How 1% Improvements Can Translate Into Millions Of Dollars

Enrollment Resources illustrates how little effort it actually takes to be more successful than your competition

Original Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

I have a story about ‘1%’ and how it can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence for a school.

The Story Of How Gregg Lost The Beautiful Girl

When I was 21, I had the good fortune of having the most beautiful girl in the world (or so I thought at the time) agree to have a coffee date with me. She was sought after by many guys on campus and lucky me, I got to sip a cup of Joe with Gorgeous. I played rugby at the time, and the practice was scheduled just before my coffee date.

Our coach Gary Miller (bless his heart) kept us extra long, running drills in the mud. Hugely pressed for time, I made a strategic decision not to shower so I wouldn’t be late for my meeting with Gorgeous. After dressing in my best clothes and flying out the change room door, I made my date just in time.

We found a little nook in the coffee shop and chatted away. As the coffee date progressed, I could tell things were not going so well. Things were getting tense. By the end, Gorgeous was utterly turned off. I asked her what was wrong, and, simply put, she said while I had loads of appealing features, I smelled gamey. I stank. In the eyes of my coffee date, I was done like dinner.

Working for me were smarts, personality, fitness, an initial chemical attraction, dressing well for the date, and picking a great date location, but my post-workout odor (and the clump of mud I noticed in my hair later) was enough to send Gorgeous packing.

I delivered 99% and lost.

This analogy, while a slight stretch, does hold true as sage advice in promoting the cost-effective strategic growth of your school’s programs. Honest, it does.

Allow me to explain.

In marketing, there are no silver medals. Second place is the ‘first loser.’

A prospective student will not say to herself “Hmm, I’ll spend $3000 with this school, $5000 with that school, and $4000 with that school.” Nope: it’s all or nothing. What’s interesting to me is from our analyses, those who came in second place – those who missed out on that Enrollment – typically lost by a margin of one or two percent. Soooo close, yet soooo far. Those schools that consistently outperform competitors by a couple percent have five times the profitability (or operational surplus if you run a not-for-profit institution).

Education Is An Outcomes-Based Business

Education programs need to be delivered at a quality level to compete. What most schools miss is what the word ‘quality’ represents in the eyes of the customer (the student). The primary determinant of quality in Career Education is its ability to meet the needs of employers eager to hire graduates. Therefore, a school program is only as strong as the reputation it holds within the employment community that will potentially hire the school’s graduates. If an HR Director is reviewing five resumes with broadly the same education, the graduate with the most relevant resume wins and the other four continue their job search. It’s that cut and dry.

Taking morals, ethics and business survival into account, it is imperative that you as a school leader give your grads a razor-sharp resume and a jump-start into the best jobs possible. Graduates need to be at 100% when in the job hunt. Second place in a job competition is frustrating and somewhat debilitating. There are no silver medals in a job competition either.

How To Improve The Education Product

There are many ways one can improve the education offering, giving graduates that one percent advantage when searching for a job.

Here’s an example:

If you are an Allied Health school, offer graduates a National Certification exam. An Allied Health program where the graduate holds a recognized National Certification will give them a massive advantage in the job hunt.

Here’s why:

As you might know, a significant percentage of employers in the Allied Health field require employees to be certified before hiring. These employers are typically public or not-for-profit institutions. National certifications are seen as a kind of performance insurance, mitigating substandard delivery of labor. A graduate with a National Certificate in her pocket applying to a major hospital or clinic has a huge competitive advantage in the job market.

Why Do I Care About My Graduates?

In years past, I’ve listened to some short-sighted school leaders inform me that acquiring the candidate’s tuition and getting them graduated and out the door is good enough. I say people who view the education field in that manner have possibly received (metaphorically) a blow to the head, but are more likely just short-sighted and greedy.

By creating for your graduates an inherent advantage in the job market, you will receive tons of referrals from happy employers sending you training-starved employees. Over time, you will position your program as top-notch in the eyes of the 100 largest employers of your grads. We call this ‘wholesale positioning’ or ‘brand rigging.’ Stated differently, if the 100 most significant organizations that employ your graduates believe your school is top-shelf, your marketing will work better, advertising budgets will be reduced, your Admissions Advisers will actually be able to advise. Everything works better.

Offer certification testing to your students at the end of your program and both conversion rates and referrals will increase over time. Of course, there are many tiny incremental ways a school can improve outcomes for grads. A simple brainstorming session or two can land on some easy-to-implement value additions regarding education delivery. Creating a one percent advantage is easy and will build a disproportionate advantage over time. One percent… what’s your first baby step?

Gregg Meiklejohn,
Co-founder of Enrollment Resources