Meet Trainual: the Tech Company Getting Businesses Out of Their Owners’ Brains
Today, we’re learning about Trainual: a software tool that companies use to organize their processes and policies into a single business playbook for the entire company.
They call it “getting your business out of your brain,” something almost all business owners struggle with.
00:00 Introducing Trainual Cofounders Chris and Jonathan Ronzio started the company in Scottsdale Arizona in 2018, and have since raised 6.8 million dollars and built a team of 55 people, successfully weathering the 2020 pandemic that disproportionately affected their customer base of small businesses. But, to understand this company, we have to dial our time machine all the way back to 2001…
01:54 Backstory, problem, and solution
05:04 Meet Shawn and learn about instructional design
10:10 Meet Sasha and learn about Trainual’s culture, values, mission & vision Trainual is an incredibly empowering and supportive place to work. Some people see early-stage startups as risky career moves, but it’s companies like Trainual that raise the bar for all the others out there. Not just by how they invest in their employees and culture, but by their success in business so far.
19:39 How to work at Trainual without 5+ years experience If you’re genuinely excited about Trainual—their product, vision, and people—show them with a video pitch! Go to Crash.co to get started. Chris knows exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes — eager to prove yourself, and willing to put in the work to show it.
And check out: Trainual on YouTube
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From the very beginning, it was like, in order for this business to be scalable, to grow, and to make a good work life balance and lifestyle for people, we’ve got to pay over market wages, we’ve got to pay, we’ve got benefits from the beginning, we set up 401k plans when we were a team of three.
And, you know, like investing in those sorts of things early on, we made the company grow to where it is, you know, I think that it’s like, it’s almost like working out with one of those weighted vests, you know, like, you get stronger, and then you take the thing off, and you’re like, Oh, my gosh, I can fly.
It’s the same thing. Like if you put those things on your business from the very beginning, you build a business that supports that weight. Whereas if the beginning doesn’t start with that, then it’s really hard to add it after the fact.
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Thanks for tuning in. Today, we’re learning about Trainual, a software tool that companies use to get their policies and processes out of their brains and into a single business playbook for the entire company. Co founders, Chris and Jonathan Ronzio, started the company in sunny Arizona in 2018. And have since gone on to raise $6.8 million from venture capital investors and built a team of 55 people.
They’ve not just weathered the 2020 pandemic that disproportionately affected their customer base of small businesses, they’ve actually grown and thrive through it. But to understand this company, and why it’s been so successful thus far, we have to dial our time machine all the way back to 2001.
That started with my first entrepreneurial endeavor, my first business. I was 14 years old, and I had a video production company. Over like 12 years of running that business, we got really fine tuned with our standard operating procedures with our, you know, onboarding, and training new people to be sales reps, to be editors to be production managers to be camera operators.
And so all of those roles, responsibilities were super dialed in. And I didn’t realize how unique a skill set that was. So when I sold the business, I started consulting for other companies. And so it kind of clicked that every company, every growing company wants the secret sauce, like the way they do things written down somewhere, that’s tangible.
And that was the opportunity for Trainual to exist so that we could create a simple product for companies to do just that.
The burden of you being the only one that can do something is heavy, the business can’t survive without you. You know, I even remember a daycare that I went in and worked with, and I talked to this one teacher. And she says, you know, so many times I’ve gotten offers higher paying offers to join other schools.
And I said, Well, why haven’t you taken them and she says, you know, if I left, this place would crumble. So by creating a playbook and building it into your culture that hey, around here, we’re all moving up. We’re all trying to, you know, document or put bricks in place as we figure things out, and then empower other people to do those things.
Because it’s, it’s a step up for them. You know, like training is empowerment, it’s it’s helping people grow. And it relieves the burden from you so that if your next step is out of the business, or onto a different opportunity, you don’t feel so bad about it, whether you’re the entrepreneur, any sort of leader, any sort of employee, like this is a skill, delegating, training, letting go, that is a skill. And that’s why we’re so passionate about it.
The impact of what we’re doing for businesses is huge, because they all have the exact same problem that we are solving. Right? Small businesses who don’t have tons and tons of people that have processes that are crucial that they need to document the need to make sure so they can scale. They can grow, they can hire new people.
And most small businesses don’t have something like that they don’t have a place for it. They’re using things like Google Docs, or the old fashioned binder on the wall, you know, that thing? That is terrible, because it’s old and outdated and dusty, and everything. So they all have those things.
But when you’re able to teach him this, here’s some real simple principles that will help you to begin document your business. And here’s the place to do it. You know, that is exciting to a small business. And I think that’s where our reach and impact. I mean, we’re always going to have small businesses.
There will always be small businesses are popping up left and right every single day, and they’re all going to have this exact same problem. They need to do it somewhere. So that’s exciting to me, because that means There’s no end to what we can do for small businesses.
That’s Shawn Jensen, Trainual’s in house learning and development success coach.
While Trainuaal is at the core, a software company, they knew it would benefit them and their customers to offer some expert support in setting up training documentation. So they brought Shawn on board.
In any position I’ve been in any job I’ve been in, I’ve always gravitated towards anything that’s training oriented. So my first job was at Wendy’s. And so I was like the fry guy and the burger guy. But I like really quickly found that I really enjoyed teaching other people how to do the stuff. But that was really got me really jazzed because I was able to teach somebody something and watch them, like grow and develop and accomplish this thing and start from scratch and be get really good at it.
And then, you know, move on to the next thing. So that kind of became this theme through any of my jobs going forward, I just really loved any opportunity that I got to guide and coach, somebody, education became this thing. I just loved education.
From the very beginning of it, I trained I went out in the field all over the country is training teachers and guidance counselors, and you know, principals and all that. And then I started working with our own trainers as well, guiding them and teaching them and helping them to, to train better.
And as I was doing this, this is where it really kind of nailed something for me where I found my niche, right as I began watching how people learn. So while I was training, I was I was zeroing in on, you know what body language they were doing and how they were responding and what the, what they responded well to what they didn’t respond well to.
Like, that’s really interesting. And then I started kind of watching some of the other trainers and how they were training. And I noticed that there there’s, you can have a really good trainer, you can have a person who’s really good at teaching people stuff. But if the design of what they’re teaching isn’t good, then it really impacts the training.
Shawn’s talking about instructional design. This is a practice focused on helping people learn more effectively. Early on in his career, he realized that he was really passionate about education. So he dove deeper into instructional design, getting paid to learn and apply his learnings in his work.
Along the way, he worked with a colleague named Tamra who later left the company that they were working at and went on to process consulting. They kept in touch. And in the spring of 2019, the company that Shawn was working for got acquired by a much bigger Corporation.
He didn’t like the thought of working in a slower, more traditional corporate culture. And so he reached out to folks in his network, including Tamra putting out feelers for new opportunities.
Like half an hour later, she she writes me back because Sean, you got to talk to this guy named Chris Ronzio. Over at this little place called Trainual, and it’s like, Okay, that sounds awesome training. Oh, that sounds like a really intriguing name. I like training. And yeah, that’s good.
So she hooked me up with Chris, we chatted. And it was interesting, because at that time, there wasn’t like a defined role, right? That they, they needed me to fill per se. Other than I remember in that initial conversation with Chris, Chris said, you know, we got no sales people got design people, but we don’t have a trainer here. And we’re a training company more or less.
So that’s, that was the realm and we talked together like, yeah, this is, you know, how I view learning. And this is how I view it, what can we we can possibly do, and it ended up being a really good fit from the very beginning.
And so that was almost two years ago. And then having a great time, just kind of helping the company here to implement really adult learning design principles into not only the, you know, with our customers, but even into the program itself. So helping people learn how to do the stuff they need to do for their business.
Side note: I met Shawn at my neighborhood basketball court one day when his kids were practicing there. He’s wearing a Trainubl shirt. So of course, I had to chat him up. And throughout our conversation, I asked him about Trainers culture, and he just had so many amazing things to say that I had to get into come on to this episode, and contribute his voice.
This has been the best work experience that I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some really good work experience. I’ve been really lucky or really Ford but meeting with Chris, that was a really a wonderful moment for me, right to talk to this guy who had built this thing from scratch had a real passion for what he was building.
And I could see that the guy was really smart. But he was also it didn’t Have this ego that you’d have to compete with, right. And that was something that was really important. It was real. It’s been genuine ever since the beginning. And that the that influence of course from that leadership has has trickled on down. So the autonomy for me to to operate the way I do personally, in this in this organization is just amazing.
In order for us to make things work, like you said, You can’t micromanage at all. And so we hired great department has leaders that can own their own department as if it’s their own business.
And then I get to see myself as a consultant to these like e different businesses where I’m just trying to coach them and give them some insights and ask them the right questions. And make sure that everybody is aligned with the big mission and the big vision that we’ve got.
And the people that work for them, all of our extended team just kind of become my my friends. And I’m like cheering for them. I want them to all succeed.
When people are happy and engaged and feel connected. And that drives better performance. And ultimately, that’s going to drive business outcomes.
That’s Sasha Robinson, head of people operations.
My department oversees the candidate and employee experience from the very moment that you first interact with our employment brand, through your entire experience with us as an employee, around compensation, performance, employee engagement, employee experience, our culture, your promotion and growth path.
And then ultimately, when you decide or we decide that it’s no longer a fit for you at Trainual, then we help you with your exit. But through that entire process, I want to ensure that you are you’re met with people and a culture that accurately reflects our values and who we are who we’ve decided to be as a business. The culture is made up by everyone that’s at the company.
And it’s our job to ensure that we keep the incredible culture that we have, and continue to iterate and build that culture as we scale and add new folks to the team. So we want to ensure that everyone is kind and everyone is an owner, and everyone helps their teammates.
But I do not want everyone to be the same. Like when we hire on new folks to the team, we want them to bring a variety of different backgrounds. I want differences in, in their personal backgrounds, and their professional backgrounds and their identities.
So they can bring all of that so we can make a stronger product have a stronger culture, even though we only have 50 employees, nine of our employees were actually born outside of the US or have spent a significant amount of time outside of the US.
We got someone from Sweden now we’ve got you know, South America and Germany. And so it’s Canada. That’s me, I’m from Canada, you know, but so we had, we have this little place now and lots of little channels where different types of people can can get together and chat and it’s so it’s more than just the work culture it’s it’s it’s a people culture.
And I think that’s the again, I’ve never experienced that before. And it’s been awesome. We celebrate each other’s you know, who we each are we’ve got musicians on the team, we’ve got like health aficionados, we got Iron Man, people on the to you knows we’ve got all kinds of people, and we celebrate that that’s a big part of our culture.
And again, the people ops team, I keep coming back to them, but they’ve just done a great job of making that a thing. You’ve got a bunch of people at Trainual that are their genuine selves. And we see this every single day. It’s and it’s again, it’s celebrated. And that’s the the thing that I keep coming back to that. I don’t see that celebrated that way in other companies.
When I was consulting, I interviewed 1000 or 2000 people across 150 companies confidential interviews, where people would divulge, like all the problems of the business, what suggestions are they made that the company never took? Or what ideas did they have or inefficiency is you know, it was just like these, this list of questions I would ask. And one of the biggest things that came out of that was like, Yeah, I suggest stuff all the time, and nothing ever happens.
You know, like no one ever does anything with my feedback. And so after a while, you start to feel beat down, like Well, I guess I just want to suggest things. And so for me with starting Trainual, it was so important to be my own consultant, what’s going on here? What would you do if you were the boss? What would you do if I give you 10 grand to spend right now? Like how can I make your job easier?
What would you rather be doing a year from now? You know, that you don’t have time for today. And just that simple process of asking questions, and then acting on their feedback builds so much trust just by asking for the feedback by saying you’re gonna do something about it by doing something about it and then reminding them that you did something about it. It creates this cycle of trust and I think that is so core to growing an invite meant that people love to work.
If you if you want to work somewhere that values you as a person and as a professional and invest heavily, both emotionally and financially in your growth, Trainual is the place for you. We want to train you to be a great place to be from. We were an early stage company, but we are investing so heavily in the people side of our organization, because we know that people are going to be the differentiator and if we make it or not. So that would be like my short pitch, like we genuinely care about people.
Okay, as you can probably tell by now, Trainual isn’t just a cool place to work. It’s an incredibly empowering and supportive place to work. Some people see early stage startups as risky career moves, but it’s companies like triennial that set the bar for all the others out there, and not just by how they invest in their employees and culture. But by their success in business so far.
In April, March, April, May of 2020, post, immediately post pandemic, there was a lot of fear around joining a really new organization. At the time, we were only two years old, we’ve had a tremendous growth. And we were venture backed. So we had quite a bit of cash in the bank. And we had really tried to do the right way to say this, our metrics were amazing.
So we turned off our marketing or growth spend, and we could be profitable the next month. And so for me, it was just having that conversation, like, Chris has been a 20 year founder, or he’s been a founder for 20 years, he’s had multiple successful, profitable bootstrapped businesses. This is his first venture backed SaaS business, and he runs it or did run it until recently, towards profitability.
And at any point, we could choose to move towards the operational efficiency and profitability path. Or we could choose to raise more money and grow a lot faster, and use those new funds for accelerated growth.
And I think that type of explanation was very reassuring knowing that we had a really strong leader at the helm. We had a plan, we actually have grown through the pandemic, and we’ve hit our our budget that we set our Yeah, our growth goals that we set in January 2020. Our product uniquely serves folks that are struggling with going remote and having to onboard new employees or onboard new employees and retain all their information.
The feedback that we get from our customers is we continually get feedback, like I don’t experience this type this level of customer service from anyone, right. sentiments that are very much like that, you know, in the feedback we get, we’ve grown pretty rapidly I started I was employee number 13. And we’re something we’re close, we’re nearing 50. Now employees, right.
So we’ve like really kicked, you know, the funding into our software team. So we can keep growing and building and enhancing the app, you know, so that it is the thing that that our customers can use and that it is valuable to them that they can continue perpetually is is useful to them.
When I was doing my consulting work that I was, you know, at the time, I had worked with 30 something companies, I remember sketching out, like, what’s the what’s the be hag for this business. And it was to work with 25,000 entrepreneurs, 25,000 businesses, to help them streamline what they do.
And when eventually the team and I made the decision to pivot and spin off and grow the software company. We carried that mission over and said, Well, now 25,000 businesses, that’s what we were trying to do before. And now it’s it’s even more achievable. So that’s where we’ll be by the end of next year.
The vision is that every company has a playbook like that, that it no one argues that it would be a bad use of their time. Everyone wishes they had one. But why don’t they and the reason they don’t is because it takes too much time to make. They don’t have the experience. They don’t know what they’re doing. And that’s why our software exists to try to make that as easy as possible. So that’s something we’ll march toward indefinitely.
This kind of powerful, huge vision is exactly what I love hearing when I do these interviews, or just talk to founders. It’s so inspiring because it’s so simple and yet so powerful. Imagine the economic and social value that training will is unlocking in the world, by helping every business have an effective playbook.
It saves them time and money and allows them to have a greater impact on their customers and in their regions of the world.
So by now if you’re chomping at the bit to work at Trainual or at least have a conversation with them, but you’re worried that you might not have what it takes because you’re early in your career or considering a career change. Don’t worry.
You caring about Trainual was a huge component. We want people that love the customer We serve if you love small businesses, and you love the product that we built, and we’ve hired multiple people, because they love what we do, and the passion exudes throughout their interview process.
Taking a risk on folks who haven’t done this before, but are so passionate about this function and about training and our product, and it’s paid off. I have an incredible team. And they are so driven to learn and improve their craft.
At the beginning, we were hiring very, very generalist, you know, Junior type people that were scrappy, loved the idea of building a cool tech company in Arizona, and maybe didn’t have so much experience, we couldn’t attract people with the big experience, because we couldn’t pay for them at the beginning, as much as we invested in benefits and all that.
But, but it took just taking a risk on people that were hungry. And so in the same way that I took those leaps early on, I was encouraging the people that join Trainual your to say, look, if this doesn’t work out, like I will be the first to refer you to your next thing. And like think of this as just an amazing resume experience that you helped to get a startup off the ground.
If someone is in sales or customer success, or people ops or something customer or candidate facing a huge component of that role is their ability to articulate themselves to sell something, whether that’s a culture or a role or product, or to support. And I would want to see that reflected in their own personal brand and potential thought leadership.
So whether that’s a podcast or YouTube channel, or blogs, or just posting on LinkedIn, or having a Medium account. So that would be a great place to start, even if you haven’t worked in people ops before.
But you say like, Hey, I’m fascinated by the talent acquisition world, like, here’s some trends that I’m seeing, like as an outsider looking in and like, start to post and then try to find folks in your network, do informational interviews with and then leverage their insights and start tagging. Like, there’s a social media component to that.
You know, I have a lot of people messaged me, and just tell me that they’re scrappy, and they’re hungry, and they’d love an internship or something like that. A lot of people say that those kind of things, but very few people, like do something that actually is meaningful.
You know, like, our first early employee is like Sarah, who’s one of our sales, or she would like type up a summary of a book she read over the weekend, and send it to me, because she felt there were a couple useful nuggets that like I would like to hear, like what kind of employees do that it’s incredible. And so those are the people that you want to really invest in, and that are really going to go somewhere in the business.
Our hiring process is very robust. We have typically four different interview interviews between people operations, the hiring manager, the hiring team, and anyone, any other leaders that are involved in that function, as well as a hands on project. And that ranges from a mock sales demo with our sales specialists all the way through a very repressed product analysis for our product managers.
And we have them present that project to the team. And so there’s a piece of the project or like the the ability to showcase their skills in the interview process. And then we try to do our diligence and the reference process and in the interview process to ensure that we’re hiring the right person, and that they’re actually joining the team.
Because when you join Trainual, you’re like you join a real team family, we are here. And it’s kind of disruptive to have folks that are like kind of in kind of out. And then they get sucked into our amazing culture. And if they’re not the right fit, then that’s a real bummer for everyone.
Always be genuinely you who you are. I think that’s so crucial when we go in any when you go into like, any type of interview process, and we always, we want to put our best foot forward. And I think that lends to sometimes portraying itself, that’s not actually fully yourself, right?
And that’s a hard thing to break out of, because you really want the job or you really want that you really want to look good and stuff, right? But I think that when we can be our genuine selves and say what we say the way we say it, that strikes a key. And it might take you into different roads that you didn’t realize maybe you didn’t impress them because of a certain way that you portrayed yourself but if that’s your genuine self, that’s the way you’re going to be after he got hired.
So you want to to look for the opportunity that is going to allow you to be your your genuine self.
If you’re genuinely excited about Trainual their product, their vision, their team, show them with a video pitch. Chris knows exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes, eager to prove yourself and willing to put in the work to show it.
I think back to you know, same thing when I was trying to get my internship at a management consulting firm. It was like I did all this research. On the partners at the firm and articles they had written and printed them out and to and sent them emails on like, Hey, I read that you were quoted saying this and because of that, I thought this might be interesting to you. And I’d love to tell you more. Can I buy you coffee?
You know, it’s like really go out of your way. That’s that’s how you get opportunities when you’re when you’re early on and you’re hustling.
That’s our show for today. You heard from Shawn Jensen, the learning and development success coach, Sasha Robinson, head of people operations, and Chris Ronzio, the founder and CEO of Trainual.
They’re all reachable on LinkedIn. Chris is also very active on Instagram, and check out trainers, Instagram and YouTube channels too. They’re funny crew.
All right, we got to go. Thanks for watching or listening to this week’s episode. We’ll see you next time.
Like what you hear? Go to crash.co and join the career revolution. Do you want to share your own career crash story? Send it directly to me at email@example.com.