Marketing Method during the early days...message is still relevant
So here we are - starting year 5 at Method Schools. Well, officially year 5. The building of Method began long before we opened our doors. Wild ride is a cliché, but like most clichés it's overused for a reason. We've had all sorts of ups and downs, and recently co-founder Jessica Spallino and I sat down with our team to discuss their most memorable moments at Method. Some of them have been with us longer than others, but it was really fun to hear each of them present share their perspective on how they feel about working in our organization. Got me thinking...
We've now served well over 10,000 students. Not bad for a school that hasn't combined or consolidated with any other charter schools. In these parts, organic growth like that is a rarity. But our organic approach to growth has put us in a position to control our brand, our product, and our school quality. Rather than spending time trying to merge two ships into one, or three, or four...we've been able to work our tails off to make sure the ship we built is seaworthy and aimed in the direction we want to go. Of course, we have changed directions on things, and we'll change again. We use the word pivot a lot at Method - I think most staff members have either learned to appreciate the concept or they're at least used to it. Regardless, the ability to pivot is key to survival because the environment we operate in - and this extends outside of education - is constantly changing. If the external is always changing, it won't take long for an entity that won't pivot to become obsolete.
"The ability to pivot is key to survival because the environments we operate in - and this extends outside of education - are constantly changing. If the external is always changing, it won't take long for an entity that won't pivot to become obsolete."
One of our pivots was to focus on building academic programs for student athletes.
Rather than turn this into a search engine friendly list (those are pretty predictable, aren't they?) I'm just going to share something I've learned, which is also predictable I suppose, but I've found it to be true. And then, I'm going to make a request.
I've learned that in order to grow, you have to be comfortable turning over the reigns a bit to people you trust. Hire good people who fit what you want to do and get the heck out of their way. But you can't do that without awesome staff who work hard, share your vision, and aren't afraid to challenge you and the status quo a bit. Giving up control is hard - especially for entrepreneurs, who see the products/services/companies they've built as extensions of themselves, almost like children. But no successful entrepreneur gets anywhere with anything without taking that step - even the control freaks, like me. Maybe there's a parenting lesson here? Not sure, but that's an area I could use some advice in.
Quick example of letting go. I just walked into a room where our product team was busy planning out how to serve our students better, and how to get better academic results from them. If our students perform well, grow, and are happy, we're headed in the right direction. But that's not easy at an independent study charter school serving a massive geographic region (fun fact: the Method service area covers 24 million people; about 20% of those residents are K-12 student age) where students come and go much more than a traditional neighborhood school. Anyway, back to the product team meeting. I wanted to sit down and share my wisdom (right?) with them today. I wanted to provide my input and give them feedback. But I didn't, because I would only be in the way. They had it covered. Walking out and letting go like that isn't easy to do, but we've gotten too big to step in and be involved in everything. And their ideas are better than mine anyway.
Before I get to the request, let me say something. We've served thousands of students this year so far, starting in July. And the growth has created some issues for us. Some anticipated, others out of left field. We had a server go down on the first day of school because it overloaded, even though we planned extensively for the traffic. Method, Amazon on Prime Day...kindred spirits apparently. Bad day to go down, that's for sure. But we got it back up and it's faster and more reliable than before. We found some areas of our SmartFox curriculum and platform that weren't quite ready for prime time as well. But, the things we found that needed to improve wouldn't have been discovered in a test environment. We needed volume - lots of it, and in a live setting - to discover what was working and what needed improvement. Some of the best improvement ideas came from the students themselves!
In spite of any issues, which every entity faces in one way or another, our team has worked long hours and done ridiculous amounts of work to do right by our students, their families, and the school districts we partner with. But in some cases we dropped the ball (or got beaned by a pitch, baseball reference #2), and I'm sorry for that.
Now, the request. If you're out there reading this, and you've had a good experience with Method, please share that with others. Online, in person, however you want to do that. If you had a bad experience, or are still having trouble, please give us a chance to fix it before posting a negative review online. We want all of our students to be happy and successful. Online reviews are a great way to hold businesses and services (and schools) accountable. But if you wouldn't mind, on behalf of our team and employees who are working very long hours - just give us a chance to fix things first. Please? One way to do that is in the comments here. In fact, you can also share anything that worked well for you or your student as well if you'd like - we might just want to quote you later on.
Thanks for reading, as always.
Method Schools is a network of public charter schools that serves K-12 students throughout Southern California. Method focuses on a full service independent study model, perfect for athletes, home schoolers, and students on the go. In 2018, learning can take place anywhere, anytime. To learn more, or to enroll your student, click below.