This is a follow up story for Trainual. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Chris Ronzio and I’m the founder and CEO of Trainual, the leading playbook builder for businesses.
Trainual is a one-stop-shop for documenting your SOPs and training and onboarding your team. The app provides an easy way to capture every process, role, and responsibility, creating a consistent, teachable, and scalable knowledge base, centralized in one place.
At the heart of this work is a desire to help business leaders find the time to do more of what they love by providing a way to document and delegate what they do. Our mission is for every business to have a playbook.
We mostly cater to small businesses, typically under 250 employees, who want something easier to set up and manage than an enterprise learning system. We currently have over 4,000 companies and 72,000+ users in over 120 countries around the world using Trainual, and we just surpassed $5M ARR 2.5 years into launching Trainual!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we last talked in July 2019, Trainual has continued to experience significant growth. We’ve added $3M more in ARR and we closed a $6.75M Series A funding round in November 2019. We’re fortunate to run a tool that supports the remote workforce, which has helped us thrive during the shift to remote work due to COVID-19.
Trainual now has 36 full-time team members, over 50% hiring growth since we last touched base. We added awesome talent to the customer experience, engineering, marketing, and operations teams. We were honored to win #2 as Phoenix Business Journal’s Best Places to Work at the end of 2019, and as we continue to grow, we hope to stay in the ranks – ideally at #1!
The Trainual app itself has evolved as well, specifically with a full redesign that we launched in Q2, 2020, and the addition of a robust template library. The templates make it easier than ever for businesses to get started because half of the work is done for them. It’s also been a huge value add when customers are considering signing up with us. The product team has many more exciting initiatives on the roadmap for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.
Learn how to be a marketer. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, you need to put yourself out there, learn how to tell your story, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
On the customer acquisition front, we’ve been focused on diversifying brand awareness channels to include podcast sponsorships, improved SEO tactics, OOH opportunities like ads in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (pre-COVID), and brand/influencer partnerships. We also launched a daily podcast and have plans to grow our media and content network.
Our digital advertising, specifically Facebook, continues to be our biggest driver of website traffic and new signups. We recently ran a video ad with three characters from The Office and drove our highest signup day yet!
Another thing we’ve found to be effective is nailing down a couple of target verticals that we’ve tapped into more strategically. One example of this includes the real estate industry and our RE/MAX partnership. While Trainual is industry agnostic, when you’re able to dial in on a handful of industries, you can create more content that’s specifically geared towards those industries.
We’ve also placed a bigger emphasis on customer retention by focusing on the customer experience, support systems, and making it a point to continue adding value through the content we’re producing.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I think anyone would agree that 2020 has been a hard year to be in business. As I mentioned earlier, we’re very fortunate to have a software tool that is helping so many businesses continue work in this new, uncharted way, but we’ve still faced challenges. We did have a few weeks in March where cancellations came in faster than normal due to businesses closing down which resulted in higher churn, and our sales stalled – naturally, the panic set in and there was this looming fear of the unknown.
But, as a leader, you have to adapt to the current challenges, because you have a team that counts on you to do that. In my case, a team of 36 people that depend on me to make things as normal as possible. That meant shifting to remote, making sure each person on the team was set up for success working from home, and that they felt supported and understood as things felt a bit strange and heavy.
For the product, this meant changing marketing messaging to match the current business climate. Offering a tool to scale and grow didn't fit into what businesses were trying to accomplish anymore, but one to keep teams aligned while remote and to onboard remotely if hiring. That also meant increased outreach by customer support, charge freezes for companies who were struggling, and free accounts for schools and nonprofits helping to fight COVID-19.
The most interesting win that came out of a quick pivot was hosting a virtual event called Training With Empathy via Zoom. What started as an in-person event for 100-200 people from Arizona, turned into a successful event with over 1,000 registrants from all over the world.
Like every other entrepreneur, I never expected to be facing a global pandemic, but I had to dismiss the fear, act quickly, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep crushing our goals.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, we want playbooks to be so easy to assemble that there’s no excuse to not have one. Essentially, we want the playbook to write itself.
We’re working on how we can innovate with things like AI to collect information. Rather than an individual needing to sit down and write everything out, it would be almost as if you had a consultant come into your business to organize who does what.
Imagine if you could have your playbook automatically update based on how somebody's role changes, or who you have on your team. Because systems and processes are an ever-evolving thing in any business, AI would make it easier to keep everything updated because nothing in the business would need to stop.
Business owners would no longer need to spend their own time maintaining the updates, but would still have an always-updated look. That leaves more room to focus on pushing the company forward.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
We had Michael Ventura speak about the concepts in his book at our Training With Empathy event earlier this year. It’s a really powerful tool for training your team on empathy – which yes, you can do that.
Shape Up has a lot of tips on product management and Powerful is just a great book for anyone who’s leading a team.
I could give a ton of podcast recommendations, so here’s a screenshot of some of my favorites.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I have two pieces of advice for entrepreneurs who may be struggling to grow. The first is to invest in building your playbook. Whether that’s using a free tool or using something like Trainual, I think the most important thing for you to do is start documenting what you do and create a more efficient way to offload tasks and onboard new team members.
Can you go on vacation while things in the business keep running smoothly? If not, you have a process and delegation problem that you can easily fix by getting things written down.
The second piece of advice, especially while you’re small, is to learn how to be a marketer. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, you need to put yourself out there, learn how to tell your story, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I once spoke at a conference and had everyone stand up and shout “I am a marketer!” It didn’t matter what job title any of the people in the room had, everyone stood up and shouted it over and over until it sunk in. That’s what you need to do now.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
For now, we’ve paused on hiring since we doubled the team over the last couple of months. We’re excited about and confident in the team that we currently have, and we want to give enough time for all of the new team members to ramp up and get acclimated before we resume the recruitment process.
With that said, we’re also looking forward to adding even more awesome people in the future and we’re always accepting general applications through the careers page on our website.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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