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ATD Blog

12 Winning Strategies for Growing Your TD Business

Monday, June 20, 2022

Over eight years ago, I was honored to be asked by ATD to start a blog series for both current and aspiring business owners in the industry. After the initial two years, I converted those early blogs into an ATD-published book, The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm, and numerous webinars presented to ATD chapters. Now, more than 50 blogs later, I realize that these relatively random topics have a pattern to them. In fact, they could be classified into 12 strategies that fall within three groups of steps of how to build a successful talent development business. The result of this introspection and analysis is my latest book, 12 Winning Strategies for Building a Talent Development Firm: An Action Planning Guide.

In moving forward with these blogs, I want to share these strategies with you as you consider either starting a new or building on your current business. While these 12 strategies are more iterative than sequential, they do offer a methodical approach. More importantly, they offer a recipe for the ingredients required for success—the amounts, order, and timing of these ingredients will vary depending on your own spin on your business model and personal objectives.

The questions below will help you to think about how these strategies are likely to play out.

Getting Grounded

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Get your ducks in a row before you embark on this journey to enable your success.

1. Understand the industry dynamics. Do you know what you are getting yourself into? How does the industry really work? Who are your current and potential competitors?

2. Figure out what you want and need. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try hard, you can get what you need.” Are you clear on what your objectives are and how much you are willing to sacrifice to achieve them?

3. Define your purpose. Why are you doing this in the first place? Do you have a clear vision and mission for what you want to accomplish?

4. Create a business plan and structure. What is your total addressable market, and how are you going to set up your business to reach it? What is the business model that makes the most sense given what you want to achieve both personally and professionally?


5. Put together a strategic plan. A vision without a plan is a certain recipe for failure. Where are you going and how will you get there, and in how much time?

6. Develop your offer. With the above relatively settled, it is time to create the products or services you want to bring to the market. Where will you find the relevant content? How will you deliver these to your target market?

Creating Momentum

With a strong foundation in place of what your business looks like, it is now time to build a replicable, sustainable, and flexible infrastructure for it to survive.

7. Establish your operating system. How do you plan to make money when a nonprofitable business is not sustainable? How will you efficiently meet your business goals?

8. Market and sell your offer. Some great offers gather dust on their proverbial shelves. How will you ensure yours get to the right customers in the right time for the right price?


9. Serve your customers. Selling is just one small cog in building your business. How will you ensure you are able to satisfy your clients? How can you create loyal customers that keep coming back for more?

Moving Forward

Surviving is one thing; thriving is another as it requires continued growth. And growth requires keen insight into where your market is going and how you will take advantage of it with your offer.

10. Recognize future trends. The future is now and moving at an increasingly fast pace. How will you prepare for the inevitable changing industry landscape? How will you stay relevant through these times?

11. Establish your growth plan. How can you ensure you will continue to grow despite changing internal and external conditions? How are you prepared for the volatile, uncertain, changing, and ambiguous (VUCA) world?

12. Exit the business. What are your long-term personal and professional goals? How aligned are they? How can you prepare for the time when you are ready to leave?

In the coming months, I look forward to sharing with you the details around each of these strategies to assist you in establishing a business that is both satisfying and rewarding. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

About the Author

Steve Cohen is founder and principal of the Strategic Leadership Collaborative, a private consulting practice focused on business strategy and development. A 40+ year veteran of the talent development industry, largely on the supplier side, he has demonstrated a proven track record for building equity by growing top and bottom-line performance for eight different consulting enterprises in the education and training industry he has either founded and/or led. He has been called on to consult with numerous firms needing strategic planning guidance, business coaching, and board advisory services.

His first book, The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm, was published by ATD in 2017. His recent follow-up, 12 Winning Strategies for Building a Talent Development Firm is now available on Amazon.

He can be reached at: 952.942.7291 or [email protected].

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