Professional development, education or training? Regardless of the title, it is something HARDI has prided itself on for years and considered a primary value for our members. However, about two years ago, HARDI's Strategic Planning Committee realized our professional development offerings had not grown at the same pace as other benefits, such as benchmarking and advocacy. In essence, we were helping the experienced and established wholesalers who continue to improve, but not much support was being given to helping members build their benches and identify their next stars. I'm exceedingly proud of our benchmarking and advocacy prowess and believe the members who fail to understand these respective strategic values are in the clear minority at this point. However, our industry has perpetually struggled to attract new talent and has been forced to consistently do more with less; we often fail to connect strategic thinking to professional development.
Let's look at a few realities to put this in context. Both 2008 and 2009 featured a lot of streamlining by HARDI members; downsizing and reorganizing with the goal of using less and growing more. Then look at 2010; while decent, the industry generally underperformed and confirmed recovery would be painfully slow. Moving into 2011, most projections indicate the growth range will be in the mid-to-high single digits. For most, this will likely translate into not having enough revenue to increase their workforce. So what does this mean? The 2009-ish lean workforces will be asked to deliver about 15 percent more this year than when restructuring was completed. Specialists are becoming rare breeds, just like those high-margin gifts from the heavens that had a way of making a mediocre month or year look great all of a sudden. In 2011, it will be about getting more margin out of each employee, much more so than adding employees to create traditional margins.
This is where your strategic vision needs to take a long, hard look at professional development planning. Just as energy efficiency is the least expensive natural resource, professional development is the least expensive margin booster. Maximizing the effectiveness of what's already there is always a winner compared to adding new infrastructure. Take this month's issue to heart and think about how much more effective your counter and inside sales- people would be if they knew every upsell opportunity, the true impact of discounting on profitability and how to sell when they don't even think they are. Call Dr. Al Bates at Profit Planning Group if you need a refresher on the bottom-line impact realized by just a 1 percent increase in price or margin. What does it cost you to replace a strong performer who left you for what they perceived as a better growth opportunity? Imagine being able to show a promising employee a professional development pathway that can take him up through the company if he diligently follows the course you proposed.
This is the vision for HARDI's first and perhaps most important strategic pillar. We can do these things now, and better yet, we can do them in a highly customized fashion to suit the incredibly unique needs of each and every HARDI member. We sought and retained experts that have built an infrastructure capable of assisting you in the development of coursework customized for your own internal purposes, or provide the Web-based management platform so you can truly measure the ROI of your professional development dollars. Emily Saving, our education services manager, is a professional development expert capable of conducting a needs assessment for your employees or the company as a whole and, from that assessment, craft a personalized curriculum to get them and the company where you want them to be. This is powerful stuff but ultimately wasted if not utilized. Take in this month's all-professional-development issue, and then call Emily to get your company started. What's that Geico line? “15 minutes could save you ….”
Talbot Gee is executive vice president and COO of HARDI. Contact him at 614/345-4328 or [email protected].