Reflections from Our Chief Executive Officer
As we close the 2015-2016 academic year, I begin reflecting on the next direction, the future of eduConsulting Firm, and, of course, its growth. It’s what everyone says I should be doing. We’ve sent the requisite promotional emails. Our Twitter followers grow by the day. We hope schools do not add that well-designed and very thoughtful postcard to their growing stack of junk mail. To onlookers, it does not appear to be enough. In the meantime, however, there are summer and back-to-school sessions to plan, a blog to update, emails to return, and loads of other real work to do.
To further solidify opportunities to learn and lead in our community—and to build our brand–eduConsulting Firm recently became a member of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and as a small business owner, I could not be prouder–as our Twitter feed confirms:
However, through my newly garnered Chamber “connections,” I quickly discovered that many professionals may view our singular focus on the work as simply “not doing enough.” Since I was focused on company growth anyway, I sought out a couple of the business coaches attending the Chamber’s New Members Breakfast. As a lifelong learner and a coach myself, surely I could benefit from the expertise of a business coach. It could be just the thing I needed, and I was right! I learned a lot about myself, my values, and our company’s goals—and it only cost me one sleepless night.
The business-hungry business coaches were eager to discuss my goals and dreams. But like vultures, they gobbled up my hopes greedily, peppering me with one question after another: What are your five-year goals? Where will you be next year this time? What are you doing to attract new clientele? Are your aims to incorporate? What’s your deadline to go national? Will you sell the business or establish a franchise? What is the biggest challenge facing you? If you don’t have a vision for your future, how will you get there? What is your metric for success?
Reasonable questions, right? Sure, but the growing perception further seemed to prove we simply are not doing enough. With my mind riddled with self-doubt about the company’s future, one business coach braced me for the most important and, according to him, the most telling question of all: Why do we do what we do? Prior to our meeting, he had already visited our website, so I thought the answer would be very obvious. Our website is flooded with images of the teachers and principals and students in our network. Our mission is short, to the point, and clearly anchored on our home page, but I restated it for him anyway:
We are a K-12 professional growth agency. We are committed to innovative, research-based instructional solutions that are both engaging for students and practical for teachers [to implement]. We want teachers to grow professionally because we know that improves student achievement. That’s it.
The coach looked grimly at me and shook his head in utter disappointment. Adding to my confusion, he stated, “Don’t give me the textbook answer. Be honest.”
Honestly, at that moment, I tried–I searched for something deeper–something deeper and more meaningful than improving schools, teachers, and students.
There was nothing.
In the absence of the well-intentioned coach, my mind raced in circles later that evening. In slumber I wrestled with nightmares in which my company was infamously heralded into a future for which it was totally unprepared. Such thoughts were quite unsettling. Early the next morning, however, a client call shook off the horrors of the restless night. The client exclaimed that current data verify that our schools show growth this year! And just like that, the company’s original goals rushed home like seemingly long-lost friends! The confirming revelation of that phone call quelled any doubts about our progress, about our growth, and about our future. Immediately, I was reminded of the true markers of our success. Teacher growth and student achievement are our metrics. The measure of our success is gauged by what individuals are able to accomplish as a result of our work. This is the growth we are after. This is the growth for which we continuously aim.
In the morning light, I was reminded of our business philosophy, our values, and our purpose. We are deliberately cultivating a company culture, establishing credibility, documenting our work, and building our brand–one school, one teacher, one eduConsultant, one tweet at a time. Yes, it’s painstakingly slow and detailed work, but we are confident that slow and steady win the race. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut in the pursuit of quality. Quantity simply is not our end game. As a professional growth agency, we are motivated by and measure our growth by the growth of others. That’s not our textbook answer. That’s our only answer. Our local “street cred” for sustaining and documenting steady growth in North Carolina is far more critical and time-consuming than anything national recognition can afford us right now. Do not get me wrong—we are ambitious, but the accolades we seek first require a singular commitment to the groundwork in which we currently engaged.
We’ve been tracking our work in North Carolina (and Virginia) since 2012, and our color-coded system is really simple:
Blue: Through There
Green: Grew There
Purple: Crew There
Orange: Who’s Who There
Yellow: Quite a Few There
Our goal is to see more green pins, signaling we “grew there” rather than just a bunch of blue and yellow pins dotting the map, saying we ran “through quite a few there.”
Green pins take time.
Bear with us as we grow…