NetCom Learning Can Teach Us a Thing or Two
How a Company Revolutionized the Professional Training Industry - It Starts with a Vision
NetCom Learning’s origins are what the American dream is made of – an immigrant from one of the poorest countries in the world comes to the United States with a dream to make a difference in the world. Russell Sarder was that young man who knew if he had the opportunity, he could not only change his life, but change the lives of countless others. Sarder jumped feet first into learning the language and culture of America as well as how to start and run a business. His love of learning was apparent and he wanted to share that passion with others.
With $500 and a belief that lifelong learning was the key to personal and professional success, Sarder began NetCom Learning, an organization that provides learning solutions to individuals wanting to boost their resume or simply learn something new. While he began small, his vision quickly took shape and corporations and government clients noticed. Fifteen years later, NetCom Learning has serviced more than 71,000 professionals from mostly Fortune 100 companies. NetCom Learning is continually ranked in the top three Microsoft learning organizations and the Top 20 IT Training Companies by TrainingIndustry.com, its Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the highest in the industry and 96 percent of its customers recommend them.
How did Sarder take his dream and make it a reality? His singular purpose for NetCom never changes, he develops relationships with the right people, and uses the best technology available.
A Focus on the Purpose
It’s the purpose that differentiates NetCom Learning from its competitors. Sarder came to the U.S. from Bangladesh with a desire to learn as much as he could to make his dream come true. His love for learning became his mantra and continues to be the driving force of NetCom Learning – promote the values of lifelong learning, both for employees and clients. Every person hired must understand and uphold the purpose of the company, creating a performance-driven culture based on continual learning. “Our competitors can steal our ideas and products, but not our culture,” says Sarder. “We are a purpose-driven company and everything we do must align with our original purpose.”
NetCom Learning’s business model is as concrete as its purpose – crystal-clear understanding of where and how the company wants to compete, and the agility to modify the strategy based on demand/changes in the marketplace. “My number one goal as chairman and CEO is to set the direction of NetCom Learning and have our leadership team formulate the strategy with measurable goals,” says Sarder. “My job is to develop leaders because I believe no company can grow without growing its leaders. Organizational structure aside, I look at changes in the marketplace and how our strategy should adapt.”
Keeping Up with a Dynamic World
While the need for learning may not have changed over the past decade, the methods of learning have. “Technology and our culture are rapidly changing,” says Sarder. “We must embrace change or die.” An example of that change is in how training is delivered. In the past, NetCom Learning offered mostly classroom training because few people were interested in live online training. As technology and work habits evolved, however, more and more people wanted to forego traveling and train when and where they want. Technology would play a major role in how NetCom Learning would respond to the demand.
“We identified the online training trend early on,” he says. “We changed our technology to ensure we could provide a high-quality experience to clients and educate trainers how to effectively deliver online training.” In fact, nearly 30 percent of NetCom Learning’s catalogue content changes monthly to keep up with emerging software and applications people want to learn. “We stay ahead of demand by developing strong relationships with top vendors to use their authorized courseware and develop content.”
ShoreTel Sky Answers the Call
Relationships are paramount to Sarder. His relationships with his leadership team, partners, vendors and clients are what he believes is a cornerstone to NetCom Learning’s success. When his relationship with Verizon soured, he began to look for a phone company who could meet the needs of NetCom Learning: provide fresh technology that integrates with existing systems, reduce costs and provide personalized attention. The team behind ShoreTel Sky impressed Sarder from the outset. “They made us feel like we were their only client,” says Sarder. “Not only were they able to integrate the phone system with our CRM software to help us manage our sales system, but more importantly their company culture aligned with ours.”
With phones and internal applications integrated, NetCom Learning’s sales system provides useful data to the management team, such as which sales person is spending the most time with clients, and which territory is making the most calls compared to closing rates. Management monitors calls which has had a tremendous impact on closing rates. “Sales doesn’t want to go through multiple systems to get data,” says Sarder. “We can import the data live to a central place with ShoreTel Sky, making it easier to manage our sales operations and allowing employees to excel.”
The ShoreTel Sky technology also gave NetCom Learning the ability to completely change its workforce demographics. Sarder wasn’t sure the mobile workforce movement would work at NetCom Learning saying, “I was skeptical a remote salesforce could be as productive, but when I saw 80 percent of our top sales people were working remotely, I became a believer.” A remote workforce brings a host of new challenges, such as how to ensure collaboration, communication and access to key business functions. A flexible phone system was a necessity.
The ShoreTel Sky VoIP system is cloud-based, making adding users to the network fast, easy and remarkably cost-efficient. Employees can work from virtually anywhere. CRM functionality is pushed to mobile devices and home offices so employees can be more productive, often with a better quality of life.
With inherent disaster recovery, the ShoreTel Sky phones have built-in reliability. In fact, during Hurricane Sandy, when land line phones were down for weeks and even cloud-based systems were disrupted, NetCom Learning’s remote employees outside of New York weren’t affected and became a lifeline for the company.
“ShoreTel Sky is playing a major role in our mobility,” says Sarder. “People make the mistake of looking at a phone as simply a phone. We look at it as a strategic tool that can be a competitive edge if you have the right vendor, advanced technology and integration with other applications.”
Sarder and NetCom Learning’s purpose to promote lifelong learning extends beyond the company and sales. Sarder’s humble beginnings instilled a desire to give back in the best way he knew how: through education. Inspired by Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes and the One to One initiative to help a person in need with every product purchased, Sarder began Love of Learning. For every NetCom course enrollment, NetCom fully funds the education of one child for a year in disadvantaged communities.
“The importance of lifelong learning isn’t limited to those with resources,” explains Sarder. “There are so many kids in this world that don’t have the opportunity to learn, therefore change their circumstances. We want to create that opportunity and our purpose gives us the ideal platform. We built a relationship with an organization called BRAC that educates people in third-world countries. We are donating enough money to assist BRAC in educating hundreds of children. What really excites me is to think of how many kids we can educate as NetCom Learning grows. I can’t think of a bigger business driver than that.”
As NetCom Learning reaches more people around the globe, its need for unsurpassed communications will become more indispensable. ShoreTel Sky invests significant resources into ensuring it stays at the forefront of emerging technology so its customers like NetCom Learning can stay at the forefront without investing more dollars. Customers leverage ShoreTel’s expertise so they can focus on their own purpose. It’s one less thing Sarder has to learn (not that he won’t try).