Thursday, 27 August 2015

OH MyCmgr! Yer a Wizard Harry!

As someone who's been re-skilling to be a Community Manager for the last 12 months+ it was like something out of Harry Potter when I realised that I had 11 years experience in this area, insane or what?! 
How did I miss this experience? How did I discover it? 

This post looks at the value of me going through the process of developing a Business Plan... and I hope that it highlights the merit of schools and colleges getting organisations like EntrepreneurMe visit the school to deliver their student workshops. 

I would never had thought that developing a business plan would provide the opportunity for reflection that it has in the last two weeks since I started work on it.

I know that entrepreneurship in education is important from the perspective of growth mindsets, developing in-demand skills like creativity, soft skills and is ideal for preparing our young people for the uncertain economic conditions they face.

Many enterprise organisations go on about the money and business side of it, and anything I've written in the past in support of entrepreneurship in education has been mostly from the perspective of economic necessity... thanks to the economic uncertainty that "we" ie our politicians, created for the next generation.

I've been involved with a few startups, but have never developed a business plan... at least not one where I was able to factor the things that are important to me personally into the plan. In the past two weeks I've reflected on;
  • Seeing my experiences in the past as opposed to "Being the Jack of all trades," but when considered with regard to "T Shaped Skills," I am able to detail to potential clients (or future employers) that, depending on what customers, users and employers were looking for, I have developed the skills that were necessary in order to get the job done! 
This week I was pulling my "About Us" section together.

When Things Go Wrong
In the Testimonials section I took the unconventional and counter-intuitive step to include some comments about "when things go wrong with clients (And they Sometimes will)"

Oh the Places you'll Go - Landscape

Is this being negative at the outset? A little too honest? ...or a healthy dose of realism?

The way I see it, it's the benefit of experience. Things will go wrong for any number of reasons and may even be through no fault of the service provider or client... This is something that I highlight in my Fail Fast. Fail Cheap section.

I feel two things are VITAL in attracting, keeping and retaining clients;

1) Manage expectations, and
2) Resolve any issues quickly and effectively.

Issues can and will arise. I love MIT's Ken Morse story about how a company's response to a challenge turned from a potentially lost and disgruntled customer into a more loyal one. 

Morse got a gift for a member of his family for Christmas, but found was broken when the recipient opened it. Morse dashed off an angry email to the company. He received a call on Boxing Day with the offer of a replacement... which would be sent express delivery so it would arrive the next day. 

An experience that could easily have lost a customer, made him more loyal than before the challenging customer experience because of the way it was handled. 

Managing Expectations in EdTech...
EdTech is Tough! Not every project that I have worked on has worked out. What I tried to achieve in UK Further Education with CrowdControlHQ and Crowdmark didn't work... But 12 Months later the exact same methods worked with Nurph and Get2ISTE in the US.

Managing expectations is important, as is delivering value. I will try to help startups and suppliers to stay as small as possible for as long as possible in the hope that they don't have to start chasing sales to cover overheads.

Getting the balance right with knowing when to nudge an idea along with a bit of sales effort while not annoying educators will be tricky. The clients urgency will not be urgent for educators.

But then again considering the needs and results of clients will be a priority, but not at the risk of affecting the relationships I've built with educators. 

By highlighting that I've failed with projects in the past and that EdTech is tough is the best way I can see to both manage expectations and the start of building brutally honest relationships.

Likewise, I hope that highlighting that things things can and will go awry and the every effort will be made to resolve things as quickly as possible will also help with developing relationships

Managing expectations and resolving issues appear to be the kind of issues that keep community managers up at night.

Yer A Cmgr William!
“A manufacturer is not through with his customer when a sale is completed. He has then only started with his customer. In the case of an automobile the sale of the machine is only something in the nature of an introduction. If the machine does not give service, then it is better for the manufacturer if he never had the Introduction, for he will have the worst of all advertisements – a dissatisfied customer” Henry Ford

This quote sums up my attitude towards sales and has perhaps been particularly useful when working with the tight knit education communities of UK Higher and Further Education.

I wanted to put some testimonials together for this "About Us" page. However, with no customers yet, I looked at information from some of the various projects that I've been involved with to see what could be used to demonstrate to potential customers that they are in safe hands. 

I dug out some testimonials from my reports and projects that was involved with in my previous jobs... and there was surprising amount of material I could reference, which I'm sorting through at the moment.

As well as these testimonials, I am toying with the idea of including some of the comments from the various psychometric tests that I've completed. The reason for this is because these reports suggest that I am particularly good at scoping new ideas and finding solutions to challenges (A potential reason for any T Shape skills). 

Again, the aim here would be to highlight to potential customers that they are in safe hands. The body of evidence and completed projects surprised me a little, which may sound a little weird. The reason for this was explained when I was looking for articles about people with INFJ Meyer Briggs profiles I read an article called "It is hard to be an INFJ"

"INFJs can always list the things they’ve left undone but have a hard time counting their accomplishments"

Experienced Community Manager?
This definitely applies to my experiences with Community Management and pulling all my experiences together for this website I noticed two minor details:

1) The extent to which I had helped expand the network of Universities and Colleges that we worked with from 2003-2009, which went from 84 to 280 (50% market share within 3 years with one project).

2) How much I disliked the cold calling aspect of the job when looking for customers when I was in sales. What I did find enjoyable was researching how our solutions could compliment the Every Child Matters outcomes, or assist colleges within the context of Ofsted's "Common Inspection Framework".

Also the thing I liked best about sales was the initial meetings after colleges booked and finding out about what the client's issues were... and figuring ways that our communications solutions could help with this. The repeat business ratio for this project was extremely high.

I have been looking to re-skill from sales to Community Manager for the last 2 years. Through developing my business plan, I realise that I have actually got 6 years community management experience. However, because the main responsibilities were sales and operations I hadn't realised this.

Then there is the fact that most community management today focuses on online communities. As had no digital presence of any kind until late 2010, this experience just didn't compute. DOH!

I have been writing reports for 4 years now, so can include this as content marketing experience... All this community experiences while holding down full time roles in sales, operations and market research.

So I am delighted to be able to amend my website and CV accordingly, and will be actively looking for some freelance Community Management work with education companies with a lot more experience and confidence!

But hopefully is set to become a Wizard of a #Cmgr!
Add to this that I'm "An EdTech Influencer" (Again), this startup just might do OK when the business plan is finished... If I get the same kind of support that I have done in the past from some of those master EdTech sales people like Nikki D Robertson, Steve Isaacs, Kharima Richards, Susan Bearden and others.

Putting together my business plan has been an amazingly reflective process in helping me to identify my values, personality profile, experiences and goals. 

I know that there are a lot of enterprise initiatives out there in education but, if I were a school wanting to explore the role that entrepreneurship has in this kind of context, I'd give the guys at EntrepreneurMe a call.

The Mone Review is asking why people in deprived areas don't start their own businesses, I wonder if students in more affluent areas have more opportunities to consider their strengths, values and goals more than their less socially mobile counterparts... and if going through the process of putting a business plan together would have the same kind of impact on others as this has for me.  

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