Starting a company to do computer security training


4

I want to do training in computer security: it's been my life for 30 years after all. But I want to keep my day job as a college professor as well. My university (like most universities) allows me 1 day per week during my 9-month contract to pursue outside opportunities like this. A "day" is 12 hours.

So my idea is to offer one weekend training seminar per month in the accrued 48 hours of outside time: 2 days for the actual course and 2 days for overhead. For those of you with experience around this kind of thing, do you think it's feasible?

Also, I am very confident in my training skills, but I know next to nothing about advertising, acquiring customers, marketing, accounting, taxes, legal matters, etc. I'm pretty confident I can figure out the last three, but the first three seem daunting.

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asked Mar 28 '11 at 15:11
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Fixee
155 points

5 Answers


3

I'm going to go against the grain of the other two answers here... It seems entirely viable to me.

For weekend courses you'd possibly do well targeting local business owners, though perhaps one day would work better than both - but I don't know. Small business people frequently don't have any time to be doing courses in the working week. You then make a feature of respecting their overworked week in the marketing!

You could perhaps offer a taster to security issues, help them to understand staff security risks, business security risks and the like, they will pay very well if they feel the need is there. The scare factor of the security risks posed by their staff actions could be the marketing key there.

There's also a possible market in self employed freelancers and contractors, but I suspect they'd be far harder to sell to.

If you target each course at a particular market (lawyers, accountants, media businesses, advertising agencies, etc) you may find take-up is higher as you can pitch the course as being targeted at that particular sector. For example there may be legislative issues that mean lawyers have to take security that bit more seriously, and your marketing can reflect that. Small business owners are also the people who probably have the lowest awareness of such issues, yet could be hurt the most (business closure) by a serious failure.

Thinking laterally a little, if you're weak on sales, marketing and the like, could you not have a chat with one of the professors / tutors in the business faculty? Perhaps you could get some help, pointers, or perhaps try the first one or two as a joint venture. I hesitate to mention it, but maybe even a student in that area could freelance some marketing materials for you.

You may find your local chamber of commerce would be interested in evening or weekend courses for their small business members, and it would be of benefit to you being affiliated through them. This would depend on what training they already provide of course.

A basic website to get more information, some flyers and targeted materials and you could easily find a niche here. Some worthwhile handouts and check-lists for them to take away, and some follow up resources on the website perhaps. Don't forget a decent end of course questionnaire to ensure you're meeting the need, and to identify possible follow up courses.

Don't let not being well known put you off either - 30 years experience is ample, and university professor is excellent credentials - after all so many commercial training courses use a 25yo lecturer with little experience of the field, and less than 6 months actual experience outside of delivering courses. You have a selling point, and should try using it.

There's going to be quite a bit of work putting the first couple together, but once you have the materials, and the shape of the course settled the overhead is marginal, aside from periodic updating of sections to ensure it remains topical and timely.

Possibly a naive question to close, as I don't know contracts or limitations in US universities, but does your own time of evenings and weekends count as pursuing outside opportunities? Superficially it seems the overhead of preparing materials etc needn't count, but obviously the courses will.

answered Mar 28 '11 at 19:45
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Matt
2,552 points
  • Hi Matt, and thanks for the feedback. The restriction on outside pursuits pertains to "consulting work"; the limit is 12 hrs per week (amortized) and 3 months of "whatever you want" during the summer since I am not technically employed by the University then. This restriction is enforced by the honor code, and the real rule is "don't let your outside pursuits adversely affect your academic job." I am very devoted to my institution, so I take that rule to heart, but feel I can both do my job and still pursue a venture on the side. We'll see... – Fixee 8 years ago

1

I'm probably not being much help here but its doable if you find a local partner/agent/manager to take care of some of the things you mentioned. It's going to be a bit of headache otherwise doing this with a full time commitment @ university.

Just my 2 cents.

answered Mar 28 '11 at 18:51
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Coding Dna
31 points

1

I don't think it's feasible unless you're well known in the field. The accounting, taxes, legal matters there are professionals you pay to sort that out, as you say.

There is a stack exchange site on IT security, I would strongly suggest spending 2-3 months either on that site, or something similar, building up a reputation in the field in a very visible way. But just offer useful advice, don't try to sell or push anything.

Don't say you offer training or consulting, etc, just put up a basic web site and link to that in your forum profile. If you're unable to generate some interest on a forum specifically about IT security, I'd say you have basic issues with your model.

On the subject of training at the weekend, this is non-standard. Companies send employees to training courses in the week, they don't want to be paying them additionally for the weekends, or owing them holiday. You need to have the course in the week.

answered Mar 28 '11 at 19:06
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David Benson
2,166 points

1

Advertising, acquiring customers & marketing isn't as hard or scary as it seems. just takes time and some money.

1) Get a good website setup and running.

2) contact all your local papers, city magazines, chamber of commerce monthly newsletters, etc. Most local publications will do short fluf pieces about local new businesses. You just have to be bold and ask.

3) get some nice info brochures / business cards made and try to work with any local computer repair shops around town. sometimes you can work out deals where they'll setup a display of your services if you promote them in exchange. again, be bold and ask.

that should be a pretty good start to get the word out about your services.

answered Mar 29 '11 at 01:01
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Alan Barber
406 points

1

First of all, good luck.

Assuming that you are a one man army with limited resources in terms of money and time (specially the latter), this is what I recommend:

Forget about setting up fancy websites or anything like that, and focus on your network. You mention your work for a university, so chances are you can tap on the network of private companies that are somehow connected to your university and offer them the possibility of training some of their employees during the weekend. Try to get them on board by offering some special introductory rates since they are your "friends" so to speak. Maybe 4 trainees for the price of 3 or something like that. Make them feel special.

If you are only plan to teach about 12 hours a week, I don't think you need to embark on a full marketing campaing (websites, newspaper ads,...). This may actually attract more demand than you can satisfy. Remember that having no customers is bad, but having angry customers can actually be even worse.

If after spreading the word through friends, colleagues, and so on, you still don't have the clients you need, then I suggest you try the options suggested here already. But first of all, EXPLOIT YOUR NETWORK. If you don't get clients this way, try to figure out why you couldn't find any clients within your network (price, reputation, schedule,...) and learn from that.

Best,
A.

answered Mar 29 '11 at 03:51
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A. Garcia
1,601 points

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