Are Your Documents Scaring Away Potential Students?

How my 'over the top' Privacy Agreement nearly cost me a great client
I'm a firm believer and advocate that simple systems are the essential keys to business success, and I also don't believe in re-inventing the wheel.

Which is why I take the opportunity, whenever I can, to adapt a template or procedure from my clients and business contacts to improve my own business systems (with their permission of course).
And this is what I did with my Privacy Agreement.

A colleague had developed a very legally worded document for their business. I didn't have such a document so they shared this with me which I then adapted for my business.

At the time, I was very grateful for this document as it saved me at least the 2 hours it would have taken me to develop my own. After a quick read, I confirmed it all made sense so I quickly customised it with my business details including logo and I was set to go.

I'd been using this document for over a year as part of my Client Engagement Process and no one had questioned it. But then this happened.

A potential client wanted to engage me for a Strategy Session so I sent through these documents for their signature which confirmed the arrangements.

The potential client emailed back the following response:

Please forgive my ignorance. I wasn't expecting such a formal series of agreements to sign in regards to our meeting. It all seems more litigious than I was expecting from what I thought would be a fairly relaxed meeting. If I'm triggering your alerts that I might not be an ideal client for you, just let me know, no offence taken. But if you could re-assure me about what I'm querying, that would be appreciated.

My initial reaction was 'crikeys' because I really want to work with this person to help their business so I quickly re-looked at the Privacy Agreement and concurred, 'they're right, it is too over the top'.

And as someone who brands themselves as The Simple Systems Specialist, this wasn't what I wanted to hear - that my documents were anything but simple.

Not only was it a complicated document written in very legal and not so user-friendly language; but I could now imagine how confronting this document might be to someone who didn't know me very well and hadn't worked with me before.

Now I could've taken the negative approach to this feedback and stated the commonly used 'that's my process' party line. But instead, I chose to view this as the wonderful gift it was because isn't this the feedback we all want for our businesses?

Unless clients/students (potential or current) tell us what's good and what needs to be improved in our businesses, how do we really know?

So I thanked them for their honest feedback, assured them they were my ideal client, explained the purpose of the document, and advised them I would be re-working it to address the issues they raised.

Based on my response, the client engaged me and we had a very positive and productive Strategy Session where they gained great value and insights for their business.

But imagine if the client hadn't been brave enough to ask the questions and provide me with this awesome feedback?

Which then made me wonder – did my other clients also feel like this but signed the document simply because they wanted to work with me and it was part of my 'process'?

Which led to my next thought, 'Are we all hiding behind our systems and processes which we think are serving us well instead of actually thinking like a client (or a student) to determine if we have developed the best approach for them?'

My Key Learnings which may also relate to your RTO:

1. Don't adopt and adapt systems from others without first determining if they meet your purpose and suit the desired audience.

Not every template or procedure will suit or be needed in your RTO so don't rush in to adopt someone else's great system, even as a stop gap solution.

2. Ensure documents including templates are written for the intended audience, be it your clients, your students or your team.

3. Ensure your systems accurately reflect your branding and messaging eg even a 4 page complicated legal document that may be viewed as gobbledegook probably won't be seen by others as 'simple'.

4. Look at your RTO's systems including your documents at least twice a year because time and space can provide you with fresh ideas and perspective.

5. Don't fall into the trap of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality.

Just because something appears to be working, doesn't always mean it is true.

6. We are too close to our own work which is why we always need someone else to point out the positives and flaws in what we do which helps us improve ourselves and our business (if we're willing to listen).

What's Next?
Here's my 3 key questions for you to consider for your RTO:

1. When did you last review your systems through the eyes of your client, your student or your team?

If it's more than 6 months, then I'd suggest you start taking another look to ensure their relevance and suitability.

2. Do your business systems include documents written in simple and easy to understand language?

Are they written for THEM (the intended end user) or is it all about YOU?

Be careful not to fall into the Curse of Knowledge – what makes sense to us is often confusing for others.

3. Are your Client Engagement/Enrolment documents no more than 4 pages?

If not, can you streamline and simplify whilst maintaining the intent of the document, and meeting all legal, risk and privacy obligations for both parties?

One of the systems RTOs should regularly review (and often don't) is the Enrolment Process.

So what can you delete, streamline and/or simplify so potential students actually understand what they're signing, AND ensure they don't have to provide information multiple times when you already have it?

And here's my final thought:

By regularly reviewing your systems, you can be assured your processes not only meet your business needs and that of your clients/students; but they also don't make people feel uncomfortable and scare them away from your RTO.


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Author: Tamara Simon

Tamara Simon is Australia's Only Dedicated RTO Business Coach who's driven to making your RTO life easier.

For over twenty years, she's been helping timepoor RTO Owners, CEOs and Managers get out of OVERWHELM so they can

- Get back in control and on track

- Grow their business... simply

- Reignite their passion for training

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