John Burns is a another member of the Professional Consultant's Association, but we're also both members of the Syracuse chapter of the American Society of Training and Development. I was always intrigued by his name and his business name, because the two aren't related; talk about destiny!

1. What is Robert Burns Training?

Dr. John Burns, President of Robert Burns Training Inc. We do training of all types, including sales, leadership, and customer service.

2. What made you decide to go into this business?

Back in 1995, I was Director of Training at Agway Inc. When Agway, which later went Bankrupt, eliminated the training and other human resource functions, I decided to start my own business. At the time I had personal commitments that prevented me from moving to another location. The local training director opportunities were quite limited. I also had the opportunity to team up with Nancy Roberts who was the Director of Video Production at Agway. Together we formed Robert Burns Training, providing both video based and classroom training development and implementation for companies of various sizes. The new company took advantage of our individual skills and the reputations we had within the fields of video and training.

3. What types of challenges have you had along the way?

The biggest challenges faced involved marketing. As the market for video based training dried up in the late 1900’s we divided the company into two separate businesses … training and video. For the last 8 years Robert Burns Training has focused on the distribution and implementation of proprietary programs and the development of training programs for hire. We have been fortunate to have 4 major clients with us for over 5 years. In the beginning the business started out well but then we hit a few lean years. Through it all, a focus on what we are good at, and continuous marketing kept us alive and led to success. I found that it takes over 2 years to develop a significant account. Many folks in the consulting business are so anxious to do what they like that they avoid marketing and selling.

4. Have the positives outweighed the negatives, and if so, how?

The positives have outweighed the negatives. From the positive perspective you are your own boss and can give yourself full credit for what is accomplished. You also have control over your own time and you don’t have to worry about being fired or transferred. On the other hand, if not successful, you have only yourself to blame and if you don’t have business you are as good as fired. The primary negatives are always feeling that you are alone and worrying about getting business. However, if you network and sell on a regular basis and treat your clients as “best friends” these negatives can be overcome.

5. What would you recommend for anyone looking to go into business for themselves?

My recommendations for people going into business for themselves are simple. Have a plan; have confidence that what you are doing is valuable; love what you are doing; be willing to work very long hours; and never lose sight of the cash flow.