As I walk around our headquarters, it is humbling to see the growth that has come from our clients’ support for our solution. We have 300 employees, with more joining every day. The client base has grown to over 4000 organizations taking 25 million courses a year across multiple different markets. The future is incredibly bright – you can expect to see some really exciting innovation in our course content and our platform technology. Bertelsmann, who recently acquired us, provides us with a long-term home and a parent company that will help us raise our game even higher to become the most creative and innovative provider of blended learning training systems in healthcare.
In 2005, what today is Relias Learning was really just two tiny start-up companies offering online training to the Senior Care and Behavioral Health industries. The clients numbered in the dozens, and the user base and courses completed were a fraction of what they are today. Both Essential Learning and Silverchair Learning were on the forefront of a new approach to training for an entire industry. On my first day with the company, I remember sitting in our “Worldwide Sales HQ” (our spare bedroom!), wondering if the market was ready for us. After being SVP for a large company in my previous role, it was now just me, my laptop, and a list of prospective customers. A similar story played out at Essential Learning, Care2Learn, HEN, and ATS. It’s the story of entrepreneurs with passion about making a difference in the quality of healthcare taking the delivery of training to a whole new level.
A promising start
At the end of year one, we had more than doubled our number of clients, grown our user base to 20,000, and had $400K in sales. We sat around a table at a quiet restaurant that December, toasting to our modest success, and dreaming about the possibilities for the future. The next year was frenetic, as we continued to grow the business while also trying to plan for the future.
Rolling the dice
In 2007 we started to build momentum. More providers realized the benefits of our system, and we were getting really positive word-of-mouth in the industry. We obtained some investment capital to finance our continued growth and things began to take off. We had our first “real office” and our little team was growing larger by the day. Our client base was growing, as was our course library and our LMS. It was starting to get fun, and we felt like we were turning a corner … and then the economy hit the skids. Having just taken out a big loan for investment capital, we were very worried about what that recession would mean for our clients. Would they cut back all outside expenses as they tightened their belt? Would we be viewed as a “nice-to-have” instead of an essential product? Much to our surprise, our business grew substantially during the toughest days of the recession, and our renewal rate was higher than ever. We felt like the market had validated that we were a “must have” and the race was on!
By 2009, things had taken off. We were gaining partnerships with industry associations, expanding our product line, and growing our team to meet the increasing demands of a large client base. We now had a whopping 650 clients with 350K users. We thought we had reached the tipping point and were poised to go to the moon.
Reaching the crossroads
Finally the inevitable growing pains hit. Our platform went through a major overhaul to accommodate the exponential growth in usage and we had a few hiccups. Through it all, we worked hard to take good care of our clients and continue to grow our business, and our clients were loyal … even when things didn’t go quite as smoothly as hoped.
By 2012, it was clear we could use some help from a larger ownership team – an organization with greater financial resources and broader expertise growing a software business. Essential Learning and Silverchair Learning both came to the same conclusion at the same time, and together they became Relias Learning, part of the Vista Equity Partners family of software companies. Being part of Vista allowed us the resources to completely overhaul our LMS, expand our course library, and grow our sales, marketing, and client care teams.
By 2014, our results had been so strong that we had attracted the interest of some of the biggest and most prestigious software and media companies in the world. Finally, Bertelsmann Company came forward with a big bid to acquire Relias, and make it the cornerstone of what will become their global online education business. This was a tremendous opportunity for Relias and our clients, because it gives us a strong, stable parent company that will help us grow and strengthen our business for decades to come.
An exciting future
Through all the growth and changes, our greatest hope is that we are able to stay true to the principles that caused you to partner with us in the first place – great course content, the best platform for your needs, and tremendous service that helps make it easy for you to be successful. If you’d like a 3-minute overview of our learning management system and courses, our product tour video shows more about what we offer. Our hope is that we serve you so well, you’ll brag about us to all your peers!