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Webucator ready to build on SEO-driven success

By Journal Staff


DeWITT  —  A technical and business training company based in DeWitt plans to expand in the new year by searching for major clients.

Webucator, Inc. offers online, in-person, and self-paced training for businesses across the country. Subjects range from technical training covering Microsoft programs to business courses in accounting.

Much of the company’s business comes from Internet searches. That’s because owner Nathaniel Dunn focused on search-engine optimization (SEO) when he founded Webucator in 2003.

Search-engine optimization makes a website more visible in Internet searches — meaning search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo list a site high in their results. 

“We’ve kind of been in this beautiful place in that our business comes to us through Google,” says Webucator COO David Dunn, who is Nathaniel Dunn’s brother. “We haven’t done a good job of turning those companies into really big customers, despite the fact that their employees have loved their classes.”

Many clients use Webucator to provide intermittent training or training that will only be needed once, David Dunn says. For example, a business may ask an employee to take a class in Adobe Photoshop. That employee will turn to Webucator after finding the training company through an Internet search.

Webucator wants to keep that side of its business, but it also aims to expand its work as a preferred training provider running regular courses for companies. It plans to invest in growth strategies such as marketing to increase its business from major clients, according to Dunn.

“We want to be the recommended solution,” he says. “And we are with a couple of clients.”

About 10 percent of the company’s classes are currently for major recurring clients, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the PNC Financial Services Group (NYSE: PNC), the San Francisco Housing Authority, and the state of Alaska, David Dunn says.

Webucator generated $4.5 million in revenue in 2011, according to Dunn. He does not have firm estimates for 2012, but expects that revenue total to grow by a double-digit percentage.

“I would be surprised if we grow less than 10 percent per year over the next five years,” he says. “I think we could grow more than that.”

About 60 percent of Webucator’s revenue comes from online classes, according to Dunn. Another 30 percent results from onsite classes, while 10 percent comes from self-paced classes where Webucator provides a student with materials required for self-study.

Webucator’s prices vary depending on subject, and Dunn did not share how much money the company makes on each class. The firm quotes its average price for a 5-day Microsoft course at $2,375 per person.

One reason Webucator’s classes are appealing is that the company will run online training sessions with just one student, Dunn contends. It promises to never cancel a class due to low enrollment.

“At a standard training company, you spend half of your time calling the student back and cancelling,” Dunn says. “We can make money with one student. Not much money, but we can do it.”

Webucator can turn a profit on such classes because it pays most of its trainers using a formula based on the number of students in each class. Online trainers can work from home, so they consider it convenient and accept that formula, Dunn says.

“Most of the contractors who work for us could make more money elsewhere,” he says. “The trainers have accepted this model for the chance to work at home and not travel.”

In fact, the company has no central office or campus where employees report to work every day. All of its employees work primarily from their homes, although some instructors fly to companies around the country to teach larger onsite training sessions.

Webucator operates five to seven onsite classes across the country each week, Dunn says. Those classes average between five students and 20 students.

They are typically larger than the company’s online classes, which average between two and three students each. Webucator runs 20 to 25 online classes per week.

Most of the company’s trainers are independent contractors who work for various training companies, according to Dunn. Webucator uses about 70 contractors spread across the country, and it works with 30 to 50 of those contractors regularly, he says.

The company also has 22 full-time employees and two part-time workers. Sixteen of those employees live in Central New York, while the rest are spread across the United States, Dunn says.

Of Webucator’s full-time employees, eight are full-time instructors, Dunn says. Four full-time instructors live in Central New York, he adds. He did not have any projections for adding employees as the company grows.

Webucator currently does negligible business with companies in the Syracuse area but would be happy to expand in any market, Dunn says. He did not name any local customers.

“We’re a national company,” he says. “We’d love to do business locally.”       

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