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Business Observer Friday, May 20, 2011 11 years ago

Inside Trainer

Marc Blumenthal took over Tampa-based Intelladon eight years ago to provide employee educational programs. His company has grown through the recession as clients place a priority on training.
by: Carl Cronan Editor/Tampa Bay

Company. Intelladon LLC
Industry. Online instruction
Key. Making training programs fit clients' needs

Marc Blumenthal doesn't consider himself to be any sort of instructor. Yet his small company in Tampa's Westshore business district teaches thousands of employees how to perform better in their positions.

As CEO of Intelladon LLC, a Tampa-based company that offers customized e-learning and talent management programs for a broad range of clients, Blumenthal sees himself more as a facilitator of programs workers can use online. Clients can choose from existing training programs, or Intelladon can design a package specific to their companies.

Rather than designing programs from scratch, Blumenthal explains that his company tailors online courses to whatever a client needs, from employee orientation programs to required courses in workplace safety, sexual harassment or government compliance topics.

“We don't actually make anything,” Blumenthal says at his West Cypress Street office near Interstate 275. “Much of what we do is deliver training online. It allows us to meet customers wherever they are. In many aspects, you are a hammer looking for a nail.”

Blumenthal, who acquired a majority interest in Intelladon in 2003 when it was only two years in existence, has had plenty of experience in marketing technology to companies. The 46-year-old Tom's River, N.J., native attended the University of South Florida, where he earned a bachelor's degree in management information systems. He also spent two years during college working for IBM in sales and marketing in the early 1980s, when the personal computer was still fairly new to the market.

Upon finishing college in 1985, he started Progressive Business Solutions, a software assistance firm that he essentially formed from a senior class project. He took what he learned at IBM and applied it to companies that needed help with desktop PCs and servers.

After selling Progressive to ePartners in 2000, Blumenthal tried a few other entrepreneurial endeavors before joining Intelladon as CEO in 2003, where he looked to apply the same principles that made Progressive successful during a 15-year span. His goal, he says, was to make it easier for customers to teach their employees and track performance by way of computers.

“I'm not doing anything revolutionary,” he says. “I'm just doing what has always worked.”

Intelladon claims one of the largest corporate content libraries in the world, with at least 9,000 titles in five key categories: information technology, management, compliance, sales and customer service. Programs are designed by companies such as Mindleaders, Element K and Skillsoft, names that may be familiar to anyone who has taken an online course in recent years.

Besides providing implementation, custom content, managed services and hosting, Blumenthal also notes that the vast majority of Intelladon's 30 employees work directly with clients to address their needs. Being a smaller company allows it to interact with those firms more easily, he says.

“Our clients are raving fans and the reason is we pay so much attention to them because we can,” he says. “We give it to them their way. Your learners, in a way, become contributors.”

Diversified base
Intelladon's client base is diverse, from national companies such as Hollister Wound Care, AAA National and Hard Rock International to locally based companies like Lazy Days RV and Ideal Image. Each has a different mission, but their training needs are essentially the same, Blumenthal says.

“There is no rhyme or reason as to where our customers are,” he says. “Everybody is in a slightly different place.” He uses retailers as an example — they all have different products, but their common mission is selling.

Blumenthal offers plenty of examples of companies Intelladon has helped over the years. “We love it when the client views us as part of their team,” he says.

Mary Regan, director of clinical affairs with Libertyville, Ill.-based Hollister Wound Care, says her company wanted to be able to train its 70-member sales staff within a three-month time frame. Intelladon created 15 training modules lasting about eight minutes each, which she says were well received.

“It's interactive, it's fun and it doesn't take them away from their homes and their sales calls,” Regan states in a company testimonial. She also credited Intelladon with making the process seamless and offering support “every step of the way.”

Piedmont Plastics, a Charlotte, N.C.-based manufacturer, was looking for a way to provide training to 500 employees at 40 locations across the country. Intelladon was one of several companies responding to a request for proposals.

“The Intelladon presentation really stood out,” says Suzanne Awn, the company's human resources director. “Their style, their eagerness and the product they were offering were exactly what we were looking for.”

Spending didn't slow
Despite the recession, Intelladon has continued to grow. Annual revenue reached $4.5 million in 2010, with Blumenthal projecting it will grow to $7.7 million this year.

Training appears to be an area that clients made a priority, even though they may have cut back on other costs during the downturn. Blumenthal says Intelladon's programs are reasonably priced, between $15 and $50 per employee per year, which might be about the same amount those companies would spend on coffee service or other essentials.

He points out that progressive companies actually spend more to train employees during a recession than better times.

“It wouldn't make any sense for them to cut back on the most effective way to train their workforce,” he says. “Most of our clients tend to recognize that. If they can make their people better and recruit top talent, at the end of the recession they're going to be a lot better.”

He adds that the programs Intelladon designs are aimed at helping companies find their most valuable employees, particularly among those working behind the scenes who don't stand out in sales or other more easily recognized positions.

Most of Intelladon's clients are in fields such as technology, insurance and professional services, though no one client accounts for more than 10% of the company's sales each year. That way, there's no danger of falloff in a given client sector jeopardizing the entire business base.

“Our business is essentially recession proof,” Blumenthal says. “We're not going to stop doing the things we do best.”

Intelladon's next step in growing its business is taking training programs beyond desktop PCs to smart phones. Clients would have their own downloadable, password-protected applications so they can complete courses wherever their people happen to be.

“That will be a game-changer,” Blumenthal says. “Whether you have 100 employees or 100,000, it really is scalable.”

Intelladon isn't intended to be a replacement for instructor-led training, though its programs take far less time and money than having to send workers offsite for courses that normally take months to complete, Blumenthal says. Because the company is facilitating information rather than creating it, it isn't necessary to be experts in the fields it instructs.

“Ultimately what we do has a dramatic effect on each of our clients,” he says. “It's irrelevant what we teach. We don't need to know it all.”

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