The Power of Weekly Training

Why one local company makes time for training every Friday.When Kathryn and Mike McDaniel formed Colormark in 1990, it was a one-room shop that focused on commercial printing work.

Flash forward 22 years, and the industry and Colormark both look a lot different. The company operates a 40,000-square-foot facility, offering digital printing services, QR codes, online marketing campaigns and other tools that didn’t exist two decades ago. Something new is always coming down the line.

The McDaniels decided that investing in technology was the smart thing to do, but they realized that alone wasn’t enough. They needed to invest in training, too, so their employees could get the most out of those tools.

“You know, we invested almost $2 million (on technology) to make this change,” said Kathryn McDaniel, Colormark president. “There’s a lot of technology that people
adopt, but they don’t use it. I really wanted to make sure that we were going to sell and use this technology.”

So, for the past five years, Colormark has scheduled an hour of training each week for its sales and marketing staff. They call it “Technology Friday.”

“It’s a packed room on Fridays, I’m proud to say,” McDaniel said.

How Colormark Does It

The meetings usually run from 9 to 10 a.m. Someone usually brings snacks. McDaniel might lead the session, or an outside speaker will attend and discuss a new software platform or some other new technology.

More often than not, everyone in the room contributes to the discussion.

Sometimes it feels a little like a classroom, McDaniel said, because they drag out the overhead projector to check out websites and software.

She also uses the training time to review the company’s recent projects.

“We’ll talk every week about a program that we did that was successful and a program that we did that was not, and what we could to do change or improve,” she said.

Good Examples, Better Sales

McDaniel is a big believer in stories—specific examples of how customers have put a new technology or service to work. Sometimes the stories come from Colormark’s own sales team. Other times, they’ll reach out through trade groups to see what other companies are doing.

Those anecdotes have proven very popular when the sales staff shares them with customers.

“What people really want to hear are stories,” McDaniel said. “They want to hear stories of people’s success. And if we can tell them a story that’s comparable to their situation, it really helps them to understand what we can do for them.”

Repetition is Good, Repetition is Good

Because they train every week, McDaniel’s team is able to reinforce lessons or take another crack at information that didn’t sink in during an earlier session. They’ll occasionally even dig into material from a few years ago, she said.

“Training on a regular basis works because you just get it after a certain amount of time,” McDaniel said. “Even me—who is so passionate about making this change—it was a good 18 months of training before I felt really comfortable about giving a speech or going to talk to a customer about adopting new technologies.”

The Bottom Line and Snacks

McDaniel has a few words of advice for other small businesses thinking about a regular training program.

“I would say you have to lead by example,” she said. “And you have to make it fun. And you have to make it relevant.”

Setting out some bagels or fruit wouldn’t hurt, either.

“I would say the most important thing is to provide food,” joked McDaniel.