Part 4 of the ‘What I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Running Sprint Education’ series. Read the previous lessons here:
Lesson #1: Sack a problem customer
Lesson #2: Don’t waste time & energy on the competition
Lesson #3: Hire staff that are people you already know
Lesson #4: Don’t get sidetracked by crappy side projects.
I don’t believe we get an infinite number of good ideas during our lifetimes. So far I’ve had a few good ones, but far too many of the bad kind that I don't care to remember. It was in the very early days of running Sprint Education that I realised how easy it was to fool myself into thinking that because the company was going well; that any business idea I had would no doubt be a great one.
The reality was in fact that many of my ideas were actually just distractions from focusing on what was important - Sprint Education. I had many ideas during these fledgling years which ended up wasting plenty of time and energy, and even jeopardising Sprint Education’s eventual rise to the top of the education marketing realm!
It was 10 years ago when the initial concept of creating Sprint Education came to me, it was exciting and I was pretty chuffed with myself. The downside to this successful idea was that for the next two years of running Sprint Education I started to believe that all my other ideas were going to be similar successes. How wrong could I be!
I started focusing my time and energy on these rash ideas that I planned to work alongside Sprint Education. There was MySchoolWebsite where we offered an affordable web design service to schools (this never even got launched), there was Sprint Genius, a business-to-business strategic planning and advice service, and Sprint Media which would offer business data for B2B marketing.
However, the most notorious idea, and the one that I took the furthest was TeacherPrint. TeacherPrint was a service that allowed schools to outsource their annoying reprographics jobs, like photocopying and printing.
It resulted in a handful of schools signing up, only for these tiny priced orders to suck up all of my time, forcing me to sit on my own stapling 5,000 leaflets together, or ring binding 750 school prospectuses. It was mind-numbing work, and the profits on each job were so ‘delicate’ I even at one point found myself picking up un-flattened staples from the office floor so they could be used again. I was that determined to make TeacherPrint work!
Looking back, clearly my judgement on what was a good or bad idea had become blurred, but I continued to push hard for TeacherPrint to work for several months, whilst in the process taking up more and more of Sprint Education’s valuable time and energy.
Then finally the thunderbolt of clarity hit me.
When looking at the year end accounts I realised how much of a weak revenue generating venture TeacherPrint truly was, particularly for the effort involved. To make matters far worse, the accounts also revealed that by draining my time and other team members' time on TeacherPrint, Sprint Education’s growth had been impacted. It turned out Sprint Education; my best ever idea, was now suffering and being dragged back by a bad idea, with the company only growing by a small margin that year. (It is still to date Sprint Education’s poorest year for like-for-like growth).
At that point I knew what I had to do. Bury TeacherPrint, and crack on with building Sprint Education into the edu-marketing experts we are today!
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