C. Michael Ferraro
President and CEO, TRAINING SOLUTIONS Inc. (TSI)
In 1995 Michael Ferraro founded TSI, a global provider of
performance development training programs, human resources
services, and executive and workforce coaching. Prior to
consulting, he spent the majority of his career training and
developing managers in the retail industry. Ferraro is chairman of
the Bite Me Cancer Foundations Board of Directors, chair-elect of
the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and public policy advisor
Q| What sparked your initial interest in the training and
A| At age 20 I was a store manager at a retail company when senior
management asked me to help train assistant store managers. It was
an in-store training program, one-on-one mostly.
My role was to manage my store and train my assistants to manage
and supervise their own retail outlets. They were tested after the
six-month training program, and if they passed, they were promoted
to store manager. I was fortunate to train more than 25 assistants
while I worked there.
Q| What skills or competencies helped you to advance in your
A| I think the skills that made me successful in my retail career
have helped me in my consulting career as well. The ability to
communicate, listen well, and build relationships helped
tremendously in my retail career. Also, the ability to effectively
market and sell products and services in the stores has helped me
to sell the products and services for our company.
Q| How did your experience recruiting and training employees in the
retail industry prepare you to establish your own training and
A| At the end of my retail career, I was working as the training
manager for a firm that eventually declared chapter 11 bankruptcy.
I decided to do some networking—using my people skills—to see what
other training jobs were available. I joined my local chapter of
ASTD (MetroDC) and met a great group of consultants who provided
products and services to their clients and worked from their homes.
Many of their programs were similar to those I offered my internal
clients at my prior employer. So I decided to try my hand at
starting my own firm. I had always thought about establishing my
own business, and it was the right time to do it.
Q| What advice would you give to professionals who are considering
breaking into the consulting world?
A| Start building your professional network now: Join your local
ASTD chapter and other associations, volunteer your time, and build
relationships. You should decide what your business focus will be;
you can't be all things to all people, so know your niche. Join your
local chamber of commerce; it will teach you about the local
business environment and connect you with decision makers who can
purchase your products or services.
Q| How do you stay current in the field today?
A| I talk to our customers on a regular basis to get a sense of
what they are working on and their upcoming plans and challenges. I
try to read as much as I can, and I participate in business and
workforce-related conferences to remain connected with the local
business environment. I meet with local consultants and exchange
thoughts about what we see happening with our customers. And of
course, I attend ASTD's international conference every year to stay
updated on trends in the profession.
Q| What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from your
A| My ability to accept and manage the ups and the downs of my
career is one of the greatest lessons I've learned. The journey is
never as great as you think it is; and similarly, it's never as bad
as you think. Enjoy the good times—the work promotions and business
successes—as much as you can, but not too much because the tough
times will come. When you are unemployed (like I was), or business
is not as great as you want it to be, do not worry; things will be
better. To quote my daughter Nikki: Anything is possible, if you