Finding a vision in a volatile market

As a policeman, Scott Deane quickly developed the skills to review and understand a situation and the people around it to make the best possible decision. While the actions of people in a high pressure social situation may be somewhat different to those in a boardroom, this ability to read the play and make solid judgements has held Scott in very good stead in his professional life outside the force.

Scott Deane is the chief executive officer of Learning Seat, an award winning e-learning company based in Melbourne. Learning Seat is one of Australia’s largest providers of online compliance training, implementing training solutions for more than 500 organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Scott joined Learning Seat in 2013, following a wealth of experience in sales, marketing, general management and IT – with a real focus in the B2B market. He was directly responsible for some of the largest BPO outsourced contracts in Australia and also has direct experience as a co-founder of a successful Australian software business that was developed from the ground up and ultimately sold to a US company. And all of this came after joining the Victoria Police as a fresh-faced 19 year old.

“I look at 19 year old kids now and I think they look so young, so I often wonder how I ended up there at that age,” he laughs. “But I was there for roughly eight years and loved it. Looking back, I see the remarkable grounding experience it provides, so although it wasn’t by design, it definitely helped me in my future life.”

When Scott decided to leave the force, he was a little lost at what to do. An opportunity came up in sales for facsimile machines, moving his way up to senior management and ultimately the National Sales Manager for Ricoh.

An opportunity to move into a business of his own presented itself when Scott was in his 30s. It proved to be very successful and was ultimately acquired by a US company. While Scott stayed on with the business as the head of sales and marketing, he knew his future would be elsewhere. So when a personal contact at Computershare was looking to expand its offerings, Scott moved across.

“Computershare was looking to develop the BPO side of their business in the communication services side, specifically on in-bound digital mail, which is partly my expertise. So I helped set up and create a new side of the business for them, which was very successful.”

This continued growth personally, and in skills, eventually brought Scott to Learning Seat, where he has overseen sustained growth and a consolidation of business and strategy.

“When I first arrived I saw this business with brilliant ideas and potential, but I actually put the brakes on to slow everything down. The company had over committed on a number of projects that they previously sold, resulting in a big backlog of work that needed to be done. I felt that it was extremely important that we met our obligations before gearing up for real growth,” he explains.

“The other thing that the business probably didn’t really have at the time was a clear vision on what we stood for and what we wanted to do, or be known for, in the marketplace. So we spent a fair bit of time really refining that and got everyone in the business believing in the vision.”

The position of Learning Seat when Scott joined is completely understandable when you consider its background. The landscape of online training has changed dramatically in growth and systems in the last two decades. Through its history, Learning Seat had been developed as a private enterprise focusing on customised training, before shifting towards co-building of compliance training with existing clients. In the mid-2000s, News Corp bought the company as part of a digital strategy, before on-selling it in November 2012 to two private equity firms.

Growing and developing in a volatile market, and under different ownership structures, can naturally lead to disjointed processes or a lack of vision, and Scott was quick to identify what structures it needed to move to the next stage.

“I could see this development around good sales process, sales structure, and culture best suited to a B2B business,” explains Scott. “This business, like a lot of companies in that technology training space, had experienced rapid growth but then it needed some more mature structures in place to make sure it could meet the next phase of growth.

“That’s really where I saw my opportunity. As many people in the BPO space will tell you, if you’re not customer focused and meeting their needs, you don’t last very long. I think the e-learning wave started where everyone had gone from face to face training but needed to reduce costs, and this technology option of online presented and worked pretty well for a number of years. However, as the market started maturing and people were looking for more sophisticated and meaningful solutions, the focus needed to change.”

Scott’s starting point was to address the structure of the team and the way it presented to market.

He effectively doubled the size of the sales team and created a scalable business that was capable of covering the whole country.

He then set about establishing what barriers people had towards training.

At a broad level, most people will recognise the importance of a business having compliance training. While the specific requirements of a business may vary by the industry, all companies can recognise the need to address fundamental issues such as bullying and harassment, equal opportunity and workplace health and safety.

However, the challenge for any training provider is reminding the business of their legal (and moral) obligations if they don’t stay on top of their requirements.

“I often find myself telling people that the three things that a business needs to do to be covered and adhere to the right standards: it needs to have solid policies, procedures, and training. Of course, those three things obviously provide no guarantee that people still won’t do stupid things, but it does go a long way to protecting a business from the inevitable claims that arise as a result of breach of compliance,” says Scott.

“As I describe it, no one goes to work really looking forward to doing compliance training, but without doing it, businesses are simply at risk of being unable to defend themselves in court. So we also discuss what a compliance breach costs a company in relation to reputational damage, being on the front page of business media, the personal business brand damage, as well as the obvious fines or even a personal charge.

“We generally find that if we can get in a meeting with a CEO, company director or owner, and explain exactly how far the legal responsibility can go, they require no convincing of the need to take action.”

Needless to say however that many of us have worked in organisations where training is enforced, but the manner in which it is delivered is so uninspiring or generic that it loses all meaning.

As such, Learning Seat puts in a large amount of effort to create programs that staff will

Whistleblowers elearning program

 engage with and undertake with resonance.

“I like to say that we’re storytellers,” says Scott. “The way we go about our training is basically to bring real life incidents into the training and tell the story of what happened from all sides. It helps us create really engaging content that people can genuinely relate to. The sad part however, is that we’ve got far too many stories to choose from.”

Naturally, the media attention that comes from severe workplace incidents puts the focus back on training, continuing the circle of engagement and need.

With a solid structure in place and clear philosophy of what the company stands for, Learning Seat is in a strong position to expand. That growth, says Scott, could take a few directions, but will definitely relate to providing strong support and specialist service.

“We are seeing the growth of a number of companies globally

through content aggregation. It’s a bit like the iTunes of training where you can log on and there are thousands and thousands

of courses. I think from our perspective, we’ve looked at that a number of times, but we think there is still a really strong place to have specialist organisations, especially in compliance, because it’s not just your standard sort of training and the risk of getting it wrong is too great.” 

 



Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.