5 Ways to Grow and Sustain a Great EdTech Company
What happens when a group of teachers who see learning as more of a science than an art get together and start making materials to help educators in the classroom?
Throw in Frank Ferguson (who loved this group and its mission so much he left his job as president of Bose to join them in 1976) and you have what is today known as Curriculum Associates (CA)–what CEO Rob Waldron describes as a some profit model dedicated to making classrooms better places for teachers and children.
So much in the world has changed since the early 1970s when this all began, and so many similar companies have come and gone. How has this one survived? What makes it different? Rob Waldron recently shared five examples of how this more than 40-year-old company has grown and thrived in this extremely competitive business:
1. Remain focused on the same company vision and mission. For CA, Rob Waldron says this means always “making teachers more productive in the moment of learning…having the research to know that you’re getting great gains with every child and…having the best service in the industry.” This focus has helped the company develop and successfully release several effective edtech products over the years that support students and teachers, including Ready and i-Ready.
In addition, Waldron never forgets what CA means to classrooms across the nation on a daily basis. “[Having] 3.5 million children about to use your product online tomorrow morning…is a big responsibility.”
2. Sign your CEO up for the long-term. When he started, Rob Waldron signed a unique 20-year employment contract with CA. This means he runs the company with a long-term focus, which allows the short-term focus on the actual work around how they can help make classrooms better places for teachers and students.
3. Create a perpetual company. Instead of selling the company for the millions he could, Frank put all of his shares (the majority of the company) into a perpetual trust, where profit distributions goes to charitable causes. Waldron calls this unique choice “The Gift of Frank,”, and it has proven to be one of the company features that attracts great and like-minded employees.
4. Constantly listen to what educators need. Part of being successful in edtech means listening and adapting to the constantly changing needs of the education landscape, be it changes in standards, technology, classroom environments–no matter what it is, it means listening and actually hearing what the needs are, and answering the need with an improved product.
5. Hire world-class talent to provide world-class service–and pay them for it. No matter how noble the mission, a company can’t grow and succeed without a culture in place that attracts the right people. Waldron credits the company’s continued success to its employees, the majority of whom stay on for many years with the company. Realizing the importance of paying workers fairly, in 2015 Waldron voluntarily raised the company’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and invites every employee to anonymously participate in his annual review!
To hear Rob Waldron personally describe Curriculum Associates in an interview with Andy Rotherham of Real Clear Education and Bellwether Education Partners, check out this video:
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