Two problems, one solution Featured

5:20am EDT April 29, 2003
You might be inclined to call the relationship between Development Dimensions International and Community College of Allegheny County a marriage of great convenience.

DDI saw a huge yet hard-to-reach market among small and mid-sized companies for its leadership and work force development training products. CCAC had a need to acquire such training products for its clients, mostly smaller businesses with limited budgets.

For Bridgeville-based DDI, it was a question of scale. DDI's sales force works most efficiently by contacting a limited number of large employers -- among its clients are HCA Corp. and BASF Corp. -- then selling products and consulting services broadly to those organizations, which often have complex needs on many levels. To expend the resources required to close deals with smaller firms, however -- those with fewer than 500 employees -- isn't nearly as cost-effective.

That segment of the market is growing, however, so about 18 months ago, DDI's CEO, Bill Byham, directed Jane Whitmore, DDI's manager of strategic channel development, to launch a full-court press to recruit community colleges nationally.

One obvious target was CCAC, which delivers training to approximately 60 client companies. For CCAC, pairing with DDI was a good match, says David Just, dean of the Institute for Corporate & Professional Development at CCAC.

"Smaller companies usually don't have access to this kind of training," says Just.

The coursework focuses on skill-building, targeting effective leadership essentials such as managing performance and productivity, building mutual trust, personal and group effectiveness and decision-making. CCAC customizes the curriculum to fit the specific needs of each employer and delivers it through trainers certified by DDI.

The relationship also makes sense, says Just, because of DDI's name recognition in the region, a factor that adds credibility for local businesses. DDI has been developing and offering such training since Byham founded the company in 1970.

To smooth the path for businesses, CCAC can often identify grants and other sources of funding for training that will cover some or all of the costs, says Just.

DDI currently has relationships with schools in several states, including North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and Wyoming. The demand for content is strong, says Whitmore, adding that hardly a week passes when she doesn't close on an agreement with a school.

And there's an economic incentive for the colleges, because they are looking for new revenue streams to offset funding cuts or restrictions in other areas. For DDI, it seems that the picture could hardly be more optimistic.

Says Whitmore: "There's a need, a willingness and an openness." How to reach: DDI Inc.,; Community College of Allegheny County,