Thought Leaders Series: Adam Wadi, Managing Director at Get Qualified Australia

Growth through partnerships, cold calling to HR and building a brand in B2B

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Adam Wadi from Get Qualified Australia.

Get Qualified Australia have built a significant and fast growing business focused solely on RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning). In less than five years, Adam has built a business employing 60+ staff and helping thousands of Australian employees to ‘get qualified’ every year. Much of that success is built on Adam’s “show me the money” approach to marketing.

In the interview we talk about why Get Qualified Australia has focused on growth through partnerships, how the business is marketing to both B2B and B2C and why Adam is still a big fan of cold calling.

The interview:

Steve Pell: Let’s start with your elevator pitch in terms of what Get Qualified Australia is? What you do?

Adam Wadi: Get Qualified Australia is an Australian company that specialises and focuses on skills recognition or recognition of prior learning as a concept. Some people know it as RPL.

Basically the concept is very similar to university exemptions. At university, when you enrol in a course, you get as much credit as you can prove that you know. You could get up to 50% of a university degree, but with recognition of prior learning, it could be the full qualification from either a certificate 1, 2, 3 or 3, diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate, graduate diploma.

It depends how many years of experience and how many things that you have done in life. It could be a hobby where you’ve developed skills. It’s all in mapping your skills and knowledge and experience, or even partial studies, to a certain qualification. It can be done in any industry.

RPL is a great concept that the Australian government came up with. We’ve utilised the concept and we’ve put it in a business model where we created an online platform. All colleges that we partner with, they give us access to that scope to carry out the skills recognition for all the qualifications that they have at their school.

Steve Pell: Are you marketing directly to the end consumer or also to businesses as well?

Adam Wadi: That’s a good question because in the first three years, we focused on B2C. As I started the business, so the marketing budget was limited. We decided, “Okay, we’ll go AdWords, Facebook on a limited scale, and we’ll target the end user.

However, this year we decided, “Okay, we’re set up. We’ve got enough employees and structure to go and knock on the big players like Qantas and Telstra and talk to their HR managers. Because with group recognition you might have 10 people for the same qualification.

That’s what we have started about a month ago. We created a group of lead generators, telemarketing, and they communicate with businesses and HR managers. They invite us to go in and pitch skills recognition and show them how their staff can benefit from it, and how they can reduce retention, they can reduce the cost of training, and reduce the dropout rate which they see always in online study or a classroom commitment study.

With RPL, the process can be, on an average, between four to six weeks and you’ll have your qualification if you are motivated to provide the evidence. When you compare it to online study, there’s a lot of commitment. You might commit to a one year course, and that’s why you see dropout. HR managers, they want to see their employees engaging in professional development, and not dropping out early. They want to see them in an effective program, getting the same qualification that if they would get if they commit to a year and sit in a classroom.

Steve Pell: How’s that going? Are you getting good buy-in from the businesses that you’re talking to?

Adam Wadi: Because we started it recently, we don’t have conversion statistics. Everyone that we have spoken to in multiple industries is interested. We generated in the first month 100 appointments, and when our BDMs are walking into meetings people are saying, “Finally, a specialised company in skills recognition.”

Steve Pell: It’s interesting that you’re coming at the marketing challenge of reaching HR managers from a telemarketing perspective. Talk me through the strategy of telemarketing?

Adam Wadi: I’ve always wanted to go into B2B but marketing is not my background.

So my first attempt at B2B, I said “Okay, we’ll hire a BDM.” The BDM did not generate any enrolments. So I said, “Okay, what exactly did I do wrong basically?” I was in a meeting in India with an IT development company and they got me to do guest speaking to 70 of their lead gen staff and I clicked and said “Okay, that’s where I went wrong.”

To win in B2B you need to market to B2B. How do you market to B2B? You need to have telemarketers that will obviously go through lists, through agencies, call that person and have a chat with them. If they find it interesting, they’ll invite you in to talk about what qualifications and how the details of the concept. I guess that’s where we went wrong at the beginning.

Now we’re seeing better results. The first team of 6 generated a hundred appointments in the first month, and that’s where we said, “Okay, the more telemarketing agents, the more appointments we’re going to have.” Because we have qualifications from every industry, you want telemarketing agents to focus on certain industries.

Steve Pell: We sit here and your business is growing incredibly fast. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of that growth through partnerships.

Adam Wadi: Correct.

Steve Pell: If you were giving advice to someone who was going to grow their business through a partner channel, what advice would you give?

Adam Wadi: I would say I’m a big fan of partnerships. I like how people come together in a relationship to do something. So partnership is exactly what it is. You are working with other organisations to benefit them and benefit yourself, benefit their customers and your customers.

The important thing in partnerships, the most important, is choosing the right partners that you are proud to be partnered with. That’s something that helped me grow in the business.

We want, at the end of the day, the customer to walk away happy, the partner to walk away happy, and us to walk away happy. Once you go into that partnership and you feel, “Okay, there is one thing for them, the partners, and for us but not the consumer,” it’s not going to work. You want it a win-win situation for everyone.

Steve Pell: You talk a lot about this platform idea, that you’re building a platform like iSelect. For platforms to work, you need really strong brand strength. How are you planning on building this brand. How will everyone know about GQAustralia?

Adam Wadi: That’s a good question. The first two years, I spoke to multiple consultants in marketing. Once they started talking to me about objectives and brand building and brand strategy, I said to them, “I don’t have big deep pockets. I want leads. I want leads so I can convert these leads. I’ll deal with the brand building later.”

But now, as we’re going into B2B, this became a priority for us. I don’t want my BDMs to walk into Telstra and speak with the HR manager, and the HR manager says, “I haven’t heard of you.” I want them to relate to the brand and say “Yes, we’ve seen it on TV. Yes, we’ve heard it on radio. Yes, we’ve seen it on Facebook, online, it’s everywhere the brand.”

Steve Pell: It’s an interesting challenge that not many companies get to in terms of building brand directly for B2B. I’m interested to hear how you’re planning on going about it?

In terms of taking it into the B2B, we get a lot of leverage from the business marketing our offer to their end users, which is their staff.

For example I’m sitting with Qantas HR manager, they might like us and they promote it to their staff. If they’ve got 30,000 staff, that’s 30,000 customers that I’ve just marketed to by creating one B2B lead.

I guess in terms of building a brand within B2B you’ve got to look at what you have in terms of resources and find a way to build that brand in a cost effective way.

Steve Pell: This is interesting and very smart. You’re using HR managers as a tool for brand building across the broader organisation.

Adam Wadi: Correct, and not just HR managers but as well associations, unions, government organisations. If they see the benefit for Australians to get their skills recognised, then they will promote it.

Steve Pell: It seems that there’s a real opportunity for you to set the agenda around the future of L&D. Is this something you’re doing at the moment?

Adam Wadi: We are now tapping into expos. I think next month we have EduTech, the month after we have AHRI (Australia Human Resource Institute Expo).

We’re tapping into expos to market for HR and L&D, to tell them how to link RPL with online, with classroom, with pathway to university, with professional development, with in-house training programmes that they already have.

We’re showing them how to map their in-house programmes to national recognised qualifications, how to do a skills recognition for all their staff as a group and assess them.

Steve Pell: Fantastic. It’s been really interesting. Thank you for taking the time to have a chat about what is a very interesting business.

Adam Wadi: Thank you for having me.

Steve Pell: Thank you.