Innovative Leadership Institute Guides Capture Education Through Successful Business Restart and New Product Line
Capture Educational Consulting Services (CECS) was founded in 2006 as a consulting firm specializing in master-scheduling for school systems. In 2011, CECS introduced its first version of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) automated master-scheduling system, ScheduleSMART. In mid-2016, CECS introduced the first version of its SaaS pathway advancement scheduling and tracking system to help schools implement career pathway programs. An increasing number of states are requiring career pathway guided learning to improve educational results and graduation rates, and to better fulfill regional employer workforce needs.
Just prior to the introduction of the CECS SaaS pathway offering in June 2016, significant financial challenges resulted in the dismissal of the company’s founder and CEO. Recent funding and inaccurately reported high sales growth led the company’s board and employees to believe it had substantial funding in the bank to continue its operations and new product launch.
In reality, the company’s accounts had been totally depleted, substantial debt incurred to keep it afloat, and it would be months until schools were fully back in session and new sales could be closed.
The CECS board, investors, and employees were determined to keep the company moving forward to preserve the significant investments already made and to realize the large potential upside opportunity to sell into the fast-growing College and Career Readiness market space.
Immediately, CECS needed to bring on an innovative and experienced leader to:
- work with the board and investors to bring in more capital and keep the company going;
- work with current leadership to determine the true financial, operational, and market positions of the company and stabilize the situation;
- kick-off the 2016–2017 educational selling season;
- introduce the new SaaS pathway offering; and
- help appraise and establish the way forward for the company.
Mike Sayre, Leader of Innovative Leadership Institute’s Organizational Transformation practice and a Innovative Leadership practitioner and facilitator, was engaged to lead a restart of the company, serving as its Interim CEO and a member of the Board.
Stabilizing the company being the board’s first priority, Sayre immediately began assisting the board and current investors to bring in additional investment to continue marketing, getting new sales cycles started, supporting current customers and improving the salability of the offerings.
Sayre also worked with the company’s chief operating officer, Gene Lawhun, to further reduce costs to a minimum operating level and manage cash flow to stretch available funding as far as possible.
Staff reductions implemented before and after Sayre’s engagement required Sayre and Lawhun to provide high levels of transparency and inclusion to the remaining team (about one-fourth of the pre-event count) to keep them on board and engaged.
Sayre, Lawhun, and the team then reviewed all sales and operations strategies, tactics, and processes—combining Sayre’s business expertise and experience with the team’s knowledge of the market, current customers, and SaaS offerings—to collaboratively develop new and better business practices to take the company forward, including:
- putting policies and processes in place to empower the team to make more day-to-day decisions to better run the company;
- selling more to consortiums of schools, rather than direct to individual schools;
- beginning to develop better channel partnerships;
- selling on value and a market-based pricing structure, versus just lowering pricing to close the deal;
- restructuring deals to include a basic support package in the base pricing and offering additional paid support options, versus providing unlimited unpaid support;
- revamping all marketing messaging and materials for clarity around the CECS offering and its true benefits to the students and the schools; and
- creating a low-cost full career pathways program implementation for schools that are challenged by increasing state requirements, have little experience in the area, and do not know where to start. This program is lead by CECS consultants and is partially built around CECS’ proprietary and unique SaaS pathway offering, intended to establish CECS as a leader in pathways implementation and get that offering out into the market and generating reference accounts.
“During this extremely rough time for our company, Mike’s leadership and personality immediately connected with our group and we knew we were in the right hands. His previous CEO and CFO experience comes into play each and every day and got us back on the right track as a company and laser-focused on what needed to be done. He helped us obtain financing with current and new investors to keep the company operating,” said Lawhun. “Company morale is at its highest point and we’re gaining momentum, releasing new products and making sales. I can’t thank him enough for accepting this challenge, sticking with us when it seemed like all hope was lost and helping us turn a bad situation into not only something good, but great— with an extremely exciting and promising future ahead.”
With the business stabilized and a strategy in place to accelerate sales and prove the market opportunity to attract more growth capital, Lawhun was promoted to company president with Sayre still active as an executive advisor, mentor and member of the board.