Unlocking Professional Growth Through Focus and Effective Management With Dan Longhouse

John Corcoran 11:29

Right. And you live in Columbus, Ohio, I’ve never been to Columbus, but I’ve always heard it, it kind of has its own tech vibe to it. And a lot of startup companies and over the last 1015 years that that has accelerated. Talk a little bit about that community and what it’s been like being located there with this company.

Dan Longhouse 11:52

Yeah, absolutely. So I moved here in 2005. So it’s it’s I mean, it’s grown substantially over the years. Yeah, there’s a great tech community, I’ve tried to get more involved in the space, even with a pretty healthy accelerator program. So a lot of startup companies that are then moving into the main AEO program. But yeah, it’s been a great network, there’s a lot of energy, a lot of opportunities for pitches, and for investing in pitches. So yeah, it’s been a great, great location to be in.

John Corcoran 12:21

Now one of the challenges that you’ve had over the years has been focus, which we previewed in beginning focus versus opportunity. And you started three companies along the way, I believe one of those three is still active. What was the first one? Was it DIY elearning? Was that the first one that you started on the side?

Dan Longhouse 12:43

It was Yeah, yeah. So running a professional services firm, you know, the youth to bring more people on to land more work. And so I really wanted to try to find something product based. And so DIY learning. The idea behind it is that a non-technical person could fill out a bunch of text fields on a website, click a button, and then it will generate games and interactions. The problem we ran into was that it was purely based on Adobe Flash. So the output was a single file. Once that went away, people moved to html5. Now you’ve got a bunch of files that you have to send to people. And it was just a struggle to help people understand how to include that in things like PowerPoint, and other programs. So unfortunately, because of technology that one went away. But yeah, we had a great run with Allianz and big projects with a dose. 

John Corcoran 13:32

The lesson there, and that one was, be careful what technology you build your solution on?

Dan Longhouse 13:39

Absolutely, yeah. and plan ahead and just keep an eye on that. And I think at the same time, you also have to recognize, I think we did a good job of recognizing, okay, our end user is just struggling to take this and to be able to use it. And so I think, I think that’s something as well to recognize that and be okay with the fact that that’s happening and to go in a different direction.

John Corcoran 14:01

Yeah, the other one you started was compliance cartoons.

Dan Longhouse 14:07

Yeah, so the idea behind that is within compliance. It’s really difficult to educate people on these policies and, you know, highly regulated areas. So the idea was to bring games and other types of interactions, excuse me, to that space. And so we would have these off the shelf topics. And then people could basically take those and customize them for themselves. Okay, those ended up turning into custom work. So again, we ended up back at, you know, building more custom work, basically. So that’s where that one went. 

John Corcoran 14:41

So, If I can grab a kind of try and figure out an overarching theme between all of your companies up until this point, it’s helping companies with creating engaging learning online and other efforts. related to that?

Dan Longhouse 15:02

That’s correct. Yeah, another core within learning is how do we take really complex topics, especially within compliance, and come up with innovative creative ways to get that to people in a way that they can understand it? That’s kind of the core of the solutions that we’ve been coming up with. 

John Corcoran 15:23

Yeah. The interesting thing about that is then the third company that you start on the side is sound smack, which will first you can tell us about that one.

Dan Longhouse 15:32

Yeah, so that one again, this was during a time when I kind of thought, hey, every idea is a good idea. And I love idea generation, I love taking ideas, breaking it down, figuring out how to start companies out of it. And that was one where somebody had sound effects. And so the niche there was that we were going to come into the market with really high quality sound effects. And so we lifted a site and enrolled that out, and that is still active. That is something that we still have.

John Corcoran 15:58

Now, it’s interesting about that, as the other two were more related to what you do with LHT. And the sounds back one kind of seems a little bit more of a parallel from it, something different.

Dan Longhouse 16:13

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s, again, where there’s that sort of lack of focus, I think in terms of just trying to start lots of different companies. That’s, that was, again, what I just thought you could start a company, throw out a website and a product and everything would just happen, right? Yeah. You don’t need sales, lead marketing and unique customer support, if I can do it all myself. And so there’s a big learning moment there for sure.

John Corcoran 16:36

With the combination of all these and there was another one, I believe, where you went to a conference in Chicago, and you were developing an idea for a conference for another product as well. Tell us about that one.

Dan Longhouse 16:50

Yeah, so that was part of DIY learning. So you know, again, with a lack of focus, I was trying to do it all myself. And on the drive up, we were finalizing the product that we were demonstrating at the conference. So I was sitting in the front seat, developing the product, trying to get it ready to actually present it at the conference. Right. So again, it’s that I was just trying to do it all. And I thought that’s just, that’s just what you do.

John Corcoran 17:15

Yeah. And so it seems like you kind of came to realize that you need to go back to the original business, which you started to focus on in really kind of drill down and focus on that. 

Dan Longhouse 17:26

It’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s sort of where we step back and say, Okay, this is our core. This is where the clients are. Let’s stay focused here.

John Corcoran 17:34

And I won’t point out, did you read the E Myth revisited? And what was the impact that that had on you?

Dan Longhouse 17:42

Yeah, that was, that was a huge one, because that was the first time somebody said, the idea of working on a business versus in a business. And, I mean, that just completely changed the way that I think about running an organization at that point. So that was a huge game changer, I would say. And it helps me kind of look back and go, Oh, that makes so much sense. When you start these companies, you need to get help, you need to bring people in, and that’s okay to bring people in earlier, so that I can work on the business and not get stuck doing it all because I think I have to write and you end up. 

John Corcoran 18:15

There’s a program called aileron, I believe it is in Dayton, Ohio, which introduced you or kind of helped you with this journey of putting good management in place. Tell us about that one.

Dan Longhouse 18:28

Yeah, so right around the time after reading the myth, I had reconnected with my old boss, Scott. And he was working for ailerons. He said, Hey, you should check out their class for presidents and it was a two day class. And I kind of thought I didn’t really need to figure it out. And then I, you know, kind of went well, if he’s recommending it, either mentor, I’m gonna go do it right. And when to it. And it was just, I mean, the best way I can describe it, probably similar to EMP. 

It just sort of opened a little door in my brain. And there’s just a whole library of information that I didn’t even know existed around professional management. Excuse me, it was my voice. And that changed everything. I mean, that just allowed me to take a step back and say, All right, how do you really grow an organization? How do you really structure an organization? Because before that, it was more about execution. 

John Corcoran 19:22

And, and then EOS in traction, the book traction by Gino Wickman. Also, have you come across this one at some point?

Dan Longhouse 19:30

Yeah, I read that and that that just very much aligned with my way of thinking and where I knew that we needed to go with the organization. And so we went all in on that. completely integrated and rolled it out. And that has been one of the single most influential things for the organization, I would say.

John Corcoran 19:51

Yeah, I think I’m gonna voice a little bit of impostor syndrome here. But you know, it If I was you and I had started this company, you know, straight out of college, I think I would have run into challenges with, you know, upgrading your your clientele now you have, you know, focused on fortune 500 companies, and you start focusing on pharma and medical device companies. How do you think you got over that internal imposter syndrome that, you know, holds so many people back in order to focus on these bigger and bigger companies and complex solutions?

Dan Longhouse 20:31

I mean, I think for me, I had gotten so burned out and had thought I knew what I was doing. I was at a point where, when that solution came, I was so bought into it. And so brought into the idea of, clearly I don’t know how to do it. So how do I do things differently? And so the idea of getting into a niche such as pharma and med devices, which is a space that we had already done a lot of work. And it just, it just made sense. I knew that I couldn’t do it all. And we started to see that we can’t be everything for everybody. And so I think really deciding who we are, and then staying focused on that, which is still hard. I mean, I still want to start a bunch of different companies, right? So it’s tough, but I think I was just in such a low place that I finally just said, this makes sense. Let’s just go all in and do it. 

John Corcoran 21:20

Yeah. COVID happens in 2020. You’re in the eLearning space, hindsight being 2020. Now we look back on it. And we think, Oh, that’s what seemed like a great company to have going into a global pandemic, but it wasn’t quite that way. At least initially for you.

Dan Longhouse 21:37

No, definitely not. I mean, I think when it first hit, immediately, what all corporations did is say, hey, stop bringing in vendors, right, stop bringing the professional service companies that are gonna be huge. And so what we ended up doing is just sort of bunkering down and saying, all right, we gotta get through October. And during that time, we actually had built another product, because we said, hey, well, we got time when we build another product, and so we will use that product. That product was something that we built for teachers. 

So the idea was we partnered with somebody that had content. And we built a series of courses to help teachers transition to virtual training, right? Because everybody was struggling with that. Yeah. The difficulty was, everybody was so busy, and getting inundated with content, digital content, that it was tough to get it in front of the right people. Yeah. And then after COVID, I would say towards the end of 2020, companies finally said, Alright, COVID is here, we’re moving to virtual. Let’s start investing and learning. So 2021, really, we saw a big increase in, like VC money coming in, and corporations coming in and saying, Hey, we want to build a big learning program, we’re going to move everything to virtual follow our in person. So 2021 ended up being a good year for the learning space as a whole.

John Corcoran 23:06

Yeah, of course, there were a lot of companies that then the pendulum swung back again, where people got, you know, Zoom fatigue, did you experience that as well? 

Dan Longhouse 23:15

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it ended up being kind of a hybrid solution where people would do zoom, but then they would also try to do more spaced out instructor led training of some type, because that that was the big message was, hey, we know we need to move to virtual but zoom for eight hours a day is is just frying people. And nobody’s digesting that information. And part of it ended up being the older traditional ways of learning, which is, hey, give me a chunk of content. Throw it at me that sort of went away. And now we started to be able to say, Okay, let’s space things out over time. Let’s do more retention on smaller, smaller chunks.

John Corcoran 23:51

And what do you focus on? Now, as we record this, this is mid 2024. You know, there’s been everyone talking about kind of like a shift and attention when people are focused on smaller and smaller content that tick tock if occasion if that’s a word of, you know, entertainment consumption, and especially younger generations. I don’t know if this is true or not, but supposedly have a shorter attention span. So where does that leave you?

Dan Longhouse 24:25

Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Right. I mean, I would say, the majority of our work again, isn’t that far from that device space, right. So when you think of larger organizations to do a lot of work with like Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, right. Their big thing is how do we find creative and effective ways to educate people on these very difficult legal topics, right? And so when you think about those things like tick tock and those quicker ways of getting people’s information, that’s what we have to start bringing into the learning space and that’s what we started to do more and more and so they really rely on us. Bring that sort of innovation, right, or the only one we see a lot is, we recently worked with a company where they had a bunch of outdated material. 

And they were still using those traditional, you know, heavy learning courses on compliance. Let me push this out, Hey, you did it. Everybody’s good now, right? And we know that doesn’t work. So we’ve come up with those scenarios, worked with the Chief Compliance Officer, and built out a roadmap for the next two to three years to build a larger learning program. And then once we build out those different types of learning interactions, you can add in analytics, now we can pull out measurement, now we can see how people are learning. And then if we can identify risks in those learning courses, or whatever they are. Now we have the opportunity to say, Okay, people struggled with this topic. 

Now, let’s push out, you know, on a monthly basis or something smaller, like a little social media campaign on the compliance intranet site, or, you know, funny memes, we’re doing that with a client right now as well. So it has drastically changed in terms of the way compliance is seen and the way that they push out.

John Corcoran 26:05

I’m just curious about you. You know, I’m a recovering lawyer. So I have an idea of what a general counsel and a big pharma company is like, personally, and I imagine, I can imagine that you approach them and say, Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna do a two minute tic tac toe video of you talking about XYZ complicated legal compliance topic, how do you manage that conversation? How do you convince them to have the wisdom of it and get them to go along with your vision? Absolutely.

Dan Longhouse 26:34

So sometimes we don’t have to, because they’ve tried the old model, right, which is the big courses, check the box. And then, you know, they either, you know, they can get fines, right, they lawsuits and fines or, you know, just as a whole, they’re just the onboarding is not going well, because people don’t understand the right, the right way to do compliance. So they’re getting in trouble. So a lot of times, we don’t really have to, because they’re coming in and saying, Hey, we have all of these outdated materials, we don’t have a very good program, help us make it engaging. 

So people actually engage with us, right? Because at the end of the day, the compliance teams are really trying to be a partner versus a lot of times they’re seen as, hey, we’re coming to slap your wrists. But yeah, other times, they’re definitely kind of insane, right? I mean, there’s times where we’ll come in, and a Chief Compliance Officer or Hey, cartoons and whimsical, let’s make it fun. And then we’ll bring that to somebody else. And they’ll go, No, that would not go well here. You know, people would not appreciate that.

John Corcoran 27:32

How we do things. Oh, yeah.

Dan Longhouse 27:34

So, it’s very customized to the company, to your audience. And then a lot of times, you know, what style does that Chief Compliance Officer have? And how are they building that culture of compliance? And you sort of pull it all together? And like a larger branded rollout program?

John Corcoran 27:52

Yeah. And of course, like many companies today, I imagine AI is going to have an impact on the E Learning world. Are you keeping your eye on that? And what are your thoughts on the impact that’s going to have?

Dan Longhouse 28:02

Absolutely, yeah, I mean, our core, we’re content creators, right. So AI is definitely going to have an impact. So yeah, we’re already got some folks using it. We built out some custom GP tees to try those out. And even bringing automation into the picture. I feel like that’s a really big area where tying those two together, there’s a lot of potential. So yeah, it’s going to be big, it’s going to be a big opportunity in the learning space. And we’re already trying to try to use it and what we did and coming up with ideas, right? It’s all about creative ideas. That’s a great way to know, to get more ideas outside idea generation is definitely a big one.

John Corcoran 28:35

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Dan, this has been great. I’m gonna wrap up by asking my gratitude question. I’m a big fan of expressing gratitude, especially to those who’ve helped you along the way in your journey. So, any other entrepreneurs, any other peers, any other contemporaries that you would want to shout out? And thank you for helping you in your journey?

Dan Longhouse 28:58

Yeah, I think with EO I mean, the mentors there. I’m part of the EO Mentor Program. And I’ve had two mentors so far. And the two of them have just been incredible, right? I mean, they’re so busy at large organizations, C suite folks, and they’re willing to take the time to sit down with me and, and help me brainstorm and grow an organization. So I would say that your mentor program for sure, is a big one.

John Corcoran 29:23

Great. All right, Dan, where can people go to learn more about you and LHT?

Dan Longhouse 29:29

Yeah, LinkedIn is a great one. And then our website lhtlearning.com. would be the other spot. Yeah. Feel free to reach out if questions or

John Corcoran 29:36

connect with folks. And thanks so much.

Dan Longhouse 29:39

I appreciate it, John.

Chad Franzen 29:44

Thanks for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.