Just about a year ago, my two business partners and I got the idea to start our own professional development company, called Leaderally. We are focused on supporting the educator’s journey. We want to help teachers stay in the job they worked so hard to get.
My partners and I worked together for almost 20 years at the same company. We were at the top of our game in our positions. Then a dear friend passed away, and we couldn’t get out from under the weighty knowledge that ‘Life is Too Short.” Although we were successful and enjoyed many aspects of working there, we were finding ourselves more unhappy. More often we were thinking that it was time to move on. There didn’t seem to be an upside for us (no ability to buy in or make partner, etc) and the thought of being there for another five or ten years was becoming less attractive.
It was time to make a leap and see what we could do to help teachers in a bigger way.
Finding What Fuels Us
Throughout our tenure we created systems, processes and completed complicated projects to grow the company. We did this alongside developing and retaining a large team of professionals. As we were doing those things, we kept coming back to the fact that what we loved the most was supporting and building up our large team of professionals. Our ability to understand and identify the underlying issues that were holding them back from feeling or being successful was something that got us all out of bed in the morning.
We heard time and again that our insights, energy, passion, humor and clear messages were why people stayed in their position or a reason they loved coming to work. Many of the people we were supporting were teachers. We regularly heard how difficult teaching in the classroom was and how they learned more about being a professional in three months with us than they did in their first years of teaching. After our friend passed away, we heard those comments in a different way. Something more serious was calling us. We started to notice a hole in the professional development world. It was time to make a leap and see what we could do to help teachers in a bigger way.
One of us will ask a question and another one will answer with one of my favorite lines, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
Over the years, we felt like we were inspired and learned quite a bit . But, I can tell you that looking back, it’s laughable to think about what we did in a given month in our cozy positions compared to what we learn in a month now. Back then, we had a large support team. This allowed us to live by the “inch deep and mile wide” philosophy. That is, knowing a little bit about many things. That worked well in a lot of ways and is something that’s easy to maintain at a large, established company. But there was something missing. Depth.
Making the Leap
At this point, our startup is primarily the three of us. While we have started to take on some freelancers, we are still tasked with doing/making/building just about everything to ensure that we’re moving in the right direction. There are a few times a week where at least one of us will ask a question and another one will answer with one of my favorite lines, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” The joy we’ve found in this passion-driven journey is something that makes us all a little giddy. There is so much we get to learn each week. We have also discovered that we don’t have to create everything ourselves. There are so many amazing people to help us understand and integrate concepts into the business vision we have. This is a freedom that helps us move and grow quickly.
Learning at Light Speed
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here is a list of some of the more specific technical applications and concepts we learned in the past few months:
- Social Media for business: It’s not just a cute place to show off my kids anymore. I learned how to build ads, set up and host webinars, check analytics and do AB testing
- Social Marketing: We learned the nuances of each channel and how to write for each one.
- Captivate: Learned about eLearning course creation and design
Making the large leap into the unknown was and still is a little scary at times. It is also a leap that helps us feel alive each and every day.
- Adobe Creative Cloud: Learned how to use Photoshop, Audition, Stock, Illustrator, Premiere Pro
- Canva: Learned how to design pieces for social media
- Hootsuite: Learned how to post and schedule content to all platforms
- MailChimp: Setup and maintained database and daily newsletters
- Survey Monkey: Learned to design better surveys to get real time insight and feedback from potential customers
- Hubspot: Learned to develop and send campaigns to database, built landing pages and CTAs and forms as well as reports to make sure we get the best response.
- WordPress: Learned some basic coding, can update and edit our website as well as build blogs that are well written and SEO ready.
- Web Advertising: Worked with agencies and experimented on our own to test which works best.
- Public Relations: Learned how to move quickly when exciting news happens (like being in Forbes magazine!!)
Turning Exhausting into Exciting
Honestly, this list is not complete, but I think you get the point. While some may think this seems exhausting, many feel like we do. This is a very exciting list of new concepts, knowledge and ideas. Keeping that passion-based mindset drives us forward. Being in the same company for almost two decades felt safe and comfortable. It was great to move through the ranks, support good people, feel important and know that we were integral to the success of the students, staff and company. Unfortunately, I believe we stayed too long, because of those reasons too.
Making the large leap into the unknown was and still is a little scary at times. It is also a leap that helps us feel alive each and every day. We make decisions freely without fear of ‘getting in trouble.’ We speak honestly, openly and learn lessons without fear of what others will think. We are able to pivot and change on a dime when we believe it makes sense. There have been and will be bumps in the road, but I know that we have made the best decision for us. We are living a dream, we couldn’t see a year ago. Everyday, we meet amazing, positive, kind, brilliant people and learn just how big and beautiful this world is.
We are grateful for the lessons learned at our previous company. We are, however, finally building something that is entirely ours and could not be more excited to see what comes next.