Today we sat down with Gavin Jones, the CEO and Co-Founder of Nucli, an eLearning software company for organizations. Nucli helps companies change, align and grow through creation of learning experiences that change the way individuals and teams behave. You can learn more about Nucli at their website here.
Listen to Gavin speak about the necessity of organizational higher learning, and adapting to education needs.
Who are you, what do you do, and what makes you unique?
Nucli’s an eLearning company, so we provide a SaaS solution for companies that has both course based training as well as on the job training. Overall we collaborate with businesses on strategy, content creation, and offer this eLearning platform as a conduit for our solutions. I think in terms of making us unique, most people, when we were talking to them, don’t really like their training system, they don’t really have a positive relationship with and it and so there’s kind of a negative correlation between the training itself and the training system they’re using. So by design we support people in their daily work lives engaging in their collective learning, and it creates a continuous improvement culture. Because of this people, find the system much more helpful and they actually like using it. It results in liking the training as well.
How does open information lead to market breakthroughs?
So typically when you encounter a problem at home your first solution is whipping out your phone exactly like you said. Google, YouTube, whatever the resource is, and really teaching yourself the basics or filling that knowledge gap yourself. So when you look at most companies still having a training system that’s kind of a one and done deal, do the course work when you start, never touch the thing again – this just isn’t really fitting with how people look up knowledge on demand today. When they need it, when they are doing it.
You asked what are the benefits or breakthroughs when you have the proper knowledge resources in your organization, and it really unlocks the value for your team. It’s likely that with the current training, people are clicking through or maybe not totally following. They’re just check-marking, getting it done, and when they’re actually engaging with their system, and able to re-engage with it again when they need to get that continuous learning you suddenly get a higher percentage of employees who are operating at their top potential. They have, you know, the most current practices or procedures and if they have a question they can immediately know where to go one centralized place for knowledge, training, et cetera. The result is efficiency through operations for the organizations, and depending on your organization that’s either increased revenue or savings. Outside this, you’ve got the new issues around training that companies have never encountered until these past few years, which is, half my work process is remote, how do I suddenly train online and have people in the office, and how do I translate what I used to in person, and centralize this. Our clients are really seeing rewards in this way of being able to address both those needs.
How can business leaders identify that there's a knowledge gap in their organization?
I think where we come in is most companies know there’s an issue. Maybe I know there’s a knowledge or performance gap that’s because of a knowledge issue, so what do I do? When someone’s completing a task and they’re confident, you see efficient, quality work. When that’s not the case and there’s a knowledge gap, you kind of see slower work, there’s doubt, there’s a lack of confidence. Someone working slowly, asking their colleague constantly for direction, that’s an issue for your overall business. It’s an anchor on overall performance and success, so if you’re seeing this of course my answer would love to be buy our software we’ll fix it all, but it’s more than that. You’ve got to take a step back with your team and figure out how that situation is being created.
Often with training, people think just about the individual. When you’ve got a team of ten or twenty people that’s great, you know, Gavin needs a bit more training, we’ll sign him up for some more shadow shifts or some more coursework or whatever it may be in your organization, but you’ve got one guy that’s great. But for an organization of larger size you’re going to have quite a few Gavins, if you will, and so the question becomes more of a question of how do they start. In my experience from doing decades of operations training, you can have the most engaging, wonderful training in the world, there just are some people whose nature is they’re going to leave it to the day of that launch or of that initiative. They’re not going to do the homework, they skipped that in-person session, all the things you put in place to succeed. So the question becomes, well what are you going to do the day of, or a weekend to make sure that person can succeed?
What goes into the preparation of starting your own company?
We’re in an environment right now where being an entrepreneur is just such a celebrated and perhaps over glorified, in my opinion, thing. For me, I’ve been dreaming up ideas and initiatives and kooky plans for over a decade. I would pitch my friends and my wife, and so I think part of it is you’ve got to be in that mindset of always trying to figure things out.
I think it’s the co-founder of LinkedIn, Lee Reed Hoffman, who said that start-ups are like jumping off a cliff and trying to assemble the airplane on the way down. I think that’s a pretty adequate quote. You know, if you think you’re going to start a company, I think first you have to be honest about your abilities and resources. You’ve got a myriad of potentials here but you know, are you living at home rent free? Can you go potentially a year or two, three years without income? What’s your expertise?
If you’re talking about tech start ups are you a programmer who’s going to bootstrap it and write the initial code, or are you coming in from a marketing and business [background] and you’re going to pay someone else to do the parts you don’t have? There’s a whole bunch of questions about how realistic it is. You certainly don’t want to put yourself in a position where your whole life’s falling apart for this Startup. You can actually, while you’re working, while you’re doing school, whatever, do some customer research and try to figure out – is this idea truly solving a pain point for potential customers who might be able to pay for it? Really getting a better grasp of “is this a good idea?”, overall would be my advice. Go back to that quote, look before you jump. You can do an incredible amount of research and work in your free time outside of school or work to prepare yourself to really put yourself in a position – to stretch the metaphor – to have the tools and the training to build that airplane.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced as an entrepeneur?
It’s a good question. I’m lucky to have an absolutely brilliant co-founder Solvay Johansen. She’s founded a few successful companies before Nucli, so obviously having her by my side, [we’ve] been able to avoid some of the common challenges that first time founders have. I think the largest challenge is, I would imagine there’s thousands of eLearning companies to some degree and it’s a very sticky market. People tend to buy a product and stay with their product for five plus years. You’ve got an issue there figuring out, what are the product buying cycles for the potential customer when to reach out to them and we’ve experienced this we’ve got some people that are really interested but they’re three four years away from their current contract so there’s a timing factor there. Just like any start-up, getting the word out, it’s a very busy industry and with training you have different people in the organization that run it so a lot of organizations have a traditional setup where hr runs the training.
We work with aerospace businesses, and for them, often they’ll have an entirely different operations department that runs training for operations, and so it’s been a challenge. I think some of the other challenges are learning to say no. There’s lots of people that approach you, maybe they love you maybe they love your brand, who knows. You talk to them, you have an exploratory meeting, and you just know that you’re not the right solution for them. You know they might be willing to buy your software but you know what they’re really looking for is this other thing, and so kind of training yourself to say no because they’re going to be a distraction. They’re going to eat up time and resources and you know, your business is energy pulling you in a direction none of your other customer are going. In the start up phase, it’s so tempting to say ‘sure yeah I’ll take the revenue’, so I think that’s a challenge as well – training yourself not to do that.
I guess the final challenge that comes to mind is, learning is complex. Even as we’re going through this conversation, you were saying it’s kind of bringing up some ideas in your head maybe around how you’re doing training in your organization etc. Just last week, I’ve explained to our clients about how our software allows people to choose their own learning journey. Maybe you’re someone who learns better by reading, or by listening to audio, or watching a video, and in our software you can choose which one you want to do for the learning. They were really coming at it as, ‘I learned by watching a video, that’s how I’ve always learned, we don’t need anything else’, and so sometimes you’re really interacting with people who don’t totally grasp the nuances of the learning environment. That can be a challenge to prove the ROI of developing out such a robust solution.
What is your most important takeaway when it comes to choosing a business partner?
When you’re looking for a co-founder, my opinion is you have to be able to work together. You certainly don’t want to be having someone who you’re screaming at every day. There’s toxicity if you will, in the workplace but personally I was looking for someone a lot different than me. Solvay comes from an experience with industrial design creative, having done a master’s in education, she worked as a teacher, and ran her own consulting business for the past decade. [She worked] with several successful Vancouver start-ups, and so really compared [differently] to myself who came primarily from business operations. When she comes to a problem she comes to a totally different [solution] than me which is perfect in my mind. I think there’s a lot of power in the diversity of thought in a partnership, and in a leadership position.
Certainly if I started a business 10 years ago, I probably would have picked someone who felt like me, you know agreed with me, wasn’t going to fight me or disagree with me. I think when I was younger, that seemed like a really good fit. As you gain experience, you suddenly see in the power of, as I said, diversity of thought and someone disagreeing with you, challenging you, creating a healthy environment of challenging ideas. In meetings it’s a much more powerful confirmation. You also have to know when picking a partner, to figure out the roles and needs. I think being clear about who’s going to take on what you want to accomplish. Solvay and I’ve been working for decades in our own roles and so we kind of came together meeting through our MBA program and discussing this idea, knowing what we want to do, what we don’t want to do, and that made it a lot easier than having to figure that out as we went together.