Shifting Gears To Rev Up Customer And Community Service
May 19, 2022
BloomTech CEO explains why social entrepreneur companies must adapt to make a lasting impact. By Austen Allred
Austen Allred, Co-Founder and CEO of BloomTech Photo: Lambda school/Bloomtech
Social entrepreneurship is, at its core, about alignment: Synching solutions to community challenges with a successful business model. When done well, a win for individuals or the community is a win for the business, and vice versa. As with nearly everything, though, community interests and needs change. Social entrepreneurs must adapt to meet these needs -- and ensure the business model does, too. The failure to change in a timely manner can land businesses in hot water in more ways than one. Delays in meeting the needs of benefiting communities can alienate the people and groups you seek to help. A disconnect plays out in the success of a company, too, whether through customer dissatisfaction, clunky operations or diminished profitability. In addition, backlash against community-focused businesses can be even harsher than that against typical companies. If the general public perceives a mismatch between a mission-driven company’s vision and its actions, they’ll likely feel duped. It’s critical, then, for social entrepreneurs to keep a pulse on the continually shifting landscape of both community and business needs. We must not only notice but adapt to changes in order to succeed as enterprises -- and create lasting social impact. Like skyscrapers built to flex with hurricane-force winds and earthquakes, social entrepreneurs need to adjust under pressure. The unmoving monoliths will crack and crumble. Meanwhile, agile leaders of mission-driven businesses will help shape a better future. Adapt when the road gets rough
In a perfect world, we’d be able to anticipate -- and plan for -- challenges. Unfortunately, I still can’t read tea leaves, and no one has patented a functional crystal ball. That means social entrepreneurs must be ready to react to shifting conditions. At BloomTech, we are no strangers to the need to adapt. I think of our decision to rebrand from Lambda School to Bloom Institute of Technology in November 2021. A rebrand is a resource-intensive, involved process no one should embark on lightly. We decided to invest in cultivating a new identity, rooted in our years of successful tech training. As BloomTech, we have a different name but continue our mission of providing a lower risk path to a higher income. The rebrand brought new challenges: building back brand recognition, keeping current learners up to date during the change, and regaining paid and organic traffic. Working our way through these issues ultimately strengthened our company. I have learned over the years that adversity is often tied to opportunity -- if you’re willing to grasp it. A small study of Australian startups found that amidst the adversity of COVID-19, nearly as many companies reported experiencing opportunity as they did hardship. While the transition came with its own set of challenges that we navigated as a team, the overall shift in brand acted like a reset. Our entire team had a chance to really dig into who we are and aspire to be as a company, and how to better serve our students in the years to come. Stay agile for bigger impact
As social capital leaders, we know that our work isn’t done until the problems we set out to solve are a distant memory. (And at that point, most of us will find a new problem to work on!) Social entrepreneurs are also tinkerers. We iterate because we know that if an entrenched problem could be resolved with a straightforward answer, it would be fixed by now. So we develop unconventional approaches and continue to build that plane as we go. By listening to what our customers and communities tell us about our offerings, we can practice proactive evolution. Let me pull back the curtain on one challenge we’ve faced at BloomTech that illustrates this point. Historically, the top reason interested people didn’t enroll in BloomTech was they couldn’t commit the time required for our rigorous training. Attending lessons every day at the same time didn’t make sense for many parents, caregivers, people who wanted to learn while keeping a current job, and even those in different time zones. They needed more flexibility. We listened. We developed a new learning experience that empowers them to personalize our direct path to a tech job and higher income, which opened yesterday (May 18) for new applications. What we call the CareerFlow learning experience enables students to access live sessions, career experts and job hunt resources on their schedule, at their pace. We have put our students in control of their own future while maintaining the personalized coaching, guidance and curriculum that has helped more than 4,000 graduates kickstart rewarding careers in tech in companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft. The impact from our program to date is literally life-changing. I think of graduates like Adnan, who increased his salary by roughly five times, and Emily, who is able to spend more time with her family now that she works remotely as a data scientist. I’m elated to extend even more opportunities to more people. I literally get goosebumps at the level this enables us to scale our impact. With the doors opening to more motivated students now able to customize their training to work for them -- rather than trying to conform to a rigid schedule of conventional education -- we blow open what’s possible.