In just a few years, the world of training and education saw one of the most radical revolutions as it moved towards full virtualization. Back in 1995, only a mere 4 percent of American companies trained their employees with e-learning courses.
Less than twenty years later, in 2014, this number grew to an outstanding 77 percent, showing us how vital is this sector to the global economy now.
Brad Lea is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the virtual training and marketing field. With over 25 years of experience in virtual training (yes, he’s the one who coined this term), he is a self-made man through and through.
A true pioneer of virtual training, in 2000 Brad created a solution that allowed him to reinvent the way enterprises could train employees and consultants with modern and advanced systems. Thanks to his unique idea, he emerged as a global leader in the communication systems, and today his method represents a cornerstone in the ever-changing world of virtual training.
However, the founder and CEO of Lightspeed VT wasn’t born a successful businessman. Literally starting from the bottom, Brad dropped out of school to become an aspiring actor. He came so close to his goal as to be cut from a movie days before production began.
It was then that Brad set his sights on entrepreneurship. Interestingly, his first intention by becoming a successful entrepreneur was to be able to make enough money to finance his own movie and still reach his dream of becoming a prominent actor.
However, as fate would have it, Brad found a much bigger calling while on his journey as an entrepreneur and it has propelled him to being one of the most successful faces in his industry.
We sat down with him to learn more about how it all started.
You were a high school drop out. How did not following a traditional education path affect your teen years/your early twenties?
As a result of dropping out early, my teen years were filled with a bit more adventure than most. The reason I dropped out of school was because I was kicked out of my house for not mowing the lawn, so I didn’t really have any parental guidance telling me what to do.
I think dropping out affected me negatively in a way, because things were tough and I didn’t understand life yet. I had to learn things on my own and figure everything out the hard way.
However, in retrospect, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was forced to grow up quickly. I was forced to take on life head on whether I was ready or not.
I dropped out of high school in the beginning of the 11th grade, so by then I had learned pretty much everything they teach. In fact, I was testing out at college levels, so I actually learned more. I believe that dropping out early allowed me to learn more important subjects that they don’t teach in school, like how to make money, the importance of credit, how to spot a scam artist, how to survive, etc.
I got to learn those things quicker, which gave me an advantage in my early twenties. As people were just graduating college, looking for a job and realizing they weren’t taught how to make money, I was well on my way and a PHD in life. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned from those mistakes, so I was actually able to accelerate my education in success.
How did you end up down the path of acting after you dropped out?
I always wanted to be an actor. As a kid, I loved being the center of attention. I auditioned for a few plays and got the lead roles, which led to a few national commercials, which led to a starring role in a movie. I loved it. I always dreamt of being a movie star, so when I got kicked out of my house, I dropped out of school and headed off to Hollywood.
When and how did your path change?
I changed paths pretty early on. I got tired of being broke, mainly.
A struggling actor is not really the lifestyle I wanted for myself, but the real turning point was when I had the lead role in a movie and three days before production, I was cut from the part.
The producer’s son had completed a rehab program, so he got my part as a reward. As soon as I realized what happened, which was, “the person with the money makes the decisions” – I decided to go become a millionaire, so that things like that would never happen to me again.
What experiences or “aha” moment made you want to dedicate a business to helping organizations better train their clients?
I think the “aha” moment was after I started the business. I started out as a training company.
My plan was to help people learn how to become absolute masters at sales. I had developed a presentation that was extremely effective at closing deals, and I thought it would be great to help others learn how to make as much money as I was.
Once I got some experience training people, I realized that traditional training methods weren’t very effective, so I created a web-based interactive training system to help me train people better. The results were amazing.
The “aha” moment came when my business hit a plateau and I kept running into my competition. The problem was that they were established brands, and were very well known and I was an absolute unknown. That was the “aha” moment.
I knew they had problems getting people to learn what they taught, because they didn’t have my system, they had to train people the same way as everyone else did. I knew I could help them get better results and train people better, so I approached them with the opportunity to use my technology and just pay me a fraction.
I decided to collaborate rather than compete. After I helped a few people help train their clients better, the choice was pretty clear.
How did LightSpeed VT emerge as a world leader in online virtual training?
We started in 2000, so we are the pioneers in the space. I think when you deliver the best product, have the biggest name brands in the industry using it and have the best references, it is likely you will emerge as the leader, especially when nobody else is doing it.
The hard part is to remain the leader. With so many new companies and entrepreneurs trying to take your spot, it is a continuous effort to stay on the cutting edge and make sure that everyone else is following you.
It is important to be the one who everyone tries to keep up with. I think If you stay innovative, listen to the market and not be afraid to make changes, you have a chance to stay on top for a while.
Why is training employees effectively so important for organizations?
Because, it is the single best ROI a company will have, when done correctly.
The problem is most companies do not realize that even though they are spending money on training and going through the motions, they are, in most cases, not actually training. They are just exposing people to information and assuming that they’ll learn.
Sadly, this is not the case.
If you don’t set up training the way it should be, it has very little effect and very short shelf life. To grow your revenues, increase your brand value, have better customer satisfaction, have lower turnover, less liability and get the ROI intended you must train your people effectively.
I think the most important reason is because, if they don’t train effectively they won’t see the desired results, which causes them and the employees to undervalue training.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Hands down, the number one skill is the ability to sell. Sales – the power of persuasion- it’s the single most important skill one can possess. In fact, anyone who masters it can pretty much write their own ticket. Money, cars, dream homes, luxury vacations, whatever floats their boat. Sales is what makes the world go around.
Every minute of every day, somebody is selling something to someone, and the one that is doing the selling is the one winning. Think about it. You can’t get rich buying stuff …unless, of course, you sell it. The highest paid profession in the world is sales, the most successful businesses on Earth sell the most.
Anyone who has ever truly succeeded …sold somebody on something, so mastering this skill is, by far, the most important. SALES IS KING, and if you want to win in this game called life, you’re going to need to get good at it.
The second would be the ability to solve problems. The better you are at solving problems the better you will be at building a successful business. The best way to do that is to stop looking at problems as problems. Instead, look at them more like games or puzzles.
Most people avoid problems and they only tend to get bigger when ignored. Since problems will certainly be involved in building a business, the better you are at solving them, as fast as possible, the better off you will be. Get good at it. Instead of running away from your problems, you’ll run towards them.
The third would be the ability to build relationships. Relationships are so important when building a business. When you have a great relationship with customers, vendors, employees, prospects, banks, etc. you will get more consideration.
If you can get really good at building solid relationships, you will have a much easier time because everyone will want to help you. The more help you have the faster you will get where you’re going.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would do a few things differently, actually. I would spend a lot more time learning through books, training and mentors instead of learning through mistakes. I learned everything the hard way and it cost me millions of dollars, years of wasted time and countless opportunities.
I would also choose my friends and those I spend time with much more carefully. Who you associate with is vitally important to your success. Last, but not least, I would eliminate all forms of procrastination. Procrastination is the single biggest killer of dreams.
Today, Brad is the protagonist of the popular YouTube series “The Bottom Line”. With his short, funny yet compelling videos, he inspired and entertained millions of viewers, teaching them a little bit about everything, from business to life. And, truth to be told, he really is a great actor.