Twenty-four years ago Phil Geldart was a senior vice-president of human resources at a multinational food company who wanted to use his knowledge developing training programs to help other companies operate more efficiently. In his spare time Geldart (and three friends) then started Eagle’s Flight—a company that develops and sells interactive training programs for the business community.
Today, the Guelph Ont. company (of which Geldart is CEO) has experience running anything from time management sessions to leadership courses for 52% of the Fortune 500 companies, according to Dave Root—the firms’ CFO and president of global business.
“We teach principles such as team building or customer service through experience-based exercises,” says Root.
One example of the company’s team building programs is an interactive simulation in which participants form groups and are given 25 days to race across a desert to mine for gold.
“There are weather conditions and capacity issues like carrying water and food usage that affect the game play,” says Root. “Participants move around, there’s music and they have a lot of fun. At the end we ask how this applies to real life? We’ve spent a lot of time with the company at the front end to identify their needs and the program is designed to focus on that. It’s similar to a work environment because pressures are put in place and you have to work as a team to maximize your accomplishments.”
The company has run the above-mentioned simulation for up to 900 participants at one time, says Root, adding it can be customized (one customer paid to have a camel and palm trees brought in for the exercise he says, during an industry convention in Brazil.)
Clients can either choose from a long list of pre-designed programs that have been created, trademarked and licensed by Eagle’s Flight or work with the company to develop a customized one. Existing programs vary in length between a single two-hour session and a series of extensive leadership lessons (for senior level managers) that take place over a two to three-year period. Because they often seek help dealing with confidential human resources issues such as improving the internal culture of a company—Root wont name any clients but says they come from nearly any industry including banking, automotive and pharmaceuticals.
Eagle’s Flight also has an office in Minneapolis and the company is exploring opening another in either Australia, Brazil, China or the UAE. The company has been able to sell its training products in 47 markets by licensing them and collecting royalties from partners (such as universities, accounting firms or other training companies) who have purchased the rights to use them with their own clients.
Making sure the programs are run consistently worldwide and translated accurately by partners are challenges Root says the company has faced. These issues have largely been resolved though, he says, by taking the time to find good partners and properly training them with the use of good marketing material.
“When a licensee is far away in Australia or the Philippines it’s hard to know what they are doing,” says Root. “How do you check the quality of the delivery? You don’t have as much control over your licensee as you do your sales person. If you are selling learning in different languages the translation has to be good. It takes some time going back and forth for them to really understand the product and sometimes their cultural perspective needs to be taken into account.”
Root advises entrepreneurs to contact the Canadian consulate operating in a potential new market for help finding a good partner on the ground.
“They are going to know the culture and their way around. A hand gesture here for example that means hello could be very offensive somewhere else. [A good partner] can tell you how to have a business meeting there and how to pitch your program.”