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Profiting on Forklift Training

Make your forklift training programs a revenue stream.

Let’s be honest here. Businesses, including material handling distributor, do what they do for one reason—to make money, and as much of it as possible. Some forklift vendors claim that their whole reason for being is to help make things better for consumers and that their products or services will improve users’ lives, but the truth is, those same forklift vendors will burn rubber getting out of there if they can’t turn a profit in the process.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Heck, I am in training, arguably one of the most altruistic pursuits there is in the industrial world. I am also one who passionate-ly believes that what I do is important and helpful. But I can honestly say that if I weren’t making money at it, I’d be down the road. After all, at the end of the day I need to put bread on the table, if not money in the bank.

Make Money on Training
So what’s wrong with that? Why should selling safety-related items for profit be any different from selling dish soap or forklifts? If the buyer and seller can walk away from a transaction feeling good about things (i.e., the buyer got what they paid for and the seller turned an honest buck), that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Above all, training must affect change and create favorable results. If it does not, it risks being labeled as a money grab.

To those who cry foul and say it is reprehensible or unconscionable or a different synonym of your choosing to turn a profit on safety, I say bunk! You get what you pay for. Good service providers work hard to develop and maintain their products and to seek out and employ excellent people. They constantly initiate incremental improvement as is often required in the competitive landscape, but it’s not cheap. Good people, equipment and suppliers don’t work for free. To get the high-end training product, you need to pay for it.

When consumers want forklifts with the latest and greatest safety systems, from stability enhancement to any number of drive-disabling interlocks, manufacturers are happy to build them and sell them for a tidy profit. Although it is true that industry and government standards establish minimum levels of safety in the design, construction, use and performance of forklifts and other equipment, it is equally true that consumers will pay more for features that exceed such standards if they perceive there is equitable value associated with their purchase. For those who don’t, they can always purchase a product that meets minimum requirements for less money.

Top 10 OSHA Violations
Why should you consider a training program for your customers? Consider that the sixth-most cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation is for powered industrial trucks. You can never remind them enough about the importance of safety. This list highlights the top 10 areas in which OSHA found safety violations in FY2007. OSHA conducted 39,324 inspections last year and found 88,846 violations of the agency’s regulations.

  1. Scaffolding
  2. Fall Protection
  3. Hazard Communication
  4. Control of Hazardous Energy
  5. Respiratory Protection
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks
  7. Electrical (wiring)
  8. Ladders
  9. Machine guarding
  10. Electrical (general requirements)

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Likewise, when it comes to operator training, there are those who seek training in order to satisfy minimum Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and then there are those who want all the bells and whistles. They don’t seek mere regulatory compliance; they want all the benefits that a well-conceived, well-produced, well-delivered and well-maintained operator safety training program can offer.

Make Training Work for You
So what does all this mean to equipment dealers? Well, to be blunt—money! As a dealer, you probably offer operator training for clients, or are at least able to point them in the right direction to acquire it. However, most dealers are up to their eyeballs in keeping up with their core business—moving and servicing equipment and the related accessories. As such, operator training represents a bit of a diversion away from their primary function, which is typically categorized as a bad thing.

However, customers’ need for operator training is real. It’s not just another service that saps resources, but a potentially significant revenue stream. In cases where dealers have dedicated staff trainers or reliable contractors that are able to deliver a high-quality, viable product, this revenue stream via training can be realized. Best of all, little in the way of capital investment is required.

Some enlightened dealers out there have gone on to realize they can go beyond operator training and reap the values associated with the ability to deliver equipment “train the trainer” programs at their site or that of their clients. Furthermore, those same dealers usually make the delightful discovery of what an easy sell it is to offer a service that not only helps clients enjoy all the bottom-line benefits that training offers but also is something equipment users are required to do by law. As a provider of these services, a distributor can elevate its standing with clients from conscientious dealer to knight in shining armor!

Training done wrong may threaten a distributor’s core business by association.

If the prospect of being able to offer equipment operator and trainer programs and materials to clients gets you jacked up, good! It should! However, as my father used to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Training is certainly no exception. Although the concept of delivering training is relatively simple, the tasks involved in developing a rock-solid program and locating talented, dedicated people to deliver it are not. Training, above all, must affect change and create favorable results. If it does not, the risk of it being labeled a money grab, an all-too-frequent and unfortunate occurrence, is a real possibility. If that takes place, bad press via word-of-mouth will usually ensure that your days as a training provider are numbered and may even threaten your core business by association.

So do it right. Imagine, the client’s regulatory compliance issues are satisfied, potential reductions in downtime, damage to their forklift fleet is reduced, Workers’ Compensation and litigation costs are realized, and it all fits in to a neat and tidy package as easy to deliver and manage as any forklift service/maintenance package. And, you can generate some significant revenue. Best of all, both parties walk away with something useful and valuable; it’s a true win-win.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Rob Vetter Meet the Author
Rob Vetter is director of training at IVES Training Group, located in Blaine, Washington, and on the Web at www.ivestraining.com.

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