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Posted: February 21, 2011

Colorado success stories: Regis Learning Solutions

Changing the way organizations learn and train

David P. Mead

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of Colorado company success stories as told by CEOs and business owners.

Recently Chris Carosella and I spoke with Michael Vaughan, CEO of Regis Learning Solutions to discuss their strategy for disruptive innovation in training and education.

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Regis Learning Solutions (RLS) has a unique approach to training and learning. How is it different?

We started RLS because we wanted to change education. The traditional model is to teach people what to think: accepting what they are told, processing information as segmented fragments, doing the tasks assigned to them without understanding the full picture. However, in a world that changes as rapidly as ours, where opportunities are complex and shifting, success relies on individuals and organizations knowing how to think.

We believe that an organization's future success rests on its ability to adapt, to help employees tune out the noise and to tune in critical thinking skills that allow for wider perspective, smarter decisions, and deeper understanding. Regis Learning Solutions was created with the goal of helping our clients use simulations to become better decision makers and problem solvers.

How did RLS get started?

The momentum behind RLS came from Regis University's desire to bring a new educational approach to business and government. RLS co-founder, Peggy Steele, created the business plan in 2003. Today we have over 50 employees and offices in Colorado, Illinois, and Washington, DC.

Our focus on simulation evolved as we worked with Regis University on research about what changes behavior. There are four fears people have about using simulations: (1) How much will it cost? (2) How much time will it take to develop? (3) How will we deploy it throughout our company? (4) How will we maintain the simulation? We built the simulation platform first for Regis University, then reduced the development time and launched.

How does RLS compete?

We're not just about training; we are about "human performance improvement." We differentiate ourselves by how we address the "four fears" previously mentioned. We work within different budget constraints and can build simulations at the same cost of a high-end eLearning course. Our processes quickly gather and analyze the inputs and develop the simulation. Our simulations are web-based, designed to be easily updated and repurposed with reusable elements that can be reorganized for a new simulation without incurring significant development costs.

RLS customers can continue to use their simulations for many years and revitalize them to address new business concerns. RLS designs deployment with an eye on the cost/benefit of delivery methods for each element of learning with roadmaps and leader's guides to assist in the deployment. We build simulations for clients such as UPS, Hyatt Corporation, McDonald's, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and the Air Force.

What have been your biggest challenges?

We have two major challenges: Educating our target market about simulation and promoting the RLS brand. When some potential clients hear "simulation" they think of flight simulators or video games. It's difficult for them to understand that RLS is able to build simulations that require critical thinking and problem solving skills that can be applied in real world situations. They may be unaware that our simulations are based on a systems model that allows a rich, integrated approach to measuring the impact of decisions across many key performance indicators. We have learned that our sales approach has to be different - a client needs to experience a simulation to see that it can model any aspect of their business.

As for branding, we speak at events, publish articles and books, and develop robust relationships with channel partners. We have won awards that enhance our brand, including a Brandon Hall Gold Award for a simulation designed for Ernst and Young called Engagement Economics.

What are the challenges to current growth?

Managing our growth. We need people who understand business and education, preferably with experience in developing training or building simulations. They also need to have the balance of discipline and agility. We can grow faster if we have more of the right people.

What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?

We merged with another company that was focused on the government side so our business is 50% government and 50% commercial. We'll accelerate the government growth through our D.C. office in the areas of emergency response, the intelligence community, senior executive services, and the professional military university. Additional growth will come from productizing 40 types of simulations and creating a multi-year licensing model.

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David Mead is President of The Mead Consulting Group, a consulting and advisory services firm, based in Englewood, that has been helping Colorado companies grow since 1981. The firm's 40+ senior consultants with operating backgrounds assist Colorado-headquartered companies with strategic growth and execution, improving profitability and cash flow and maximizing value at exit. Dave is the past Chairman of ACG Denver and a long-time Board member and is on the Board of Young Americans Bank. Contact Dave at: meaddp@MeadConsultingGroup.com or (303) 660-8135.

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