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2021 Lessons Learned, Recapped

As we reflect on 2021 and consider where we are going in 2022, we take a minute to pause, reflect and introspect on what worked, what didn’t, and what lessons learned we want to focus on. I knew, in building this business, that we had 2 choices: slow and steady growth, shifting as we learned lessons… or put everything into this, scale quickly, do our best possible work, and learn as quickly as possible, pivoting faster. We went with option #2 growing 423% from Q1 to Q3 2020, and then another 324% at the end of 2021 and along the way, learned a ton of important lessons, quickly!

1) The Larger Problem to Solve - University Career Services

As we have worked with more universities to augment their career services departments, and better understand their needs, we have learned that there is a systemic issue in the university system that we can impact/solve.

  1. Large corporations pay up to $50,000/year per school for career fairs at the top 1,000 universities, especially the business and engineering schools; >70% of college students are outside of this population do not have access to these opportunities, and smaller businesses unwilling to shell out thousands do not have access to these top university students so do not know how or where to find quality talent.
  3. Career services (especially at under-resourced universities) are struggling to hire and retain their employees; they are overworked and because of COVID are no longer able to do what they love - meeting with students. Career services offices are left with limited staff, who the students cannot relate to, meaning students are opting out of career services at higher rates than ever before. This circularly impacts the school, because they cannot control, or report on, outcomes from their students, which is what impacts college rankings.

Ampersand’s platform is accessible and appealing to all students, and gives businesses greater insight to top, vetted talent from any university. We are tackling this massive problem HEAD ON!

2) Getting Businesses To Say YES!

This has been a struggle for us, as we have tested multiple different methods including: free interns (didn't work because there was not enough buy in and goes against the overall mission), staffing agency (doesn't scale based on the resources and liability Ampersand has to take on and not what the larger companies are looking for), and unfortunately, team turnover/hiring mistakes.

As we kick off 2022, in addition to hiring for 3 key roles, we will be:

  1. Building out a playbook to help businesses overcome concerns on onboarding and assigning tasks. This playbook will be a 30-minute process for businesses to gain everything they (or the manager) need in order to successfully assign work to an intern and onboard them.
  2. Testing out which value proposition businesses are most interested in, including:  
  3. Hire/recruit from Ampersand's pre-trained talent pool. We currently have >4,000 certified professionals, and this is growing daily of diverse young, driven professionals from across the country.
  4. Weed through your existing applicant pool. Send your intern applicants through Ampersand's training and the ones to complete/get certified, your team can interview.
  5. Upskill your entry level/intern hires. Once you have selected your interns, they could get Ampersand trained in their first week on the job.

3) Building a Remote Team

There really is no playbook (yet!) for building a remote, distributed team for a startup, but we are giving it our best shot. Out of our 8 person team, we are in 7 cities. Kat and I had been making it a regular practice to visit each other 2x/month, trading off travel, and now realize how important this face-time is for the entire team. 

  • We have built out a rotating travel schedule and one team member will be on the road every week with another team member. We hope that this face time will build the team more, and help us to quickly address miscommunications and problem solving on a physical white board, as needed, versus so much Zoom!
  • EOS - the Entrepreneurial Operating System - is the way that I ran Integrate for years, and something we have implemented into Ampersand. The whole system is structured upon clear quarterly goals (built from a 2-year vision), and constant data-driven reporting towards these SMART goals. Every person in the organization has their own quarterly goals to report on weekly, and as a team we will meet on a weekly basis to review progress towards the goals and issues standing in the way of these goals. Culture doesn't happen by accident, and I want to intentionally build a culture that is focused on working together to collectively reach our company-wide 2-year goals.
  • We have big plans for Spring Break including launching a new website and major marketing campaign to prep for what we are planning to be a HUGE Summer (if you recall we grew 500% this past summer, and are prepping for that same massive growth). We will be getting the team together in person for a 2-day team building and strategy planning offsite in March, and if all goes well, will do the same thing in November 2022.

We are so excited about all that is to come in 2022 and appreciate your support, guidance and overall thoughtfulness as partners throughout this journey.