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.

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.

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.