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June 4, 2006
Edition: 1 STAR
Page: D1

Mike Rasor, Beacon Journal business writer
Rose Sloat and Darryl Doane, managing partners of The Learning Service Ltd., worked together in a large corporation for nine years, training employees on customer service, sales and management skills.
They enjoyed their jobs, but thought it would be more exciting to help other businesses with the same thing.
That was in 1996. This year, The Learning Service of Canton has reached its 10th anniversary -- a serious milestone for small businesses, Doane said.
1. What was the biggest driving factor in your decision to become an entrepreneur?
Doane: Personally, the desire to make your own decisions, to be independent and to have as much control over your destiny as possible.
Sloat: And having a passion to help other people.
2. How did you determine whether there would be a market for your service?
Doane: When we worked at Applied Industrial Technologies, we had an opportunity to meet a lot of vendors from other companies, probably 400 or 500.
We were able to bounce a lot of ideas off of them. Things like customer service kept coming to the surface. There is a great need for that. Also, leadership training and leadership effectiveness.
3. Did your family and friends support your decision to go out on your own?
Sloat: I think they were a little skeptical at first, but pretty supportive. I'm sure they were a little scared.
Doane: When you leave that cocoon of benefits and the paycheck, it is scary. There are definitely risks involved, but our philosophy is that risks must be taken to advance.
4. In the dark hours of the night, what worried you most about your business in its early days?
Doane: My wife's piano teacher made a comment to me. She said even though it is a small business, when you have your own business, you think about it 24 hours a day because you are the business. We write the programs. We present the programs. We ship it out. If we don't do it, nobody will. So it's constantly on our minds.
Sloat: We wanted to go in the right direction. It was basically making sure we didn't spread ourselves too thin.
5. Is there anything you'd like to see in place in Northeast Ohio to help small businesses?
Sloat: One area that might be lacking is that it is difficult for small companies to afford benefits. That is one big area that could have some improvement.
Doane: That is probably the biggest concern of small companies today. How can they afford health-care? It is extremely expensive.
6. How much did you know about running a business when you began?
Sloat: When we first knew we were going to do this, I took a class at Kent State on how to start your own business. That gave me a good foundation. It helped with the business itself and with all the legal and state issues, like taxes and different things the state requires you to follow.
Doane: We joined the Canton Chamber of Commerce. So we share a lot of ideas with other small business owners. We encourage each other to keep getting up and moving forward.
7. Over your career, what is the single most important thing you have learned?
Doane: You never can let up. You have to constantly know and understand what your focus of attention is. If things are going fantastic now, but you're not reaching out to new clients, then six months from now everything good can come to an end. You have to keep reaching out to new clients.
Sloat: You have to stay up with the trends. We have really grown in technology. We offer a lot of materials on the Web. You also have to not forget about the customers you worked with in the past. If you have a new product, that gives you an opportunity to offer that new product to them.
8. What was the biggest mistake you made?
Doane: That's a good question. We have to be careful not to spread ourselves too thin. There have been a couple of programs that we spend a lot of time about, then realized that we were excited about it, but companies weren't. We have to focus on the customer's perception of reality.
Sloat: You constantly have to be asking the proper question to see what the customer needs.
9. Did you have a mentor or adviser?
Sloat: There were two. When we were working at Applied Industrial Technologies, I had a boss, Joe Breniser, who had retired when we had started our company. He became a very good friend and our mentor.
Doane: There was a second gentleman who was the president of an advertising agency that was called Covey and Koons. Rod Covey Sr. gave us a lot of good, sound advice. They picked our brains and gave us a lot of guidance. We were so grateful for that that we dedicated our second book to them.
10. A lot of your training articles are on your Web site. Does that bother you to give away so much for free?
Doane: No, because it's only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to delve into. You have to give away a lot to capture the attention of your audience. We send individual courses to people for free. The result is so positive that they normally want more.

Illustration:PHOTO: Two ROBIN TINAY SALLIE / Akron Beacon Journal

1- Some of the publications put out by The Learning Service Ltd. in Canton, marking its 10th anniversary, to help train workers in customer service, sales and management skills. ** 2- Rose Sloat and Darryl Doane with some of the publications put out by their company, The Learning Service Ltd.

Copyright (c) 2006 Akron Beacon Journal
Darryl S. Doane and Rose D. Sloat, Managing Partners • The Learning Service, 2800 Market Avenue North, Suite 21, Canton, Ohio 44714

Ph: 330-456-2422 = Fax: 330-456-8944 = Email: info@thelearningservice.com