get your emails, your newsletters about some new features, but what a couple, maybe new cool features that have come out in the last few months that you’re really proud of?

Chris: Man. So much stuff. Our July customer newsletter, we had to cut stuff off the list, and do the sale. Let’s save this till August. But the big thing was we did a redesign in June. So the app got a ton faster. That was exciting. Then we launched this embed feature, where you can embed things from over 700 locations. And so, it’s different apps that it’s integrated with. And so the most common ones are like Google slides, and PDFs, and all the video hosting sites. But you can also embed a Spotify playlist, and Instagram photos. And if you don’t talk about that-

JC: I didn’t even know that. I literally didn’t even know about that release. Like that’s how I’m now. Just like I said, as much as I love the software, I can’t even keep up with how fast you guys are releasing things. I mean, that’s a super cool feature. Now I’m trying to think, especially the Spotify playlist, I feel like I have this. Do you know what I probably put on there? Our hold music is “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.

Chris: That’s great.

JC: It is the best. People keep thinking they get Rickrolled. Like if I don’t get on first, and they’re getting the whole music, they’re like, I thought this might’ve been a joke. I thought it might’ve been popping up. Like, no, no, that’s just the most brilliant whole music I’ve ever heard of. I wonder if I can get that now into the training..

Chris: So yeah. I mean we rolled out like auto time estimates. So as somebody consuming training, you want to know how long is this? Like, I’m going to do some work here. How long am I in for? And so in the same way, medium gives you the estimates for how long it takes to read something. We have that now. So yeah, there are constantly things rolling out that we are excited about.

JC: That’s awesome. Let’s just do a personal side. I hear either current or maybe previous, who were your mentors professionally, coming up through the ranks? Is there anyone that you’d say was kind of a big, stepping off point from your knowledge base or your motivation or anything like that?

Chris: Yeah, totally. So the first one I’ll point to is a guy named Scott Fritz. He wrote a book called The 40 Hour Work Year, which was kind of a play on Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek. And he was like, if you’re really going to sell your business, and you’re just kind of a passive owner or investor in your own business, if you don’t want to be the operator anymore, you can run a business on 40 hours a year. And the idea is that it’s really just like your monthly, quarterly, strategic planning that you’re doing for the business and checking in with the operators. And so his book is amazing for its 10 years old now, but it’s amazing content. And so I worked with him, he facilitated some strategy meetings. And then when I was consulting, I did personal business coaching with him.

And so he’s been really influential for me, even he has done some of our strategic planning at Trainual. And the more recently, a local guy… Trainual is based in Arizona. And so is a company called Infusion Soft. Clate Mask, is the CEO, one of the co-founders of Infusion Soft. And he’s been an amazing advisor and partner, and now he is on our board of directors, which is great. And then another one is Michael Lee Gerber, who wrote the E-Myth. He has been an advisor for me, and it’s really cool to see some of the ideas that he kind of the first person to put those in writing, and like the seventies, and eighties still haven’t been addressed through software. And so it’s exciting to tackle some of these problems so that every growing business feels like they can really have a system which can run business like a franchise. So those are three I’d point to.

JC: And then going I guess, even further back, it might have nothing to do with this, but, what did you want to do when you were a kid? And then where did that kind of transition? What was your childhood dream, career or job?

Chris: I had a few. I wanted to be in the NBA, which didn’t pan out because I’m only five-eight. I wanted it to be a sportscaster. So it’s funny, when I started my video company, I got into video because I wanted to be in front of the camera, doing ESPN kind of shows. And I ended up just editing, and running the camera, and then building this sports video business, which is similar, but never realized that dream. And then I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to be in business. So my dad was in business, but in the corporate world, and he was never around, he was always on a plane, and he was always traveling. And so, I would go to his office, and I’d see the shiny office buildings, and the mahogany desks. And I was like, I want that, I want cool feeling of business, but I don’t want to be always away from the family. And so entrepreneurship seemed to provide both. And so as a kid, I was always doing car washes, and landscaping, and selling wrapping paper, and lemonade stands, and just making money, however I could.

JC:  That’s awesome. That’s really Cool. Obviously right now at the time of recording, we’ve got COVID going on. How have you seen your software either adapt internally or have you seen it being used more because of this? Obviously people are working remote now. So companies are having to switch to these processes. Just how has Trainual either adapted or been sucked into the current nature of the world Right now?

Chris: What’s been really cool is, we’ve become like our own best customer because we were based in an office before, but we haven’t been in our office since March. And in the last four months or five months, we’ve hired 14 people that we’ve never met in person and use our own software as the only way to onboard these people and get them up and running. And so it’s been really cool to be our own case study, using the product and coming up with cool ideas for the product.

 It’s been a wild ride, the demand for remote onboarding, and training has gone through the roof. So we’ve got tons of people coming to the website for content, and advice. We really doubled down our content efforts. We’re producing more videos, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on podcasts. We went from one podcast, and now four podcasts. The YouTube channel, the writing articles on other sites, Inc and Forbes. And that’s probably the biggest change, is like we’ve gone really deep in brand, and content to try to be as helpful as we can, because this is something that everybody needs a solution for, even if you’re not at the point yet that you’re hiring, and scaling and ready to pay for it.

JC: That’s awesome. I would be remiss if I didn’t ask the next question here, given the title, how do you think Trainual will either change or be the future of the B2B industry, right? I mean, this is The Future of BizTech. I mean, is there anything you’ve got maybe coming down the pipeline, you can give us a teaser on or is there anything you see happening? Let’s say looking forward six months, 12 months, something like that.

Chris: Yeah, sure. So I think that a lot of different categories are converging, and in just talking with investors, and other people in the industry, the way you would talk about Trainual, the category you’d try to put it in, is all over the place. People say, training management or knowledge management or compliance and governance, or the standard operating procedures or onboarding, there’s all these different categories. And really, I think that it’s simple. It’s like, who’s who in the business? Who does what? How do you do each thing? And so I’ve been calling that just the playbook for business. And so my belief is that every business has a playbook. Some just haven’t written it down yet. Some haven’t taken the time to write it down yet, just like everyone has a culture, but maybe you haven’t documented that culture.

And so the reason you don’t do it is because it’s so hard. It takes time. It takes time away from servicing customers, doing whatever else you do. And we want to make that easy so that everyone can have a playbook. And so fast-forwarding a few years into the future, I think it’ll be less about creating your training, creating your process documentation. It’ll be more about collecting, like you already do these things. We’ll just watch you do them, and turn them into natural language. So I think you’ll start to see that shift happening, and same with instead of assigning training, tracking it, and making sure everybody goes through it. I think it’ll be a little bit more on-demand. And just in time, people will get access to the answers they need, where they are? When they need them? Rather than having to sit down, and learn stuff that maybe isn’t relevant to them right now. So I think those are some of the trends that you’ll see over the next few years, and we want to be the leader in this playbook space.

JC: I find you to be a very inspirational CEO. So I have two-part question. First is what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten? And then, what’s the best advice you can give to the audience?

Chris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JC: Gosh, I’m stumping you. I’m doing my job.

Chris: All right. Now people know you don’t provide questions in advance.

JC: No.

Chris: I would say probably The first thing that came to mind, the best advice I’ve ever gotten was that, it’s just as hard to do a million-dollar deal as a hundred dollar deal. There’s something to that standpoint, I think when you’re getting started in business, you don’t have the confidence to go after bigger deals. And so you spend all this effort, all this work to just kind of break-even, because that’s sort of the threshold that you set. You’re like, I’ve at least got to cover my costs. And so you set out to do that, and that’s all you ever do. And I think if I could go back, I’d be aiming much bigger. My threshold would be like, how do we make this much? Or how do we do a deal that’s this size? And in the past, I kind of incrementally challenged myself to push the envelope each year.

And I think it could have advanced that a lot quicker. Another awesome piece of advice I heard was something like, if you could go back to college or something, spend all the money you had on a nice suit and the invite to the right party. And it was more about the people you put yourself around, determines the opportunities that you get. So that’s one area I’ve been really fortunate, I guess, or just action-oriented in that, I connect with the founders that I admire reach out to them. Just like you said, you’d take a shot and reached out. If you’re persistent enough, you’ll get people on a call or you’ll get people that become mentors. And so that’s something I think everyone can do.

JC:  That’s awesome. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you think would be beneficial to the audience?

Chris: I think maybe what’s the first step? People listening to this, not everybody that’s listening to, this is going to leave this recording and say, I’m going to work out my systems, and my processes, and my training, and all of this stuff right now. And so if you’re not there, I want to remind people that most small businesses are still in this experimentation mode, where you don’t have enough of a formalized process, that it makes sense to write it down, and create training.

And so you only document something, you only write it down when you’re ready to delegate it. And so if you are listening to this and you’re feeling you are sick of doing something in your business, because it’s boring, and you do it the same over, and over, and it just feels like this job you don’t want anymore. That’s the thing that you should write down, and give to someone else to do. And so the way you delegate is to document, to write something down, to make a process, to define it. Don’t force yourself to document all the things in the business because most of them are going to change, and it’ll be a big waste of time. So I think that’s the advice I would give is, take a little bit of pressure off of you, and just figure out what are the things I want to take off my plate. That’s where you start.

JC: That’s awesome. Listen, I appreciate having you on here. How can people reach out to you? People listening they’re like, god, I want to email Chris or even go to Trainual. How do they get hold of you or the company?

Chris: Yeah. Sure. So Trainual, is just trainual.com like training manual, and you can hit me up on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on YouTube, all of them. It’s just at Chris Ronzio, R-O-N-Z-I-O. So I’d love to hear from anyone, and I’ll always message you back.

JC: That’s awesome. Well, thanks again for coming on. It was a pleasure to have you, and I hope to have another conversation with you sometime soon.

Well, thank you so much for listening to another episode of The Future of BizTech. I hope you got great value out of our discussion today. If so, be sure to subscribe to my podcast and rate it five stars. This helps a podcast jump in the ratings to help other techies like you, and I find it too. And remember if you own or work for a B2B tech company, and you’re looking for highly targeted hot leads delivered to your inbox daily, my agency Infinity Marketing Group can help. We’ve been in business in 2010 and have helped hundreds of companies just like yours, make millions of dollars in marketing, and lead gen all live.

So be sure to visit our website at www.infinitymgroup.com, or you can email us at info@infinitymgroup.com or you can call us at (303) 834-7344. We look forward to talking with you, and I look forward to you listening to my next episode of The Future of BizTech.

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