Stories from the Covid-19 Front Lines: Dale Carnegie Training
So what does a 108-year-old, in-person training company do during a worldwide pandemic shutdown? Quickly pivot to live online training – and to training its franchisees on its value, and how to sell and deliver it most effectively to make the most of an increased need for training as client companies wrestle with new rules, remote workforces, and the need to develop new skills to compete in a new environment. As Chief Franchise Advocate for Dale Carnegie Training, Jean-Louis Van Doorne has a lot to say about how Covid-19 has accelerated the company’s shift to online training for a new world of business.
How has Covid-19 affected your brand?
The biggest impact of the pandemic on our business has been pivoting from an in-person classroom to a digital classroom. We have been offering instructor-led live online training for 10 years, but this pandemic has made it a foundational offering to clients. At the start, we worked quickly to expand and convert more of our courses into a live online format. To help franchisees continue serving clients even while classrooms remain closed, we’ve had to leverage technology, certify our existing trainers who normally teach in-person for online delivery, and market online training as a valuable alternative for our business clients that are also struggling financially in this crisis. Our franchisees have also had to learn how to sell live online, converting client contracts rather than canceling or postponing in-person events. This has been a learning curve for all of us, but our network has certainly risen to the challenge. As one of our franchisees said recently, “It’s not about the classroom. We sell personal and professional growth, not classrooms.”
What are you doing to help your franchisees through this?
To convert existing business for in-person training into live online products (rather than have clients deciding to delay or cancel contracts), we are giving our franchisees all the tools we can. This involves expedited and expanded training and certification for trainers; updated sales and marketing materials and tools for franchisees; and a great deal of quickly developing and sharing best practices to fit the needs of all of our global regions. We have also been working quickly to certify as many of our trainers as possible for live online delivery. This has allowed us to use our 108 years of experience and expertise of our existing network of trainers to pivot faster than our competition. Throughout this entire period, our franchisees have been remarkably resilient. Every week, we are consistently hearing and sharing good news of franchisees closing new business with government and private entities, converting contracts into live online, and examples of franchisees not only keeping their businesses afloat, but in many cases thriving in a new digital landscape.
How are you handling your corporate employees?
Our corporate team is completely remote at this point. And while that has been a challenge, as it has been for most organizations, I am constantly impressed and grateful for our corporate team's commitment to supporting our franchise network. Something we talk about a lot is the idea of dealing with stress and worry by focusing on the present, or living in “day-tight compartments.” That is not always easy to do, but I encourage my teams to focus on one thing at a time. From the beginning, our corporate team has shown a truly amazing ability to focus on the here and now, and work through completely unique problems and challenges to help our franchisees adapt. We had a task force in the very beginning guide the response of our Chinese franchise owners and other regions affected early, and another task force on how to help franchisees sell live online. Now we are providing careful and detailed guidelines on how franchisees can prepare to reopen classrooms for training. Through it all, our corporate team has been dedicated to our mission and to helping our franchisees overcome these challenges.
How are your franchisees handling their employees?
As our franchisees find more ways to convert business to live online training, they are certifying more trainers and producers for online delivery. We’ve had some franchisees even hire trainers during this period to meet the needs of their expanding live online business. Our franchisees have been focused on maintaining a strong pipeline for live online as a way to maintain their business, but also for their teams. We’re seeing sales teams at franchise offices recommitting to selling a product that is new for many of them, and winning over clients to try a modality of training they may never have considered before. Our franchisees are closing deals and converting to live online and are able to do so because of the strong support and hard work of their teams.
What are your franchisees doing for their customers?
Many companies are investing in reskilling and upskilling employees, meaning investing in their professional development so they have the skills they need for a changed work environment, or entirely new roles as the economy continues to reshape itself. Franchisees know businesses are struggling, but they’re doing whatever they can to support their local business communities and keep relationships with clients strong. For example, many franchisees have been offering free live online webinars, open to the public, as a way to help businesses adapt and to keep Dale Carnegie top of mind.
Many of our clients are struggling because, for the first time, they are dealing with remote workforces and may not know how to manage virtual teams. Another issue is dealing with the emotional aspect of our world right now. We have programs for our clients on managing the crisis, being agile, and on managing stress and worry. Our business is about people, so franchisees were immediately able to take action to help communities and people deal with and process what’s happening. Many of our franchises have done stress and worry courses open to the public. Several have offered free webinars for teachers educating remotely. Our franchisees are working closely with local business networking groups to provide support and resources.
How do you see the future of your brand, operations, market, etc. post–Covid-19?
At this point, I think we all anticipate a gradual return to normal. While a return to in-person classroom training is our ultimate goal, there will be no turning back to having every office building filled again and businesses returning immediately to in-person leadership development and training. Even as offices reopen, we expect that people and organizations will need time to reacclimate from working remotely to becoming comfortable again with attending development training in an in-person classroom. We anticipate live online remaining a foundation of our business from now on, and our franchisees will continue to offer live online and custom-blended solutions to best meet client needs.
As more businesses maintain remote teams, and a more flexible workforce becomes a new norm, being able to provide online training will only continue to strengthen us as a brand. Live online not only allows us to better serve clients who might be embracing more remote work, it also has allowed us to open up our training more to the public. Many franchisees have been offering live online public programs across an entire country or region, allowing us to provide transformational experiences to more people than ever before.
Dale Carnegie himself taught his principles in many formats and platforms, and we’re getting the chance to meet the needs of our clients during a challenging time for all of us. Our method has been relevant and useful for more than 100 years, so I am confident that our courses and services will continue to be useful, whether they are offered in person or in a live online format.
Jean-Louis Van Doorne is Chief Franchise Advocate for Dale Carnegie. He joined the company in 1986, and opened and ran the Dale Carnegie Center of Excellence in Belgium from 1989 to 1996. Until 2010, as a Vice President, he supported startup operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Since 2014 he has served on the company’s executive committee and has overseen the worldwide franchising network.
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