Small Business Canada

Greg Smith is the founder and CEO of Thinkific, the most trusted platform that makes it easy to create, deliver, and sell online courses. Greg was working as a corporate lawyer for one of the largest law firms in the country when he launched an online course as a side project. Revenues from his course soon surpassed his salary as a lawyer, and Greg jumped into online education full time. Since then, Greg and his team at Thinkific have helped thousands of coaches, authors, speakers, and companies create and sell their own online courses as a way to grow their business.

The number of organizations that offer online courses is tremendous. What sets Thinkific apart from other similar organizations? What are the aspects that make it stand out?

At Thinkific, our mission is to revolutionize the way people learn and earn online by giving them the tools to turn their expertise into a sustainable business that impacts both them and their audience. Since day one, we’ve been very focused on helping create successful businesses through education. A few things make us stand out:

1) We focus on helping you create and grow a successful business. We help entrepreneurs create sustainable, scalable businesses that drive transformative learning experiences for students. We’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs and large companies turn their expertise into revenue through courses, and have educated millions of students on our platform to date. Seeing the net positive impact of successful business and improved education on our economy and communities is the driving force behind the evolution of our product and services.

2) Thinkific is the easiest platform to get started with and to customize for your business needs. We’ve built the platform so anyone can easily build and launch a course that fits your brand, without any advanced coding knowledge required. Using our custom-designed themes and learning environment, you can integrate your course page into your site and upload any type of content for a seamless experience for your audience. On Thinkific you can also price your course however you want it, receive payment in 135+ currencies, translate your course into 40+ languages.

3) We help you create an amazing learning experience so the course or membership you offer is unique and an amazing product that delivers results. Every feature we’ve built, from landing pages to the student learning environment, is designed to maximize student sales and their overall experience. Without happy, successful students, and education business will not be sustainable. Our team is obsessed with ensuring that our software is focused on creating successful students. We’ve spent a lot of time doing deep research into how students learn, looking at a ton of data to optimize the platform for transformative learning experiences. From the way instructors interact with their students to the design of the learning environment, our goal is to maximize the impact on each student…

Since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Thinkific has been doing a lot to help people, such as offering free live training and increasing their support team to help entrepreneurs during these challenging times. In your expert opinion, what would you say is the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on small businesses, and how has Thinkific stepped up to help them?

It’s a very challenging time for a lot of businesses right now, large and small. With a total disruption of the status quo, people are looking for digital solutions to remain operational. For many, their ability to find a virtual solution to connect with their customers means the difference between weathering the storm and closing their doors for good. A Thinkific we’re creating the opportunity to not just weather the storm but actually grow and thrive during the pandemic.

We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of businesses putting their content online across every industry. Tons of small businesses run by in-person teachers like music, art, and fitness instructors are moving their training online, with a 372% increase in them creating online courses since the outbreak. Many product-based businesses like Shopify sellers are seeing eCommerce slow and are creating online courses to stabilize their revenue. The industries we’ve seen with the most increase in online course creation since the outbreak are health and fitness (up 279%), art and entertainment (up 334%), and education (up 494%).

To help entrepreneurs and small businesses who need to get online fast, we’re offering advanced support, training, and programs to help. We offer LIVE training webinars every Tuesday and Thursday to show you how to build your online courses, move your training online, stay connected to your audience, and keep your business running. Anyone can join and register for free here.

We just launched the Thinkific $1 Million Entrepreneur Growth Fund to help entrepreneurs rapidly create and market online courses. The program is available to entrepreneurs who want to build a course for the first time, and existing course creators looking for coaching towards profitability. We match each creator with a mentor and pay for their services to plan, create, and set up a course. We’re giving away one million dollars with the goal of boosting momentum for course creators and seeing them succeed through the crisis. Anyone can apply or nominate someone here.

We’ve also grown our support team so we can continue to offer every customer exceptional email and technical support for their courses. We are hiring more employees across the company to best serve the surge in demand.

What were some of the strategies you used when coming up with solutions to help entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s always been important to us to contribute positively to the world, and that’s never more important than in times of crisis. We believe it is our social responsibility to do all we can to support and accelerate those working hard to address this crisis. Our team and technology make us uniquely positioned to help organizations rapidly adapt to change by moving their education and training needs online.

In launching the Thinkific $1 Million Entrepreneur Growth Fund mentioned above, we saw an opportunity to leverage our existing ecosystem of entrepreneurs to create a positive impact. There is a flywheel of entrepreneurs looking to start businesses and go online, SMBs looking to provide the professional services, and students looking for online education. We created the fund to add momentum to that flywheel, stimulate the education economy, and leverage the power of entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs in this time of crisis.

As the landscape evolves, we will continue to look for new ways to add value during the uncertainty and help in any way we can.

Among the many ways that Thinkific is helping people during the COVID-19, which solution is best for small business owners who are struggling due to social distancing?

Recognizing that each business is different, there are a few ways we are best positioned to support small business owners and entrepreneurs based on their needs:

1) Moving events, workshops, and in-person training online.

Small businesses structured around the face to face sessions can leverage Thinkific to create a digital training experience. One example is Thrive Specialized Training, a small business offering in-person personal training and fitness programs. They created a 28-day online fitness course on Thinkific for their clients to do at home and stay active while in quarantine.

2) Building and connecting with your community.

For businesses looking to better connect with their clients and community on an ongoing basis, building a membership site on Thinkific is an option. With a membership site, customers pay a recurring fee to get access to your exclusive content and community. On Thinkific, you can also build course-specific communities and build up a thriving digital community within your branded site.

3) Stabilizing revenue.

For entrepreneurs looking to create a new revenue stream, creating an online course is a great way to productize your expertise, add value to your audience, and grow your income. For example, Beauty Inc. Canada is a small business that sells products and in-person professional training for eyebrow and eyelash professionals. They added online courses to their Shopify store and within two weeks saw their revenue double.

4) Generating leads.

If you’re struggling to generate leads for your business with the meeting and event restrictions in place, you can leverage online courses to do this. Create a short, helpful course and share it for free to your network. This will give prospective clients a taste of your services, encourage people to share your content, and raise your visibility. Anyone can create and launch up to three courses for free on Thinkific on our free plan.

What advice can you give to other entrepreneurs and business owners when it comes to helping out and providing resources during the COVID-19 outbreak?

The biggest way I think we can help in all areas right now is empathy. Everyone is under a heightened level of anxiety and stress these days and so keeping that in mind in every interaction we have is key. Whether it’s a person you walk past in the grocery store, an employee or team member, or in offering advice or help to other businesses – remember that now is a time for extra kindness and empathy.

It’s also a great time to be building your audience by providing value in any way you can. This can mean free webinars or courses or live training or streaming sessions. Everyone is stuck at home and looking online for entertainment, learning, engagement, and hope. It’s your opportunity for you and your business to step up and help others, to share what you’re good at or what’s working for you.

On a final note, where do you see the business heading 5 years from now? How would you perceive the future of Thinkific?

Our goal continues to be to help entrepreneurs create and grow their businesses. Over the next 5 years, our goal is to continue to be the go-to place for anyone looking to grow a business by sharing their knowledge, skills, or passions.

The online course industry is experiencing massive growth. In early 2019, the online course market was forecast to be worth $300B by 2025. The coronavirus pandemic is rapidly accelerating this timeline, as we’re seeing a surge in entrepreneurs and businesses moving their content online. In looking ahead with these trends in mind, we are confident that we’ll continue to play a big role in helping more entrepreneurs build successful businesses through online education.

We will also continue to invest in serving the needs of larger organizations as we grow. In late 2018 we launched Thinkific Plus, providing advanced support and features to larger organizations needing employee onboarding and product education solutions. It’s exciting to think of the increased impact we can have as we continue to scale and evolve our product – from making education more accessible, to be a driving force for entrepreneurship and economic growth.

We are currently a team of just over 130 people and scaling fast. Fostering a great company culture has always been a top priority, and is something that will continue to guide our growth. We’ve been certified as a Great Place to Work® and one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures. Maintaining an environment of equal opportunity where 50% of the leadership team are women, and people with diverse backgrounds are celebrated is one of our north stars as we grow.

Thinkific is hiring for a ton of roles across the company. If you’re passionate about education and entrepreneurship, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our careers page for available roles.

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