Episode 021 - Lisa Vincent - Digital Learning and Creating Verticals | Limeworks

Episode 021 - Lisa Vincent

Digital Learning & Creating Verticals

Lisa Vincent is Co-Founder of Savv-e Australia, a Digital Learning agency established 20 years ago.

They've also recently launched their productised version of their service with their new digital learning platform How Too. 

We discuss the challenges of starting a tech company as a non-technical founder, spooling up a vertical to your existing business, the importance of accessibility and how it's often overlooked in technology and training. 

It's a great discussion with some amazing insights. 

Connect with Lisa: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisarvincent/

Savv-e Australia: https://www.savv-e.com.au/

HowToo: https://www.howtoo.com.au/

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Transcription

Please note, while an effort is made to provide an accurate transcription, errors and omissions may be present. No part of this transcription can be referenced or reproduced without permission.

Rob: So Lisa Vincent, co-founder and director of Savvy in Sydney, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Lisa: Thank you Rob.

Rob: So I'd really like to get a quick summary around what savvy does. I know that your a digital learning agency and you create digital learning courses for companies, probably around the world. But can you give us a bit of a rundown on what you're doing there?

Lisa: Yeah, so we've been in business since 2000, and at Savvy, we design custom digital learning solutions for corporate and government clients, and obviously at the moment it's very, very busy. But it's always, you know, it's been growing over that 20 year period. And we have a second business that we've just launched as well. That's How Too, and that's really a, it productizes what we've done in our service business, and really being able to share the expertise of what we've learnt to make that available to a much wider audience. So, yeah, it's exciting times for us.

Rob: That's really cool, and obviously we are sort of in the throes of COVID, and while that has potentially been a boon for you recently, as you've just mentioned, there's this 20 years of history there. Can you tell us a little bit about where you got started? I know you're a non-technical founder of what is effectively a technical product. So I think that's quite interesting to learn how you got started.

Lisa: So it was the dot.com, end of the dot.com crash

Rob: Aha!

Lisa: Basically in 2000. And Jenny, my business partner, and I had been working in corporate learning, multi-media, as it's called at the time, computer based training and research and development and working with organizations who were dabbling in this area. And we could certainly see, you know, lots of opportunities at the time to take, really transform the way learning occurred in organizations, particularly large organizations. So we got up, so we really, we saw the opportunity. We loved creating learning and we loved the technical, what was possible. The potential of the technology. Still hundreds of millions of users online. Obviously, it's billions now, but really great opportunities to create really learner centered experiences. And it's sort of an approach that we weren't seeing as much from other providers at that time. And we had good relationships with corporates who were sort of really crying out for some support in this area. So, but what the heck, let's do it. And as you say, didn't have a technical background, but had worked with tech quite a lot of technology. We're very curious about technology, and could work with developers and designers to make that happen. We had a real, we have a real love for great design as well and great usability. So really bringing together that love of learning, that real focus on outcomes for learners, great design, and utilizing the technology to make it happen.

Rob: So I think if we if we think back to around that period, say to, you know, early 2000s, we're talking dial up Internet, Windows 95 and, you know, was there, I think that was a bit of a delay in big corporates transitioning to such a digital approach to things. Were there some early challenges there with a technic, like a digital adoption that maybe wouldn't be even considered now?

Lisa: Yeah, look, it was slower and, yeah, the networks were slower. We needed to really think about the bandwidth quite thoroughly into how do we make it really a light delivery. So we couldn't do a lot of media, integrate a lot of video and those sorts of things. We could integrate some audio. And we had to build in a very creative way to keep it quite a light touch. But there was an appetite for it. You know, we got opportunities to get into the banks right at the ground level where they were delivering their induction over weeks and weeks. And they need, and they could see, you know, the flexible options for learners was huge and massive efficiencies because you create it once, and you deliver it, you know, tens of thousands of times to learners. But then the, the importance is really building in that engagement to large audiences. And that's really what we had to play with and test to make sure it would work. I think also, just as a start up at that point too, it's building that credibility that big companies will come on board with us. We were tiny, working from home. And, you know, having contractors all over Sydney sending me files and all this, you know, craziness that went on and, so how do we build that credibility with those clients to come on board and do things that maybe they hadn't done before with a company that's pretty new? So we definitely leveraged our background, our strong backgrounds in learning and organizational learning and demonstrated that we could deliver. But also people took a gamble on us. And, you know, I am indebted to lots and lots of great contacts that really got, helped get us started, gave us a go. Which, which is what you need, you know.

Rob: That's amazing.

Lisa: Yeah, so it was wonderful.

Rob: And so I have an interesting story about early learning around this period, which I think is probably one of the challenges that I think you've managed to overcome. So around 2000, I actually worked as a mechanic, funnily enough, and, even though now I'm far from a mechanic myself. And so I worked for the Ford company, and they actually had implemented a training system called the Ford Star Network. And it actually worked on satellite broadcaster video. As you say, back then we didn't really have the bandwidth for video across the Internet, and a very, very crude Internet connected feedback system to the host broadcast, which I think was in Melbourne or something like that. So it almost worked like traditional television broadcast, but with a very mild feedback loop. But obviously, someone like Ford had invested quite a lot of money in developing these systems and processes. Was that something that even though you were offering a better product and a more streamlined solution, probably with a lower cost to entry, was that something that you still had to try and overcome, because they were already running down this learning path in one direction or another?

Lisa: Not really. I mean, I think there was, there was a history prior that was computer based training, where things around on CD-Rom, so there was a bit of a history there, that that had more media. So we were trying to move online. No, not a lot of that. I mean, there was some good platforms that we could utilize that allowed for great data capture and tracking, because that was one of the other key benefits is that organizations really needed to understand the competencies and capabilities of their people. And there were some really great, and continue to be great platforms to do that for organizations. So it wasn't, we didn't, competition-wise, that wasn't a big challenge for us. It was more probably face to face, a real commitment to keep content and delivery face to face, because it learners often, they love that too. And I'm not saying there's, there is definitely a place for face to face.

Rob: Absolutely.

Lisa: So it's how you blend the two together. So not at that stage. That's not, well, you know, We didn't have that experience. Yeah.

Rob: So obviously, as a start up company during that period, what was the best thing that worked for you in terms of getting a door to open, to get a meeting, to sell someone on what you were offering?

Lisa: Look, the connections we had really started us off. So having credibility with people in organizational learning really got us started. Then having a track record in certain industries. So we really started in banking and finance. So we did some wonderful work there, because those were the early adopters in this space, those organizations. They had a lot of benefits to, you know, a lot of great outcomes for them,

Rob: And a lot of people.

Lisa: And a lot of people. So the return on investment was massive.

Rob: Sure.

Lisa: So, we really leveraged those examples of our work and track record into other banking and finance industries, and then we expanded out to telcos. So we could tell a story about the benefits that we delivered to organizations around, you know, efficiencies, flexibility. But also really great outcomes for learners. So it was a story we were telling, but also it's, I mean, we were creating beautiful pieces of content. And I think that that's been something that, you know, was really important to us right from the very beginning. So really well considered pieces of learning that also, I suppose really honor the learner. We didn't, and that is something that does frustrate us, is kind of poor quality content that doesn't seem to have much thought in it, or much care around the usability. So you, when you see what we do, we love it that people can fall in love with what we do and what we create for learners. And I think that really sold us as well. And then, you know, things like, we did a lot of presentation, sharing our knowledge with others, sharing what we've learnt. So it was very much a consultative approach to expanding our client base into new organizations. But it's all about relationships. A lot of our clients have worked with us for almost like, I think pretty much our full, you know, the life of our business, businesses. So that's, we love that because it is a partnership and it's an ongoing relationship we have with them. And we work very much side by side with our clients as they, you know, and we understand their business. So that helps them.

Rob: It's a very, very collaborative sort of project.

Lisa: It is, it is. Because we, we tap into their knowledge as well and their expertise. It's a, it's an iterative process that we follow, and it's all about that relationship. And they also contribute to the creation. So we love it when we do ideation sessions and we can, you know, work together on creating something really beautiful for their learners.

Rob: And obviously, over the last 20 years and working with some of these big companies in particular, workplace health and safety has evolved pretty rapidly in that time and become a very important part of H.R. decisions and workplace decisions. Has that driven part of the success of your company as well, where it's a needs based thing

Lisa: Yeah,

Rob: As well?

Lisa: Yeah, so compliance has just gone crazy. So there is an enormous amount of compliance, whether it be workplace health and safety, privacy law, consumer law. The list goes on. It's endless. So it is, it does drive a need because it's critical for organizations to demonstrate that their people are actually compliant. But I think the philosophy we've also taken is it's not just about ticking boxes. It's about building a culture of compliance. So I think we've, you know, we've seen all of the royal commissions and all the issues. So no matter how much you kind of tick the boxes, you still want to build that commitment to compliance. It goes beyond just because I have to. And that's probably the more difficult outcome to achieve, getting into the hearts and minds of your people and making it like critical to the way they operate. Because at the end of the day, that is actually what is going to drive, you know, I suppose meaningful behavior around this issue. So, yeah, for us, we don't want it just to be about "yes we've, you know, everybody's completed this training and they're all compliant..." because, yeah, it's about the day to day practice on the job. That's critical.

Rob: Sure

Lisa: Yeah.

Rob: And we all know the stereotype of, "oh, here's a training course around, you know, appropriate behavior in the workplace" or something, and you sort of sense that collective groan from the audience and, how do you combat that in the way that you approach training and education around some of these topics?

Lisa: Yeah, so we involve learners in the process of designing learning. So I want to know about that groan. I want to know, you know, why you're groaning. What is it about the learning that you're doing that's really making you groan? How can we capture your attention? So things like storytelling, so tapping into the emotion, making it relevant and making it, I suppose, in context. So, you know, people are really going to, their attention is going to, they're not going to attend to the learning if the stories are just not relevant to them. It's also not talking down to them. So it's asking the tricky questions to create a sense of curiosity. So, you know, instead of telling people all about compliance, engage them in an experience, whether it be a game or whether it be a story, a simulation. Because we all learn much more effectively if we're actively involved in that experience. So it's, yeah, and I, and I do know that there's a lot of tick'n'flick, and, you know, page turning and all that sort of thing. And that does frustrate us because it gives digital learning delivery a bit of a bad name. So we constantly focus on how do we create solutions that are actually going to engage and we test them. So we test them with learners.

Rob: And so do you create a feedback mechanism as well for, you know, ongoing roll-out for these plans in order to feedback to your clients?

Lisa: Yeah, so we, through the process of design, we're tapping into learners and user testing and getting their feedback. And then we follow up with clients and tap into how has that learning going? What kind of response are they receiving? But also, most importantly, what outcomes are they getting from those learners? So examples are like cyber security training, for example. So we created a whole lot of bite sized games where you might be sent emails with issues in them and then you need to respond. And so tracking the data on this. So how many people responded inappropriately to a phishing email versus after the training? How how effective has it been? And for us, that really, that's great, because we can actually see the value in what we do. So we've got a very passionate crowd in our team and they love to see the outcomes that our learners are achieving, and the organizational benefits from the learning that we create. So that's very satisfying for us.

Rob: That sounds very, very cool. So obviously the technology over 20 years has changed quite substantially. We know that, you know, you can include video and rich media now that perhaps you couldn't when we were on dial up. But how has the audience evolved over that similar period?

Lisa: Yeah, so it's a massive change in technology. You know, we can create so much of our own content online now, we've got YouTube, and I think in terms of the audience, too, I think that they're, they're very tech savvy and they have very high expectations. So, you know, they're working and using, you know, beautiful technology. So we really need to respect the usability, I think, and the standard needs to be very high. But the great thing is that technology is so much more easy in terms of building content, building content and software. So there's so much more, you know, open source components you can build in. The speed in which you can build software, it's just accelerated at an amazing pace. And it's so much more flexible. So I love creating software now, in terms of because we've moved into the How Too, where we've productized what we're doing and, just, it's really fast. It's fun and it's much more flexible, and, but it must be really usable for learners. And I think learners have changed. I think, you know, we're accessing content all the time. We expect it in the moment, we expect it to be great. We've got so many different channels we can consume it from. So we need to tap into that very different model of learning, learning in context, and we need it now. So that's sort of where we're focused as well.

Rob: Absolutely.

Lisa: Yeah.

Rob: And so you've dropped the name How Too there, which is 'How Too', T-O-O, which

Lisa: Yes.

Rob: Is very cool. I really like that name. And so you've effectively brought out this product, which, as you mentioned, productizes what you were doing as an agency. And obviously that's driven from the software side of your business. Was that something that was planned or did it just kind of, did you just see an opportunity go there?

Lisa: Yeah, look, we've planned this for quite a while. We had an earlier version of this sort of software a while back that was in an earlier technology flash, and we'd been wanting to, I suppose, do it in a very new way a few years ago. We had an opportunity with a client. This is the great thing with wonderful clients, they also wanted to do something this space. So they actually, we were able to pre-sell it into them and make a reasonably significant pre-sale. So that was a great opportunity to start building something with their input. So it's great to have a client involved, but a bigger vision for your product moving forward. So some of the problems that we were addressing were a lot of knowledge in organizations, a lot of expertise. And often that's lost because learning departments often don't have the time to translate that into effective learning, it can be quite slow, quite involved and quite expensive. So how do you sort of unlock that expertise, that knowledge, quickly and easily and transform it into really beautiful and accessible learning? So what we've done is taken all our expertise to create a platform to allow people to do that in organizations. So basically everyone, a whole workforce now has the power to take their expertise and transform it into a really, really beautiful learning quickly and easily through all of the smarts that we've built into this platform.

Rob: And certainly there's no one better to build a platform like that when you've been creating these things for such a long period of time. And no doubt the How Too product appeals to a different market segment that you wouldn't be able to service through Savvy, due to, you know, maybe a smaller course or something like that. But was there ever a concern around potential crossover and maybe one cannibalizing the other a little bit?

Lisa: Yeah, that's a really good question, and you probably think that would be the case. But actually what we're finding is that How Too extends our connection to a client. So we've got many clients who may engage us to do some custom projects or custom work with them, because They don't have the time maybe to do it themselves, but they also will use How Too within their organization for other purposes, or we come together and we work together. So we might, they might build a storyboard very quickly and easily. And it takes, it's so fast, very quickly create some content and we might review it and add some graphics for them. So it's actually expanding the opportunity because we're giving them more. More that meets their needs, and it actually is into the same audience. So it's the same market. So it's larger businesses, probably around the 200 plus size. So it gives, I suppose, the medium sized business bit more flexibility. But it's also the large businesses are very keen. And that's really been our first customers that have come on board and we're getting really great feedback from them as to How are they finding it?

Rob: It's certainly interesting to hear that it's more of a vertical than it is a, you know, anything of competition

Lisa: Yeah, yeah.

Rob: But obviously releasing a software product like that, which is available sort of on the open market, were there any new challenges with that business model that you hadn't encountered with Savvy?

Lisa: Oh, yeah. There's so much to learn, it's quite a different business. So we are approaching it in a slightly different way, as software because there's lots of things to think about in terms of your product roadmap, your development process. It's about reusability and it's about appeal to a broader audience. We've spent, so we started in mid 2018, we worked on a minimum viable product. We then tested that with our audience. As you often do, we virtually threw it out, we started again, but many of the concepts we reused, but we used a different, what we call tech step. So it was more, going to be more flexible moving forward. Then spent 2019 really evolving that software. So things that we've needed to learn, you know, How Too pitch that business to investors, so that's something we're looking at. Getting funding, so we got an accelerated commercialization grant from the government, which was great. So pitching, you know, our growth strategy. Marketing's different, so we only launched in February, but we're working on a, you know, a very different marketing strategy to scale the business. We need a lot more scale, so we're looking at very rapid growth this year and global kind of expansion next year. And our sales strategy is quite different. So we're not able to, you know, it's a, it's a customer success sort of approach that we have with our clients. And we're going to have a lot more to learn, and that actually is great fun. So it's nice to be continually learning and kicking off another business. It's just, it's very stimulating, actually.

Rob: And certainly after 20 years, it's fun to be in that sort of founder hot seat for a second time. But obviously you're still running Savvy, and Savvy's still very successful. How do you divide your time without sort of picking the favorite child?

Lisa: Yeah, good point, actually. I see it as an ecosystem. So it's together with, they're separate businesses, but together they're very important to each other. So the balance is tricky. And, you know, I probably, I'm probably 60% on How Too and 40% on Savvy, because Savvy's got a really great sort of leadership team that are doing an amazing job in that business. So that's operating well. It's just tapping in. We have management meetings and I'm there to support and lead and those sorts of things. How Too needs a bit more attention because we're kicking off and growing, but we connect beautifully and the value is so important across the two businesses. And, and we work together to get the outcomes for that ecosystem. And it's, you know, the learning science that, all the things we know about learning are critical for our How Too business, and we productize daily. So I see our whole Savvy team as almost product developers now. So everything we do for customers can potentially be reused in our software.

Rob: And no doubt there's, there's a powerful feedback mechanism from what Savvy is seeing in a day to day working with that client base, and what you can bring into your How Too product. But you mentioned some grants there as well and some funding. How did you tackle that? We know when we're in business for, say, 20 years, we may not think about startup grants or anything like that. How do you kind of managed to shift your perspective to really capitalize on those opportunities?

Lisa: Being very aware of the opportunities out there, and there are a lot, like it's quite a community in the startup space. There is a lot of support and there's a lot of support of women now, which is great because they are under represented, particularly in the investor world. So we had some advisors working with us on just developing our skills of pitching a startup, because it's quite different to running an established business and selling an established business to your clients. So, you know, learning those skills in, you know, pitching. What are investors looking for? I did a lot of pitch fests last year and I honed all of that. And that's kind of scary. And, you know, learning something, cause really five minutes, you've got to hone your message, and getting feedback for investors and getting trashed and giving it another go. And that's, that's kind of fun, but very satisfying when you actually know that it's working and you start to do quite well in all this, in this environment. So the network's really critical. We're in a startup hub as well. So we're very exposed to the opportunities that are out there. And I noticed, and with with grants, you really need to connect with the advisors that are attached to those grants. So I, I kept in touch with the advisor. I bugged him for 12 months. He's amazing. But I really, you know, kept, it requires a lot of tenacity. And to get the fund is really hard work. But also our business background has certainly helped us because we understand the fundamentals of cash flow and finance and all of the data that they needed from us. What is our plan? So we could also sell in the benefit of having run a business, a successful business for a long time, so that, we leveraged all of that background that we had as well. So yeah.

Rob: That's very interesting. And obviously, after, after a long time in business, it's easy for a founder to think that you have the answer because you have been successful. But was there anything from this next phase of your business journey that maybe educated your indentured business owner self that that was maybe unexpected?

Lisa: Yeah, so I think the, the process we've been going through for marketing, for our marketing strategy with some really great minds in this space, has really turned my thinking on its head about business and marketing. And I've absolutely loved that process. I'm very open to where my gaps are. So I'm not, I don't know all the answers by any means. And my business partners' the same. And I think that's really important because, I mean, we have strong confidence in our ability. But I think you need to be open to the input, but you need to have really good people working with you. So there's a lot of advice out there. And if you took every piece of advice you got, you'd be in a complete utter mess. So it's, it's tapping, and it's being open and listening, but then really working out, "Yep, this, this person, this advice, this direction is good. This is a good, this is good input to our business and this is something we should take on. So it's, it's important because this is a very different business that we're building right now. And there's a lot of you know, there's a lot to learn. And that's a fun process.

Rob: Absolutely, and, but it is exciting, and I can tell that it excites you. But obviously that that filter that we talk about is really, really critical, especially when you're getting so much advice from everywhere. Is there if we look at it back the other way, that experience that you do have? Is there something that has stood out as a perspective that you have in this startup phase for How Too that maybe you wouldn't have had if this was your first business?

Lisa: Totally. So people people are critical. So finding the right people, I suppose, ensuring that they are the right if you when you after you recruit them. That six month, three to six month period of probation is absolutely key. Do not hang on to team members that are not it's not working. And give it go. But in start up land, it's fast and it's furious and you need to make quick decisions. So there's the fail fast sort of side, side of things. I think there's a fail fast on a product, too. So getting it out there, testing it, not being a huge perfectionist, like I am a perfectionist. But if you don't, like I was so scared when we got it out for our launch because we love it. But, you know, we know, nothing, you can't, if you waited till it was perfect, you'd

Rob: You'd never release it.

Lisa: Yeah. So I understand that. I understand that from my experience. I think managing my own stress is also something I've learned over the years. So, you know, I'm probably early days, a bit of a worry wart. You know, I think business owners tend to take their businesses with them all the time. And I did have a bit of a personal kind of health scare about five years ago. And that really, I suppose, changed my perspective quite substantially, that I, it's and, you know, nobody's gonna die with what we do. You know, keep it in perspective. We'll work out a way. There will be problems, we can solve them, we know we have we can because we've done it before. So all that has been really valuable to, you know, keep you keep you sane. Also, just keep your life in balance. So, yeah, it takes over. But make sure, you know, you spend time with people you love. Make sure you do the things you love. I do a lot of things outside work that I love. Those things are critical. And they tap into your creativity as well. And that is important. And tapping into the team and all their creativity because everybody has so much to offer. Obviously, we're not going to do everything that people suggest, but creating that culture. And culture, that's the other thing. Culture is key. So, you know, we protect the, the good positive side of our culture, because I know when it isn't good, it really affects your productivity, your performance, all of the things that, a lot more goes wrong when the culture is a little sick. So.

Rob: Absolutely.

Lisa: Yeah. Mm hmm.

Rob: It's certainly a challenging side of business, especially with HR. And I think you touched on something really interesting there in that your talent acquisition process doesn't end with the interview or with the contract signing. And it is really critical to to use that six month process. So if we talk about that a little bit in terms of culture, how important do you think it is to embrace and strike a balance between, say, people's, I always talk about it as just like everyone has life to do. You know, whether it's raising kids, doing something passionate or, how important do you think it, for a... Sorry, how important do you think it is for a workplace to embrace that side of their talent pool as well and let them do the things that they want to do?

Lisa: Yeah, it's interesting. I love it when people are doing other things outside work. We have some amazing talent in so many areas in music. So people have a lot of interests outside Savvy and How Too in areas of music. We have writers, we have PhD's, we have Vloggers. All sorts of, we have podcasters. We have all these people doing these amazing things. And we, we love it because it, I think creativity comes from all sorts of sources. And even with the things that we encourage some of our development internally, we try to be quite out there with what we, we suggest people do like it gallery or do something fun like games and all sorts of things to encourage creativity. So we love it. And we we embrace it in terms of, you know, work life balance. We also value people's lives. I find, though, it's really interesting that I find that we've got so many people that are passionately just working all the time. I'm not asking them to work all the time. I'm telling you. But they do. So I get these pings on the weekend, "I just found this great technology we could use to embedded in the way we do things, wouldn't that be great?" Oh, wow, that's amazing. You know, and I see they're up at 10:30 last night getting a release out. I didn't, I wasn't saying we have to get the release out last night. They just did it. We had a client that needed, you know, it's happening all the time. And so the passion is really gold because I'm not asking people to put in the extra hours. We're not forcing it. We're not doing anything. It's just happening. And I think, you know, people have come on on the journey with us. And I think they value what we're doing. And I think we also kind of have very strong values of who we work with. So we've made decisions early on in our business not to work with companies in any industry like gambling, in tobacco and things like that. We treat people properly. And so kind of strong values of integrity in the business. And I think people feel like they're doing something that is actually of value. And I get that with new team members, too, they actually say, and they love it. They love it, that we've got diversity and accessibility is really important to us. So we've built in accessibility to our, into our tools. So it means that people living with a disability have equal access to learning. So in both the custom work that we do, it's always just a core requirement. Even if the client doesn't want it. And in our tool, it's all built in, all the smarts are built into the technology. So again, it's just part of what's important to us. And I think our team value what we do for our learners and our clients so that they come with a passion that's beyond just 9 to 5, which is great.

Rob: And I think that's where that term work-life integration starts to take over. And because the lines are becoming very blurry and and I think you need to enable people to switch off if that's what they want to do, but also enable them to be passionate and, you know, work at strange hours, if that's what they feel that they want to do as well. So you touched on something interesting there around accessibility. And it is a very core aspect of what you put together. And and it's certainly been more prevalent recently, even in mainstream media, making sure things are closed captions, even with regards to advertising, even on our podcast, we put close captions on the YouTube videos. Ironically, podcasting in its typical audio format is by its very nature, it can be exclusive. But how important do you think it is to make to make any training program or any communication accessible in order to reach that pool of people?

Lisa: So important. I mean, because learning today is critical for success. If we're not learning, we're not growing, we're not earning, we're not we're not evolving. And, you know, today and it's going to be even more into the future, our sort of ability to succeed is going to be based on how effective our learning is, how we can grow, how we can build new skills. So, you know, it's a human right as far as we're concerned that people living with a disability have equal access to that learning. And disability is much broader than people think. So it's not just, you know, full hearing impairment or sight impairments it's, there is definitely a whole grey area. So as our workforce actually ages, so there's more, there's a broader range of challenges that people have. So in terms of text size, in terms of hearing, you know, even just agility in using content. So it's it's a very large proportion of the learning audience. And if they can't access that content in the same way as as everybody else can, then they're severely disadvantaged. So we we team up with an accessibility specialist company and we get their involvement through our process. We test with various users who have different, living with different types of disabilities. And we make sure that it's it's beyond just ticking the boxes of what we can, which is the standard. But it's it's actually embracing the value of it. And I've found it interesting. I did speak at, I've spoken at a few conferences on this topic. And when you're getting up and speaking and ensuring that you're actually making your delivery accessible, there's so many more things to think about. And it it just creates a much greater awareness of it. And the key is, it being perfect, again, is not the objective. It's improving the way you do it, because if you actually think, oh, my goodness, I've got to make this perfect, you just wouldn't do it. And we have that same attitude to the way we go about building accessibility into our tools and into our content. We we have it as a core value. So we believe in it and we understand it technically and we improve it over time.

Rob: And I think, as you've said, you know, ticking boxes for accessibility is is perhaps sometimes that's all the client is trying to achieve, which at least is commendable because they are trying to tick that box. But is there ever a circumstance where taking it to that next level and actually getting feedback from someone with a disability and integrating that back through what you're delivering? Is there an example where that has actually improved the product overall in unintentional ways?

Lisa: Yeah, so one of our clients, a government regulator, they have one of their team test the content. So they have sight impairment, and I think it's hearing impairment. So they test the content and feedback their, you know, their response to the content. And we will often go in and also work with them, because I think seeing that occur, seeing the experience from the learner's perspective, not just receiving like a written report is really important as well. So, and it's been great because that same person has actually been testing our content over a period of time. And we get really great results now, and it's improved. The feedback that we've received has been improving. And and that's what it's all about. So, yeah.

Rob: Do you think that feedback has improved because they they can see the results feeding back through the system

Lisa: Oh absolutely.

Rob: And it's self-fulfilling?

Lisa: Oh, yeah, yeah, totally. It's some, I think it's we've, our culture's changed. I have to be honest, in the early days, I just sort of saw it as a headache. This is like a long time ago.

Rob: Yeah, yeah,

Lisa: But it's, as, as I've become so much more aware of the importance of it, we've also made sure our team is much more educated and not just about, again, the requirements, technical requirements. It's also, again, getting to the heart of it. And so by hearing from people who are living with a disability, hearing for them about the benefit it gives them, that the content is accessible, makes more difference in actually understanding the technical requirements because there's a drive. It's like learning, there's a drive to achieve something as opposed to just "I've gotta do this and it's a pain". So, yeah, so the feeding in through our process, and we do a lot of work on improving everything we do all the time and making sure our team is aware of what we've learnt and that we share that, and we improve and get better.

Rob: It's certainly an interesting challenge from a, from a development standpoint. And so obviously for someone who has 20/20 vision, it it can be a real challenge for us to look at the world with the perspective of someone who say has vision impairment. Is there an easy way for someone who wants to consider accessibility for a digital product or something else, is there some way that they can sort of dip their toe in and get started in that direction?

Lisa: Yes. So there's a lot of information available online and there are companies that specialize in this space, like Intopia that we work with. I think that's a good place to start to see what what's happening in that in their area because they really know what they're doing. I think hearing about accessibility from the perspective of someone who's living with a disability completely changed our world. That just brought it home for us. And so there's quite a lot online that you can watch. There's conferences, there's sessions that make it easy to understand accessibility, and what are the core requirements, and what will make the most difference. Tools now also have accessibility smarts built in to make it a lot easier to make your content accessible. So, for example, in How Too we have all the accessibility built in. So you don't actually need to worry about sitting down and trying to code, you know, your alt-tabbing and your screen reader compatibility, your layouts, all those things you need are all built in and they meet Australian standards. So, and there are plenty of other platforms and that's a great thing today. Like tools are so smart. You know, they have it all built in often and it makes it much easier for us all to build much better quality content and and also address these issues. And I think it's great to see the giants, the tech giants really embracing this as well, because it's not that long ago that accessibility wasn't considered at all by, you know, the really big companies and the platforms we're all using that are critical in our lives. And that's not fair. That's not right. So it's good to see that shift.

Rob: I mean, even even web technology fundamentally 20 years ago wasn't particularly accessible at all, it was all around visual display. And you said your first product was in Flash, and Flash had very poor accessibility. And and so certainly the technology has caught up and enabled some of those decisions as well. So if we stick with How Too for a second. Obviously, we are in the sort of starting to reemerge from COVID, but it has catalyzed a huge shift towards digital. And you guys were releasing the product anyway. And I think it came out before COVID actually took hold. But what sort of unexpected rollercoaster came out of such a transition?

Lisa: Yeah, so we've we've been going crazy, like it's really gone mad. Since February, there's been a huge demand because organizations that perhaps had had some of their content delivered, and really critical delivery face to face, needed to get that content online really, really quickly. So How Too's been able to help them, and it's come from really interesting angles. So not for profits needing to train up their teams because they can't get them together face to face. A lot of government work. I mean, there's huge change in government right now, like there's huge, massive programs, they're having to implement it at lightning speed. So the, and even medical areas, we've been developing, we've been providing medical companies, medical tech companies, they need to train up their nurses so fast, so big, big influx of customers coming onboard, using the technology How Too because it's so fast they can convert it quickly. So yeah, timing's kind of perfect, but we're here to help. And so we're very happy that we have been able to help organizations, and we've offered special deals and given back. And that's what we, you know, it's important to us as well. Giving back during this time and giving free access for certain periods so that people can create content. I've I've reached out to, to many people that do a lot of face to face delivery, have businesses that deliver face to face and, you know, worked with them to help them with their content and how they might get it online quickly and easily because their whole businesses are impacted. So that's been, that's been good as well.

Rob: Was there any sort of challenge that came out of almost a trial by fire? Because the demand for How Too came on so thick and fast.

Lisa: Yeah, so, you know, a lot of demand for the platform, setting it up, the liaison, we were just getting off the ground,

Rob: Yes.

Lisa: So setting up all our system, we had to go much, much faster. So we do daily stand ups, stand ups, virtual stand ups with the sales and marketing team. We've had to move extremely quickly. We're recruiting. We're bringing on new people. The demand for that, we're expanding our dev team. So, yeah, a bit crazy, but I think all startups are. It's just we've had the COVID impact as well, which has certainly added to that, to that activity. But it's good. I embrace it. It's great. And it's, I see still a very big ongoing need as well. So it's not just about COVID. I mean, this need was was very strong prior to COVID. So it's going to continue.

Rob: And it's certainly, I think, for, for certain products impacted by COVID, such as, you know, let's say toilet paper or white sugar, you know, that the surge will come back and it's almost like a bit of a tsunami where it has to go back out as well. But do you think, as you've touched on there, that it will perhaps improve the acceptance of online learning even more broadly, long term?

Lisa: Yeah, so I think what it's done is it's made it more accessible to everyone. I mean, the concept of online learning, even the terminology, has become a whole lot more widely understood. But I still think it's about the quality of it. So I still think it's about, there's a place for ensuring also that the standard is there, that the quality is there and the engagement's there and you're getting the outcomes. And that's really our focus. So it's not just about getting it online, it's getting it online in an extremely, extremely meaningful and effective way. And that need is is strong and it's on the back of huge kind of demand anyway. So learning has really changed in organizations, and that's just not going to stop. That's growing.

Rob: Certainly, certainly interesting times to, to keep watching. So we're actually coming out of time, up on time here. But I do have a couple of quicker questions that I would love to ask. If you had to pin, say the biggest thing that typical learning programs are doing incorrectly, and, so for a corporate that has an existing program, is there one thing that they could improve that would have the most dramatic effect for them?

Lisa: I think it's dumping way too much content and not thinking about what are you trying to achieve for your learners. So it's, it's kind of going "yep, we've got content. Let's dump it on there, pages and pages of it", and really having cognitive overload for a learner. So I think it's very much about honing in on what are you wanting to achieve. And this is really, this hasn't changed. This is not new. What do you want to achieve for your learners? And involving them in the process will get much better outcomes. And it's taking on the learning science, the neuroscience, all of the things we know to grab their attention, to retain them and to get outcomes for them. So, I think it's partly process and it's partly what you're delivering.

Rob: Interesting. And no doubt your education in psychology helps there a little bit. Which I probably wanted to bring up because I think it's an important aspect of business, but we didn't quite get to. But on the flip side, as a business owner who was 18 years into a business before launching a new startup, for someone in a similar circumstance, is there a piece of advice you would have for them before they rush into it? Or is it just go for it?

Lisa: Really tap into the need. So make sure you you can see a real problem that you're addressing and that you're getting a demand and test that out. So I think really go for it. Like, give it a go. Like go for it, first of all. Make sure it's a good opportunity in terms of business model. But test it out. So build something small, like a minimum viable product. Test it out with your target audience, get their feedback and make sure it's going to work before you take it to the next step. So it's that very much either fail fast, you know, try things out, test it out. But you do need to have a compelling, you need to have a compelling problem that you're solving. And the only way to do that is to tap into and engage with your customers. And that's often not asking them what they want. It's building something and testing it with them. Because people tell you one thing, but they do another. So, you know, and I think if you've got, and the benefit of doing it that way is, and you've got relationships, that is gold because you, you're actually, they're your use case, they're, they're your, they're your audience. So we did pilot testing. We engage really closely. And I want to know what they think. I want to know what they like and be open to that. So feed that into your your development process. Yeah. And be open to the feedback and the input from all the amazing people out there that can help you. And there is a lot of support. So, but yeah, picking and choosing a bit as well.

Rob: So, so be open to all feedback, but know how to filter that feedback.

Lisa: Exactly. That's it.

Rob: It's a tricky line to walk, no doubt.

Lisa: It is.

Rob: And is there anything that we haven't covered that you would really love for our audience to know about what you're doing personally with your businesses? Anything like that?

Lisa: I just say give back. So I try to give back. I mentor people in business, women in business, and help them with their business, because you get as much back from it as, as you give. I also, I volunteer as a non-executive director on the board of a profit for purpose business in the mental health space. And, you know, I volunteer my time. But what I get out of that is enormous and the benefit, and I really love the fact that the profit that that business makes goes back into amazing programs for disadvantaged communities and families. And so I think, you know, don't forget to give back. It's really important.

Rob: Certainly wise words, absolutely. So Lisa Vincent, for anyone who wants to learn more about Savvy or How Too, where can they find you?

Lisa: They can link with me on LinkedIn, so reach out. They can also contact me via the websites. So howtoo.com.au, and savvy.com.au. So please reach out. I'd love to chat.

Rob: Fantastic. We'll put those links in the show notes. Lisa Vincent, thank you so much for an amazing conversation.

Lisa: Thanks, Rob.

Rob: Thank you.

Rob: There you have it. I hope you really enjoyed this episode, and if you did, please like it, share it or leave us a review on your favorite platform. It helps us show more of this content to people just like you.


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