Tuesday, June 17, 2014

5 Ways To Ensure Educational Success

I've been out of school for a little while now - oh, wait... and I'm back in again. :)

All the while, I've seen trends... truly deteriorating, even from when I was in college. Too many stories are in existence where students get four year degrees and end up in an entry level retail position that had nothing to do with their education - and - didn't need said education to begin with! What is worse, I've seen people pursue 4-8 year degrees only to realize at the end, whatever they got their degree in, really wasn't for them.

I can recall many phrases of discussion like:
"What are you going to do with that (major)?"
"Take your time... find yourself!"
"Pursue what you love!"
"Will you have access to internships?"
"Oh, you're a 'super-senior'?"
"Isn't that (insert field here) super competitive right now?"

Yuck. This post isn't about the intangible value in education. I mean, really, look at my profile. Do I look like someone who's slamming the virtues of education? Of learning? Even at this moment, I'm only taking a break from studies in completion of an MBA. So, certainly not!

However, I do believe that there's an epidemic of situations out there where students are collecting for themselves insurmountable amounts of loans and trading it in for a piece of paper, and, very little change in their earning potential and earning power compared to before they graduated. In my humble opinion, I think we need to reevaluate how we approach education such that we meet it with success, not debt nor any myriad of internal dissonance.


1. Education is about empowerment; not enjoyment.
I understand that the "college experience" and many other perspectives like it are quite popular. However, in the end, college education costs a lot of money. A LOT. If the selection of schools is based on reputation, the social scene, the athletics, etc... and these elements do not directly intersect with your career path, then you are in for a world of financial hurt. Education is about empowering the student to become a value added graduate to the scene of work they intend to become part of. Whatever you are learning, whatever you aim to experience in college (or through graduate studies) - be sure that these experiences make your abilities as one who is after - a more productive individual.

2. Make sure you're are being educated, not informed.
Truly, I'm sorry for this point - but - I'm calling the system out! A constellation of reasons, causes, blames, and finger-pointing exists to explain why much of education has deteriorated to being a system of regression, rather than a culture of excellence. The evidence is plain: excellence in education should tell of people excelling in what they are doing with what they have learned - rising above the "average" and into the very pinnacle of performance. If the spirit of excellence were truly the soul behind our current educational systems, then we should hear less of students in debt and less of college graduates working retail plus 3-5 years post graduation.  We should be hearing more about students creating companies from the ground up; connecting ventures and adding value to the community.

Which story do you hear more of? Sadly, I hear more about the first. Even the knowledge of many of my undergraduate colleagues saddens me to share than a significant chunk of individuals graduating with 4-year-degrees spend several years at jobs by which they could have acquired while in high school. This, to me, tells me that most students are taught what to think; not how to think objectively for themselves. Therefore, the most important aspect in choosing the educational institution for which you intend on investing the best years of your life is this: will this college/university sharpen my mind? Will it teach me how to learn and discern?

3. Education should directly add value to your position in the job market.
Licensing, credentialing, certifications, and other legally protected scopes of practice is a good way to go about finding value-adding education. Other venues include specific engineering degrees, business specific degrees, education specific degrees, etc. Essentially, the education you pursue should directly relate to a field of work for which you wish to contribute and receive benefits from said marketplace.

Sadly, this typically means that societal topics of education such as the arts, languages, and basic sciences don't typically add much value to those graduating with their Bachelors of Arts degree. What is necessary in these areas are the connections you make with the people in the field and the talent you demonstrate. That said, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with majoring in Latin, it is most prudent to connect the mastery of the language, art, or otherwise with a market by which you can sustain such interests. In other words, if you really love Latin that much, why not teach it?

4. Be goal oriented, but process driven.
Dovetailing off of point #3: It is important to have a goal in mind. This could be as simple as "I want to be a dentist." This means your undergraduate studies, your major, and those prerequisites should directly lead to entry into dental school. However, you must also keep in mind the process involved. Many processes in both the graduate, undergraduate, pre-professional, post-professional, trade, art, and para-professional educational arenas require some rather lengthy processes before you get through to the goal. This means that you must be quite detail oriented and remember to utilize that end goal as your driving force to fuel momentum, motivation, precision, and endurance during this process of acquiring your education.

5. Connect With Your Teachers.
It is very easy in the university setting to become lost; a name, a number, a student ID, an access PIN, and a transcript. What is most valuable in these larger settings is the opportunity to be inducted into the inner circles amongst some of the most renown names, world class minds, and fellowships in academic society. Furthermore, academics have a funny way of knowing, influencing, and persuading those in the business world. Your professors will ultimately be the best source for letters of recommendations, internships, access to real-life-experience, and introductions to those who you will ultimately be working with in the field and/or industry. Get to know your teachers! While some professors may seriously be focused on their tenure, research, etc... there are still those who love to teach and have the passion to help students succeed. Find them. Stay close. Learn much. And, they will bestow gifts and blessings in many forms.

Some Closing Thoughts:
Education has truly changed. There is no guarantee that any degree will lead to a job, financial stability, career, or a happy life. Education has entered a changing phase, an early form post-literacy. While it's not entirely to the point where we don't need literacy, the original intent of education becoming a stepping stone has certainly left us. Bachelors are the new high school diplomas. Masters are the new bachelors. Doctorates are the new masters. Double doctorates are the new doctorates. Multiple field degrees are the new double doctorates.

Pure. Intellectual. Insanity.

Therefore, instead of going down a road which very likely leads to innumerable amounts of debt with no financial, professional, or personal direction - be sure to ensure your educational success. Make sure you are going down a road where you are going to be empowered. Be sure you are learning how to think; learning how to reason, discern... to gather, analyze, synthesize, and apply knowledge. Commit to your goals with a passionate direction; focused on the details, determined to the process. And, always remember, education is no replacement for relationships.

Find mentors, both academic and professional. Make connections with people -- for it is people you will be working with and it is people who drive the market. It is, has been, and will always be people for which your education will prove to be successful for, useful to, and helpful in.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Branding For Loyalty

When you think about brands that have been around forever, you should be thinking about things that incorporate elements of your habitual life. The magic that miraculously happens when a product and/or service becomes a lifestyle is something that many dream to accomplish but only few have mastered.

Let's examine a few notable long term market share brands and see what can be gleaned!

Service/Product Experience
1) Disney. I'd say I've blogged about Disney ad nauseum if I could. But, let's be honest, there can never be enough learning from what the Walt Disney Company has done and continues to do. Nevertheless, to keep this brief (and not into another "another" Disney post), let us recognize that Disney is both memories and dreams, the best of times and the best times to come, a childhood wonder and a hopeful future - in essence, Disney becomes an intimate part of us for which products can be taken home with us and the experiences reinforced when we receive their services through the most positive of emotional constructs.

2) Starbucks. It's a lifestyle. Want coffee? Find a Starbucks. Feeling thirsty? Starbucks. Need a morning snack? Starbucks... and, hmm, somehow I think that snack would be best accompanied by some coffee. Hey! Lucky me! Starbucks. Indeed, Starbucks has developed a brand which you can not only rely upon, you can take it home with you in the form of collectibles, hardware, and self-service products. And, even when you go out and buy their coffee beans to brew at home, you still stop by stores to purchase a cup for which the price would pay for 1/4 of a bag of their fresh roasted beans. Meh. It's worth it! Right? Starbucks has taken a lifestyle element and turned it into it's own culture. Now THAT is powerful branding.

3) Southwest Airlines. The only way to fly. So many traveling experiences have nothing but frustrations, delays, cancellations, and the worst of horror stories to tell. With Southwest, it's service all the way. Southwest has the fewest proportion of complaints in the industry, and, is renown for it's good customer service. Perhaps what is most powerful is that Southwest consider's their employees their first customer. Wow, huh? Indeed, their organization culture prescribes that a happy workforce will deliver the best of service. This will naturally satisfy the shareholders, and of course, customers on all sides. What is more, traveling is expensive and Southwest isn't exactly cheap! Nevertheless, this company makes you smile as you walk up to them; smile as you spend your money on them; smile as you walk away now leaving poorer; and, thinking all the while about how you'll smile the next time you see their brand... waiting there, just for you... for them to deliver your next smile. That is truly service excellence.

Let us also examine some of the "chronic" services we depend on at large.

Interventive/Preventive Service Lines
1. Dentists. I made mention to the dentistry practice model in my post "Future Thoughts For Private Practice Physical Therapy." The reason I credit this so well is that from the pre-school age until our twilight years, "everyone" knows that we need to take care of our teeth. Some classrooms in school even have had a designated time for brushing teeth after snacks and lunch. Also, dentistry has become a primary care for teeth, serving the entire family structure. Word of mouth is severely powerful in this regard and spreads like wildfire in social circles.

2. Car Mechanics. While not exactly holding the best of reputations, mechanics are quickly cleaning up their name thanks to social media. Perhaps the most notable tool has been Yelp. It used to be that unscrupulous mechanics were able to hide behind their garage door and under their car racks. Now, hah! There is no place to hide. Moreover, as it reflects on most urban life in North America - transportation is a "need." We need automobiles to keep our lives, our economy, and our society moving. No car. No job. No life. Mechanics service a continued need. This continuation is a powerful brand construct, even if it isn't necessarily welcome.. but hey, it certainly works as a business model.

3. Hair Stylists. It is popularly acknowledged that hair stylists are the everyday counselor of their patrons. Hair stylists make us (the "royal us") feel better about ourselves. They make us confident, ready for the world, stronger, more energetic - a present force to be reckoned with. They also become our close friends. We see them with regularity. They can assist us in maintaining a beautiful self, or, transforming into a new emboldened personality, and even with important life decisions. They are also the only people that can do all those positive things to our persona, simply by styling our hair. That exclusivity is unique - so special, in fact, that even when the times are tough, we still find ways to go out and see them. Can we say VALUE?

Finally, let's quickly take a look at an example of a brand which develops it's own lifestyle integration. In our day and age, the most prominent forces of these are that of technologies - and - such is the brand we're about to discuss.

Product-Lifestyle-Integration: Apple vs. Evveeerything else. This dichotomy is truly impressive. You cannot love both sides of the coin; you can only serve one of these masters. Most Apple users only use Apple products. Their phone, computer, laptop, tablet, power sources, and technological accessories are ALL Apple. Additionally, owning Apple isn't just a essence of having a type of property. It's a statement of existence. One does not simply own Apple products; one is actively being an Apple user. The most strategic thing about Apple products: they only speak Apple. There is no other brand that is easily compatible. Therefore, once you get used to an Apple product, it is difficult to change this habit and switch to another platform. It has become integrated into the very way you engage, interpret, process, perceive, ane expect technology as a whole - and henceforth, life. You are loyal to this brand, and thus, generally see the world through this lense:

Some Closing Thoughts
Branding for long term market share - aka - brand loyalty, is one of the holy grails of the marketing world. Do this, and you have made a lifetime customer. What is required? Well, the brand must develop habits, turn dependence into joyful reliance, spread goodwill, drive an exclusivity for the product/service/experience, and send every customer home with a smile - better yet, a smile whenever the customer even thinks of the brand itself.

So then, a challenge to my PT folks: How is this to be done for physical therapy practice? I think the best venue would be through primary care and/or family practice (which of course, separates the outpatient from the inpatient practice patterns). To this, I have a few guests post for you to consider - AND - I would absolutely relish your thoughts on how we can transform our current profession into one which can boast of brand loyalty.

A Case For The Primary Care Physiotherapist.

And, a two part post which delves into the evidence behind having a primary care PT:

Talk soon!