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.

Vendor.

I’m a vendor. I don’t work in the education space, although I’ve been a vendor there as well. I support a client, the US Senate, and while I’m not selling a physical product, I am selling a product, the quality of my work.

I work on a team of vendors and full-time Senate employees. I’m lucky because there is zero distinction on my team between us and we’re all treated as equals. Our ideas, our work, and our friendships—all equal.

But, I’ve also been on the other side, where the relationship sucks and I’m not appreciated. I once ran a meeting where a client refused to look at me, speak directly to me, or even recognize my presence when entering and exiting the room. In my own defense (while not necessary), I am wildly personable. I handled the meeting with a smile.

I’ve seen a decent number of tweets over the last two years (always heightened around the time of conferences) that basically hate on vendors. Higher education is infamous for snark. It’s filled with tons of ridiculously smart people and Twitter presents the perfect avenue for short, witty, insensitive comments, especially because individuals are able to hide behind an avatar and a keyboard.

As a current outsider to the industry (and, like energy, food, and media, higher education is an industry), I’d like to remind you that a “vendor” is also a person.

Vendors make cold calls and warm calls. EM pros make cold calls and warm calls. Vendors give presentations and tours of products. EM pros give presentations and tours of institutions. We all know that the vendor/client relationship in higher education is symbiotic, whether you want to admit it or not. What is forgotten is that the relationship is also parallel, just on different planes. Vendors pitch to clients. Clients pitch to students. "But they're [sometimes] so obnoxious!" you say. Thought: if you can't cope with [sometimes] obnoxious, you're in the wrong field. I can think of a very large group of individuals that provide the foundation of higher education--teenagers. And in reverse, I bet some teenagers think the exact same thing of [sometimes] you.

The #EMchat community is made up of a phenomenal mix of VPs of EM, Directors of Admissions, all the way down to fresh admissions counselors. It’s also made up of an eclectic mix of companies, non-profit organizations, independent consultants, students, and individuals who are looking to jump into the field. I’m proud that this community respects one another; I would have made my exit if it didn’t.

As everyone heads off to Toronto this week, carry this post in your mind. When you see an eye roll, hear a scoff, or simply witness someone being rude, toss a friendly reminder that we’re in the business of relationships—all of us.

And, no one ever complains about the ridiculously sweet parties and giveaways. Don’t forget that, either.