Dec. 13, 2022

How Chris Ronzio Transformed Business Onboarding and Training Ep 99

How Chris Ronzio Transformed Business Onboarding and Training Ep 99

Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual, a leading SaaS platform that transforms the way small businesses onboard, train and scale their teams. Chris is the host of “The Fastest Growing Companies” and “Organize Chaos” podcasts as well as the author of the best-selling book “The Business Playbook - How to Document and Delegate What You Do So Your Company Can Grow Beyond You."

Where to find Chris Ronzio

Website: www.chrisronzio.com

 

Chris's Top Tech Tools

  • Trainual
  • SaneBox
  • ProfitWell

 

SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcript

Chris Ronzio:

What's at the center of our DNA is about growth, employee empowerment, and delegation, so that for anyone in the business, as they grow and take on more challenging, exciting responsibilities, they can pass down the things that they've developed some best practice on how to do to the next person that comes into the business, or to the next person that is added to their team.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to fascinating entrepreneurs. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit? These in a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book, RELENTLESS is now available everywhere. Books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your local indie bookstore too, and if they don't have it, they can order it, just ask them. The reviews are streaming in, and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to TheRelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual a SaaS platform that transforms the way small businesses like mine onboard, train, and scale their teams. He is also a partner of Design Pickle. We talk about how Trainual went from a free giveaway tool for his consulting clients to a full on SaaS business, why he wrote the Business Playbook and how he engaged with influencers to fill up the top of his marketing funnel. Now let's get right into it.

Chris Ronzio:

So Trainual started as a product. In 2015. I was running a consulting firm doing operational consulting, so helping people with their systems and processes. Everyone I was bumping into said they want their business to be turnkey. They wanted to run without them. They want everything to be dialed in and however they talk about it, what they meant is, they want to have, how they do what they do packaged and they want their people to follow best practices and know where to go for that info. And so as I was doing the consulting work, I saw that everyone was using Google Docs or Word docs or laminated sheets. You're pointing at yourself and maybe YouTube videos if they were sophisticated. But there was no place for companies to go for their owner's manual. And so I thought there should be a place that you could build how your company does what it does. And so Training Manual or Trainual was born, so it was just a product for my consulting business. Ran it for three years, just kind of internally given it for free to people. And little by little it was being recommended to other business owners that I was not consulting for, but they said, "Hey, can I get this software?" So 2018, we spun it into its own company and we've been growing it ever. So really simple platform.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. I have something to admit. I built a whole system in Salesforce that is completely custom, but I was trying to figure something out in Salesforce and you guys had what I thought I made the mistake of thinking that your product could teach me what I needed to know about Salesforce. Like totally screwed up But now I of course use Trainual after having like the most robust onboarding and training via Google Docs and YouTube.

Chris Ronzio:

Well, that's a great place to start. A lot of people wouldn't do that, but if you started there, then I think our system's just an upgrade. It's all in one place and it's searchable and attracts everything.

Natasha Miller:

It's beautiful. Yeah, beautiful ui, really robust. I started doing some things in it and then I had someone else from my company parlay everything into it. They just did your conference and they just were so happy to be trained by that event. And I would liken it to, for anyone that doesn't know what Trainual is a learning management system for your company, right? So I used Kajabi to for some of my programs and you guys are like that. Very specifically for businesses and their onboarding and training.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah, exactly. There's a lot of course software out there for Kajabi, and a lot of that is publishing and selling content. But what do you do for in-house for getting your people up to speed, teaching them about all their roles and responsibilities, setting the right expectations, and then just training 'em on an ongoing basis. And that's what training goes for.

Natasha Miller:

And it's so much more beautiful to look at than going into Google Docs. Let me just say, this is not an advertorial for Trainual, but obviously you've got a fan here.

Chris Ronzio:

Oh, thank you.

Natasha Miller:

I'm in EO. And so many of us use your products, so we thank you.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So let's talk about the book, the Business Playbook. What were your goals for the book and what surprises have you encountered after releasing it?

Chris Ronzio:

Well, my goal was really just to establish this space, this category, because what's crazy to me is you hear things like standard operating procedures or a Business Playbook, or an operations manual, and you kind of get what that is for a business. You understand that as a growing business, you need to have some consistent ways you do things. But you mentioned learning management systems, learning management software. That's something that typically only real enterprise companies, invest in, and they develop learning and development departments and they have training managers and they build out this beautiful instructional material. Small and growing businesses really don't do that. And learning management and compliance for a lot of us can feel like bureaucracy and red tape and not something we want to invest in. So my goal with the book was to really make palatable, make it approachable and share how practically in small, medium growing companies, this is something you can accomplish. It's not that hard, and here are the areas of your business you need to get on paper. So that's what the book was about, is establishing that.

Natasha Miller:

I wonder if you're using it similarly to how Genome Wickman does his EOS traction. Like basically anybody that works for EOS Traction has a hundred books and they give them out to everyone they know to train them on this incredible system. And then if you wanna work one on one with someone you can. Now your business isn't exactly like that cuz your product is the SAS product. Were you using it or are you using it in that manner?

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. Indirectly, the direct point of the book was not to be a solicitation and I know Genome well and I know that they've sold millions of copies of traction. We do a lot with the OS and so for them it's a foundational. Piece of their business and what's described in the book became the foundation for how their coaches build out your plans and your rocks and your, and so a lot has evolved from that. Similarly, the content I put in this book was a foundation for our product and engineering teams to say, let's build a product that solves these problems for businesses. But it wasn't. Let's create a book that just points people to our existing products. So I would say the book is informing how train's growing in the same way that Geno's book informed how EOS grew more so than just create a book to point people to Trainual.

Natasha Miller:

So I have a very deep interest in publishing. And I saw you worked with Lioncrest and Scribe. Yeah. What was your experience with them? With what I assume some ghost writing or editing, that whole situation. You're a very busy person, so let's just peel back the veil and tell people what writing a book is really like. If you someone like that.

Chris Ronzio:

The experience was incredible and it was very efficient, but at the beginning it was very difficult for me because a lot of busy executives don't write, they don't do a lot of content. I love writing. I do a lot of content column with, INC Magazines. I've written an Entrepreneur at Forbes and like I love writing. It's a format I enjoy. And so we worked with Lioncrest, with Scribe because we wanted the package of everything. Like what I don't understand is publishing and promoting a book and the cover art and the quotes you need to get for the book. And that's and

Natasha Miller:

The layout

Chris Ronzio:

that the package, the layout,

Natasha Miller:

the layout in and of itself is a cool.

Chris Ronzio:

Table of contents and just like how to set up a chapter. I didn't understand that I can write a mean blog post, like gimme 600 to 800 words. I will crush it. But with a book, I didn't know where to start, so that's why we brought them on. What I liked about it is that the book, when I read it, I think I wrote it. It feels like I wrote it because we went through these periods of every week doing hours long phone calls and they're just taking the transcript of the call.

Natasha Miller:

And you spoke it. You didn't write it, you spoke it.

Chris Ronzio:

Rearranging and so we worked together on the flow of the book, the table contents, and what is everything that needs to be in here, what's the arc of how we're presenting the information? And then every chapter that we did once at a time, like me telling stories like here on the podcast, and then what would come back to me at the end was a chapter that I felt like 90% I wrote, and then I could just massage and tweak the details and say, let's, I wouldn't say that word. Let's make sure it's this word.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Chris Ronzio:

And I had plenty of editing latitude at the end of the book to really make it my own. So it was really an efficiency play for sure.

Natasha Miller:

I wonder if your scribe, like my editor, he would put in these words that I would read them and go, "What? There's no way I would say that!" And he did that sometimes to trip me up, to get me to use my voice in my own book. And I'm like, "Come on!"

Chris Ronzio:

Maybe.

Natasha Miller:

And then

Chris Ronzio:

that would be a really,

Natasha Miller:

Yeah.

Chris Ronzio:

Cool secret package.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. And then I'm like, "Well, what if I didn't say anything and-" and anyway. Yeah, maybe writing business books is not that much fun. Yeah. Maybe you're not gonna be tricked as much.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah, and the other thing that was hard for me, just in case anyone else is considering this, I have so many presentations and decks and things, and I wanted to kind of squeeze everything like my life's work into this book, but that is not what a book is. And so we had to really narrow the focus and say, this book is about this, and let's save those other concepts for future books. There will be more.

Natasha Miller:

Okay. Back to the book and marketing. So Lioncrest and Scribe, you probably did some of their marketing elements. What was your experience with, especially the launch and the very beginning days of the marketing and the outcomes and how did you feel about that?

Chris Ronzio:

I felt very well supported, but a big part of it is on us as authors to have a network to market to. And so I think it would be a incorrect expectation for someone to hire anyone that's gonna promote their book and think it's gonna be a incredible success if you don't already have the audience. To get the momentum going, like the snowball rolling down the hill or something. And so fortunately we've built a great audience to Trainual. We have tens of thousands of business owners on our newsletter and following on LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram. So I was able to really like lean on that audience and that helped a lot.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. Great. And I'm hoping that your team at Trainual was really a big push and help for that as well.

Chris Ronzio:

Oh yeah, they were great. I mean, we did promotions with the book and we have an annual conference, you mentioned it, the playbook event. And so at last year at Playbook, we gave printed copies, I think, to the first thousand people that registered, and then we gave digital copies to the next couple thousand. And so it was a great launch to be able to hand those out to.

Natasha Miller:

Cool. What would you say your big hair audacious goal is for Trainual at this point?

Chris Ronzio:

BHAG I love it. Well, the end state, I guess the hundred year vision or something is that every business has a playbook that in the same way that every business would have, every established business has a payroll system or a CRM or project management. We're trying to build that category that this is something that businesses. Don't do business without, because why would you, why wouldn't you have a place for all the knowledge in the company? So that would be the BHAG is that every company has this, not ours, doesn't have to be ours, but that we're building this category.

Natasha Miller:

But hopefully yours, I'm a user of Zenefits and I'm on their advisory board, and I'm just spitballing here. You may already have. Teamed up with someone, but it seems like such those kind of companies like Zenefits and Trainual seem like such a wonderful partner because you're sort of filling voids and if you wanna introduction, but anyway.

Chris Ronzio:

Totally. Yeah, we integrate with them. So there's a lot of those built in integrations and for us it's how do we not play favorites a lot of times that if we wanna be this tool that works, no matter your payroll provider or benefits provider or whatever it is, we have to be a little bit agnostic. We're recommending, but we want a solution that works with all of those.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever thought that you should write a book, that you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to memoir sherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your memoir, to a best seller status. Okay, so switching gears to something completely not Trainual, what role do you have in the company Design Pickle

Chris Ronzio:

Actually, I just got back from a board meeting yesterday, so I'm on the board part owner of the company. I've been there since the beginning, and really it's an advisory role. It's when I was first involved Russ's a good friend of mine, he's the founder of Design Pickle. He started that before Trainual existed, so I was in my consulting business. I'm helping people.

Natasha Miller:

I like one year I saw.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. And so he asked for my help with getting Design Pickle off the ground. And so I joined as kind of a founding partner and I had equity in the company. I used my design chops that I used to have to, make the first version of their application. And so I was really involved in the product and operations. And then over the years, Design Pickles grown into a huge worldwide company, 600-700 employees, and they're doing well. So now just a board member given advice from the backseat.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. But like good move for you to partner with Russ back then, right?

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. Like venture capital, even though it might have been sweat equity.

Chris Ronzio:

Sweat venture? Is that a thing?

Natasha Miller:

I think it is now. I think, although it kinda sounds like sweat shop, so maybe not.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah, maybe not. All right, we'll remove that one.

Natasha Miller:

So what is your focus and your strategy for growth in the next, let's say 12 months? What are you saying to your team? This is what we're going to do to scale and grow, Trainual this year.

Chris Ronzio:

That's an awesome question. Well, we have a meeting tomorrow about our strategy for next year and so if we're having this next week, I'd probably have a clear answer. And also, I'm always hesitant to share things that are like product strategy that are on our roadmap. We use that annual event, that playbook event, as kind of the big launchpad, the big announcement for what we've been working on over the last year. And so I can tell you that. We want every business to have a playbook, long, long term, BHAG. So the shorter term vision is how do we make your playbook seemingly right itself, and that could mean a few things. So as the business owner, that could mean that we're prompting the other people in your company to input information and keep it very accurate when you first sign up for the product, you provide your industry and some real basic information on your size. We now have machine learning that's recommending all of the roles and responsibilities that you have as a 20 person marketing firm or as a 50 person, whatever. And so that's in a sense, the playbook kind of writing itself. And so that's in a big way what we're focused on right now.

Natasha Miller:

So you're focusing on product and user results. And I would say just based on my, before I was the user, I saw some social media. Not a huge amount. I definitely heard about you through EO, so that was like just icing on the cake. Right. But you are a strategic sponsor for EO? I believe so,

Chris Ronzio:

Yes.

Natasha Miller:

Are you doing anything in integrated marketing? I mean, you are because you're having this event and that's really an important part of integrated marketing. But is there something that you are like, we're gonna do ads on connected tv or-

Chris Ronzio:

Well, we do. I mean, there's so much we do in marketing. It's gotten very sophisticated. But over the years, I mean, we've done our event now three times, four times, which has grown into a really big event. We've got the book as a platform. I do, speaking all around the country and the world, the facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube ads. All of our digital ads are a huge part of our top of funnel awareness and acquisition. We have a lot of kind of celebrity and business celebrity partnership kinda thing.

Natasha Miller:

I think I saw something with one of the Sharks.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. So Damon John is an investor and a partner of ours, so we do work with him. We did last year even a music video with Montell Jordan. If you haven't seen that-

Natasha Miller:

I have not

Chris Ronzio:

you gotta look that up.

Natasha Miller:

Everybody's gotta look that up.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

So you started this business really as a giveaway. Then in 2018, you said, let's make this its own company, and now it's 2022 after a pandemic, and I can't even imagine what may have happened to Trainual during that time. Why don't you give us just a peak? Was it amazing or were you like, "oh my God".

Chris Ronzio:

It was, we had three times the traffic to our website overnight. Basically. It was like a new,

Natasha Miller:

"So amazing" and "Oh my god."

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah, it was a new level of demand. And so what we did is instead of taking all of that demand and just letting anyone into the product, we used it as a way to start to filter who are the best customers for the product. And so it was great in that sense.

Natasha Miller:

So the end of the question was how do you go from kind of startup ish 2018? To celebrity endorsements and partners. What is the roadmap to that because that's pretty quick.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. And pretty cool. Yeah. So it was always fun. It was always just, what can we do that's fun and creative? And even when our budgets were smaller, we were still bringing in, like we had Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank do a little endorsement. We did this little commercial, think you can still find it on YouTube with some of the actors from the office. And we were doing those things before we had ever raised funding, like a year into the business.

Natasha Miller:

Wow.

Chris Ronzio:

Because we were really focused, we were really fine tuning our funnel. We knew exactly how many people get to the website, what percentage of those people do a free trial, what percentage of those people convert, what percentage of those people make it to 3 or 6 or 12 months. And when you understand the economics of your funnel, then you feel comfortable about taking bets on acquisition strategies. And so for us, the bets early on with the celebrities were, if I spend $5, $10, $20,000, whatever. For someone to talk for a minute, does them being in my ad lift our conversion rate by 5%, do will more people.

Natasha Miller:

And you measured all of that?

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. Will more people scrolling through their feet click on the ad?

Natasha Miller:

Wait. You did better kevin or Like who?

Chris Ronzio:

It's funny, I'll tell you this. Kevin and Damon were at such different times. It's hard to say it wasn't apples to apples, right? But we did have a test. I was in an advertisement talking about all the hats you wear in the business, and I was taking all my hats off. And then we had Damon do the exact same ad because it had been so successful and my conversion rate was better, which I was so excited about Damon got more. People to the website built more awareness, but I got more conversions. And so the finding was like he was bringing in a business that was smaller, that was not in need of Trainual yet the problem that we were solving and that particular channel. Yeah. So, so, but yeah, we test everything.

Natasha Miller:

So you invested in influencer marketing, which is awesome. I just interviewed the founder of this really cool electric bike company called Super 73, and they had- so, I mean, it's a rad bike, right? It's a little different than a SaaS company, but they're like, yeah, we don't pay any celebrities. They just come to us. I'm like, wow, good for you.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah.

Natasha Miller:

But at this point though, Chris, you probably have people that are more than willing, like I'd be happy to be an ambassador for your

Chris Ronzio:

Cool. We have an ambassador program. I'll follow up after this.

Natasha Miller:

I already am. Okay, so I think I know the answer to this because you're a very mature, sophisticated business owner. Are you building this company for an exit?

Chris Ronzio:

I am not building it on a timeline for an exit, but I think every business should be built. To have the optionality of an exit. So am I building it for an exit someday? I'll say "yes". I'm not intending to have this as like a generational hand down to my kids' business, although that could be an option. You never know. And so when people ask me definitively, am I trying to exit? Am I trying to IPO, am I trying to have this for 20 years. I think it's impossible to know. There's so many factors at play. I'm trying to build the best business I can build, and I'm trying to enjoy working here every year and I'm trying to solve our customers problems, and I think if you can do those things and build a healthy company, then you've got a lot of options. But I do not intend to sell the business anytime.

Natasha Miller:

Great answer because I have learned from our fellow EOer, Jessica Fialkovich, something that a lot of people like me that build a business that feel like their baby. So my business is 21 years old, and if you had asked me prior to 2015 would I ever sell my business, I would be offended. But now I'm more mature and understand that just like you said, you have a responsibility as a business owner to be developing your business to be the best it could be at the highest rate of sale for the moment that it becomes necessary or the moment you really want it to, because the moment it becomes necessary, you want it to, if it's not in place, you've got two or three years of work, right, to get it there.

Chris Ronzio:

Yeah. So, I've known Jess for 10 years, something, eight years maybe. I sponsored the Denver EO chapter when I was a solo consultant before I had any employees, and I had sold my first business, which was a video production company that I had for 12 years. And same thing if you asked me at the beginning or five years in, would I sell that? No. Like my plan is build this forever. But then when I had my first child and we were starting to think about that with my wife. I don't wanna be on the road in events. And it it, the business lost its appeal. So things change in life that sometimes you can't predict. And I think it's smart to be always thinking about it. And her book is a good guide too.

Natasha Miller:

Yes, it is. Thank you so much. Is there anything that we didn't talk about that you'd like to leave our listeners?

Chris Ronzio:

I guess the only thing I would say is depending on who's listening, if you're a business owner, if you're a leader at any stage of the business, I think it's important to not think about training as just this thing you do at onboarding, the thing you do when someone starts in a business. But really what we're all about, what's at the center of our DNA is about growth, employee empowerment, and delegation. So that for anyone in the business, as they grow and take on more challenging, exciting responsibilities, they can pass down the things that they've developed some best practice on how to do to the next person that comes into the business or to the next person that is added to their team. And so what we're trying to really create is this vehicle for everyone in a company to document and be able to delegate the knowledge and the business. And so it's not just for when they're hired, that's the only thing I'd leave with. For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me, go to my website OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller. And you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRNEURS.

Chris RonzioProfile Photo

Chris Ronzio

CEO and Founder of Trainual

Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual, a leading SaaS platform that transforms the way small businesses onboard, train and scale their teams. Chris is the host of “The Fastest Growing Companies” and “Organize Chaos” podcasts as well as the author of the best-selling book “The Business Playbook - How to Document and Delegate What You Do So Your Company Can Grow Beyond You."