Here at Comtec we strongly believe in the importance of strategic partnerships. For us, that means partnering with suppliers who can help us achieve our business objectives and who share our values. For our client relationships, that means delivering much more than just a transactional service. It is one based on trust, open communication and shared values, in which we provide proactive recommendations, deliver innovative solutions and establish enjoyable working relationships.
To explore the subject of strategic partnerships and the value they can offer all parties, I asked one our clients, co-founder of Logicearth Learning Services Peter Carlin, to share his thoughts on this type of business relationship.
Strategic partnerships: interview with Peter Carlin of Logicearth
Comtec provides training and e-learning translation services to Logicearth for the workplace learning projects Logicearth develop on behalf of multinational companies across a range of sectors.
Q: Tell me a little bit about Logicearth.
Peter Carlin: Paul McKay and I worked together in an IT training organisation, delivering very high end technical training courses across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Towards the end of our time there, we started to look at e-learning because we could see that our clients were asking for an alternative to classroom training. They wanted to scale training across larger groups and teams, which classroom training couldn’t do because it’s way too expensive.
The market in e-learning was very well established but we could see that the quality of the technology and content wasn’t great. We wondered why an entire industry was creating things that no one really wanted. The vision for the e-learning industry was to scale training and make that training impactful for the people who are taking it. But it wasn’t hitting the mark and we could see that very quickly as we started to adopt the technology and the content itself.
Paul and I had accumulated an awful lot of skill and knowledge in a specific area and the time was right to pursue our vision for offering clients a much more rounded toolkit for their training needs. So we left two very well paid jobs in 2010 (in the middle of a crash) to set up a business!
It was difficult but we were passionate. Passionate about what we do and our proposition. We were also passionate that things were ripe for disruption and change, and for a better quality of service. That saw us through thick and thin, and we’ve gradually grown our customer base and here we are today with 20 employees and some fantastic clients.
Q: Where do you currently sit in the marketplace?
PC: Very early on we took on an ethos and attitude of being a mid-Atlantic company that can work with European and US companies. That’s been our tactic from day one and we’ve amassed clients in pharmaceutical, financial services, ICT, and manufacturing; we’ve done well across that group. Quite a lot of them are multinational companies like the Allianz Group, Analog Devices, the Kerry Group and many more of that type. For us to succeed we need a mix of larger companies that have a continuous demand for what we do, and smaller companies who need our services but only from time to time.
Our next 3-5 years is to look for significant growth in those verticals and that will be primarily based around a very modern product-service offering.
Q: How does Logicearth differentiate itself?
PC: It’s a highly competitive market and our competitors are all very product orientated; they sell learning management systems, they sell content and they sell additional software and consultancy. We’re not selling the old things that quite a lot of the industry sells. We’re completely focussing on high end learning experience platforms and a content service to match.
We take a very different tack by looking at the problems our clients have, the tasks that they do every day and the things that they do that make up their year. We primarily sell to Learning and Development professionals so we take the time to understand what is it they do every day, every month and every year, and we break that down into discernible chunks and then we look at our services and how we can apply them to those tasks.
Personal development, management and leadership skills – what we would call generic skills – are still a huge part of what L&D professionals do in large companies. It can consume as much as 80% of their time. So we look at solutions that will dramatically reduce the time involved in delivering generic skills across large groups of people.
Q: How important do you think it is for your clients to build strategic partnerships with their suppliers such as Logicearth?
PC: I think our clients are crying out for strategic partnerships with very good suppliers. In the past many clients have tried outsourcing and it has been very difficult because they’re often very transactional relationships, and perhaps those suppliers have not got under the skin of the company, the culture they have and the absolute requirements and drivers for what they need. Those transactional partnerships have never really worked because instead of reducing the burden on their own staff, they’ve had to add an extra layer into that process to manage the supplier.
When we deal with our clients we look at more strategic partnerships that go way beyond the transactional. We’re providing an awful lot of insight, we’re providing a variable model, we’re providing acumen and we put in place processes so that we can understand their business and quickly become an extension of their team.
It’s transformational when it works really well, and we’ve had so much repeat business on the back of that attitude.
Q: What’s your process like in terms of on boarding a new client?
PC: It’s actually quite simple because our main aim is to build trust. It’s very hard to articulate what a strategic partnership really looks like, people need to see it working to understand it. We normally start off with quite a small project. We’ll actually say to the client “don’t give us a large project to start with, give us a small project and you’ll start to see the way we think”. Once that starts to happen they can see all the added value and the benefits that come with the acumen, the modern research and leading edge methods that we bring – things that they could never dream of getting overnight.
Q: Are there parallels between the way you build strategic partnerships with clients, and your relationships with suppliers like Comtec?
PC: There are absolute parallels. We’ve always had a way of dealing with suppliers, Paul and I have had years and years of experience doing this and we’ve brought that to Logicearth. We talk about the Logicearth team plus our ‘family’ of trusted suppliers. We say that for a reason because we can only really deal with suppliers who treat us the way we treat our clients. It’s so important to our success and growth strategy to treat our clients the way we do, and we like to be treated the same.
When Comtec came along it didn’t take us long to see that they have the same values, the same attention to detail and the same responsiveness to communication as we do. That really gelled quite quickly in the relationship.
Q: How can you measure whether a supplier will be able to support your business growth strategy?
PC: There’s one overriding value and principle we use to measure a supplier, and that’s ‘can we work with them?’ and ‘do they feel part of the family?’ That comes back to their eagerness to respond quickly, it’s such as big thing for us. All those little indicators of being really good communicators, that they have their radar out asking, ‘are those guys ok?’. That’s what we do with our clients so it’s really nice when we get that from a supplier. Conversations about rapid growth and scaling come later when the relationship is established.
Q: What areas have you invested in most to drive business growth?
PC: As I said earlier, we work in a very competitive market – there must be 10,000 companies just like Logicearth across the world and we’re one voice in the middle of all of that. For the last 8 or 9 years our growth has primarily been built through our network of people and existing clients moving from one company to another.
A couple of years ago we explored exactly where our future growth would come from and agreed that growth through our network wasn’t going to deliver the results we want. So we’ve pulled together a very detailed strategic marketing plan and we’ve invested heavily in digital marketing, with a bit of traditional marketing. It’s about using all the digital marketing tools that are available to bring together a very technical marketing plan that we’re in the middle of getting off the ground.
Q: What are the biggest challenges to growing Logicearth?
PC: The marketplace is a massive challenge but the good thing is that all those bad, historic things about digital learning are beginning to change. The software and content that we sell is now beginning to match the rest of the creative industries. It’s come out of the dark ages and we’re now into the new agile era, so it’s exciting that we’ve got better products to sell and a better vision to give our clients. Our challenge is to get that message out there.
If you look at digital marketing, everyone is at it, and it’s become very competitive and has become very hard to stand out. It’ll come down to the quality of the digital content, that thought leadership and acumen, and the channels we use.
We’re confident in our skillset, we’re confident in our product set, and we’re confident in the passion that we have, we just need to get that out across digital marketing channels and get that seen. I think we will then stand out above our competitors.
Q: How important is customer retention in growing Logicearth?
PC: The old adage in marketing that it’s 100 times harder to find a new client than it is to keep an existing one is 100% true.
It’s a big thing for us to grow existing clients and become a strategic partner to the wider company. It’s one thing to be the strategic partner to the buyer, who may work in a specific department, it’s another to get your name known across higher and lower echelons.
Q: How has Comtec supported your key relationships with large multinational clients?
PC: Every time we ask for help from Comtec we’re getting a very well thought through response, it’s not a copy and paste of the last document. You guys take time to think about what we’re asking and what’s right for our clients.
Q: What do you value most about your partnership with Comtec?
PC: E-learning translations are getting more and more complex because it’s not only text, there’s voiceover and video editing and all sorts of things going on at the same time. Plus, we’re also dealing with quite complex project schedules. Being able to understand all this complexity and fit into these schedules is quite a thing.
Obviously, quality is a big part of it. When you get a translation back and you don’t know if it’s right or wrong because you don’t know the language, it requires a lot of trust. Having that trust is a big part of the process.
Q: What is most important when you are looking to develop strategic partnerships?
PC: It’s that ability to communicate, the responsiveness of communication irrespective of whether the question is being answered or not, and it’s building that trust up. Also, bringing acumen and insights to the process. We’re not the experts in translation, our clients aren’t always the experts in e-learning content development or e-learning software, so it’s bringing that added value to the process and relationship.
Q: What advice would you give other companies looking to develop strategic partnerships to extend global reach?
PC: I think it’s about looking over the longer term when working with suppliers. There’s one thing providing a service that’s hitting a price point, then there’s making a service that satisfies all the important things around communication, trust, and the build. Both things must be right, so you need to find suppliers who hit that sweet spot between keeping the price competitive but supplying a value-added service.
Comtec have been able to do both, and we have to be able to do both for our clients. Just because we provide a really value-added service doesn’t mean we can be really expensive, our clients have to see value in the service and the price. There are very few companies out there who work hard to bring the value and get the price right at the same time. I think that’s what creates longevity in supplier relationships.
We are very proud to be part of the Logicearth family and value our relationship with the team. As you will have gathered from Peter’s insights, both Logicearth and Comtec like to work with our clients and suppliers in a very similar way. If you would like to speak to me in more detail about how we build strategic partnerships with clients like Logicearth, please get in touch.
You may also find our Ultimate Guide to Translating eLearning Content useful. This free download shares how to handle e-learning and training material translations.