Wednesday, February 26, 2014

5 Years Ago Today- Where Were You? I Changed The World!

February Greetings Blog Readers,

Life has been a simple whirl wind of PD adventure since the holidays. I need to take a step back and reflect on my learning and celebrate on all the great things that are taking place around me and in my life at this moment. For starters, today- February 26th- is my five year mark of the the official day I started Innovative Educator Consulting (IEC) Corporation. Wow- where have the five years gone? It has been a marvelous learning journey, but most importantly a monumental step for me personally and professionally as a woman business entrepreneur.

Many of you that know me professionally and personally- know that I am very driven, very inspired by positive like minds, and very competitive and will accept a challenge and or risk to make a transformational change when it comes to impacting k-20 education with teachers, students and administrators! Five years ago- I accepted this challenge head on to start my own edtech consulting company. My goal was to note and document its success or setbacks each quarter, and then collate this data into an annual review by the end of year one. I knew this data would showcase the bigger picture for me of my success or shortfalls of my company. I also knew this data collection would be my guide to make a choice to continue on with this edtech adventure, or choose to go back to the teaching world within a classroom setting from the annual review. By the end of year one I knew I  was on the right track to success- as I had landed 72 separate school contracts to provide on sight edtech professional development trainings that ranged from 1 day of face-to-face PD to up to 10 days of tech immersion trainings and crafting technology action plans within k-12 school districts.


They say when you are creating an edtech startup, that one needs to make an equivalent of up to three times the salary one normally makes in one's current position to provide for the edtech consultant's costs incurred, the salary allotted, the benefits and the health insurance one needs to provide as a private business owner. Well.... needless to say, I met my mark and surpassed the three time equivalent mark of bringing in the necessary revenue to support my edtech company. This provided me with a feeling of much accomplishment and much security.  I also knew that the edtech training landscape can greatly shift based on contributing factors of school districts tech needs, dollars allotted for PD and just in time emerging tech initiatives. Based on this evidence,  I needed to plan for long term. With year one under my belt- I needed to look deeper and project a visionary focus of what IEC could look like by year 3 and by year 5. I wanted to make sure my delivery and design had my fingerprints all over it, so I focused on a detailed edtech brand initiative for consistency with logos from my website, to my invoices to my tech swag. *Teachers and admins love swag you know :-) I wanted districts to identify my company with my brand, and when they saw it published in other districts marketing flyers, on listservs or through social media marketing- that could relate that PD offering back with my company. This way the brand and my first name of "Naomi" marketed itself- and I still to this day have districts that saw my name or company logo and chose to reach out to us again based on the visual and the great learning experience they remembered from a past training experience.

My long term goal was to grow the company at least 25-30% every year. This took careful and diligent planning on my behalf with creating consistent inspirational PD content offerings and technology leadership trainings that were much needed in the Midwest. By the end of year one we had a 27% growth factor based off my current postion working for an edtech agency. Year two and year three proven to be just as strong with a 30% increase in revenue. By year four we hit 34% and now the cmilestone mark of year 5 we are starting out with rocket numbers projected, and new edtech consultant hired on to continue our team's efforts. It can be contributed too many things- but my data reflects three main areas that have driven my business model: 1. Customer service follow through with highly collaborative communication and feedback,  2. Deliverables of high quality professional development of interactive keynotes, edtech workshops, or tech leadership focus groups, and 3. My social media presence.

The first contributing factor is that I am very adamant of following through and following up with all k-20 customers within a 24-48 hour time period- whether it is phone call, email or video conference. I do not break this rule of thumb. If I find myself in a bind and where I can not get back to an individual, I am totally honest and let them know that I can not meet the deadline I set, but will get back with them in the next 48 hours with a followup. I have had so much positive customer feedback on this communication technique and tech resource support/guidance- that is a by far the #1 contributing factor that has driven our business to where it is today.

The second contributing factor- providing high quality professional development training that is personalized to the need of the individual district. I am a stickler for identifying the immediate tech literacy need on the front end of any PD I deliver. I need to know the districts vision, mission and the where they are at in their strategic plan to identify the "how" this meets their planned initiative to document for accountability to all stakeholders.  I will never deliver any PD training just because it needs to get checked off a list. The PD offerings must have a purpose, must meet an ISTE Standard(s) or a specific target teacher/student learning outcome. Every training I provide I share the customized quality training presentations, resources and ehandouts. My willingness to collaboratively share my created materials freely and openly with schools has hands-down led to IEC's business growth.

The third contributing factor is my social media presence.  My presence is professional and I make it a point to share inspirational resources each and every day. I also pose questions to learn from others through this global audience to gain better perspectives from others and gain critical insights on new initiatives. My social media presence of Twitter has been very effective in landing many edtech contracts from districts national wide and now internationally. Who ever new 140 characters is one of the best forms of communication to grow and sustain one's business model- well I sure did and have been on Twitter now for over 8 years. Special thanks to John Pederson- my Twitter "Dad" for introducing me to Twitter- "back in the day" in rural southwest Wisconsin, when we were trying to figure out the power of this "Internet thing" out- and to think some people thought it was going to go away :-)


But the most important critical factors of what has made my company so successful- it is the individuals
I work with and surround myself with on a daily basis. These individuals are like-minded, positive thinking, emerging tech-geeky individuals that understand who I am and make me better every day! They challenge me to think differently about edtech and how it fits into the big picture of k-20 education, they pose and create new opportunities of digital design with PD offerings, and they inspire me and make me laugh to help me find a sense of balance between home, work and family.  These unique individuals include the dynamic edtech consultants I have and will continue to hire
regularly of Tim Nielsen, Deb Norton, Jenna Linskens, Jeanette Armstrong, Jennifer Malphy, Jena Sherry, Heidi Catlin, Curt Reese, Joe Sanfelippo, Dan and Sally King, Beth Lisowski, Tammy Lind, Tom and Rachel Hartly, Sue Gorman, Kim Berg, David Kapuler, Ben Hommerding, Kris Szagner, and Angie Kalthoff.


And of course I can not do this all by myself- I am so thankful for my husband Jeff, as he took the leap with me over three years ago and quit his network tech specialist job in a school district to come work for me at IEC full-time. Jeff is the "Braun" of our company, as I am the "Brains" as Curt Reese would say. Jeff is the CFO, he is my main accountant and contributes to the brains to make the numbers work :-), he is also our main technology support specialist.  He works with all of the tech to make sure it works seamlessly in the back ground for all of our onsite tech trainings, hosted events and live webinar meetings and blended learning events. He is my rock and my support- his knowledge and tech expertise has greatly contributed  to the entire success of IEC these past five years!