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Growing Talent Management Firms: 3 Essential Steps to Success
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
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For those of you who noticed, or even cared, you may have been wondering what happened to me and all those incredibly scintillating blogs (☺) on how to grow a talent development firm. Yes, I stopped writing about seven months ago and not from writer’s cramp. It was a very good reason I am pleased to relay. After a developing talent management firms for a little more than two years, ATD suggested I consider writing a book on the topic. I’m happy to announce that The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm is expected to be published in February, 2017! In anticipation, I wanted to whet your appetite with some information. 

The first place to start, then, is to share with you the almost final contents so you can get an idea of the book’s coverage. It will be organized into three sections: Getting Grounded, Building Momentum, and Moving Forward, each of which will contain several chapters. Here’s a brief overview of what each section will cover. 

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 the important drivers shaping it today and in the future. How will these factors fit with your entrepreneurial spirit and inclination? It’s important to understand exactly what you expect to achieve from creating or growing a business in this field. As the Rolling Stones’ song goes: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you find you get what you need.” 

What kind of business do you want to build and grow? Distinguishing what you want from what you need is an important initial step to getting grounded. Only then can you begin thinking through how you will differentiate your business. This includes getting an accurate sense of what intellectual property you will bring to the business, and what part of it you actually own. 

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Building Momentum 

Having established a firm basis for your business, you can begin managing it productively and sustainably over the long haul. The first step in this process is creating a differentiated offer, then marketing it. Building a business development engine is to the goal. How you go about selling your offer will largely depend on your proclivity for selling and the nature of your offer.  

Operating any business involves several interrelated components, including establishing a capable management process and team, scaling the business, managing your customers, and creating workable systems and processes, all of which will be determined by how large a business you decide to build. This is where strategy and execution cross paths. To be successful, you need to commit to both.

Moving Forward 

As you grow, you will encounter barriers and hurdles you will need to jump around and over. How you go about overcoming these will in large part define your ultimate success. Being able to adjust to whatever is put before you is a critical skill and mindset you will need to develop. You may even want to form an advisory group of people who have “been there, done that” to help you. Assuming nothing catastrophic gets in the way of the business, it will be important to focus on not only the current state, but also the future pathways to growth. 

So, there you have it: Three essential steps to building and growing a successful talent development business. Of course, the book will provide significantly more detail, including a process you can use to reflect on what you need to do to be successful. Over the next few months before the book’s release, I will offer more tips on what it will take to build your business. In the meantime, think about these two questions: What level of interest do you have in building and growing such a business? How much are you willing to commit and sacrifice to do so?

About the Author

Dr. Cohen is a 40+ year veteran of the talent management industry having founded and/or led eight different business entities in the field. He currently is in private practice focused on strategic and business planning including senior leadership development. He also has served on 19 different advisory Boards for firms in the training and education sector helping them effectively navigate their growth strategies. He can be reached at: steve@strategicleadershipcollaborative or 952-942-7291 and his website is: www.strategicleadershipcollaborative.com.

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