Below is a quick clip of a workshop we did for the Virginia Highlands Small Business Incubator on becoming an Artreprenuer. We cover the basics of establishing your business, finding opportunities and using digital marketing to grow. More to come!
This article by Partner Chris Davie orginially appeared in the September 2015 issue of ProSound News and touches on the new Department of Education's "Gainful Employment" regulations and thier potiential affects on Pro Audio Educators and Students.
NASHVILLE, TN—When I sought a school to learn audio engineering, the choices were very limited. In the decades since my education experience, aspiring audio engineers have become bombarded with choices and, in may cases, extremely skilled marketing and admissions departments are wooing them to attend their programs. This trend has been exemplified not only in professional audio education but also across almost all academic studies; it has become the norm in public, private, not-for profit and for-profit schools. As a result, we are seeing enormous growth in student debt and graduates not finding what the Department of Education terms “gainful employment.”
Gainful employment is a highly controversial topic in the Higher Education ranks and, as of July 1, 2015, something all for-profit, many not for-profit and community colleges are becoming intimately familiar with. New regulations were imposed which hold a school accountable for the debt its graduates carry after graduation and that graduate’s ability to repay that money. The Department of Education estimates that if all schools governed under this new regulation were required to meet the standards immediately (there is a grace period to allow schools to prepare), 1,400 programs would fail the metrics and those students would lose their eligibility for financial aid, likely killing the future of the programs. The quick version of the regulation is that a student’s loan debt must stay within a certain percentage of his/her postgraduate earnings. If your program does not produce skilled and working graduates able to repay their loan debts, the school loses the ability to rely on federal financial aid—which can currently account for up to 90 percent of a school’s revenue stream.
So what does that mean for pro-audio education? There are three big factors at play in the equation of accountability to the Department of Education and ultimately the taxpayers: cost of attendance, student outcomes and graduate placement. They all boil down to whether a student is prepared and ultimately gainfully employed. The schools that balance those three factors will be in a great position, regardless of any new or existing regulations. Unfortunately, many institutions have poured huge dollars into the acquisition side to increase profit margins, build large infrastructures and train large volumes of students. They will need to re-balance quickly as those students graduate and search for jobs to pay back the accumulated loan debt. Accountability for career placement is not a new concept; however, tying graduates’ loan debt to income is. Considering a graduate placed for earning a few hundred dollars pulling feeder at a weekend festival is very different than that graduate’s ability to repay the government on a $50,000 loan debt.
Some schools are beginning to insulate themselves from the Department of Education’s regulations by opting to not participate in Federal Financial Aid, offering apprenticeship-based education or shuttering certain programs. I think we will see many more non-traditional education options developing as a result. A key part of their success will be the collaboration and acceptance from industry. Graduate success is the ultimate metric for the quality of a program and though frightening for some, it is a very exciting time for pro-audio education. The educators that embrace the concept of “what’s best for the student” will no doubt excel.
Have you ever been caught off guard by a really challenging question? Not one of those difficult and uncomfortable parenting questions from your inquisitive child that I can only imagine gets your tongue tied. Instead a question so simple it’s complicated. What is your leadership style? Most leaders have been asked to describe their own leadership style in some setting. Whether it’s by a staff member or during an interview this can be a complex topic to discuss. In fact it probably raises a series of additional questions. What type of leader do they want me to be? What should I say? What’s the wrong type of leader? What is the trendy or hip response? What was Steve Jobs leadership style? Is there even a right answer?
Like those uncomfortable parenting questions, it only takes being asked this question once in an unexpected moment to understand the importance of being prepared to discuss such topics. Understanding your leadership style will not only help avoid those awkward situations, but it will also allow you to better understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This knowledge will be invaluable because it will allow you to be a more proactive and effective leader. Your strengths should be used regularly to make strategic decisions and conversely you should find ways to offset or minimize your weaknesses.
The logical decision that many people take is to research leadership styles. Some would turn to their local bookstore where an entire section is now likely dedicated to leadership books. Others may ask a mentor or trusted colleague for recommended reading. Many others would use the internet to conduct their research. Regardless of your method, leadership styles are a topic that could provide several years’ worth of reading material. Celebrities, politicians, and motivational speakers all have books that are sure to answer your questions. They cover topics like Transformational, Participative, Authoritarian, Servant or Laissez-Faire leadership. Do any of these apply to you?
If you are like me it’s hard to characterize yourself as any one of these styles. You probably have characteristics of several if not all of them. Another logical place to turn when trying to determine your leadership style is to take a leadership or personality assessment. Perhaps a series of questions will help you define your leadership style. Could it be that simple? For some this may be the case, but for me I continued to have characteristics closely matching several different types with no clear distinction.
So like many I created a well thought out response to the leadership style question. I incorporated a combination of several different styles; some key buzz words like collaborative and action oriented but it still didn't feel right. It seems like I should have a clear answer. It wasn't until I was given the book The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy that I gained clear understanding of my own leadership style. Mentor leadership focuses on the development of an employee or team members strengths and works best with the individual knows that the leader has a sincere concern for their improvement and success. An emphasis is based on relationships and the development of future leaders. Finally I found a leadership style that I could relate to! I can answer the question, I am a Mentor Leader and I’m excited to share this topic with you in the coming weeks.
One of the areas Sonority Group works closely with clients on is their focus. In a recent meeting with the CEO of a small business, he expressed his struggles staying focused on the things that will really move his organization forward. Instead his time is filled with all the daily to-dos, keeping people on-task and the demands of running his own company. Our conversation shot me back almost 20 years to the moment my views on focus where shaped from a pretty nasty mountain bike wreck.
I was blazing down a trail off the Ute pass in Colorado and things suddenly went very wrong. For some reason while up on my pedals I looked down at my font tire and not the trail ahead… You can imagine what happen next, let’s just say I was very lucky in more ways than one. Aside from the pain of my mistake, I had a moment of clarity that came to affect the way I look at life and most certainly business.
Keeping on the mountain bike for just a moment. Whether climbing a peak or feeling the reward of darting down the other side of a grueling climb you must keep your eyes focused on the path ahead, not the trail under your tires. With the right focus it is amazing how your brain and body work together and effortlessly predict to overcome the obstacles. It’s a fluid motion, a harmony that athletes, musicians and many others feel as they let their bodies and minds resonate together.
Now lets take this concept into the world of business with jammed inboxes, endless meetings and to-do list that look more like they are for a two-week run to the grocery store. Where is the harmony in laboring over checking off to-dos? There is satisfaction from accomplishment, but I have yet to find the real harmony in this routine unless these task are clearly linked to the ultimate goal and that is where I am truly focused. Am I looking at my tire or the trail ahead?
At Sonority Group we work to help our clients and their teams take their eyes off the tire, go beyond the single fallen tree, and focus on the entire ride. To build something that lasts, you must have everyone completely tuned into the ultimate goals, whatever they might be for the organization. People need to feel the importance of and understand how they impact achieving them. When everyone in the organization knows the target and understands how their part affects it, that same sense of harmony comes alive across the business.
So keep focused on the trail ahead!
As I was being interviewed for an article that explores the state of education and training in broadcast audio by Dan Daley of Sports Video Group, it dawned on me how this issue affects so many other types of professions and the schools training in those professions. Not a new topic but one that got me thinking. How does an industry needing qualified new talent, that will be gainfully employed, keep their pipeline filled if students are not attracted to the programs training them in these particular areas?
In the case of this article, and broadcast audio specifically, I think the industry / education partnerships are paramount to support developing programs and the ecosystem that clearly address the needs of the networks. The students are out there, many times they just don't know what the multitude of options are in the broad scope of a career path. Developing an informative branding effort around the idea of being a broadcast-sports audio professional, in collaboration with the networks, starts to build the awareness for everyone involved. When the industry flourishes so do the schools training their workforces.
The schools that effectively bridge the needs of industry with their program offerings, and then wrap that in a clear and compelling message reaching today's Millennial students, will hold the advantage regardless of program or industry. Maybe easier said than done, sure, but a lynchpin to the sustainability of all involved.
"If you do the education right... the business will follow". I've had some pretty sharp conversations as a result of this statement over the years. Some in agreement and some adamantly on the other side. I'm a true believer that when we ground our decisions on a few simple principles, decisions are easily made, trust is built and everyone grows.