Four Reasons Why You Should Start Your Company's Training Program
By: Scott Colebourne
Nine years ago, I set out to start a fully immersive program for aspiring tennis professionals to begin employment and training with Cliff Drysdale Tennis. Over that time, I learnt more than I taught, and the results were remarkable for the company, many tennis professionals, and myself. Here are four of the key benefits from my experience.
1) To satisfy the staffing requirements of a rapidly growing company
In 2010 Cliff Drysdale Tennis was exploding in growth and had gone from managing 8 tennis clubs to 16 in the space of a year. As a company we had prided ourselves on hiring from within for Director of Tennis positions, however this level of expansion had made that impossible. Whilst we had some success hiring candidates from outside the company, we also found internal promotions to be preferable for a number of reasons. To ensure that we had a pipeline of great director candidates coming through the company we decided to create a program with the intent of hiring and training tennis professionals that had the goal and were willing to make the commitment to becoming a director of tennis in a short period of time. From that the Tennis Professional Advancement(TPA) program was created, which over time became Professional Tennis U. Whilst the program was initially born out of necessity and many training programs are created that way, we found over time that PTU became one of the most important initiatives of the company and we continued to invest in regardless of the company’s growth level.
2) A dedicated training program creates a positive company culture
One of the unintended benefits from PTU was the amazing opportunity it gave us to strengthen and develop company culture. Over the years the PTU program has been modified and improved in many ways, however what hasn’t changed is that the program lasts between 9 and 18 months. During this time period the PTU pros spend the majority of their time living in company provided housing, working and training alongside other PTU pros, and under the guidance of one or more company mentors. This time period is very much “all hands-on deck” as the PTU pros are working hard and receiving training in a variety of on-court and off-court areas. The pros and the mentors become very close over that time and a real sense of family is created. The long-term effect of this has been many amazing friendships that still last today, nine years later. Whilst there are many ways to create culture, in my experience one of the best ways is for individuals to go through new shared experiences together. It’s even more valuable when those experiences are difficult or there’s some struggle, and that’s exactly what we saw with the PTU pros. Whilst this wasn’t the intention when we started the program, we sure were happy when we realized the culture this was creating.
3) It will help your company define their own training and development processes
As I mentioned earlier, when PTU was started, CDT was managing 16 clubs and the company was growing rapidly. Like many startups we were extremely busy on all fronts, the daily grind of setting up new locations, managing existing ones, business development to find new locations, and running a central office that served remote locations didn’t leave much time for training. In addition, all of the new directors had worked under one of the founders and it didn’t feel as though we needed to focus on training. However, as we expanded and PTU began it became clear we needed to focus on this area. Out of necessity we began creating manuals, procedures, and training guides for all on court areas, and this quickly expanded to off court areas as well. If we weren’t forced to do this then I’m not sure we ever would have done so. Like any good process these have been modified and improved over the years, and I’m sure the early PTU pros wouldn’t recognize the program now.
4) It will boost your own professional development and career
When I first started the PTU program, I was what would be called in other companies a mid-level manager. I had received an early promotion, but was by no means on a track to senior management. Nine years later as the COO, I still oversee the PTU program, but play a very different role in CDT. The PTU program deserves a lot of credit for the changes in me over that time, as well as in the way others view me and in turn the promotions I’ve received. I was 28 when we began the program, a relatively young and (over)confident tennis director. I was forced to learn and work alongside the first PTU pros, the hands-on training was all of us in it together. I was forced to create manuals for my department (club) and work with other departments to help refine theirs. I spent a lot of time managing and hiring employees, the good, the bad and the ugly side of this. I spent a lot of time marketing the program, and as a result of that when the time came for new business development, I had a lot of experience in pitching others.
In due time the first PTU pros were offered positions at new clubs as directors and I was seen as the natural fit to help them set up those new clubs, this provided a host of learning points for me in launching new locations as well as managing relationships with location leaders. All of this dabbling in many areas of the company allowed me to learn and develop many new skills over the years that where it not for the PTU program I would have never had that opportunity, and so while the program was started to teach others I definitely learned more than I taught. The PTU program allowed me to develop these skills as well as show my commitment and value to the company, which in turn was recognized by my supervisors and I began a path to senior management. If the PTU program wasn’t created, then I surely wouldn’t be in the position I am today.
Regardless of your initial reason for investing development for yourself or others, it is always a great idea. The benefits will not be immediately clear, and you can’t always imagine where it will take you long term or in what direction. However, I can assure you the benefits will be there and if you truly go all in, “all hands-on deck”, then the impact on yourself and your career will be immense.