Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 29)
This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Ryan Starks, managing director of Business Services at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Andrew Scivally, CEO and co-founder of eLearning Brothers.
Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.
Ryan Starks: (00:21) Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast. I’m Ryan Starks, the managing director of Business Services at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. My guest today is Andrew Scivally, the CEO and cofounder of eLearning Brothers. Welcome to the show, Andrew. How are you?
Andrew Scivally: (00:39) I’m doing well, thanks for having me.
Ryan Starks: (00:00:42) Thanks for joining us today. It sounds like you’ve tuned in the various podcasts and webinars. Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from and tell us your favorite things to do.
Andrew Scivally: (00:53) My family moved here when I was in junior high and so I ended up doing junior high and high school here in Utah and then went down to Southern Utah University in Cedar City. That’s where I was able to meet my wife down there and went down there on a track and field scholarship.
It was a lot of fun to go down there and do that. But after a few years out in Texas and Ohio, early in my career, we came back to Utah and it’s been fabulous out here. We live in Saratoga Springs. I’ve got nine kids. My oldest is 20. My youngest is two. And we started this eLearning Brothers company just over 10 years ago. So it’s been, it’s been a good ride so far. My favorite things to do? I really like working in the business. Growing a business is a lot of fun and I really enjoy that and I also like to run. I do a lot of running. I try to run out the stress of kids and work and everything and keep myself from getting too unhealthy.
So that’s probably my biggest hobby.
Ryan Starks: (01:59) Sounds like a great hobby. With all the coronavirus madness going around. What are you doing to occupy your time now?
Andrew Scivally: (02:06) Business is busier than ever. The company has actually taken a lot of my time right now. I’d love to be out running more, but I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to running. I don’t like running in the cold wind and stuff. I should be running more, but I’m not. Business is crazy right now, so it’s taken up a lot of time.
Ryan Starks: (02:26) I know a lot of businesses wish they were in that situation. I’m glad that you find yourself there. Maybe that’s a testament to the industry you’re in. Maybe it’s a testament to the hard work that you and your company has done over the years. You’re the CEO and co-founder of eLearning Brothers, you want to tell us just a little bit about that company?
Andrew Scivally: (02:46) Like I said, it’s been around 10 years now, and it was started with myself and my brother. My brother actually started working full-time in the business from his basement and was just trying to get things going. I joined full-time about a year later. We were both working in our basements and finally ended up getting a little office and all that.
Our first employee was, she was sitting at a card table outside of my office door in my basement. My other little brother started with us as well. It’s been a fun, really fun ride. The company has grown quite a bit in the 10 years.
Our specialty is to help companies get their training online. We give them templates and content to help them build it themselves, or we can actually just go ahead and build it for. We typically are focused on the corporate space. Unfortunately, we’re doing really well in this crisis.
I would never want our business to thrive because of a crisis. However, what we’re seeing right now is there are so many companies that are trying to get their content online. They’re trying to figure out how they can keep training their employees when you can’t gather physically together.
We’re getting a lot of clients reaching out and we’re trying to help them as quickly as possible to create a virtual instructor led training or self-paced training. We’re seeing a big, big pickup in that area right now.
Ryan Starks: (04:18) So you mentioned a little bit about your company starting in your basement. Why did you decide to start eLearning Brothers? What was the motivation there?
Andrew Scivally: (04:28) The reason we started talking about it was that my brother had a big life event that was tragic. I’d been living in Ohio a little bit before that, and we’d moved to Utah.
My family moved to Utah to work at Zions Bank. My brother was still out in Ohio. When this event happened and he actually moved back here to Utah to be closer to family and all of that. We were actually sitting in front of one of the mega plexes and just sitting on a bench outside of the Megaplex thinking, yeah, what are we going to do now?
How are we going to make things work? That’s when the idea of starting a company came up. We’re sitting there thinking, you know what? We should start a business. We’ve kind of always wanted to, so maybe this is the right moment to do that. He was working from home, but the company he was working for at the time wasn’t going to let him do that for much longer.
He needed to really be working at home. He had three little girls at the time, and he needed to be with them. We were talking through that and we’re like, let’s start a company then. Well, what would we do? There’s only really one thing my brother and I knew how to do because we both worked in the e-learning training space our whole careers.
We thought we should probably do something in the learning space. Then the name from there? You would think the name eLearning Brothers would have been pretty easy to figure out, but it took us a little. It takes a little time to get to that.
Eventually we said, yeah, you know what, we should start eLearning Brothers building training courses. The reason we did in our basements was just, we didn’t have a ton of money. We just bought some computers. I don’t even think we had to buy computers. We just had computers. So we just had the computers and we started making phone calls and trying to make some connections. It really works from there. What we found was I was pushing to get projects and my brother was more introverted and didn’t really want to go out and try to land a lot of deals. Right? So he started building a website, just selling templates. Basically, Ryan, if you were building a PowerPoint and you wanted to get a PowerPoint template, you might look online for some templates and maybe pay $50 bucks or a hundred bucks and grab some templates.
My brother started building a site like that for training. I started selling some templates. You make like $50 bucks one month and be like $800 bucks in sales. We’re like wait a minute. We’re making money on the internet, like while we sleep. It’s like one of those, the Tony Robbins or whatever. It’s like you two could be making money on the internet while you sleep. We just thought, you know what? Wait a minute here. Maybe this is the way to go. Companies use templates for training all the time. We really started going down that route and pushing. It just started taking off.
I came in full-time, and just started working. We gradually added more people and moved into a couple of offices. I think we’re in our, what, one, two, three fourth office now. It’s been working out. There’s a lot of hard work and all that.
I think we’ve been blessed and I think along the way. I’ve been working with some amazing people. We have an amazing management team and amazing, amazing employees in the business.
Ryan Starks: (08:02) Wow. Well, it sounds like the American dream starting out in the basement and then scaling your company up. So I understand you have 50 employees now. Is that right?
Andrew Scivally: (08:12) There’s a bit more than 50. Probably between 50 and 60.
Ryan Starks: (08:16)] Well, congratulations on your success. So you’re based in American Fork. What do you think about Utah’s landscape for the workforce? How happy are you to be in Utah County?
Andrew Scivally: (00:08:27) I love Utah. Utah has been a phenomenal place for us. The people are amazing. There are so many good people that have wonderful skills. They’re a joy to work with. They work hard and for the most part, everyone’s trying to do their best. You can trust them and they’re honest.
It’s been a phenomenal place for us. Utah County, it has been great as well. We live in Saratoga Springs and there are a ton of kids out here. My family fits right in and there’s little kids running everywhere. I think at one point in the five people in our management team of the business, I think amongst us we had like 35 or something kids.
A lot of my, why don’t my senior leaders have big families as well? It’s been nice. I think that a company like this can really suck all of your time if you let it. Right? I mean, you could spend all day, every day building the business. However, it’s not the point, right? We work because we have to live. We don’t live just to work. So it’s been a balancing act. I think that’s really benefited us through the years that there are lots of priorities in life. As long as you can keep them balanced, they can all work together. I love this area.
I wouldn’t imagine having this business headquartered anywhere else.
Ryan Starks: (10:02) Well on behalf of Utah, we’re really happy to have you where you are and excited about the good things that you’re doing. It sounds like with the 35 children between your five or so executives, maybe that’s the workforce of tomorrow, who knows? Right.
Andrew Scivally: (10:17) My kids always fight over who gets to take over eLearning Brothers when I’m dead or retired. I guess so I tell them, none of them. I’m like, no, none of you. I’ll sell the business before I give it to you.
Ryan Starks: (10:27) That’s funny. Well, hey, I would love to learn more about what makes eLearning Brothers different from some of the other solutions out there.
Andrew Scivally: (10:36) I think for us in the e-learning template market, we own that market. There are not, I mean, there really aren’t other e-learning template companies out there. We basically created that space and we dominate that space. And anytime you go into our world, and you mention templates, ours is always the name that comes up.
However, as you look at our broader business, for eLearning Brothers, our taglines are all around rockstars. We want to help you become an e-learning rockstar. For us, rockstars are creative. They’re artists. They want to connect with people and motivate people. They want to create a feeling.
What we try to do with our customers. Let’s say Mary is the person at AT&T that builds training. We want Mary to be a rockstar. We want to help her build courses that are engaging, interactive and inspiring. Courses that actually teach people content. If we can help provide them with, with products and services that help her be a rock star.
Then, not only is she successful in her career, her training is also going to be effective in the company. Therefore, they can get their return on investment and hit their goals and all that good stuff. I think for eLearning Brothers, we really try to help our customers be those rockstars.
And we really try to connect with our customers and realize that the company has a soul. It’s not just this company you can’t pronounce the name of. It’s run by real people. It really was two brothers that started it. We’re normal people. We’re in this space and we can help you be a rockstar.
So that’s, I think it’s really that personal connection.
Ryan Starks: (12:28) I love the term e-learning rockstar. That’s great. What do you think the future of the industry, or at least instruction led training looks like? Do you think there’s a market for this moving forward?
Andrew Scivally: (12:40) If I were to talk to you a month ago, let’s pretend like it’s not today for a second. All of this is just blended learning, right? It’s just learning. It used to be classroom versus online learning or instructor led versus e-learning.
It’s really just learning now. Right? And there’s, there’s digital learning and all this kind of stuff. What we’re seeing now is that there will always be a place for instructor led training. But I think what you’re seeing now is there are risks with that. I mean, there’s risks with online training as well. I think now what you’re seeing is companies that if they haven’t yet, are now they’re really starting to think about online training. You need to kind of spread it out.
Others used to think that online training was really effective because it could be delivered quickly. Right. And it was always consistent and you could send it to mass numbers of people super quick and all these different things. Now you’re seeing another part of it where virtual training is just easy to deliver and to track. There are times like this where you can’t get together.
Instructor-led classrooms, I think will always have its place. I do think that now we’re fully understanding that there’s lots of ways to train people. It really should be or could be a blended approach where you use different methodologies for different things.
There are certain topics that online training is perfect for, right? Like compliance and stuff. There are certain topics that in that classroom training is really good for as well. If you want to do role plays and some of the soft skills and leadership stuff. There’s a place for both of them. Right now you’re, you’re definitely seeing a rise in awareness of digital education.
I saw an ad the other day, not an ad, it was some conference that said this was going to be the dawn of a new age of digital learning. For me, it’s been around 20 years. However, e-learning and digital learning is now in the headlines. I really think this industry is poised to really have a big surge.
Ryan Starks: (14:52) I teach part time as an adjunct professor in the Marriott School of Business at BYU. For the past few years our deans and our leadership have really focused on this blended learning concept. I think the COVID-19 virus has really pushed and catapulted that effort forward. What do you think the future looks like as a result of the COVID-19? What effect will that have on online learning?
Andrew Scivally: (15:18) I think if there were any companies in the world that hadn’t heard the word of digital learning or e-learning by now they have. If they didn’t think it could be effective and can be worthwhile, I think they now realize it can. Every kid in America, and probably the world is now participating in online learning. They’re doing it for an extended period of time. Now we have all these, this whole generation of kids that will be coming into the workforce.
And they’re all comfortable with online learning. That’s going to give a lot of familiarity out there in the market as they grow up and get into the business. Now you’re seeing all the universities who are looking at this and thinking, okay, is this a new opportunity?
We’ve been doing it for a while, but how could we really embrace this? Individuals are even more open to trying this out and everyone’s kind of getting your toes wet. I think you’re gonna see a lot of innovation come out of this and our business is surging right now.
We’re getting tons of requests coming in to help them. We’re getting a university coming to us saying, ‘Hey, help us get the stuff online’ and universities are not really our core market. We focus on corporate, but we’re seeing universities even start to start to come to us now.
Ryan Starks: (16:53) I know. I have three kids at home who are all using iPads daily to complete their schoolwork. It trickles up from my third grader all the way up to my eighth grader, to the college students that I teach and into the corporate world. We’re running short on time. I did just want to ask one more follow up question.
So we may have listeners out there who find themselves perhaps without a job or who are wanting to sharpen their pencil, so to speak, to polish up their work skills, or maybe expand their skill set. What recommendations would you give those people looking to kind of take that next step.
Andrew Scivally: (17:30) One of the nice things I’ve seen right now is that there’s a lot of online learning companies that have catalogs of courses and they’re offering them for free for awhile. We have some courses that we’ve been offering corporations for free around how to work from home and deal with stress and anxiety and all that.
I know there’s Pluralsight, another Utah company, I’ve seen that they’re offering various coding classes for free. Linda.com and the LinkedIn learning classes, they’ve got freebies going on as well. I think there are tons of free offerings right now. Even when they’re not free, they’re not that expensive.
I’ve got a buddy Mark out in Connecticut actually does learn to program on tv. I know he’s doing some free stuff. I think right now we can take advantage of the online learning that’s available out there. At least for us in my industry, it’s not necessarily the formal education you have. It’s really about what are the skills that you have?
All right, what do you know how to build? What does your portfolio look like? Those are really the things that we’re looking at. Those are things that you can easily polish up, and work through an online course.
Ryan Starks: (18:44) Wonderful advice. Today, I’m with Andrew Scivally with eLearning Brothers. Thank you, Andrew, so much for joining us today on the Business Elevated podcast. We appreciate your insights. For anybody listening that wants to learn more about eLearning Brothers, please check out their website, elearningbrothers.com thanks again, Andrew.
Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.