Our economy is being disrupted. There’s no doubt about that. We see it in telecommunications, we see it in retail, we see it in technology. But how many of us have detailed insight into the true economic and technological disruption affecting the education industry - the meeting of the business and educational worlds that are driving private equity investments and where the fine balance of quality of education meets a revenue-rich institution. Seth does – and shares his thoughts with us on the development of education as business, the move towards project-based education and the importance of not only being able to Market your school, but the strategy behind your establishment’s capital planning.
Seth has served as executive for both Apple and GE and has been delivering results for his clients for most of his career. “Having worked within and with many organisations, I have ended up being an independent consultant in many ways, even though I have been employed. I’ve always found myself working on different projects and in different industries. The day-to-day was never the norm – and whether it was re-organising a team, or implementing a new piece of technology, getting things up and running smoothly was the standard”, Seth tells me. Having completed his MBA from the University of Oxford, Seth’s journey to independent consulting has been one that has been growing and building throughout his career.
So, why education?
“I have 3 degrees personally – and with my background, I’ve always had a desire to better myself. Because of that, I have always had a strong interest into the changing world of education,” he tells me. And it’s this innate interest that has driven a huge part of Seth’s career. Make no mistake, Seth is not a teacher. Seth is a business person. So, why the connection? “There’s an increasing trend happening in the education industry where private equities are coming in and buying schools because they are strong businesses.. Traditionally, schools have been run by administrators – not business people - so, have had high margin potential. As a result, private equities have recognised that many schools present a profitable opportunity – the margins are there, and they’re adding value by putting the business infrastructure in place to help the schools handle their administrative costs, funding etc. Unfortunately, what has been common for many schools is that they only realise they have a problem, when it’s too late – they have neglected to build in any risk management processes or operational structure that would see them through a financial problem. As a result, those schools get wiped out, and only the best survive. With the introduction of sound business acumen, and solid business rigour, those things are being handled better – and the schools that have been generating great revenue now have a solid strategy that see them ready for fluctuations and challenges,” he shares.
What problems are you solving for schools?
Seth tells me that schools are hugely complex. “You have 1 product that accounts for 99% of your revenue – that’s the students. So, the more volume of students you have, the better. But, that counteracts a lot of academic thought because aside from simply focussing on volume, you need to be considering the needs and ability of the students you are placing in the school. Finding a balance is critical to making the dynamic work,” he says. As with any organisation – whether you’re in healthcare, retail, telecommunications, media or, in this case, education, your success boils down to sufficient planning. With 2 main factors driving the performance and longevity of the institution, schools need to be focussed on successfully Marketing the school – to build the revenue prospect, as well as their Capital planning – and how they spend their money, to keep their costs down and build their margins favourably. “The challenge within education is that you have to develop the art of prediction. In other words, you need to be planning for 6 month’s time – especially when it comes to staffing. It’s a very planning-intensive model but when you get going, and your predictions are accurate, you soon pick up the momentum that you need to secure the longevity of your school,” he adds. And that’s where Seth adds real value. Being able to help school governors and administrators assess and plan sufficiently means that they stand in good stead to survive the next season. And whether he’s working in the US, or running a school in Singapore, the underlying structure remains the same. “The biggest thing to understand when working internationally, are the changes in government regulation and restrictions when it comes to educational systems for that particular country,” he says.
The education industry is ripe for disruption. There is a clear shift towards project-based processes. The traditional stage process where students moved from one stage to the next in order to pursue a particular education, is slowly losing its relevance. Students and educators are embracing technology on a wide scale and the traditional classroom is changing significantly as classes and courses move online, and resources are available through the cloud. The threat is that this can easily take over and eliminate the need for private schools. “Teachers don’t want to be part of the business; they want to be part of the mission. What I do is work with teachers and administrators and help them understand the importance of doing things in a way that makes business and financial sense, but still gives them the scope they need to deliver a quality education for the students they work with,” he says. Seth works with leadership teams to help them understand the risks and benefits of deciding to pursue a particular route, or walk down a certain path. He works together with teams to assess and figure out the journey in order to reach their potential. With one foot in both worlds, it is no wonder that business and educational institutions alike see Seth as a stalwart in the education system with a clear vision on profit, longevity and clear strategy.
If you would like the opportunity to work with someone like Seth, get in touch with your Talmix representative today.
About the AuthorMore Content by Katy Roberts