When Site Strategics CEO Erin Sparks sat down in-studio with special local guest Max Yoder, CEO and co-founder of Lessonly for episode 312 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast, he wanted to find out what went into making Lessonly such a big hit in the very crowded learning and training software landscape. Here’s what we learned:
Max Yoder: His Background and Experience
Max is the founder and CEO of Lessonly, powerfully simple software to teams do better work. The company is based in Indianapolis, making it easy for Max to stop by the EDGE studios for an in-person visit, which he has done before.
Max often says how grateful he is for being cut from the basketball team two years in a row. This was back in middle school. He was cut from the team in both sixth and seventh grades and decided not to go through it a third time in eighth grade. The reason he considers it a blessing is because it allowed him to focus. He was only trying out for sports because his friends were on those teams, and they were good. But Max wasn’t naturally gifted with athletic ability and he appreciates how the coach essentially got that message through to him because it freed him up to try other things. He tried video editing, built his first computer, got into music and all the other things he was much better at than sports. Was there stress involved in being cut from the team like that two years in a row? Sure, but stress isn’t always a net negative thing. It can also help you get stronger and learn and grow.
After graduating from Indiana University in 2010, Max went to work for Chris Baggott at Compendium, which was a content marketing software system (eventually purchased by Oracle). Max was there for a year-and-a-half and mentioned how he wanted to start a business. The advice from Chris was to save up some money. So Max worked hard to pay off his student loans and then started saving 61 cents of every dollar he made. It was hard, but with his savings, he then started his first business called Quipol, which was survey and polling software. He didn’t have a good business model for it, though, and decided to shut it down after about 12 months. Then he started Lessonly. Seven years later the company has 117 employees.
Why Lessonly is so Successful: Simplicity and Speed!
As Max explains, when he and his partners got into the training software space, they really didn’t know what they didn’t know, which was a blessing because they avoided all the dogma and made-up rules people were following as if they were doctrine and gospel. One way Lessonly was immediately different from other learning management system (LMS) options was how it included a lesson builder inside the platform. With most LMS platforms you create the content outside the platform using various other apps and software and then upload it into the training platform. The companies they started selling to were those who didn’t have L&D expertise and resources in-house but still wanted to do good training. The team at Lessonly realized that if you can type you can teach. After all, people are teaching every day whether they realize it or not, and Lessonly just gives a way of making it more efficient.
The other thing about Lessonly is how it’s speed-optimized. A company doesn’t have to hire third-party L&D experts who take six months to develop a training. Using Lessonly a company can create a training and then very quickly figure out what’s working with it and what’s not and make rapid improvements to soon have really good training. Lessonly also has a really good search capability, so a person in the company might forget how to do something, do a quick search in Lessonly and find the piece of training they need. The company can then quickly see data on what people are searching for that they aren’t finding and improve the content library. It’s a very agile, responsive system.
Training Fundamentals Laid Bare
If you want your people to Do Better Work, you’ve got to show them what that looks like, which is where training comes into play. You shouldn’t expect people to just guess what it is you want them to do. It’s better to show them what you need them to do through training. Yes, you can bring lots of creativity in it, too, but start with the fundamentals and make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them. And guess what, they’ll do it! And they’ll feel great about doing a good job at work, which is what most people want, and then they take that positive energy home with them. When people Do Better Work, they lead better lives.
How Lessonly led to the Do Better Work Book
Growing the company so much in a relatively short amount of time led to all kinds of lessons learned about doing better work. At the core of what Max learned is how much of it is based on relationships with other people. It begins by establishing trust and mutual respect, which Max calls camaraderie. Then you can seek and give clarity. Seeking clarity is asking “How are things going?” and giving clarity is saying, “Here’s what I need or what is changing or what is happening.” If you go for camaraderie and clarity, you will make progress, and that’s what the book is all about. You’ll know what matters, what to do and how to do it. That leads to making more progress.
Connect with Max Yoder, CEO and Co-Founder of Lessonly
Twitter: @MaxYoder (https://twitter.com/maxyoder)
Max’s posts on Lessonly: https://www.lessonly.com/blog/author/lessonly
Max’s book: Do Better Work: Finding clarity, camaraderie, and progress in work and life
Lessonly Twitter: @lessonly (https://twitter.com/lessonly)
Lessonly Facebook: @lessonlyapp (https://www.facebook.com/lessonlyapp)
Lessonly website: https://www.lessonly.com
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