On Failure and Following Through

About a year ago I had an idea brewing in my head. Get rid of paper road cards and replace them with a system better than the current scanner tech on the market. I’ve sat through countless college fairs as a student and alumni representative of my alma mater—students hate them. It’s not a secret. I have also probably entered thousands of road cards as a student employee. I hate them. And so, I thought there had to be a better way.

I’ve got a serious passion for higher education enrollment management. I love marketing. I have an MBA. What better way to combine these things than by creating a business product that solves a problem in the higher education industry?

So I went about building a team. As a team, we went about creating detailed financial models, extensive technical specifications, and exhaustive marketing analyses. We met with institutions and school counselors in person, online, and over the phone. We got lots of feedback but one overwhelming response kept coming in: this is fantastic.

And so we entered a business competition because we needed some money to hire a developer. And also, why not enter a business competition?

Well. We lost. Like, didn’t-make-it-to-the-second-round kind of loss.

And six months later I’m here--finally okay with the fact that we lost--writing about it.

After we lost, the reality of losing really set in. I didn’t know how to respond, personally. The product sat in a state of stagnation for the entire summer. Sure, we still had some great conversations with schools and reps and continued to refine our pitches to always be prepared for that random angel to give us a call. But I personally struggled with how to move the company forward.

As I come up on the date when the idea first hit me, I’m reminded that this setback will be the first of many. A strong competitor will enter the marketplace. Development will be delayed. The team will change. The idea will evolve.

That’s the business of starting something. But the real business is following through.

Over the past three years I’ve made significant connections on both the institutional and corporate side of this industry. As leadpath moves into its next phase with renewed energy, I just want to extend thanks to everyone who has offered advice along the way, whether it was business strategy, product development, or simply allowing me to ping you with a million questions. It meant—and means—a ton and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

And if version 3.0 doesn’t come to fruition in the way I hope, well, I suppose I’ll just keep following through.

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.

Digitally Driven Admissions & Data

I’m particularly excited for this week’s #EMchat because it centers on one of the things I love most, modernization and leaning forward.

In the last decade, the enrollment management world has seen a massive shift toward a serious focus on data. As admissions is the starting point for students in the college search, it really makes sense that this portion of the industry is blazing the digital path for all higher education to get on board. That’s not to say that other parts of the higher ed world aren’t on board with data and digital, it’s just my opinion that admissions leads the pack.

And to dissuade anyone from posting that I don’t know what I’m talking about because MOOCs are leading the digital advance of higher ed, my previous post makes it pretty clear that MOOCs (once again, in my opinion) are only a fraction of the #edtech movement.

This week we’ll be talking all things digital.

But, to get us started.....

[polldaddy poll=7955919]