Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 15 · 1 year ago

Easy Customer Learning with Dave Howard


This week, I interviewed Dave Howard, an expert in strategic customer education for anyone offering software as a service. Dave's experience in videography, software creation and online courses gives him the background he needs to help his clients teach users to get the most out of their technology. 

That's my name is Tracy Ariel and I am unapologetically Canadian, and this week we are speaking with Dave Howard, who is one of the entrepreneurs that I've met through the Mirror c community and he lives in Port Albernie. How are you, Dave? Good Tracy, how are you? Not Too bad? So can you tell me a little bit about what's been happening this week? Well, it's not a shining is it always does British Combia. As you know, it's actually we've it's kind of quiet here in port of anny. I like being in this space in terms of having less hubbub and less of the world pressure is going on. I've been working from home for ages, so the circumstances right now I don't really change how I do things on a day today basis. So it's pretty comfortable and lots of work seems to be pumping up, so that's all good too. Yeah, because we are still in well it as we were recording this, we're still in the midst of covid nineteen and everybody is staying at home and so we for people like us who tend to do a lot of things online, work is not stopped, but it does feel weird anyway somehow. Yeah, certainly good kind yeah, it's certainly different, although, you know, it's as I said to several people, my wife and I are usually here anyways, and so it doesn't it hasn't changed as much and we've been fortunate a DC. I think the curve is starting to turn a little bit here and we haven't had a lot of the concerns that you might have in larger centers like Montreal or Toronto or even Vancouver, and it's been not too bad. Right, right, right. So can you talk a little bit about what you do? Well, what I do is I work with people to help them to build better and more effective online learning and I have a couple of focuses for that. One of them is to work with people within the customer education field, people who are developing online learning material to support people who sign up to use their product or service and want I'm working with them gets to help them to build that material. Feels that it's more effective for the end customer, gets them to the results they're looking for, uster easier and is also easier for them to develop and maintain. So lots of times what we find is that the challenge for developers of the content is that there's a lot of things they want to develop and they're not sure how to go about it in the most of efficient way. So I can help them with that. And then the other area I work is with past clients from my fealing business, which I still support. So I support users and help develop some content for more conventional online courses with association science per so what do you call yourself? I cut myself an e learning re evolution ary, Oh that's cool, or an online learning revolutionary. What I'd like to do is think of it as going back to the way things have been done and rethinking them and redoing them in a new way that works well for everyone concerned. My interest always is trying to find the easiest solution for people that gets win wins for people happening. So can you tell me a little bit about one of the success stories of somebody that you've worked with and got some good results or something that got you into the business that you're doing now? Or was thinking that in some ways, the most the best success story that we've had was the success story that launched my learning company in two thousand and six I've been working with a still see it, on a number of learning projects just as independent workers. And then we decided we would take on this project from the building owners and Managers Association of BC to develop online learning for building operators. And it was an unusual training in a way, or an unusual contract, because it came to us when the... that had originally bid project and one started to get into financial trouble and weren't able to actually do the development side of things. We had even heard about this project being up with and just through a network forktion that I made, somebody said, hey, you might be able to take this project on for us, and we ended up taking on the entire project and the other company just faded away, disappeared shortly after. We've been involved and we've maintained the relationship with those people for now fourteen, fifteen years, and right now actually I'm working on an upgrade to that course where we're taking it all out of the technical formant it was in before and moving into video. So it's been a great long term project. We've been what we've always tried to do with money learning company and I tried to do in my own business, is that up sitting on the same side of the table with the client, and other words, we're looking for the same results. We're looking to all win on the same basis. We're not in any kind of adversarial relationship where they think I'm going to try to overbuiild them or I you know, I'm going to try to get more hours from them, that sort of thing. So we've had that kind of great relationship enough for a decade and a half with Boma, including doing a national version of the program so I like to think of that as really emblematic of what I've always tried to do in my business success story. Those happy to work from over whatever. So we did well in the fact that you still have a relationship with them since two thousand and six that that shows that your quote. You know that there's a quality there, an appreciation for each other skills well, and there's another interesting aspect to it, I guess, which I think of a lot, which is that the we develop this contact for building operators. So that could be somebody who started working inside of a so of the could be a mall or could be an office building or something like that, and they may have started pushing a room and as a caretaker and worked away up or they may have come into that organization with some engineering degrees, basic engineering training, so a wide variety of backgrounds that end up in building operations. And those students in the course have universally praised the course and said they really love it. They find a very easy to use, they find it increase their capacity to do things they wanted to do around energy management substantially and to me that's always been almost more important than how happy Blema was with the course. If the end users are finding it useful and helpful them, that's a big win. Yeah, now when you're developing the course, so you developing it on some sort of platform or do you develop it on their own server or how do you go about doing that? Well, that that's an interesting question, because what we ended up doing is going through the process of actually creating our own software. We started with the idea of doing it with existing stuff where various kinds, and finding a learning management system to run it all, and we couldn't really find something that did everything we wanted add a price point over a capability point that made sense for Boma to invest in. So we actually had a person on staff. It was very eager to learn how to build some of the stuff himself and we ended up building our own system. So that was a plus in that we had to throw a total control over all the elements of the project. From that standpoint it's a because in the end there's nobody else that knows how to work on that content or keep it going, and since we weren't really in the software development business for the long term, that part of the reason that I'm working now on this current project to take all of the content out of the system that we built it in and move it into a new system and use video instead of flash technology. Of people are familiar with that, which is now coming to the end of its useful life on the web. So right Ros and bounds to the way we did it, but it worked and it would probably the content has to be updated every now and then anyway, so that's true. Yeah, well, I think we was an interpret running experience too, because we found that we had become a software development company without really anticipating that we were becoming a software development company, and... that was a good learning experience for my business partner and I to read us how different that was how much it made a difference how we organize the business and how we ran it and how we structure projects if we were developing software as opposed to creating the learning content right and well, that sort of leads to the next question, which is what do you consider your biggest failure and how did you learn from that? Well, interestingly, I would take my biggest failure and take it out of the entrepreneurial world. But they did actually have a major impact on coming back into the entrepreneur in work, and that is that I worked for a period of time teaching. My background is video production, so I taught a video production course and private Post Secondary Institution here in DC for a number of years and and developed with them as they grew into other areas like computer graphics and various areas, because they were growing fast. At got to the point where the two people that own the business thought they needed a general manager to run the organization and because we'd had a fraidylong good relationship, they asked me if I was interested in doing that and I thought well, that would be an interesting challenge and I took it on and I did it for about two years and I think I was marginally successful at it, but only marginally, because what it taught me was the skills, again, I'm a general manager, are very different than the skills of an entrepreneur or a developer or an instructor. It's a lot about just keeping track of all the little nutie that's happening day to day and making sure that everybody's happy and everything's moving forward, and I was not particularly good at that. So what it taught me was when I go back into my own business, I need to look for opportunities to get the kind of dydd grunt work that I don't do well taken care of by somebody else so that I can focus on the things I'm strongest. That it oh, that's a good realization. I think all entrepreneurs need to do that quite off and actually it's not an unusual challenge for us a I think, bringing in well as we as we were the other day. There's always new learning and sometimes it's painful that you have to learn something new, but it's usually something that moves you along the path in the right direction. So that's good. Yeah, well, and I mean it's been interesting saying because listeners won't know, but the reason that Dave and I have met is because we're both part of an online, basically coaching session about courses and it's a it's been a fabulous experience because we get to know people from around the country, which is why I'm in Montreal and he's in Port Albernie and we still know each other. I think is awesome. Have you had other good experiences with the Mirror C community? Oh yeah, definitely. There are part of a couple of groups of people that meet on a fairly regular basis to just exchange ideas. One that just started about a little over a month or so ago and it's been really interesting because we fight we could together. We find that as a group of four people we have great, deep, interesting conversations. We haven't quite figured out whether we want to just keep doing that and treated as kind of mastermind with joint problem solving and things like that, or whether we want to take on a project together and kind of cool our various expertises, which could melt together nicely and do something or or something else. So that's been really enjoyable to do that. And then there are a couple of people within the mercy community that I meet with or correspond with on a weekly basis, just kind of on the basis of an accountability partner, and then sometimes rainstorming ideas and sharing ideas. So for me the real value of mercy, beyond the course work, which is great, has been the community and the people I meet through. Yeah, well, in so many different entrepreneurs trying to do projects that really are making Canada better. I mean it's a it's a fascinating group of people. Can you talk a little bit about some of the people that you work with locally and in your in your industry? Yeah, I we tend to...

...just bring people on on a contract basis when we need them, and the work I've been doing for the last couple of years I've done primarily on my own. I don't don't have a lot of work where we're contracting other people, but when I have brought them on, usually I'll bring on people with specific skills, like someone who's a hardcore instructional designer and really can get into the nitty gritty with the subject matter experts and figure out all of the content that needs to be communicated and how they might do each portion of it and write all that out again. That's kind of like my general management experience, I could probably do a lot of that, but I just know I'm not great at the detail of flushing at all. It would sit on the side of my desk for ages at a time when I need to get to it don't. So that's my tendency, is to higher good people that I've met many of them virtually. Certainly I don't even before covid with not people that we were always beating in person, but we're dealing with over the weapons. So some of the May live locally and some of the May live in other parts of the world and just bring them in on an as Nete s basis with experience that will contribute to the project. Yeah, that's on the on the colleague side, but what about on the client side? Can you talk a little bit about some of the clients that you've worked with? And we sure why? We work primarily in the dealing business with association clients of various kinds. So the Ballmel organization that I mentioned, we did a big project for the BC Wildlife Federation. Was a program that was designed to teach people basic conservation and outdoor recreation skills. That was in the school system. It was also the prerequisite to summon someone being able to apply for a hunting license and BC. And so there we were, everything from information about firearms and and safety and all those areas through the door safety and, you know, something that would be relevant to people who are hikers or otherwise out in the doors, first aid and things like that. So that was an interesting project. We have done and have a an ongoing relationship with the Insurance Brokers Association of BC where we create content for them and host a website for them for broker education. And so each year this is our busy time of year while brokers log in and get the training under their bout that they need to keep their license active. So they have to have a certain number of continuing education points by the end of May. So I often joke that we should have a separate website that tells you which is the which are the organized insurance brokers that do all this work back in September, October, January and we're the ones that are doing it in the last two weeks of May to get it done before they run at the time. That would make an admit meeting info graphic. Actually, I don't think it would be different from most students, so it's probably true. And then internationally we did a big project with the World Resources Institute on Greenhouse Gases help system work, camping for and tracking greenhouse gas emissions and we created a project for them and we've done to work with large other large US organizations in very areas. So variety finds. That's what I like most of it. It's what I liked about being in the video business previously, is you could go into this, learn a lot and then once you learned a lot, you could move on to something else interesting. You didn't have to keep doing it for the rest of your life. Yeah, sort of like the Magpie tendency to want, sorry, as in a lot of imagine a lot of magazine writer than batter. The same thing. I love the fact that I can dive in learning a lot, but I don't have to stick with it after I've learned to be happy. Yeah, no, journalists and basically a lot of creative people are like that. Actually it's a it's both a force and strength and a weakness, I think, because it means you can actually that you're comfortable with change, which a lot...

...of people are not necessarily, and it means that you learn quickly, but it can also mean that focusing can be a challenge as really, as we were talking about in our face group Book Group, about the challenges we share about in focusing exactly. I think somebody in the discussion I was in last week called a scanners or the kind of people that are customly looking for new and interesting things in our environment and love to get into them for a bit. Are always looking for the next new and interesting thing as well. Yeah, well and well, it definitely makes for a great life, so that counts now. As you know, the last question in our in their conversation, talks about your attachment to Canada and whether you consider yourself a candidate a Canadian. But before we get to that, is there anything about Your Business and about your entrepreneurship that that I didn't ask that you were hoping to talk about? Piece I mentioned trying to get on the same side of the table with your clients so that everybody's working with the same objectives and with trust that it's going to work out for everyone. I always like that. I think it's attributed to Teddy Roosevelt, the quote that nobody cares how much you know, and too they know how much you care, and so I've always tried to build a business based on that acting. Action is important, persistence is important, but most important, I think, is having your clients understand that you care about what they're trying to accomplish and their goals and objectives as much as you're girl. Now, do you have a process for making that happen? I don't know that I have a process. I think I you that fairly naturally, and one of the things I'm fortunate to be fairly skilled at is when I get into pretty with the client, to put the menials and the people that I understand, I am the person that tends to like to ask all the questions and listen to a lot of answers before I start volunteering information. Chiefually puts people at these that I am concerned that I know what I'm talking about before I start spending enough solutions for them. So I think you don't know that I have any anything that I would think it was a process, except the way the laborage naturally interact with clients well, and as a videographered you have a an overview of the picture, to which doesn't that help somewhat? Yeah, that's true. I guess there's kind of two pieces to that. I think there's there's the big picture view of things, that understanding kind of how the conversation you're having now or the project you're talking about now fits into a larger context. And then lots of times it's something else. Had A lot of entrepreneurs with Howdy, particularly consultants and coaches, said almost every client thinks they're different, and yet a is what you're going to end up talking about. It's exactly the same as all your other clients and they do things the same way and somehow you have two way to maintain sort of rapport with them and let them feel comfortable and believing that they're different, special and maybe more than me percent other ways that you're interacting with them. That's it. It's interesting to me sometimes, though, easy it as once you get inside of a bubblet of not realize many other people are doing much of the same thing you're doing and it's your secrets ass on top that makes the biggest difference in your business over someone else's. Yeah, that's a little bit the same as in writing to actually, because the story is significantly different. But you can have the I mean there's not that many structures that work, but by giving someone a structure, their actual strength shows up. Right. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, so, yeah, it's a it's definitely a different, similar kind of process, I think. I mean I always like talking to visual visually oriented people, because the the the kind of way you think, in the kind of way I think it is completely different and yet we get a lot of times we still get into the essence of what the but the story is. That's interesting because the writer tends to be very detail oriented and organized and, you know, and and a visual person...

...tends to be very big picture oriented and much more flexible. M So, but you can still pull out the strengths of a story because of that. So that's what that's what I was thinking as you were talking. Right. So you use the euphemism big picture and flexible for disorganist. Yes, I guess it's not disorgit because it's not. When you're a creative person and you're that style of creative person, it's not that you're disorganized, it's that you're a multifaceted I think that's a better term for it than disorganized. Well, so we can be comfortable with and being passious. I certainly think that you're right that they really there's there's an approach to things that kind of cut his big picture down to detail and an approach that I attribute more to a journalistic, good journalistic or good writing view, which is to kind of build the story from the small pieces to the larger pieces. And those two can come together really effectively and and certainly in video production and film, they often work in parallel to get a great result. You know, you have the big picture people, in the visual people on one side of the equation and you have the writers and the detail people on the others, and and they have to work together effectively in order to get a great product, and when they do it can be spectacular. Yeah, but if the three loop is really oriented one way or the other, two strongly, the results certain lives good. So yeah, no, it's a I mean that is the creative process. When it's when it's working well like that's that's when you get someone else without the opposites, with that perspective or just a different perspective. It doesn't have to be opposite and you can work well together you can actually put together something very strong. I mean, and we see that right. You see that in all of the success stories to or you have the team, there's usually a very operational, you know, anal type person in a very creative person. That's how the to you know, people to keep people think it to be organized means not to be creative and it's not quite the same. So right, yeah, I think mean, but I think back to my experience. I mentioned my experience Gen managing at the school. The two people that started to school. One of them was totally about marketing, totally about throw anything against the wall and see if it would stick, always thinking about spending twenty times and more money than they had, and the other was the business oriented person who was always well, this is what we have for a budget. Here's the six things we actually have to accomplish this week, despite all the things you're excited about. And it was the tension, you know, they they were people who loved each other but fought very strongly with each other at times as well, because they so protected their turf. But if either one of them had been on their own, they would have not achieved any of the success that they did together. Yeah, yeah, actually, it's fun. My kids primary school was very much like that to the two founders were opposites in that way. So I I think it is a team neat definitely needs both sides of the equation. And you were talking about the creative world and you think about film and things like that, you do see that quite often where someone will have a film that they work on with a team of people and be very successful and then leverage that success into not having the same control over the next project they do, which just goes into the dumpster because they're doing all from their side without the benefit of the other side that need that first thing so successful. So it's good to keep in mind that teams do need to balance with talents and a balance of abilities and and passionate people on both sides to make their point to make sure it gets hurt. Yeah, yeah, Dan Sullivan actually has a really interesting story about that because he was going to talk to his he's had an accountant who's or a bookkeeper who's been working for him for something like fifteen or twenty years and he once went to her and said why she loved her job so much, because he couldn't even imagine doing it, and at one point she said, you know, I love this job because you just never know what the day is going to bring. So for her, you know, for him, looking... what she did, was was the same thing every day. And yet because she was a numbers person and because she could see the stories that the numbers told, she was actually someone who appreciated the change and the differences that each day brought, and so I think it's very important to recognize that everybody has a different level of the stories that they can see because of the patterns that they recognize. Yeah, I like that the stories that they can see in the same the same inputs are seeing differently by different people and that's a good thing. Yeah, yeah, no, it's definitely so, as you know. The last question is, do you consider yourself a Canadian and, if so, what does that mean to you? Well, I absolutely consider myself a Canadian. Fortunate and I guess, to be born and raised in Canada. Mostly going to be seen that I lived in Ontario for a long time and I think it means to me is I feel like Canadians are uniquely open and flexible in some ways about the way that they see the world and an ability to kind of sit back from a lot of it ands and see them in them more introspective way. Or maybe again it's that sort of we often are better at the big picture than it seems some other nations are, particularly when crises come along, are things are difficult, we can kind of see both sides of the story. I think we're fortunate to be a little bit smaller, so we're not at the center of things, because I think that puts pressure on you. When you're the US or China or the past the so union, there's a certain pressure on you because you're always assumed to have an opinion on everything, whereas Canadians have the benefit of being able to offer an opinion and having it respected when they have something to say, but can often sit back and not participate until later if they don't really have a need to get going. And I sort of like that sensibility generally. I think it creates strength and and it creates an opportunity and I guess facetiously, I think about something I read a little while ago about people talking about Canadians always saying they're story, and this meme was you know, some day can it is going to take over the world and then you'll all be so like that, given the name of my podcast. I think it works really, really well. said that you didn't sorry it. Yeah, oh my gosh, it's so. He said that you lived in Ontario for a little bit and that you grew up in BC. Where were you born? I was born in a little community off the north coast of Vancouver, Riley here, called Alert Day. Some people have heard of because it has quite a strong first nations history, but it was very small place when I was born there. And then I lived in a number of smaller communities in BC when I was growing up for the first decade or so of my life. Places like ocean falls, which still exists but there's maybe twenty people live there now, was a big pulp and paper mill, and we lived in Prince Rupert which is reasonable size city on the north coast of BC but small by most city standards. And then we lived in a place on the island you're called Campbell River, which was also a fairly small community. That I lived in Toronto for about twenty years and as I was often I said to people, I realized after twenty years, if I didn't do something about it, I might end up living there my entire life and I would be a disaster. So we got packed up and came back out to BC and lived in Vancouver for a number of years. But I'm really happy to be over on the island again now. It's a slower pace of life and lots of to like over here. How long have you been there? Just about a year and a half now, so you're still a new resident. I never think of a place as being at home until they've been there three years. Yeah, well, it's true. We're living as my parents, which we held on to after they passed away, and we had decided, my wife and I decided. We thought that the island is probably where we'd like to quote, retire...

...and quote, if people do that thing, that sort of thing these days still, and so we we would come here because it was a sort of central place to live in, an expensive place to live, for a while and decide if we wanted to stay here, here being this house, or here being this community either, and or also check out other places on the island figure out where we might want to spend or lorry years, let's say, in a few so that's what we've been trying to do. PRIORTY getting locked down in portperty with the covid fires. All Good? Yeah, wow, none of us expected that. It's not, but well, thank you very much. I really appreciate learning a little bit more about you. was great to chat. I appreciate your interest and is a great idea to have this podcast for us on apologetic Canadians. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode was brought to you by Profile Your Business. You struggle to Tell Your Business Story. Will Profile Your Business, dot ca a.

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