February 11, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
With their Learning Creation and Management System (LCMS) and Learning Community™ Products and Programs, LearnSomething, Inc. is providing eLearning Solutions for the Drug, Health Care and Food Industries to help Retailers and Manufacturers meet Training Objectives
About LearnSomething, Inc.:
LearnSomething is your
eLearning partner for... LearnSomething is the leading provider of eLearning
solutions for the drug, health care and food industries. For more than 15
years LearnSomething’s products and custom development services have helped
retailers, manufacturers and professional associations meet training
objectives through flexible online, blended and instructor-led programs.
LearnSomething’s Advisor Information Network is used by pharmaceutical, CPG
and other manufacturers to provide retailers with essential information for
satisfying compliance and performance needs. The company’s Learning Creation
and Management System (LCMS), Learner Community™, simplifies developing,
deploying and tracking eLearning products and programs.
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – February 13, 2013
Mr. Roden: We are predominantly in the online education business and we are very targeted to America’s retail pharmacy and grocery chains. We are educating roughly 2.5 million students each year delivered over the internet and the typical user is a pharmacist, pharmacy tech, or an employee in the grocery or pharmacy store. We are delivering content that is inclusive of compliance, HR type materials, corporate best practices, educational customer service. Our two most recent innovations that we were are recognized for by the Governor’s office were the launch of a series of new product education programs that support new drugs as they are released by the FDA, we work with the manufacturer and virtually overnight educate hundreds of thousands of pharmacists in a short window of time about that new drug. The second piece was for our new software platform that manages the delivery of Learning for National Health Care Associations. We are a publisher with Learning content, and also a technology company where we have sophisticated infrastructure to manage, track and report the delivery of that content.
CEOCFO: How did you make the decision to go into these particular markets?
Mr. Roden: It was interesting. As a startup, originally, the company was focused at eight or nine different markets and the business model was oriented toward working with national associations and publishing learning content, but we were depending on them to sell it through to their members. The sell thru portion of the model did not execute well but we discovered is that in the pharmacy space with the launch of HIPAA, there became an overnight need to deliver and track learning around HIPAA compliance. We sort of put all of our eggs in that basket and narrowed the company’s focus to this one vertical and added a direct sales team to go after that market that was a game-changer for us. We over the course of the next six or seven years have developed a significant footprint in that one vertical. That is why we remain there today.
What is the competitive landscape for you?
CEOCFO: With the companies that you are providing services for, are they typically mandating their workers to do the courses?
Mr. Roden: Certainly with things that are compliance, let’s say you are talking about food safety program or Medicare fraud, waste and abuse program or a methamphetamine prevention program, that would be very likely corporately mandated and be a required learning. When it is best practice oriented, that also can be mandated. If there is a standard way that they want people to operate software or open a store or stack a shelf, etcetera, which becomes a required learning event that an employee would take very much like compliance. In this case, it is corporate compliance to best practice standards rather than regulatory governmental compliance. Occasionally though there are some exceptions, there is some learning that is voluntary and can be continuing education. There also can be personal development. Most of our publishing is clinically relevant and valuable to the practice of pharmacy and it is either mandated or near mandated.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the market and the prevalence of e-learning today?
Mr. Roden: The market is growing quite rapidly. Grocery and pharmacy both were lagging a bit in adopting e-learning early. Now grocery and pharmacy is very rapidly catching up. As a nation, e-learning past the classroom two years ago as the most prevalent why that people learn. It is now the most prevalent way that people learn.
CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers?
Mr. Roden: We have a direct sales force that is located geographically around the country and covering regions. As we go into a client, there is typically more than one buyer/business unit in each client that can use our services. There may be a compliance expert, an HR person, a training organization, sales and marketing group that are concerned about customer service. Typically when we are working with a larger client or going through multiple doors talking to multiple people each making independent decisions, much of time that rolls up to a training organization that in some ways we are helping them uncover requirements working with the operation types that are running one of the practice activities.
CEOCFO: Does a customer sign on with you for a certain length of time?
Mr. Roden: Yes, typically multiyear SaaS (software as a service) type of agreement. We are not selling course to them, we are effectively providing the service to them where when they have new hires and terminations, we are managing updates and new employee education activity in many cases. We help them automate the process so that you have a standard package of HR compliance best practice courses. We deliver the right courses at the right time.
CEOCFO: What are a few of the more unusual courses that offer?
Mr. Roden: One of the favorite things we have worked on has been category knowledge. We worked with a large New York State retailer Wegman’s in the area of educating their staff on engaging with shoppers on wellness categories. It was fascinating for us because a shopper typically is facing a category like skincare and there may be as many as 180 sku’s at shelf. There is no way I could teach you about each one of those products, so instead we attacked it from the Need state of the shopper; you are either dry skin sensitive skin oily skin, aging skin, and then what causes it and the regimen of products needed for that category. It is fascinating for us to be in that space because we have learned a great deal about every category, so we have done the same thing on blueberries, peaches and apples, skincare hair care, eye care. We have literally been across the store and looking at products in a completely different way than we have ever looked at them before. What was found is that the employees’ way to add real value to the shopper by is by being able to talk knowledgably, but we are not drowning the employee with overload of facts. That is probably one of our most unusual experiences.
CEOCFO: What is the key to making your courses user friendly?
Mr. Roden: Most people that are in a grocery environment do not really want to do e-reading and much early e-learning was really just e-reading page after page of text. We are very visual and graphical, frequently engaging the student with some kind of practice activity or question or something that makes it interesting. What we have focused on iPad learning and iPhone learning, which we are now investing heavily, we strongly believe shorter is good. We try to get the student experience to be short, to-the-point as well as interactive and engaging. Shortening the experience is important because a retailer does not want to take someone off the job for long periods of costly time. From our partners point of view shortening the experience is very important. Retention is also difficult when you are delivered an hour-long piece of curriculum, remembering all of that information can be challenging until you have a chance to apply it. In the world where you are executing in the near term you will see a facilitated training experience with performance support supplements training so that in the isle, I have an iPhone app or iPad and if I am talking about skincare, I can show you here is why the higher end product is more valuable. That is where I think the learning is going and why we are different. It takes discipline to make it short, engaging and entertaining.
CEOCFO: Beyond the compliance courses, do you feel that retailers are looking to enhance customer service or customer experience?
Mr. Roden: I think there a great deal of health and wellness push. I am participating as chair this year of the Food Marketing Institute’s health and wellness advisory board. In that role, I have seen a great amount of energy around improving engagement with shoppers in the isle, using in-store nutritionists and specialists to talk to shoppers. We are also seeing more push to find ways to get the pharmacists engaged with the shopper. Unfortunately, most peoples’ view of the pharmacist is the top of their head when they are bent over counting pills. They never really talk to them. I believe we are seeing the paradigm shifting and you will see more pharmacy automation, which will help with the workload. You will also see a push, particularly with medication therapy management and patient counseling, motivational interviewing to expand patient and customer contact. The pharmacist is one of the most trusted healthcare professionals in my humble opinion. Just counting pills is not the best place for that highly trusted health care specialist. You are starting to see it in the broad delivery of healthcare with them doing immunizations and becoming more patient centric. Much of what we are doing with this program we call the Drug Advisor, is giving them quick education on new drugs; including the delivery system that the patient uses to take that medication and sometimes those devices are complicated and the patient needs to know how to properly use an inhaler for instance. In our Advisor programs, we inform Pharmacist on common side effects and the adherence messaging that is important to deliver to the patient. For instance, if you are taking a pill and it is going to take two weeks for it to kick in, it is important that the pharmacist tells you to keep taking this drug and not to stop because it did not kick in instantly. I think you will see more and more learning is used in the environment of improving not just customer service but this whole knowledge based service environment where that trusted person the pharmacist is really your best person to ask questions about for example what is the best cough or cold syrup or what they should do for their allergy. That health professional really does understand the chemistry of what is being offered and can give great advice. For most of them, in college they are not training in nutrition for instance, yet they are well placed to give basic guidance on healthy eating to support medication. Many of our clients are discussing, how to spend more time with shoppers and doing a better job of helping the shopper find more complete solutions rather that just single products.
CEOCFO: You have been recognized for the Governor’s Innovators and Business award, in Florida. You have also been recognized by Training.com. Would you tell us about the recognition in general, does it help with new business or is it more of a validation of what you have developed?
Mr. Roden: With regard to the governor’s award, we were recognized as “The most innovative business in a large market in the state of Florida.” It is kind of a surprise to us and we were not expecting that recognition or award and have been pleased with the outpouring from our clients of support. It has been interesting because it is only a couple of days old. I do not really know how much impact it is going to have on sales but it has certainly created a bit of “buzz.” I got the trophy but the team won the award. We have many innovative people here that make that kind of award happen. It is gratifying and encouraging getting that kind of special recognition. On the platform side, we knew we were building a great piece of software, and for it to be recognized as one of the top twenty in the world with virtually everybody else on the list of giant companies compared to us, is a real validation. We are seeing that have a dramatic impact on our getting client interest. When you see that kind of recognition that this is already prequalified as one of the best products in the world, it gives a client some level of comfort that this is worth taking a look at. That is an award that we got about ten months ago, so we definitely have made an impact with this but it is a little early to gauge how much impact we will get off the governor’s award, but we are tickled to get it, it is great for moral and great for the team. We are thrilled to be recognized.
CEOCFO: Why should the business and investment community pay attention to LearnSomething?
We have software-as-a-service business models. They are highly scalable,
they are fairly protected, once you build intellectual property and you own
content, you create some barrier to entry. They are great jobs and it is
great for our community. It is a great place to work. I think we are at the
beginning of what is going to be a megatrend. I do not think learning is
going to go back to the classroom. There will always be some level of
classroom but I think going forward, you are going to see e-learning as a
megatrend. I mentioned a couple of years ago e-learning passed classroom as
a predominant way of receiving education at a corporate work environment. I
think that is going to continue and a greater portion of peoples investment
in learning and particularly as we get into the smaller chunks and more
timely delivery, you will continue to see tremendous growth in companies
like ours, not just us.
“There will always be some level of classroom but I think going forward, you are going to see e-learning as a megatrend.”- Steve Roden
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