Podcast: Small Business Badges and Bookkeeper Business Launch

Even small organizations benefit from digital credentials.  Listen as Ben Robinson describes how his small company added value to its members by offering digital credentials to celebrate the completion of his training program.  The badges have become an important part of his community and provide verified proof that the bookkeeper is well trained.

Listen to the full interview here: 

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This podcast is part of a Credly podcast series where we discuss issues of interest for digital credentialing issuers, earners, and partners. Have a topic you want to learn more about? Send us an email at info@credly.com.

Susan Manning:                   Welcome to the Credly Podcast, where we touch base with our issuers, earners, and partners, and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning. Today I'm talking with Ben Robinson, the founder of Bookkeeper Business Launch, a small business that has gotten into awarding digital badges this year. Welcome Ben.

Ben Robinson:                      Hey, welcome Susan. Thanks so much for having me.

Susan Manning:                   Can you tell me a little bit about your business, the service you provide and how this works?

Ben Robinson:                      Absolutely. We help people to start their own virtual bookkeeping business, and our course consists of several components, one of them is a knowledge side of things, where we're teaching people the skills, and then the other side if the business startup and the marketing, which we know to be very important. If it teaching people holistically how to start a business and also how to gain the skills that clients will pay for that are in demand.

Susan Manning:                   How did you arrive at digital badges then?

Ben Robinson:                      We wanted a way to acknowledge the tasks and the accomplishments that our students were working so hard to get. Before we pretty much didn't have a process, so we wanted a way in which not only we could acknowledge them, but our students could use it as a marketing tool to add validity to what they're doing. We're in a very fragmented industry in bookkeeping and bookkeeping profession that there is not a lot of required licensure and there is not a lot of identity.

Ben Robinson:                      We wanted to create more than just something that say I completed a course, but something around a brand, something of an acknowledgment of what they have gone through. We looked at several sources, and we said we want something that not only that we can issue, but something just as a claim does that says here is what they went through, it's third party verification. We wanted it to mean something, in short.

Susan Manning:                   As I was talking with your colleague Heidi, she commented that because there aren't industry ... I don't know if it's fair to say there aren't industry standards, but someone could represent themselves as a bookkeeper and not be formally trained and do a lot of damage.

Ben Robinson:                      That's correct, especially in the United States, there are not currently law and licensure requirements around the bookkeeping profession. Although, there are to get your nails or your toes, but not for bookkeeping, which is very odd and we want to change that, but it's part of that, and the genesis, the beginning, is to start with this digital badge that represents what they done and the pain that they have gone through. As we all know when we're trying to gain a certification or anything that's worthwhile in life we have to go through the headaches and the learning experience. When we get through with it we're excited, but we don't want to go through it again. Kind of like when I earned my Certified Public Accountant.

Ben Robinson:                      We really wanted some way to say you're acknowledge. Now we're at acknowledgment. That's one of the reasons that we think we've had such a great success in a short period of time with it.

Susan Manning:                   In speaking of success, you have a 97% acceptance rate. How did you get that?

Ben Robinson:                      Good question. You know what? And Heidi and I have talked before this conversation and I knew that you were going to ask that, and we pondered on it. Number one, I think that this is not a certificate that is taken lightly, they work for it. First and foremost, I know that a lot of badges and I don't know everybody's, but a lot of them you basically go to class for four hours and you get a badge. Ours is not like that. First and foremost, I think that our students works really hard to obtain this, and also they see this as validity.

Ben Robinson:                      We all know in life we want to feel important, we want to feel significant, we want to feel like we matter, and this is an outward way to say look what I did. Not in a boastful, prideful way, but we all want that acknowledgment saying if I went through all this struggle I want something to show that I did that. I think that's, first and foremost, is that truly means something, and the effort that they exerted to get there.

Ben Robinson:                      The second thing is that inside of our community, which I think is a huge tie in for why this works, is that we really celebrate this. We know that when you get your badge, when you earn your certificate of completion in Bookkeeper Business Launch that this is putting you on the trajectory to success. It's one of the two things that we've identified that's going to lead people down the road to the life that they want to lead, to creating the business that they want. The very first thing is earning this certificate of completion. We celebrate that in our community and we make a big deal out of it because it is a big deal.

Susan Manning:                   What's the second thing that makes people succeed?

Ben Robinson:                      The second thing is getting their first client.

Susan Manning:                   Oh.

Ben Robinson:                      Part of it is the skills and everything, and then the second thing is getting that first client. We find that once they do that, they've popped the seal and they've realized that they can do this. That along with the confidence that they have the skills, and again the badge ties into all of that.

Susan Manning:                   Right. What kind of marketing did you do to let your earners know that this is coming?

Ben Robinson:                      Before we implemented this, or currently?

Susan Manning:                   Both.

Ben Robinson:                      Okay. Before we didn't have anything, so it was pretty easy. Most of the ways that we improve our course is just listening to our students. We spend a lot of time in one-on-one and group dialogue with our students. We have an active community, which I think is one of the huge things for not only badges, but just the world that we live in. People want to be a part of a community because we're so disjointed, in a world of tons of communication we are at a distance. I think just being in a community and asking them and listening to them and them articulating we want this sort of thing. Us coming in and saying we're going to provide this for you, but you're going to have to work for it, and here is what it is.

Ben Robinson:                      Everybody was excited. On that end it was pretty much the market telling us what they wanted. Again, our marketing efforts, because these are people who are students, they are paying us, they are going to a course, they're investing in themselves, so the marketing really takes care of itself in that other students when they get this badge they post it up. We encourage them to post it up in the group. We do what we call," Friday Roundup," which is an Email distribution to all of our students, and we put in there people who have earned it.

Ben Robinson:                      This is just the start. We've been on the is not even a year now and we've got other plans for other badges, for other acknowledgments, and for other marketing and ways in which to put this into their offering. Then finally, here is a badge, you can put this in your digital signature, on your website, here's the benefit, and here is how it works. They see physically how that works with the claim. It's really cool, and people love that.

Susan Manning:                   I love that you have emphasized that community. Where did that come from? Have you always done that?

Ben Robinson:                      Yes. We're coming up on four years, I guess we're a little over three and a half years in existence. I would love to tell you Susan that this was my brain child, and I came up with it, but no. In our very first group, one of my very first students, is actually one of our most successful ones, I was doing a pilot group because I started this business just seeing if it would work. I know that you experiment first to make sure, you test. She said, "Maybe we should start a group," at the time I was not very social media adept, and I was like, "Okay, how can we do that?" She's like, "On Facebook." I'm like, "Well, I'm not even on Facebook."

Ben Robinson:                      This was just four years ago. Yes, I was one of those hold outs, I was not going to do it. She suggested that and that was the seedlings that got this going. Then after that it just grew into really what I think is one of the biggest benefits of our entire product is this community. It's very thriving, we have over 5000 members, 80% of them are active every single month.

Susan Manning:                   Wow.

Ben Robinson:                      Yeah.

Susan Manning:                   That is phenomenal, really.

Ben Robinson:                      It's become a monster in itself. Now we're going, "Now we've got a lot of people," you kind of create this monster so we're figuring out ways to segment that and make it more targeted for people to get information, but it's a great problem to have, people love it.

Susan Manning:                   Your case really has some nuggets that any organization, large or small, can take and learn from in terms of how to set up a successful program. It's been great having you share this, and I'll look forward to continuing your success.

Ben Robinson:                      Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for everything that you have done, and the claim, and it just is such, it's basically slam dunk. It's easy for us, right? When you were showing this initially I was like, "There has got to be more to this, because technology is not this simple."

Susan Manning:                   Yeah, it is.

Ben Robinson:                      Also, I'll say the final thing, just to give a plug to Heidi, who is our curriculum manager, she has done a phenomenal job in terms of the process and figuring out how all of this loops together. She has been instrumental in it. I get the glory of coming on here and talking to you about it, but she's really the one internally who has championed this cause. It's been really great to have Heidi. Heidi, if you're listening, I'll give you an extra gift certificate or something for all the work.

Susan Manning:                   Thank you again, and we'll talk soon.

Ben Robinson:                      All right, thank you Susan.

Susan Manning:                   Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at Info@credly.com.


By Susan Manning