Five Facets of Utopia Training Company

After 9 years working for Big Law, I’ve now been working as a contractor for 2 years. I love it! It is absolutely the best gig I have found so far. By now, I have worked for several training companies (large and small). Each one has things I love and things I wish were different. So what would Utopia Training Company (UTC) look like?

Open the Books. Many years ago I read a book that absolutely inspired me: Open Book Management by John Case. It was an amazing story of a company on the verge of bankruptcy that became profitable in a short time by being totally open with the financials of the company. For instance, everyone knew what everyone made. Scary to some for sure but it builds enormous trust. So, what would this look like in UTC? I know three numbers: what you are charging the client, what gross margin you need to be make a reasonable profit, and what you are paying me.

Make the travel easy. First off, maintain a travel profile that has all my preferences and frequent flyer numbers. Then, let me know what flights and hotels you think are a good fit and give me a chance to approve or reject them. Book and pay for the flights and hotels.

Get rid of the receipts. For daily expenses, reimburse me at the Federal Per Diem rate. For ground transportation, give me a flat rate adjusted for the city I am in. On both counts this lets me spend as much or as little as I want without having to deal with the hassle of keeping receipts.

Let me teach. Some companies want you to follow a detailed outline. Others give you pretty much total freedom. The sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. In UTC, you are given a list of “must cover” items complete with an accompanying fill-in-the-blank handout. As a professional trainer, I am responsible for covering the required items but I have the flexibility to adjust the class based on the needs and wants of the participants.

Put the check in the bank. As a contractor, this one is probably the most crucial. What does it look like in UTC? I turn in my invoice on Saturday and the following Friday the payment is in my bank by direct deposit.

THE Most Important Lesson I Learned in Business School

The best educational experience of my life was going through the Executive M.B.A. program at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). After 17 months what was my biggest take away?


The only sustainable competitive advantage any organization has is its people.  As the chart above illustrates, as morale goes up, productivity goes up, and profits go up. And “as night follows day” as morale goes down, productivity goes down, and profits go down.

Want to start tracking morale? Take a look at my sample Attorney and Staff Satisfaction survey.

Master Your Story with Doug Stevenson

Several years ago I encountered Doug Stevenson. Many people are master storytellers but Doug is more than that: he helps you master your story. What I mean by that is that he gives you the tools and the confidence you need to tell your story with the compelling drama (or humor) of a professional actor.

Visit his webiste (Story Telling In Business) or check out these posts for more info:

Your story can make a difference to someone else. Do them a favor: let Doug teach you how to tell it so that they will feel what you felt.


My Way or the Highway (Book Review)

Do you work for a Micromanager? Are you a Micromanager? If the answer to either of those questions is “yes” (or even “maybe”), it is worth your time to check out My Way or the Highway by Harry Chambers.

So what do you do? Well, I had hoped the answer was that there were ways to help them see how unproductive their behaviors are and help them change them. Chambers makes a good case that they are not likely to change. My experience agrees with that. The deep seated arrogance and fear that drives a micromanger would take a miracle to change. The bottom line to coping with a micromanger is: give them what they want. Oh, I hate that! But . . . it’s true and it works. What they want is to know what you are doing and when you are going to finish what you are working on. So, give it to them before they ask.

Pros? It’s fun to read what seems like quotes from your own manager. I laughed out loud again and again. It appears to be based on research and not just one person’s opinion. Also, there are several questionaires that help you understand a micormanagers behaviors and strategize your respones.

Cons? At times Chambers went too long about the theory behind his recommendations. However he balances this out with lots of great examples.

Worth the read? If you are being micromanaged: absolutely. If you are a micromanger: you won’t read it because you see no need to change.

Sound off in comments.

World Changers – Interview with Sharon Gaskin, Founder of The Trainers Training Company

I’ve have gotten to know Sharon through her thoughtful and consistent contributions to Twitter (@SharonGaskin). She really knows her stuff when it comes to the world of freelance training. I am very grateful that she agreed to answer some questions for my blog. Enjoy!

Tell us about what you do. I am the Founder of The Trainers Training Company, the premier resource to help freelance trainers create successful and profitable training businesses. Everything that I do is designed to help and support freelance trainers in their businesses. Having been there and done it myself I know how hard it can be!

I provide online resources and training programmes, run monthly webinars, live Workshops as well as working with clients 1 to 1.

What are you working on now? Promoting the next Trainer Talk Live Events. Trainer Talk Live events are designed exclusively for freelance trainers to help them learn, share and connect with each other as well as receiving valuable business advice from guest speakers. These events are a BIG passion of mine as I often hear freelance trainers complain that they feel lonely and isolated – they needn’t be as they can come to these events! I’m also planning dates for my next Workshop – How To Create a Successful and Profitable Training Business: The Easy Way! Also I have just finished a 9 week Webinar programme: Fast Track To Successful Freelance Training – which was great fun!

What part of your job is the most fun? Oh definitely the fact that each day is different and I can set my own agenda. When I first started out as a freelance trainer 10 years ago someone a lot older and wiser than me who had been freelance for 20 years said ‘You’ll be unemployable now’ and that’s definitely been the case! I love the buzz in the room at the Trainer Talk Live Events, I love to see everyone connecting and leaving energized and inspired. And my 1 to 1 clients give me a lot of pleasure too, when I see them developing their businesses, getting more confident and enjoying success.

What advice would you give to a new trainer starting out? Do your homework first. By that I mean the hard graft of sitting down and thinking through answers to some fundamental questions like –

–          Who is my target market?

–          What type of training do I want to specialize in?

–          What must I charge in order to have a sustainable business?

Far too many freelance trainers (myself included when I first started out) just plunge straight into networking or whatever without really spending time going through this type of process. That’s the reason – I think – why so many established trainers have been on my workshops and bought my programmes – when I wouldn’t expect them to – because they have had to go back to the drawing board.

What separates the freelance trainers that make it from the ones who don’t? Well, the ones that do go through this process are far more successful for sure. Specialization is also so important. The most successful freelance trainers I know are the ones who have been brave, stuck their necks out and specialized, not tried to be all things to all people.

What’s one thing interesting things about you that you would like to share? One of the great things about working for myself is that I can indulge my passion for watching tennis! Let’s just say there is a little less in my calendar at certain times of the year, especially the last week in June and the first week in July!

To find out more about Sharon Gaskin and The Trainers Training Company, follow her on Twitter (@SharonGaskin) and visit her website: TheTrainersTrainingCompany.

#1 Free (or mostly free) way to reduce your travel stress

Love to travel? Have to travel? Want to lessen the stress? Read on . . .

I love to travel and I suppose you could call me a road warrior. Even so, it is tiring. Some parts of it you can’t control but others you can. So, what is my strategy? Keep the travel environment as consistent with home as possible. Change is stressful and the idea is to minimize the change.  How you choose to implement this strategy will be up to you but let me give you some of the things that work for me.

Use the same toiletry organizer (and toiletries) all the time. I love new experiences but using whatever disposable razor I can buy at the hotel isn’t one of them. It is comforting to know that everything I need for shave and shower is where it always is.

Eat mostly like you do at home. I will never forget the first business trip I went on. Since I could eat whatever I wanted, I ate a bunch of fancy food I wasn’t used to. I’ll spare you the details but it wasn’t pretty. Now, at least for breakfast, I eat what I do at home.

Maximize the consistency of your sleep environment. I chose my bed because it is very similar to most hotel beds that I sleep on. I sleep with ear plugs, a sleep mask, and a sound machine. Especially the ear plugs have made a huge difference in the quality of my sleep on the road.

So what are your strategies for making the road less stressful?

The Fantastic Four of Superhero Training Managers

Are great training managers born or trained? I don’t know. Probably both. Below is my short list of those things that separate the good from the great managers.

1. Secure. Most leaders are not secure enough to lead leaders. Anyone can lead followers. My teenage son can tell people to “shut up and do what I say”. That won’t work with leaders. What they want is to be a part of the entire process and they want to be able to chart their own course. To lead the top performers you simply give them an objective, a deadline, and get out of their way.

2. Strategic. A great manager will relentlessly pursue management until they understand the Firm’s strategic objectives and how training can with them. After they understand these objectives they will begin to implement them and tie them back to ROI.

3. Servant. A great manager will not sit back and delegate. They will work arm in arm with their team. One of their top objectives will be how to make their teammates wildly successful.

4. Soft spoken. If you have to push your authority, you don’t have any. The higher you go in an organization, the softer you need to speak. These are two statements which have guided my thoughts and actions. A superhero training manager will understand the Firm’s objectives, balance those against the needs and desires or their team, and gently, yet firmly lead them in that direction.

What does your list look like? Do you know any Superhero Managers? Sound off in comments.

Why Not Schedule Spring Training for Your Life?

You’ve got to do something. You have hundreds (okay thousands) of emails in your Inbox. You have way too many things to do. You know that urgency and not values are driving your life. Help!

Well help can be found. I love David Allen but Michael Linenberger has taken his priciples to the next level. Not only has he applied and enhanced the Getting Things Done principles. He has done it for all the platforms I use (and probably you as well).
I first heard of Linenberger’s work from his book, Total Workday Control. Amazing, detailed, spot on way to manage your Email and Tasks through Outlook.
Now he has applied his Managing Your Now (MYN) system to other platforms as well.
With his system no matter where you are you can be managing your life! It is amazing how much more peaceful you will be when you take the time to implement this system.
I intentionally divide my email and tasks into Work and Home. For work I use Outlook. It doesn’t get any better than this! To use Outlook on my Android phone, I use TouchDown. TouchDown allows you to implement (MYN) on your phone and is a superior replacement for the native ActiveSync client.
For Home, I use Toodledoo. And for my home Tasks management, I am just trying out a new app called Got To Do.
What is so great about Linenberger is that he gives amazingly detailed and accurate directions for everything. If you are looking for a way to manage your life, LOOK NO FURTHER. I have tried them all and this is the BEST!
Check out his work at
What about you? Have you used Linenberger’s system? Are you a Getting Things Done zealot? Do you use something eles?
On another note, do you teach email and/or task management at your firm?