So, you’ve taken all the executive education classes you can withstand, and you offer tuition assistance to employees.
You even continue their training with seminars or presentations by outside speakers.
But did you ever think maybe your clients could use some education and training as well?
Clary Communications did — and decided to offer itself as a resource to fill the need.
Clary is a full-service marketing and communications company, working with clients to either develop marketing communications plans or refine plans that already exist.
As the firm provided everything from media relations and community relations to the development of marketing pieces for clients, its executives engaged in “classic strategic planning” with clients, says Clary Partner Rick Studer.
They also began to see that clients sometimes were not equipped to put the communications plans to work.
“It is not unusual that the knowledge and skills of key people in a company who are going to play a key part in carrying out the marketing plans are not where they need to be,” he says.
“The best tactics in a marketing plan still can only succeed to the degree that people on the inside of the company are responsible for carrying them out — attitudinally, skillwise, knowledgewise,” Studer says. “That can make or break any plan.”
In 1992, when Studer joined the firm, he brought with him skills to qualify him as the firm’s head trainer. He had been a high school teacher and principal for 14 years. He also spent 11 years in a business career as a creator and facilitator of workshops and training programs prior to joining Clary.
Studer and Clary Communications Managing Partner Sandy Clary saw the opportunity to capitalize on that for the good of the firm’s clients by creating training courses related to communication needs.
Every client is different, Studer says, so he customizes the courses, including opportunities for executives and employees.
For example, Clary Communications was helping Consumer Credit Counseling Services develop a three-year strategic plan when it became apparent the nonprofit organization needed some management and employee training. The supervisors and managers at the organization were beginning a relationship with the new president, Michael Kappas, and they also needed to hone their own skills.
“We started with the idea that we, in fact, had a good management team here, but over the course of the past 10, 15 years, not a lot had been done to adequately train and educate supervisors,” Kappas says.
He’s already seen results from Studer’s “Management 101” training, which began in the fourth quarter last year:
Communication among management team members increased dramatically, Kappas says. People previously had reservations approaching management above or below their position.
“That just doesn’t exist here anymore,” Kappas says. “People are willing to put matters, issues, problems on the table for resolution.”
Employees recognize that they’re each different and require different styles of communication.
“Just because someone has an outgoing personality and will talk to everybody, the person sitting next to them might not be that way,” Kappas says.
Management team members are able to resolve conflict at the level it starts rather than letting it escalate to Kappas’ office.
“I don’t need to be involved in every skirmish, every battle, every decision,” he says. “I make sure they know that; they’re here as managers to make decisions.”
Kappas expects the training to continue through the remainder of this year and, in the end, cost approximately $10,000.
“The initial group was eight to 10 of us. What will happen soon is we will evolve into phase two where those supervisors and others will branch off into their individual departments, because my goal is to touch all 150 of our employees directly or indirectly,” he says.
He looks at it as a way to cut down on employee turnover, which not only is disruptive to the business and other employees but also is expensive.
Studer presents a litany of classes, all relating back to Clary’s expertise in communications; customer service, leadership development, making effective presentations, team building, CEO/executive coaching and stress management are among the offerings.
Clary has the advantage in teaching the courses, Studer says, because the firm already is so intimately involved with the clients during the planning process.
“Our learning curve is zero,” he says.
Of course, the training program also has been good for Clary. Obviously the firm has an extra income source, though Studer declined to say what percentage of Clary’s revenues are generated from the training.
“I think it’s helped us almost redefine what full-service means in the whole marketing/communication business,” he says.
“In several cases, it has solidified our relationships with clients,” he says. “Frankly, if we have an ongoing relationship with a client, and we’re doing marketing and communications work, if we also do some training with it, that just helps us know their company even more deeply. That knowledge of them can come back around and strengthen the work we do in the other marketing areas.”
For example, presentations he made to the Columbus Bar Association in the early 1990s spurred on the firm to do increasing amounts of work in the legal community. Those clients came not only because of the law firms’ increased exposure to Clary Communications but also because Clary became more knowledgeable of the marketing challenges law firms face through the presentations.
Studer has also conducted mini versions of some of the training programs internally; for example, the firm has instituted a brown bag lunch series to keep abreast of technological developments as they affect Clary Communications, the marketing industry and the firm’s clients.
Companies make the effort to find the right people and put them in the right jobs, Studer says, but then in the rush of business, people begin doing what they do every day under great pressure.
“When do companies step back,” he asks, “and assess to what degree skills have kept up and people are performing at the max?” How to reach: Clary Communications, www.clarycommunications.com, 481-7534
Joan Slattery Wall ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.