NWA Entrepreneur Swings for 'Grand Slam' in Professional Development

Adam Arroyos has held executive leadership positions in northwest Arkansas for companies and organizations including Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Northwest Arkansas Community College and the Donald W. Reynolds Boys & Girls Clubs. 

His experience in the retail and nonprofit industries taught him that learning and development opportunities in both were lacking. He studied research that indicated a growing percentage of employees were claiming to be disengaged in the workplace.

"It was clear that innovation was needed in how we as an industry developed our people," he said. "I also learned that we as individuals have a tendency to limit our professional development to the learning that comes from doing our jobs. We don't spend enough time engaging in other experiential learning opportunities that would help us expand our learning and develop critical soft skills such as communications, public speaking, critical thinking, judgment making and collaboration. These soft skills are best learned through experiential learning and are essential in growing and scaling one's leadership and performance."

Thus was born Fayetteville's Grandslam Performance Associates in October 2012. The Innovate Arkansas client firm launched the online tool Serve2Perform.com, where users can network and connect to skills training and other learning-development opportunities.

"This online tool is unique in that its members are both the student and the teacher, which engages each member to contribute to the menu of learning opportunities offered," Arroyos said. "All skills development opportunities are facilitated by the members themselves."

Arroyos chose the firm's name based on the significance of baseball's "grand slam."

"As you know, to hit a grand slam, you first need to load the bases and then you need to bring them all in to score," he said. "The result is an energized team with a greater return on investment for the team. When thinking of a name for my company, I felt that grand slam perfectly described the mission of our organization, which is to help individuals grow their capability of accelerating and elevating their performance by investing and growing the performance of those around them."

Arroyos refers to that capability as an employee's PerformanceGPA, or Grandslam Performance Aptitude.

"Throughout my career, I've heard folks challenge others in the workplace to 'hit a homerun,' and at GPA, we believe we should challenge others to 'hit a grand slam' instead," he said.

Corporations have taken notice. GPA's client list includes Wal-Mart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the EngageNWA Partnership, Corning, Del Monte and Softtek.

GPA is more comprehensive than other talent-development solutions such as LinkedIn, Arroyos said.

"The Serve2Perform platform was designed to address multiple talent-development solutions such as employee on-boarding, learning and development, soft skills development, leadership development, succession planning, employee engagement and relationship management," he said. "This comprehensive offering coupled with our peer-to-peer learning approach differentiates us by design, outcomes and price, and positions us to lead in the marketplace."

Users can register in areas devoted to career mentors, leadership development coaches, life coaches, internships, learning modules, ideation sessions, affinity groups, public speaking coaches and team development.

"For example, if I am looking to learn a skill, I would search for the skill in the 'find a skill' page," Arroyos said. "Once I make my selection, I would register for the skill and connect with the member who is looking to practice the skill to initiate our interaction. If I'm looking to practice skills, I would submit a skill to practice via the 'practice a skill' page. Once I complete the form and indicate whether I want to practice my skill in person or remotely via phone and/or GoToMeeting.com, I click on submit and it gets posted on the skills page."

Users also can recommend colleagues and, of course, complete a proprietary PerformanceGPA assessment.

Arroyos believes his platform moves the HR/talent-development industry forward in the following ways: social networking to social learning, facilitator-led training to peer-to-peer learning, learning management to learning agility, company-driven learning to employee-driven learning and vertical solutions to integrated solutions.

Currently, GPA serves members representing more than 90 companies in 30-plus states and 10 countries and is completing its first round of funding, which Arroyos expects to complete by the end of March. His post-funding plan is to expand his team of four full-time employees to nine this year and 12 by 2015.

"We've been in discussions with some great investment firms and venture capitalists," he said.

Plus, GPA's northwest Arkansas base comes with some built-in advantages.

"It's a huge advantage due to the steadfast commitment of our large companies such as Wal-Mart, J.B. Hunt and Tyson to support startups by serving as mentors, engaging them as partners and providing them with opportunities to support their business goals and objectives," Arroyos said. "Further, I couldn't have picked a better place to launch GPA given our region's long-standing history of leading the way in altruism and entrepreneurship. Our Grandslam Performance framework and technology have been well received and embraced."