For most of the courses we give, we group up delegates from different companies - perhaps one or two in the pharmaceutical industry from Essex, a financial modeler from London, a seismological researcher from Saudi Arabia, a civil servant from Leeds and a web site designer from Wavertree, and we run a "public course" at our Melksham, Wiltshire training centre. The mix of 3 to 7 (absolute maximum 8) delegates from very different walks of life, yet learning the same subjects, provides a rich interaction and cross-pollination as to how the subject being learned will be applied. "Data is data" after all - whether it's the shock wave recording of an explosion looking for oil, the performance of a share, or the search term log from a web site that's promoting cleaning products. These are know as public courses - see [here] for details
Where a company has a substantial group all of whom are to receive the same training, and they can all be trained at the same time, we'll run a private course for them. That gives them the advantage that the course can be tailored to their exact needs, but looses them the interaction with people from other organizations who may shed different lights on the subject. And it means that we can run the course at a venue to suit them - be that our Melksham, Wiltshire training centre, their own conference room, or occasionally at an extra room that they'll rent out near their place of work. Once a private course has 4 or 5 delegates on it, it actually ends up lower in cost than booking a lot of places on public courses - and if the organization and training isn't in Wiltshire or close by (few are; we're an international trainer!) they also make a big saving on travel costs. These are known as private courses - for details of them at our centre see [here] and see [here] if you would like us to come to you.
Rarely - very rarely - we're asked to present a course for a number of different companies brought together by a third party. Such third parties are likely to be training companies themselves who don't cover the very specialized niche subjects that we do, or consolidators / resellers who don't actually employer any training staff themselves, but rather make their money by charging a higher price to their combined clients than they pay to the tutor. I have to confess that I find it very hard to work with such companies in the majority of cases - through there are a handful which are the exception to that rule.
What are the issues that concern me?
Well - firstly, the delegates and their company are usually kept at arms length from us until the course starts. Which means that we're not able to fine tune the course content by asking "what are you going to be using Python for?" or "have you any prior programming experience", "are you going to be using version 2 or 3" or "do you want us to include a section on OO design
as well as the details of the language"?
Secondly, some of the reseller companies have business practices which differ from ours, and (as tutor and sometimes sole representative of the training organization) I may find myself justifying those. The biggest issue here tends to be course cancellations - where the third party has been advertising a course for a while and has "bumped" delegates from one course to the next - often at short notice - until numbers reach their minimum level; by contrast, we do not cancel a course once you have booked it - even if it means running at a loss occasionally; the gain in goodwill means that's a sensible business decision for us too - but then we're strong enough to take that longer term, customer-centric view.
Thirdly, price. Resellers make their margin by charging a price for their course, then paying the tutor very much less per head. And if they're putting together a public course that wouldn't have made sense otherwise - why not? So an 8 delegate course of 4 days; a public course list price from us is 1100 pounds - income 8800. For that course at Well House Manor, we would charge them 4900.00 - so they would get 3900.00 for consolidating - just acting as a booking agency. But that's if things go exactly right ... what if they don't?
Here's an example ...
|This week, I've been asked to quote for a four day course, a long way from base, for three delegates. The maths just don't add up. Either the delegates must pay a lot more than the course should cost (which they will resent), the reseller must loose some (or all) of their margin, or we could take it at a severe loss. Surprisingly (not!) the company concerned is listing the course at 1790.00 per delegate but demanded (once we got all through the technical stuff via their contact!) that we run it for under 3100.00 "we know you're keen to give it and have the week otherwise unbooked" they say .. holding a gun to our heads. Alas - how badly they misread our efficient customer service in looking after them as a keenness to give the course at any price. |
So ... let's see. I can give a course at half price. To delegates who have paid 175% of our normal public course rate. And who have (I am told) been "messed about a bit" which I read as "postponed at least twice before". Following a course description which - for Python - seems to miss out fundamental elements such as Object Orientation (not a mention of "method" or "class" in the description!). Furthermore, the company owner talked about "cash flow" in his discussions withe me, so I really wonder when we would have got paid / if we would have ended up chasing a debt, or being blamed for less that happy customers (through no fault of our own) as an excuse for paying us even less, or perhaps nothing ... very late, or perhaps never.
What a bunch of cowboys! (with apologies in the use of that term to real, professional, cowmen!). I don't want to even touch it, nor the company again!
A question that arises - why do people book with third party companies anyway?
• to keep the number of different suppliers they have down. These days, there's considerable paperwork involved in setting up accounts, terms, conditions, etc between companies. Add to that vetting / quality control / integrating training records, and you'll see that it can be very attractive to put all your training through a single third party. Of course, beware the third party who puts people on courses that give him the highest commission rates!
• because of extra services the third party provides. If it's deferred payment terms, help with Visa applications, assistance with grant funding, training record tracking for all your employees or travel bookings rolled in with the training, that's great. Of course, you'll expect to pay a little more for these services and their convenience.
• because they haven't come across us directly / don't know we exist. Let's face it - how on earth do we (or other similarly specialised training providers) actually reach that thinly spread niche group of potential clients, and reach them early enough in their use of Lua, or Ruby or Python for them to be potential customers for our courses? People don't just walk up a street, knock on a door and ask the person who answers it if they're about to start a Tomcat course. So if a third party does do such marketing, they can help us and resell on the course at whatever they feel is an appropriate cost.
All good reasons. And we respect the third party role in ongoing relationships so formed - in other words, we will expect / invite follow up business for the same client to be through the same route. The fact that we don't discount to resellers is actually good for them in this arena as it means that we're nt even tempted to try and go direct!
At Well House Consultants, we are happy to accept direct bookings for our training courses for any suitable delegates.
For new customer organizations, we'll typically ask for a 25% deposit with the balance payable before the course, but we can also offer accounts / terms of up to 28 days where appropriate. We accept major credit and debit cards, BACS payment, cheques and (rare though it is!) cash. We can include within the booking hotel quality accommodation at our training centre, and you can also book that separately (to be paid on checkout) if your company's accounts system requires it.
We cannot offer you complete training packages that include courses offered by other companies - we are not ourselves a third party booking agency - we will only take bookings for what we provide ourselves. And we cannot arrange worldwide travel. The most we can do is offer advise, and prebook a taxi to collect you from the airport or a local railway station. (written 2010-08-19, updated 2010-08-20)
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