Tamara Simon on RTO success in 2019: ‘It’s your move’

“It’s Your Move” Thursday, Sept 12th, 3.30pm – 5.00pm in Great Hall 4

RTO business coach Tamara Simon says RTOs can’t expect to just keep doing the same thing and stay in business. With abundant challenges and opportunities, VETtrak sat down with Tamara for a sneak peek into the tips for success she’ll be sharing at the 2019 National VET Conference this week.

Business coach Tamara Simon believes the strength of a Registered Training Organisation essentially comes down to the leadership at the top. When RTO leaders take the right decisions with the right attitude, it can create the staff and student environment that helps the entire business thrive.

“For example, if the leadership’s attitude towards compliance is negative, this will filter into all areas of the business. It’s a choice. There are practical and simple solutions that can help RTOs make the next move while also seeing the whole board – the business strategy – just like you do in chess.”

Remember your RTO is a business

Solutions are what Simon is exploring with RTO leaders at the National VET Conference. “I always like to come up with different angles on how RTO CEOs and managers can run a simple, profitable and compliant RTO through simple tips on how to build, manage and grow their business.”

And it’s important for RTOs to remember they are a business, she says. “The frustrations facing anyone running an RTO are pretty much the same as anyone running an organisation because business is business, people are people, systems are systems. What changes is the context.”

So what’s her advice for running a successful RTO? VETtrak sat down with Tamara to find out.

Q&A with Tamara Simon, RTO Business Coach

VETtrak: What can attendees expect from your presentation at the National VET Conference?

Tamara: A different presentation to ones I have done in the past – there will be a bit of content and then lots of interaction as I (and we) problem solve on the run. So be willing to share what’s frustrating you and get out of your chair and in return, you’ll get from me honesty, simple steps to address those top 5 frustrations, a bit of tough love if needed and some fun along the way.

VETtrak: You will be touching on frustrations and mistakes – what perpetuates these at RTOs?

Tamara: Most people working in ‘RTO land’ and running RTOs come from a training background and are driven by the need to impart knowledge and upskill the current and future workforce – which is fantastic. But many of them have not run businesses or managed staff before. Often, they don’t have the knowledge or experience to do this. When you‘re running a business, you have to embrace all functions of your operation including sales, marketing, finance and systems.

There’s no business manual as to how to run an RTO (aside from my book and RTO GROW PD program). So just like I have a business and marketing coach, we have to get help from people who have the knowledge and skills we either don’t have or don’t do very well. That’s a great thing to acknowledge and embrace because we all can’t know everything or be good at everything.

VETtrak: What’s the interplay between compliance and building a profitable RTO?

Tamara: I believe compliance should be integrated into RTO operations and not viewed as a separate activity or function within the business. My mantra for RTOs is: ‘If you don’t like compliance and don’t like change then don’t work for an RTO or be one.’ While that may seem harsh at first, when you become an RTO or work in one you know the space you are entering – regulation and thus compliance and audits are a given.

I do believe there are some differences between the regulator’s view of compliance and how they come to decisions, and that of RTOs; that is certainly of concern but in my view should be challenged with facts and not ‘hearsay’. This sector has had a tendency in the past to over-exaggerate things or state things as ‘this is what you must do’ when it wasn’t true. One example is when IBSA stated years ago that every trainer should have the LLN unit; this led to people saying that was a requirement which was incorrect. It wasn’t a requirement until the standards changed.

I do believe the training environment is being severely disrupted; the market is changing what they buy and how they want to receive that. It’s important for RTOs to look at their business models and determine if they are running a profitable business (which means you need to know your financial numbers). They also need to look at doing things differently and offering different training options which can open up additional income streams.

RTOs can’t stay complacent and believe doing what they’ve always done will keep them in business forever because it won’t – look at examples like Borders, Kodak, the taxi industry and others.

VETtrak: What are the main challenges and opportunities for RTOs in 2019 and 2020?

Tamara: Challenge and opportunity – remaining financially viable in an ever-changing marketplace. I believe more RTOs should be providing professional development (PD); refresher training which isn’t accredited to solve the problems of their clients. Short sharp quick programs to meet and fix an immediate need is what the marketplace is seeking from any service provider, not just RTOs.

VETtrak: How important are systems and technology in managing RTOs profitably?

Tamara: As a Simple Systems Specialist who’s all about the HOW, I believe there’s a system in everything – you just have to find it. Systems are the keys to business success. 

Step 1 is to get the knowledge out of everyone’s head so you can document ‘how we do things here’.  Step 2 is to integrate that information into technology so you can streamline your systems and increase the profitability, productivity and performance of the RTO business.

VETtrak: How should RTOs be thinking about their Student Management Systems in 2019?

Tamara: I believe all RTOs should know exactly what their SMS can and can’t do for them which can help streamline operations. But this takes time and training and that is unfortunately something RTOs don’t do well; they are great at training everyone else, just not themselves or their staff. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do, to help them with that.

VETtrak: How does an RTO business coach differ from an RTO consultant?

Tamara: As Australia’s only dedicated RTO Business Coach, just like a sporting coach, I help RTOs see the business from a different perspective. That means not only providing profitable strategies to grow the business, but even more importantly, developing the steps (aka The HOW) to achieve this.

When you’re not directly involved in a business, you can see things more clearly because you don’t have tunnel vision or the feeling of overwhelm; that’s the extra set of eyes and support I provide to clients. I also provide clients with accountability, advice, support and a shoulder to lean on because I’ve seen RTOs from both sides of the fence – running them and auditing them. I understand firsthand the challenges of juggling everything, managing a team and keeping the dollars coming in the door.

RTO Consultants are generally focused on helping RTOs remain compliant against the standards. They review training and assessment materials, policies and procedures to ensure there aren’t any non-compliances before the regulator arrives and provide advice to rectify compliance issues. 

I take a holistic approach while also focusing on how to improve four areas in my client businesses:          

  • Time Management
  • Business Strategy
  • People Performance
  • Systems Simplification

I think the difference between an RTO Business Coach and an RTO Compliance Consultant is their primary focus.

Tamara Simon is speaker, author and dedicated business coach for Australian Registered Training Organisations with over 20 years experience in VET and business management. More information can be found on her website www.takeanotherlook.com.au