My 1 Motivator -- The End Goal

After my recent post on pushing through failure, I received some really positive feedback from the higher ed community to continue pushing through—and thanks a ton for that!

I also received a few messages and emails asking what it is that makes me want to push through. Where did the motivation come from? How do you pull yourself out of a failed attempt? To clarify, my startup itself didn’t fail. Has it taken off fully? Nope. But the failure I discussed was a huge setback in my race to launch.

Layout 1So to answer your question regarding what pulled me through my failure directly, Anthony, Jen, Christina, Jordan, and the random email I got that I tried responding directly to but couldn’t for some reason (whoever you are)—my startup is simply a step toward a larger end goal. Looking at it as a step in my career path rather than a career in itself allowed--allows--me to focus on the big picture. Of course, it took me a few months to actually realize this.

What’s my big picture? First impressions. That’s pretty vague, but that’s it.

In a not-so-humble-brag-kind-of-way (mostly because humble brags are actually more of a brag than a regular brag), relationships are my thing. Some people are good at accounting. Some are good at sports. Some can build the hell out of a house. I understand people. Really well. I’m also like a human CRM. I can have one conversation with a person and tell you a year later exactly what we talked about and connect them to a totally unrelated person based on a random commonality. In the end, all relationships start (obviously) with the first impression and the ability to manage that.

For many students, the college fair is that initial person-to-person impression that a prospective student has with an institution. leadpath works to improve a small piece of the puzzle. It’s a step. Other first impressions are ads, campus visits, or a simple phone call with a current student doing an admissions phone-a-thon. My big picture is to consult with institutions to improve first impressions—to make this process easier with technology and training. Each strategy is unique and each institution requires a different approach.  The challenges are incredible and something that I look forward to.

The business competition was a failure, for sure. But it was only a failure in the sense that we didn’t walk away with $50K. We did walk away with really refined pitches. We walked away with over 70 conversations with institutions spanning the education spectrum. We walked away with input from a couple hundred individuals who took the time to help guide the build out. We walked away with a ton of knowledge. And for my big picture, those things are worth significantly more than the initial $50K.

If you get discouraged with a paper, a project, a business venture, or some other personal challenge, it’s easier channel your disappointment into motivation when looking at the bigger picture, the end goal.

Also, I'm a big Stephen Covey fan. His book on The 7 Effective Habits of Highly Effective People was written two years after I was born and I have read it a number of times. It's every bit as true as the day it was published.

Gardens, Growth, and Summer Melt

In addition to the projects like #EMchat, leadpath, and you know, being a new dad, I’ve taken on a new project this summer: turning my patio into a patio farm. I’m about as extroverted as a person can be, but even I need to kick back and take some personal time for 30 minutes each day. My favorite time to do this is at dusk with a good summer brew.

I started my vegetable garden because I’m a vegetable fanatic. Mostly, I’m a food fanatic. But vegetables take the number two spot on my list (crabs win, hands down). My Poppop was a farmer. He grew wheat, soybeans, and corn. And while that filled up a few hundred acres, some of my earliest memories were walking with him in his garden, picking fresh vegetables and fruits to take back to my Gram who would clean, cut, cook, and serve them.

There’s an obvious sense of pride that comes from watching something grow; something that comes from an idea, has to be cultivated, tended to, and refined. I think about this when I’m out there each night watering and caring for the plants. And while I’m there checking on the number of cucumbers growing (something I’m a little obsessive over) or noticing a new tomato that seemingly grew during the day when I wasn’t home, I’m also drawing parallels to all aspects of my life.

garden

I like to think of my life in a perpetual stage of growth, as I’m sure most people do. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. There are always things to learn and people to meet. And when it comes to people, I’m a cultivator of relationships.

That’s the business of enrollment management.

When I found myself using my garden as a metaphor for higher education, I thought two things: 1) this is really cliché, and 2) I’m supposed to be unplugged and focusing on training the snap peas. But then I just let the thoughts happen. I’m glad I did.

I don’t want a garden that only has squash. I don’t want one type of tomato. I want vegetables that require space. I also want those that can be grown in close quarters. I want the challenge of using support apparatuses (specifically chose not to use the word cage, here J), or figuring out how the plants can make use of the space already available. I don’t want my garden to self-maintain. I want to prune and pluck and refine. I want the challenge of helping my garden to thrive while allowing it to nourish my hunger, both physical and mental.

All of the parallels are there for building a class of students that will not only show up in August, but succeed on your campuses. Melt is an inevitable fact of the summer months and now isn’t the time to stop cultivating the soil. Focus on the foundation of the relationships you’ve built over the last few months and keep them going. My summer garden will end in early October. Yours has about four years to go.

And if you’re looking for some tips on how to combat summer melt, there’s always this.

Communicating and Communicating Well.

Last night I had the opportunity to read this article from Gil Rogers. I liked it from the second I read the title: “Right Message. Right Time. Right Channel.” If you haven’t read it, the post is about ensuring that your communication strategy aligns with said title and pulls on the stats from the recently released State of College Admissions Report.

Here’s what resonated with me most from it:

"The reality is that at the end of the recruitment cycle when you report to your Vice President why you did not achieve your enrollment goals, not that many people get fired for buying more names. That’s because buying more names is the norm. It’s the traditional way of squeezing a little more water out of the rock to boost selectivity by getting a few more applications. One could argue that if you had invested your resources more wisely up front, you wouldn’t be in such a tough position come reporting time."

Gil’s right. Buying more names is the norm. And, some companies that pull those lists together are able to do a fantastic job at providing a highly targeted list that will give you a decent return. Some of those companies are also very expensive.

So how can institutions invest their resources more wisely up front? And, what are we considering when we use the term “resource?” Every fall, admissions reps hit the ground and offices allocate both human and financial capital to make this happen. Road warriors are the “up front” of admissions. Each year, strategic EM’ers map out travel plans that they believe will net them the greatest ROI.

The main events during travel season are college fairs. They offer the chance to meet some amazing prospective students (and some not-so-much, to be fair), interact with school counselors, and build relationships that will hopefully turn into applications. Aside from the conversations at the tables, after a college fair, communication with students, counselors, and families pretty much comes to a halt...for weeks…months. Data has to be brought back to the institution and manually uploaded before targeted communications actually commence. Missed opportunities doesn't even begin to sum it up.

But, what if you could upload student data immediately (virtually), avoiding the road card fiasco, and not worry about having to begin a conversation with prospects all over again. You’d simply continue the conversation. You’d leave a stronger impression. You‘d get more leads and because of enhanced efficiency in the data collection and evaluation process, end up with higher quality ones as well. What’s better is that the product that affords you higher quality communications also provides benefits to those on the other side as well—the ones who the college search process is really about. Students. We know students can't (and shouldn't) do it alone, so we're including school counselors in the mix, too.

And that’s about all I can say.

Excited to hear about your college fair experiences this Thursday at 9PM ET! And, if this post piqued your interest at all, let’s chat.

Focus Groups - College Fairs

Oh, Alex is talking about scanner technology again at college fairs. What gives?

Hoping to have that answer for you soon.

BUT...

ImageIf you are an admissions pro, high school counselor, college fair organizer, or prospective college student, I'd love to talk to you about college fairs and your experiences. If you've used scanner technology, super. If you haven't that's cool, too.

I'll be putting together a few focused (on each population above) online focus groups in January and I'm looking for participants.

Please share my email -- alex@emchat.net -- with your peers, students, and anyone else you think could have something to add.

Will I supply a pizza and beverages? No, but you're welcome to bring them and show everyone how delicious they are via webcam. Please mute during eating.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Alex