Trainiac: Rob Dennison

Trainiac: Rob Dennison


How did you identify the market opportunity?

I looked at ways to play to my own strengths. There was no capital outlay required to get into the training sector, which was one of the major draw cards. When we battled to find content, my instinct was to take a different approach. Off-the-shelf corporate training programmes are simply not geared to the South African business world.

Where did you find start-up capital?

It’s almost impossible to access start-up capital in South Africa. The company was up and running for eight months before we started to make any decent money. In the meantime, I used my bond, my credit card and my savings.

What was your differentiator?

The picture part, without a doubt. It remains the most original and important element of our business and continues to distinguish Trainiac from other training companies. It’s the best way to deal with the challenges of having to train people in a country with 11 official languages. We’re contributing to nation building by developing something that is applicable to our own unique environment.

Can you identify what your big break was?

Our first big break came when we decided on picture-based learning at the cost of everything else. From the beginning we pounded the pavements, and we landed a few high-end corporate clients almost immediately. When you have clients like BP, Mr Price and Barclays from the start, you are already in a different league from your competitors.

What was your sales strategy?

We had hoped to form alliances and to get other people to sell our products for us, but that was a diabolical failure. So we built our own sales force, even though it’s uncommon for training and consulting companies to have an internal sales team. We targeted the biggest companies form the outset, and today we have 50 big corporate clients on our books.

What was your marketing strategy?

The strongest component of our marketing strategy is direct sales and because we are selling such a different product, we aim to be as different as possible in the way we sell it. The nature of our work is visual, so past material is the best sales collateral we could have.

Growth strategy

In the beginning the aim was survival. Now we are focusing on consolidation and growth. The growth path is dictated by finances – we may double the size of the business every year, but we are still operating from a small base.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced? 

Cash is a real obstacle for a small business with a long sales cycle. You need cash so that you can sit back and exhale once in a while. But you also need it to invest in growth. Our cash flow management system lets us view our financial position at any point in time. We do not push the limits we have set as that would only jeopardise the stability of the business. Finding good people has been another challenge. We’ve established a relationship with Wits Business School and we are attracting young post-graduates who want to be part of a creative learning environment.

Recommended reading

The E Myth: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What To Do About It by Michael Gerber and Re-imagine! by Tom Peters

Final word

Every business owner has a moment when they stress about money. There is no better source of income than customers,  so when you need money, make another sale!

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