Monday, March 16, 2020. It was just two weeks ago and was the first work day that the nation woke up to the temporary upheaval caused by COVID-19. Plans of action were developed and intitiated as indeterminate directives were handed down by states and parents were in shock. At the core was the question: How do we make this work from now until (potentially) the end of the school year? As an acting CTE Director for one of my clients, I lived this with you. The result has been a flood of sales pitches and offers that may be 10 or more times what you normally experience. This post is about helping you manage the “noise”.
- Are they trying to solve the real problem you are having? In most cases the answer is “no”. Your problem is bridging an unforseen “Black Swan”. You are not sure what month this will end! It could be April, May, August, or last into 2021. With so little information to plan for, why should you buy programs that commit you to 3 year contracts? Why overspend on all-you-can-use offers of online courses or platforms? Many vendors are hoping for “panic buying”. Maybe you feel like Susan Enfield, Superintendent of the Highline School District near Seattle. In an Education Week interview dated March 24 the author summarized: “Enfield says her 20,000-student district will be out of session at least until the end of April. She’s wrestling with a variety of far-reaching challenges, including how her district will provide meals to disadvantaged students, what kind of child care it might be asked to provide, and how it will deliver academic lessons, remotely or in print.” Does this sound like you?
- Transaction or a relationship? Since the present and near-term future is so ill-defined, what are the traits of those who may be able to help? One is that you were hearing from them before the crisis and there is a glimmer of hope you will be hearing from them after the crisis. Strategic consulting was a service that used to be confined to organizations and individuals with lofty goals and money to burn. Today’s world is more complex and consultants are everywhere. (I can tell you first hand!) I am a consultant and by doctor’s or lawyer’s terms I am inexpnsive, especially for someone who has 3 decades of experience and has been in EdTech since 1986! Is the vendor offering to hold your hand through this? Does their contract mention the minimum service levels you can expect? Another question to ask is if they have hired more people to handle the extra business they expect during this crisis and if they expect to keep this extra help after it is over.
- Are they reputable and solvent? This is not something we think about when making a transaction. Our local supermarket may go out of business next week but we are there to buy avacados or kale and we will consume those foods if the market is in business or not. That is not true of online courses and platforms! Recently I have worked with a start-up, a group of charter schools that have been around for more than a decade, and a company that does outstanding work as they have built digital products for 15 years. I have recommended doing business with a company that is now 8 years old and just recieved $5 million in funding. I believe these are solid businesses that will ride out this storm. Ask questions of vendors about their financial stability. You run the risk of these companies going bankrupt, being bought, or using their energy on buying other companies. You need stable partners!
There is more to this and too much to write in one post. There is more to come this week but if you need help navigating these waters where most are sharks and some are well meaning, helpful dolphins, I am happy to answer your questions. In the end, there are not many products that can help you bridge this unique time because it is unprecendented! Below is a little video that might give you a much needed laugh in the midst of this termoil and chaos! If this sounds like anyone selling you something these days, run!