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Is A 20-Year Business Plan Too Audacious? This Entrepreneur Banks Her Venture On It

Business

20 years ago I was a one-woman shop, juggling face-time with clients, managing finances and boosting publicity. My brand centered on myself, yet I didn’t see it that way. Even in the infancy of my company, I was a global business owner. I never viewed myself as a sole proprietor, even though I was one, because I was so focused on building an international brand. In order to create a global company that was innovative and groundbreaking, I knew I needed to think big and plan ahead even if it required adapting in the future. As an entrepreneur I decided to create a twenty-year plan for my company in order to strategize and map my steps towards success. Planning so far in the future was audacious, but it also empowered and inspired me to take risks in order to meet these goals.


While creating an ambitious long-term plan enabled me to develop my brand, it is the ability to refine it that has powered IvyWise’s success. Every entrepreneur needs large-scale goals that they can chase and aspire to. But the most successful business owners are the ones who are able to balance these long-term dreams with immediate realities. Running a brand means being able to shift seamlessly from thinking big picture to planning for the next week, from envisioning the day you have clients on every continent to troubleshooting for the five people you are currently working with.

I wanted to create a one-stop shop where students could not only receive college admissions advice from a team of former deans and directors of admissions at elite universities, but also work with tutors who are experts at what they teach - Dr. Kat Cohen

Reaching long-term aspirations requires insight, creativity and adaptability. There’s no simple set of steps to take or script you can stick to. Instead, you have to write your company’s own path to success and start refining it almost immediately.

Learn how to adapt quickly so you can maximize efficiency and ensure that your business remains relevant, even as times and trends change.

I launched IvyWise at a time when there were few options for independent college admissions counselors. Most of my competitors named their businesses after themselves and, for the most part, their services consisted of personal consultations with a handful of clients. IvyWise began this way, but even on day one I was thinking twenty years ahead. My goal was to create a global educational consultancy that would support students and families worldwide as they pursued their academic and personal goals with the expertise of a team of counselors, tutors and researchers.

Previously, I worked in admissions at Yale University, during which time I learned a universal truth within the college admissions industry: gaining admittance into your best-fit school is a journey. I decided to use my prior admissions experience to optimize the application experience for my clients by providing them with every resource needed to navigate this process. A top–tier admissions counselor can help applicants unearth their passions and develop a strong list of best-fit colleges, but many clients need additional resources if they want to be competitive candidates at their first choice schools.

I wanted to create a one-stop shop where students could not only receive college admissions advice from a team of former deans and directors of admissions at elite universities, but also work with tutors who are experts at what they teach, and research consultants who can provide them with crucial information about every college on an application list. Immediately, IvyWise was about tackling the school admission process holistically and multi-dimensionally, which enabled my company to grow into an aspirational brand with a global reach.

Rewriting the 20-year plan you’ve created for your company can be challenging, but it’s essential if you want your business to reach the two-decade mark. Consumers seek out brands that feel fresh and relevant, so it’s important for business owners to keep tabs on generational preferences, micro and macro economic factors and changes and new developments in technology. Since it is near impossible to anticipate what the digital and economic landscape will look like twenty years down the line, entrepreneurs must stay updated on the cultural climate and adapt business plans accordingly.

I launched my company before digital communications services like Skype and Zoom existed. IvyWise preceded the trend of web-based learning and virtual payment processing developments.

But by keeping my finger on the pulse of technological advances, particularly in the digital space, I was able to use these innovations to optimize and expand my brand. While utilizing technology to facilitate virtual consultations was not originally part of my twenty-year business plan, adapting and embracing this opportunity has enabled IvyWise to reach an international audience.

Instead of waiting for web-based learning services to become mainstream, I was able to make use of this model early on because I had been monitoring digital developments. I saw virtual consultations as an opportunity to rapidly expand IvyWise’s scale and to recruit the best admissions experts worldwide because digitalization enabled us to eliminate geographical confines.

I learned a universal truth within the college admissions industry: gaining admittance into your best-fit school is a journey - Dr. Kat Cohen

Of course, I didn’t just piggyback off of the technology that was already in place; instead I worked with a team to create a customized portal system specifically designed to facilitate our services. Clients are able to create accounts and share application materials with my team and our counselors and tutors can converse with them seamlessly, from any location in the world. As a result of these innovations, IvyWise now works with students in over 40 countries who are able to access our resources on a 24-7 basis and benefit from the expertise of all of our counselors, tutors and consultants.

This year marks twenty years since I launched IvyWise. I frequently reflect upon the first set of large-scale plans I created, long before I had a team to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. My company has reached the international scale I envisioned, although the path to hitting this milestone was far different from what I originally anticipated. Had I adhered strictly to the processes I put in place twenty years ago, IvyWise wouldn’t have achieved the large-scale goals I knew were possible.

Most importantly, never stop creating these large-scale goals you want to reach twenty years down the line, even once you have surpassed your first set of milestones. I have a clear vision for what IvyWise will look like in 2038, and I am already adapting the processes I will need to get us there.

5 Min Read
Lifestyle

Help! My Husband Won’t Stop Yelling At Me

Help! My Husband Won't Stop Yelling At Me

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I'm a newlywed, and I love my husband very much. But whenever I'm on the phone, the way my husband speaks to me makes people think he is abusive even though he really isn't. He just has a hard time managing his voice and his energy levels when he is stressed. The next second he's back to being chill and flexible (once I'm off the phone, of course). I don't want people to misinterpret my relationship, and I do want him to change. What do I do?

- On The Edge

Dear On The Edge,

I'm sorry that you're feeling humiliated by your husband's actions. What you describe definitely sounds like a classic symptom of abuse and it is understandable that your friends are worried. The difference between abuse and a simple disagreement is that it happens every day with significant consistency. Your instinct to want your husband to change is likely rooted in the fact that you understand this behavior may not be sustainable to a healthy marriage in the long run.

You sound brave and strong, and you seem capable of distinguishing that these are his issues on display, not yours. As Dr. Seltzer, a Clinical Psychologist points out in this article, "In all likelihood, the rage says a good deal more about that person and the gravity of their unresolved issues than it does about you" Regardless, it is important to take care of yourself. Have you assessed how the yelling makes you feel personally without taking into account your friends' reactions? Does it make you anxious or affect your overall well being?

It concerns me that you are chalking up his behavior to stress. It's okay for couples to have conflict, and many psychologists agree that this can be done in a constructive way by communicating and expressing one's anger in order to work on them together. Contrary, it is not okay to be on the receiving end of your spouse yelling, and repeatedly so. Have you tried speaking to him about this issue? If so, how did he react and does he understand how his actions are affecting you? Has he made any effort to change his behavior? This could be an important first opportunity to work on a serious issue as a married couple, but if speaking to him directly isn't an option you should seek counseling. I recommended you see a professional therapist separately or a marriage counselor together. Meanwhile, if your mobile phone rings, take that call miles away from hubby!

- The Armchair Psychologist

HELP! Is Democracy The Right Path?

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I wanted to ask you about a dilemma I struggle with. I come from a country that is under an autocracy. I'm curious to learn about the path to democracy and why some countries struggle more than others. And, an even bigger question of this model, does it "fit all?" Obviously, there are three basic models that are/were widely spread around the globe, including some deviations with different blends and mixtures: monarchy, democracy, communism. Throughout history, it seems that the democratic model has been well-adapted and successful in Western countries, where cultural, social and political conditions are well suited for it. Whereas in Asia, we can observe some deviations of this same model achieving success with a blend of authoritarian rule and sometimes communism such as in China, Singapore, and South Korea (all to varying degrees). What is your perspective on this? Living in the western world, one always hears about the democratic model being the right way, but if you look at the most successful examples (growth-wise): Singapore, South Korea were blended democratic models that have achieved great results. So, should the western world deviate from its preferred model given that checks and balances are in place?

Sincerely,
Anti-nationalist

Dear Anti-nationalist,

I'm sorry to hear that you're dismayed by your country's autocracy. Living in the US under Trump's rule is feeling more and more like an autocracy for myself and many others these days.

Let's take a look at the growth rate of the countries you mentioned. The USA grew by 2.3%, South Korea grew by 3.1%, and Singapore grew by 3.6%, in terms of GDP. While it's true that the US may seem to lag behind a bit in growth, it's important to put into perspective how that growth is measured. The old saying "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics" comes to mind. But the perspective of how we measure things is crucial.

As an example, let's say you are coming out of college and you're worth $1,000 because that's all you have in your bank account. Your neighbor has $10 million. Next year, you have $2,000 and your neighbor has $12 million. Your growth rate was 100% and your neighbor's was only 20%, but does that mean you did much better than your neighbor that year? Of course not, because it's also the total amount of money you make each year that counts.

Courtesy of Y-chart

Basically, the US made around $240 billion in growth in 2018, whereas Singapore and South Korea made about $25 billion each. Smaller, emerging countries always grow faster initially but as they get larger they have to keep making increasingly large amounts of money to keep that same growth rate up, so it's no surprise that growth slows over time.

However, discussing economics alone can't answer your question, because, as many people often do, you're conflating Capitalism with Democracy. They are very, very different things. One is how you structure your economy. The other is how you structure your society. Judging Democracy by how the economy is doing is like judging an apple by an orange. The point of Democracy is not making sure you can buy that new television, it's to ensure human equality and personal rights.

You asked about Democracy and if the Armchair Psychologist believes that governments should be accountable to the people they govern. Should the population be able to remove its leadership? Are checks and balances good for a nation to keep megalomaniacs from taking complete control? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Absolutely not.

Your question may also be "is capitalism the best way for emerging societies to grow?" Most scholars would argue that America wasn't truly capitalistic in its infancy. Rather, it was about communal living, small local towns becoming self-sufficient, growing their own food, and taking care of each other. How economies grow in their earliest phases is a function of the local culture and the resources available to that country and also what infrastructure needs to be developed (schools, transportation, highways, refineries). There are many ways of improving the wealth of a country, but removing the population's control over leadership isn't a necessary ingredient to success. I hope this eases your mind; this is a difficult dilemma to work out. But, as Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

- The Armchair Psychologist

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment!