Jon Dean set up Impellus 15 years ago in 2009.  We caught up with him to ask him about how the Company has grown over the years and what he is planning for the future.

What inspired you to set up your own training company?

I had just sold a small business which operated in a niche area of finance, enabling businesses to invest in technology, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I did a little bit of consultancy work for businesses, mainly around sales and marketing, before being asked to do some management training.

I’d experienced both very good and some pretty terrible management courses, so designed my training courses to deliver a few simple things. Courses had to keep delegates’ interest, challenge their thinking and deliver real results. It was a simple premise but the reaction was so positive that I decided to make a business model around it.

In the early days, what were the main challenges and the biggest successes?

Winning the first sales and building a good reputation were very challenging initially. I wanted to provide mainly open courses as this offers organisations so much flexibility, but building the momentum to continually run those courses is hard work and in the early days it was very difficult to ensure we had sufficient delegate numbers on each course.

Within the first few years we were delivering courses across the UK – all our open courses were delivered face-to-face in hotels then – and we had become an accredited ILM centre. Those things allowed us to win business from organisations who had staff across the UK and so take on, and deliver for, larger organisations.

I’m very proud of the fact that we have customers today who we initially started working with in our very early days.

How much has your original business model changed since you set up Impellus?

We are still delivering open courses in leadership and management that can build towards ILM qualifications and certifications. However, the courses are continuously evolving as the world changes; customers tend to buy more programmes of study today rather than individual courses and all of our open courses are now delivered online – these developments have entirely changed the setup of our business.

In addition, we now have an established base of customers who request tailored training such as help in implementing new skills and delivering in-house training programmes.

How did you ensure your business could survive during the Covid lockdowns?

There was a general belief that ‘interpersonal skills’ training had to be done face-to-face so when Covid hit we were clearly worried. What made things worse was that many managers who could have attended training were being furloughed and while training was allowed for furloughed staff, most HR managers were waiting for the return of face-to-face courses.

However, over time people tried the online open courses, and we went to great lengths to deliver a rich environment. We sent out physical packs to all delegates (and still do), kept numbers tight, reworked the delivery of the material and used a platform that gave delegates features such as virtual breakout rooms and chat modes.

The live online courses eventually proved so popular that many customers chose to stick with them. This had a profound effect on the way we operated and we never went back to using physical venues.

How much has your business grown since 2009?

At the start, the business wasn’t much more than me, a projector and a business plan. We now have a base of over 9,000 customer organisations across the UK (and a few beyond) and teams of account managers, trainers and assessors who serve them.

In 2009, my goal was to see if we could attract enough delegates to run two one-day open courses a week for the first three full months. We now deliver between 12 and 15 fully booked one and two-day courses a week and deliver in-house courses and programmes across the UK.

Why do you believe so passionately in the importance of leadership and management training?

Results. It’s that simple. From people going into their first roles to those taking on responsibility for organisational direction, we’ve delivered so much for people over the years and it’s incredible to see.

We’ve transformed the paths of thousands of individual careers by shedding light on how to organise teams and get the best from people. We’ve improved the efficiency of organisations by enabling layers of managers to better understand how to deliver strategy and we’ve enabled whole businesses to survive and thrive.

It’s been magical over the years to see people we first trained years ago move into directorship roles. Some of the stories of the changes they’ve brought after doing our courses show just what a real and significant economic impact we deliver. It’s great for our customers and it gives all of us at Impellus a real sense of pride in our work.

What are your plans for the future?

There are a number of development areas that customers are starting to see as being requisite rather than optional – from HR practices and mental health to improved creativity. I think we could deliver high value for them in these areas. Those are the directions that are clearer to see. What’s more difficult to anticipate are the technical revolutions we might see over the next fifteen years.

So far the metaverse, virtual reality and AI have largely been concepts but the opportunities to deliver learning in entirely new ways is on the horizon. Fifteen years ago not everyone who turned up on our courses had a phone with them and many didn’t have access to a laptop or device outside the office.

I think virtual platforms could become bigger than we can even imagine right now. Let’s see if I’m right in another fifteen years’ time!