Yardstick (http://www.getyardstick.com) are posturing to become a direct competitor to JKN, the company I am employed by. The Justice Knowledge Network (JKN) is currently the dominant player in the space of e-learning products and solutions for Canadian police. JKN also owns a piece of the Canadian private security training and real estate sectors as well. My interest in Chris LaBossiere, CEO of Yardstick Training & Testing, and his venture is rooted firmly in competition and the quest for survival as Yardstick move in and JKN struggles to maintain its hold in these verticals.
Founded in Edmonton, Alberta in 2005, Yardstick is a privately-owned company that provides online testing and training services, including examination and psychometric consulting services, to certification/licensure, government, corporate and academic clients.
Yardstick was started by Chris LaBossiere and Don Riep in 2005 (although a few references give 2002 as the start-up year). The company has grown very quickly within the last 11 years, with reports of Yardstick’s revenues set to hit $5M this past year.
Yardstick has won numerous awards since its inception as a software services company and it has been continually making strategic moves to solidify its place in the e-learning services world. One such move was the acquisition of Christie Communications, an award winning, e-learning and testing business, in 2014. Yardstick secured a number of clients through its acquisition of Christie and it made some serious moves into the healthcare regulatory/association sector as a result. In doing so, Yardstick’s value proposition matured from “providers” of software to “specialists” in online training and testing.
Interestingly, Chris LaBossiere’s experience is not in training, nor education. Rather, prior to starting Yardstick, Chris spent 16 years in the Solid Waste and Recycling industry, most recently as a Senior Vice President for Western Canada. His co-founder’s background is also not in education, but rather marketing. The Yardstick team, split between two domains of training and testing is well populated by highly qualified professionals with a breadth of academic accreditations and industry experience.
It is not clear why LaBossiere chose the e-learning path for his company, however, he has proven success in this space. With neither founder possessing a background in education or online training, LaBossiere’s success appears to be grounded in his business prowess, strong networking abilities and unrelenting, entrepreneurial drive. LaBossiere has strong ties to political parties, to the extent that he even ran for his local PC leadership in 2015. LaBossiere is also heavily involved with innovation growth and has spent the last two decades as a business and a community leader as the Chairman of the board of Directors for Startup Edmonton and the founding chair of Make Something Edmonton. LaBossiere’s ties to government, to his community and to political decision-makers have likely benefited Yardstick and allowed them to recognize and be more responsive to new opportunities as they arise.