The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, April 13, 1998
“Ronald Foreman teaches technology even though high tech led to the closing of his first business.”
By Sheila McGovern, The Gazette
It would be easy to forgive Ronald Foreman had he developed a distaste for technology. Technology, after all, played a significant role in the demise of his family’s business in 1993.
But Foreman obviously doesn’t hold a grudge. In January 1996 he relaunched himself as President of Productivity Point International – a company that specializes in training staff faced with new computer programs. The company is also the authorized centre for training Microsoft systems engineers. It’s a rapidly growing industry, bounding ahead by 35 per cent a year, Foreman said.
It’s also highly competitive. Marie-Félicité Gignac, Productivity Point’s account team manager and a partner in the company, said there are about five or six big players operating in Montreal. But if you take into account the small companies, independent consultants and educational institutions, the competition actually adds up to about a hundred.
Still, Productivity Point and Foreman are thriving. He anticipates sales will be up by 60% this year, reaching $2 million. So Foreman is shaping up to be a winner – someone who not only survived but prospered following the turbulent early 1990’s that saw so many people forced to make career changes as companies downsized or disappeared.
He has some advice for people still in transition: be determined and don’t try to recreate what you had in the past. You have to move on. Life is a continual learning process.
But as he sits in the company’s headquarters in the Sun Life Building, Foreman is neither pontificating nor lording it over anyone. The pain of mid life unemployment is still fresh in his memory.
In 1993, at the age of 48, he closed E. M. Ball Ltd. – the business his grandfather started. For generations it had fared well, supplying building supplies to retailers. But new information systems allow retailers to deal directly with manufacturers, and his business slowly faded away.
He spent the next 8 months searching for a new career.
“I don’t think there’s anything worse than being at home with nowhere to go and nothing to do” he said. “No matter how successful you were before, there’s still a lot of self doubt.”
He readily admits he had an advantage. He’d run his own business before, so he had experience and knowledge to draw on. “There’s no doubt about it, starting a business is a very difficult thing to do,” he said.
His friends were helpful, allowing him to bounce ideas off of them. Still he had to be persistent and accept defeat.
Foreman initially set out to enter the printing business. But after months of research and work, he had to conclude the venture was too big for him. That was a depressing time, he recalled, “but just when I was at that lowest point an idea came to me.”
He was reading a magazine article about franchises when he came across the names of some companies running computer-training centres. He began discussions with two of them, but wasn’t satisfied and decided to strike out on his own. However his business was still young when he encountered a representative of Productivity Point, an international franchise operation based in Chicago, with its Canadian head office in Ottawa.
Foreman said Productivity Point’s philosophy and culture appealed to him. It encourages entrepreneurship and allows the freedom and flexibility to respond to local market conditions.
Foreman said the increased popularity of training specialists is understandable.
In the rapidly changing world of information systems, companies have to retrain their staff to use new programs or networks, and the most expensive component of that training is time, the time workers are away from their regular jobs.
While many companies have systems technicians, they would first have to learn the new program and then have to teach it to their co-workers, probably in small groups. However a team of training specialists can come in and teach the whole workforce quite quickly, Gignac said. And, Foreman added, they will provide tailor made programs, ensuring workers are taught what they need to know but do not spend time learning something they won’t be required to do.
Beside workforce training, Productivity Point also operates a training program for Microsoft systems engineers.
People who take the program are usually making a career change, Foreman said. They pay $12,000 to take the course, but if they are successful, they shouldn’t want for a job. The company already has a list of companies waiting for graduates.