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St. Paul Press 04/03/2011 6DPioneer SUNDAY 04-03-11 P

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BUSINESS 6D

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St. Paul Pioneer Press

4-3-2011

Open for Business > iCanPilot

Tomasz Rudolf, Rita Shor and Mary Poul have formed iCanPilot to provide self-guiding software that leads teams through projects without the need for preparatory classroom training.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HOWARD BERG

Owners: Mary Poul, Rita Shor, Tomasz Rudolf Type of business: Software publisher of marketing and strategy tools Number of employees: Three Location: St. Paul Contact Information: 651-334-9966; icanpilot.com Tell us what your business does. iCanPilot provides marketers and business managers with expert help right when they need it by transforming consulting practices into a software format. Rather than read a book or attend a class to learn a better approach to marketing or strategy, teams can leverage our software to navigate work such as designing a value proposition that gets your customer’s attention and makes him want to buy from you. You also can use our software to design a new business model that helps you compete on value once again instead of fighting price wars. We plan to launch a new marketing or strategy method every 6 to 8 weeks based on customers’ requests and needs. With our software, there is no need to learn first and then figure out how to do it. A team just needs to push play, and the software leads you through your project work, just as if a consultant were guiding you. You also can access an exclusive members’ forum to interact with peers who are doing the same type of project. The software has video and audio support for the exercises and teamwork instruction. It comes with an Excel-based workbook that guides the team through all the work needed to complete the project and get to a business result. We also

design software for companies who wish to standardize their own methods throughout their global organization. Why are you launching it now? We are launching in part out of pure frustration. After deploying global marketing training at 3M for a few years, we realized how little of it got put to actual use. Recently, we learned of a study by the American Society of Training and Development that showed less than 10 percent of corporate training ever gets put into practice. We knew firsthand many of the barriers to transforming work based on learning. More than ever, training needs to work at the speed of business and be delivered in a way that helps at the moment of need in the context of people’s work. A classroom just cannot do that. We also share a lifelong passion to be entrepreneurs, and there is no time like the present. Where did you get the idea for your business? After several years of sending coaches around the world to perform training at 3M only to realize the whole marketing organization could change within a year, we knew there had to be a better way. Performance support systems haven’t been designed for team projects before, but we decided we could make proven methods available as performance support by partnering with consultants

training design, we know how to provide what teams need to get their marketing and strategy work done well.

who had supported many teams successfully. Then we could transform their work into a software format with work tools so a team can pilot itself through the work. How did you develop your business plan? We started by documenting all our assumptions and strategy in business planning software and doing initial research to validate big unknowns like pricing. We continue to evolve our plan and our business model as we find our niche. We also benefit from using our own software as we partner with new experts. How are you financing your business? We are self-funded by the three partners. 3M-employee stock has helped. How do you see current economic conditions affecting your business? Successful businesses are savvier than ever about measuring business impact from their investments. Training used to be measured by how many people you could train with your budget and how happy they were with the class. You can’t justify making investments via these metrics anymore, so a format like ours that can be tied to the impact on business results is a win for everyone. People learn through doing their work guided by the software, which gets the organization the business results they are after. What makes your business unique? We come from business management and operations roles, not instructional design, so we can focus instinctively on the needs of the team using our software. While we have advisers making sure we deliver good

What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get this business going? Supporting a team project at the moment of need is a new concept in the training world outside of hiring consultants. People don’t know a do-it-yourself solution exists, so we have to introduce them to the team approach for performance support. How did you overcome the obstacle? We are talking directly with marketing and business leaders to let them know of this approach to supporting their organization’s most critical strategy and marketing work. Operations people always have been measured by business results, so they appreciate that training in our software format can be tracked by business impact instead of the traditional training metrics. What will tell you the business is successful? We will know we’ve made it when marketers are saying, “This is such a great help. Can you give me software to help with my other challenges, too?” We would love to have companies leveraging our software for their global workforce instead of having to send trainers around the world to classroom-train. Interested in taking part in Open for Business? If your business is less than one year old, email us at businessnews@pioneerpress.com.

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April 3, 2011 2:30 pm / Powered by TECNAVIA LEFT: Business owner Gary Brown considers Stillwater “a very musical community” and a


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