By Verne Harnish
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Enrollment Builders, a lead generation company in Lexington, Ky., has been growing like gangbusters. The company, which helps nonprofit colleges and universities connect with potential applicants, has expanded from nine employees to 23 since March. The company expects 2020 revenue to hit about $2 million, up 20% from last year, and is profitable. With institutions seeing a decline in applications and state funding decreasing, many schools urgently need to build up their admissions funnel. “We pitch ourselves as an enablement service,” says CEO Jennifer Goode.
Goode, who became CEO in 2014 and bought out the company’s partners in 2016, has pulled it off by tapping the Scaling Up platform for growing a company. She started out using the EOS operating system but embraced Scaling Up when she began working with Scaling Up Certified Coach Robert Fish in 2017 and 2018.
“I love that Scaling Up allows me to apply what I sometimes ‘feel’ as an entrepreneur to a strategic and tactical framework that leaders in the company can embrace and harness with a shared understanding of how to get where we are going—but it takes serious commitment and focusing on the right things,” says Goode.
Get the right people on the bus
It took smart strategic decisions to grow the company to where it is today. With an eye on the future, Goode borrowed $100,000 in short-term debt last October to invest in a couple of key hires who would be critical to taking the company to the next level: a contact center manager and a sales executive.
That investment in the right talent positioned Enrollment Builders for success when COVID-19 brought massive upheaval to higher education. Because Enrollment Builders was ready to pursue fast-emerging opportunities in the market, Goode was able to pay off the entire loan while growing revenue 155% since March.
With hiring continuing around the country—Enrollment Builders now has employees in 13 states—Goode has been completing the Function Accountability Chart (FACe) and Process Accountability Chart (PACe) to align the team’s accountabilities and responsibilities and identify gaps.
“In the contact center and marketing agency world, many, many people touch a process/function,” says Goode. “Determining who’s accountable for a function/process versus who contributes to it helps bring clarity so things are always ‘completed.’ In a ‘scaling up’ environment, just because everyone is on the same page in one week, it doesn’t mean things are clear just a couple weeks later. Having a democratic process to pull this apart and discuss/resolve is really critical to our business.”
The tools have also helped Goode to free more of her time to lead. “As our organization has become less, ‘Jen Goode’ and more a company-wide, ‘team’ effort, the FACe and PACe have provided us with a process and corresponding documentation to peel off responsibilities previously owned by me,” says Goode.
To supplement the tools, Goode also licensed the Predictive Index from Accord Management systems in August. She has used it to analyze her team’s capabilities and integrated the Predictive Index’s behavioral and cognitive assessments into the hiring process. Enrollment Builders now has a Predictive Index job assessment for every new role and scored behavioral attributes against each role. The company has also realigned its job interview questions with its Core Values: Education and Empower, Authentic Relationships, Drive Change, Accountability and Gets It.
Put the right strategy in place
To help its clients make it through the pandemic, Enrollment Builders refocused its contact center, which typically does appointment setting and outsourced college admissions work, on rekindling aging leads among prospective students. It was relatively easy to export lists of these prospects from each school’s customer relationship management (CRM) software, Goode says. Then it was a matter of using a “high-touch” strategy of text, phone and email reach out to the prospects over a three-month trial period to revive the connections.
“With anyone interested, we would immediately do appointment setting for their team so universities could run with those conversations,” says Goode. “A lot of schools have a number of old inquiries that were just sitting.”
Goode’s strategy worked—to the point that many universities have become seen a 600-1,100% return on investment. It also helped the universities her company serves. “This effort creates a fast burst in ROI for our clients, decreases risk for the university overall, and creates space for future investment in strategic change and growth in other areas,” says Goode. “Many of these projects have turned into seasonal or 12-month recurring retainer contracts, allowing us to stabilize cash flow.”
Meanwhile, it was motivating to Goode’s team to help so many students get access to higher education. “We have found a renewed purpose in our work and are inspired by all of the hard-working adults and high school seniors persevering through tough times,” says Goode.
Keep the team aligned
With the company growing rapidly, Goode stepped up internal meeting rhythms to keep everyone in close communication. When COVID-19 hit, the company implemented a daily huddle called the Power15. In this “quick hit meeting,” the team looks at both urgent situations, such as critical staff shortages, and what’s going right. “We want everyone to leave these fired up,” Goode says.
Enrollment Builders also introduced weekly 30-minute company-wide Zoom meetings on Fridays. The meetings include a 3-5 minute section on the company’s Core Values, featuring “shout outs” where someone on the team steps up and says a few words about how a teammate is reinforcing the these values. The meeting closes with a “Teach Back” section, where a different team member each week presents about anything new that would benefit the company’s employees. “It’s great exposure for the team to leadership and builds the capacity and confidence of our team,” says Goode.
The meetings have also been helpful to Goode as a leader. “It’s definitely my favorite 30 minutes of every single week,” she says. “If I am feeling frustrated by business challenges and things feel really, really hard, I’ll go back and watch an old company meeting recording, and it always picks me up! We have come so far and have such great heart in the company. We aren’t getting it all right, but we are working hard to be intentional and using habits and repetition to reinforce what is working.”
The company holds Annual Meetings, as well. For the Annual Meeting in November, the leadership team read Jim Collins: “Turning the Flywheel Monograph” (2 min. video version) and Goode personally read “Good to Great” again to prepare. They collaboratively built an Enrollment Builders Flywheel, as well.
Prioritize cash flow
Goode also kept a close eye on cash, working with a financial services firm, Richtr, that has provided accounting, fractional CFO and financial modeling services. “It is the best $5,000 I spend on outsourced work each month,” she says.
Goode works on the company’s financial model each week with her advisors and does updates monthly once the prior month closes. Currently, she is extending the model for a full 2-year runway.
In the meantime, Goode is taking the next step to keeping cash flowing: Replacing herself as the only full-time salesperson. She’s actively looking to hire a “sales hunter.”
“We’re working very hard to move at the speed of business,” says Goode. Fortunately, it’s paying off as she scales the company exponentially.