To the Loyal Members of the BLBS Tribe:
Public companies often share an annual letter with its shareholders. This is a good practice as the shareholders provided investment in the company. This letter provides a bit of accountability, as well as some vision casting to investors indicating where the company is going. One famous example of this practice is Jeff Bezos’ 1997 letter to shareholders. You can read the implications of this letter and what it said here.
If you are a regular reader of BLBS, you know I draw much inspiration from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street. In my inbox the other day popped a regular email from Shane with his letter to readers. Inspired by what he is doing with his community, I thought it would be a good practice to do the same and write a letter to you, a valuable member of the BLBS tribe.
I have no desire to become a publicly traded company with actual shareholders, but in many ways, members of the BLBS Tribe are already shareholders because they deposit something even more valuable than financial resources into BLBS — attention and time.
I do not take this for granted and I hope to improve what BLBS offers the Tribe each year.
Better Leaders Better Schools passed many milestones in 2017 and I would like to personally thank members of the BLBS Tribe for making 2017 a record year.
One of my personal heroes, Gary Vaynerchuk, taught me this principle: “Jab, jab, jab … then right hook.”
This is an excellent principle to run a business, but also a foundational leadership principle. The idea is simple. The jabs represent the content I produce and give away for free. For most people this is enough and I am 100% thrilled with that. The right hook is given only after enough value has been shared — this is the ask for BLBS members to invest with me either through 1-on-1 coaching, the mastermind, or by taking an online course.
With that being said, here is a record of jabs from 2017:
- 62 podcasts published
- I was a guest on 7 different podcasts
- I wrote 1 article on Medium
- I wrote 4 articles related to education on LinkedIn
- I wrote 8 blog posts on BLBS website.
- I created 38 FB Live videos
- I hosted 2 webinars on productivity
Other content statistics to note:
- 130% increase in podcast downloads
- 2016 downloads totaled 54,703
- 2017 downloads totaled 126,005
- In 2017, BLBS broke the 10K downloads in a month
- Highest before 10K was June 2017 (9K downloads)
- July 2017 was 17,722 downloads
- Since July 2017, BLBS has consistently been downloaded > 10K/month (13,478 average downloads July – Dec 2017).
- BLBS became the #1 downloaded podcast for school leaders
- 144% increase in email subscribers
- 2016 email subscribers 534
- 2017 email subscribers 1304
I was very grateful to have 2 sponsors in 2017.
School Spirit Vending (SSV) has been my most consistent sponsor. They offer “hassle-free” fundraising for schools which I love and make it super easy for schools to make some extra money. More importantly, I know and can vouch for the owner of the company, Matt Miller. He is a man of extraordinary character and has been a positive role model in my life.
CSC Consulting Group: Catalyzing Sustainable Change was also a sponsor this year. I admire how they use data to help schools and districts make informed decisions and create a more equitable educational experience for all students. Coincidentally, I also know a key player for CSC — Adrian DeLeon. We worked together in Chicago Public Schools with the district AVID team. We fought for equity in education then and it’s great to see Adrian continuing this work now.
I ran my leadership sprint once in 2017. I also created and ran my productivity workshop once. I retooled the course and added much more content and resources. This course will be offered again in January 2018.
My proudest moment was serving more members in the Mastermind. There was a 400% increase in mastermind membership. I added 28 new Mastermind clients while 8 clients had to step away. I currently serve 35 school leaders from 4 countries across the globe.
Prior to adding 28 members, I focused on adding value to the Mastermind.
- I started giving new members my productivity course for free
- I also started free quarterly 1-on-1 coaching sessions (which are tremendously popular with members). At the 2017 price of $200/month, I believe 4 weekly mastermind meetings + a quarterly 1-on-1 session is amazing value. The Mastermind will increase to $250/month in early 2018 and $300/month by late 2018.
- I also started a monthly “All-hands” meeting for the 4 different mastermind groups. This way we can all convene once a month and learn from each other. The session I led on delegation was extremely popular; Fran led a popular session on teacher burnout.
I joined two absolutely rocking FB groups for school leaders. I try to answer questions and add as much value as possible on a daily basis.
I also started reaching out to listeners of the podcast in December of 2017 to see what they like and what can improve. To date, I have held one of these meetings and look forward to many more in 2018.
I spoke at the 2017 Principal’s Conference in Philly and shared a session on productivity. 100+ leaders attended this session and some even joined the mastermind as a result!
The catalyst for the growth of the podcast and mastermind was the fact that I “Turned Pro” in 2017. I walked away from my principal position in Houston, TX to pour all my efforts and pursue my dream of operating BLBS full time. This was an incredibly frightening step to take (and I’m still scared), but nothing beats living out your passion!
I worked with a business coach that helped me define my mission, vision, and values. I also got serious about my business finances and started to create systems for everything I do in BLBS. One day I hope to lead a small team that can help me do things I don’t need to be doing (email, uploading podcasts/blogs) and can focus on what I am truly great at (creating content and coaching). I look forward to sharing what I learned in business coaching with current clients to help them operate their schools and districts at an even higher level.
The mission I have settled on: Improve school leadership by upgrading habits, systems, and mindsets that optimize life.
- Independent: Part of a larger “team,” but location independent and can work independently
- Intelligent and capable of using tools (figuring out how to get the job done & using tools to work smarter)
- Strong, ferocious, & tough
- Loose skin so when cornered or grabbed, can evade attacks
- Wears out most that engage in a fight
- No known predators
Look for the Big Domino
- Everything is not important
- Intentionality with time
- Use “systems” to process opportunities (e.g. #GoalCrusher template, Focus Funnel, etc.)
- Identify the top 1-3 things daily, weekly, & quarterly, then execute
- Compact work into fewer days as long as projects are complete (4 day week)
- Take customer service and working with excellence seriously
- Take problems seriously and find solutions, but
- Don’t take yourself too seriously (don’t be an a–hole)
Goals for 2018
In 2015 I started BLBS and drew my inspiration from the popular podcast Entrepreneur on Fire. John Lee Dumas hosts a daily show interviewing top entrepreneurs in an effort to provide actionable tips and insight into business to his listeners. After listening to John for a month and receiving incredible value, I thought to myself, “I can do that.”
I opened up iTunes and realized that there were few podcasts for school leaders. Many posted inconsistently, another handful had already closed their doors less than a year in, and others were poor in quality.
I saw opportunity.
If I have a super-power, easily it would be taking action.
So I started a podcast; the rest they say is history.
On Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas often says “FOCUS … Follow one course until success.”
In my productivity course, I teach clients to focus on 1-3 goals per quarter. Below are some of the goals I will be pursuing in 2018. These will be “What I follow until success.”
- Increase Mastermind Membership to 60 members (my self-imposed cap). This will be 4 groups of 15.
- When I hit 60 Mastermind members, start training future coaches and begin filling their Masterminds. Training will happen via an in-person 1.5-2 day intensive and ongoing coaching for future coaches.
- Launch an “Inner Circle” Mastermind only for Superintendents.
- Pass 2K email subscribers.
- Increase the average monthly download to 15K and pass 180,000 downloads in 2018.
- Publish my first book for school leaders.
- Launch new podcast that is daily, short form, and focused on documenting my education, leadership, and business experience.
- Speak at 1-2 events (preferably face-to-face, but virtual is also okay).
- Host a weekly webinar on productivity to give away massive value.
- Run a bi-weekly productivity coaching group through the entire year.
- Hire 1-2 team members to publish podcasts, write social media posts promoting podcast/blog, create blog posts, order books for Mastermind members, add new members to the Mastermind directory, etc.
- Analyze data collected from survey and release results illustrating the state of professional development for school leaders.
- Write at least one piece of content for my blog, Medium, or LinkedIn per month.
- Create at least 2 FB live posts a week or 104 videos.
- Grow Twitter to 10K followers and LinkedIn to 5000 connections.
In closing …
As I stated in the intro of this letter, thank you so much for being an engaged member of the BLBS Tribe. My success is dependent on providing content and resources that you find valuable. Because of your engagement and sharing, BLBS has had a record year and the future looks bright in 2018.
Now that I am pursuing BLBS full-time, what was considered a “hobby” or “side-hustle” has turned into my full time passion and profession.
Regular listeners of the podcast know this quote that I frequently share: “Everyone wins when a leader gets better.”
BLBS is my way of living out this quote while making a small dent in the education and leadership space. I humbly ask if you have received any value from what I offer here at BLBS, please share the content with friends and invite them to join the BLBS tribe by subscribing to my email newsletter.
Thank you for your attention, trust, and contributions to BLBS. I will do my best to continue to provide high quality resources here for you. If there is anything I can do to help you on your leadership journey, feel free to reach out to me.
Founder and Chief Ruckus Maker of Better Leaders Better Schools.