Book of the Month—January 2019

Written by Elizabeth Graham on January 14, 2019

Editor’s note: Every month, we interview different authors who have valuable insights that are relevant to professionals within the association industry. From widely varying perspectives and specializations, we hope to provide our dedicated audience with quality reading to continue fostering growth and inspiration!

Competitive Advantage: Create Continuing Education That Is Profitable, Sustainable, and Impactful by Tracy King, MA, CAE

Workforce development has grown to an approximately $160 billion dollar business in North America and $355 billion worldwide.

On one hand this is great news because employers are seeing the value in funding professional development—but it also results in a deep and complex competitive market. Professionals have an ecology of continuing education options which is highly disruptive to any organization hoping to be a one-stop-shop or the premiere source of xyz. Unlimited access to content has engendered new requirements to successfully compete in this environment. Presently, a large majority of associations do not have an education strategy. This means one of the largest contributors to their budget and organization’s mission is not functioning at its highest capacity.

In her book, Tracy King talks about how workforce disruptions, new technologies, and tight budgets place enormous pressure on professional association continuing education teams. Old learning formats and pricing models are failing. The risk of irrelevance is imminent as competitors step into the market creating targeted learning programs faster and cheaper.​

Her desired outcome is to see associations become strategic in how they deliver education to advance the workforce they represent, and to see a commitment to learning design to improve the promised results. Tracy King shares a proven blueprint that drives results and ensures you will learn:

Competitive Advantage is for decision makers, learning professionals and association CEOs who see the shifting landscape, who realize the market is competitive and deeply desire to pivot from reactionary tactics to strategic intention to maintain their edge. It’s for association professionals who want to quickly come up to speed on the business of learning as well as the key investments they must make to differentiate their programs from competitors. It’s for those who are asking: “What investments should be made with a limited budget to get the needed sustainable results? What’s required to advance your competitive advantage?” Although these shifts may feel mysterious and potentially overwhelming, Tracy offers a systematic approach on the business of learning that makes perfect sense!

  • The kernel truths workforce disruptions reveal about how to position your learning programs in your market.
  • Common mistakes associations make managing their learning portfolio.
  • Key investments that will differentiate your programs from competitors.
  • Partnership opportunities that result in passive revenue streams.
  • And the elements of an education strategy that will future proof your association.
  • Bonus: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your continuing education business with Tracy’s powerful diagnostic Scorecard

After witnessing the corporate training, academic, and professional association sides of workforce development throughout her career, Tracy points out there is a convergence underway. Powerful sources of career development are offering innovative new ways to solve larger workforce development issues, but becoming part of that conversation requires strategic positioning and business acumen. It’s no longer sustainable to just offer a collection of events—employers and individual professionals are requiring outcomes (results!) which means we have to actually offer learning experiences.

Tracy has over 20 years experience in adult education and says “I touch on the complex feelings we in the association CE industry have around our programs—we have a heart for our members and we want to create programs that make a difference (and a profit), but we feel stretched so thin and trapped in a reactive cycle that doesn’t leave energy for pausing, reflecting, and laying out a comprehensive strategy. Even though we know we must. Even though the board is holding us accountable for results and continued growth. It can feel hopeless. What I hope this book achieves is to say, “Hey - I see you (I’ve been you!) and it’s not hopeless. Here’s a roadmap to getting where you want to go both as business and an industry champion.”

To learn more about Tracy King and her company InspirEd, visit, and for more on Competitive Advantage: Create Continuing Education That Is Profitable, Sustainable, and Impactful, visit for a limited time free copy or Click here to get the Kindle format! Competitive Advantage will hit bookstores October 1, 2019.