THE BLOG

31
Mar

The Best Business Start-Up Advice I Received and Some I Wish I Had

Written by: Shannon Snow

I am lucky, when I decided to start my business I was surrounded by nothing but love and support.  Every person I told about my adventure greeted me with excitement, and said they believed I would be successful – every person but one.

I needed to be surrounded with optimism to follow my dream, but I also needed a dose of reality and that came one morning when I asked a businesswoman I admired to coffee in hopes she would give me some advice.  She not only gave me more advice than would fit in a book, she made me face the hard facts and helped prepare me for what was to come.

I’m sharing a few of her most impactful thoughts here in hopes that maybe someone starting a business will give this a read.  Her advice forced me to face the reality of what was coming, and without these thoughts I am sure that I would not have made it through year one as successfully as I did.

Work where you want to go.

During our conversation I remember being bummed because I was opening a specialty consulting business.  The decision to serve Community Colleges meant that there would be travel in my future, and after a career of cushy desk jobs where travel was a treat I was suddenly dreading the need to be on the road.

That’s when the businesswoman I so admired gave me the best advice I have gotten to date, “travel where you want to go.”  Genius! Why didn’t I think of that? If I target schools places that I want to visit I could at least write off part of my expenses if they aren’t included in the contract.  Turn work into a vacation.  Brilliant.

It will be hard.

I doubt anyone goes into this thinking it will be easy.  She informed me that while everyone says it will be hard what she meant is it will be really hard.

She warned me about sleepless nights, worrying about finances, balancing everything that needs to be done.  She warned that I would have less control of my schedule than ever because clients (and a paycheck) will be my priority. Then she looked me in the eye and asked if I was up for this because starting a business takes perseverance and it will test every limit I have.

It will be lonely.

As a sole proprietor, my business is mine and mine alone.  My friend warned that with every perk to this fact comes a drawback.  Until there are employees, there is no team to lean on.  There is nobody to make the tough decisions for you.  There’s no admin to manage your calendar.

You must do all the jobs, not just the stuff you like, and sometimes it’s not at all fun.  Despite all that she warned the worst part is there are no co-workers to share in your joys and frustrations.  It’s all you – all the time.

What I wish someone would have said

Obviously, I thought about these issues and moved forward with my business with a more realistic view – and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Despite all the ups and downs, I have never been happier.  Still, there are a few things that I wish someone would have told me.

The best investment is accountability.

Fairly early on I made the decision to hire Rachel and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.  Hiring her brought a renewed energy into the company, created a team environment, and made work fun again.  It took the loneliness factor away and gave me a reason to work harder because there was a second person who needed a paycheck. I had increased accountability.

Rachel adds more value to the company than I can express, but I often say that even if she didn’t just having her around is worth every penny.  Having her makes me work harder, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s a natural born motivator.  Together we can conquer the world.

You might not work that much.

I’m in an industry that does not require me to be at a physical site several hours a week. As long as I take care of my clients and make sure the business is running smoothly, I’m good. However, a major reason I left my job was hours, and coming from a position where I worked 60 hours a week I sometimes feel like I’m slacking.  As a result, I’ve taken to asking other independent consultants how much they work.  Rarely do I get an answer above 35 hours, and most of the time it’s under 30.

That might seem shocking, but here’s the catch.  While I don’t “clock” as many hours as I would for an employer, when I am working I’m hyper-focused.  There are no social breaks, no walking the halls or surfing the internet to kill time. There is no stopping me when I’m in work mode, I’m on a mission to complete the task at hand.  I have never worked this hard in my life, it’s just consolidated.

You never stop working.

I live with a constant worry that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not going to get the next client or that the checks aren’t going to come in.  It is likely that this will never go away, even when the company is hugely successful there will always be jobs to worry about and business to pursue.  The result of this overarching worry is that I never stop working.

I may not be on the clock, but my mind is constantly running. When I can’t sleep because I want to write a blog about the lessons I learned my first year in business at 4am, I just get up and do it.

The best way to get started is to start.

There is tons of advice out there about how to get started, how to write a business plan, do your market research, etc.  My reality is that I did none of this.  I knew in my gut that I was talented and that I had something to offer so I just got out there and did it.

Of course, I would recommend you prepare for your new venture, but what that means to you is different for everyone. It’s easy to overthink these things, especially when your livelihood is at stake. Would you rather live with knowing you gave it your best shot or the regret that comes with never trying?

Shannon Snow is the Principal at Snow Consulting Services. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners who focuses in facilities planning and operational support.  She has over a decade of professional experience and founded Snow Consulting Services in 2016.

21
Mar

Putting First Things First in the Development of a Comprehensive Institutional Advancement Program

Written by: L. Pendleton Armistead, Ed.D.

Clearly, the landscape for American higher education is changing. There are new rules that will greatly impact the scope and functioning of educational institutions to satisfy the demands of their constituencies and local communities. At the same time, never has there been a greater reliance on educational institutions that are dedicated to open access, instructional excellence and relevant curricula that meet changing occupational and workforce demands. These elements are the long-standing cornerstones of the community college.

However, community and technical colleges are experiencing many obstacles impacting their abilities to advance quality programs and services. A significant number of these challenges are directly related to public funding.

To offset this funding dilemma, greater reliance upon the private sector as a legitimate funding partner should be sought. However, in doing so, a systematic or “building-block” approach that will maximize opportunities is required, beginning with a comprehensive evaluation process called a “Resource Development Review (RDR).”

The “RDR” process is designed to gauge the present effectiveness and productivity of a college’s institutional advancement function and provide a “blueprint” for the building of a comprehensive fund-raising program. Further, the process is used to enhance alignment and engagement between a college’s and its affiliated foundation board. Specifically, the RDR is designed to assess the strengths, challenges, and priorities of the college and its foundation and offer recommendations for strategic and deliberate improvement by:

  • Assessing the depth and effectiveness of all institutional advancement functions and foundation programs and services
  • Determining adequacy, skills, and priorities of staffing and the effectiveness of the organizational structure
  • Discerning opportunities in the major gifts, annual campaigns, planned giving programs, targeted campaigns, alumni giving, special events arenas
  • Assessing the infrastructure of the college’s foundation and propose recommendations for growth and engagement
  • Assessing how various internal and external groups view the foundation leadership and its degrees of influence and affluence
  • Developing timelines and benchmarks as a means of measuring success and maintaining accountability
  • Assessing the strategic needs of an organization in relationship with potential private support and corresponding financial levels
  • Providing a comprehensive implementation plan for the college’s resource development program and affiliated foundation

The resulting recommendations form the basis of a prescribed “plan of action” to strengthen the private-sector resource development function for the next five-year period.

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, major adjustments in levels of public support compounded with governing boards’ frequent calls for retrenchment, community and technical colleges must begin to look beyond the public sector to fund their educational missions and visions. College presidents are increasingly becoming reliant on their affiliated foundations to “fill in” the financial gap to support critical needs. These foundations should immediately begin efforts to critically evaluate their readiness and commit to working toward their ultimate goals.  Proactive planning and a review of advancement functions via an in-depth “Resource Development Review” can serve as the initial pathway for many years of growth for the college and, in turn, the community it serves.

L. Pendleton Armistead, Ed.D., as president of the Armistead Group, has over 30 years of consulting experience in a wide array of institutional advancement arenas within the two-year college setting.   As a consultant, he has directed over 50 campaigns, conducted approximately 75 feasibility studies, strategic planning initiatives and development assessments and raised over $650 million in support of community colleges growth and development.

12
Mar

Doing More With Less:  Leveraging Business Partnerships for Educational Success

Written by: Shannon Snow

Recently, Snow Consulting Services was retained by a client to conduct some case studies on how the business community influences education. This client was looking for opportunities to increase the impact of education without requiring additional resources – hence do more with less.

During the process we identified several valuable lessons that can be considered when developing workforce partnerships between industry and education – lessons that we are excited to share with you.

Bright Horizons: Corporate Developed Curriculum

The Child Development Associate (CDA) credential has been around for decades, but in 2007 the eCDA program at Bright Horizons University was established.  Much of the curriculum development and delivery systems were created by Bright Horizons through utilization of external consultants and specialists, and then made available to educational partners. Bright Horizons has taken the burden of program development off the service provider and expanded the availability of quality, early childhood development education nationally.

Northampton Community College is Bright Horizon’s preferred educational partner.  They have created a stackable credential leading to an Associate’s degree that recognizes Bright Horizon’s internal training, allowing them to deliver online education to Bright Horizon’s employees nationally.

Lessons:

  • Industry driven and developed programming can be adapted to educational credentials.
  • Letting industry lead streamlines the development of skills-based curriculum.
  • Businesses can standardize curriculum nationally, utilizing their network to create educational standards.

Western Association of Food Chains: Workforce Based Competency Identification

Retail leaders shared a concern over lacking skills in the current workforce.  They recognized a need for increased education for management level employees.  As a group, with the help of an industrial psychologist, they developed the core competencies essential for success as a manager in the retail space.

This group reached out to local community colleges to partner in the creation of an online curriculum for the Retail Management Certificate.  A different model, the group partners with colleges nationally instead of one preferred educational provider.  Their commitment to excellence and career advancement led to industry changes.

Lessons:

  • Industry can lead by identifying competencies and leaning on educational providers for coursework development.
  • Valuing educational credentials can lead to an expectation of better skills within industry.

Health Careers Collaborative or Greater Cincinnati (HCC): Employer Support Equals Student Success

HCC was developed under the umbrellas of Partners for a Competitive Workforce, an effort of the Greater Cincinnati workforce network that brings all the area’s workforce initiatives together. HCC developed partnerships, that serve frontline incumbent workers from area hospitals along with jobseekers and unemployed/underemployed individuals.

Employer commitment and flexibility are key to the success of this program. Participants enjoy flexible work hours, funding and pre- payment options, support services such as childcare and transportation are provided, credits are transferable between institutions and more.  Developmental education is also provided to participants if needed.

Lessons:

  • Marrying workforce development efforts, employer needs, and educational initiatives can have a powerful impact when all partners are invested in the success of the program.
  • Employer engagement and willingness to establish a flexible work environment allow more individuals to access training.
  • Understanding of needs for developmental education in addition to industry required credentials increases student success.

Shannon Snow is the Principal at Snow Consulting Services. She is a licensed City Planner who focuses in facilities planning and operational support.  She has over a decade of professional experieEnce and founded Snow Consulting Services in 2016.

10
Mar

More With Less: Do Personal Choices Impact Professional Outcomes?

Written by: Rachel Murdoch

Last time I checked, no one is raising their hand for an opportunity to do more with less. There are a lot of catch phrases and words that come to mind for me when I think about being required to do more with less. Here are a few:

  • Tightening the belt.
  • Up-cycling.
  • Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.
  • “Getting creative.”
  • Thinking outside the box.
  • Prioritization.

When our circumstances shift, suddenly we are forced (challenged) to look at our lives differently. We receive an opportunity to navigate new realities. Perhaps we have to loosen our grip on some of the things we once felt were non-negotiable.

Often times, major players shift, resources are allocated differently and a new landscape emerges, requiring us to create a new map!

Personal Choices:

I feel certain of this: the way we inhabit this new (more pressed) space has a lot to do with who we are.

It is easy to think that our personal and professional lives are separate and have no relationship with one another. Certainly, it is good to have a good work/life balance and to have boundaries around our personal and professional lives. However, I do think that our personal lives have more bearing on our professional lives than we think.

We are not robots. We are humans. Our choices don’t happen in a box! They are real & dynamic, impacting other areas of our lives—maybe even our professional lives!

More With Less: A Personal Story

Situation: The Freezer

My refrigerator freezer is FULL.

My deep freezer is FULL!

AND>>>I still go to the grocery store to buy MORE!

It’s a situation…I promise it is!

We are full and we are still filling!

Let me personalize this a bit. I am full…and I am still filling!

Consequently, one of the things I have become determined to do is EAT FROM MY FREEZER. Obviously there are a few fresh items that need to be purchased to fill in the missing ingredients, but for peat sake>>>there are 365 versions of dinner waiting to be created from the ingredients I already have!

>>>>>MORE meals with LESS trips to the store!

The end result is, more money in my pocket and a more wise use of available resources!

Professional Outcomes: Impact

When we shift our thinking and practice in one arena of life and experience success and positive benefits, we become more likely to do the same in other areas of life as well.

This has certainly been true for me. Across the board I am learning to do more with less.

In my work at Snow Consulting Services I have a limit number of hours in a week with which to move projects forward. Thus, my personal time limits and constraints have given me an opportunity to grow in my capacity to accomplish more in less time.

I am excited about this movement, as the opportunities are endless and my leadership tools are sharpened as I become a willing participant in the school of MORE WITH LESS.

Question(s):

  • What is one area of your personal life where you can do more with less?
  • What is the potential impact of this personal choice on your professional outcomes?

Rachel Murdoch is a Project Facilitator with Snow Consulting Services.  She has extensive experience in Student Services, including housing and student compliance.  She has worked nationally, and brings her professional network and vast expertise to Snow Consulting to represent the Program Focus area with our clients. 

02
Mar

Doing More With Less: Staff Development to Increase Effectiveness

Written by: Tracy Dunn

As today’s workforce continues to age, the demand for replenishing the pool of workers grows and it is not just about filling a schedule.  In recent years, the workplace has seen an increased demand for professional healthcare positions such as nursing, allied health and even physicians.

Years ago, a health system I worked for experimented with the concept of “patient centered care.” In this model, many extra professionals were needed to fill specific discipline areas of the hospital.  The idea was to give the patient and their families consistent, excellent care by providing a team of professionals to be involved in their care from admission to discharge.  These teams consisted of a nurse, a respiratory therapist and a care tech.  Teams were placed in various parts of the hospital but especially in the critical care areas.  While the concept certainly had its merits regarding consistency of care, ultimately it was not sustainable.

The most obvious issue was monetary resources. The increased need for professional staff to cover all shifts elevated the amount of salaries and benefits provided.  The less obvious was what was happening to the current workforce.  As staff were assigned to specific areas, development of staff and skill levels began to dwindle.  This led to a lack of experience by limiting staff development to specific area and in turn specific skill sets.  For example, a respiratory therapist in the critical care areas would develop ventilator skills and critical reasoning skills.

Most of the seasoned, more experienced staff were placed in the critical care areas.  The less experienced staff remained in various areas of the hospital such as telemetry, med surgery etc.  Overtime, it became clear that lack of workforce development resulted in decreased experience, lack of critical reasoning and crucial skill deficits.

Skilled professionals need continued development.  This is true no matter the industry.  They require mentorship from their older more experienced co-workers.  In a hospital environment, exposure to working in multiple levels of care is important for the newer worker to gain experience.  It diversifies their skill repertoire and increases their confidence in their clinical skills.  Without diversity of skills, workers learn only their assigned area and are left unchallenged to learn and grow professionally.

In this case, reduction of staff ultimately occurred.  These were done with consideration to cost center and then by seniority.  Many talented healthcare staff were laid off.  What remained was an inexperienced staff, lacking in diverse skills and few senior staff members to mentor and develop staff.  Further complications ensued as an aging workforce began to retire.  Today, an urgent need for skilled clinicians is on the rise in an economy trying to more with less.

Discovering new sustainable methods for delivering patient care will always be best practice.  The challenge is to develop the workforce once acquired.  Mentorship and continuing education are crucial for maintaining a diversely skilled workforce.  Develop the skill and compassion of the clinician and it is the patient and the employer that will benefit.

Tracy Dunn is a Project Facilitator with Snow Consulting Services.  She has extensive experience in healthcare management and sales, and assists our clients with developing sustainable business practices.