Game Changer: Jeremy Frohlich, COO, LRDG – Language Research Development Group
Jeremy Frohlich is one of our Game Changers for February/March 2024 and the COO of LRDG – Language Research Development Group. At LRDG, a family business, Jeremy has been able to seamlessly blend his love for languages and cultures with a decade-long tenure in the company. After briefly stepping away for 2.5 years to explore broader horizons, he returned in 2020 as COO, determined to modernize operations while honoring his family’s legacy.
Jeremy, with a background in sales, has transitioned into a leadership role that embodies the ethos of evolution. Set to officially take the reins in 2024, his journey epitomizes a commitment to marrying tradition with innovation. Learn about his visions for the future for himself and for LRDG.
How did you start out in this industry and how has it brought you to where you are today?
LRDG is my family business. Outside of that I always loved languages (speaking 4) and travelling + learning of the cultures of the world. Working in the business after graduating from business school was a no brainer. 10 years later, after leaving the business temporarily for 2.5 years, LRDG is succession planning with Jeremy set to take over officially in 2024. Jeremy’s early passion was in sales and business development, but it’s been the most challenging and fulfilling pivot into management and leadership – and keeping the important family DNA that brought us here, while modernizing and improving the business around it.
What is your role at your organization today?
I was named COO (Chief Operating Officer) in early 2023. In the next 9-12 months I’ll be CEO, but it’s not yet written in stone.
What was your most challenging moment?
My most challenging moment is a combination of factors over 2023. While already experiencing significant growth (and growing pains) over COVID, LRDG secured its national master standing offer and needed to hire numerous resources and invest heavily into almost all parts of the business to be ready and it’s all been quite challenging keeping our heads above water. I also had my first kid in the summer of 2023. Every month is a record month with new challenges to learn and work out, all while trying to be the best leader and new dad possible.
What was your A-HA moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our readers?
A-HA moment: It’s over 5 years the government started talking about a new form of standing offer, to replace the older ones in place for a while. This took years of consultations with industry, writing and re-writing tenders, whereby we were always told LRDG was the only supplier that would be able to comply, and that in itself was not how the Government wanted to do it. It was delayed and redone several times, in an effort to be as fair and competitive. Today LRDG is the only supplier in the world, compliant with the 100+ pages of regulations and requirements on Canada’s National Master Standing Offer for Virtual Language Training. It’s an unbelievable feeling and huge honour and I couldn’t be prouder of what we built, what my father started 20 years ago.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
What fires me up is helping people see the light and get new hope. Some of our learners have tried to learn French for a decade or more, taking their respective tests up to 2 dozen times and still yet to pass. It’s become extremely nerve-wracking stressful and anxiety inducing for them, and they often want to give up. They’re not always supported by their departments or have access to funding or quality service providers, and every department does language training differently. LRDG can help departments of any size, and individual employees directly. It’s the same service and tutoring, it’s simply the budget and approval process that can be worked through depending on the individual employee’s circumstances. It’s nice to be able to help and give new hope to employees to actually have fun learning a second language and continue to plan for their career progression without feeling held back. Canada can be a beautiful place, with two official languages and communities working side by side, and there really is a way to embrace that without letting us stop us.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
Habit that contributes to my success: Honesty and looking to serve. I’ve always been transparent and honest, even sometimes when I shouldn’t. It’s how I live my life and conduct myself day to day and it’s served me well until now. I also try to help wherever possible. Help those around us, employees, clients, suppliers, and the rest falls into place. The two habits together are my foundation for business, and life.
What is your parting piece of advice?
Parting piece of advice: Not to be scared to challenge the status quo. This doesn’t mean anarchy or disrupt everything for the sake of it, but sometimes large scale systems can be modified or adapted to better serve the needs of individuals within. Language training is obviously a good example of it. Enterprise Solutions are picked to serve the needs of many but can be adjusted to better serve individuals
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
Elon Musk (Tesla, Space X, etc) maybe not everybody’s favourite leader or business personality, but in terms of embodying innovation, there’s probably no better example. He’s reinventing the way these industries and technologies work, and of course the market opportunities.
How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
LRDG has been changing the way the Government of Canada learns English and French from day 1 (2002). Rather than traditional teaching, typically done in classrooms using a “one-size fits all” approach focused on theory and vocabulary, LRDG’s model is more personalized and flexible, focused on oral interaction and linguistic mastery. Each user has their own starting point, learning objectives, schedule, training frequency, and of course learning habits. Therefore, the training model must match. We use an online curriculum and LMS to assess each learner and provide a custom course plan to achieve their objectives within their budget and frequency. Behind the scenes we have account managers and pedagogical experts to monitor the learner’s results and progress and ensure they’re progressing according to their plan, or adjustments can be made. The use of learning technologies has brought in important elements of data security, digital accessibility, gamification, and most recently a brand new more modern and mobile learning interface. LRDG’s learning platform, online tutoring, and blended learning methodology is in use across almost every Canadian government department and they’ve recently been awarded a brand-new National Master Standing Offer for Virtual Language Training. The first of its kind and awarded to LRDG exclusively.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
Some of the impediment to innovation are due to the nature of our government contracting requirements. While this ensures competitiveness, fairness, and of course quality assurance of provider, it places some restrictions on the adaptation and technology integrations that can be made in our service delivery, e.g., AI, digital accessibility. Additionally, all our resources and service providers need to reside within Canada due to Data privacy requirements. Compliance is crucial to secure contracts and funding, and these give LRDG huge competitive advantages and protection against international competition, but of course it limits the access to resources that could potentially be used to make the product and service better. Another impediment is the nature of the language context (SLE) in which we operate. The endgame is simply to “pass the test” and obtain the required bilingualism designation, not always to take training that promises to go over and beyond and master the language to live and work in your second language. LRDG has done well to succeed within the confines of both the Canadian Government Official Language Context (SLE) and the specific contractual obligations within, having secured numerous tenders of all sorts, e.g., RFPs, ACANs, and Supply Arrangements and Standing Offers.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Innovation is actually one of LRDG’s values, embedded in our DNA. LRDG also has Research & Development in our name, having secured important SRED funding from the government for many years. We are constantly looking to improve the user experience and learner journey through LRDG. We’ve brought in pedagogical expertise, UX experts, mobile and gamification experts, and many more. We’ve brought our learning curriculum from CD to DVD and now to a fully online LMS and Portal – to provide a complete turnkey learning management solution for tutors, government employees and their managers + procurement personnel.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?
AI is of course everywhere and will likely have some of the biggest impact inside and out of our industry. It’s both an incredible opportunity and challenge to navigate. It can help augment the learning experience ten-fold, help supplement and scale quality services to more learners, but can be a major challenge and distraction if not done carefully and deliberately. It’s important not to jump in too quickly especially in more regulated, safer industries like public sector education.