When setting up his training and e-learning development business back in 2012, Skills Network founder Chris Jones quickly realised that many of the business skills, such as sales & marketing, public relations, health & safety, HR etc. that he needed and had had access to in the larger organisations that he had worked for previously, just were not available in a time and cost effective manner to the small business owner.
As many of these skills were, or would become, crucial to the on-going success of his business and cost considerations prevented him from just ‘buying in’ professional help for every small issue, he started to investigate the alternatives in order to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to bridge these skills gaps for himself.
Having scoured the marketplace, he identified three potential solutions
- networking events with a speaker,
- self-study both on- and off-line, and
- commercially available courses
He was sure that one, or a combination, of these would solve his problem. But, he quickly realised that whilst they all have their place and a valuable role to play, there were reasons why each of these alternatives did not fully meet his, and he suspected other small business owner’s, needs.
Networking Events With A Speaker
Don’t get him wrong, Chris loves networking events. Building new relationships is the lifeblood of any business and if the events also offer an opportunity to listen to a guest speaker all the better as attendees gain an invaluable (if somewhat limited) insight into the topic being discussed. But at the end of the day these events are networking events and the primary focus is, rightly, on networking and building relationships as opposed to skill / knowledge acquisition.
On the face of it – a great solution, and done well it is. Self-study allows the learner (in this case business owner) to access just the information they need at just the right time and gives the flexibility to fit this around the myriad of other demands that everyday life, nevermind running a business, place on us.
There is a multitude of information on the internet and more self-help / management books out there than Amazon can shake a stick at and that is where the first problem lies. Sifting through all this information to find exactly what you are looking for takes time (& probably a lot more than you expected), this is time that is taken away from your business and time that you cannot get back.
Assuming you can actually find the information you were searching for, there is then the issue of quality. If you don’t have a good understanding of the subject how do you know that the ‘expert’ providing the information knows what they are talking about. With regard to books, you hope the publisher will exercise a degree of quality control within their editorial processes but the same can not necessarily be said online where anyone can post anything about any topic without necessarily having the skills or experience to be considered an expert.
The final issue is all about support when things go wrong and was brought home to Chris very recently when trying to learn to use a new piece of software. Already familiar with the software company’s general interface through using their other software, Chris watched the excellent video tutorials on their website several times but (because of some settings buried deeply within it) his version of the software didn’t behave like the one on the video. The result: he was totally stuck and but for the intervention of a business associate who was familiar with the particular software I’m afraid ‘stuck’ is probably where he would have remained to this day!
The biggest issue with commercial courses is cost, both in terms of time and money. They are often not local to your business and therefore involve travelling to the venue, which may not even be within the wider region so an overnight stay (or an expensive train ticket) is involved to get you there for the, typically 9am, start. Then the event runs all day and contains far more content than you need in your businiess right now and whilst this extra content may be interesting, it does not contribute to addressing your immediate need. So by the time you take the cost of getting to the course and the extra time away from what you need to be doing in your business before we even get to the cost of the course itself, it can quickly become prohibitively expensive for the return you get (being able to solve your immediate problem).
Rather than be defeated by the apparent lack of a workable solution, Chris decided to use his professional expertise to do something about it, the result was Skills Network.
Chris has a long-held passion for delivering dynamic training solutions that meet the needs of learners in innovative ways in order to stimulate their thirst for knowledge and skills. In recent years he has concentrated on e-learning production and drew inspiration from a debate within the wider e-learning industry around the growing trend for bite-sized courses that can be developed quickly to meet learners’ needs. Combining his passion and this trend led to the core of the Skills Network concept, a whole series of dynamic, bite-sized, expert-led, local training events that would inspire members and could be delivered in a time and cost effective manner.
Unlike networking events where you tend to meet the same people on several occasions, training course participants come together for a specific event and then unless there is a hugely compelling reason or somebody makes a major effort they are unlikely to see each other again. Chris wanted to enhance the Skills Network service by enabling attendees to build meaningful business relationships at the same time as helping them to gain skills so he added designated opportunities for attendees to network with each other and our experts whilst at the event but quickly realised that there was something missing from his vision – a community and way for members to interact before, during and after the events to truly harness the potential of peer-to-peer support as a force for good. Thankfully a chance meeting with an old university friend back in early 2014 subsequently solved the problem for Skills Network through the implementation of an Ambix social intranet which offers members the opportunity to collaborate and network securely online and supports our Market Place functionality allowing members to procure and offer services to fellow members of the community.
Full Skills Network memberships only cost £109 per year and grants members access to all the features of the online platform as well as half price (£10) attendance at our events. For more details visit our membership page