The Content Creating Engine
How does someone go from working eight years in the transportation industry to founding a multi-million dollar Information Technology training platform? Ask Tim Broom, CEO of ITProTV.
“I started in the trucking terminal, then worked my way into sales and operations management,” Broom said. “I went from Lakeland to Tampa, to Jacksonville, to Charlotte, to West Palm and back to Jacksonville. On the next promotion, my wife Denise did not want to move.”
Denise noticed Tim enjoyed watching a man on a cable channel called Tech TV. “Leo Laporte,” Broom said. “I watched him every day doing stuff with computers. I had a passion for what was happening within the PC world.” With Denise’s full support, Tim quit his job in 1999 and started as a career student working toward his Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification.
If I had to create this in Silicon Valley… payroll, my rent, my production costs and my taxes – it would be unbearable,” Broom said. “It is much easier to fly subject matter experts in for a week to create courses than it is to build this business elsewhere. For that, I will always stay in Gainesville.
By the end of 2000, he had the opportunity to open a training center as part of the franchise network called New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Gainesville, Florida. The North Florida center provided training and certification classes on the latest information technologies for companies and individuals, for professionals and new learners.
Over the years, Traditional Instructor-led Training (TILT) started to evolve to a synchronous web base, where students did not have to be in the same location as the instructor – they could be learning from home or in the office. Technology at the time did not include video, making it an audio only webinar. “We did not like that; we knew it could be better,” Broom said.
Enhancing the Learning Process
Broom worked with a Canadian vendor to inject high quality, streaming video into Adobe Connect that created a source for live online learning. Adobe, impressed with what they saw, wrote a white paper on the innovative approach to eLearning, putting Broom and New Horizons of North Florida on the map in the world of learning and technology.
Broom saw a rise in interest and over the years, he began creating video content that could be sold. By parting from the franchise, his focus turned to ITProTV. “When we decided to launch as a subscription, there were platforms such as Lynda.com and Pluralsight, but none of these companies concentrated on the IT space – where our DNA is,” Broom explained.
As an advertising effort, Broom turned to his original inspiration from 2000. Laporte had created a video podcast called This Week in Tech (TWIT.TV). Broom traveled to California to meet with Laporte and share what he was bringing to the IT space. “He bought into us,” Broom said. “He put his arm around us and said, ‘I will help you guys.’ That was probably the best marketing for us at the time because his audience was ideal. They gravitated toward us.”
In the first year, ITPRoTV sold $1 million in subscriptions. In the second year, it broke $3 million. The third year saw $5.7 million in sales, and this year, it is expected to exceed $9 million.
Building a Powerhouse of Content Creators
The ten full-time subject matter experts (SME) at ITProTV each have a different area of expertise to help create new video content daily. Additionally, Broom brought in roughly 50 guest SME this year from across the country for content collaboration. “If I had to create this in Silicon Valley… payroll, my rent, my production costs and my taxes – it would be unbearable,” Broom said. “It is much easier to fly subject matter experts in for a week to create courses than it is to build this business elsewhere. For that, I will always stay in Gainesville.”
In the beginning, ITProTV shared a 10,000-square-foot space with New Horizons in Gainesville. As the staff grew, space became tight. Broom purchased a 28,000-square-foot building nearby, expanding from two to five studios. With the additional space, ITProTV produces more than 20 videos a day. “That is what I believe is one of our competitive advantages: We are a content-creating engine,” Broom said.
In fact, it is one of six core values: Create effective content daily, work with honor, willingly face challenges with optimism, exude passion with personality, exist for members, and produce excellence through quality, innovation and imagination.
Sessions also have a chat room to encourage engagement and conversation. “We believe in our purpose of empowering the world through engaged learning,” Broom said. “One of the benefits of students being in a traditional classroom is when the student next to you asks a question that you have not thought of yet. We get similar results from the chat room, but better with the advantages of having video on demand.”
ITProTV memberships have grown to approximately 80,000 members in more than 170 countries. The standard membership is $57 per month with access to its library of online content and live chat with course hosts. The premium membership is $87.50 per month, giving customers access to virtual learning labs and practice exams for certification. Some join via licenses with a company, such as SCOTUS, FBI, NASA and Air Force, or a university, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford and the University of Phoenix. Additionally, the videos are available to Amazon customers through Amazon Video Direct and Amazon Prime membership.
“In today’s environment, technology changes quickly,” Broom said. “A good ITPro is always learning; however, IT workers are tasked to work long hours. There are not many chances for learning. If you invest your limited amount of time in learning, you want to get what you are paying for as quickly as possible. That is what we offer – we offer complete, new and updated content for a great value.”
Affording Members the Opportunity to Grow
As much as Broom focuses on providing value to customers, his employees’ satisfaction comes first. “You must take care of your team,” Broom said. “You hear many business owners say customers are number one, but at ITProTV, our employees are number one. Happy employees will take care of the customers. Happy customers take care of the company by continuing to buy.”
With a focus on company culture, Broom created an environment where it is safe to make mistakes. “I want a lot of little mistakes to prevent the big mistakes, a culture of always trying new things,” Broom said. “It is ok to fail – we embrace it, we encourage it, we grow from it.”
Broom developed this outlook while working with his New Horizons franchise. “I made many mistakes,” Broom said. “One day, I decided to stop learning from my mistakes and learn from other people’s mistakes. When you adopt that practice, you become a student of learning in all aspects of life. I became a better leader, husband, father and friend.”
One of the driving forces in Broom’s entrepreneurial journey is seeing himself in many of the ITProTV members. “I am just a kid from Lakeland who worked in the trucking business, but when I started to learn about Information Technology, my life began to change for the better,” Broom said. “That is what inspires me to inspire others to get into IT: to help them continue to grow their skill level and income. If I can do it, anyone can.”
Broom has done a lot of research, traveling and talking across the industry to expand ITProTV. “We follow our gut for things that we like, things that are in the industry that our customers might not even know they need,” Broom said. “Being able to bring that to our members, to improve and empower them, I think that certainly fills our gas tank. Above all, we want to help people succeed.”