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ATD Blog

12 Winning Strategies for Growing Your TD Business: Pulling It All Together

Thursday, October 26, 2023
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It has been almost a year and a half since I began posting this series of blog posts based on my book 12 Winning Strategies for Building a Talent Development Firm: An Action Planning Guide. In each case, I tried to summarize the main theme for each winning strategy, providing you with insights and lessons learned to guide your growth strategy for your talent development business. Hopefully, you learned enough to apply some of these approaches toward your goal. Early on during this journey, I provided a tool that would allow you to assess which of these strategies were most challenging for you; that is, which ones showed up as relative areas of weakness that you would most benefit by addressing.

As I conclude the series, given perhaps your newly found ideas, it might be useful to do another self-assessment on how you are progressing with each strategy. From this assessment, or in some cases re-assessment, you will be able to tackle what you need to do to improve your chances of growing your business profitably.

What follows is an assessment tool to ground you and assess your status across these winning strategies. But, this time I’ve added some specific questions to ask yourself for each strategy before you do your evaluation. These will help you more fully understand exactly what you are evaluating. As in the original questionnaire, it is followed by a simple scoring guide. As always, be as honest with yourself as possible in thinking through where you need the most help in both establishing and growing your business. Obviously, if you haven’t quite started your business but instead have used the previous blog post to provide yourself with input on what you must do upon your launch, there will still be several of these topics for which you can make a readily honest assessment in terms of your current state. You’ll note that the 12 winning strategies are clustered under three overall categories: getting grounded, creating momentum, and moving forward.

For each question, apply the following scale:
5 = Extremely well: I’ve laid the groundwork and executed on most of it; just need some tightening up.
4 = Pretty good: Some things are in place but still need to shore up a lot.
3 = Somewhat: A little inconsistent with the need to focus much more attention on it.
2 = Not much: Still learning the ropes but am making some progress.
1 = Hardly at all: Taking baby steps in trying to learn what to do.

Getting grounded

To start, it is critical to understand how the industry works, its scope and history, the value proposition on which it is based, and what you personally and professionally want to get from it.

#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?

I understand the dynamics of the talent development industry. Rating: _____

#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 real 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?

I’ve figured out exactly what you want and need from such a business. Rating: _____

#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?

I’ve defined the purpose for my business. Rating: _____

#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?

I’ve created a business plan and structure. Rating: _____

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

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I’ve put together a strategic plan. Rating: _____

#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?

I’ve developed my offer. Rating: _____

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 since a non-profitable business is not sustainable? How will you efficiently meet your business goals?

I’ve established my operating system. Rating: _____

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

I’ve marketed and sold my offer. Rating: _____

#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?

I know and understand who my customers are. Rating: _____

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Moving forward

Surviving is one thing; thriving is quite 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?

I understand the future trends in the industry. Rating: _____

#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 VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Changing, Ambiguous) world?

I’ve established my growth plan. Rating: _____

#12: Exit the business: What are your long-term personal and professional goals? How aligned are they? How can you prepare for when you are ready to hang up your spurs?

I’ve considered and planned an exit strategy. Rating: _____

Total Rating Score (sum of all ratings) = _____

Average Rating Score (sum divided by 12) = _____

As you reflect on your evaluations, you should get a pretty decent picture of just where you need to focus most of your attention going forward with your business. Clearly, these ratings will largely be determined by the extent of your background and experience in the talent development consulting world. If your total rating is in the 48 to 60 range, then perhaps all you need is a little fix here and there with specific focus on those areas in your relatively lower-rated strategies. If you obtained a total rating in the 12 to 24 range, pay detailed attention to most of these topics. And, if you are somewhere in the middle range, take special care of those areas needing the most attention. But, regardless of where you currently find yourself, you would do yourself a disservice if you don’t at least pay heed to the areas currently needing the most improvement.

I hope this has been a helpful conclusion to this series of blog posts and that you have a clearer direction on how to move forward in building and growing your talent development business.

In the coming months, I look forward to sharing with you more operational and growth strategies to assist you in establishing a business that is both satisfying and rewarding.

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].

1 Comment
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Fascinating read! Looking forward to more.
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