“Use it or lose it!”
“Oh we have that in the budget!”
“That sounds like it’ll help.”
These are all sayings that I am guilty of muttering at some point during my time on a college campus. Why was I saying these phrases? I don’t know for sure, but as I reflect back, it was probably a little panic, false belief, and a lot of pressure to perform and drive results. I should also mention that I cared deeply, dammit, and that was only fuel to the anxiety fire.
It’s no secret that vendors swarm to campuses across the country every day with promises to help solve enrollment issues, raise more money, or provide the next must-have technology. Unfortunately, most times there is a lot more bark than bite. Perhaps it’s because businesses know how much pressure is on campus staff, specifically enrollment teams to cover many woes. Enrollment teams are expected to bring in the highest performing students while being culturally and socioeconomically diverse and at a quantity and price that pays for the rest of campus operations. “That’s all?” Takes on a new meaning in this form.
These reasons are why I hired a variety of vendors to help me out. I thought I could afford it, and I thought they could help. Now that I am off campus I question how I genuinely thought they could help. I had no prior relationships, did not know anyone who used them, and did not bother to call their current clients. Most of the time their products/offerings were not built to stand the test of time and could be mirrored in short order.
These shortcomings above were not my gravest of errors. The biggest error was how many I allowed to creep on to my payroll. $10,000 here, $30,000 there, and many more with varying increments. In the end these last-minute micro-contracts ended up being a larger portion of my overall budget than I care to admit.
How did this happen and what did I do about it? This happened because I loved my work and I was terrified of failure. The strategy to overcome this fear was as simple as printing out my detailed budget. It’s pretty clear to see fears come to light in the form of small contracts that have little chance of bringing in one student, let alone a class.
I don’t judge the teams on campus when they find themselves in similar situations. First and foremost, it’s because they care and don’t want to let their institution of higher learning down. But, based on my journey, my recommendation is to holistically take a hard look at your vendor list. I view vendors as ingredients, and when all stirred together, will it result in a cake? If not, remove the ingredients that sabotage the party.