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5 Lessons for School Leaders from a Young Millionaire

Posted by Grace Lee on Nov 12, 2013 12:07:00 PM

What can school leaders learn from a young entreprenuer who recently sold his internet software company for $100M (million!) dollars?


I gleaned five important lessons in entrepreneurship for school leaders from his brilliant presentation last week:

1. Find your sweet spot and build on it

After exploring several different options for his company, he took the time to reflect on his strengths and what he knows best--then he built the company around that core competency. Yes, he and the company had many weaknesses, but focusing on strengths helped them find what they really love to do in order to build great value for their target market.

2. Sell pain killers not vitamins

Aspirin Vitamins

Did you take your vitamin(s) today? As I'm getting older, it's become more important for me to daily take my vitamin and a low-dose aspirin. Actually, this week I completely finished a large bottle of vitamins before the expiration date! Guess how many bottles of Tylenol and Advil I've gone through in my life? Exponentially more than vitamins (especially with the headaches of school leadership), I can assure you.

In considering design options for your program, you want students and parents to say: "We can't live without your school!" Why? Because you're meeting a real pain rather than providing a useful option. Vitamins are important, but pain killers meet a clearly defined, immediate need. Figure out how to position your value proposition as a service they can't live without.

3. Focus on a smaller target market

Limiting the scope of the families you're seeking to engage has several advantages. Creating a unique value story is more direct because of the ability to identify the features, advantages and benefits that are most important to your target market. Communicating and recruiting is easier because you know who you want to reach, where they are, and how you can most effectively connect with them. Time management is also more efficient because you waste less time with people who don't align with your ideal profile.

Toyota illustrates the impact of this practice in the marketing of the Prius hybrid car, where they understood how to capture the interest of early pioneers who became evangelists for "driving" the green transportation movement. The updated marketing plan for the Prius seeks to build on this success.

4. Good timing is better than good luck

This successful entrepreneur emphasized that the timing of his software product to help people more effectively marketing their organizations via web content and social media was well-timed because of the emerging needs and opportunties that existed in 2012. Timing is improved by highly effective listening, innovating, and executing.

5. Culture is the only competitive advantage that is 100% in leadership's control

Employee culture was of utmost importance for this leader. In their work place they emphasized:

- Be the best place to work for the best people
- Be the best place to be a customer
- Be reasonable
- Assign everyone custodial duties to take ownership
- Hire people who are positive self-starters and seek to offer support
- Expect results rather than time or tenure

The only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely, 100% within the control of your leadership is the school's culture. Culture is of utmost importance--it's someone's job and its everyone's job!

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