It’s not good. period. I should probably start by telling you what I think of as a corporation: 1) Sign offs 2) “strategic plans” that cannot be altered in a moment’s notice 3) High level executives who want to ‘stick with what they know’.
In my first start up, we went completely outside the box and did things that had never been done before. We didn’t listen to other people’s opinions, but like the book BLINK says, we went with our gut…and we got it right. We had belief in our product (leads), we were able to sell our product, and our CEO / COO that ran the marketing component of our business were not limited by norms. To be more precise, they went against the norms. We ended up with two things: 1) Profitability in under one year 2) A new business model for our industry. If we had been running our business trying to stick with what we knew, not changing or testing things on the ‘fly’, and not listening to the younger / less experienced folks in our organization, none of this would have occurred.
Taking “C” level executives from the corporate world and throwing them into a start up business is not a good thing unless there is balance. If you have 3 “C” level or “VP” level employees from ‘corporate’, they should be balanced by those of us who have succeeded in the ‘start up’ world. There is a reason the same people are successful in start ups again and again and again; they have great business instincts, have no fear, and are tenacious. When they try something that is “outside of the box”, they’re going to do whatever it takes to make it work. They’re out to prove their model. In many companies, they would likely be defined as “rebels” as they may be superstars, but many of their ideas are viewed as outrageous.
Start up people need freedom. They need freedom to make decisions and freedom to act on decisions within a short time frame. Not everything must be laid out in a “plan”. If something works, SCALE IT…and scale it immediately before your competitor does.
Where did this come from? Many companies I work with have solid products…not disruptive technology and neither are all business models different, but the products can certainly beat out that of their competitors. Most have high level executives who come from ‘corporate’ backgrounds; certainly brilliant and experienced in their respective areas, but ‘corporate’ nonetheless. At times, I’m hired to consult in one area that I’ve had immense success in; marketing for higher education. Under the marketing umbrella, many times I’m hired to execute on ONE aspect of that strategic marketing plan. I attempted to remain focused on that specific ‘goal’ and as I’m was executing, it becomes apparent that there are secondary strategies needed to supplement what I was doing. It’s low risk / low cost. I put it out there for the companies to evaluate. Response, “We’ll think about it”…and you could tell the companies weren’t ‘really’ going to think about it. Think about it? 1) Who thinks about anything in a start up? Think about it for 5-10 minutes maybe…and get back to me with an answer. It would be less than a $2K test. I wanted to say, “if it doesn’t work, take it off my paycheck…” but surprisingly keep my mouth shut. 2) DATA. Past data from the same exact type of campaign shows that my ‘gut’ instinct was correct. I guess I should have sat down and made a formal “business case” for what I wanted to do, but it’s a start up – who has the time?
Anyways, as a consultant – even if hired to focus on 1 area of the business…I consider it my “job” to advise on other parts as well. I don’t mind being told, “No”, if there’s a good reason…but for a cheap test, that’s 100% scalable, and historical data proves it works…I don’t want a “No” or an “I’ll think about it”. I want a “Go for it” – like a start up company with a “start up” executive team would do.
I’ve spent the past eight years promoting higher education, specifically higher education online; during which time I had gotten certified in project management and taken a few graduate level business courses. I had originally taken online courses so I would “know what I was selling and marketing”. I’ve been vacillating for the past few years about going back to school online to get certified in six sigma, but never “just did it”….until last week.
Last week I enrolled for Villanova’s Online Six Sigma program through University Alliance (some of you may know as Bisk Education). Having worked in this industry for years, I liked the quality of their program, their delivery method, LMS, and they had a great admissions representative; Pricing was definitely fair, books included, etc.
I received my books on Monday and almost had a heart attack. I’ve spent my career ensuring students do not only enroll. but more importantly START and GRADUATE from their online university…Students have always called or emailed the first day of classes or after they receive their books wanting to DROP and I have always calmed them down. Well, it was time for ME to calm down. I went back to my first year in “admissions” and pulled out an old email I used to send students that said, “Don’t freak out! You’re going to be nervous to go back to school; you’re supposed to be. Everyone is feeling the same thing”. I didn’t 100% feel better, but a little bit.
Now that I’ve taken the time to peruse the six sigma book(s), it’s actually not bad…and the ‘words’ and ‘language’ that had intimidated me on my first day were all abbreviations for something I already knew (or knew how to do). It was interesting though – having the same feeling I’ve been talking students out of having for years.
Everything comes full circle, right?
After writing my last post I had several great comments showing me that 1) I did not delve into the actual performance model, but more so the overall business model 2) I didn’t give any helpful examples 3) I didn’t speak about the variables that are needed for success 4) I didn’t say why this pricing model would work; so to continue on my past posting.
I contend that consultants that utilize a ‘pay for performance’ model are more likely to get and retain clients as well as make more money.
Reasons this model works:
1. Client is taking on little of the risk – more likely to give you the business
2. You can charge more money on the backend of a consulting ‘gig’ than you can if you charge up front as you are taking all of the risk.
3. Long Term, there is a higher likelihood of people coming back to you for jobs as they like the model of taking minimal risk. You also may be able to get signed on a retainer because businesses like people who are confident and have made them money in the past.
4. You can also set up pay for performance deals ‘long term’. So, instead of getting paid 1 lump sum, you can get paid a percentage of revenue from your project or product every month for a year, 2 years, etc.
4. By taking on the risk, you are showing the client you are confident in your abilities.
In my experience, the variable(s) critical to success are 1) Knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know; this model alleviates you taking on projects you cannot complete successfully, however it also affords you the opportunity to refer the ‘right’ person. Instead of taking a commission or money for your referral, you can go through the process or project with the person you have referred it to – therefore expanding your skill set and learning. 2) Knowing your industry 3) Experience. If you know your industry, have had numerous experiences, and have a stand out skill set, this will likely be a good pricing model for you.
As noted from other comments, there will inevitably be variables that impact your success. These variables change dependent on the business, however this is where experience comes into play. If you have done similar projects, you know what obstacles may come your way and can account for those obstacles when building out your contract, pricing model, and / or plan.
Examples of “Pay For Performance” consulting:
Business Development Consultant (easiest):
A company brings you on to consult in bringing them more partnerships, vendors, or clients. You can structure your payment plan so that you only get paid “if” you bring on a partner. This is analogous to a broker’s fee and can be set up in a few different ways depending on the situation. The easiest way is to get a ‘finders fee’. In my arena, I typically set up larger deals by which partner companies are purchasing from the client. I get paid 10% of total revenue for a year post the deal going live.
Training / Performance Improvement Consultant:
When you first speak with a company, you will need to see their metrics. For example, if you are wanting to work in ‘sales training’, when you go in – the current metrics are at 5% lead to close. Before you put together your proposal, you will need an assessment day (possibly more) where you listen to the current sales pitches, review any content / scripts, etc. You can then assess (based on your experience) how much you can increase the sales conversion rate as well as how that will affect the business overall. This is how you arrive at your pricing. So, if you are working in higher education online and you go to a company that has a 2% conversion rate – and you assess that you can bring it to 2.2%. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you look at the average lead cost ($30), your cost per acquisition on 2% is $1500; while your cost per acquisition on 2.2% is about $1360. If a higher education institution enrolls (sells) 10,000 students per month and you are able to raise that 2% to 2.2%, you have saved the company $1.4 million dollars in just 1 month or about $17 million per year. The way I would be paid in this situation, I would ask for $50 for each enrollment (or sale) that closes at over 2.1%. You could also just give a flat price / tiered pricing like…If conversion for the month = 2.1%, you get $15,000. If 2.2%, $30,000, etc.
To Be Continued Later This EVE
When I stopped working FT a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what direction I was going. Three schools of thought: 1) Start my own company. 2) Be a consultant 3) Get another job.
I knew I didn’t want another FT job (at least not right away) as I’m a ‘start up ‘ junkie. I like to build businesses, departments, strategies, and ideas…and then take from conception to “LIVE”; and make them profitable. So that left me with either my own business or consulting. I realized, the two did not need be mutually exclusive. So, while building a business plan, I’ve been consulting and contracting. As higher education, specifically online higher education, is an incestuous industry; as soon as word got out, the phone calls and requests came in. It seemed that this would be easier than I thought – at first.
I quickly realized that to be successful in consulting, to be referred, and to work with numerous clients, it would take a lot more than a great past track record. It would take patience (something I don’t have much of), discipline to NOT take every job offered, and more so, this was yet another great experience where I was learning to ‘check my ego at the door’. In return, and the reason I love consulting, I was learning just as much from clients as they were learning from me. I quickly took the revenue driving sales and marketing strategies I had employed in higher ed and took them across numerous verticals.
So, why do some consultants make it? Why are there some of us that get repeat business while others may spend weeks or months marketing themselves and get nothing? Very simple answer: PAY PER PERFORMANCE CONSULTING.
So how does that work? Well, it depends on what you’re consulting on. However – there is one thing we can agree on: companies would rather YOU take the risk than them. We can also agree that if a consultant came to me and said, “I’m so confident in the strategy I lay out for you that you only have to pay me if I execute on it and execute well enough to hit the revenue goals you have set forth”. Why would a company EVER say NO? I know I wouldn’t. There are, however, many of us, that do need that “month to month” paycheck. You can look at this in 2 ways: 1) You can map out your beginning projects as if you are in a start up company. So, you map out your consulting KNOWING you will be “in the red” for 3 months; or until your projects start ‘making you money’. Who better to make an investment in than yourself? 2) You can charge a ‘small’ up front fee…maybe “min. wage” per hour…and get most of your money on the back end while still having money to live on the front end. Every project or consulting assignment is different, however by being paid on performance, you are not only showing your confidence, you are also ensuring yourself you will not take on anything you cannot handle OR if you do choose to take on something you cannot handle, you will make certain that you partner up with one of the best in the industry to learn.
It’s very simple in sales / marketing to set goals and only be paid if the goals are obtained, but what about other industries that have a large number of consultants or companies vying for the same business. Broken down below are 5 areas where I see a lot of consulting and how you can structure your pay on a performance basis.
1. Web Design / Development
- May be held accountable for a) web stats b) number of sales on site c) stickiness of site
2. Free lance copyrighting
- May be held accountable for a) Amount of time user spends on page b) Drop off rate c) CTR
3. Career Coaching
- May be held accountable to getting someone the job they can succeed and prosper in
4. SEO mapping / content development
- May be held accountable to page rank in “x” amount of time
I know there are many more, but these are ones I see the most often on the networks that I am on. As with anything else; if you need work, you need to take some risk. If you’re good, you’ll be rewarded. Consulting models such as this are good ol’ capitalism at its finest.
Boo Hoo. You’re out of a job. You and every one of your 9 friends. We’re all out of jobs, or we’re working for less money, or we’re not getting paid what we’re worth…or the company has cut out our spouses or our parents. Rest assured, we all know someone, most of us – someones – who have been affected by the lack of business or ‘recession’. So, when it happens to you, what will you do?
1. Most importantly; CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR
I don’t care if you’ve been a Vice President for 15 years; it’s time to work your way up again. If you were a great vice president, as good as you thought, then the jobs would have been poring in from your competitors as soon as other businesses knew you were out of work. If that didn’t happen, then it’s time to get back on the ground floor of a company and do something differently this time.
Most people look at our economy as a ‘mess’ right now; and sure, there are situations that suck and everyone’s is different. But, there is only one thing you can control; YOU – and the attitude you have. A great mentor told me, “everything is purposeful” and it is. If you look back to the hardest things you’ve gotten over in life, you’ll realize these are the times you built character.
If you need money; don’t wait for the perfect job. Check your ego at the door, take what comes your way FOR NOW while you continue to apply for other jobs.
2. SELL, SELL, SELL
If there is one skill set that will always prove useful in the business arena, that is being a salesperson. If you have experience in sales, go SELL. And don’t just sell anything. Find something you believe in and KILL IT. Be the top producer. And if you’ve never sold before, no better time to get into a large corporation where they will TRAIN you to sell. Once you can sell and market, you can work in any arena. And, if you’re good, you’ll move up quickly; especially if you have solid management experience in your past. While some businesses are slowing down, a couple of sectors have doubled in size. Advice: Get into higher education sales. The market is booming AND if you believe in education, you can sell it. The training programs at the for profit institutions are unmatched as are the opportunities for advancement. Just look at the 2 largest IPOs of the past two years; education stocks.
3. Relish the opportunity
Those who are most successful in this world have 2 things in common: 1) They know what they’re passionate about and have found a way to work with their passion. 2) They are lifelong learners. Take the time you have off to find where your passion is and GO FOR IT. Find a way to market your passion. While you’re researching your passion; learn about it and learn how others have been successful in the field you’re passionate about. This is an opportunity for YOU to find YOU. I want to go say “Thank You” to my last company as these past three months consulting have been the best I’ve ever had. It’s not only one consistent learning experience, but I choose what I do…and I only do what I’m passionate about.
Employers have had to cut costs and staff across most companies and in doing so are short handed from a resource perspective. If you have been an executive or an expert in your industry, reach out to prior contacts and offer to consult for them. Consulting is much better for an employer than a FTE. No benefits to pay, so the employer is saving about 20% by hiring you over a FTE. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; the worst your going to here is “no”; and who cares about rejection; it’s part of our everyday life.
5. Take inventory of yourself
Compare yourself to people in your position who have not lost their jobs. Compare your resume to the ‘job qualifications’ of the jobs you would like. What’s the difference? Is there anything missing? Many times these days it’s education. Use this opportunity to go back to school. I’m actually going back to get my six sigma certification. Can I afford it? Nope. But moreso, I can’t afford NOT to do it. In my area, most people have their Masters or MBA. I don’t. However, I also know myself; and I want to ensure I can be disciplined enough to work at home and go to school online; so, before jumping into a $25,000 program, I’ll take something I know will help me on my resume, something that job seekers are looking for, and something that will help me to “stand out” from the crowd.
Net / Net:
You can sit home depressed and collect unemployment; OR you can do something. I’ve decided to do something…well, some things….what will you do?
Two things I look for in every company I work with:
1. Do they executives believe in continuous learning as well as personal / professional growth AND will they aide you in your journey…
2. Is their business model, or product, something new, innovative, and / or something that the market has not seen before.
If the answer to these two questions is not “YES”, than I know this start up business is not for me. However, if the answer IS “yes”, I know that I will do anything in my power to work with, and learn from, these individuals. Even if it means working for free for a while; just to prove myself.
When I was 22 yrs old, I began working at Kaplan University, online higher education giant. However when I entered the working world, Kaplan University was called “Kaplan College”; they only offered 4 degree programs (now offer over 100 if we include specializations); and more importantly, only had 60 admissions advisors or ‘sales reps’. While it wasn’t a “pure” start up in the sense of the word, it did grow immensely over the next two years and when I moved to a ‘real’ start up, had over 1500 admissions advisors, and had grown the student base over 1000%. It was a rush to be a part of. We purchased new buildings, there was a lot of room for advancement and learning. We had access to the C level business executives, ideas were listened to; and while sure – there were bumps along the road, it was still fun to come to work everyday. Not only were we doing jobs we believed in, but there was always something “new” and “innovative” to look forward to.
About five years ago, original owner and SVP of Sales and Marketing for Kaplan University, Richard Capezzali, developed a business concept with a young man named Todd Zipper. They wanted to prove that they could execute on numerous strategies that had never been ‘done’ before. The two innovators founded Education Connection, which was at first a lead generation company, and became the first lead generation company to 1) Be agnostic 2) Develop commercials – not school specific, for themselves, 3) Develop a lead that converts at over 10% 4) Build out an advising call center. I basically stalked Richard and Todd until they brought me on as their ‘first’ employee. I was in heaven. I was working with two men; one – an expert in education sales and marketing and the other – an Ivy league MBA who taught me operations, finance, etc. and both believed that it was POSSIBLE to make the impossible possible. I learned more over the four years with these men than I could have in any MBA program.
After four years with Education Connection, my husband and I were recruited to another start up higher education company out in Dallas. While the answers to the questions above were “Yes” and the interviews were fantastic, there was a difference in this company, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. As soon as I came aboard, I was back in the “start up” mode; building and executing quickly, driving revenue, and having fun doing what I love to do: build businesses. What I realized while I was working for this company was that although they were a ‘start up’ company in that the idea was new, we were just reaching profitability, etc. all of the C level executives or business partners had worked together for 15 years. And in that 15 years, they had already developed a culture; one that was unlike a “typical” start up business; it was more like a 10 year old corporation. Not for me. That being said, because I believed (and still do) strongly believe in the mission, I stayed onboard and did what I do best: drive revenue and cut costs…
Until a few months ago.
For the past few months, I’ve been consulting with numerous marketing and education companies. Some are start ups, some are trying to devise new revenue streams, some I’m working with to build out new products…but here is what I know. I love consulting. Every ‘project’ is basically a small start up company AND I get to choose who I work with. If I don’t like a project, I “just say no” and move to the next. I’m only working with companies I believe in, working with people who are innovators and allow me to be innovative, and I’m building my skill set with every project I take on.
The first three companies I worked for, while only over a seven year time span, all played integral parts in allowing me to do what I’m doing now.
So, for those of you who are going to be out of college soon, looking for internships, a career path, a job, etc. my advice to you is to look for a start up company. You will learn and blossom quickly and it will give you the skills you need to go anywhere. You will be adaptable, wear many different hats, and know what a true “team” environment is. There are several solid sites you can check out, a great one being Start Up Digest, that will send you jobs from all over the world with start ups.
Be innovative. Work for a start up.
In every company I’ve worked for, innovation and creativity have been applauded…sort of.
Executives encourage innovation in business, but many times unless strategies comes across to the rest of the business as “their ideas”, the executives are not happy. I contend that this is one of the reasons start up businesses have become so popular amongst the younger generation. Gen Y does not hold back. They are ‘connected’, literally and figuratively, and have grown up accustomed to any information they want at their fingertips. In a corporation, if a Gen Y is sending his ego maniac boss an idea that may be big business, you can bet they have also IMed it to 10 other people too…just to ensure they get credit. I’m on the cusp of Gen Y / Gen X – but I say, “go for it Gen Y”. There is nothing that will slow down a company more than corralling innovation. Gen Y has been brought up in the world of “positive reinforcement” and whether this is monetary or a simple ‘nice work’ email, this is what we have been conditioned to recieve…and you can be sure that we will not sit back while someone else gets the “kudos”. I know I won’t.
Some companies truly do embrace their Gen Ys opinions and have taken the time to understand how to motivate and work with them. These companies currently have the largest profit margins. Apple is a great example of a company that serves the Gen Y population. While Mr. Jobs is running the company, he’s smart enough to know that the people that will “spend money on gadgets” – even if they have to steal it from their parents – should be a large part of all of his strategies.
If we look at how schools teach today; unless a student is part of a Montessori school or private school, they are following the same lesson plans everyone else is. The students in “gifted” classes may get a bit more leeway and have a bit more room to be creative, but not much. Conform, conform, conform is all students are taught. Read the information and regurgitate the information. Education, even higher education, has fallen into this trap as well.
Is it that our businesses have sprung into downplaying creativity because they are a product of our public school system?
Ken Robinson made a revolutionary speech regarding just that at TED 2006
I am reposting this entry as I received interesting feedback the last time it was posted. Making a slight tweak here and there, but content remains the same.
Higher education companies – I plead you to listen; When you hire anyone who will make decisions regarding marketing and sales, anyone who can effect the revenue of your business – get them on the phones! Every manager needs to go through admissions or enrollment services (sales) training! To be a great marketer is to KNOW your audience. To be a great marketer or businessman in the higher education industry, you first must be able to SELL education. Selling education is not the same thing as selling a stock or selling a credit card. It’s not an impulse buy or a quick sale. Selling education is selling a prospect on graduating and finishing their degree. Selling education is finding a person’s dream and then helping the potential student come to the conclusion that the only way to achieve their dream is through education. How on earth can someone manage, train, or market this if they’ve never done it? It’s a process, a long sale; sometimes a 45 minute conversation; but it’s the psychology behind the sale that every manager needs to learn. Mark my words; a “good” marketer can get away with not having been on the phones and not knowing their consumers…a great marketer – one whose goal is not only to have a low CPE, but more importantly, a high graduation rate and high net tuition revenue – will understand the psychology behind the student and will know their consumer. The best marketers in the higher education industry are those who have a thorough understanding of the sales pitch and process as well as the retention model. The more a marketer knows about every aspect of the business, the more successful they will be. AND if the marketer does not want to get on the phones, get down in the ditches, and “get their hands dirty”, they likely have too big of an ego to be successful regardless!
I woke up this morning to read a great blog post that hit home for me.
Ty Unglebower, a writer, actor, radio host, movie lover, and recent ‘connection’ blogs about the difference in Passion and Obsession.
This leads to me ask the question, “how does one know they’ve gone over the edge?”. I ask that because I was there and I hope this posting helps others to STOP before they become obsessed. Being a natural extremist, working in a booming industry like higher education, and working in a revenue driving sales and marketing position sounds like a dream to anyone in sales who would like to make money. But, when does that ‘dream’ become your life?
People talk about addictions; drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambiling, sex…but i’ve never heard of a group called “workers anonymous”. I contend that people can become as addicted to their career as anything else. The science behind addiction says the reason people become addicted is because they feel a “high”; just as anyone in sales and marketing knows – right after closing a deal, you feel a “high” as well. We know that drugs and alcohol elicit 2-10 times more dopamine in the brain than normal (dopamine makes you happy); hence people getting addicted…gamblers, for example, have the same reaction when they win a bet; the dopamine takes over and they feel a ‘high’; working, especially in sales, can elicit the same response.
5 things I should have recognized but didn’t…and went over the edge.
1. Waking up in the middle of the night and immediately getting on the computer.
2. Refusing to take vacation time
3. Forgetting to eat or only eating at the office
4. Mood is always dependent on how work day went
5. Prioritizing work before family and friends
If you experience any of this, pull back now. I don’t regret my decisions in that I love the life I lead now, but I do wish I had been more aware at the time so I could have made a conscious decision how I wanted to live my life versus letting the business dictate how I would live my life.
If you are sales and marketing in any business, there is a large chance that you have either spoken with an education advisor who has reported to me or I have collected your information at some time. As the online higher education industry is booming, student information is coming from millions of sources and likelihood is you have filled something out at one time or another over the last 7 years that has gone back to a school. If you are in sales and marketing and have not spoken with an education advisor in the higher education arena, please do so. The sales pitches of the advisors who are ‘decent’ will certainly make you think about going back to school.
My question then; WHY are people who sell education – from advisors all the way to the CEO’s – not back in school? We know they don’t all have their Ph.D.s, many don’t have Masters, and about half don’t even have a bachelors degree. In my opinion, selling education without a degree is analogous to me walking into the Gap and the saleswoman saying, “I don’t wear clothes from the Gap; I only shop at Ann Taylor”. If someone is pitching themselves all day on teh reason to go back to school and not going back; why not?
The average online student calling in works full time and has children. They all have ‘something’ going on in their lives, and yet admissions advisors tell them, “No excuses. Life happens. If this is something you want to do, you need to do it.” People engage in higher education for numerous reasons; need more money, job security, career change, career promotion, to feel significant, to be a role model to their children, etc. If you were talking about this all day and marketing or selling this all day, do you think you would talk yourself into going back to school? I know I did.
I’ve been in the higher education sector since graduating from college, specifically – the online education sector and have marketed and sold everything from high school diplomas to Ph.D.s . During my time at these organizations, I was offered full tuition assistance and capitalized on the opportunity by getting a project management certificate as well as taking numerous business courses (my degrees are in psychology and education). Now, I can tell you I learned far more in the ‘real world’, working with some of the most brilliant minds in the higher education space – but we have all seen the job postings that say, “Masters preferred” or “MBA Preferred”. While I’d like to go back and get my MBA, I’m in the “bucket” of students who genuinely believe that through connections and / or experience, I don’t “need” to right now; but I still market and sell the idea to others.
I’ve started asking myself; who am I to encourage others to go back to school if I don’t practice what I preach?