A friend of mine (let’s call him James) is a brilliant sales director for a leading education publishing company. What James doesn’t know about the education sector frankly isn’t worth knowing. He’s literally the best of the best.

A few years ago, a well known, wealthy businessman was looking into setting up an edtech company and wanted to hire a ready-made team to hit the ground running. He contacted James directly who, out of pure curiosity, went to the interview. I should point out here that James was never going to take the job and actually informed his boss of the interview, attending it purely as a ‘fact finding’ mission.

Now, as an ex-recruiter, I’ve heard of some bizarre interview questions and met some interesting characters in my time, but nothing quite as deluded as this.

“So, I’m about to launch an edtech company and I need to make £1million in the first year – tell me, how are you going to do this?”

LESSON 1: Don’t come into this sector with a ‘make a million and launch my exit strategy’ plan.

I’m going to drop some truth bombs for any start-up/soon-to-launch edu-businesses.

  1. This sector is tough. Forget how tough you think it is, you’re way off the mark
  2. Education sales take time – potentially months – which can REALLY demoralise your sales team
  3. You’re not going to make £1million in year 1 and then kick start an exit strategy

If you’re here to make a quick buck and then retire to the Bahamas, you’re in the wrong industry. Work out how your product can be adapted for the Fintech market, walk away from education and politely close the door behind you. Seriously, you’re not welcome here. I’m not even sorry if that offends – take it as free business advice, I’ve just saved you a lot of time.


Okay, you can and should make money

It’s not that you can’t make a lot of money in this sector – hell, we need you to, a bust business is no good to any subscribing schools. But, and here’s the crucial bit, making lots of money should be a bi-product of providing a service that benefits teaching and learning.

I’ve actually lost count of the number of times a well-funded start-up business, barely even making a ripple let alone a splash, has contacted our agency for marketing support so that they can kick start their exit strategy. No focus on the pedagogical benefits of their product, no talk of teachers or students, hell not even a reference to a USP (which is something I don’t actually think is necessary to be successful by the way, but that’s another story).

Look, if you are considering support with your sales or marketing and your first words are not ‘I have a service that I genuinely believe can improve teaching and learning’, please don’t waste anybody’s time. At my agency, we genuinely believe that we offer the best education marketing support you can get; we’ve helped dozens of companies to break into and expand across the sector, helping to improve teaching and learning whilst making business owners a lot of money along the way. We can do this for pretty much any company but there is one caveat…

If you don’t genuinely believe your product improves teaching and learning and is the best solution out there, we don’t want to work with you – and we cannot make you a success. Sure we could get you into schools, but you’d be found out to be inferior and that would make us both look bad.

…making lots of money should be a bi-product of providing a service that benefits teaching and learning.

So back to the story. Not one to beat about the bush, James politely told the investor that he was in the wrong industry, it wasn’t going to happen, and to think about moving sectors. He declined to take the interview further and remains at the publishing company. The start-up in question? Didn’t take it any further. Best decision for everyone.

Aiming for the big bucks is a good thing, it keeps the business moving and keeps you invested, but if your primary focus is not based around the benefits to teaching and learning, you really need to consider if education is right for you.

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