First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Ronzio: My family and I are doing well! Before COVID-19 hit, I traveled a ton for work, so it’s been great to be around my wife and my kids more. We live in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Trainual is based, but we were able to escape the heat and spend the summer in Boston with family. We’ve spent a lot of time exploring new places and enjoying the quarantine as much as we can. Obviously, it’s been a difficult year for everyone, so there can be added stress and emotions, but overall it has been a welcomed change in routine.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Trainual.
Chris Ronzio: I started my first real business when I was 14 years old. It was a video production company that grew nationwide before I sold it at 25. It was during that time of managing 300+ camera operators that I learned why processes and procedures are so integral to a business.
After I sold that company, I began operations consulting and worked with tons of clients who needed to organize that chaos of their business. It was then that I worked with a small team to create the first version of Trainual for these clients to use. When they started wanting to use the tool more than they wanted to work with me, we knew we were onto something!
We launched Trainual publicly in 2018 and experienced 500% growth in the first year, grew the tiny team to a team of 42, and closed a Series A funding round for $6.75m.
How does Trainual innovate?
Chris Ronzio: At Trainual, we’re constantly collecting customer feedback and tuning into the reviews and conversations around our brand. This allows us to iterate and plan our product roadmap with our customers’ exact needs in mind. I believe that in doing this, we stay innovative and ahead of industry demand rather than just working on what we think we should.
To give context to what Trainual is, we’re the leading playbook builder that helps businesses onboard, train, and grow their teams by documenting what they do. We disrupt the traditional learning management system and wiki model by creating a new category called playbook software. Most learning management systems cater to enterprise-sized companies, tend to be expensive, and more than most small businesses need. We offer an affordable and easy solution for any sized business to keep teams aligned and held accountable.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Chris Ronzio: On the business side, we’re fortunate to run a tool that supports the remote workforce, which has helped us thrive during the shift to remote work due to COVID-19. We did have a few weeks in March where cancellations came in faster than normal due to businesses closing down, which resulted in higher churn, and our sales stalled – naturally, the panic set in, and there was this looming fear of the unknown.
For the Trainual team, we’ve been working remotely since March. It was tricky for everyone to navigate at first, just like any major change would be. But we kept very clear and open communication with the team to ensure that we provided all of the support needed. We recently opened a “company coworking” spot where a limited number of employees can go each day if they need to switch things up – all precautionary measures taken, of course.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Ronzio: I wouldn’t necessarily say that we needed to make any difficult decisions – and I’m very thankful for that. I know a lot of business owners could not say the same due to the nature of their business, and that it’s been one difficult decision after the next. For us, two things come to mind. The first being that it’s hard not to work around each other every day, and it changed the way we do things. We’re very culture-focused at Trainual, and the people ops team is always planning fun things for the team to do together. It’s different having to do those things remotely, but they’re doing a great job!
The second thing is being comfortable hiring someone we’ve never met in person. We revamped the entire hiring and onboarding process to accommodate remote workers. This has helped us better understand what our own customers are going through right now, allowing us to better support them in these times.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and your company in the future?
Chris Ronzio: I think that stress and anxiety come naturally with the territory of being an entrepreneur and having a lot resting on your shoulders – but there are ways to combat it. I used to think that investing time in my personal life was at the expense of the business. I used to be too focused on work, on my email 24/7, and I defined my value by how much I could get done in a day.
But over time, I’ve found that investing in my personal life reduces my stress and amplifies my focus and productivity on the business side. My value isn’t tied to what I can get done in a day; it’s tied to what the company can get done. My job is to lead with focus and motivate others to do their job well – and that’s directly tied to how I’m doing in my personal life. When I’m able to do that well, it’s contagious, and I can feel it reciprocated by the team in the dedication and positive attitude they bring to work each day.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Ronzio: Because Trainual falls within so many different categories such as learning management systems, knowledge bases, wikis, training management software, and a few more, there are a lot of different companies you could say we compete with. By offering a more affordable tool that combines a lot of these tools in one, we bring something different to the table. And our customers continuously give us praise for that. We consistently outrank our competitors in a handful of different categories on review sites like G2 and Capterra.