Phoenix Training & Development started in 1995. In that time, the company has been drastically restructured and grown, but remained in the same premises throughout. Tim Holmes, client relationship director, explains why location is of such importance to Phoenix.
Phoenix was started in 1995 by Bill Osmond. Bill originally worked for The Independent, having a sales and management background. He eventually left to work with a training provider but became frustrated with the way trainers operated, finding too little focus on anything but the training day itself. As a result, he left to form his own company. Tim joined Phoenix three and a half years later.
Phoenix has been located at its London Bridge premises, Leathermarket, since the company’s inception. Tim says the area has grown up with the company – it has redeveloped and regenerated since 1995. He believes that with The Shard being constructed in the area, London Bridge will become a premier destination.
While the area has changed since 1995, Phoenix’s clients have not. Tim feels very strongly that location is vital to the company. It’s close to the City, allowing the company access to the corporate market – one of their key targets. Although they are also committed to working with small and medium-sized enterprises, Tim says that they wouldn’t risk excluding large corporations from their clientele by relocating away from the City – “We pay a premium in terms of rates and rent to be in this area, but it remains very important to us.”
Although Phoenix has a city centre location, a large proportion of training occurs off-site. Tim says “Out of 500 training days last year we did perhaps 200 on site. It’s something we’ve always done – we’re based on what the clients want. We have a clear view that training should take place in an environment away from the normal routine. We encourage clients to hold training in third-party venues so they’re not expecting staff to check their emails or anything.”
As well as regularly visiting their clients, Phoenix has also ensured that their on-site training rooms are fully equipped and offer a comfortable, relaxed environment. They often find that it is simply more cost-effective for the client to have one trainer visit them than a team visit the office.
Although the company has no plans to move offices, it is growing rapidly – they saw 45 percent growth last year alone and have doubled in size over the last two years. However, they have no need to expand geographically – the training team are spread around the country. Additionally, the company has global links – a Korean company has licensed their training materials and methods and they are in talks to do the same with a Russian company. Tim says they are also discussing letting out their on-site training rooms as a separate business, but as for other ventures he is quite happy to continue growing the core business.
As well as the training day, Phoenix has a ‘before-and-after’ element with clients, taking a consultative approach. “We want to talk to all stakeholders and clients when we’re at the design stage in order to understand fully what needs to be achieved by training. We deliver fantastic, enjoyable training sessions but we’re also dedicated to feeding back after the event – in order for people to learn things and embed them, we need to do things differently.” Phoenix also follows up with clients and make sure trainers are available to both managers and trainees after a training session.
Another aspect that differentiates Phoenix from other training companies is their full-time team. “Whereas other companies’ trainers would act as a one- or two-man band or be freelancers, who are working for three or four companies, we have a four-strong design team which enables us to add value both before and after,” Tim says. “Phoenix is very client-focused and all about partnerships and relationships – trainers often act almost as mentors to trainees.”
As well as utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) Phoenix pay for lead generation – this puts them in touch with organisations that are actively seeking training. They also attend conferences, which have proven effective – at one conference they had 15 one-to-one meetings and have seen follow-up contact from leads generated at this event.
On the other hand, they have found that some methods, such as exhibitions, are much less productive, and do not tend to use cold calling or paper marketing. Phoenix’s success has largely been driven by the internet – although, as Tim points out: “”When I started, websites were fairly new, people still relied on the Yellow Pages.” He says Phoenix has recently started using social media, especially Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and they frequently update the blog on the company’s homepage. “As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of training, we want to be seen as expert – it’s a good way of keeping in touch with audience.”
While Tim recognises the importance of marketing, he says “It’s extremely time consuming – we’d love to spend more money on it but have to balance it with other activities. We’d like to do more PR – we don’t have a PR agency but are looking at it. There are things we could be doing and aren’t but I don’t think we’re alone in that.”
Tim says that one mistake made with Phoenix was that they didn’t initially have an overview of the company – business owners need to take on different roles one at a time, for example, acting as an entrepreneur one day and a technician the next. Rather than offering advice to new business owners, he recommends that they read a book – The E-Myth Revisited
by Michael Gerber. “In a nutshell, the advice is design your organisation well from the beginning.”