No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Spotlight: We shine the light this week on Peter Mayes


Photo of Peter MayesPeter Mayes talks passionately to about the trade association he set up, his beef with 'ignorant jobbing and hobby trainers' who discredit the profession, and the future of both TrainerBase and the learning & development industry.

Name: Peter Mayes

Age: 51

Job title: Chief executive

Brief description of the job that you do:

I run TrainerBase; the Association for Learning Practitioners and am involved in every area of its management and development. I also make the tea and coffee.

1. Why did you become head of a trade association?

It wasn’t intentional! Back in February 2002 when I launched TrainerBase, the site was established as an online database for associates for my own training company but quickly became a community of trainers. Four years ago I was asked whether I would form a professional body for trainers. At that point I didn't believe I nor TrainerBase were in a strong enough position, so I declined. But more recently the community has expanded and I saw the need to develop a 'standard of competence' for independent trainers, so decided to form a trade association.

2. What do you love best about your job?

Helping trainers get work. I do get a buzz when I hear that one of our members has won a contract. It is quite amazing that members of TrainerBase are securing contracts in excess of £20,000 as a direct result of being on the site. I undertook a survey a little while back and the results indicated over £1m worth of training contracts are being won via the site with an average value of £8,500. Just recently I had a phone call from one of the largest training organisations in the UK looking for a particular type of good associate trainer. I did a search on the site and was able to flag up a number of trainers, some of whom were certified learning practitioners. I got a call less than an hour later from one of those trainers thanking me for the recommendation; he had lined up an interview with the centre manager with the potential for 40 days work on his doorstep. I like that.

3. What do you find most challenging?

Keeping a handle on everything that is going on. We are very small at the moment with a huge amount of growth ahead of us. The fact that I know just about everything there is to know about the site and the association means that everything comes back to my desk. We have taken on staff, but full and effective delegation will take some time to achieve.

4. What's the best advice that you would give to someone new to being an independent trainer?

Go through a thorough business planning process. Too many good trainers have no idea about what it takes to run a training consultancy. This is why we have included a commercial principle within our standard. As one business guru put it: "Fail to plan: plan to fail".

Being an independent freelance learning practitioner is not just about doing what you want; the delivery side of things - it is also about doing the things that you have to do: marketing, sales and office administration. If all this was to be distilled down into a single sentence it would be: 'As an independent you will likely only have between 75 and 125 fee earning days; how much do you need to earn? Now go do the math for how much you need to charge.'

5. What's the best advice that's been given to you that has helped you in your career?

Stick to the knitting! The development of TrainerBase has taken years of bloody mindedness and investment. By sticking to the knitting and staying with the concept of what the site was about 'helping trainers find business and business find trainers', I believe I have nurtured an entity that is credible and robust in the market place.

6. How do you see the association developing over the next few years?

The potential is very exciting. My vision is for TrainerBase to be seen as the voice for independent and freelance learning practitioners in the UK. As an association we have already entered into collaborative dialogue with both public and private sector organisations with a view to supporting our members.

There is far more to do, but I see no reason why we shouldn't be helping Sector Skills Councils, other trade associations, public sector departments and any other institution that would benefit from engaging with freelance trainers. When all’s said and done, the independent trainer is vital. Members of TrainerBase are everywhere! Most of the large training organisations and most government contracts will include our members and few organisations don’t use external providers. Independent learning practitioners now have an organisation that is in a position to represent them. As a trade association we are able to do business-orientated activities that other institutes and bodies are not able to conduct.

7. What's the best career help book that you've ever read?

'Circles of Innovation' by Tom Peters. It is the only business related book that I was so taken with that I read it twice in the same weekend and, being dyslexic, that is saying something. I have to say that the reading was re-enforced a short while after as I had the opportunity to attend one of Tom Peters' seminars. Within six months I had left the safety of full-time employment and set up my own business.

8. What's the best event within the training community that you've ever attended?

I would have to say HRD2008. Now I have done a lot of business exhibitions and usually come away saying 'never again'. This time was totally different. We engaged with both purchasers and providers of training and were very well received in the market. The standard and the CLP accreditation were commented on by purchasers as being long overdue.

9. Who do you think is the most inspirational member of the training community and have you ever met them?

I don’t think there is one in particular. Garry Platt is always worth listening to, whether you agree with him or not. I like Peter Honey and what he has to say - both have spoken at our conferences. As I mentioned earlier, Tom Peters inspired. Some of the contributors to the various training journals say some inspirational things. The top guy from Happy computers gave an inspiring talk recently - the topic stuck but his name didn’t! I can also think of some pretty un-inspirational speakers, a number of whom earn thousands of pounds a day for speaking - perhaps there is a gap in the market that needs filling?

10. What else would you like to share with our members?

The imparting of knowledge from one individual to another is an honourable endeavour (on the premise that the knowledge is for good). It could be argued that this endeavour or profession is the oldest of all professions: the first person to acquire the first useful bit of knowledge and to have passed it on to the next person for the benefit of that individual created learning and development.

I would like to see learning and development realise the power that it has at its disposal: the power to change lives. When it comes down to it, that is what training, learning and development is all about.

I have seen some spectacular results from really good training programmes; I have also seen and heard about some absolute garbage; the tick box transactional training that offers little knowledge, less than useful skills and no hope of any beneficial behaviour change. It is up to those within the sector, the practitioners, to realise that learning and development is a serious business and not a hobby to be done with little or no consideration to its effect.

There are far too many less than competent, inexperienced and ignorant jobbing and hobby trainers within the sector, dragging down the reputation and the viability of some outstanding people who, when given the opportunity to exercise their expertise, are truly transformational.

And to finish this on a contentious note: unfortunately, the way the purchasing of training is going in some sectors, the people that would truly benefit from an encounter with these inspirational practitioners are going to be left languishing, the victims of competitive tendering operated by procurers with little or no understanding of what it means or how to measure the value of a knowledge-based service.

Read the last Spotlight on mountain climber and motivational speaker Annabelle Bond.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!