Understand the Market
Before we go too far, do one thing; open another browser window and type into your Search Engine “first aid” followed by the nearest large town to you. How many training providers already exist in your locality?
The most fundamental question before starting and business is:
“Is there a need?”
If there is not a need, there is no business. If you are looking to make easy money, please, stop reading right now.
The market, including the area you live in, already has plenty of training providers. You may ask “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Also ask yourself “Are they knocking out first aid courses every week?”
The answer is “probably not”. Have a look at some of your those businesses’ websites; many training providers who offer first aid will also offer a range of other training courses such as health & safety, food hygiene, fire safety and so on. This allows them to deliver what the customer wants on any given week rather than hoping that enough customers are going to need or want solely first aid training every week. To be able to offer such a wide range invariably means they will employ several instructors of different disciplines. And unless the company is of a reasonable size, many of those instructors are likely to be self-employed working freelance.
So if you are hoping to run a successful business within your own postcode offering just first aid, you will fail. I am sorry. It’s just how it is.
No one needs another First aid training company.
The first aid training market is saturated. Every week I hear of new companies arriving and others disappearing. One of the reasons to the market saturation is that there are very few barriers to entry (which I will discuss in the next article) which means anyone with very little training and not a huge budget wants to do it. Which is probably why you are reading this, right?
It is almost impossible to work out how many first aid training companies there are in the UK as they range from nationwide giants to individuals operating from their kitchen table. There is also a high attrition rate of new companies and individual trainers starting and others leaving the industry. But let’s look at what we do know:
As of 2009 there were over 12,300 training providers operating above the VAT threshold (link) and this number almost doubled over the preceding 8 years following a post-millennium explosion of funding available for training which has now very much dried up following the 2008 recession. The number of self-employed and sole-trader first aid trainers in the country is completely unknown.
Ofqual list 522 regulated First aid qualifications currently available from nearly 50 Awarding Organisations, each one competing to get first aid trainers and training companies to sell their courses, often by suggesting how easy, lucrative and fun it can be to set up your own First aid training company. I would suggest that the real way to make money from First aid is to set up as an Awarding Organisation but that market is also saturated.
This does not mean it is impossible to establish a successful training business but it is by no means easy.
Someone MIGHT need another first aid training company.
I said earlier that if there is no need there is no business. There really is no fundamental need for another training provider to issue first aid certificates. There may, however, be a need for a new first aid training provider to do it better. There may be a narrow gap within that wide market which isn’t being filled. It is possible for a new company to enter a saturated market and take a share of that market as long as they do something better or do it differently.
If you are still interested in first aid training as a career you will need to make some commitments:
1. You will need to travel.
Far too many people wonder why their phone isn’t ringing or emails aren’t inbound when they have only targeted local businesses. Your locality is probably already saturated, after all, these local businesses have had their first aid training needs met for a long time and have developed relationships with existing training providers.
To begin with, work will not come to you, you will need to go to the work. As your reputation develops you may receive requests from further afield due to the power of word-of-mouth (more on that in a later article). I frequently see freelance First aid trainers advertise their availability on forums and social media with a closing line “…willing to travel within 30 miles.” Good luck with that.
2. You will need to diversify or specialise.
One-day Emergency First aid at Work and the three-day First aid at Work courses are the most common courses requested so everyone offers them. If that is all you are offering you are fighting a losing battle. You can do one of two things:
Diversify: Offer a wider range of courses, be they first aid related such as Paediatric or Outdoors for example or other courses such as health and safety related subjects. This means you are more likely to offer something that someone wants at any particular time.
Specialise: Do one thing well and get a reputation for the way you do things. This will almost certainly mean having to travel more as fewer people locally will need your specialism but you may become in demand elsewhere.
Don’t try and do both. It is almost impossible (let alone contradictory) to specialise in everything.
3. Be incredible.
This is the hardest to do but the most satisfying and the most sustainable for your business. Whether you set up as a freelance trainer, sole-trader or limited company this is how you:
- Take work from existing businesses in your area; you are offering something others currently are not. That prises customers away from their existing training provider.
- Develop a reputation so that work does come to you. You do something that makes people talk about it. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful advertising tools.
One of the easiest ways to fail is by being ordinary. In the following articles we will look at the practicalities and decisions to be made in setting up a business. Later we will look at ways to be incredible.