Should I go the Agency route or Certification?

When you have a big vision and want to impact as many people as possible with your work it is important to consider your business model.

When I was ready to scale years ago I had two options I was considering – the agency model or a certification.

Now there are many benefits to the agency model, but I know for a fact that choosing the certification model has allowed me to change the lives of thousands of people over the years (probably more like tens of thousands at this point!)

The Certified OBM training has directly changed the lives of well over a thousand folks who have taken the training over the years… and then many many more based on the clients and team that they have in turn been able to serve and support!

Reminds me of that old shampoo commercial from the 80s “And they tell 2 friends… and so on… and so on… ” 😂😂

And with my licensed trainers, we can train sooooo many more folks than I ever could on my own (and be able to be as high-touch as we like in our training.)

This is way more people than I ever would have been able to impact via the agency model, as I would have been restricted to however many people my team and I could serve at any given time.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are so many business models and they all have their plusses and minuses. And I love many things about the agency model too!

But certification is a visionary’s model.

Every time you certify someone, you are expanding your vision and impact exponentially. And over time – together with the folks you certify – big visions can become a reality.

Reason #23 I love the certification model. 😊💜

If you are looking at ways to expand on a really big vision and want to explore certification – message me and let’s talk.

When folks start using your stuff without permission

Might sound funny to say – but folks taking and using your “stuff” may be a sign that it’s time to start a certification or licensing program.
I had this conversation with someone last week who shared that some of her past clients had started using her materials with their clients, and she wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“I’m really quite mad about this – what makes them think it’s OK to just use my stuff?”
I agreed with her of course – this is so frustrating when it happens!
And then I asked her:
“Have you ever considered offering certification or licensing? Folks obviously like your stuff and want to use it with their clients… so perhaps there is an opportunity here to make it official?”
She hadn’t really looked at it this way, and we came up with a strategy for her to reach out to folks to 1) give them a loving reminder that they aren’t allowed to use her IP and 2) to see if they would be interested in becoming certified so that they could use it legitimately.
Yes, we still need to protect our IP and reach out to folks if/when they are using it without the proper permission… sometimes folks need a reminder of this.
And there is a certain elegance to harnessing what is already happening – people using your stuff – and looking for a potential win-win. Folks get to use your stuff legitimately and you are paid (valued) for the IP that you’ve created.
I know this isn’t the best path for everyone as I know many folks who don’t want to do certification programs – but it is certainly worth a pause to consider if this comes up for you.

Certification is NOT the right business model for most people

Even though I’ve done it for years now, I can’t lay claim to having helped “hundreds” of people create a certification program… I’ve worked with “tens” of people over the years, not hundreds. (55 people to be exact – I just looked it up.)

Why so few? And why would I admit that? Isn’t that like some major marketing faux pas!

Well… I don’t think it’s the right business model for most people. So I don’t market it to the masses.

There are certain criteria you need to have in place to be ready (as I shared in this post). Plus it’s not a business model to be taken lightly.

There are bigger picture considerations to really think through.

Are you willing to risk your reputation? What if you certify someone and they suck? <– biggest fear of most folks I work with (and one that can be mitigated).

What about creating your own competition? When you certify people to ‘do what you do’ then there are more folks out there who do what you do. (Which can be fine of course, AND is a very real consideration.)

There are A LOT of nit picky little things you need to be aware of and ready for – legal, structural, curriculum, IP, licensing, renewals, etc. You want to think through and make decisions on ALL of these things before you enroll your first student, otherwise you are putting your business and brand at risk. (I have a Master Decision Checklist that I work through with my clients so that we don’t miss anything.)

Certification is not a model where you can just ‘jump in and make it up as you go’… there is simply too much at stake. Other business models allow for that – heck, I’ve done that many times myself with other training and coaching programs I’ve started! – but it doesn’t work for certifications. When I started my OBM Certification 13 years ago I was making it up as I went, and believe me… I’ve made plenty of costly mistakes along the way because I didn’t know better. Ooof.

It also takes TIME… probably more time than you might think to bring it to life. I’ve had clients take a year or more to prep and build before launching their certification, which might seem like a long time in our fast paced online world, but allows them to do it right, at the right time and set the stage for long term success. (I was just talking with a client today who is about to launch her certification that we started working on together 15 months ago… she’s done an amazing job working through all the little bitty things and her program is smoooooking hot!)

Certification is my favorite business model for sure – AND I’m also aware it’s not the right one for everyone. So I’m never going to market it as the “hey world, this is the latest and greatest thing that everyone should do!” Because it’s not…

If you are thinking about certification or licensing and wondering if it is the right model for you feel free to email me – I’m happy to chat through a few things to help you decide.

There are two prerequisites to starting a certification or licensing program

[Creating a Certification Series – Part 4]

When people ask me about creating a certification program the first thing I always check in on is whether or not they meet the two criteria for starting a successful certification. 

First – a PROVEN business model

The main benefit for a person to become certified is that they are getting access to a proven, successful model – one that they can plug into their own business and use (vs. them trying to build from scratch and figure it all out on their own.)

Have you created success with this model in your own business? And for how long? I want to see at least 2-3 years of being successful with something before turning it into a certification. 

If you are newer to your model and haven’t proven it’s success yet focus on that first! Spend the time to create success for yourself/your own business first so that you can then teach and certify others from a place of integrity and alignment.

Second – your OWN proprietary IP (Intellectual Property)

Your IP is the foundation of your certification. It’s the very thing that people are buying from you… and it needs to be yours.

I occasionally see people want to start a certification off something that they learned from someone else. Not only is this super ick on an integrity level, it’s also breaking copyright agreements/laws and may get you in some serious legal trouble.

If you want to teach something that you learned from someone else, check in with them! They might have an option for you to become licensed to teach their materials or maybe partner with them (This is how my Certified OBM Trainers got started back in 2017… when someone asked me if they could teach the program I had created.)

Create the kind of success that others want to create for themselves ← that is the first (and most important!) step

Interested in creating a certification? My Certification Accelerator will take your program from concept to first sale in 6 weeks – learn more here. 

What’s the difference between certification and licensing?

[Creating a Certification Series – Part 3]

Licensing is about the WHAT.

Certification is about the WHO.

Licensing is about saying ‘here’s my stuff, here’s what you can use and what you can/can’t do with it’.

Certification is about the person you are certifying – where you are training them in your proven process and then allowing them to leverage your brand/reputation in their own business. Where you are setting out requirements for them to earn their certification status. Where you are giving them tools and resources so they can create success following the path you’ve already laid out.

A license can stand alone and usually becomes ‘absorbed’ into the person’s existing program/business.  For example, I might license someone to teach my Hire Up hiring process in their own coaching program. They pay me to use my IP but they aren’t branded as a Hire Up professional.

A certification always INCLUDES a license within it – specifically laying out what they can and can’t do with the stuff they are learning. For example, when we train a Certified OBM® the license they are receiving (as outlined in their agreement) is that they can use what they are learning when working with their 1-1 clients, but that they can’t teach/share the material in groups or create other programs from it.

Either option can be amazing (and successful) depending on the goals of your business and how you want this to fit into the big picture. 💪

Interested in creating a certification? My Certification Accelerator will take your program from concept to first sale in 6 weeks – learn more here. 

3 signs that it may be time to create a certification program

[Creating a Certification Series – Part 2]

One of the biggest questions I get about creating a certification is WHEN? “Is this something I should do now or later?”

There is a ‘season’ of the business journey that I find especially ripe for creating a certification, and it will often include one (or all) of the following signs:

Sign #1 – People keep asking you “how did you do X? I want to do the same…”

They see your success. They see what you are doing. And they would like to create the same for themselves.

Sign #2 – People are using your stuff with their clients.

Yes, there is a lot of ick around this and we want to be purposeful to protect our IP so that people aren’t copying our stuff. I am all for that…

AND there could be a kernel of opportunity here… when your stuff is really good and it works, what if you could certify or license people to legitimately use it? And make money when they do?

Sign #3 – You are (secretly) tired of doing what you are doing

You created something amazing. And you’ve build a successful business around it.

But that doesn’t mean you want to keep doing it forever…

When I got tired of being an OBM for clients – I created the Certified OBM ® Training back in 2009.

When I got tired of leading that training – I licensed my Certified OBM Trainers to teach the program in 2017.

Sometimes our boredom can point the way towards some pretty cool things.

Interested in creating a certification? My Certification Accelerator will take your program from concept to first sale in 6 weeks – learn more here.