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EP 02: Secrets to Securing Repeat Business with Customer Loyalty
Episode 216th April 2024 • Learning Matters • ttcInnovations
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Join us as we chat with Debbie Wooldridge, CEO and Founder of ttcInnovations, as she shares the key business strategies for building a sustainable learning and development company. Debbie shares her journey of reaching the million-dollar milestone, highlighting challenges in expanding her client base and positioning the company as a partner rather than just an outsourced solution. Emphasizing authenticity, integrity, and continuous improvement, Debbie also discusses strategies for staying motivated and overcoming common entrepreneurial challenges like burnout, alongside tactics for long-term success. She found growth opportunities through programs like Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses, gaining new perspectives and ideas for her company.

 Debbie also talks about launching a new service, Innovators on Demand®, which helps clients find temporary staff augmentation workers when they need them. This program became really important for ttcInnovations and led them to start offering subscription learning services. She also shares the process of acquiring another company, Dash and Thompson, LLC, and how important it is to have a good company culture. Listen in as Debbie shares what’s on the horizon for the future of ttcInnovations and Dashe!


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Tune into Part 1 of Debbie's story: From Corporate Instructional Designer to 6-Figure Freelancer in 1 Year:

Sharpen your instructional design skills with IDOL Academy, the ultimate career accelerator for designers and developers! Use code “ttc” for 10% off (affiliate link).

How to Launch Your Career as an L&D Consultant:

How Learning Leaders Can Create a Learning Culture in Organizations:

3 Ways to Reinforce Culture & Values in Your Training Curriculum:

Tailoring Solutions: Budget-Conscious Learning Alternatives to Propose to Your Clients:


At ttcInnovations, we help businesses create lasting change with immersive learning experiences. Through instructional strategy, design, and content development we empower employee confidence, performance, and results.


💡 Looking for custom learning experiences without licensing fees? Contact us for a free consultation!

🤝 Need extra hands fast? Try staff augmentation! Click here to get matched with experts in 48 hours - no job posting needed.

🚀 Simplify outsourcing with our subscription plans - predictable pricing and limitless innovation. Book a meeting for your free first week!

🎯 Boost results with serious games for optimal retention and results. Contact our Dashe team to get started!


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Welcome back to Learning Matters, your go -to podcast for all things L &D. In this episode, we'll continue our discussion with CEO and founder of TTC Innovations, Debbie Woltridge, as she discusses crossing that million dollar milestone in sales for a small business, as well as how she continued to grow, adapt, and transform the company into what it is today. Let's get to the interview. Well, thank you for coming back onto the podcast with us, Debbie.

year and that was from April:

I mean, I wish I would have had that foresight and it would have made me more relaxed. But what I was concerned was is that year one was just an anomaly because, you know, year one, I was, it was transitioning over from just purchasing, technically right. So I had their clients, we were finishing up projects with them. Really, we hadn't brought on.

anything new that was specifically just mine that I had located. I was out on all the job boards. I was posting stuff. Back then they didn't have like Upworks. They had like a guru .com or whatever. It was kind of more of an HTML. It was horribly antiquated. It was impossible to search on. But I logged on to every one of those as a person trying to get business. I was on government portals. I was...

doing the state of Kansas, we were trying to bid on initiatives, but I didn't really know how do you find work. So I mean, I would just splatter shot, tried everything. Luckily, however, what ended up happening is that Bank of America was so happy with the initiative that we had worked on that first year that they came back and said, we have this other piece where they were bringing Idaho and the state of Washington,

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onto an existing platform with their legacy system. So they were wanting to transition those two states off of all of the banking systems that they were using. So they needed a ton of training to transition the employees to the new material or to the new systems. And so they reached out and said, hey, can you build us a bunch of training? And I was like, sure, of course we can.

No idea how to do it. And that's really when we started utilizing a lot of those tools from the bank that they had provided us access to. I think I mentioned in the first podcast episode, our first recording about the knowledge and system that the bank was using. And we kind of self -learned how to build learning solutions in that. So we built some simulations in that. We wrote an incredible amount of instructor -led training. A lot of

training back in the day was really instructor led. They would bring you into the classroom, the leader that facilitated those sessions would walk you through the system. There was no training environment. So basically you were looking at PowerPoints trying to figure out what you were supposed to do. And then they did have some simulation tools. So we used the knowledge and simulation tools to give them a chance to pretend touch the system. But had it not

been for that, I think I would have been like, I'm going to brick wall. I don't know where to go from here with this company. But it was that trust that the bank had in us and their willingness to work with a company as small as mine to make it happen. And then we just kind of kept getting another new project. And it was like, every time we'd get close to finishing one, I had that panic.

Like what was gonna happen next? I mean, I don't know how to do this. Where am I gonna get our next activity or our next initiative? And then several of the other clients that were part of that purchase that I brought over from Technically Right ended up needing a few training solutions. So we kept some of them on for a good few years before I brought on my own clients. But before I know it, we had finished year two and it was just piecemeal.

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small projects, nothing, no big massive initiative, but it was a bunch of small projects. And we had a very, very small group of people who were building the solutions. Uh, and I looked at the report and I was like, Hey, we broke a million bucks. And how did it feel when you looked at the books and you see, Oh my gosh, we did it. Yeah. I, you know, in my entire professional career, I just didn't even have any.

idea of what that could feel like or be to work in a company, to own a company, or to bring in a million dollars worth of business in one year. I mean, it just seems like that felt like just this magic that was not possible. And honestly, I don't even think along the way throughout the months as we were booking business and building out learning solutions, I wasn't even looking at it like.

we just book one more project, we're gonna hit the million dollar mark. I'd never even looked at it like that because I never thought that that was gonna be a possibility. I mean, I totally thought year one was such an anomaly because when Lori sold me the business, she shared with me that in all the years that she owned the business, 700 ,000 was her very best year ever and that had only happened once. So.

My assumption was that, you know, that was our gear, that was our good year, and that everything from there on out was going to be less than. So I just didn't have any expectation. And we, there was just so many hours that we were working and building. And it was such a small group of people who were building these solutions. It was myself, it was Garrett Pack, who came over with, from Lori Fry's company. He,

worked for Lori Fry and came over as part of the acquisition. Amazing technology developer, just willing to learn and do and troubleshoot just about anything. Super, super strong talent. Keisha Dugan, who I had brought in. Dana Jansen, who I had brought in from previous work. My brother John was working for us as well doing technology development.

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And then I had a couple of other writers that I had brought over from Technically Right who were really traditionally technical writers and so I worked closely with them to transition that skill set into instructional design. One of them ended up transitioning pretty well and stuck around. The rest of them eventually felt like, you know, that wasn't the direction they wanted their career to go and so they began to fall away and I started losing contractors at that point.

And so it was time for me to kind of figure out if we're going to do a million dollars this year, what's next year going to look like. And I can't do it with this very small group. And so that's kind of when I started to look at who else could we bring into the company and, and who else could provide instructional design services. Definitely. And before we get into how you kind of built up your bench of contractors,

What did you do to celebrate this $1 million milestone? I wish I would have done something amazing. I think honestly, I know that your dad, my husband and I, we went out to dinner, your dad and I went out to dinner to celebrate. But honestly,

I didn't know what to make of it and I didn't even know if the numbers were real. So, you know, we did buy a new car for Chris, my husband, he needed a new truck. So we bought a new car and that was kind of the big, I guess that would be considered the big celebration, but that was really the only major change. And again, I had that moment where I was like, holy cannoli, I just, we,

just did that, did we really break a million dollars? But then the fear sets right back in because that's today. And now what are we gonna do tomorrow? And now I had built the team up a little bit. So now there were more people who were looking to me saying, when's my next project? Hey, I'm freeing up, I just finished, what can you offer me next? And now it was kind of that sense of,

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we've got to keep driving this business forward and how do you then replicate the million dollars into year three and the fear that, okay, maybe year one and year two were anomaly years and could we do this again? And I think that that was really the bigger challenge for myself and that was the moment where I was like, we gotta do this again. We can do this. This can be a recurring.

million dollar business, we can do this, we got it. And I think that that was really, that momentum was to, I wasn't thinking so far down the line where it was like, when's we're gonna hit an extra million on top of that. It was really, let's match it, let's get a million again. And that was really the goal going into year three was let's hit a million again. And what was your guys' strategy going into that year three just to try to get back to that original benchmark of one mil?

So that was the point at which I actually brought in my first consultant business development team member because I knew that if we were going to remain consistently at that million dollar marker, if we were going to have consistent work coming in, that we needed to broaden the clients that we worked with. So I hired a consultant to come in and do business development. She was...

the idea of outsourcing. And:

a typical strategy for companies. I mean, typically, if they had a need, they hired employees, their employees did the work, and people considered outsourcing when you hired offshore. That was outsourcing. And in fact, there was actually a sitcom that came out around that time. And it was...

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I think it was called Outsourced. And I thought, oh, well, it's a super funny show. It was hilarious. But it kind of demonstrated the worst of all things of using outsourced solutions. And I thought at the time, oh, no, this is going to kill my business. This is what people are going to think. So then trying to figure out how do we position what we do.

to new companies who hadn't heard of us in a new way that didn't use words like outsource solution because that just was not, it wasn't really recognized as a value add. Right, and so what were those maybe keywords that you were using when trying to market yourself to these new clients as opposed to outsourcing?

So we really focused with them about, and this is kind of where that concept of that, we didn't phrase it as lovely as our marketing team has now, but that extra pair of hands you don't have to hold. We really talked about being that extension of your team. And that's where that concept really originated with TTC and trying to really ensure that our clients felt like we were their partner. We had the same,

team members working with the same clients on similar projects over and over and over again, they began to feel like our team was really just part of their team. And I think that that is really what we knew we could sell that was unique to our company in that you didn't just outsource to this nameless entity, you were bringing in a partner.

that could help you and your team be successful. And so it really felt more like this partnership. I mean, I literally was at the phone and available for any client. It didn't matter who the client was. I was answering the phone. I never saw myself as a CEO or this head of a company. I saw myself as part of this partnership. And so I wanted to...

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to be available and I thought it was important for me to be available to the clients all the time, which is why I was having some struggles with having this consultant doing sales for us because I felt that was so inauthentic to who I was because then it's somebody out there talking it up as a sales proposition to new business and it didn't last long. Within a few months I realized it doesn't feel right to me.

At that point, what I knew was is if we wanted to grow, we had to grow with what we knew. And that was we had to get the partners that we worked with, with the companies that we worked with, to share our name within their organization and to bring in other business partners from their organization and for us to grow very organically with the clients that we had. And what was the client's response to this type of

true hands -on, this white glove type of service. I mean, is this something that they were even used to within working with other vendors that were in the similar realm of TTC? Yeah, I think it did set us apart. And I think many companies were used to using some of the big consulting firms. And when you do that, you have a core team member that you may work with on a regular basis. But...

you didn't pick up the phone and dial the CEO of the company. And I wanted to be that point of contact. And in those early years, it truly was the amount of things that I did during my work day, during the business day was really talking with the clients, intaking new projects, talking about what could be new solutions. And then I spent my night writing, doing instructional design work because we still had to get the work done. So there was this,

you know, point in time where there were a lot of hours at the computer and I think it's what made us successful but it's also what made me feel really overwhelmed very early on in the company and realizing that I needed more people.

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And so just to take this to kind of more of a philosophical side of things, I know a lot of listeners are going to hear this story and think, how can I find success like this in my company or Endeavor, or maybe it seems impossible to figure out where even to start. So when it comes to either creating your own business or maybe just finding success and joy and passion within your own career,

Do you have any advice for our listeners? Any words of wisdom to pass on to the folks listening? I don't know how many words of wisdom there are, but I'll tell you what my strategy was. And honestly, in every job that I had building myself up to this company, the one thing that I knew I needed for me was to be authentically me. I couldn't be this person. I couldn't be this person.

act the part of, that's just not who I am. And the other thing that I knew that I hold true still today is I have to look at myself in the mirror every single day and think, did I do the right thing for the people that I work with, for my clients and for myself? I have to live with myself. And for me, that means integrity has been.

that linchpin is the thing that drives me. It doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes. It doesn't mean that I don't make a wrong choice because I do. I've made plenty of wrong decisions and produce something that I wasn't proud of because I didn't either ask the right questions or I didn't have the right skill set, the right knowledge. And I've always believed it's how you recover from your errors.

that really tells the client what kind of company you are. And I do believe that we have always been that company and a part of that partnership is to say, you know what, we didn't do you right there and we're gonna fix this. Please give us a chance to take this and repair it and make it better. And if you don't have time for us to fix this, we'd love for you to give us a chance and here's what we're gonna do different next time. And I do think that,

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If we were perfect all the time, I think clients wouldn't feel that relationship with us because they don't, because I think they learn more about you when you do fail. I think they see more of who you really are when you fail. Because it's easy to come out of the gate, do something great and walk away. And people are like, oh, that was amazing. But.

you know, over 20 plus years when you build those relationships with clients, not everything's going to be amazing or perfect out of the gate. And it's how you recover that tells them what kind of relationship you are with them, what kind of partner you are with them. Definitely. And let's keep on this subject for just a little bit. So as someone who has been committed to this path for now 23 years, how have you kept that drive going? So, uh,

what would you suggest to other entrepreneurs to help them keep motivated and driving towards success? For me, it's always figuring out what's next. What can we do next in the company? What can I do next? I love when a new software comes out. Not that I know software, but I'm like, I want to play with that. I want to see how it works. I want to see how we can.

integrated into our company or bringing on a new client. I mean, it's always looking for that next challenge. I am absolutely somebody who doesn't do well with the status quo. Now that can be very dramatically challenging for those people working around me. And I have heard change fatigue more than once in my leadership here at TTC innovations. And I'm often reminded.

by our team and by our employees and consultants and even our clients that everything doesn't have to change all the time. And that's great. And they're right. Take the time, breathe, enjoy. But for me to continue to do something year after year, I have to be looking at how can I do it better? How can I do it differently? Or is there a whole different approach? Is there a different type of company that we could be?

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So change, that's how I keep at it. I love it. And was there any moment or moments along the road where you felt like maybe I've taken this company as far as it can go? And if so, how did you overcome those little brick walls of where you're like, I don't know which way to turn or I don't know if this is the right direction forward. Yeah, yeah. You know, I did hit a spot where I feel like,

you know, we've been doing this year after year. We're doing it well. We had a decent client base. But I felt like I didn't know anything new and I didn't know what else I could be doing. I didn't know what questions to ask. And I got an email, I just randomly got an email from the Small Business Administration and they were sharing that Goldman Sachs had a program for

company owners for, yeah, it was like 10 ,000 small businesses. So Goldman Sachs had funded this initiative that they wanted to educate CEOs of 10 ,000 small businesses to help them get better. So they invested a ton of money and you had to apply to get into the course. And I thought, man, this could be something because going to a program that would give me,

ideas of what else could there be might be this great thing. So I nervously, you had to fill out this online application and I feel it was just pages and pages and you had to have all these criteria. You had to have made more than a million dollars consistently for I think five years. You had to be in business for more than a certain number of years. You had to have so many, there were a lot of criteria you had to meet to qualify. Because they wanted somebody who they knew that they could groom and continue to grow versus.

this program was not designed for teaching somebody to become an entrepreneur. So I applied for it and then I didn't hear anything back and I was like, oh, okay, well, that's a bummer. It was like this four month course and you had to commit to going every Friday up to Long Beach, which for me was about an hour drive from my home. And so I thought, well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be, that's kind of a commitment and okay.

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And I was actually up in Mammoth skiing and I got this phone call and it was somebody vetting for this program. And I had just came off the slopes. I mean, I literally I had a baggie with my lunch and they were like quizzing me. It was like this interview. Oh, my gosh. And I was like, oh, snap. And so they were, you know, it was just kind of on the spot, which was their intention was to catch you a bit off guard and get get the real you.

So they asked me a bunch of questions and then I finally said, you know guys, this is exciting, I really hope that you consider me but I just need to share that. And I kind of told them that I was actually on vacation and that, but I was thrilled and hopeful that I could continue the project. And they said, oh, well when are you gonna be back in town because you've made it to the next round and we need to schedule your face -to -face interview and we'd like to do it next week. I was up at Mammoth still for a schedule to be up there for another couple.

weeks. Oh no. Yeah. Luckily though, they were so gracious about it and they said, you know what, we'll do an individual interview with you if you can come. And they gave me a date to come when I got back and you had to bring all your tax returns. I mean, it was, it was intense. It was just, it was, it was such a good experience because I had to pull all of my financials together. I had to really come up with what was my business plan in the past? What was my current business plan?

And there were a lot of things that I had never really officially put together. So even just getting ready for this interview, I think was very beneficial for me. So I went into the interview and they were gracious and kind, but I really felt like I was applying for college. I was so nervous. It was so hard. They asked great questions and they called me a couple of days later and said, congratulations, you're going to be part of this next cohort.

and we need you to commit and you had to sign a commitment that you were going to go to the class. I really think that that was that moment in time where I feel like I finally figured out how I could grow this company in a different direction. That program, I would highly recommend it to any business owner or CEO that is looking to how do you take the next step with your company.

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Because they challenge you they bring in experts you spend a lot of time learning some of the basics Which you know, I started this company not knowing anything about how to really run a business I didn't write really think through a balance sheet Profit and loss going to a bank for a loan. I mean, there are just so many things that you learn on the fly when you start a business and This program really taught me how to do it the right way. I

So it really gave me an opportunity and they also, the thing I think that I had the most value out of this program was that what you had to come up with was your growth strategy for your company. And that was what I had, what was missing, I think, for me was that I didn't have a growth strategy. We were just plugging along doing our thing. So I had to really sit back and figure out what is our growth strategy and what do we want to do with the company?

And that's how innovators on demand came to fruition was because I had to take a look at what our company was doing currently and what we could do as an added service that made sense, that would meet a need of our clients. And so can you give us a little bit of detail on what the innovators on demand program is? So it's staff augmentation.

And what we do is we meet with our clients and we identify when they're missing a team member because they either don't have headcount approval or they have a team member who's going to be out of the office, think maternity leave or paternity leave or a sabbatical. Or they potentially are trying to launch a new initiative and they don't have the talent that they need to do that.

then they're looking for a partner to bring in talent as an individual. Traditionally, TTC Innovations was built around that project -based services. You bring in as an initiative, we bring a team, and we build out your learning solution. Innovators on Demand gave us an opportunity to really work one -on -one with our clients and to provide talent that was unique and different and fulfilled these gaps that our clients were having.

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And we had had a few opportunities to, I guess, test that market with Bank of America, ironically, because they had asked us for, hey, we love this project team member, and we have a senior instructional designer who's going to be gone. Can we borrow Sandy Ryan? And so we had plugged and played a little bit with that, but it wasn't really a model. It wasn't something that we promoted. It definitely was not something that we planned for.

So when I was working in the class, what I realized is that this could truly be a market. And that was the official launch of that as a service for our company. And without Goldman Sachs program, 10 ,000 small businesses, I don't think that would have happened. I think that it wouldn't have been a vision that I would have come up with independently. And what was the client's response to this brand new service that you were offering them? Was it something that they jumped on immediately?

Oh my gosh, this is exactly what we needed. You know, I think interestingly enough, it's how we got in the door with new clients. Our existing clients were like, yeah, you already do that for us. So great, you've got a cool name. And everybody loved the name Innovators on Demand, by the way. So I think that they were like, yeah, that's great. That's a great name, but we're doing this already. But what we found...

was that it opened the door to some new markets. So for instance, when we began our work over at Metta, we thought we were going to be doing project -based services. And so we were all geared up to give them a project team. And we had a very small project team working on a very small initiative. And we got a phone call. And they said, hey, we need some learning project managers. We need just people. I need five learning project managers. Can you staff it?

And I said, yes, of course. And then I called HR team, I called Dana and I said, Hey, guess what? I just committed to us doing. Um, and, uh, you know, I feel like that might be a common occurrence. I think I do kind of do that quite frequently and that's okay. Um, but that it was just, that was a great instance of where we knew at that point.

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that this service was going to be something that would help us get a foothold. When we began our work with the pharmaceutical company that we brought on board, they were looking specifically for a firm that could provide experience learning, learning experience architects. And they wanted those people to be really embedded in the industry of learning and development. And had we not had innovators on demand, the,

the learning lead from that company that stopped at a booth that we were at would never have spent any time with us because she was only looking for a company that could provide talented individuals to fulfill specific roles in that organization. And that company has been just a huge side for us and has really given us an opportunity to shine and given us.

an opportunity to place 30, 40 innovators on demand at a time over their filling contracts. And is this something that anyone else in the industry was doing at the time or was it more still that custom based, project based style of development for folks? A lot of companies were still doing the project based services and there were some companies that were starting to talk about staff augmentation. And

There were a couple companies, firms about our size that only did staff augmentation. So we were not the first and only people to do it, but it was really that transition from project -based services only to this add -on new service. And it was a new way for us to use the talent that we had. I wish I could say that I was the brilliant.

mind that came up with a concept, but staff augmentation and contingent workers and staffing services have been around for years and years. In fact, as you remember, Dana Jansen was a contingent worker staffing service type person. So I always think of her when I think about innovators on demand as maybe that kind of played into that mindset of, oh yeah, that's what you do. You provide staffing services for companies. Well, I think.

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One of the things that is important for any type of success in business is being able to try to see which way the winds are blowing. And so I think ultimately with the IOD program, the innovators on demand program, you saw that there was a need within the market and all of a sudden, whether or not your clients knew that it was happening or whether or not it brought on new clients, it ended up.

being successful because it was truly a need that they, whether they knew they needed it or whether they were searching it out, ended up utilizing. So when the program first went into effect, what was the share of business for that as opposed to project -based services? So we originally it was around 10 to 20 % of the business kind of depending.

I think we hit 20 % of the business maybe by the end of the first year from launch. And then the next year we set a goal of innovators on demand being 40 % of our company business. And that year innovators on demand actually ended up being 60 % of our business. So it was just amazing how it flipped the switch that quickly. A big piece of it was because we landed the pharmaceutical client.

everything that they did was innovators on demand and then Metta was also, we'd also started working with Metta. So it ended up being 60%. Last year it was about 50 -50. And this year with, this year we've launched, well end of last year we launched the new subscription learning services. And so now we're trying to get that line of business to kind of compete, be part of that mix of services. So.

Right. And can you tell us a little bit about the subscription based services? Yeah. So subscription learning services is actually the brainchild of one of our relationship managers, Brady. He came to me one day and he said, Hey, what do you think if we thought of a way to offer our services as recurring revenue? And I was like, that sounds way amazing. I just can't, I can't picture how that would work. So he went back and he kind of,

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mapped this out and thought through what could this look like and then presented to me the strategy he was looking at. We had a lot of questions back and forth about how could this work in learning services because how do you set up a standard price point? I mean, if you think about a typical subscription service, I mean, you've got Netflix and you pay a set fee and you have access to all of these movies, shows, whatever.

and your fees the same. So how do you do that in learning services? Because if you have this set fee and you have it open to all of this potential learning services, how do you make money off of that? And what we realized, and it really took the full team. I mean, this brainchild was Brady's 100%, but then bringing in.

all of the team to really think about the strategy, bringing in our HR partners to talk about how do you staff this, bringing in our operations team, how do you operationalize this? And then of course, the rest of the sales team, how do you even sell this to a client? And what we realized is that it solved this huge problem that we hadn't even thought of before. And this is that for our clients' sake, they don't know what they don't know. And so,

You know, they start a particular year and they know that they've got X number of dollars for budget for the year, but they have no idea what kind of training needs are going to come in at them. And so for our client partners, it really gave them an opportunity to say, it's OK that we don't know what we need today because if we have this subscription service, we can pay a flat rate fee and know that.

I need an Articulate Rise course built this month. And maybe next month, I need you guys to do this incredible instructor -led facilitated session to bring to our leadership. And it really allows their clients to have the ultimate flexibility. And it gives us an opportunity for us to partner with our clients in a very different way. We truly are that extension. We're there.

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We solve whatever problems they have coming in and we figure out how we can best utilize the dollars they have available. And you don't have to do a bunch of change orders. You don't have to scope the initiative upfront. You can say, here's what we're going to put into this bucket and then we'll use those hours up until the point we've exhausted them. You can borrow ahead. You can roll over a little bit and we can be somewhat flexible with our client needs. So it really.

was such a brilliant concept of bringing Netflix to learning and development organizations. I love that. And do you think that that is this type of issues that the client is running into where, you know, they don't exactly know if they're going to have multiple initiatives? Is that a newer thing? Is that just kind of how learning and development has transitioned in the corporate world over the years? Or is

the subscription service really just a way to keep them in the door because ultimately for most companies there is going to be some type of transitions. There's going to be changes. There's going to be new requests that they may never have even thought about when they were originally scoping out the budget for the year. You know, I do think that we are in a time and place that is somewhat different. I do that learning and development is traditionally.

been seen by companies as a cost center, right? It's this thing we have to do. And we put some money in there. Most executives don't look at learning and development as a way to build their company. So oftentimes, learning and development teams are the first things that get cut. Training initiatives are the first things that get cut. Budgets, we get cut. And so that's nothing new.

But I think what we're finding now, and so companies have dealt with that, but what we're finding now is that the way that people work is changing too fast. Technology has changed how people work now and will forever work in a company. You likely will never again see employees who take on one job,

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and do that job until they get their watch at 50 years. It's just the likelihood of that happening anymore is not very high. And what that causes organizations, companies to have to do is consistently pivot how they upskill, retrain and train their employees because what they do in their business is changing at a lightning pace. And so if you have,

to launch this new system in:

you have to relook at what can we do different and now we only have so many dollars or do you change the entire approach for how you're going to launch this new system? Or maybe you decided the 11th hour, you know what, that was a really great idea when we thought about it, but now we're not going to build this. So instead of having to figure out how do we reallocate those dollars, if it's part of a subscription service, then you're simply going to use the talent in a different way to address your initiative that's moving forward. Right. So it allows folks to

keep playing catch up without the risk of not having allocated dollars to it, not having the talent ready to go whenever they need it. Very interesting. Exactly. Exactly. Because if you had set aside a subscription learning services and you had set aside as part of this plan for this new system, maybe you bought 100 hours of your subscription service.

And so you thought you were going to use those 100 hours across the way to do all this analysis, design, development of this system. And now they've decided not to implement the system. You still have those 100 hours and you can use that talent now to talk about now if we don't have this system in place, now what are we going to train our employees to do differently because now they're not going to have this system. So now we have to figure out how do we get them ready to do this job without that system. And so it allows you to be really fluid with your training.

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budget for our clients. And we can change out the talent. So, you know, if you no longer need e -learning solutions, then, and you want, perhaps you want facilitators or you need project managers or you need editors or you, you need somebody to build you some graphic assets that help you do a job aid. We can switch out the talent to whatever the needs are of the client. That's very exciting, very cool product and service ultimately that you're putting together for the, uh,

for potential clients and your current clients. Can you tell us anything else about the last year or so that is new, exciting updates for TTC? Yes. So we had, last year was just this amazing year of, of opportunity and growth. And we grew in a way that we weren't expecting to grow. We had a, this sounds like another phone call to Dana being a tape by the way. Yeah. Yeah. This came in a little bit later to Dana, but, um,

We had been having conversations with the owners of Dash and Thompson, this amazing instructional design firm out of Minnesota, 40 plus years in the learning industry, super solid, great talent. And the owners were looking at an opportunity to kind of step aside, both their two owners, and they were really looking at.

for them to just move on, but they wanted the legacy of Dash and Thompson to live forward. They had great clients, they had amazing employees, good contractors that they had been working with, and it really was too good to stop. And so they reached out and we had some discussions and the culture was this great fit. The things that they shared about what was important to Dash and Thompson to run their company,

mirrored what's important to me, that culture, that being the partner to our clients, treating the employees with the respect and the value that they bring, working with integrity. All of those things were just such a great mirror to what we were doing. So we did a lot of the behind the scenes stuff of due diligence and I learned a lot.

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about being on the buying side of an acquisition. It was interesting and I actually enjoyed the challenge of it. So that was thrilling. And on December 15th, we closed the sale and Dash and Thompson became Dash LLC, a subsidiary of TTC Innovations. And I'm thrilled to have the partnership. That's very exciting. And I want to talk a little bit about culture.

I know that this may be a topic for our chief people officer, but I'd like to know a little bit about how TTC developed its culture over the years and what drove that development. You know, I think it stems, culture is not a thing. It's people. And I think the culture of your company is a reflection of the people that you choose to work with every single day.

For me, my culture, and I shared with you before, integrity, integrity, integrity. There are a whole lot of other things that are important as well, being innovative, being responsive. But if I don't operate with integrity, I don't operate. And so as I built my team, I was consistently looking for team members who shared that culture, that import, that,

Integrity was number one and that, you know, if you didn't have all the skills, we'd grow you. I'm happy to grow somebody. I love when somebody comes to our company and takes on a role. And I tell them, don't get comfortable because your job's going to change. And how many times you, your job, you're a perfect example of that philosophy. Come into the company in one role and we.

are consistently pushing you to do more, finding a great niche. Ultimately, it's not the skill, it's the person. And so when I was looking at Dash and Thompson, they shared that. And when I look at adding a new team member to the corporate team here at TTC Innovations, the first thing I want to understand is what is their view? What are...

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the things that are most important to them because I can train any skill. We were training company for heaven's sakes. We can write your training program to make you successful at your job. But I cannot train culture. I cannot train you to believe in the importance of being having integrity operating with best intentions. I can't train that. Very well put. And speaking of Dash, how has the acquisition of Dash changed?

the business approach for TTC Innovation for right now in the present and ultimately the future? Yeah, it's an interesting model because I feel like we were that yin and yang kind of companies because TTC Innovations has had employees in their corporate roles since I was the first employee. But our employee model has always been employees in corporate positions.

human resources, marketing, sales, operations, resourcing. And all of the work that we do with our clients has always been contractors. So we bring in the right talent for the right opportunities with our clients through our contractors. Dash and Thompson was really quite opposite of that. Their employee team actually is building the learning solutions and they...

predominantly outsourced most of their corporate responsibilities. So they had an accountant, they had a benefits, HR platform that benefits person that they outsourced all of that to, attorneys, et cetera, et cetera. And they had a CEO of the company. But primarily every other role was a role of somebody who was building the solutions that they were selling to their clients. So when we,

purchased Dash and Thompson, we knew that we would have to structure differently because, you know, there are a lot of legal ramifications and this is probably much better for our people officer to discuss, but, you know, there are rules, IRS regulations about having contractors and employees doing similar work and whether they should all be considered employees or not. And we knew that we wanted to

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operate, again with integrity, in the best manner possible. So we knew that when we brought Dash into the organization, they needed to be set up as their own separate company. So it is a subsidiary, and that allows us to operate with employees who are building learning solutions in the Dash side of the house and continue our amazing model of using contractors in TTCs.

side of the house and we're able to share resources between the two companies, which is amazing. We've started to add a few, looking at a few additional roles in Everett Dash LLC because we know that the work that they're doing over there is so important and really the team, the number of clients we brought over there, we're finding this need to add.

Personnel in order to just meet the needs of their existing clients that we brought over which is exciting To be able to maintain those clients that came across with this acquisition So we have added our first new project manager over in that which was fun to transition one of our contractors who Was an amazing contractor with us and and she was very interested in becoming an employee and so she became the first transitioned

contractor to employee over at Dash. And, you know, I think that we'll have opportunities to continue to explore that model. Definitely. And are there any strengths that the Dash side of things has that TTC was really looking forward to during the acquisition? Yeah, some of the amazing things that they bring to the table. They've done some dramatically different work utilizing tools.

Articulate, they really push the boundaries of what Articulate does. They bring to the table the concept of serious gaming and it's one of the areas that they excel. And with that, it means that they are teaching the learning content through the serious game. It's not having a game to test your knowledge, but really using that game as the way to achieve and obtain the knowledge.

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And they had built a few games for clients just recently. They had launched this escape room game. And when I saw it, I was like, what coding did you use? And they laughed and they're like, articulate. And it's just this like, wow moment of a true appreciation of taking a tool that.

is relatively, is considered a rapid development tool and many clients are very satisfied with using traditional, articulate or using RISE in the way that it is quick and easy builds. And what the team over at Dash have done is really challenged themselves and challenged the tool to be better and to bring more to the clients. So,

I think that that was one of the things that most excited me is that that core group of employees that came across are so excited to push the boundary and really make sure that the learning solution is this amazing learner experience. So I think they're bringing a lot of that value across to our organization. That's very, very exciting. And I guess last question here for

these two podcasts, where do you see TTC and now Dash as well heading into the future? So will we get to do a follow -up podcast on the topic of how TTC made its first $10 million a year? I hope that, yes, I would love to see that happen. I think it is very feasible. I think that between the two organizations, we bring the

best of both worlds and I do think that I'm learning from the team that worked at Dash. I think the team that worked at Dash are learning TTC. I'm excited that we're starting to introduce to our core clients from TTC Innovation some of the Dash team members and showing them some of the powerful solutions that that team built. Conversely, we're also bringing to the Dash clients

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this understanding of innovators on demand and subscription learning services and giving clients a new and different way to work with Dash that they did not have access to. So I think that there's going to be this brilliant merging of the two companies throughout this year. And then I think that will become unstoppable. Very awesome. Yeah. Yeah. So yes, stay tuned. Well, thank you so much, Debbie. This has been an incredible conversation.

There's no better first guest that we could have asked for to join us for our first couple of episodes of Learning Matters. So thank you again so much, and we look forward to continuing our conversation in the future. Thanks so much for having me. This has been a lot of fun. I appreciate it. That's a wrap for part two of our two -part series. Join us next episode as we discuss some of the more innovative uses of AI in L &D and the differences between learning experience design and instructional design.

with Dash's Creative Solutions Lead, Eric Burkett. Remember to sign up for our newsletter, The Buzz, for more exciting insights on the ever -changing world of learning and development, and subscribe and like wherever you get your podcasts. See you next time.




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