In this blog article IACET interviews Firmwater LMS President, Rich Williams to get a behind the scenes look at the philosophy behind providing high quality learning management services.
IACET: (a) Hi Rich, we can see Firmwater has been very successful, what was your first job?
Rich Williams: When I was in middle school, I worked in a local pet shop. I cleaned aquariums, helped customers with their purchases, and stocked shelves. Some days, I was even given the responsibility to open the shop all by myself¬ and I was only in Seventh Grade!
My next job was inside a photography studio. I spent many hours, working in the dark room, to help create beautiful wedding pictures.
What did your first job teach you about life or lend to what you do now?
Both of these jobs found me. I didn’t go looking for them. I became passionate about an area of interest and then ended up working in that area. To me it wasn’t work, it was being immersed in doing something I really liked doing. Thinking about it, this has been a theme throughout my working life.
When you enjoy what you do, it really isn’t work, you tend to do a better job and provide your customers with an excellent experience.
What sport(s) do you play? What’s your training philosophy in this sport? How does this philosophy and training/practice help you at Firmwater?
In the warmer months, I am an avid cyclist and in the winter months, I am a skier / ski coach.
One day, a work colleague, suggested that we put together a company team to compete in a 24 hour mountain bike race. I agreed and figured we had better start to train on the mountain bike. I enjoyed this so much that it led me to further racing on a mountain bike. Later, I switched to group riding, mainly on the quiet country roads that surround the city. We train together, encourage one another and often travel around North America and Europe to ride new terrain.
I started skiing as an adult. Most skiers tend to learn the sport at a young age, and the skills are ingrained for life, just like riding a bike. However, learning to ski as an adult is more challenging. Adults have to overcome mental blocks they aren’t even aware they have. I worked hard at developing my skills and eventually became a certified Level III Ski Instructor. Initially I worked with adult skiers which was a perfect fit as I understood the challenges of learning the sport as an adult. Later I became a Level II Ski Racing Coach. In the winter I spend my weekends working with young children helping them follow their passion, develop their skiing skills and a strong work ethic.
Both of these sports have an underlying theme of passion and that if you continue to work hard and develop your passion for something, then you can eventually achieve excellence. Our executive team has been together at Firmwater since our inception and we continue to share a passion for the LMS. Each of us lead active, balanced lives but years later, we are still passionate about continuing to improve our product and make it better with each new release.
How did you get started in the training industry? Or what drew you to it?
When we started Firmwater, we initially wanted to be as far away from training as possible. It was just after Y2K and 9/11. The economy was in the tank and the initial dotCom boom was bust. Our founding team had all worked for an early application service provider in the training space. We decided to focus on consulting in the application service provider space.
However, we kept on getting calls from former customers in the training space. Eventually, some former colleagues wanted our expertise and help revamp their training solution. They had a client server product and wanted to offer an Internet delivered solution. That led to the development of the Firmwater LMS.
What are your responsibilities at Firmwater?
While my title is President, I wear many hats. I spend a lot of time focused on managing the overall operations, work closely with our data center team, accounting and contract management.
What makes Firmwater unique?
Our focus remains on providing a niche LMS solution for companies selling online e¬learning/ training. Firmwater LMS has a very clean user interface and we purposely limit our product to meet the requirements of our training provider customers. We learn from our customers and use this knowledge to improve the LMS and help them achieve their goals.
I believe that we are the only LMS vendor who still maintains that singular focus. Firmwater is not trying to be the LMS for all organizations. Instead we are the LMS for companies who develop and sell online training.
What inspires you about Firmwater?
It’s our own baby. We built Firmwater from the ground up and have developed an outstanding reputation for providing excellent customer service.
We are a small team and I have seen that when a team that is well orchestrated, it can do great things! Look at our customer reviews¬ our clients enjoy working with us.
Who is your role model? Why?
The working man.
I am school of hard knocks kind of guy. My family comes from a long line of immigrants to North America who had to overcome lots of challenges to make good for their family. I am impressed by those who put their nose to the ground, aim for a goal and work hard until they achieve it.
What advice would you give an organization that is considering selling their current internal online training to an external broader market?
Don’t assume that your elearning will sell itself. While great training begins with content that is engaging to your audience, that in itself is not going to sell your product. Achieving success online is more than building a web site / store. You need to get your message out to your target audience, and drive traffic to your site. Find the right sales avenues for your product and fine tune the messaging to make those sales happen.
Firmwater partnered with Shopify, a leading ecommerce provider, to provide our customers with a strong tool kit to market and sell their online training programs to a much wider audience.
This allows us to focus on the LMS while offering our customers a top notch eCommerce solution. Shopify provides a much broader sales and marketing toolkit than we could ever provide in the LMS.
We know Firmwater is sponosring IACET's Award Ceremony this year. What was the main reason for supporting this event?
Since IACET is committed to best practices in adult learning and professional training, we wanted to support their efforts. We felt it was important to stand by our community of trainers, encourage them to maintain the IACET standards set out before them and excel at what they do best.. Training.
The IACET members are part of our market niche and Firmwater wants to be part of the excitement of the IACET awards to celebrate great advancement in the field of continuing education and training.
Firmwater LMS President Rich Williams
Firmwater LMS is ideal for B2B and B2C training vendors. The easy to use, multi-portal LMS lets you service multiple clients from one admin account while the Shopify ecommerce integration lets you sell and automatically deliver access to training online. Learning more about Firmwater at www.Firmwater.com