Converting your new company’s brand into a household name is the dream of every entrepreneur. But very few new businesses are able to achieve this success. Since its establishment 14 years ago, Adam Khoo Learning Technologies Group (AKLTG) has become a training powerhouse, with practically every Singaporean having some degree of familiarity with the company’s programs.
How has AKLTG managed to convert itself from a one-man show to an organisation with 100+ employees and a sales turnover of over SGD 10 million? Can other entrepreneurs adopt some of the techniques used by AKLTG to grow their own businesses?
A Difficult Start – New businesses can gain tremendous insights from understanding how AKLTG got its start. The company’s very first training session was based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is an advanced approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the U.S.
Adam Khoo and Patrick Cheo organised an introductory talk for prospective participants. They received an overwhelming response with 106 individuals turning up for the presentation. But the conversion ratio was dismal. Just one person signed up.
A lesser organisation would have thrown up its hands in despair. But AKLTG looked upon its failure as a learning opportunity. Adam Khoo called each of the remaining 105 individuals to understand why they had decided not to participate in the program.
Using the knowledge gained through this process of interacting with prospective clients, Adam Khoo modified his introductory talk. The next introductory talk saw six people signing up and the company finally got 42 paying participants for its first program.
This allocation of work between the two promoters has worked very well over the years. Adam is the public face of the company. He is an acknowledged expert in the field and has authored 20 books on various aspects of self-development.
Many new ventures and even some mature companies flounder because of differences between the owners. But AKLTG’s founders pride themselves on working together to arrive at what is best for the company’s long-term benefit.
Patrick Cheo explains that when differences do arise their approach is not to figure out who is right but to do what is right for AKLTG.
Out of the box thinking – The greatest difficulty faced by any new business is to find a market for its products. Several years ago, AKLTG launched SuperKids, a program for school children that found almost immediate acceptance.
But the fee per participant was a hefty SGD 1,800. Many parents could not afford to pay this amount in advance. At that time banks did not have an instalment scheme for programs of this type.
In an effort to give parents an opportunity to pay on a monthly basis, Patrick Cheo approached the banks and asked them to finance customers for AKLTG’s program. He offered to refund the amount if the customer decided to opt out.
This strategy paid rich dividends for AKLTG. They received the entire SGD 1,800 from the bank for every customer who decided to go in for the instalment scheme. The banks were happy to see an increase in the amounts that their credit cardholders spent. The greatest beneficiaries were parents who could now pay over the period of the program instead of in a single payment.
Of course, a business can offer a refund policy of this nature only if it is completely confident about its product.
Employees are the key to any venture's success - A business which is not able to attract and retain high-calibre employees will struggle to succeed.
AKLTG’s growth owes a great deal to its employees. The staff turnover is extremely low. Sales and marketing are given the greatest importance.
Employees are treated in a friendly manner. The company encourages their positive traits and helps them enhance these rather than trying to correct their weaknesses.
Teams of employees are formed to target different markets. It is essential that each team solves its own problems and produces results. Incentives form an important part of the remuneration package.
The company has been careful to link its growth with how well it pays its employees. This strategy has been instrumental in opening up new markets.
No compromise on trainer selection - The company interviews hundreds of candidates to select their trainers. Mock training sessions are held where existing staff pose questions to applicants. Only those individuals who exhibit presentation skills of the highest order are recruited. The audition that candidates go through also tests their content and delivery.
It is this strict adherence to the company’s policy of recruiting only the most talented staff that has resulted in AKLTG’s trainers earning a reputation for being the best in the profession.
Growth strategy - If any business is to enjoy long-term success, it must plan well into the future. Entrepreneurs must decide on the methods they will use to attract new customers. They must also identify new markets where their products will find acceptance.
AKLTG’s growth seems assured. It has already expanded into Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam.
For many years now, the company has been training more than 50,000 children a year. As these kids grow up, they form a ready market for the company’s training programs targeted at adults.